The responses to the Jon Lester Vaseline “controversy” are pretty familiar

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I don’t think there is anything to make of the Jon Lester Vaseline controversy than what has been made. Maybe he had something on his glove, but MLB can’t prove it, the Cardinals aren’t pursuing it and the most this will ever amount to — and probably the most it should amount to — is a bit of fun and chatter-fodder this morning.  Even if something was amiss, no one has much of an incentive to pursue it anyway, and it’s all gonna die before the first pitch of Game 2.

Which it probably should. Again: absent more evidence or something more conclusive, it’s not a big deal. It’s something fun to talk about. Nothing more.

But I am getting a bit of a chuckle at how the responses to this little incident are playing out, as some of them are quite familiar.  Here’s a broad sampling of the various responses I’ve seen. And I don’t mean to single out these tweeters — some of them are my friends — they’re just what I happened to see.

  • Let’s go after the accuser:
  • Sure, maybe something was going on, but EVERYONE does it.
  • Even if he is doing it, it didn’t help him. He would have accomplished what he accomplished anyway.

Sound familiar? They do to me. Because we see these defenses play out in the PED arguments all the time. And they never really fly there.

We saw the line of reasoning in Abraham’s tweets way back in 1998. That’s when Steve Wilstein of the Associated Press pointed out the andro in Mark McGwire’s locker. He was dismissed at best, vilified at worst, not because of what he was saying but because he, in the minds of some, lacked the standing to say it. Depending on how hard someone went after Wilstein, it was either irrelevant or shameful.

As for the “attention-seeking,” We saw this hurled at Jose Canseco, who was dismissed as an attention-seeker when he first announced his intention to out the PED users and later when he wrote his book. Which, yes, Canseco was an attention seeker, but that didn’t make him wrong.

The other two are more recent and, to me anyway, more familiar. Because heck, I make those arguments all the time! I say stuff like “why are we so hard on hitters who took PEDs when pitchers did too?” And “Maybe Barry Bonds took PEDs, but it’s not like he wouldn’t have been a Hall of Famer without them.”  They’re the same arguments as “the Cardinals put goop on balls” and “Lester didn’t need the goop to win” stuff.

When I offer those arguments, though, I’m usually shot down by others with some variation of “just because everyone does it doesn’t make it right” or “even if the guy would have been a Hall of Famer without PEDs, he still cheated and cheating is wrong.” Which is kind of funny when you think about it, given how non-critical people are being of that line of reasoning with respect to doctoring baseballs.

Look, I’m not suggesting that whatever Jon Lester did — if he even did anything — is awful or terrible. Indeed, I’m inclined to let it all go simply because (a) lots of pitchers doctor baseballs and (b) whatever he was doing last night, it didn’t really change anything.  But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t, technically, cheating if he had some substance on his glove. If he had goo on the glove he was very much cheating, for whatever that’s worth.

I am just sort of amused at how the sorts of defenses used for one sort of cheating — PED use — are considered illegitimate by many but are immediately trotted out when another sort of cheating — spitallin’ — presents itself for discussion.

MLB investigation confirms that the baseball has changed

MLB
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You know the baseballs are different. We know the baseballs are different. Pitchers have been saying the baseballs are different. And now Major League Baseball has acknowledged that the baseballs are different in a report of findings by a team of scientists from some of the top universities in the world, like Stanford, Caltech, and M.I.T.

You can read the whole thing here in PDF form. Here’s the gist …

The ball is not bouncier — or “juiced” — but it is most definitely carrying farther. From MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince …

Though the study did not discover meaningful changes in the ball’s lift, it found that the drag coefficient of MLB balls has decreased since 2015. The researchers used a physics model to calculate that if the change in home run rate was attributable entirely to changes in drag, one would expect the drag coefficient to have decreased by approximately 0.012. The exact change in drag coefficient in the time period studied — if you’re scoring at home — was 0.0153.

It’s not the seams or the core that has changed — those aspects were tested — and it’s not the weather either. In fact, the commision couldn’t figure out what is causing the decrease in drag, despite numerous tests on all elements of the ball. It might simply come down to manufacturing advancements. Looking at you, Rawlings …

“Rawlings is always trying to improve the manufacturing process to make it more uniform,” Alan Nathan, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told MLB.com. “So the interesting question that comes up is whether the goal should be to improve the manufacturing process or to keep the ball performing exactly the way it is, regardless of whether it’s improved or not.”

Baseball Prospectus began studying this three years ago, as home runs began to increase around the league. Their write-up on MLB’s report is a must-read.