Sports | June 21, 2021 11:59 am

MLB Teams to Break Gentlemen’s Agreement by Asking Umpires to Check for Foreign Substances

Managers traditionally have not asked umps to check opposing pitchers so their own pitchers would not be checked

Brian Matusz is ejected by the umpire for having a foreign substance on his arm in 2015
Brian Matusz is ejected by the umpire for having a foreign substance on his arm in 2015.
Rob Foldy/Getty

With Major League Baseball set to cut down on the use of pitchers using foreign substances on the mound starting on Monday, several teams plan on aiding MLB’s crackdown by asking umpires to check opposing hurlers they suspect of doctoring the baseball.

Traditionally, managers have not asked for checks on opposing pitchers so their own pitchers would not be checked, a gentlemen’s agreement that allowed the rule against using foreign substances to go largely unenforced. With MLB now planning to eject and suspend pitchers for using illegal foreign substances to doctor the baseball, that agreement is out the window.

“We’ve been telling our pitchers that if they have been using, they need to stop,” a  high-ranking talent evaluator told ESPN. “We are looking to level the playing field. The whole sport is looking to level the playing field. We have an expectation our guys will honor the rule. If we get an indication that there’s someone pitching for the other team who might be doing something to gain a competitive advantage, yes, we will want our manager to challenge that.”

Staffers from at least two other organizations echoed similar sentiments and there is a possibility many teams will be calling for checks on opposing pitchers if their own players are examined by the umpires.

The checks are supposed to happen between innings and/or after pitchers come out of a game, but they can be done between batters during an inning if suspicious behavior is noticed.

It’s a small sample size, but offense is up and spin rates are down across MLB since the league indicated on June 3 it planned to start disciplining pitchers who are caught using foreign substances. With the new enforcement policy now officially in effect, offenses across baseball could be set to explode with the playing field now theoretically more level.

“Short-term, some type of friction might be inevitable. Long-term, any tension likely will subside if the game lands in a better place. The league already is encouraged by trends that might stem in part from some pitchers transitioning away from foreign substances,” according to The Athletic. “Last week produced the lowest strikeout rate (22.5 percent) of any week this season, run production in June has jumped and Rob Arthur wrote in Baseball Prospectus that a reduction in pitchers’ use of foreign substances might also boost home runs.”