Pitchers Freaking Out Over MLB’s Sticky-Substances Crackdown Is Must-See TV

After Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer undid his belt, Sergio Romo of the A's upped the stakes and fully dropped trow

Oakland Athletics Pitcher Sergio Romo pulls down his pants.
Oakland Athletics Pitcher Sergio Romo pulls down his pants.
Aric Becker/Icon Sportswire via Getty

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred’s recent crackdown on the use of foreign substances on the mound may have saved baseball … by turning America’s Pastime back into a genuinely entertaining televised affair.

With umpires having pretty much free rein to check pitchers for sticky stuff whenever they want — in addition to opposing managers having the right to ask for an inspection as of Monday — we’ve already seen a couple of hurlers freak out.

The prime example last night was 38-year-old Sergio Romo of the Oakland A’s, who undid his belt and dropped his pants just below his butt when approached by an umpire.

“He’s a playful guy,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said following the game per The Mercury News. “I don’t think he meant anything by it. I will credit the umpires the way they’ve handled it. They’ve been fantastic. Try to make light of it. Smile with guys and do it quickly. That won’t happen again. The playful side came out. I don’t think he meant anything by it. But umpires are trying to do their job as well.”

A couple hours earlier, Nationals star pitcher Max Scherzer undid his belt and chucked his hat and glove after Phillies manager Joe Girardi asked umpires to check the ace for sticky stuff for the third time.

“These are Manfred rules,” Scherzer said after Washington beat Philadelphia 3-2 on Tuesday night. “Go ask him what he wants to do with this. I would have to be an absolute fool to actually use something tonight when everybody’s antenna is so far high they’d look for anything. I have absolutely zero on me. I have nothing on me. Check whatever you want. I’ll take off all my clothes if you want to see me.”

Through two days of league-sanctioned inspections for performance-enhancing sticky stuff, no pitchers have been caught with the banned substances. But since the crackdown began, several pitchers, including Scherzer, have seen their spin rates decline.

Despite the drop, Scherzer was able to get the win for the Nationals. The same cannot be said for Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees, who allowed two runs and three hits in seven innings in a loss to the Kansas City Royals. It was his first start since MLB introduced its move to suppress grip enhancers last week.

While throwing more than 100 pitches, Cole saw his fastball’s revolutions per minute average at 2,289, down from 2,534. His curveball dropped to 2,664 from 2,824, his slider to 2,443 from 2,686, and his changeup to 1,644 from 1,812, per The Associated Press.

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