In response to hitters in Major League Baseball walloping baseballs with unprecedented ease during the height of the Steroid Era, MLB increased and expanded its testing for illegal substances and began suspending offenders as a response to bring the game back to normal.
With league batting averages at an all-time low while pitcher strikeout rates sit at an all-time high, MLB is once again going to take action and crack down on average hurlers turning themselves into aces by using foreign substances like homemade glue, Pelican Grip and SpiderTech adhesive to get a better grip on the ball and increase the spin rate of pitches.
Detailed in an excellent Sports Illustrated piece, pitch-doctoring has become rampant across MLB to the point that some players are doing damage to their skin by applying super-sticky substances that are strong enough to let them pick up a cinder block with a flat hand on top.
MLB “believes it has a strong feel for what is being used, by whom, how often and to what effect” and multiple sources told The New York Post to “anticipate action” last week.
That action could be coming very shortly per ESPN’s Buster Posey and MLB is expected to instruct its umpires to enforce a rule that is mostly ignored — 6.02c — within the next 10 days to two weeks.
It sounds like umpires will begin conducting multiple foreign-substance checks per game on gloves, caps, balls, pants and anything else they believe a pitcher might be storing a substance to doctor the baseball. “One management source estimated that there will be eight to 10 random foreign-substance checks per game,” according to ESPN. Offenders will be suspended 10 days without pay and MLB officials hope the use of foreign substances will dissipate and that “teams will more aggressively police each other through their use of in-house video.”
Managers who usually become enraged when an ump or an opponent would “undress” their own pitcher on the mound are going to have to play ball because MLB is serious about getting this problem under control and more offense back into what is becoming a boring game.
“I remember the steroid era and I don’t know if I’m naïve, but I was like, ‘Ah, not many guys are doing that.’ And obviously the testing came out (in 2003) and it showed a lot of guys were doing that,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly told USA Today. “It sounds like this may be the same type of scenario — we’re not quite sure how big the scope is and how far it’s [gone] — but I do know there are steps to kind of correct it and get it back to an equal playing field for everyone. For the pitchers who don’t do it and for the hitters themselves.”
It’s about time for MLB to crack down on cheating and get itself out of this sticky situation.