By Jimmie Searfoss
There is a lack of respect when it comes to Major League Baseball. A lack of respect from the young fans, who don’t find it exciting enough to watch. There is a lack of respect from the diehard fans, who have lost their interest in the game due to the new rule changes. Most importantly, there is a lack of respect from the players themselves, who have been outspoken, even mocked, the direction the game is headed, and the only people to blame is the MLB front office.
The MLB’s latest headline is its crackdown on pitchers doctoring baseballs with foreign substances. Beginning June 21st pitchers will now be inspected after every inning, or after coming out of the bullpen for substances by umpires who will check their hat and glove.
This is a rule change that needed to happen. However, the way the MLB implemented the rule, and the backlash from pitchers around the league has created chaos around the league.
Oakland Athletics pitcher Sergio Romo walked off the mound in Wednesday’s game against the Texas Rangers and before he got to the dugout, he was stopped by an umpire for an inspection. Romo, who had just given up a run that inning, was visibly not pleased with the new requirement. He proceeded to throw his hat, belt, and glove onto the turf, then pulled his pants down in mockery to the new rule umpires must now enforce. Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer pulled a similar stunt in his start on Wednesday by undoing his belt to prove he was clean.
Tampa Bay Rays’ pitcher Tyler Glasnow and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer have particularly been outspoken against the rule change.
“I just threw 80 something innings & you just told me I can’t use anything. I have to change everything. I truly believe 100% that’s why I got hurt. I’m frustrated MLB doesn’t understand. You can’t just tell us to use nothing. It’s crazy,” said Glasnow in a postgame interview.
Bauer also reflects these views.
“They didn’t get a whole lot of this right,” said Bauer in an interview with Sportsnet LA.
To implement a rule that will change the way the sport is played three months into the season is rash and unprofessional from a league that is supposed to represent ‘Americas Pastime’. The league did not even need to wait until next season to implement this rule. The All-Star break, or even another set date a month or two down the line to give pitchers the opportunity to adjust would have sufficed. Instead, they felt the pressure and made a rushed and vague rule to throw into the game.
In the same interview with Sportsnet LA, Bauer demonstrated the sticky results of a mix of sweat and rosin by holding his hand in the air while a ball stuck to it. If a player is sweatier in one inning than another, causing the ball to stick more when mixed with the legal substance of rosin, how is an umpire going to determine if it was sweat or another substance?
“Umpires haven’t been trained to know what is sticky and what isn’t. And like, if I can hold a ball like this obviously it’s illegal right, except it’s not,” said Bauer, “It’s a mess.”
The mess the MLB is currently in is a case of history repeating itself. In the early 2000s the MLB was infamously tarnished by the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) which led to an increase in home runs. Players like Barry Bonds who began their careers lean ended up becoming a massive hulk of a player at the turn of the century. With home runs on the rise and players becoming unnaturally large unnaturally fast, it was obvious something wasn’t right. When the scandal finally broke on the amount of PED users within the MLB, the league became forever linked to cheating. It’s biggest athletes, like Bonds, who had been linked to PED’s lost all respect they had gained through their career.
The same signs had been there when it came to pitchers doctoring the ball. It is inexcusable for the MLB to claim more pitchers had been cheating than expected when the statistics had been there for it all along. The MLB sent a memo to all 30 teams at the beginning of the season announcing it would be tracking spin rates closely to crack down on cheating this year. Why did they start monitoring closely this year? These stats have been available for years. In the Statcast era of baseball there is a number for every aspect of the game. When players such as Gerrit Cole, Brandon Woodruff, and Tyler Glasnow along with many other pitchers had managed to drastically increase the spin rates on their pitches around the same time of each other, it should have caught the MLB’s attention. Yet the MLB ignored it, like a high schooler putting off a paper, and much like a high schooler, rushed something together and turned in at the last minute.
The NBA experienced something similar in its 2021 season. Its players had found a loophole in the rules and had exploited it. Players began to lurch forward unnaturally after a jump shot to draw contact from the defender thus causing a foul on the defense. It had created a lot of controversy around the league and with its fans. However, after the season, the NBA announced it was going to revise the rules in the offseason in a way to prohibit the unnatural movements of players during a jump shot. The NBA gave itself time to figure out their new rules and train their referees on how to call them.
It’s time the MLB took a page out of its fellow sports leagues book, because a player pulling his pants down is not a good look.