Since MLB announced a stricter foreign substance policy, players have seen fallouts in performance, health, and respect for league officials.
Pitchers using grip-enhancing substances has been going on in baseball for quite some time. It can help the pitchers in a number of ways too. Most obviously, a better grip can increase control and cause pitchers to throw more strikes. However, with baseball becoming so statistically focused, the more important advantage these substances is provide is by increasing pitcher’s spin rates. When the ball spins faster, jumps in movement and velocity can be seen. But, after decades of turning their heads on the subject, MLB has begun actually enforcing the rule with the addition of a 10-game suspension if caught in the act.
Rob Manfred: Best Commissioner in Sports
Since then, a number of players have spoken out on the decision, questioning the rational of Rob Manfred’s decision. Specifically, Carlos Rodón, who recorded a no-hitter already this season, attacked the commissioner’s decision of punishing these players instead of another recent cheating scandal.
Carlos Rodon, GO OFF KING pic.twitter.com/GJcTn34rEg
— Southside Showdown (@SoxShowdown) June 16, 2021
Rodón brings up a valid point. Pitchers have not just recently used these sunscreen-rosin combinations. It has been an unadvertised aspect of baseball for decades and players are beginning to speak out about them doing so. Whereas, the Houston Astros did something that, as far as we know, was unlike any other cheating scandal in baseball. Their use of technology to relay signs to their hitters is a massive advantage that is much more directly impactful to a game than by getting a better feel for the ball.
Wainwright Legacy in Question?
A recent legend, someone I consider to be a certain MLB Hall of Famer, actually came out and admitted to using these grip-aids previously. Adam Wainwright arrived to a media session and showed no remorse when speaking on the subject with Sam Masterson, “If it gets me in trouble because I did it years ago, then so be it. I’ve got nothing to hide.” His honesty really goes to show the magnitude of this trend. Wainwright represents an older generation in baseball today and his involvement in this trend shows how long it has been going on.
Substances Impact on Health
By introducing the suspension punishment, pitchers who previously did use substances are being forced to rapidly cut it out of their routine. Hence, players are making quick, drastic adjustments to their entire throwing process, including the grips they use. Different grips on the ball come with different requirements of force and arm tension. Thereby, without these foreign substances to aid in grip strength, players are being forced to hold the balls tighter and throw it more aggressively.
These alterations usually take months to introduce to pitchers, but since this rule change occurred mid-season, pitchers are much more susceptible to injury. The best example of this would be Tyler Glasnow, someone who before this change was AL Cy Young candidate. However, since then, he had to change everything in his game, and sadly injured his UCL and will likely be out the remainder of the season. Following this unfortunate news, he also addressed the media with a very heartfelt, aggressive message.
Tyler Glasnow went off on MLB's foreign substance crackdown saying, "I'm telling you I truly believe that is why I got hurt."
What's your take on Glasnow's rant and how would you handle the situation if you were the commissioner? pic.twitter.com/DgsdTxRpoi
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) June 15, 2021
Glasnow’s message really addressed how the timing of this transition is unfair and dangerous. He is also just one of many that could soon experience similar complications. Another Cy Young candidate, Jacob deGrom, has been struggling to stay healthy recently as well and possibly the ball could be a reason for this.
Cole Looks Lost Without Foreign Substances
This decision, which is not even a month old yet, has seen immense fallouts for many players in many different aspects. Some players are getting injured, some are hating on MLB for being so hypocritical for giving out suspensions, while others are simply underperforming. For example, Gerrit Cole in the past four years has dominated the game. His massive improvement from his days in Pittsburgh compared to Houston and New York seemed to be ignored and thought to be natural. However, his pitching lines since the enforcement has been noticeably worse. The other night, he had his lowest average spin rate in an outing in four years and clearly losing his sticky substance is the reason.
This is only the beginning. More and more players will be speaking out against this decision and express their displeasure. Throwing a baseball accurately at 90+ miles per hour is simply not easy. Not having these helpful, yet illegal, substances might actually be good for the game and should possibly continue to be ignored. To provide hitters with pine tar for grip strength, places the pitchers at a disadvantage when they don’t get anything. Yes, rosin is helpful, but it simply does not provide the moisture needed for more control. Cracking down on these substances may be good for baseball’s integrity, but it is not looking good for the players so far, and we still have a long way to go.
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