First Week Review of MLB’s Sticky Substance Checks

Art Warren
Jim Mone – AP Photo

On Monday June 21st the MLB began their mandatory sticky substance checks of all pitchers.

Sticky substances like pine tar have been a factor in baseball for many years now. It was not until St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Giovanny Gallegos was forced to switch hats during a game on May 26th against the Chicago White Sox that the thought of mandatory checks became a major reality.

I felt like I was being kind of like publicly singled out for something that basically had nothing to do with everything that was going on in that game. I felt like I was used as a starting point for something that’s been going on forever.

Giovanny Gallegos

It was announced that MLB would begin mandatory checks on June 21st. Some of the complications for players and teams that are caught with a sticky substance include the pitcher being suspended for 10 games and that team is not able to replace them on the roster for that time.

It did not take long for pitchers to take exception to this decision.

Not Making Pitchers Happy

Max Scherzer
Eric Hartline – USA TODAY Sports

Only two days into the mandatory checks emotions towards them were not favorable.

When walking off the field after pitching, Oakland Athletics reliever Sergio Romo expressed his displeasure. In the span of only a few seconds he threw his glove and hat in front of the umpire. He then ripped out his belt from his pants, threw that to the umpire as well and then pulled his pants down.

The player who made the most headlines with the checks was Washington Nationals starter Max Scherzer. The Nationals were taking on the Philadelphia Phillies and it escalated quickly.

When walking off the field after the first inning Scherzer was checked and his annoyed face gave every indication that this he did not approve. He was then checked a second time, but it did not stop there.

In the bottom of the 4th inning, Phillies manager Joe Girardi requested the umpires to check Scherzer for a third time. All four of the umpires walked out to the mound and when Scherzer realized what was happening he threw down his glove and hat in front of the umpires in disgust.

Scherzer was obviously aggravated and annoyed, but he was not alone. Nationals manager Dave Martinez came out to the mound to express his displeasure, but not just to the umpires, he also yelled at Girardi who then walked to the top step to make his presence felt even more.

As the bottom of the 5th inning came to a close Scherzer spent his walk back to the dugout staring down Girardi who was clearly not happy with that. Girardi came out of the dugout and started walking towards Scherzer yelling at him. It was as if he was ready to fight Scherzer. His reaction resulted in his ejection.

The Nationals got the last laugh as they won 3-2 and Scherzer got his sixth win of the season.

Scherzer had a lot to say after the frustrating number of checks.

I have absolutely nothing on me. You can check whatever you want. Take all my clothes off if you want. I have absolutely nothing on me.

Max Scherzer

The First Sticky Substance Victim

Hector Santiago
Nam Y. Huh – Associated Press

After almost a whole week of clean checks the first victim was claimed on Sunday, June 27th in the first game of a double header between the Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox.

As Mariners reliever Hector Santiago was exiting the game the umpires did their mandator check of his equipment. After a few moments of inspection he was ejected as they determined he had an illegal substance on the inside of his glove.

Santiago completely denies using any illegal substance.

They’re going to inspect it and all this science stuff and it’s going to be sweat and rosin.

Hector Santiago

His suspension is not automatic though. To ensure this was the correct decision the glove was handed over to an authenticator who wrapped up the glove to take for later inspection of the substance.

If the ruling of an illegal substance is upheld Santiago will be suspended for 10 games and the Mariners will not be able to replace him on the roster.

After one week of these checks emotions are running high for pitchers and managers across the league. Time will only tell how useful this rule will end up being. For right pitchers will have to accept the fact that umpires will check them frequently whether they approve or not.

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