Tim Benz: Major League Baseball has no one to blame for the ‘sticky situation’ but himself

As Major League Baseball plans to move into the time after Spider Tack on Monday, controversy will surely follow.

Arguments. Social media flames warriors. Whining jugs. Beanballs – unintentional and retaliation. Slower play thanks to incessant spot checks, more turns, wild courses and deeper counts.

And the game will have no one to blame but itself.

Because everything that has come around in the wake of pitching sticky stuff controversial is nothing more than a micro-version of how the league handled – or failed to handle – the steroid debate in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

Baseball owners, front offices, managers and players all knew what was going on, and they did nothing to address it until it got out of hand.

Pine tar hidden on the clothes of the pitcher (and neck) got rosin and sunscreen. It started hair gel and distilled Coca Cola. That got Spider Thanks.

Conventions that were used so often that no manager wanted to call out other teams to use the tactic because their own pitchers probably used this tactic themselves. It got to the point where some organizations have been reportedly join practice.

Now the use is so widespread – and the technology of the drugs is so good – the pitching spin frequency is unnaturally high, and the impact on hits is so serious that baseball strikes down.

From Monday, boxes that are busted to use something other than rosin to improve grip will receive an automatic suspension of 10 games. Team members can also be suspended or fined for substances found in the clubhouse or dugout.

Start jugs will be checked more than once per match for foreign substances, while relievers will be checked at least once.

In other words, MLB is trying to put the proverbial Pelican Grip back in the proverbial tube.

“I do not use sticky things for … I do not need more spin,” Tampa Bay Rays jug Said Tyler Glasnow last week. “I have huge hands. I spin the ball nicely. I want grip. ”

Glasnow’s quote is eerily reminiscent of the old steroid debates. At the time, you would hear hits that were taken with steroids and insisted that they not take them to increase strength or bath speed.

No. They only took steroids to help get hurt … of course!

Oh, and the players never took greenies to make themselves more alert and attentive during games. They took them just to wake up to the tough rounds of day games after night games, right?

Same with Spider Thanks. “It is not about spin frequency. It’s just about grip. I’m not guilty of cheating if I cheat for less scary reasons. Do not see difference?!!?

Meanwhile, early statistics indicate that, as pitchers have begun to decline with the sticky stuff, it appears to be linked to an increase in some offensive numbers. USA Today reported recently that “hitters batting a season-high .247 with a .318 at the base percentage and .419 slugging percentage in June compared to .236 ./. 312 / .395 the first two months.”

To be fair, I see Glasnow’s bigger point about changing these rules in the middle of the season and how it can lead to more injuries – such as his own – and more hit batteries.

Sure, but what should Major League Baseball say? “We know you’m cheating, but keep cheating for the rest of the season, and we’ll worry about that at winter meetings”?

No. What they should have done, however, is address it this winter. It’s not like this discussion was first talked about earlier this month.

“I understand that there is a history of using foreign substances on the ball, but what we see today is objectively much different, with much more sticky substances being used more often than ever before,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement in last month. “It has become clear that the use of foreign substances has generally changed from trying to get a better grip on the ball to something else – an unfair competitive advantage that creates a lack of action and uneven rules of the game.”

Manfred’s words are basically what the thought bubble was over Bud Selig’s head when Major League Baseball essentially had to make a 180 on its old “do not ask, do not tell” policy on steroids two decades ago.

How will the jugs’ checks work? Who knows. Judges like Joe West and Angel Hernandez cannot control their own strike zones. Now they are going to be junior versions of Bill New Science Guy to instantly decide what can be dirt mixed with rosin versus something illegal mixed with rosin?

Should they also have small microscopes in the bullet bags?

When it comes to baseball’s offensive crisis, the league cannot change everyone’s swing path to avoid non-stop excessive confidence in the launch angle. It can not make shifts illegal, nor can it force batteries to swing away from them. It can not bring back the stolen base, nor limit the matchup games that come out of bullpens with auxiliary specialists topping 95 miles per hour up and down the depth maps.

However, this is something the league office can address, so it’s going to try. I can not blame those responsible for doing so.

But I bet the implementation of the new rules will be as sticky as the substances they are trying to ban.

Tim Benz is a staff writer from Tribune-Review. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via Twitter. All tweets can be re-posted. All emails can be announced unless otherwise specified.

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