Recapping the First Week of MLB’s Sticky Situation

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It has certainly been an interesting week in Major League Baseball, that saw sights like Oakland A’s pitcher Sergio Romo taking off his pants in the middle of a game out of frustration during an on-field umpire check for foreign substances.

This is all because MLB has decided to enforce the rule against pitchers using foreign sticky substances in order to get a better grip on the ball. With talks of batters using pine tar, pitchers using anything else sticky in order to get a better grip, some people are scratching their heads as to why now, mid-season, would be the time that commissioner Rob Manfred decides to go above and beyond to enforce this rule.

Going back to the beginning of March, a memo was sent out saying this rule would be enforced fully this season, but this past week is when umpires were given the green light to essentially frisk players in order to make sure everyone is abiding by those rules. This is why Manfred doesn’t see a problem with it, despite players showing their distaste for the extreme measures. When asked about it, Manfred said, “I just don’t see any secret about where this was headed and I know for a fact there was plenty of opportunity for input in the process.”

Things hit new extremes on Tuesday when Phillies manager Joe Girardi had umpires conduct a total of three checks on Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer throughout the first four innings. Girardi’s reasoning was that Scherzer kept running his hands through his hair, which is a pretty common thing that Scherzer does. Regardless, nothing was found on Scherzer, and the Nationals would go on to win the game.

Members of the Players’ Association including New York Yankees reliever Zach Britton have been speaking out against the new ban. Britton called it “embarrassing” for the game, as it takes away from the performance of pitchers, and instead shifts the focus on potential cheating. However, players have offered a solution: just do in-clubhouse checks rather than stopping the game and having full checks on the field. Britton also went on to say that Manfred owes more of an explanation to players, saying, “I don’t have any issues with trying to clean up the game and level the playing field,” … “I think there’s a better way, and we’d be willing to sit down and talk about that, but we haven’t been engaged from my knowledge.”

Given that it has almost been a full week since the ban and these on-field checks, who knows what will happen going forward. However, it seems contradictory of Manfred to say he wants to make the game of baseball better, and have unhappy players in the process. Furthermore, it is even more contradictory to be this concerned about cheating given such a lack of punishment for the Houston Astros just a few years ago. As a baseball fan in general, I can appreciate the want to “clean up” the game, but there has to be a better way to go about it to make the majority of people, mainly players, happy.