MLB is reportedly collecting balls and examining those balls for substances that do not belong on those balls. That means that at least one person is sitting in a laboratory setting going through ball after ball after ball after ball. That makes that person the John Gant of scientific investigators.
The MLB ball checker(s) will eventually get around to asking the same questions many fans have asked – Are the Cardinals fixing their balls? If so, why are they so bad at it? If not, then why not?
I’m like 99% confident that the Cardinals are not doctoring their balls. That’s based on a non-scientific study of game film that shows a middle-of-the-pack staff clearly working hard to surrender as many runs as their offense can score. As of this morning the offense leads the pitching staff by 1 run (236 runs scored vs 235 runs allowed).
I have faith that the pitchers can overcome this minuscule deficit.
There is that small chance that they are playing with their balls and just not very effective at it. Perhaps crumbled toasted ravioli does nothing for spin rate, or maybe Provel cheese actually causes velocity attenuation. It doesn’t matter. If they aren’t doing something weird with their balls and other teams continue to do so, maybe the Cardinals need to look closely at how they handle their balls.
If MLB does nothing, then perhaps teams need to level the playing field.
It’s a tough baseball decision – to mess with your balls or not mess with your balls. If you don’t mess with your balls, then you are potentially at a competitive disadvantage when facing pitchers with stuff on their balls. If you do mess with your balls, then you surrender the moral high ground.
Maybe it’s time to hire a special assistant to the GM or perhaps commission a study to research the effects of ball manipulation and how to get the most out of this funny business with the balls.
What’s the most effective thing to put on balls to make them move differently? How does one go about making minimal effort to conceal the foreign substance while on the playing field? Should a special dye be added to the substance to make it blend with the glove or uniform material?
Maybe MLB will do the right thing and really crack down on pitchers/teams flouting the rules. Probably not. How often does MLB actually do the right thing?
If they aren’t going to do the right thing, then the least the league can do is work with the players union to include provisions for balls in the next collective bargaining agreement. Here are some absolutely sensible possibilities:
- All pitchers must declare upon entering a game whether or not they intend to do something with their balls. Pitchers caught using a foreign substance or doctoring their balls after failing to make this declaration will be shot from a cannon into the groin of the nearest mascot.
- Pitchers will be limited to no more than 2 foreign substances and 1 tool used to scuff, scrape, or loosen laces.
- Position players taking the mound are allowed to use the same substances and tools as the pitcher that they are replacing.
- In the interest of pace-of-play concerns pitchers may take as long as 15 seconds per batter faced for the application and/or modification of their balls.
- Once a pitcher has declared intent to alter his balls, the batter is then given the option to use a corked bat. If the pitcher takes longer than the allotted 15 seconds to mess with his balls then the batter may choose to use an aluminum bat.
- The amount of applied substance(s) or alterations to the ball’s surface shall not prevent the application of the MLB authentication process. Because that’s easy money.
- Prior to throwing a pitch using a modified ball the pitcher must turn his head to either side and cough as a signal to the players and umpires that the ball should be handled with great care.
Some pitchers are probably brazenly breaking the rules. Some pitchers are probably being a little more circumspect. And some are probably doing nothing to their balls. Hopefully we are about to find out.
MLB’s investigation will probably expose a lot about what pitchers do with their balls, but at this early stage in the process it’s probably just scratching the surface.