You could fill a book with the things I was wrong and deluded about in 1986, but one thing I was certain of was that Houston Astros pitcher Mike Scott was scuffing baseballs.
Yeah, people were all taken at the time with the notion that the splitter was some vexing form of sorcery, but it strained credulity that Scott — after an exceedingly pedestrian career to that point — suddenly figured out all of the secrets to pitching in 1986, doubling his strikeout rate on the back of some newfound hyper-command of his split-fingered fastball. Way more likely that he just figured out how to properly install an old nail or a thumbtack in his glove — perfect for scuffing purposes — so that it wouldn’t be detected.
Scott still hasn’t totally come clean on that, but in an interview he gave for MLB Network’s upcoming documentary about the 1986 postseason, he comes as close to a full confession as any crafty ball-doctorer ever will:
They can believe whatever they want to believe. Every ball that hits the ground has something on it. … I’ve thrown balls that were scuffed but I haven’t scuffed every ball that I’ve thrown.
I love that passive voice: “balls that were scuffed.” It’s OK, Mike. We all know. We’ve known for 25 years. You gave us a fun, improbable 300+ strikeout season that was nice to plug into our Lance Haffner sim baseball game for our Commodore 64s and your treachery, while almost impacting the results of the 1986 season, ultimately didn’t carry the day. We’re cool with it. Really, we are. Now give us a big hug.
(link via Mets Blog)