Major League Baseball’s Newest Problem

Over the past week two Major League pitchers were ejected from games due to having foreign substances on their arms.

Will Smith of the Milwaukee Brewers was ejected from Friday’s game against the Braves after Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez pointed out to umpire Jim Joyce that Smith had a substance on his right arm.

Then on Saturday, Baltimore Orioles reliever Brian Matusz was tossed out of the O’s game in Miami for the same thing.

Major League Baseball suspended both pitchers for eight games, and both promptly appealed their suspensions.

Even though it is generally understood throughout baseball that some to most pitchers do use a variety of remedies to gain more grip on the ball, one of two trends seem to be arising, both causing a problem for Rob Manfred and the MLB Rules Committee.

Trend one: The number of pitchers who are using “foreign substances” to gain a better grip on the ball is rising, which could create a steroid-like stance to be taken by the MLB, its players and fans (although on a smaller scale.)

Just last year Michael Pineda was seen using pine tar while on the mound at the beginning of the season in two separate games against the Red Sox.

The first time the substance was on his hand but disappeared before John Farrell could bring it to the attention of the umpires. The second time was two weeks later, when Pineda was tossed from the game in Fenway after it was obvious that there was pine tar on his neck.

Trend two: Pitchers simply don’t care about the current policy and are willing to find out just how blatant they can be while gaining this advantage.

Both scenarios create a problem for the MLB.

If more and more pitchers continue to use foreign and illegal substances, obviously it will have to be addressed by Major League Baseball. Mainly, a set number of games to be suspended will have to be determined for first, and multiple, time offenders. Especially since games matter more to relievers than to starting pitchers.

The eight games Matusz and Smith were suspended could mean up to six or seven games they cannot pitch in since they are both relievers; where as Pineda missed just one start during his 10-game ban.

And if pitchers simply don’t care about being caught, again, the penalty needs to be adjusted.

However, there is a growing opinion that the MLB should have an approved substance for pitchers to use. Whether it’s a stick of pine tar, or maybe even a piece of sandpaper behind the mound, something that every pitcher can legally use.

But isn’t that what the rosin bag is for? Isn’t rosin supposed to be what pitchers use if they’re losing grip on the baseball? Or just simply ask for a new ball.

Whatever happens, Major League Baseball probably is going to have to act fast before another pitcher gets suspended.


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