MLB Is Dealing With A Bit Of A Sticky Situation

Tage Olsin

By Ray Kuhn

We are all-knowing. It is really that simple. A pitcher who previously was having success fails, and that’s it; there we were getting illegal benefits from some type of sticky substance.

The burden of proof doesn’t exist, that is just a fable. A bad inning or a few bad pitches, maybe a bad start, or at worse a few bad starts in a row, and let’s not hurt ourselves jumping to conclusions.

Now, in a lot of these cases, there is probably some truth behind our sentiments, but who are we to truly know and judge? We can make educated guesses following what our eyes are telling us and go down whatever path the numbers take us on, but unless we get a clear admission or actual proof, will we ever know?

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is another scandal kicking around our great game, as Rob Manfred loves to create these types of situations with each side retreating into its camp. The cries that Manfred doesn’t love baseball and is trying to sabotage the game pick up (for the record, even as much as I may disagree with him at times, I think this couldn’t be further from the truth). Ultimately, Manfred and the rest of Major League Baseball think they are doing the best things possible for the game, but sometimes there are other factors in play.

For starters, we don’t like change. It doesn’t matter whether or not something actually needs fixing; we would rather stick with what is broken because baseball is our game and warts and all, it belongs to us. We resist getting rid of the broken-in, but dirty and worn, pair of shoes for the new pair that looks and fits better, and eventually we get there. By no means am I comparing shoes to the infield shift, seven-inning doubleheaders, or anything else Manfred has “messed” with, but the logic does apply here.

It is also important to remember that everything Manfred does is for the greater good of the game as a whole, not the diehard fans. Sometimes it is hard to look at the bigger picture and realize that there are greater things in play here. Yes, this doesn’t absolve Manfred for everything, and the fact that some decisions prove to be ultra-reactionary is ever clear.

Well, clear as the mud rubbed on baseballs perhaps, but that’s about it.

And that brings us to the current issue at hand.

The powers that be wanted offense. So, a few adjustments to the ball here, and just like that we had offense. The only problem was that it was too much offense. Or, at least, it became that way. We progressed to a “three true outcomes” state -- home run, strikeout, walk -- and games began to lose their excitement, at least to casual fans. And that’s not to mention the length of games either as they increased.

On the heels of that, the obvious step then would be to adjust back the other way and manipulate the construction of the ball. I do want to note that all of this was done in the general range specified for the ball, but it was clear outside interests were in play to reach the desired result.

However, the only problem is that those adjustments were done too well this season. Hitting completely retreated the other way to begin the 2021 season, no-hitters were commonplace, and it appears offense was a thing of the past. We couldn’t let that trend continue, so of course something had to be done.

The first problem with this, though, is that it came in the middle of the season. I want to be clear here; using outside substances to manipulate the baseball is illegal. There is a big difference though between illegal and enforced. Within reason, using Spider Tack or something similar has been going on for some time without any consequences other than hitters’ batting averages.

And then it wasn’t. Just like that, pitchers had to find a new way to grip the ball without much in the way of advance warning. But does it matter?

Regardless of what spin you put on it (pun intended) it is illegal. Yes, pitchers were getting away with it, but rules were being broken. The problem is that a lot of pitchers were doing it, it became a generally accepted practice, and no one was really willing to speak out against it either. That has now changed, and it’s unclear how many pitchers this will truly impact.

The rationale is that the ball is simply too slippery and impossible to grip without a little help. With pitchers throwing harder than ever, we do want them to have at least an idea of where the ball is going, as it then becomes a health issue.

It quickly became a health issue for Tyler Glasnow. He is now on the injured list as he was forced to adjust his motion to compensate for the lack of sunscreen he was previously using to adjust his grip.

If baseball is truly going to be serious about this, they need to make sure that the balls are treated in a better, more uniform manner before they get to the pitchers in game situations. MLB is well within their rights to enforce the rules, but after not doing so for so long., they do owe it to their pitchers to provide a uniformly usable ball. Or at least, a ball that can be worked into shape for all with the help of rosin and rosin alone.

At this point though, let’s just wait until the end of the season instead of rushing to judgment and action.

Ray Kuhn can be found writing on Fantasy Alarm and podcasting at Friends With Fantasy Benefits after previously covering the Houston Astros as part of the FanSided network at Climbing Tal’s Hill. Reach him at @ray_kuhn_28 on Twitter or as he is always interested in talking or writing about our great game.

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