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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Memo: MLB to require all teams to ‘muddy’ ball using exact same technique

Major League Baseball is now requiring teams to “muddy” baseballs before games using the exact same technique, according to a league memo sent to all 30 teams on Tuesday and obtained by ESPN.

Muddying is the process of removing gloss from new baseballs to give pitchers a better grip. It’s been used in the game for decades and is as important as ever considering the league’s crackdown on the use of foreign substances over the past 12 months.

In past years, muddying involved clubhouse attendants preparing baseballs by rubbing Delaware River mud—which comes in a can—days before each game. Moving forward, they’ll be required to continue to muddy balls on game day only and all with the same technique.

After reviewing videos of clubhouse attendants from around the league, officials found a wide variety of muddying techniques.

The proper technique involves “painting” the full surface of the ball with mud using two fingertips. Then comes a very precise rubbing motion with the ball in between both hands to get mud into the pores of the leather. Muddying each ball is a 30- to 40-second process.

The league memo is another attempt to reach as much uniformity as possible for the dozens of balls used throughout major league parks every night.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 21, 2022 at 04:41 PM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: balls

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   1. John Northey Posted: June 21, 2022 at 05:54 PM (#6083144)
One would think by now someone would have come up with a method to automatically do it - a machine that has the mud and spins the ball in it in a way that gets every part of the ball equally. Then spits the ball out and does the next one. How bloody hard could that be to make?
   2. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 21, 2022 at 06:03 PM (#6083148)
Wasn’t this once done by the home plate umpire? Maybe they didn’t want to get their hands dirty, but returning to that practice would likely ensure greater uniformity. Home team clubhouse attendants are going to cater to the whims of that day’s starting pitcher, if any are sufficiently picky about such stuff.
   3. fhomess Posted: June 21, 2022 at 06:05 PM (#6083149)
"Thank you, John Northey! We'll get right on a machine to cover baseballs with mud, spit, and blood." - Rob Manfred
   4. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 21, 2022 at 07:31 PM (#6083155)

"Thank you, John Northey! We'll get right on a machine to cover baseballs with mud, spit, and blood." - Rob Manfred

Brought to you by CampingWorld.
   5. Brian C Posted: June 21, 2022 at 09:12 PM (#6083173)
Did I miss something where there was an actual problem that uniform muddying techniques would solve? I know "hey we've always done it this way" isn't much of a reason to keep doing things that way, but this sure has a "make work for middle management" feel to it ... I'm picturing Manfred getting fresh spreadsheets each morning with the results of the previous day's muddying and then haranguing the staff over why they don't have the right cover page.
   6. The Duke Posted: June 21, 2022 at 10:38 PM (#6083184)
The major leagues have created this problem by the constant changing of the baseball almost every batter. Balls were used over and over for a long time until they were fouled into stands or taken out of play if they got dinged up.

Now they go through hundreds a game. A prices of muddying up two or three dozen balls becomes more problematic if you have to to 200-300.

I believe the umps did use to do this. I want to say there is a passage in an Angell book about this.
   7. The Honorable Ardo Posted: June 22, 2022 at 02:32 AM (#6083211)
What does Muddy Ruel have to say about all this?

(Aside: after the 1956 season, Ruel's continuous 43-year career in baseball ended when he was fired as GM of the Detroit Tigers. He retired to Palo Alto, California. When he died of a heart attack in 1963, he was interred in Alta Mesa Memorial Park, where he keeps company with Steve Jobs, Shirley Temple, William Shockley, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and other luminaries.)
   8. The_Ex Posted: June 22, 2022 at 07:47 AM (#6083215)
I believe the umps used to do it. Then they started paying a clubbie to do it. Now its probably someone's job who in some cases half-asses it.

Several pitchers have complained about the balls this year, rejecting ball after ball because they have no grip.

Its like many jobs, if no-one checks it, it doesn't get done properly.
   9. catomi01 Posted: June 22, 2022 at 08:06 AM (#6083216)
When I worked in the Atlantic League (15 years ago now), the umpires did 6 dozen to start the game. If we started to run short, the clubhouse attendants would do more a dozen at a time depending on where we were in the game. The difference in quality between most of the umpires (who literally worked dozens of game balls every day) or me (who had to do the backups pretty much every day) and a random batboy doing it once or twice a season was very significant. I think they finally moved on to just doing a bunch at a time at the beginning of the season to act as buffer stock, but not sure if the umpires still do any before the game.

The most surreal part of experience was actually buying the mud. Because I wasn't an umpire, I had to provide a letter from the league authorizing me to buy mud.
   10. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: June 22, 2022 at 07:21 PM (#6083333)
I'm going to show my ignorance here, but why don't they just manufacture the balls to be less glossy and be more similar to a ball that has already been muddied?

Surely you can control the uniformity better at the manufacturing stage as opposed to 30 different club houses trying to achieve some common state of the ball?
   11. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: June 23, 2022 at 06:41 PM (#6083511)
For those who haven't read the SI story from a couple of years ago: Mud Maker: The Man Behind MLB’s Essential Secret Sauce.

I'm going to show my ignorance here, but why don't they just manufacture the balls to be less glossy and be more similar to a ball that has already been muddied?

From the SI story:

Rawlings has spent years researching Bintliff’s mud and developed several prototypes for a new ball. It’s come up with several—tested in spring training and fall league and, recently, in a brief experiment in the independent Atlantic League. But pitchers have long been accustomed to the grip that they get from the mud, and it has proved tricky to find a suitable replacement that satisfies everyone. “When you hand Pitcher A the ball, he says, ‘I love it,’ ” Thompson says. “You hand Pitcher B the ball, he says, ‘Too tacky.’ When you hand Pitcher C the ball, he says, ‘Not tacky enough.’ How do you win?”

Rawlings and MLB have continued to test different options, looking for something that keeps the same standard of playability, that keeps the same color, that doesn’t lose its feel when it’s thwacked into a catcher’s mitt or when it’s coated with sweat or doused in rainwater. Blackburne’s mud was originally called magic, and that seems to be exactly what baseball is searching for, eight decades later.

(I think your question is a very good one and I find the above passage kind of absurd. Some players will complain about everything; TFA shows that even the current balls don't make everyone happy.)
   12. Ron J Posted: June 23, 2022 at 09:08 PM (#6083560)
#11 Even way back pitchers complained about the ball. Ron Luciano thought it was mostly mind games and when a pitcher wanted a ball replaced he'd routinely work that ball back in. He said only one pitcher was consistent -- if he didn't like it initially he wouldn't like it when Luciano worked it back in.

Jim Palmer.
   13. tshipman Posted: June 24, 2022 at 06:25 PM (#6083757)
I'm going to show my ignorance here, but why don't they just manufacture the balls to be less glossy and be more similar to a ball that has already been muddied?

Famously, the Japanese league does exactly that.

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