Rob Manfred is borderline obsessed with changing the game of baseball. He’s already gotten rid of the intentional walk, he’s seriously talking about changing the strike zone, and now? Now Rob Manfred wants to introduce a stickier baseball into the mix. You read that right. Manfred has commissioned Rawlings to make a baseball with a tacky leather surface to enhance grip, according to Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports. This is just the latest iteration of the project, which started last year with the use of bright white tacky baseballs for two days in the AFL.
This isn’t about pace of play, shockingly. That’s been Manfred’s baby, but this isn’t about that. It’s about better enforcement of the foreign substances rule, which has gotten lax in recent years. When a player like Michael Pineda is ejected for having pine tar on his hands, that’s an extreme situation, because every other lesser offense completely slides. Pitchers typically use a mixture that they feel helps them grip and control the ball better, and hitters usually agree. But Manfred has apparently grown tired of the players’ detente on this issue. A tackier baseball would mean that players would no longer need to use any foreign substance to help them with grip.
Passan points out that there could be a lot of unintended consequences. Players might be able to see the ball better, for instance. And if seeing the ball better is a consequence that leads to more offense, which something that falls under Manfred’s "pace of action" obsession, then I’m sure he wouldn’t object. But one unintended consequence has to do with the special mud that every baseball is rubbed with before it’s used. If MLB started using a tackier baseballs, they would no longer need to be rubbed with Lena Blackburne Rubbing Mud, the substance that every single MLB baseball is slathered with prior to games. And without MLB as their main customer, that would signal almost certain doom for the company.
Manfred wants to change the game, and he intends to do it with or without the players’ agreement or involvement. Hopefully he’s thought this one through fully before unleashing it onto baseball at large.
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