Major league baseball is again finding itself embroiled in yet another cheating scandal. This one happens to be the worst kept secret in the game.
Years ago you’ll remember a flap between Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole in which Trevor accused Gerrit and others of using a foreign substance to increase spin rate on their pitches. Gerrit got all indignant, Trevor got all, well Trevor-y and the whole thing blew over really.
Nobody really denied anything, nobody was punished, seemingly nobody even investigated. In possibly the greatest example of hypocrisy I’ve seen on the players level at least the next season Trevor came out setting all kinds of records for spin rate and in a way, it was hard for anyone to really say anything after they ignored his pleas to call a spade a spade.
Gerrit went on to sign a big money contract with the Yankees of course and compared to the already huge cheating scandal of his Houston Astros garbage can banging team the sticky fingers scandal slipped off into the ether.
Rob Manfred proved during that time he had no will to challenge the players union to punish the individual players so it comes as no surprise when it came time for MLB to actually do something about this issue, you know, cheating, again, instead of punishing the players who showed unnatural increases in spin rate he of course went after the team employee who was providing it Brian “Bubba” Harkens, a visiting clubhouse manager for the LA Angels.
He was fired unceremoniously by the Angels and perhaps because rather than dealing drugs he was quite literally helping procure a sticky substance he decided being the scapegoat for this entire thing wasn’t going to happen.
He sued. The league and the Angels, and worse, he named names, some big ones. Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Edwin Jackson, Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber, Joba Chamberlain and Adam Wainwright were all reportedly mentioned and the lawsuit came complete with correspondence from at least Cole and Verlander.
In the notes from the lawsuit it’s mentioned that Verlander told Harkens that MLB was cracking down on foreign substances that help with spin rate as it had come out that some teams were consulting with chemists to develop undetectable formula pitchers could use.
Now, this has always been illegal, and for years MLB has ignored pitchers with visible pine tar stains on their caps but apparently hiding it better, coupled with it actually working better seems to have made it impossible to ignore.
So my question is, if we hate the steroid guys for enhancing their performance, why the double standard? If we suspend players for taking a supplement (that’s what they call it when they get caught), why aren’t the players openly caught using substances that actively improve a metric so sought after by team executives being held to the same standard?
Do we hate cheating, or do we only hate certain kinds of cheating? Is one kind of cheating immoral and HOF disqualifying while another is distasteful but not even worthy of a slap on the wrists?
The Pirates have the highest measured spin rate guy in the league Chris Stratton, and while I certainly can’t say its turned him into an All Star, I certainly can say he came from the right team (Angels) and went from a player waived by a pitching starved club to an effective relief pitcher on a team who had next to none. If nothing else, nobody can claim the question is unfounded.
That’s really the bitch with cheating, once you don’t apply the law or rules equally it makes you wonder how far the fingers travel. Who got what contract based on what he cheated to put on tape. Who lost a job because he couldn’t find a way to pull the talent out of a guy that went somewhere else and suddenly started spinning every pitch like a dreidel.
I’d call for the commissioners head if I thought my words would matter, instead I’ll simply say if you have rules in place, follow them. If you catch someone breaking the rules, it shouldn’t matter if it lead to success or not. And finally, if I can’t trust a league to enforce their own rules, how can I trust the league to do anything fairly?
I love this game, but this league is nowhere near the purity level they like to sell and its getting old watching new cheaters emerge year after year with little to no repercussions.