If MLB wants to crack down on cheating pitchers they may not like what they're gonna find
How is it that baseball always seems to be the sport where the players are bending--or flat out breaking the rules to get an advantage, yet always get caught?
Back when I was a kid (stone ages), the controversy was pitchers like Gaylord Perry and Joe Niekro and others getting caught using "foreign substances" or scuffing up the baseball to get an advantage.
A little later, in the 1990's, it was steroids for guys like Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire or Sammy Sosa.
The past few years have brought us the era of "video cheating".
And now, the latest rule breaking goes back to where we started, foreign substances.
It's hard to say specifically how or where this latest kerfuffle started, but it was all about the drive to find more spin on pitches. The short explanation for that is--more spin, harder pitches to hit. Over the past couple of seasons, only a few players appeared to be utilizing this and for the most part, hitters were feasting. The easiest way to gain spin was to put a sticky type substance somewhere the pitcher could reach it to enhance the grip on a baseball.
Don't ask me the science behind it all, but it works.
Now, we find ourselves in 2021 and hitting has fallen off at a dramatic rate while pitchers who can spin the ball have increased exponentially. Mind you, it's only the past ten years or so where the ability to measure the spin rate of pitches even became a thing.
Yet here we are.
Major League Baseball finally got around this past week to announcing "upgraded" enforcement for pitchers caught using things like "Spider-Tack" and other substances. Umpires will be permitted to use their judgement to check pitchers between innings or stop play if they see something funky.
The whole thing to me stands out for a variety of reasons. MLB rarely, if ever doles out a serious suspension for nearly anything. The enforcement largely symbolic.
Baseball is also, much more than any other sport come to feature the "technical minutiae of the game. Watch a broadcast now and everything is about "Spin Rate", "exit velocity", "expected base hit probability" and more. It's too much. Way too much. Stuff we really don't need to know or care about. Either its a good pitch or good hit or its an out, is that not enough?
Already we've had some interesting things happen--just in the past few days. New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole, the highest paid pitcher in the game, had a super-awkward response when asked about using Spider-Tack when he pitches.
Cole is a pretty talented guy already, why he would need the extra advantage, I don't know, but his answer here sure isn't a good look.
2020's Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer has hinted for years about the usage of sticky stuff and spin rates. Suddenly his last time on the mound, he got shelled.
What we appear to be heading towards is an implosion of sorts. I'm really curious to see if MLB will actually hand out a large suspension to a Cole or Bauer if they're caught. I'd like to see any star pitcher take the fall for this.
Baseball has a myriad of problems on its hands already, image being the worst of them. The game, and those in charge are well behind the curve of life, living in the 2000's and not understanding how the world in 2021 works.
But that's a whole other issue encapsulated by their bizarre, antiquated rules on home TV broadcasts and streaming videos.
In the meantime, we watch and wait, anxiously. I don't know about you, but I'm really, really looking forward to finding out who the first victim of the new rules will be.
It may not be one of the potential high profile suspects, but wouldn't it be great if it was??