NEW YORK — While no pants were removed on the field at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night—the Yankees' first taste of checks from umpires for illegal substances—that doesn't mean the process received rave reviews from those in pinstripes.
Veteran reliever Zack Britton, who also serves as New York's union representative, didn't hold back on Wednesday, criticizing the league for how pitchers are now being examined on the field.
"The optics of it are so bad for baseball," Britton said. "It looked awful last night. As somebody who loves the game, I was watching other teams, and I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed that that's what our game looks like right now."
Checks began this week across baseball and while most went smoothly, only taking a few seconds as hurlers came off the mound, others demonstrated disdain to the new procedure by beginning to disrobe, unbuckling belts and tossing articles of clothing on the ground.
"We're not talking about Wander Franco's debut and we're not talking about how well Gerrit [Cole] threw and how well Max Scherzer threw," Britton explained. "We're talking about guys getting checked on the field, guys dropping their pants on the field, guys throwing their belts off. I mean, I just think the optics are just absolutely embarrassing for our game and that's not what I want to wake up and read about regarding our game in the morning."
Cole started for the Yankees on Tuesday night, pausing after the third and sixth innings as umpires patted down his glove and hat before he was cleared to return to the dugout.
It seemed like a harmless inspection at the surface, but Cole called it "awkward" after the game, explaining that the checks were in the back of his mind even while he was pitching during each inning.
"I don't think really it's a super comfortable situation for anybody," Cole said, walking through the added stress of not wanting to accidentally evade an umpire while loping off the field.
Manager Aaron Boone had a similar takeaway after Tuesday night's loss.
"Look, it's a little weird for these guys, the umpires included and for the pitchers going through that kind of scenario," Boone said . "You're getting security checked in front of a lot of people. So I'm sure it'll be a little awkward for some days."
While Britton hadn't experienced the check yet when he addressed the situation on Wednesday, he already knew exactly how to make the process better for all parties involved.
"I'm all for cleaning up the sticky stuff. 100 percent it's gone too far," he said. "I think we can get checked in the bullpen prior to entering the game. I think guys can get checked in the dugout away from cameras, away from the fans."
That way, Britton added, it'll send a better message to the fans in the seats and those watching at home.
"If I'm a young kid at the game, and I'm asking my dad, 'Hey, what's going on. Why are they getting checked?' What he's gonna say?" Britton asked. "Well, they think everyone's cheating. I mean, is that what we want the game to be about? Like, we're assuming you're cheating. I just think it's a bad look."
Britton and Cole both have roles on the executive subcommittee of the MLB Players Association and the reliever made it clear that they're willing to have a dialogue with commissioner Rob Manfred about the developing situation.
To the left-hander, it's also important for Manfred to address the newly implicated rules and answer questions just like players have for the last several weeks.
"If you're the head of a sport, a big part of the job description is to answer the questions and speak to the media occasionally," Britton said. "You see it throughout the other sports. I think it's frustrating for the players that we haven't heard anything from him yet."
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