Strange new world: How Cubs are adjusting to life with routine ‘sticky stuff’ checks
Monday marked a new day in Major League Baseball both figuratively and literally.
The league began its crackdown on any pitchers who were suspected of using foreign substances and it was a learning process across the board.
“If something does get awry, there’s an appeals process, just like any other suspension or any kind of other ejection,” David Ross said prior to Monday’s game against Cleveland. “We’ve got a safety net if there’s a misunderstanding or something gets misconstrued.”
At the core of this implementation is the honor in the game. The league wants to ensure the game is being played fairly. And that falls on the crew enforcing the rules of each game.
“But you also have to trust in the umpires – the veteran umpires are the ones that are going to be doing this stuff,” Ross said. “I think for the integrity of the game, they’re gonna try to uphold that, try to make sure that they’re gonna err on the side of what’s best for baseball and nip cheating in the bud.”
For Ross and the Cubs, there might not have to be a whole lot of speaking up. Around the league, there’s been speculation that pitchers started scaling back usage of any sticky substances before the league’s memo was sent down last week and the enforcement went into effect. And there’s been some data to back that up. Offensive numbers have creeped back up in the last 10 days:
Up until 6/10
6/11 through 6/20
That should equal more offense and more excitement for the game, even if the Cubs aren’t seeing that just yet.
“I don’t know if our slug’s up or anything for us is up in the last couple of weeks,” Ian Happ said with a chuckle. “But yeah, I know we’ve seen it across the league. I know we’ve seen the difference in spin rate, and I think that we’ll continue to see that, and you’ll see a more level playing field and offensive numbers will return to what they’ve been.”
For the Cubs, the conversation on foreign substances was one centered on transparency.
“There’s an honest conversation in every clubhouse,” Happ said. “That’s part of it, trying to figure out as players what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. As we move forward with the rules, players’ opinions are gonna be the biggest part of that and making sure guys feel safe, guys feel like they can do what they need to do to compete at the highest level, but also making sure that it’s a fair playing field across the entire league.”
While spin rates have come down across the league, for the Cubs, their staff has seen their pitchers’ data remain relatively the same.
“I think that’s no secret to me,” Ross said. “I know what our guys are doing and they’re doing things the right way.”
The conversation, though, won’t be going away anytime soon.
Mets’ ace Jacob deGrom was the first pitcher to be checked for the rule during New York’s game on Monday. Adbert Alzolay had his hat checked during the series opener against Cleveland. Neither were found to have anything on their gear (deGrom struck out 6 over 5 shutout innings of 1-hit ball).
Adbert passes the test. pic.twitter.com/FtaS13eDQf— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) June 22, 2021
Such is life in Major League Baseball now. And it’s an issue that won’t be going away anytime soon.
“To Major League Baseball’s credit, they’re trying to come up with a substance to put on the ball that has some uniformity to that,” Ross said.
That’s because come September and October and even next spring, pitchers will want something to use to have a better grip on the ball on cold days when feelings in their extremities can get tougher.
“This is a summer game,” Ross said. “Playing in cold weather is more difficult. Harder to hit, harder to run the bases, harder to get your body ready, it’s harder to pitch, harder to spin the baseball.
“That’s just life. That’s part of the game.”