Talking Points

Baseball trades sticky stuff for pantless pitchers

As much as I am loath to protest changes to Major League Baseball that promote mid-game strip-teases, the sticky stuff crackdown is officially off to the worst and dumbest start imaginable. 

Tuesday night marked the second day of the league's renewed crackdown on the rampant use by pitchers of foreign substances to doctor the ball. The idea is that, at least once per game per pitcher, the umpire will visit the mound to check for a reservoir of illegal, grip-enhancing goop, which might be hidden on the brim of a pitcher's hat, inside his glove, or behind his belt. Opposing managers can also request an additional inspection "if the manager (or a member of his team) observes behavior on the field consistent with the use of a foreign substance." 

And in the division rivalry game between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night, that's exactly what happened. The ump inspected Nats pitcher Max Scherzer three times in five innings; the first two were routine, while the third was at the request of Phillies manager Joe Girardi. While Girardi probably had some reason to be on the alert, Washington's management thinks he was intentionally trying to throw off Scherzer's rhythm with the check.

That's clearly what Scherzer thought too:

It only escalated from there.

But Citizens Bank Park was not the only stadium where pitchers aggressively unbuckled their belts for the umps. In Arlington, Oakland A's reliever Sergio Romo threw off his glove, hat, and belt — then proceeded to pull his pants down to further make his point:

This is embarrassing for everyone involved. More consequently, though, fans seeing their pitchers get frisked every game will only further perpetuate the idea that baseball is a game for cheaters (not to mention that it creates a legitimate pace-of-play problem that will further alienate viewers, too). 

Worse, the sticky stuff situation is entirely a problem of MLB's making. If the league wasn't constantly tinkering with balls to promote its desired outcomes — or hadn't turned a blind eye to ball doctoring for years — we'd never have gotten to a place where pitchers were mooning the outfield bleachers. As it stands now, though, there's no easy solution; even a universal league-approved grippy substance, at this point, would likely be too little too late.

Hopefully at the bare minimum going forward, though, pitchers will at least be able to keep their pants on.