New York Mets designated hitter Pete Alonso watches his ball while hitting a solo home run off Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Travis Lakins Sr. during the ninth inning of a baseball game on Tuesday June 8, 2021, in Baltimore. The Orioles won 10-3. (AP Photo/Julio Cortés)
BALTIMORE – Pete Alonso has taken the hot topic of sticky substances in baseball to a whole new level.
As Major League Baseball begins to crack down on the use of sticky substances on balls, which includes various forms of applications like pine tar and Spider Tack that pitchers have used for years, a Mets player took a strong stance against the league’s decision.
Alonso said MLB was “absolutely not” doing the right thing because he wanted pitchers to use “whatever they wanted” to help control the ball. He said he didn’t want to see another Kevin Pillar situation, when his teammate was drilled on the nose with a fastball due to a lack of command.
He said the bigger problem — and this is where Alonso brought a galaxy-brain layer to the sticky substance conversation — is that MLB is manipulating baseball to suppress the value of free agency.
“I think the biggest concern is that Major League Baseball is manipulating baseball year after year based on the free agency class or the guys that are in the advanced part of their arbitration,” Alonso said Wednesday from Camden Yards. “I think it’s a big problem, the ball being different every year. In other sports the ball is the same, like basketball, tennis, golf, the ball is the same.
“That’s the real problem, the change in baseball. And maybe if they didn’t, the league wouldn’t have changed baseball, pitchers wouldn’t need to use so much sticky stuff.
It’s widely believed that MLB has been manipulating baseball for years, but the league has never been upfront about it. In 2019, the so-called “juicy ball” led to the highest home run rate in MLB history. This year, the league sent a memo to all 30 teams just before spring training, explaining that the ball would be modified this season to sail one to two feet shorter on balls hit more than 375 feet. In other words, fewer circuits.
When Alonso was asked if his conspiracy theory, that the league is manipulating baseball to control free agency, was something players had discussed at length, the first baseman doubled down.
“Oh no, that’s a fact,” he said, even though his argument hasn’t been proven. “Yeah, the guys talked about it. But, I mean, in 2019, there was a huge class of free agent pitchers and then it was the “juicy balls.” … It is not a coincidence. I think it’s definitely something they do.
Whether or not this theory is legitimized, Alonso’s outspoken stance goes against what the league wants. And while this was already expected, it’s becoming all the more apparent that there will be a fight between the Players Association and MLB, with the sport’s current collective bargaining agreement set to expire in just six months. Both teams have been publicly combative in recent years, and many around the league believe a potential strike could be in play.
As the league embarks on its first foray into cracking down on the use of sticky substances in baseball, Alonso is just the first Mets player to take a stand against MLB’s alleged investigation. Buckle up because, in the weeks and months to come, there will undoubtedly be many more disagreements and arguments between the players and MLB on a subject that is only beginning to come to the fore.
“I would prefer (the pitchers) to be in control,” Alonso said. “I don’t care what they use. For my part, I use pine tar to hit. I have lizard skin, I have batting gloves. I have the most advantage when it comes to holding my bat. So I don’t care. On our deck bag we have a pine tar rag, a pine tar stick, and a special rosin based tack spray. I mean, you name it, we have it.
“I wouldn’t mind if they had that behind the mound to help hold the ball, because when we start getting into these warmer months, guys start sweating. And let’s say if they lose an arm fastball, I mean, we all saw what happened to Kevin Pillar. It’s frightening. We’re lucky he only had a broken nose. It could be a lot worse depending on where it hits a guy.
“So I prefer guys to have as much stick as possible and focus on throwing the ball into the box rather than taking it away from them.”
As for Mets manager Luis Rojas, he said he hasn’t talked to his pitchers about MLB’s crackdown on sticky substances. The captain said he personally uses pine tar on the balls he throws during batting practice to ensure they don’t slip out of his hands.
“I read the rule every year, once or twice, and it’s in the rule not to use any substance on the ball,” Rojas said. “As far as our pitchers using it, I have no idea what is being used. Or if they did, I totally don’t know. So right now it’s a hot topic in baseball and I know MLB is putting out a memo just because of all the noise going on. So we’re just waiting for that memo to come out and then we’ll talk to our pitchers.
Learn more about
New York Daily News