BALTIMORE – Pete Alonso took the red-hot topic around sticky substances in baseball to a brand-new level.
As Major League Baseball begins cracking down on the use of sticky substances on balls, which includes various forms of applications like pine tar and Spider Tack that pitchers have been using for years, one Mets player took a hard stance against the league’s decision.
Alonso said MLB is “absolutely not” doing the right thing because he wants pitchers to use “whatever they want” to help control the ball. He said he does not want to see another Kevin Pillar situation, when his teammate was drilled on the nose with a fastball due to a lack of command.
He said the more important issue — and this is where Alonso brought a galaxy-brain layer to the sticky substance conversation — is that MLB is manipulating the baseball to suppress free-agency value.
“I think the biggest concern is Major League Baseball manipulates the baseball year in and year out depending on free-agency class or guys being in an advanced part of their arbitration,” Alonso said on Wednesday from Camden Yards. “I do think that’s a big issue, the ball being different every single year. With other sports, the ball is the same, like basketball, tennis, golf, the ball is the same.
“That’s the real issue, the changing of the baseball. And maybe if they didn’t, the league didn’t change the baseball, pitchers wouldn’t need to use as much sticky stuff.”
It’s been widely believed that MLB has manipulated the baseball for years now, but the league is never forthright about it. In 2019, the alleged “juiced ball” led to the highest home run rate in MLB history. This year, the league sent a memo to all 30 teams just before spring training, explaining that the ball would be altered this season to sail one to two feet shorter on fly balls hit over 375 feet. In other words, fewer home runs.
When Alonso was asked if his conspiracy theory, that the league is manipulating the baseball to control free agency, is something players have extensively discussed, the first baseman doubled down.
“Oh no, that’s a fact,” he said, though his argument has not been proven. “Yes, guys have talked about it. But, I mean, in 2019 there was a huge class of free-agent pitchers and then that’s the ‘juiced balls.’ … It’s not a coincidence. I think that it’s definitely something that they do.”
Whether or not there’s any legitimacy to this theory, Alonso’s candid stance goes against what the league wants. And though it was already expected, it’s becoming all the more obvious that there will be a fight between the Players Association and MLB with the sport’s current collective bargaining agreement set to expire in just six months. Both sides have been publicly combative in recent years, and many around the league believe a potential strike could be in play.
While the league jumps into its first foray into cracking down on the use of sticky substances in baseball, Alonso is just the first Mets player to take a stand against MLB’s alleged investigation. Buckle up, because in the coming weeks and months there will undoubtedly be many more disagreements and arguments between players and MLB on a subject that has only just begun to slink into the spotlight.
“I would rather [pitchers] have control,” Alonso said. “I don’t care what they use. For me, I use pine tar to hit. I have lizard skin, I have batting gloves. I have the most advantage when it comes to holding onto my bat. So I wouldn’t care. On our on-deck bag we have a pine tar rag, we have a pine tar stick, a special sticky spray with rosin. I mean you name it, we have it.
“I wouldn’t care if they had that behind the mound to help hold onto the ball, because when we start getting into these hotter months, guys start to sweat. And let’s say if they lose a fastball arm-side, I mean we all saw what happened to Kevin Pillar. That’s scary. We’re lucky that he only had a broken nose. It could be a lot worse depending on where it hits a guy.
“So I’d rather have guys have as much stick as possible and focus on throwing the ball in the box as opposed to taking it away from them.”
As for Mets manager Luis Rojas, he said he hasn’t spoken to his pitchers about MLB cracking down on sticky substances. The skipper said he personally uses pine tar on the balls he throws during batting practice to make sure it doesn’t slip out of his hand.
“I read the rule book every year, once or twice, and it is in the rule book, not to use any substance on the ball,” Rojas said. “About our pitchers using it, I am completely unaware of what’s used. Or if they have, I’m totally unaware. So right now this is a hot topic in baseball and I know MLB is coming out with a memo just because of all the noise that is out there. So we’re just waiting for that memo to come out and then we’re going to talk to our pitchers.”