Bring On The Sticky-Stuff Anarchy
11:41 AM EDT on June 21, 2021
Welcome to Day The First of Major League Baseball's official war on spin-rate terror, and it ought to be just the thing to get the kids back interested in the game. Nothing is likelier to bond parents and children quite like gathering around the 55-inch hearth each night to watch a ballgame and hear little Brittaniiiii or Theon ask that old familiar question, "Why is the game stopping, and why is that man making that other man take off all his clothes?"
After all, when you get a new car, don't you want to take it for a spin? If you're at work, don't you want to be the first person to try (read: suck up to) the boss's fun new initiative for making his life easier? Don't you just want to see how the new thing works?
Well, baseball has just given us the new thing, and it starts today. As ESPN's Buster Olney put it in today's installment of "Why Baseball Wants To Become Fight Club," the old laissez-faire traditions now stand to become a festival of beanball-infested narc-ing.
Baseball's rule against the use of foreign substances has been buried for decades underneath a gentlemen's agreement held among managers, who almost uniformly refused to ask umpires to check opposing pitchers because they knew that their own pitchers would not be checked.
But with Major League Baseball set to order umpires to enforce the foreign substance rules starting Monday, at least three teams intend to set aside that old agreement, according to sources. If the managers of those teams receive information that seems suspicious -- video capturing an opposing pitcher perhaps using foreign substances, or data about an unusual spike in spin rate -- they will ask umpires to check opposing pitchers.
If just a handful of teams start to ask for foreign-substance checks, the gentlemen's agreement could become obsolete, with most or all teams willing to monitor opposing pitchers.
You know what that means, kids? Longer games, which baseball says it doesn't want but still can't prevent. More angry pitchers with dropped trousers. More Joe West and Angel Hernandez and Dan Iassogna and the new army of young and anonymous umpires inspired by the whims of their superiors to become massive pains in the ass for the sake of career advancement.
But you know what else it could mean? All the teams back away from this conga line of tattling realizing the damage it could do to their own pitchers' equilibrium and reputations as well as the game itself, and actually start policing themselves. The Spider Tack generation dies aborning and the game finds its old balance again, and all is right with the game.
We will now pause while you stop laughing.
Of course we want the new rules enforced, as often and as comically as possible. Not to clean up pitching for future generations, mind you, (nobody cares about them in a post-pandemic society, so the hell with them) but to turn every game into a hot mess of informants and revenge-seekers. We want more screen time for C.B. Bucknor and Hunter Wendelstedt facilitating the managers' newfound prerogative of demanding minor nudity in search of unsanctioned adhesives in delicate areas. It is time to bring back the days when Tim Tschida could force Joe Niekro to try and produce and then dispose of an emery board that helped make his knuckle balls knuckle. It is time to make the visit to the mound, of which there are many, an ever-present potential source of team-on-team enmity. We want a new era of shambles in a game that seems to be cornering the market on it already.
After all, the problem is more offense, and everyone seems to understand that the basics of offense have been reduced to the three outcomes, launch angle, uppercut swings, and an inexhaustible supply of 97-mph pitchers who can turn every pitch into a Catherine wheel of failure. The spin-rate witch hunt will help in the short term, but longer term a generation of hitters will have to be retaught the basics of the art, and nobody wants to wait that long, not when more screen time for Alan Porter and Doug Eddings trying to break up fights is the quicker solution.
The only bad thing about the new rules on pantsing players in the name of law and order is that it is taking attention away from the real story of the year: the Arizona Diamondbacks and their march through Satan's colon. The team that just set a new major league record for consecutive road losses (23) just got swept at home by the Los Angeles Dodgers to stretch their home losing streak to seven and their overall losing streak to 17. How is this not leading MLB.com every day? (Because it is giving you five stories up top on Wander Franco's call-up, of course) How is this not the top of every SportsCenter? (Because Ben Simmons, that's why). The Diamondback have won two of their last 33 and five of their last 45. They are the new Cleveland Spiders and nobody is paying attention, damn it!
So, let's see angry pitchers in their underwear. Let's see uncontrollable beanball wars. Let's see Jayce Tingler and Derek Shelton and Rocco Baldelli and Mike Shildt screeching "J'ACCUSE!" 11 times a night. Let's see multiple ejections and empty dugouts. Let's see Dusty Baker and Terry Francona and Tony La Russa shifting to and fro uncomfortably as the new generation of tattletales turn the game from its more genteel and honorable roots—that was a Thursday in 1974, in case you were tempted to look it up. Give us new baseball, you bastards, because you pretty much screwed up the old one.
Besides, the Diamondbacks are still 81 consecutive losses short of actually achieving full Spiderhood, and nobody's got time for that while the Atlanta Hawks still live.