Does This Video Prove That Jacob deGrom Is Cheating?
The New York Mets pitcher is having one of the best seasons ever. Is it legit?
New York Mets star pitcher Jacob deGrom is having a season for the ages. He’s leading pitchers in every category imaginable, has the Mets in first place heading into the season’s halfway mark, and will likely win the National League MVP award, barring some cataclysmic drop-off, injury or scandal.
Earlier this week, in the wake of MLB’s sticky substance controversy, one online commenter actually tried to manufacture a scandal, posting a now-viral video of deGrom walking back to the mound. In the clip, he appears to rub his pitching hand on a section of his belt, where — the caption implies — he’s likely hiding an illegal substance like Spider Tack.
Is there any credence to the accusation? Of course. This issue’s in the limelight because it’s incredibly consistent throughout the league. In addition to Spider Tack, the stickiest (and most infamous) of the bunch, pitchers have been using pine tar, spit, a mixture of sun lotion and rosin, hair gel and Vaseline for years to maximize both control over a baseball, and the amount of spin, or break, that it generates as it crosses home plate. In a year that hitters are striking out at prodigious rates — to everyone, not just deGrom — MLB has decided to stop turning a blind eye, and actually monitor the doctoring of baseballs.
Mets teammates all rallied to support deGrom on Twitter, as if that really means anything. Baseball players are a notoriously loyal bunch. Outfielder Kevin Pillar said: ““I would bet my paycheck on it that he doesn’t use anything.” And catcher Tomas Nido tweeted: “I promise you he doesn’t use anything. If he did they would be lucky to even foul tip the ball.”
It’s likely that deGrom has used these substances at some point in his career; he would’ve been taught to by countless pitching coaches. If he has been pitching without an artificial grip on the ball this year, though, that 0.62 ERA, which continues to flirt with Bob Gibson’s magical 1968 season, is just more and more impressive. Going forward, as umpires begin to fastidiously check caps, gloves and belts for substances, we’ll know for sure that deGrom, like Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, doesn’t have any help out there on the mound. And if he keeps up these numbers, his case for best pitching season ever will only grow.
Some have already written essays online about how “sad” these accusations are for the game. That’s silly. It’s baseball. The league thrives on scandals. There are fans who’d rather see another team get caught for banging on trash cans than see their team make the playoffs. deGrom will be fine, his Mets teammates can calm down, and the game will persist. Tune in to watch deGrom take on Fernando Tatis and the San Diego Padres tonight. Maybe he’ll strike out 15. Maybe he’ll rub his belt a bunch. It’ll be entertaining either way.
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