Why Is The Baseball Juiced? Here’s A Really Good Reason Why MLB Wants It That Way.
Remember the “Steroid Era?” Sure. Everyone does. But the new “Juiced Ball Era” is rapidly overtaking it in terms of crazy numbers that distort history.
And that’s likely just peachy for Major League Baseball.
That’s the number of home runs Major League Baseball players are on pace to hit this year.
That’s the existing record from 2017.
What does 6,658-6,105 equal?
A joke, and an intentional joke at that. MLB, which now owns Rawlings, the company that makes the balls, sure seems to be intentionally trying to walk fans down a similar path it allowed them to follow two decades ago as it allowed juiced-up players to post cartoonish numbers and obliterate records.
Rob Manfred told reporters at the All_Star Game in Cleveland that baseball had no hand in the changes to the new ball but was trying to figure out, “Why the drag of baseball is less.”
Here’s a guess as to why it’s less. Manfred, according to the new book “Baseball Cop” by former MLB Department of Investigations team member, Eddie Dominguez, was absolutely unafraid to put the game of professional baseball in the best light possible, even if that meant interfering with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency investigation that could have stopped drug dealers from continuing to have access to professional, minor league and college teams and even if that meant ordering the league’s own investigators to avoid investigating those involved with supplying performance-enhancing drugs. According to Dominguez, Manfred led the charge for baseball to bust Alex Rodriguez instead of allowing the feds to do it, so MLB, Manfred and then-Commissioner Bud Selig could use A-Rod as a poster boy for MLB’s get-tough-on-PEDs public relations campaign.
Fast forward 20 years and the MLB investigation into the skyrocketing home run rate is no doubt proceeding with the same goal: don’t make MLB look guilty. Make it look like it cares about the problem. But, private investigations have already beaten MLB to the P.R. punch. A private review by astrophysicist Dr. Meredith Wills in 2017 took apart the baseballs and found the stitching on a baseball was 9 percent thicker compared to previous years. The thicker laces prevented the ball from being distorted as much by a bat. A rounder ball travels farther.
Weird. The number of home runs dropped by 530 the following year.
This year, the crazy ball is back and, apparently, somebody got even greedier. In “The Athletic” Wills posted the results of a new study, and found a totally different ball. “The seam height is about half of what it’s been forever,” Wills recently told KNBR in San Francisco. “As far as I can tell, the stitches are tighter.” She then offered a possible reason for the change, “I think the way they are drying the baseballs has changed,” she said, promoting the idea that the balls are no longer allowed to air dry as before, “It’s the most logical hypothesis.”
From 1998 to 2009, the height of fertility pills and bull semen and god knows what else, MLB averaged 5228 home runs per year. All of a sudden, the total fell to a touch over 4,600 in 2010.
While baseball hid its head in the sand during the 1990’s and early 2000’s like the proverbial ostrich, it eventually emerged to take down Rodriguez at the expense of a wider-reaching federal investigation, according to Dominguez. But the stain hasn’t gone away, regardless of Rodriguez’ newfound employment with Fox and ESPN. Plenty of writers still remember that cheaters robbed the game of an era and also what an Rodriguez, Bonds and Clemens were at the height of their powers.
Those writers still vote, though they are slowly retiring or are being pushed out. And that means a new opportunity: The new baseball provides MLB a new ploy to get its “greatest” players in the Hall of Fame. If Baseball can create a new “era” to go with the “Steroid Era,” something innocuous, like the “Shallow Seam Era” or the “Hairdryer Era” or the “Little Threads That Could Era” then that adds to the argument that baseball has different periods that should be judged independently and maybe, just maybe, the early 2000’s weren’t really that bad because those totals don’t come close to the “Smooth-As-A-Bowling-Ball Era.”
But the difference is simple. Everybody gets to hit the same ball this year. Ten years ago, not everybody was shooting themselves in the ass with drugs to give themselves an advantage. Those who were caught deserve to be punished.
As for punishments in this era? The poor guy who’s worked at Rawlings for 27 years is probably going to take the fall for the new “juiced” ball. He doesn’t deserve it. He’s just following orders from on high to keep his job.
And we all know who his boss is.