The 2021 MLB regular season is nearly three months old and I think we've all settled into the daily grind that is marathon regular season baseball. The 60-game sprint was fun in its own way last year given the circumstances. Give me the full 162-game experience every day of the week though.
Throughout the season the CBS Sports MLB scribes will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we discussed potential landing spots for Nelson Cruz. This week we're going to tackle the sticky stuff crackdown.
Is MLB's foreign substance crackdown necessary?
R.J. Anderson: I'm fine with the idea of MLB doing something to reel it in. I think pitchers were probably taking too many liberties (albeit because of MLB's lax enforcement of its own rules), and an adjustment was necessary given some of the studies out there on the impact Spider Tack and its ilk can have on pitch quality. That said, I would've liked to have seen a more nuanced set of guidelines that allowed for the continued use of more harmless grip enhancers, like sunscreen and pine tar. I think pitchers would've found that more agreeable, and I think it would've achieved the same desired effect -- that being to level the playing field.
Matt Snyder: Oh boy, do I have thoughts.
Pitchers: You've been cheating for years. No, not all of you, but enough of you that it became a nuisance and those who weren't doing it looked the other way while others cheated. You don't get to whine about "mid-season" changes because the league issued a memo in March and many of you just ignored it and went about your cheating business. And it was illegal in the first place. Quit acting like absolute babies when you get checked (looking at you, Sergio Romo). If you aren't cheating, you have nothing to worry about. And, no, you didn't get hurt because you couldn't cheat, Tyler Glasnow (you had an elbow injury in 2019, too, by the way). No, you don't have to have a sticky substance in order to "grip" the baseball. You like it because it makes you better pitchers. That's called performance-enhancing.
League office: This is ultimately your fault and it's unbelievable to me how much you seem to, historically, make the players out to be the bad guys. You give an inch, they take a mile, right? This got out of control because of lax enforcement. This enforcement mechanism should have been put in place along with the memo in March. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a rule without teeth isn't actually a rule. A speed limit sign is worthless if there's never a cop there to write tickets. This entire spectacle could have been avoided if there was any sort of actual leadership in place. Alas, Rob Manfred and his henchmen are elite-tier reactionaries. Heaven forbid they ever act proactively.
Everyone: No, hit by pitches aren't going to increase, because the pitchers don't actually need "gripping agents." They just like them because they are performance-enhancers. This needed to happen, it's just been very poorly introduced. Eventually, we won't even notice. Hopefully offense increases as a result, too.
Dayn Perry: I think the crackdown needs to happen (although I think the idea of foreign substances being largely responsible for the current strikeout/offense problems is an oversimplification), but it shouldn't have been implemented in such a hasty manner. Implement it prior to the 2022 season so that pitchers have more time to adapt during spring. Also, get managers completely out of the process. The Joe Girardi-Max Scherzer thing was absurd, and the last thing teams these days need is a means to seek out a supposed gamesmanship advantage at the expense of pace of play or whatever.
Mike Axisa: I am 100 percent in favor of the crackdown. It's one thing to use a little sunscreen or pine tar to get a better grip. It's another to use Spider Tack or Pelican Grip to weaponize spin. MLB looked the other way for decades and is certainly culpable. They let the kids into the candy story and acted surprised when everyone ran around with a sugar high. The pendulum has swung too far in favor of pitchers and it's time to swing it back toward hitters.
That said, I'm torn on the way the crackdown is happening. On one hand, if you have a problem and you know you have a problem, and you have the ability to fix it right away, then fix it. That's essentially what MLB has done. On the other hand, playing the first two-and-a-half months of the season with one set of rules and other three-and-a-half months with a different set of rules is illogical (technically it's the same set of rules with different levels of enforcement).
The crackdown was implemented in a hasty and sloppy manner, and I don't like that it's so public. The first few days have been a circus, predictably, though I suspect that will blow over in time (hopefully we get a few more tantrums like Sergio Romo's first, purely for entertainment purposes), and pitchers will begrudgingly deal with the inspections. Getting rid of foreign substances is a worthwhile endeavor. No doubt in my mind. The way MLB went about it leaves a lot to be desired though.