Major League Baseball is targeting pitchers that have allegedly used all manners of sticky substances to improve their grip on the baseball, causing spin rates to shoot sky high and offense across baseball to plummet. The new, post-inning inspections have not gone smoothly, and New York Yankees pitcher Zach Britton is the latest to take major umbrage with how things have gone.
Things came to a head in the first few days of the new inspections. The most glaring issues came in Max Scherzer's recent start for the Washington Nationals against the Philadelphia Phillies. After being checked twice by umpires, Phils manager Joe Girardi then called for a third, which set Scherzer off, leading to a very tense moment between the two.
The struggling offenses across baseball are clearly an issue for the sport, and the sticky substances, which have long gone unpoliced by the league, may very well be a huge factor. Pitchers are railing against such a major rule change and implementation of discipline at mid-season, when pitchers haven't had time to adjust. Among them is Britton, one of the MLB players union reps.
“I just think the optics of it are so bad for baseball,” he said ahead of Wednesday's Yankees game against the Kansas City Royals, via the New York Post. "We’re talking about that, we’re not talking about Wander Franco’s debut, we’re not talking about how well Gerrit [Cole] threw and how well Max Scherzer threw, and all this other stuff around the game.
"We’re talking about guys getting checked on the field, guys dropping their pants on the field, guys throwing their belts off. I just think the optics are absolutely embarrassing for our game.”
Britton says he's very open with making changes to "level the playing field," but takes major issues with what he sees as one-sided implementation of these new checks. Like many others, the Yankees pitcher lays it at the feet of commissioner Rob Manfred, calling out a lack of communication.
“I don’t have any issues with trying to clean up the game and level the playing field,” he said. “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.”
“I’d love to hear Manfred answer questions and not just players,” Britton said. “If you’re the head of a sport, I think part of the job description is to answer the questions and speak to the media occasionally. You see it throughout the other sports. It’s frustrating for the players that we haven’t heard from him yet.”
We'll see if things get smoothed over in the coming weeks, but right now baseball isn't in a great place, whether it is with players' distrust of the league, or the existing issues within the sport itself like the ever-changing baseballs and the use of sticky substances.