In effort to crack down on sticky substance use, MLB will monitor pitchers’ spin rates, examine baseballs

Baseball is on the verge of policing one of its oldest unwritten rules, fighting technology with technology in an effort to cut down on a perceived rise in pitchers using foreign substances to increase spin rate and dominate hitters. 

Major League Baseball has distributed a memo outlining its intention to crack down on the use of foreign substances on baseballs, a multi-pronged attack that will include repossessing game-used baseballs to test for foreign substances, charting sudden rises in spin rates among pitchers and assigning monitors to patrol dugouts, clubhouses and other areas of potential chicanery.. 

The memo, first reported by the New York Post and obtained by USA TODAY Sports, indicates pitchers will be disciplined "regardless of whether evidence of the violation has been discovered during or following a game." 

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In a sense, any punishments meted out under this surveillance will mark the end of an era in which use of sticky substances by pitchers, while banned by rule 6.02, was a generally accepted practice to aid pitchers in their control and, ostensibly make batters safer when they step in. Generally, so long as a pitcher was not blatant in their usage of pine tar or Bullfrog or any custom-made goops, all was fair. 

Yet the advent of technology and the sudden improvement in spin rate of several pitchers sparked an internal debate regarding the use of substances, with 2020 NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer at the center. 

Bauer implied in myriad social media posts that the improvements of pitchers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole upon their arrival with the Houston Astros was tied to questionable practices. In 2020, Bauer estimated at least 70% of pitchers used foreign substances.

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