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MLB finds no rules violation after ball sticks to Yadier Molina’s chest protector

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Major League Baseball won’t be taking any action against the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina after a wayward pitch stuck to the catcher’s chest protector during Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Cubs. According to the official rulebook, the use of any foreign substance on a baseball is strictly prohibited, but there are no provisions in place to punish a non-pitcher who is caught with the substance on his person.

That may be why, as both ESPN’s Mark Saxon and the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales pointed out, the Cubs did not request that home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott inspect the ball shortly after the incident occurred. After the game, Cubs’ outfielder Jason Heyward explained that Molina had probably used something like pine tar or an adhesive spray called Tuf-Skin to get a better grip on the ball, which inadvertently led to the odd play — and, later, a blown lead for the Cardinals.

Both Molina and manager Mike Matheny denied any knowledge of a foreign substance on Molina’s uniform. No in-depth explanation has been offered up by the team so far, and with Major League Baseball backing off, it’s unlikely that they’ll volunteer more details anytime soon. As Matheny relayed to MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch: “I don’t know what happened. I have no idea. I’ve never seen it.”

Major League Baseball orders balls stored in climate controlled rooms for some reason

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Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.

Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.

To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials,  and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec.

Based on Verducci’s report, it seems that MLB is at least past the denial stage and is attempting to understand and address the issues about which many players have complained and which have, without question, impacted offense in the game:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that MLB commissioned a research project after last season to study the composition, storage and handling of the baseballs. He said that investigation is not yet completed. “I’m not at the point to jump that gun right now,” he said about the findings.

The investigation is not yet completed, but the fact that the league is now ordering changes in the manner in which balls are handled before use suggests to me that the league has learned that there is at least something amiss about the composition or manufacture of the baseballs.

Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but quick to impose costs and changes of process on its clubs like this is not one of them. There is likely a good reason for it.