Baseball players have known for a long time that some form of crackdown on sticky substance use by pitchers is coming. They just didn’t know what it would look like. What substances would be prohibited? What kind of punishments would be imposed? How would enforcement be handled?
MLB released those details Tuesday afternoon. You can read a breakdown here. It promises to be messy, no doubt. But what do the players and coaches think of the news?
I asked veteran Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller, 36, in his sixteenth season in the majors, how he thought baseball would be like starting June 21, when rules enforcement officially begins.
“Can’t you tell me? I don’t know, ”he said with a smile, sitting on a padded railing outside the Cardinals dugout.
MORE: What was Gerrit Cole’s turning speed in the first outing since Spider Tack’s question?
I told him that I could venture to guess, but I wanted to know what he thought, as a player.
“I have guesses too, but I’ll probably keep them to myself,” Miller said. “My hope is that the game is not affected negatively, but positively, and that it is handled with care, and that the players have responsibility in this, as well as the referees. The players are talking to the referees as much as we can, to try to get an idea of what is happening. They are learning about this, it is my understanding, like us, by the seat of their pants. It is what the media know before us, in many cases. Ideally, it’s a good thing, but I don’t have a crystal ball. “
Mike Shildt, the Cardinals manager, also lamented the lack of a crystal ball when considering what the suspensions would look like, so he didn’t risk guessing. However, he had other thoughts.
“My guess about the game itself? I think they’re going to see lower strikeouts, ”he said. He’s already seeing an increase in batting average in the last two weeks. I think you are going to see a more offensive game. I don’t know what they’re going to see in relation to walks and hitters. I think that’s going to ebb and flow a bit. I think you will see a better version of our game, relative to what we are used to seeing. I say that, and everyone has their own version of the game that they like. I think you’ll see a more traditional game, the one we grew up with, that is more about balls in play, more action. You’re going to see an appropriate amount of offense. You will see that the boys can put the ball in play. “
He also had one more thought.
“You’re going to see a regression, potentially, not even potentially, you’re going to see a regression in certain guys from a pitching standpoint,” Shildt said.
You can bet that Statcast’s page turnover rate will rack up big page views over the next few weeks. The timing of this crackdown: how random is June 21? – is troublesome and the app will be tricky (more on that here!).
It’s also a bit surprising how strict MLB pretends to be; For years, a combination of sunscreen and rosin, from that little white bag behind each mound, was considered, essentially, an accepted part of the game. If pitchers had never deviated from that method, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
But pitchers weren’t in that gray zone, and super sticky substances like Spider Tack made things go a bit higher. Pitchers found on Tuesday that anything other than rosin would be grounds for not just an expulsion, but a 10-game suspension.
“One of the concerns that I would have,” Miller said, “and that I’ve heard, is that this is kind of like a cold turkey approach.”
Pitchers who have used the stickier stuff have to throw bullpens and other sessions to learn how to catch the ball again. Mid-June is not an ideal time.
At least one pitcher, Tyler Glasnow, the best pitcher on the team with the best record in baseball, Tampa Bay, blames his injury on that abrupt change. He pitched with a stronger grip on his first outing after the crackdown, and he thinks that made a difference.
Here’s Tyler Glasnow explaining his frustration.
“I tell you that I think that’s why I got hurt. It frustrates me that they don’t understand. Pitchers must be able to have some control and grip of the ball. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else, for a fastball to slip away. ” pic.twitter.com/W4zRbpmqDX
– Tricia Whitaker (@TriciaWhitaker) June 15, 2021
“Do it in the off season. Give us a chance to adjust, “the Rays ace told reporters in a zoom session on Tuesday.” I just threw 80-something, 70 innings, and then you told me I couldn’t wear anything in the middle of the year. I had to change everything, I had been doing all season. Everything out the window. I had to start doing something completely new. “
If you’re curious, there are only eight games scheduled for June 21, the first official day of the crackdown. Everyone will be watching to see what happens. Everyone.
“We have a day off, so maybe I’ll watch more baseball than I planned on my day off,” Miller said.