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It turns out that MLB used two different baseballs during the 2021 season, and didn’t tell, well, anyone about that decision. You can and should read the entire piece on the issue written by Bradford William Davis, but I don’t want to simply reiterate what was said within here. No, instead, this thing everyone is talking about is going to be used as a hook to discuss something else everyone is talking about. I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the curtain of the writing process.
The point we need to take from Davis’ piece, for our purposes here, anyway, is that MLB remains completely untrustworthy, and undeserving of trust, as well. That’s not a new concept, of course, but the timing of a reminder could not be better, considering we’re mere hours away from the start of a lockout of the players that doesn’t need to even happen once the current collective bargaining agreement expires, but will happen just the same. How are you supposed to believe MLB is competent, or acting in good faith, or any other positive you can ascribe to them in bargaining when they seemingly go out of their way to act in the worst possible ways? Or, if they aren’t purposefully lying and hiding the truth of things and so on, are so incompetent about how they go about their business that you can’t tell the difference in the results, anyway?
Back in May, for Baseball Prospectus, I wrote a piece headline, “It’s Hard to Trust MLB When They Don’t Deserve Trust.” Part of that piece, coincidentally enough, focused on the problem with the baseballs:
MLB spent years acting as if they had no idea that the baseball was juiced, for lack of a better term, in order to produce additional offense. They eventually bought the company that makes their baseballs, and then still claimed ignorance to the entire affair. We don’t need to relitigate all of that now, but it is worth pointing out that we’re still living with the consequences of MLB’s decision to spend years obfuscating about the state of their baseballs and their role in those changes. Now we’re spending our 2021 with a de-juiced ball: it was designed to be lighter and reduce the speed of the ball off of the bat, but instead, the lighter ball might be helping increase strikeouts even further.
I bring all of these issues up because they tie together in a pretty depressing way. They are all issues MLB has to fix. They are all issues MLB themselves created. Not in a vacuum, either: the new baseball was supposed to be a fix, just like getting Jeff Luhnow fired was supposed to be a fix, but realistically, MLB didn’t fix anything. They just changed paths after stepping on a rake that hit them in the face, and then got hit in the face with another rake. Guess what will probably happen the time they turn after that?
I’m pretty sure “using two different baseballs in the 2021 season without telling anyone and then having that information reported at Business Insider the day before the first lockout since 1990” qualifies as getting hit in the face with the rake of prophecy.
MLB should change the baseballs so that they aren’t launching themselves into space more often or less often than is reasonable, and they should also make sure that the ball comes pre-doctored so pitchers can continue to get high spin rates without having to dunk the ball in foreign substances until it resembles a glazed donut. They should also probably tell the teams that they are doing this, so that the teams can tell the players, and the scouts, and everyone who needs to be aware that the balls are different so that they can make all of their decisions, big and small, with that knowledge in mind. Apparently, this is asking too much.
So again, I ask: how are you supposed to trust what MLB says or does, and believe that their intentions are good? Nearly every time commissioner Rob Manfred opens his mouth, he’s obfuscating, or annoyed, or annoyingly obfuscating, or annoyed while obfuscating. These are people who always think they are right, and are not correct often enough to have that level of confidence. And yet, here they are, about to shut down a vibrant offseason that even has Mets fans excited because MLB wants to force a resolution on collective bargaining, i.e. hope they can pressure the players into giving up the idea of agreeing to anything besides the CBA they already have, except now it’s wearing a hat. And it’s incredible, too, because every lockout MLB has ever staged has ended in the players getting more of what they want than the owners did. They’re going to try again, though, confident in their rightness, and that this time, they won’t step on that rake in their way, either.
I cannot stress enough that the lockout does not even need to happen. The two sides could just keep negotiating for all of the next two months, and spring training would still be a couple of weeks away at that point. MLB is going to shut down the offseason, though, and do so in response to their own lack of participation and haste in bargaining to this point. People trust that these guys know what they’re doing, or that they’re right to do what they do and want what they want, but I just don’t get it. The most emphatic Couldn’t Be Me possible emanates from me instead, and I hope you, as well.