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Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson complained a few weeks ago that pitchers use too many illegal substances, and soon after his complaints, MLB decided it would enforce new anti-“sticky stuff” regulations. Donaldson is now saying he’s glad he spoke up, claiming that his opinions will help baseball police itself.
“I definitely think they’re taking it seriously,” Donaldson said. “Now it’s just about following through and enforcing it. Hopefully the game will start to police itself, and the umpires will do their due diligence, and this just becomes part of the process so we can all just play baseball in accordance with the rules.”
Josh Donaldson sure showed Gerrit Cole tonight! pic.twitter.com/y3QzzyCCQl— Dillard Barnhart (@BarnHasSpoken) June 10, 2021
When did umpires prepare to detect sticky substances?
Never. On a good day, MLB umpires can barely command the strike zone. Angel Hernandez, CB Bucknor, and Joe West trick-or-treat as the Three Blind Mice behind home plate, and now suddenly they’ll become experts on pine tar and rosin use? It’s embarrassing how poorly this plan of action has been executed.
The premise of what Donaldson said is accurate, though. Substances like Spider-tack were being used to increase spin rate rather than to grip the baseball.
If anything, hitters would probably like to have pitchers with better grip on these 100-mile-an-hour fastballs.
“I really think it’s going to take a couple guys getting caught before people say, ‘Woah, let’s pull back on this.’ You’re not going to want to be branded a cheater,” Donaldson said. “And not being able to replace that guy on the roster, that’s going to be tough. Now you’re putting your teammates in a bind. Now it’s your fault, and that’s a problem.
He’s simply wrong
Donaldson correctly notes that when a player gets suspended for using a foreign substance, the team isn’t allowed to replace the suspended player on their roster. So the roster shrinks after a suspension, which will only increase injuries in the sport.
Pitchers haven’t argued against the regulation of substances to increase spin rate, and umpires will just be too ill-prepared to detect the difference between Spider-tack and rosin combined with sweat, as Trevor Bauer says.
We already saw Rays ace Tyler Glasnow blame his elbow injury on the sudden dismissal of grip agents. Maybe these guys are right? Isn’t it possible that baseball rushed this solution mid-season?
Players can also argue that Donaldson is putting players in harm’s way by creating pressure for a mid-season change. That’s probably why we saw reactions like this:
Gerrit Cole, Hanging 91mph Slider (and Donaldson F bomb). 💣 pic.twitter.com/QlGR1SCmwm— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 10, 2021
Donaldson didn’t make a mistake by complaining. He just complained at the wrong time.