Major League Baseball began cracking down this week on enforcement of their foreign-substances ban. That means umpires are checking pitchers regularly throughout the game for tar or tack or sunscreen hidden anywhere such as their glove or cap or belt or uniform. Every pitcher who appears in the game must be inspected at least once, and nobody can use anything except the rosin bag available on the mound.
Pitchers are not happy about this, partly because of the specifics of the rule but more because of the way it was imposed midway through a season instead of being safely rolled out when they had time to adjust to it. Rays star Tyler Glasnow already believes the sudden changes helped contribute to his elbow injury.
Two days into the new TSA checks, frustration is already mounting quickly. For context, here’s what a routine search looks like. Every starter gets this treatment at least twice when they pitch, and every reliever gets it the first time they leave the mound.
Rangers starter Kyle Gibson got a shake down from umps -- prob to check for sticky substances pic.twitter.com/T8h0tOxm2l— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) June 22, 2021
But they aren’t all going quite that friendly. See if you can spot the subtle moment when three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer gets annoyed, while being inspected for the third time in four innings, this time in the middle of the frame because the opposing manager tried to falsely narc him out as a strategic move. (That manager, Joe Girardi, was later ejected for escalating his tantrum further.)
Terrible look on MLB pic.twitter.com/li5gsXYOjz— Dillard Barnhart (@BarnHasSpoken) June 23, 2021
“I wasn’t heated, I was just trying to show I have absolutely zero on me,” Scherzer said, per insider Todd Zolecki. “I have nothing on me, check whatever you want. I’ll take off all my clothes if you want to see me. I have nothing on me.”
The A’s also played Tuesday night, which meant all of their pitchers were getting checked too. Sergio Romo took it a step further than Scherzer had, actually pulling down his pants to provide full disclosure, though fortunately not full transparency.
Sergio Romo dropped his pants when the umpire asked to check for foreign substances— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) June 23, 2021
[via @mlb / youtube] pic.twitter.com/DF8Utldo4n
“He’s a playful guy, and I don’t think he meant anything by it,” said manager Bob Melvin of Romo’s antics, via NBCS. “I will credit the umpires with the way they’ve handled this, they’ve been fantastic in it, try to make light of it and smile with guys and do it quickly. So that won’t happen again. The playful side of him came out, I don’t think he meant anything by it. The umpires are trying to do their job as well.”
“Exclusively for upper-deck diehards,” reads the sign behind Romo in that photo of him pulling down his pants.
Welcome to 2021, and another Rob Manfred Special. It’s stunning how badly MLB has botched this.
The problem of increasingly sticky stuff being used by pitchers for a competitive advantage has existed for years, and Trevor Bauer has been screaming about it to anybody who will listen. The league could have dealt with this over any offseason instead of ignoring it like they do all their problems. Instead they pulled this rush job at the worst possible time and pissed off absolutely everybody. And just wait until more teams begin using this strategically to interrupt the pace of play, like Girardi did. Fans will love that.
A terrible idea is going as terribly as expected. The A’s should call for an extra check on the opposing pitcher during every inning, and every A’s pitcher should pull their pants down on the field during their checks, until MLB gets the message and ends this ridiculous new policy. Table it until the offseason and then address the issue properly like it deserves.
So 135 different pitchers appeared in a big-league game yesterday. By my math, that means:— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) June 23, 2021
30 starters = 60+ inspections (at least 2 each)
105 relievers = 105+ inspections (at least 1 each)
That's 165 umpire inspections a day? Wow.
What could possibly go wrong there?