Spitball

Corbin Hicks
3 min readJun 14, 2021

MLB has a cheating scandal on their hands.

I’m not talking about the Chicago Black Sox game-fixing scandal. I’m not talking about Pete Rose gambling on baseball games. I’m not talking about the steroid era. I’m not talking about the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros sign-stealing scandals, nor am I talking about any other MLB scandals from this Wikipedia page. No, I’m talking about pitchers using foreign substances.

There’s a huge issue right now within MLB regarding pitchers using random combinations of foreign substances to both increase the grip they have on the ball and to increase how much pitches spin. It’s rumored that the teams are openly aware and sometimes assist with making these foreign substance concoctions, and one clubhouse manager was fired last year for giving the pitchers this aid, but the only guarantee is that no one’s revealing what they use. The alleged substances include relatively normal baseball things like resin, sunscreen and pine tar, all the way up to glue and wax. And apparently 80–90% of MLB pitchers are using something to gain a competitive advantage over hitters.

Last season, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer had the best year of his eight-year major league career and won the NL Cy Young Award, given to the league’s best pitcher. Bauer was a free agent after the season and landed a three-year $102M deal with the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers, which makes Bauer the highest paid player in baseball. In addition to landing a great pitcher, they also landed a very vocal proponent of using foreign substances, who has helped the entire Dodgers pitching staff increase the amount of spin on their pitches. This has led to more strikeouts, less runs allowed and less hits allowed, which is why MLB is preparing a crackdown.

Not only are the Dodgers pitchers all getting noticeably better, every MLB team is seeing a dramatic decrease in batting. Giving pitchers a better grip and more motion on all of their pitches makes hitting a baseball, the hardest task in any sport, exponentially harder. There’s also been an increase in pitchers that are hitting batters, as baseballs covered in random gunk can be sometimes unpredictable and harder to control. An increase in hit batters leads to an increase in injuries, such as New York Mets’ Kevin Pillar fracturing his nose after getting hit in the face with a new-age spitball. A combination of increased injuries, decreased hitting and fewer home runs all add up to less entertaining games, and that’s why MLB is about to take action.

MLB has begun confiscating and investigating game balls and the league is potentially on the cusp of a Deflategate type scandal, but it’s important to remember that this is only happening because of money. Less spin on the ball leads to less batter injuries. Less batter injuries leads to less batter whiffs. Less batter whiffs leads to more base hits and home runs. More home runs lead to higher sponsorship deals and viewer numbers. And all of that is currently at jeopardy because some pitchers discovered that sunscreen makes them more effective at their day jobs.

When in doubt, follow the dollar signs.

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