Bock’s Score: Baseball Needs To Get A Grip

Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

Baseball’s law and order “Let’s try something different’’ commissioner cracked down last week when he announced that pitchers applying greasy kid stuff to baseballs would be suspended for 10 days.

That penalty will be with pay so as not to impose economic hardship on their families, struggling to get by on major league salaries.

Say what?

They get their salary while they’re suspended? That’s like a paid vacation.

That’ll teach them to use hair tonic for good grooming instead of making the baseballs do loopy loops when they throw them. You know the old motto for “Brylcream,” a hair styling product. “A little dab will do ya.’’

Pitchers are innovative characters and discovered, oh a century or so ago, that foreign substances applied to the ball improved their grip and a better grip allowed them better results.

The science advanced through the decades until recently somebody discovered “Spider Tack,” a sticky substance used in power lifting strongman competitions. If the Houston Astros could bang a drum to tip off batters on pitches, why then pitchers figured they could cheat, too.

The irony there is that the Astro players who participated in a hoax that probably stole a World Series for them, never paid a price. There were suspensions for the masterminds of the plot but not for the players who listened for the drumbeats to tip them off.

The smarty-pants pitchers, though, will run afoul of Rob Manfred Justice. The commissioner is baseball’s version of the old frontier’s Judge Roy Bean.

But never let it be said that this is not a compassionate commissioner. He gave the pitchers a week’s notice before unleashing the umpires to examine the baseballs for sticky stuff. This provided time to adjust to the crackdown.

Or, perhaps, use stuff on the baseball one last time.

Tyler Glasnow, ace of the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff, — a sunscreen and resin customer –got the message and ditched the sticky stuff to pitch clean. The result was a partial UCL tear and flexor strain of his elbow. Report straight to the injured list and who knows when we’ll see you on the mound again. Glasnow blamed the injury by being forced to pitch clean. What a revolutionary concept.

But then Manfred is full of all sorts of fun innovations for the game. With all the breakdowns by pitchers, can we be far away from using Iron Mikes on the mound instead of human beings?

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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