Pitchers using illegal, sticky substances to improve their grips on the baseball has become the biggest storyline of the 2021 season. On Wednesday, the broad conversation on the subject added a new wrinkle when Mets first baseman Pete Alonso weighed in on the issue.
Speaking to reporters ahead of New York's game against the Orioles, Alonso posited that the league has been altering the baseball on a yearly basis based on the following offseason's free agency class, implying that MLB is attempting to limit players' earning power just before they become available on the open market.
“The biggest concern is that Major League Baseball manipulates the baseballs year in and year out depending on the free agency class, or guys being in an advanced part of their arbitration," Alonso said. "So I do think that’s a big issue ... Maybe if the league didn’t change the baseball, pitchers wouldn’t need to use as much sticky stuff."
Alonso discussed the issue of pitchers using sticky substances to get a better grip on the ball at length, saying he disagrees with MLB deciding to crack down on the widespread usage across the sport.
“Since the start of the game, pitchers have been using ‘substances’—I mean, there’s a bag of rosin behind the mound right now to help guys dry their hands and get grip," Alonso said. "For me, I think whether they’re using pine tar, rosin, Bullfrog, sunscreen and rosin, whatever they want to use to help control the ball, let them use it. Because for me, I go in the box every single day and I see guys throwing harder and harder every day. I don’t want 99 slipping out of someone’s hand because they didn’t have enough feel for it.”
The use of "sticky stuff" throughout baseball has become so prevalent that estimates from former players range as high as 90% of pitchers in the league use it in some capacity. In response, MLB will reportedly roll out a more strict plan of enforcement this month, with umpires issuing routine and random checks for any illegal substances during games.
As far as the conspiracy theory that MLB is using a different ball each year to prevent high-profile free agents from cashing in big paydays, Alonso claims others throughout the league share his view.
"Oh, no, that’s a fact. Yes, guys have talked about it," Alonso said, per Tim Healey of Newsday. "It’s not a coincidence. It definitely is something that they did."
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