Trevor Bauer and the Unenforced Rule

Trevor Bauer has made some waves this season over the surprise increase in Gerrit Cole's spin rate. He's caused a discussion over a rule that never seems to be enforced.

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Trevor Bauer opens up about Major League Baseball’s sticky situation.

A lot of talk has been flying around about spin rate, pine tar, and Houston Astros pitching. More specifically, Trevor Bauer has been throwing out allegations against Gerrit Cole. The short and sweet version is that Bauer believes that Cole (and other Astros) are performing so well because they are using a foreign substance on the ball.

Trevor points out that the spin rate on Cole’s pitches have gone up, which they have.

For the uninitiated, a higher spin rate on pitches makes the pitch harder to hit because the spin allows the ball to stay up. Basically, a higher spin rate creates a “rising”, more effective fastball.

This discussion has once again opened up a can of worm, whether or not it’s okay for pitchers to use substances on the ball. By the rulebook it is illegal, created back in a time when spitballs were rampant. Today, analysts and writers are quick to point out that a vast majority of pitchers use some sort of substance hidden under the glove or cap.  Umpires, managers, and the league ignore these violations seemingly without a second thought. Batters have approved of, or been apathetic, to the “cheating”. Their thought process is that if a pitcher can have more control then there’s less likely that a pitch will go into someone’s head. Is cheating still cheating if everyone is cool with it?

Using foreign substances is not allowed but is rarely enforced. It seems the only time the rule is ever enforced is when a pitcher goes overboard. A prime example is Michael Pineda against the Boston Red Sox four years ago.

It seems like the only reason that Boston even made a fuss was because the broadcast, and Twitter, became fixated on it. Inaction would’ve been the same as the John Farrell (the Boston manager) giving his open approval of “cheating”. Pineda was tossed from the game, served his suspension, and that was that.

There was another incident with Yadier Molina just a year ago. Yadier blocked a ball and it stuck to his chest protector.

It hung there like Yadi was a Christmas tree. Major League Baseball didn’t do anything and there was hardly any discussion. With so much inaction it’s pretty clear that the league, writers, and players don’t care about the substance rule, but should they?

How should Major League Baseball handle this situation?

At this point, it seems like a mini-steroid situation, without the health risk. Players, managers, broadcasters, and writers all seem to know that pitchers are using substances to improve their pitches. No one can say for sure how many players are using. Writers and players have guessed and it’s usually above 50%.  It’s an open secret, one that only gets brought up when a player complains or a pitcher goes overboard (a la Michael Pineda).

There isn’t an easy solution, as many reporters are quick to point out and then move on, but just because it’s complicated doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fixed. All of the players seem to agree that the use of a foreign substance improves the game. Hitters don’t complain and they are the ones most affected. Why can’t the MLB create, and provide, a substance that could be applied to the ball? Every pitcher could use it at his discretion. Major League Baseball could create rules that would limit the amount of substance applied and make sure that all pitchers have access to the same “stuff”. Allowing foreign substances would give all pitchers a choice, therefore making a level playing field. Besides, most pitchers are already doing it and batters wouldn’t have an issue. If so many players are already ignoring the rule why bother keeping it?

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Author Details
Content Contributor for the Pittsburgh Pirates , The Armchair All-Americans LLC
I grew up in the only hilly part of Indiana, an unholy place where Reds, Cardinals, and Cubbie fans all live in semi-harmony. The first 20 years of my life were abysmal as I never got to see a winning season from my beloved Pirates. Today I live in bliss as I allow my baseball addiction to take over every aspect of my life.
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Content Contributor for the Pittsburgh Pirates , The Armchair All-Americans LLC
I grew up in the only hilly part of Indiana, an unholy place where Reds, Cardinals, and Cubbie fans all live in semi-harmony. The first 20 years of my life were abysmal as I never got to see a winning season from my beloved Pirates. Today I live in bliss as I allow my baseball addiction to take over every aspect of my life.
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