Various members of Dodgers, Astros suggest World Series baseballs are slicker

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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On Friday, commissioner Rob Manfred responded disingenuously to claims that the makeup of baseballs used in the majors had been altered. Despite two different studies concluding the balls were altered around the second half of the 2015 season, and despite various players — including Astros starter Justin Verlander — agreeing with that conclusion, Manfred has gone up to the microphone and shot down those claims.

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci has a new report in which various members of the Dodgers and Astros agree that baseballs used during the World Series are slicker than those used during the regular season, which may explain why there have been so many home runs (15) hit during the first four games of the World Series.

Astros pitching coach Brent Strom said after Game 4, “I just want to know why. Why in the world would the baseballs in the World Series be different? Because you can see the difference. You can feel it. I don’t understand it at all.” He added, “It’s obvious. You can see it and you can feel it. It’s not the same. Someone’s got to explain to me why.”

Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said, “Yu [Darvish] noticed the difference. He told me the balls were slicker and he had trouble throwing the slider because of how slick they were. He wasn’t able to throw his slider the same way.”

Astros Game 4 starter Charlie Morton said, “Lance McCullers took the blindfold test in the bullpen. He could tell which ball was which with his eyes closed. It’s that different.”

Verlander said, “The World Series ball is slicker. No doubt. I’m telling you, we’re in here signing [World Series] balls before the game, and it’s hard to get the ink on the ball sometimes. You know when you sign a receipt at Starbucks, and if you don’t hold the paper down with your hand, the pen just slides across the paper and the ink doesn’t stick to it? That’s what it’s like sometimes trying to sign these balls. That’s how slick the leather is.” He continued, “It’s different. I noticed it especially throwing a slider. It didn’t feel the same. The home run I gave up to [Joc] Pederson was a slider.”

Verducci included in his report a side-by-side picture of two different baseballs held by Strom, a 2017 regular season ball and a 2017 World Series ball. Verducci himself agreed that the World Series ball felt slicker. Furthermore, during the ALCS, Verducci heard from members of the Indians that the playoff balls felt different than those used during the regular season.

Obviously, the World Series balls being different than the regular season balls doesn’t explain why the 2017 regular season eviscerated the previous record for home runs in a season (5,693 in 2000) at 6,105. But if Major League Baseball can and is willing to alter the balls used during the post-season, it follows they would be willing to do so for those used in the regular season as well. The evidence is undeniable at this point and Manfred has had no good explanation. As I mentioned when responding to Manfred’s continued denial on Friday, changing the baseballs in and of itself isn’t necessarily wrong. Keeping the players blind to the changes and publicly denying that any changes have been made is, however, wrong and it’s why so many people are making a big deal about this.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.