NEW YORK – Pitcher reviews began Monday, a week after Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Rob Manfred announced a crackdown on the use of illegal substances for better ball grip.
How is the matter going so far? The answer depends on who you ask.
Although the players have offered various opinions, many have been expressive and have shown their annoyance in their appointments with the press and in their attitudes on the field, a man has not cared about the reactions and is just as determined as a week ago.
That man is the one in charge of everything.
In fact, in an interview with The Athletic this week, the commissioner expressed satisfaction with the early results… or the lack of.
“My vision is that the first two days have gone very well. We have not had expulsions (for illegal substances), ”Manfred said in the interview. “The players in general have been extremely cooperative, the inspections have been done quickly and between innings. Frankly, the data suggests that we are making progress on these issues (the speed of the turns) that made us give this effort in the first place. “
At the same time, Manfred, aware of the reaction in both leagues, realizes that there is work ahead.
“On Tuesday, Joe Girardi, manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, asked umpires to check Max Scherzer, the Washington Nationals starter, for sticky substances. The Phillies suspected that Scherzer, who regularly touched his sweaty hair, as he traditionally does, was doing something that needed to be checked.
“It was suspicious in my opinion,” Girardi said.
This was something that annoyed Scherzer. By the third check they did, the pitcher was already angry and threw his glove to the ground, unbuckled his belt and said, “I have nothing,” repeatedly.
“I understand that the incident in Philadelphia was less than ideal, but it was an incident and we hope that we will continue, like the vast majority of cases so far, without those kinds of incidents,” Manfred said.
While players, including Scherzer, have turned their media sessions into an opportunity to criticize the protocols, Manfred stands by and is adamant that communication from the commissioner’s office has been efficient and effective.
“We were really transparent from the beginning of the year that this was a problem for us and that things needed to change. That is why we collected information. In March, we were clear in the memorandum that we sent that if things did not change, we were going to take disciplinary measures, ”the commissioner stressed. “At the owners meetings there was a lot of publicity around the fact that things had not changed. In fact, they had gotten worse.
“I just don’t see any secrets about where this issue is going and I know there are plenty of opportunities for input in the process,” he added.
On Wednesday, New York Yankees reliever Zack Britton, along with Scherzer, both members of the players’ association executive subcommittee, requested that umpire reviews on the Major League field be replaced with monitors inspecting pitchers. in clubhouses, dugouts and bullpens.
“If I’m a kid who goes to the game and I ask my dad, ‘Hey, what’s up? Why are you checking them? ‘What is dad going to say? ‘Well, they think everyone cheats,’ ”Britton questioned. “I mean, do we want that to be what this game is about, to assume you’re cheating? It’s a bad image ”.
Britton is not alone in that idea, as actors in the field examine the situation in the long term. Mike Matheny, manager of the Kansas City Royals, warned opponents that if they act like Girardi and ask umpires to check Royals pitchers, it would be a provocation for their team.
Manfred said he is aware of everything and remains open to further recommendations. When asked about long-term plans, the commissioner said he was confident, but did not go far in the interview.
“I don’t like putting my feet in the sand. We barely have two days (of reviews). I just don’t have enough information to say if this measure is rigid or is going to change, ”stressed Manfred.
That process, however, could change as more players speak out about the reviews.
“Optics are absolutely embarrassing for our sport and I don’t want to wake up and read about our sport in the morning,” said Britton. “There are better ways to do it, but it takes more than me or the players say. Major League Baseball needs to analyze and determine where we can enforce rules, but not in the way they are doing it. “
Sure, there is potential, especially with the presence of baseball on social media, that some episodes on the field damage the image of baseball. That should be a concern in clubhouses and in the commissioner’s office.
On Tuesday, Oakland Athletics reliever Sergio Romo was reviewed by umpires after pitching in the seventh inning. The veteran right-hander slammed his belt to the ground and pulled down his pants, raising questions about whether television networks should limit coverage of the searches.
“We tried to create a plan that was … as low-key as possible given the nuts and bolts of the sport and the need for the game to walk,” Manfred said. “We thought that the revisions between posts was a good way to decrease them (but) it may not be the best word (to use). I don’t think we can practically tell TV partners not to cover something that happens in the field, ”Manfred said.
Some pitchers, for example Gerrit Cole, a Yankees ace, have been outspoken about Manfred’s visibility on this issue. After his outing last week, Cole implored the majors to speak with him and the other pitchers, who must take the ball and find ways to keep up with the system.
The media also play a role in this. Will Manfred be open and available to discuss these issues as the system progresses?
Manfred is aware of the questions and wants the entire baseball industry to know that he is not going to hide.
“Every year since I have been commissioned, with the exception of last year, I have been available at least twice a year,” recalled Manfred. “I hope to get back to my regular routine this year.
“I have not refused to talk about this issue. When people call, I answer ”, he concluded.
AP contributed to this report.