Max Scherzer, more or less: Stop crying about juiced baseballs

Chris Lingebach
July 09, 2019 - 2:45 pm
Max Scherzer, more or less: Stop crying about juiced baseballs

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If you haven't noticed, home run numbers are up across Major League Baseball this year – way up.

According to ESPN, home runs have spiked by 60 percent since the 2014 season.

Many players have openly theorized this is because the balls are juiced in some way, allowing for them to fly further off the bat and in turn leading to more home runs flying out of the park.

Getting to the bottom of this has been a key mission for baseball media covering this year's All-Star Game in Cleveland.

"It's a f***ing joke," Justin Verlander told ESPN's Jeff Passan on Tuesday. "Major League Baseball's turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you've got Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the f---ing company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it's not a guess as to what happened.

"We all know what happened. Manfred the first time he came in, what'd he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It's not coincidence. We're not idiots."

Indeed, on his first day as MLB commissioner in Jan. 2015, Manfred stated his desire to inject "additional offense into the game."

Manfred has previously commissioned a study in order to determine the reason behind the home run spike. But, one month after that study's release, MLB partnered with Seidler, a private equity company, to purchase Rawlings – the manufacturer of MLB's official baseball – for $395 million in June 2018.

Upon announcing the purchase, Chris Marinak, MLB's executive VP for strategy, technology and innovation, had this to say: "MLB is excited to take an ownership position in one of the most iconic brands in sports and further build on the Rawlings legacy, which dates back to 1887.

"We are particularly interested in providing even more input and direction on the production of the official ball of Major League Baseball, one of the most important on-field products to the play of our great game."

On Monday, during an interview with ESPN's 'Golic and Wingo,' Manfred acknowledged the current balls are producing less drag, which is directly linked to an increase in home runs. But he is not willing to concede that MLB is intentionally doctoring the baseballs to produce more home runs.

"Let's not forget…our fan data suggests fans like home runs," Manfred said. "It's not the worst thing in the world. We think what's been going on this year is attributable to the baseball. Our scientists that have been now studying the baseball more regularly have told us that this year the ball has a little less drag. It doesn't need to change very much in order to produce…meaningful change in terms of the way the game is played on the field.

"We are trying to understand exactly why that happened and build out a manufacturing process that gives us a little more control over what's going on. But you have to remember…our baseball is a handmade product and there's going to be variation year to year."

Manfred further established that position on Tuesday:

Verlander, when asked if he believes the balls are intentionally juiced, told Passan, "Yes. 100 percent. They've been using juiced balls in the Home Run Derby forever. They know how to do it. It's not coincidence. I find it really hard to believe that Major League Baseball owns Rawlings and just coincidentally the balls become juiced."

By now you can see the layers that go into shaping this extensive conversation. People are up in arms. Which brings us to fellow All-Star pitcher Max Scherzer, Verlander's former teammate in Detroit.

"What's your opinion about the ball that's being used this year?" Karl Ravech asked Scherzer. "Any different?"

"I don't feel anything different with the ball, but I think we can all see the ball is definitely traveling differently," said Scherzer. "And the commissioner has even come out and said so, that the drag is just different, it's less. Yeah, the ball's different, but you can't cry about it. You gotta go out there and pitch. I'm not gonna cry about it. Our hitters get to hit with it."

Classic Scherzer.

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