Were you in the mood for an extremely uncomfortable two minutes of media interaction to kick off your day? I bet you were. Who wouldn’t be? This will probably look like any meeting you’ve had with upper management. Step up, Gerrit Cole, and give the people what they want!
Cole was asked by the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff if he had ever used Spider Tack, a foreign sticky substance that helps pitchers grip a baseball.
“I don’t quite know how to answer that.”
There’s an episode of NYPD Blue I saw when I was a kid (I have to stop dating myself, but look at how I deftly try and extricate myself from supporting cop glorification TV by saying I was a kid, implying I didn’t know any better), where Jimmy Smits and Dennis Franz have some boneheaded criminal completely dead to rights. He kind of looked like Thom Yorke if Thom Yorke had been from the country and had hit his head on several branches during a fall as a child. Anyway, Franz and Smits are listening to this guy futilely try and twist himself free of the mountain of evidence they have on him, when finally Smits can’t take it anymore and just yells, “Willie! You’re caught!”
It feels like pitchers everywhere, not just Cole, are in the same position.
Cole basically admits to using the substance asked about in the first question, then tries to blame it on baseball’s forefathers (“I learned it by watching you!”) and then tries to use his union position as some sort of excuse, and that he’s open to discussing rules changes. Mark Zuckerberg did better in front of Congress. If this were a trial the judge would have stopped it and just sent Cole, who will be on the mound tonight in Minnesota, to prison to save everyone time and embarrassment.
Strange how Cole’s career markedly improved when he landed in Houston. Yes, unlike the Pirates, the Astros encouraged him to throw his four-seam fastball much more, but he also saw an uptick in velocity, and all his pitches had a jump in spin-rate. Didn’t the same thing happen to Justin Verlander? Weird.
It’s definitely starting to feel like baseball is headed for some sort of reckoning in the coming weeks. We’ve already seen various pitchers’ spin-rates decline in their last starts or appearances, the discussion is only getting louder, and everyone’s looking for it now. Reports have MLB already settling on changes to be implemented in the next two weeks.
While baseball wanted to claim that it would just be too hard to monitor this too closely, Stephanie Apstein and Alex Prewitt at Sports Illustrated blew the lid off that idea just a few days ago. If it’s that obvious to the players when they pick up a baseball, and these things are literally sticking to their hands, how are umpires missing it? How hard would it be to see? If MLB wants to, it can easily start doing something about it. It might not even take more than a couple long suspensions. MLB was happy to suspend bit-part players for 80 games for PEDs, which was seen as cheating. What’s this?
Really, the league should be happy, because it’s on the cusp of solving some of their offense issues by getting foreign substances out of the game by accident. Pitchers, and some hitters, will say they have to use something otherwise they have no grip, and no one wants pitchers throwing 99 MPH with no idea where it’s going. But here’s the thing, if you can’t control 99, then you don’t get to throw 99. Baseball might end up accidentally solving their velocity problem, to a point.
It always seems like changes in baseball happen by accident and certainly not by anything the powers that be planned. They might just Forrest Gump their way into a better game on this one.
This has become a far too familiar story in soccer the world over. Mark McKenzie, after a wonky performance against Mexico that the U.S. did win in the end, was subject to a torrent of racial abuse on social media after the game.
This has been happening repeatedly in European leagues throughout the season, and really the past few. And we know why, because social media is a haven for cowards. You don’t have to look at the person, you don’t have to face any consequences, you can just sink into the ether with a burner account and do it all over again the next day.
With the billions that Facebook has at its disposal, if it really wanted to do something about all this it probably could. So far, they’ve barely lifted a finger on it. The real answers probably cost a ton of money, and it’s money they won’t feel the need to spend when most of the world is using their apps. What are the consequences?
None of these athletes should have to deal with this. It’s ugly and heartbreaking. But these cowards have always been with us, and social media gives them the anonymous and faceless shelter. It’s going to be a long road.