As Major League Baseball’s honest-to-goodness, we’re-gonna-enforce-it ban on foreign substances takes hold across the big leagues on Monday, one Hall of Famer will have his popcorn ready, eagerly awaiting a market correction in the pitcher-hitter economy.
“We’ve got guys who are pretty elite pitchers right now that two or three years ago, were very mediocre,” Chipper Jones, the Atlanta Braves icon and 2018 Hall inductee, told USA TODAY Sports. “I’m all for developing and improving, but they’re doing it by leaps and bounds.
“I understand the backlash of it happening in the middle of the season, but obviously Major League Baseball felt it was pretty important to address it now. They’ve given guys a week to 10 days – that’s two starts to get off of it. You’ve had fair warning. I’d be interested to see if some of these pitchers revert back to the way they were a couple years ago.
Freddie Freeman accepts his 2020 NL MVP trophy from former Brave Chipper Jones. (Photo: Todd Kirkland, Getty Images)
Indeed, it’s been 18 days since MLB informed owners a more literal translation of the foreign substances rule was forthcoming, and a week since it laid out in painstaking terms how zero the tolerance shall be. Managers, general managers and umpires were debriefed over the weekend.
And now, we wait to see who gets caught – or crushed by opposing hitters.
As the hitter-pitcher imbalance hit unsettling levels this spring – with record lows in batting average and record highs, yet again, in strikeouts – Jones, who hit 468 home runs in his career, was just hoping for it all to make sense.
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He saw things far more clearly the other day, when he applied some Spider Tack – the jet fuel of foreign substances that the industry seemingly decided was a bridge too far – to his fingers.
“And I could literally stick the baseball to my hand,” says Jones, who is a hitting consultant for the Braves, spending pregame hours before home games in the crevices of Truist Park. “There’s a reason the ball stuck to Yadier Molina’s chest protector (in 2017). It is ridiculous. It is above and beyond.
“I do not have a problem with there being something on the ball to help with grip. But when you’re talking about pitchers who are, for lack of a better term, mediocre, and their ability to use this Spider Tack stuff, and their spin rate and their fastballs and breaking balls start to be unhittable, that’s when you start to raise your eyebrows.”
Fortunately, the 1999 National League MVP has a solution.
For whatever reason, MLB has always viewed pine tar as suitable for hitters, verboten for pitchers, who were relegated to a rosin bag at the back of the mound.
Jones would like to see the walls between hitters and pitchers and substances torn down. Pine tar?
Legalize it – for everyone.
“There’s two substances that are allowed in Major League Baseball for hitters and pitcher,” he says, “and that is pine tar and rosin. If you want to cure everything, you let the pitchers use pine tar. If we as hitters can use it, I don’t think it should be excluded from the pitchers.
“Now, everything in moderation. I don’t know how you police it or regulate it or have it universally, equally used, but I think that’s the only fair way to do it.”
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