Couch: Baseball’s ‘Year Of The Pitcher’ Is A Joke, And Rob Manfred’s Incompetence Is Why

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So now baseball is in a sticky situation, having looked the other way while rampant cheating and amazing, but fake, accomplishments were packaged and sold for ratings. This neglect and incompetence from commissioner Rob Manfred is just now blowing up in baseball’s face.

You know all those no-hitters you’ve been seeing? Fake. You know all those strikeouts and pumped up velocity and nasty movement on pitches? Fake. You know the talk about how pitchers have simply gotten too good for hitters?


And worst of all: Major League Baseball has known all along.

On Wednesday, St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Giovanny Gallegos came into the game against the Chicago White Sox in the seventh inning, and umpire Joe West told him to remove his cap, which was then sent to MLB for analysis because it had a suspicious substance on the bill. Gallegos was told he had to get another cap. St. Louis manager Mike Shildt charged out of the dugout, got thrown out of the game and later snitched on baseball, giving up its dirty little secret.

“It’s the wrong time and the wrong arena to expose that,’’  Shildt said, not arguing that his pitcher wasn’t cheating, but only that he had been unfairly selected for enforcement.

It turns out that large numbers of pitchers are putting banned sticky substances on the ball so they can get a better grip on it. That has led to dramatically increased spin rates on the ball, which then turns or dips or dives like never before.

Have you noticed how many pitchers seem to have some sort of large dirty spot on the front, center of their bill? Turns out, that might be a reservoir of glop. Of pine tar. Or maybe a combo of sunscreen and rosin. Or who knows what.

Meanwhile, so many pitchers are throwing 98, 99, 100 miles an hour now that modern day pitchers make pitchers from, say 2010, look like Neanderthals.

How many pitchers are doing this? Apparently, it’s nearly unanimous.

“There are people effectively, and not even trying to hide, essentially flipping the bird at the league with how they’re cheating in this game with concocted substances. . .’’ Shildt said. “Understandably, Major League Baseball is trying to do their best to (police) it in a manner that doesn’t create any black eye to the integrity of the game that we love.’’

In other words: Hide it. Well, too late now. 

Yes, I understand that baseball owners lost a lot of ticket revenue last year because of COVID and might lose a lot more because of a nasty upcoming labor fight.

I also understand that baseball just never learns.

You’d think Manfred would remember the steroid era, when players bulked up by injecting banned substances and then hit home run after home run. Players looked like cartoon characters, and Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds and pretty much everyone else, too, made history by cheating. What did baseball do?

Shhh. Keep quiet. People like home runs. People pay to see them. Bud Selig, commissioner at the time, hid under his desk while his PR people told him what his conscience should think based on ticket sales and TV ratings. But then fans lost faith in the game entirely, knowing it wasn’t legit. 

So here we are again. And Manfred’s leadership?

Shhh. Keep quiet. People like no hitters. People pay to see them.

But now Manfred’s PR people have apparently told him that fans don’t like seeing so little action, that the games are boring with long expanses of time 

passing with nothing happening.

A few weeks ago, the Chicago Cubs played a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose ace, Clayton Kershaw, was so terrible that several of his pitches were way short, not getting anywhere near the plate. In Game 2, the Dodgers threw Trevor Bauer, another of the league’s best pitchers, and a similar thing happened.

It reminded me of the movie The Replacements, when a football coach (Gene Hackman) covers his receiver’s hands with stickem so he’ll stop dropping passes from his quarterback (Keanu Reeves).

“What’re they going to do?’’ Hackman says. “Put you in football jail?’’

Next play, touchdown. Only the receiver can’t spike the ball. It’s stuck to his hands.

So seeing these Cubs-Dodgers games, I tweeted this: “I can’t believe how many pitches in baseball don’t even get to the dirt around home plate. Pitchers are clearly putting illegal sticky stuff on the ball or their hands. Pitchers already are too good for hitters. I can’t be the only one seeing this. Where is MLB?’’

No, I wasn’t the only one. All of baseball knew. In August, the media tried to turn it into a Bauer problem, not a baseball problem, when MLB confiscated some of his pitched balls to analyze for stickem.

Bauer ripped the media and MLB on Twitter: “lol to @MLB who already has ‘sources’ talking to gossip bloggers about a supposedly confidential process a week into the season thumbs up y’all keep killin it!”

According to the New York Post, the league sent a letter to all the teams before the season saying that they were going to put a stop to this. But until Wednesday, nearly a third of the way into the season. . .nothing.

What took so long? Well, Manfred’s PR people had to tell him it was time to come out from under Selig’s desk first.

Show ’em how you feel with this “Fire Manfred” T-shirt.

Written by Greg Couch

Greg earned the 2007 Peter Lisagor Award as the best sports columnist in the Chicagoland area for his work with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he started as a college football writer in 1997 before becoming a general columnist in 2003. He also won a Lisagor in 2016 for his commentary in and The Guardian.

Couch penned articles and columns for Report, AOL Fanhouse, and The Sporting News and contributed as a writer and on-air analyst for and Fox Sports 1 TV. In his journalistic roles, Couch has covered the grandest stages of tennis from Wimbledon to the Olympics, among numerous national and international sporting spectacles. He also won first place awards from the U.S. Tennis Writers Association for his event coverage and column writing on the sport in 2010.


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  1. Baseball is such a POS game that I can’t wait for it to go away. MLB will be relegated to a 2nd tier game in 20 years. Kids hate it and they are losing numbers like crazy at the youth level. So long baseball, you waste of f’ing time.

    • A pox upon you good sir!

      I love baseball, but the current game does suck. And Manfred is a huge POS. How can someone who sucks so bad at his job not be fired? Something needs to change. I successfully turned my wife, son and 3 daughters into MLB fans. Working on my grandkids now. But I need some help!

      • Watching hitters pull the ball into the shift and striking out is about as boring as the game can get. I don’t understand why lefties don’t bunt it down the line every time and take a double. Metrics are ruining baseball. Any team that switches back to “small ball” will have an advantage. Put the ball in play and see what happens.

  2. So Greg, what needs to happen to fix MLB?
    Obviously the worthless f-tard Manfred needs to be fired. And then tarred and feathered. MLB needs a former player/manager running the league, not some nerdy MBA-statistician who doesn’t give a hoot about the product as long as the owners make a profit.
    What next? MLB needs more offense. I can’t believe the league deadened the ball when there was such a deficit of offense already.

  3. Great article.
    I love baseball. Grew up playing it and thought I would have a career until I ran into pitchers who could throw a real MLB breaking ball.
    I can’t watch games today. Take a look at lineups and see half the players hitting under .200.

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