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.”
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.