The baseball news cycle usually only lets us care about a thing for a week or so. Then, like 80 games happen and a new little story pops up and that first thing is forgotten about. This is probably a good thing, as it limits just how much any given story can be beaten to absolute death. Sure, we beat some pretty badly, but compare what happens in baseball to what happens in football and thank your lucky stars we don’t have several days in a row to come up with new hot takes.
A big story about three or four baseball news cycles ago was pitchers using pine tar or sunscreen. That happened when, in a short period of times, Milwaukee’s Will Smith and Baltimore’s Brian Matusz were both suspended for using foreign substances on the ball.
As many said at the time, and as they say every time a pitcher is suspended for such things, the idea is to just get a better grip, everyone does it and perhaps baseball should allow a rules change to let them do just that. Yesterday Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe had a big story up about that and in it he got a comment from Rob Manfred’s spokesman which makes it sound like he’s on board:
Commissioner Rob Manfred has said the issue is something baseball should explore.
“In the event that either the rules committee or the competition committee wishes to address this topic, we will be prepared for such a conversation,” MLB spokesman Mike Teevan said. “We are aware of the comments that managers and players have made on this issue and we will be open to determining whether there is a better solution.”
Maybe that’s encouraging. But maybe it’s just a repeat of 2014, when Rob Manfred said much the same thing about reexamining the rules. The rule remained un-reexamined then. Will it now?
We’ll see. But we can say this much. The rules, as they exist now and as they are enforced are uneven and problematic and for that reason their legitimacy is in serious question. Possibly because the rationale for using foreign substances is not as benign and uniform as people like to say it is. I feel like, for the most part, it’s truly to get that better grip everyone’s talking about. But I also feel like there is a subtle second layer to it in which, sure, sometimes there is a competitive advantage to be had with it too, which leads to making a new rule a difficult proposition.
If there continues to be inaction on this, I suspect it will be because of that.
Orioles lefty Brian Matusz, caught using an illegal substance on his arm on May 23, has had his eight-game suspension upheld by Major League Baseball, Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY reports. This comes on the same day Brewers lefty Will Smith had his punishment for the same crime reduced from eight games to six games. Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports that MLB’s reasoning for the disparity is based on a formula that uses games pitched.
Since converting to a reliever full-time at the start of the 2013 season, Matusz has been a reliable southpaw for the Orioles. Between 2013-15, he has a 3.50 ERA with a 117/44 K/BB ratio in 121 innings.
Major League Baseball has just announced that Baltimore Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz has received an eight-game suspension for having a foreign substance on his arm during the bottom of the 12th inning during Saturday’s game against the Miami Marlins. He has filed an appeal, however, so the discipline will be held in abeyance until the appeal process is complete.
This follows on the heels of Brewers’ pitcher Will Smith receiving an eight-game suspension for having some goo on his arm too.
And, as we noted when Smith was suspended last week, the foreign substance rule, however much sense it makes, continues to be a weird one in practice given the “everyone does it and we sort of don’t mind but don’t be so obvious about it” stance people in the game tend to take with respect to it.
The short version: it’s surprising how willing everyone is to accept the pitchers “just use it to get a better grip” justification. And that justification may very well be true. A lot of players, hitters included, say that. But I feel like we’re nowhere near as willing to give that sort of benefit to ballplayers in other cases, especially when the act in question — putting a foreign substance on a baseball — is exactly like a form of cheating as well.
One question I have is why, if the “better grip” justification is as they say, have players never, ever asked for rules changes to allow for pitchers to use sunscreen or pine tar, thereby preventing suspensions such as this one?
Oh well. The “it’s OK, everyone does this, there’s no harm but, JESUS, don’t be OBVIOUS about it” dance will continue, probably forever. Even if it doesn’t make a lick of sense.
According to Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com, Orioles reliever Wesley Wright is headed to the 15-day disabled list due to a trapezius strain. The Orioles are expected to call up right-hander Eddie Gamboa to replace him on the active roster.
Wright has been dealing with left shoulder pain of late, but it’s believed to be emanating from his his neck/back. His velocity was down to the mid-80s during his appearance on Friday against the Blue Jays and he told Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com that he’s “pretty concerned.”
Wright signed a $1.7 million deal with the Orioles over the winter after posting a 3.17 ERA and 37/19 K/BB ratio across 48 1/3 innings with the Cubs in 2014. If this injury turns out to be serious, it might be a good thing that that Baltimore ended up keeping Brian Matusz.
It was tough to know what to expect from Alex Rodriguez coming off his year-long PED suspension, but he continues to show this spring that he’s still capable of doing some damage. Check out this home run against Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz earlier today:
That almost looked like a vintage A-Rod blast with the way the ball jumped off his bat. Impressive.
Rodriguez, who projects to be the primary DH for New York, finished the day 1-for-3 now batting .306 (11-for-36) with three home runs, a double and a .925 OPS across 15 games this spring. It would be pretty fun if he was one of the more productive bats in the Yankees lineup this season. C’mon, you can admit it too.