Astros pitcher Justin Verlander said the balls Major League Baseball are using this season are "a f---ing joke" and he believes the league intentionally implemented juiced balls.
Verlander, who will make his second All-Star Game start Tuesday, made the comments to ESPN's Jeff Passan on Monday. The 36-year-old has allowed a league-high 26 home runs this year. There have been 3,691 home runs total in the first half of this season.
Home runs have been the No. 1 storyline this season, and the final total is on pace to be the most ever in a single season. Following the 2017 World Series, pitchers and coaches complained the balls were slicker. As the conversation around juiced balls increased, MLB commisoner Rob Manfred authorized a study to investigate whether the balls were contributing to the home run spike. The study concluded balls were performing differently, but did not offer any definitive explanations why.
Then, a month after the study's release in 2018, MLB bought Rawlings, which is the supplier of the league's official ball.
"It's a f---ing joke," Verlander told ESPN. "Major League Baseball's turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you've got Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the f---ing company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it's not a guess as to what happened. We all know what happened. Manfred the first time he came in, what'd he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It's not coincidence. We're not idiots."
When asked if the balls were intentionally juiced by MLB, Verlander said: "Yes. 100 percent. They've been using juiced balls in the Home Run Derby forever. They know how to do it. It's not coincidence. I find it really hard to believe that Major League Baseball owns Rawlings and just coincidentally the balls become juiced."
Even with all the home runs, the Astros pitcher dominating yet again in 2019. He is 10-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 19 starts and has 153 strikeouts across 126 2/3 innings.