Gerrit Cole #45 of the New York Yankees pitches during the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium on May 22, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York City.
Sarah Stier | Getty Images
It’s the last thing Major League Baseball needs right now – another cheating situation.
MLB has been in the headlines over the past few weeks surrounding sticky baseballs. It’s a long-time practice that benefits pitchers. Foreign substances are applied to baseballs and can help spin rate and ball control during games. But it’s against the rules.
After collecting data and warning teams about the matter, MLB officials are planning to crack down on sticky baseballs.
Legendary players like Nolan Ryan have spoken about the issue, and current pitchers like New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole have been pressed about using sticky substances, too.
Although using any foreign substance on baseballs is illegal, MLB hasn’t enforced its own rules and could be harming offensive production, leading to a staggering amount of no-hitters.
But that’s about to change.
The league wants to enforce rules against applying stick substances to baseballs. It will ask umpires to check players and monitor baseballs, and will continue to use ball-tracking surveillance in hopes it will deter players from cheating.
The league also sent warning shots to big league players by suspending numerous minor league pitchers for sticky baseballs in an effort to combat the issue among younger players. But how can MLB truly police rules some believe it never cared about? And will the players union help?
MLB should be highly cautious about players cheating now more than ever, especially as it navigates the sports gambling space. Consumers could lose tons of money betting on games if players are cheating.
“We’re talking about preventing big dollars from coming into the game,” said former MLB executive Marty Conway. “At that point, you have to take action because now it’s crossed the rubicon into the general discussion in public. That’s usually not good for a sport.”
Behind the scenes, the league and MLB Players Association (MLBPA) are acknowledging the issue. The fear of public shaming will help matters, said officials who asked to remain anonymous. Baseball players don’t want to be seen as cheaters. It will surely ruin their legacy and prevent Hall of Fame entry.
Should fear of public embarrassment not work, players caught usually face a fine and suspension of up to 10 games. One of the individuals said MLB will explore increasing suspensions to 20 games. MLB plans to unveil its enforcement plan in the next few weeks.
So far, it appears to be working.
When discussing the matter on Tuesday, Cole, the Yankees pitcher, was asked if he’s used any foreign substances on baseballs. He didn’t confess but he didn’t deny it either. Cole pointed to “customs and practices” that have transitioned from “older players to younger players.” He said he’s open to dialogue that would prevent…