Amid rumors that upwards of 80-to-90-percent of Major League pitchers are using illegal substances to doctor baseballs and create unhittable amounts of spin, the MLB is looking to crack down. The reports have drawn interesting reactions from around the sport, and this afternoon, New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso is breaking out something of a conspiracy theory.
Batting numbers around Major League Baseball has swung wildly in recent years. Alonso’s numbers demonstrate that about as well as anyone in the sport.
As a rookie in 2019, he exploded with 53 home runs to set a rookie MLB record, breaking crosstown rival Aaron Judge. He slumped in 2020, hitting 16 home runs in the short season, with his batting average dropping to .231 from .260 a year before. That slump continued into 2021, though he’s seen a recent uptick in production and power. He has nine homers in 181 plate appearances, and his slugging percentage of .471 is below his first two MLB seasons.
It is unclear how much pitchers’ substances are having an effect on players like Alonso, though a groundbreaking Sports Illustrated report suggests its significant. Alonso is more concerned with baseball’s constant tinkering with the baseball itself. Where the 2019 ball led to a power surge, this year’s ball dies at the warning track and may be contributing to the massive drain in offense that the sport has seen. Alonso believes that the makeup of the league’s free agent classes have a major impact on how the MLB’s balls act from year-to-year.
Pete Alonso said he does not like that MLB is cracking down on pitchers using illegal sticky substances: "I don't care what they use."
"The biggest concern is MLB manipulates the baseballs year in and year out depending on the free agency class," he said.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) June 9, 2021
“That’s a fact,” Alonso said, with regard to the free agency aspect of these allegations. “In 2019, there was a huge class of free agent pitchers, and that’s ‘the juiced balls.’ And then 2020 was a strange year with the COVID season, but now that we’re back to playing a regular season with a ton of shortstops or position players that are going to be paid a lot of money… it’s not a coincidence. It definitely is something that they do.”
Pete Alonso posits that MLB changes the baseball based on free agent class:
"That's a fact. In 2019 there was a huge class of free agent pitchers…it's not a coincidence" pic.twitter.com/OnRHmFAxBf
— SNY (@SNYtv) June 9, 2021
The relationship between baseball’s players and ownership is not good, with years of allegations that teams are colluding to artificially driving down the value of major free agents. While top players have certainly cashed in, we’ve seen talented players go unsigned for months, only to settle for below-market deals relative to what most expected that they would receive.
Pete Alonso’s theory takes things a step forward. Basically, he says that baseball introduced the “juiced balls” of 2019, the year he hit 53 home runs, to drive down the value of the pitcher-heavy free agency class the following offseason. This year, with the class being stocked with big-time hitters, offense is way down with yet another new baseball.
Whether or not Alonso is on to something here, it hasn’t been good for the game. The allegations against the league’s pitchers are troubling, but baseball’s constant tinkering with the ball itself definitely hasn’t helped anyone get into rhythm year over year.