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MLB’s war on sticky stuff is making pitchers strip mid-game

I don’t think these rules have been completely thought out.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Night one of the implementation of MLB’s new emphasis to cut down on pitchers using illegal substances took a bizarre turn Tuesday night when Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals basically threatened to get naked on the mound after being checked for a third time by umpires.

Scherzer was straight up ready to drop his pants in front of millions before umpires calmed him down, but the moment underscored the horrific implementation of MLB’s illegal substance rules. As it stands a manager can call for a check whenever they want, as often as they want, without any kind of punishment for slowing the game down.

This meant that Phillies manager Joe Girardi called for THREE checks on Scherzer in four innings, leading to a heated spat between Nationals dugout and Girardi, eventually leading to Girardi’s ejection. After the game he tried to play it off like he didn’t mean any offense, using the justification that he’d been studying the pitcher’s body language for over a decade, and saw some problem — or something.

“I’ve seen Max a long time, since 2010,” Girardi said. “Obviously, he’s going to be a Hall of Famer. I’ve never seen him wipe his head like he was doing tonight, ever. It was suspicious for me. He did it four or five times. It was suspicious. I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I just got to do what’s right for my club.”

People have noted that Scherzer’s pitch spin rate was significantly lower than normal on Tuesday night, prompting discussion over whether the Nationals ace was been using sticky stuff, and chose not to — but that’s hearsay at this time. What we do know is that Girardi kept calling for checks, even after Scherzer was clean, confusing fans, slowing the game down, and turning it all into a farce.

Meanwhile in Oakland, we had another pitcher fed up with checks who also decided taking off his pants was the right move.

The circumstances here were a little different, with the same pants-dropping result. Sergio Ramos was hit with a routine check on Tuesday and pulled his pants down, a move that A’s manager Bob Melvin said was attributed to Ramos joking around, rather than being angry like Scherzer.

“He’s a playful guy,” Melvin said. “I don’t think he meant anything by it. I will credit the umpires the way they’ve handled it. They’ve been fantastic. Try to make light of it. Smile with guys and do it quickly. That won’t happen again. The playful side came out. I don’t think he meant anything by it. But umpires are trying to do their job as well.”

Obviously the system is a mess. I’ve advocated that MLB should allow every substance in the universe into the game, but if baseball is intent on making the game clean there has to be some system of checks and balances. Perhaps a manager check should be like a challenge flag in the NFL, only giving an opposing team a certain number of opportunities to check and be wrong before losing the ability. I don’t have a perfect answer here. I do know, however, that allowing managers to slow the game to a crawl with checks is ripe for abuse to break a pitcher’s rhythm, and in any sport coaches, when given power like that, will abuse it.

Until there are tweaks though, I’m totally here for pitchers dropping their pants on the mound. It’s an added twist, an amuse bouche for the senses. A chance to see something wholly ridiculous in the middle of serious claims of cheating. Keep dropping your pants, pitchers. I’ll be watching.