The Trevor Bauer pine tar issue has once again reignited the debate over whether pitchers should be allowed to use foreign substances. This forced MLB to send out a memo reminding pitchers of the current rules on the books.
MLB foreign substance rule
According to Rule 6.02c, pitchers can’t spit on the ball, rub the ball on their glove or clothing, apply a foreign substance to the ball, deface the ball, or have a foreign substance in their possession. The rule also mentions tape, band-aids, and bracelets as items that can’t be attached to the pitcher’s hand, finger, or wrist.
Based on those foreign substance rules, it’s clear that MLB has the power to levy punishment against any pitcher using a foreign substance.
Last night was swordof fun https://t.co/SympTEmiAI
— Trevor Bauer (トレバー・バウアー) (@BauerOutage) April 14, 2021
The league also has ways to monitor clubhouses, dugouts, and bullpens for substances while analyzing a pitcher’s spin rate if there are suspicions that a ball has been doctored in some way.
When it comes to the question of whether pitchers should be allowed to use foreign substances, the answer is obviously no. The rule exists, presumably for a reason, and as long as it’s on the books, pitchers shouldn’t break it. In theory, it’s as simple as that. However, it’s well-known throughout the game that pitchers on virtually every team discretely use some kind of foreign substance to enhance their grip on the ball.
Pitchers using foreign substances
The catch is that MLB would benefit from being able to enforce the rule better. There is already talk of perhaps moving the pitching mound back a foot or two to give hitters a better chance of making contact and putting the ball in play. Under Commissioner Rob Manfred, the league has tried hard to improve the pace of play and amount of action in the game by reducing the high rate of the three true outcomes: a strikeout, a walk, and a home run.
It’s not hard to see that taking away any edge a pitcher might get would be helpful in putting more balls in play, which is ultimately what Manfred wants.
There should be inherent interest from MLB in preventing pitchers from utilizing foreign substances on the mound, which is why it’s puzzling why the league has allowed the problem to run rampant for so long.
The problem is that it’s been a problem for so long that it won’t be easy to fix. Sending out a memo toward the end of spring training isn’t going to do anything to solve the problem.
Much like the use of steroids, it’s a problem that could take a while to get under control.
If MLB truly wants to prevent pitchers from using foreign substances, the league must spend an entire offseason making it clear to pitchers that the practice won’t be tolerated any further. While pitchers shouldn’t be allowed to gain an edge in this way, they also deserve fair warning to prepare themselves for such a widespread yet illegal practice being taken out of the game.