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Know this: Most pitchers, not all, use something to improve their grip. There are many “homemade recipes” to go about getting the right kind of tackiness on your index and middle fingers to make the ball spin faster. Rosin by itself doesn’t cut it. You need some moisture and tackiness mixed with rosin and water or saliva. I have seen and heard pitchers use pine tar (usually kept on the cap or uniform), sunblock lotion, an aerosol sticky spray and various other lotions as the binding agent with rosin and water or saliva.
It has become fairly common in the past five to 10 years for pitchers swipe or rub the forearm of their non-throwing arm between pitches. Notice that none of the uniformed Blue Jays complained about Buchholz. The complaints came from retired pitchers. The “secret society” among the knowing reminds me of the story when the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner called manager Lou Piniella during a game to get him to have the umpires check the opposing pitcher for scuffing the baseball. “But George,” Piniella said, “our guy is cheating, too!”
The irony is that nobody wrote a better “how-to” explanation of using foreign substances than Hayhurst. In his book Out of My League, Hayhurst wrote about what’s inside those backpacks pitchers carry to the bullpen. He wrote when describing the unpacking of the bag: “Then the real supplies came out: various goops and stick ‘ems that some morally sensitive fans would call the use of cheating, while we in the business simply called having an edge.” Those substances, Hayhurst wrote, include something called “Firm Grip . . . a knockoff of pine tar,” shaving cream (“specifically the gel stuff”) and sunscreen.
“When rubbed into the skin and mixed with sweat and rosin,” Hayhurst wrote, “this stuff actually forms an SPF-40 caliber Fixodent, which a crafty pitcher can mix on the fly. A touch to the wrist slightly below the mitt for some [sun] screen, a wipe of the back of the neck for some sweat, a pat of the rosin bag for the third component, and you’ll have enough tack to make the ball hang from your fingertips.”
Is it legal? By definition, no. Rule 8.02 bars the use of any “foreign substance” on the baseball. But pitchers have come to rationalize the use of these substances not as throwing a doctored pitch or “spitball,” but as the more benign sounding tactic of “improving my grip.” As pitching continues to dominate the game, it is based mostly on pitchers adopting the cutter/sinker combination to get late movement on both sides of the plate. Grip has become important to establish high spin rates on such higher-velocity pitches.
The search for homemade recipes to improve grip has become common in baseball. The case of Buchholz in Toronto became uncommon for several reasons: he was called out by former pitchers, the lack of discretion in the extent of coverage of whatever is on his left forearm and the fact that in the year after he posted a 4.56 ERA without a stain on his sleeve he has an MLB-best 1.01 ERA and is throwing the baseball better than anybody in the major leagues. [Emphasis added]
But if a certain group of players use PEDs to gain an advantage (assuming that they even grant an advantage) that if other players in the league want to "keep up", they, too, will have to resort to using PEDs. If PEDs are harmful to one's health, we are creating a really serious problem and putting players in a very uncomfortable situation.
But if a certain group of players use PEDs to gain an advantage (assuming that they even grant an advantage) that if other players in the league want to "keep up", they, too, will have to resort to using PEDs
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