Last week, Mets pitcher Chris Bassitt made headlines when he tore up Major League Baseball on ‘bad’ baseballs which are more inconsistent than in previous years. After three of his teammates were hit by throws in a game against the Cardinals, Bassitt implored the league to be more transparent about the balls used this season.
“MLB has a very big problem with baseballs – they’re bad,” Bassitt told reporters on April 27. “Everybody knows that. Every pitcher in the league knows that. MLB doesn’t care. They don’t care. We told them our issues with them, they don’t care.
Over the weekend, two Red Sox starters — Rich Hill and Nick Pivetta — said they agreed with Bassitt that MLB needs to be more transparent about which balls are put in play. two veteran pitchers said Commissioner Rob Manfred’s public desire to foster a more productive and harmonious relationship with his players in a post-lockdown world led to no tangible progress in the first weeks of the season. And pitchers agreed that the topic of baseballs — along with the league-wide decline in offense — is a major issue that needs to be addressed.
“Transparency is always important,” Pivetta said. “MLB talks about how they want to have better communication with us, how they want to develop a better relationship over the years. You can say you want these things, but actions will speak louder than words in a way.
Bassitt’s comments represented the latest salvo in a years-long baseball controversy. MLB changed the ball from year to year to try to produce the desired effects, such as injecting more offense into the game or, as the league later did, decreasing home run totals. . A turning point came in November, when Business Intern reported that MLB secretly used two different types of baseballs — an older, heavier ball that results in increased offense and a new ball with a lighter core aimed at lowering homer totals — last season without one. inform players. MLB says it was transparent about the situation in conversations with the MLBPA, but the union disputed that premise. The league said the use of two different types of balls stemmed from production delays related to COVID-19, but additional research has denied that claim. The controversy has led to an environment in which players do not trust league officials even on the simplest matters. The fact that MLB bought Rawlings, which makes the baseballs, four years ago doesn’t sit well with players either.
“We’ve raised it many times,” said Pivetta, who will soon take over as Boston’s union representative. “They didn’t comment on it. They didn’t acknowledge it. They’re the ones who bought Rawlings. MLB bought Rawlings. They control the baseballs. They know what’s going on with the baseballs. We don’t. We just take the baseballs and play with them. You can tell you notice a difference, but overall we don’t make the baseballs, so we don’t know not what the difference really is.
Hill, who has pitched in the majors since 2005, said he started noticing inconsistencies in the baseballs he threw about seven or eight years ago. As the outgoing speed increased – a change according to Hill was a driving factor in the installation of wide nets in stadiums – homer totals also increased. In 2019, the league surpassed its old record with 3,478 total homers. That number was down in 2021 (3,059) and could drop further this year as offense is down in baseball for the first few weeks.
“I think there’s a consistency issue,” Hill said. “I think that’s something that obviously Major League Baseball says they’re working on. When you own the business and say you don’t know what’s going on, it doesn’t all add up.
As a pitcher, Hill would likely benefit more from a more dead ball. But he doesn’t see it that way. He doesn’t care whether the balls are “juiced” or not. He just wants to know what he’s throwing.
“I don’t think anyone would have a problem with that as long as we were told what’s going on,” Hill said. “Like, ‘Hey guys, we’re going to use these balls. This is the year we’re going to use the baseballs that will be more bouncy, less bouncy, whatever. But let everyone know.
“Personally, whether he’s dead or alive, pick one and tell everyone,” he added. “This is where I stand. I’m not on either side of the fence on where baseballs should be. Choose one, stick to it, and tell everyone.
Pivetta and Hill also pointed to other factors affecting baseballs. MLB’s ban on foreign substances last year is forcing pitchers to reinvent themselves on the mound and the league is looking at ways to ensure pitchers can effectively grab balls — fairly — to stay in control . So far this year, Hill said, there have been inconsistencies in how and when balls are scrubbed before games, making some dustier and slicker than others.
“The standard is very broad,” Hill said. “It’s something they’re trying to work on to come to a conclusion where they can make it universal for every ball that comes into play. But I don’t think it’s as consistent as everyone would like.
Pivetta noted that installing humidifiers in every ballpark could be another reason for the drop in offensive numbers. He speculated that in Toronto, where the Red Sox had failed to homer many balls they thought were leaving the stadium, the ball was particularly dead because it had been in a basement cigar box inside a controlled dome. No one with the Red Sox blames baseballs for why the team’s offense has been so bad to start the season – Alex Cora says baseballs haven’t been a topic of conversation in the clubhouse – but they are clearly different than in years past.
“We just watched batting practice and maybe five or six balls came out,” Hill said ahead of Saturday’s game at Camden Yards.
The problems with baseballs aren’t the only ones players are having with the league right now. Just because the parties reached a collective agreement that saved the regular season doesn’t mean they get on well. Manfred tried to foster better relationships with the players by meeting in small groups during spring training and giving each player headphones on opening day. But those things haven’t led to much harmony or trust in the two months since the lockdown ended, according to Pivetta.
“No. Not really,” Pivetta said when asked if the relationship between MLB and the players has improved at all. A lot of things are happening that shouldn’t be happening.”
Hill said he recently watched Tiger Woods’ induction speech into the World Golf Hall of Fame and was struck by how golfers revered former PGA commissioner Tim Finchem, who was inducted alongside Woods. He wants baseball players to have the same kind of relationship with Manfred, although they don’t.
“It seemed (to create) this relationship between the ambassador of the game, basically, and someone who is there for the health of the game and to promote baseball, it really starts with the guys who are at the highest level,” Hill said. . “When that relationship improves, there’s that bridge to less bickering and more transparency about what’s going on.”
Hill also thinks owners should be more transparent with players.
“Rob is a guy and he speaks on behalf of the owners,” Hill said. “It’s also partly the owners’ responsibility to be more present and cultivate that relationship with the players as well. Understanding that there’s a commercial side to the game, but also that the bridge can be created for the players and MLB work together.”
For now, Hill and Pivetta, like many of their peers in baseball, are waiting for more information about the baseballs they are throwing. Their hope is that at some point they will have a better idea.
“Get something that’s consistent for everyone,” Hill said. “It really doesn’t need to be a problem anymore. It would be the end.