The MLB’s Sanction against Substances

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Kyle Goldstein

How will the MLB’s crackdown on substances affect pitching? We’ll just have to wait and see.

  With the World Series of Major League Baseball right around the corner, it is imperative to note a new change to the game that was made this season, which will alter the game indefinitely. On June 15th, the MLB officially announced it would be enforcing strict rules on foreign substances beginning on the twenty-first.

  The new guidelines prohibit all foreign substances of any kind, except for rosin, from being applied to the ball or being within a player’s possession. Regular checks for illegal applications are also enforced, usually taking place between innings or during pitcher changes. Players who are caught violating the rules will be ejected from the game and given an immediate ten game suspension.

  So, why are these changes being made all of a sudden; if pitchers have been using adhesives for over a century, what is the reason they’ve started cracking down on the sticky stuff?

  A rule has nearly always been present in baseball’s history that foreign appliances are not permitted. However, for years, the MLB has been leaving it up to opposing coaches to request umpires to check a pitcher if they are suspicious of foul play. Since many pitchers had been using substances anyway, coaches were reluctant to ask for an inspection of the other team out of fear that their pitcher would be punished as well, if they were cheating.

  Batters were never angered by pitchers using adhesives because they preferred better control of the ball being thrown at them. When pitchers use sticky substances, it helps them have better control of the ball, which is mainly used for the benefit of increasing spin rate, or revolutions of the ball per minute (RPM). Increasing RPM allows the ball to move faster and curve more to the pitcher’s desire.

  Because batters don’t want to be hit by wild pitches, they care less whether pitchers use mixtures to help them, such as rosin or sunscreen. However, a new substance that pitchers had recently begun using made other players feel they had too substantial of an advantage on the mound – Spider Tack.

  According to its official website, Spider Tack is a “super sticky paste,” and its intensive properties at play became the main concern which caused the MLB to alter the rules entirely, banning nearly all substances and implementing strict precautions and punishments. 

  Pitchers were enraged at the new guidelines, as the MLB was not only banning Spider Tack, but also almost every other less-effective tool used for sticking. After years without consequence, professional baseball players now have to live with no aid to their throw.

  Some pitchers have found ways to protest the frequent checks implemented by officials. Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals removed his belt and persuaded the umpires to feel through his sweaty hair in outrage. Oakland Athletics reliever Sergio Romo even took off his belt and let his pants slide down during checks between innings.

  No matter how the players feel, it looks as if the new additions to the rules are going to stay for the time being. The most interesting aspect of this situation is how the pitchers that have relied on adhesives through their career will make the transition. However, this will also allow pitchers with even greater raw talent to shine through this opportunity and arise to greatness.

  In the upcoming seasons, we will witness how the players evolve without substances and see if the MLB will continue to enforce the rule – or allow pitchers to return to their old tricks.