Recently, Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander made comments about the MLB using juiced baseballs.
Going into All-star weekend, the right-hander shared his opinion that the baseballs being used are “a f—ing joke” and that he is 100% confident that the league is intentionally trying to increase offense by using the juiced balls.
Before Tuesday’s All-star game, Just Verlander was called into the office of chief baseball officer, Joe Torre. He was joined by Jim Leyland, Verlander’s coach while with the Detroit Tigers, and another league official.
Although the topic of discussion is not known, one can assume it was to address Verlander’s comments about MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and the tampering of the baseballs. Upon exiting Torre’s office after the meeting, Verlander looked at his fellow teammate Gerrit Cole and said, “Man, I just got chewed out.”
Verlander’s simple comment about the baseballs being “a f—ing joke” isn’t the only thing he had to say on the matter. He has been very vocal about his opinion on why the baseball is flying off the bat much more often this season. The following quote sums up what Verlander thinks of the entire situation:
“Major League Baseball’s turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you’ve got Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the f—ing company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it’s not a guess as to what happened. We all know what happened.
Manfred the first time he came in, what’d he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It’s no coincidence. We’re not idiots.”
Previously, Commissioner Rob Manfred has cited “less drag” as the reason for why baseballs fly further through the air and over the wall. He also claims that due to the baseballs being made out of natural materials, there is going to be some variation from season to season. However, the data shows that there is an increase in home runs, not a variation.
This past Monday, the day of the ridiculously historic Home Run Derby, Manfred was interviewed on Golic and Wingo and admitted the difference in the baseballs. However, he denied that the league has anything to do with it. The following comment from Manfred sums up his thoughts on the issue:
“Our scientists that have been now studying the baseball more regularly have told us that this year the baseball has a little less drag. It doesn’t need to change very much in order to produce meaningful change in terms of the way the game is played on the field.
We are trying to understand exactly why that happened and build out a manufacturing process that gives us a little more control over what’s going on. But you have to remember that our baseball is a handmade product and there’s gonna be variation year to year.”
Verlander’s comments have sparked the opinions of other popular athletes. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, Marcus Stroman said, “I agree with some of JV’s takes, CC Sabathia’s [as well]. I’ll agree with those guys, retweet whatever they decide to put out. It’s clear. I’ve just come to terms with it. It is what it is. You can’t control it. So why even think about it?”
Even Cubs manager Joe Maddon made the following comment regarding the flight of the baseballs: “You could just have stamped Titleist on the sides of these things.”
But not everyone is on the same page as Verlander. When Washington National’s starting pitcher Max Scherzer was asked what his opinion was about the balls being juiced by Karl Ravech he said, “I don’t feel anything different with the ball, but I think we can all see the ball is definitely traveling differently. Yeah, the ball’s different, but you can’t cry about it. You gotta go out there and pitch.”
Boston Red Sox designated hitter, JD Martinez chimes in and says, “It’s a power-arm league. It’s either a walk or a strikeout—stuff over command. I think you see a lot more mistakes over the plate. The velocity, the guys trying to hit the ball in the air—I think it’s a recipe for home runs.”
Currently, the MLB is on pace to exceed 6,700 home runs this season. This number will easily shatter the previous record of 6,105 set in 2017. There have been a total of 3,691 home runs hit before the All-star break and there are no signs of slowing.
Some would say that Verlander has every right to complain about the suspicion of juiced baseballs. While Scherzer has also made note that a team’s offense uses the same balls, so it should “even itself out” in the long run.
However, the biggest gripe is that players just want the league to be open and admit that it has been directly involved with the composition of the baseball. That’s really not that much to ask.