New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso accused Major League Baseball of altering the ball's physical properties in order to depress the salaries of free agents on Wednesday. Alonso, who was asked for his thoughts about MLB's crack down on pitchers using foreign substances, dismissed that aspect as a non-factor for him before making his claim.
"The biggest concern is MLB manipulates the baseballs year in and year out depending on the free agency class," Alonso told reporters, including Tim Healey of Newsday. Alonso added: "Oh, no, that's a fact. Yes, guys have talked about it. It's not a coincidence. It definitely is something that they did."
Alonso pointed to a pair of recent developments as evidence for his claim: the juicing of the ball during the 2019 season, after which seven of the top 10 free agents were pitchers, and the subsequent deadening of the ball this year, ahead of a hitter-heavy free-agent class. Whereas MLB set an impossible number of home run records in 2019, the league as a whole is on pace in 2021 for the lowest batting average and highest strikeout rate in its history.
Whether or not one finds merit in Alonso's conspiracy theory -- and it's reasonable to doubt that MLB is a competent enough organization from top to bottom to pull off such maneuvers -- his willingness to publicize it, and to suggest other players hold the same belief, points to the distrust that exists within clubhouses toward commissioner Rob Manfred and the owners.
That's a notable development given that the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in December, and that the stage appears set for MLB's first work stoppage since the mid-1990s when a strike wiped out the 1994 World Series and ended only after owners brought in replacement players to begin spring training.
Alonso, by the way, has had few problems hitting the ball this season, no matter what the opposing pitchers are doctoring it with. Entering Tuesday, he was hitting .255/.343/.471 (127 OPS+) with nine home runs in 181 plate appearances.