MLB to suspend pitchers caught with foreign substances in new crackdown

Gerrit Cole MLB foreign substances
Yankees ace Gerrit Cole
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

A memo released by Major League Baseball on Tuesday divulged that it will suspend any pitchers or players that are found with foreign substances on their person for as many as 10 days. The crackdown comes as the league attempts to cut down on pitchers using substances to enhance their grip on pitches, thus creating more spin on the ball for more movement. 

“After an extensive process of repeated warnings without effect, gathering information from current and former players and others across the sport, two months of comprehensive data collection, listening to our fans and thoughtful deliberation, I have determined that new enforcement of foreign substances is needed to level the playing field,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said. “I understand there’s a history of foreign substances being used on the ball, but what we are seeing today is objectively far different, with much tackier substances being used more frequently than ever before.”

Spider Tack — a super-sticky substance originally made for power builders and strongmen that pitchers have since adopted — seems to be the main substance that has drawn MLB’s ire, but the sunscreen-and-rosin combination is also to be outlawed.

“It has become clear that the use of foreign substances has generally morphed from trying to get a better grip on the ball into something else — an unfair competitive advantage that is creating a lack of action and an uneven playing field,” Manfred continued. “This is not about any individual player or club, or placing blame, it is about a collective shift that has changed the game and needs to be addressed. We have a responsibility to our fans and the generational talent competing on the field to eliminate these substances and improve the game.”

Manfred added that it will be at the discretion of the umpires to identify whether or not the sunscreen and rosin combination was used “by the pitcher for use on the ball.”

The sunscreen and rosin combination seems as though it’s struck a chord in the baseball community as a long-used cocktail to help a pitcher grip the baseball.

“Pitchers used sunscreen and rosin every day (myself included) for control of the baseball,” former New York Mets reliever Jerry Blevins wrote on Twitter. “Other pitchers used foreign substances to enhance the spin rate. The old, “give an inch, take a mile.” It went too far. This is why we can’t have nice things.”

Regardless, there has been a noticeable change in the numbers since MLB first announced that it would cracking down on foreign substances that pitchers use.

Per USA Today, spin rate (2,290 rpm on fastballs), strikeout rate (23.4%), and walk rate (8.4%) are the lowest over the last two weeks than the first two months of the 2021 season. On the flip side, batting averages, home runs, slugging percentages, and OPS are the highest they’ve been during that same span.

Among those that have drawn the most suspicion is New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, who said he “didn’t know how to answer” the question of whether or not he used Spider Tack throughout his career. Los Angeles Dodgers star and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Trevor Bauer, was under investigation for using foreign substances back in April.

It is believed that Monday will be the earliest date that MLB’s safeguarding will go into effect. Starting pitchers will be checked at least twice a game for foreign substances while relief pitchers will be looked at at least once. Position players and catchers will also be prone to checks throughout a game as well. 

Looking at Monday’s schedule, one of the first pitchers that could be looked at by umpires is Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who is putting together one of the greatest starts to a season in MLB history, as he’s slated to toe the rubber against the Atlanta Braves. 

While there has been speculation from fans on social media, deGrom’s teammates have come out in droves to implore that the two-time Cy Young Award winner, with a 0.56 ERA this season, does not use any substances.

More from around NYC