Scott Boras denounces MLB crackdown on foreign substances in lengthy statement
By now, all Major League Baseball fans have surely heard of the ongoing controversy with pitchers using foreign substances. Whether it’s cheating on something like Spider Tack or using “tackifiers” like pine tar or rosin mixed with sunscreen, chances are all fans have it too. an opinion on the matter.
We recently learned that MLB was starting an unconditional crackdown on June 21, suspending pitchers using anything for 10 games (full details here). We’ve seen plenty of players weigh in on the matter, probably the most visibly Rays ace Tyler Glasnow saying he thinks he suffered his ripped UCL due to not being allowed to use anything.
Baseball’s most visible agent Scott Boras spoke with a statement on Wednesday he sent Ken Rosenthal from The Athletic:
As former major league pitcher Brandon McCarthy suggested, the MLB knew (like all GMs, including Michael Hill) that clubs have taught pitchers for years to use a variety of gripping agents. This was the “custom and practice” of all MLB teams and the Commissioner’s office was fully aware that their technical rule was being ignored by them and all MLB teams.
Certainly, the latest iterations of gripping substances and advancements in performance measurement technology illustrate that we have moved from the “highway” to the “highway” improving performance. Everyone agrees that limiting legislation is necessary and that the office should have acted years ago. There is a certified gripping agent similar to the distinction between corticosteroids and anabolic steroids when one is considered an aid and the other is defined as performance enhancing, but both are in steroid form.
However, completely abolishing gripping agents (other than rosin) creates a major problem as all MLB pitchers have been taught (through their respective MLB teams) to control baseball with the use of gripping substances.
To suggest that pine tar can be used (on sticks) by the same players playing on defense is really a referee conundrum. The pitcher hits with pine tar and is suspended for applying the substance to the baseball, or the position player with pine tar on his hand throwing forward at bat transfers the ball to him, then he and the launcher are deprived of 10 days of performance for the legal use of an authorized substance. The gray divide continues !!!!
[Note: Michael Hill used to be with the Marlins, but he now works with the commissioner’s office, hence Boras’ inclusion of his name, specifically]
The first thing to know here is that Boras is a players agent. He is always going to defend the players and he has probably even had clients who came to him with their specific complaints. He’s a spokesperson and a very good spokesperson when it comes to articulating their complaints and taking the heat.
Then there is Commissioner Rob Manfred. He’s on the owner’s side whether he wants to admit it or not. He made their offers mostly during the COVID-19 shutdown and he was hired by them. They can also replace it (search for Fay Vincent for reference).
The third point of what I want to say here is that the collective agreement is in effect this coming offseason and it looks like there is a big divide between players and owners in several areas.
Boras attacking the Commissioner’s office serves several purposes here. First of all, I have no doubt that he believes everything he says and that he firmly believes it. But he also begins and / or continues to push back owners ahead of the offseason CBA battle between said owners and the MLB Players Association. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He sets a table.
As for the points he puts forward, he certainly has salient points.
- It seems like most players agree that using something (like pine tar or the rosin / sunscreen mixture) to grab a ball isn’t that bad. If the league came up with one legal thing that can be used and legislated over everything else, that might be the best win-win there is. Instead, the MLB unilaterally banned everything. Part of it goes back to the ABCs. In the past two seasons, they’ve made a lot of changes without even asking the players.
- The pine tar on bats is interesting. First of all, it’s different on sticks than on throws because it doesn’t improve performance at home plate. It just helps the player not to lose their bat. And the overwhelming majority of players wear batting gloves. However, batting gloves are not mandatory and should not be. You can’t tell a drummer without gloves that he can’t use pine tar, so that’s an interesting point from Boras and worth discussing.
- He’s right that it is customary and practice to look away and ignore the rule against the use of foreign substances, but the league issued a memo in late March to stop him. It seems that no one has listened until now. Was this an overreaction from the league? Maybe, but they already said stop doing it and no one was listening, so they thought drastic action was their right after being ignored the first time around. Many parents can attest to at least understanding this point of view.
Prepare for months of discussion on this topic. It’s not going to go away anytime soon.