MLB implemented significant change earlier this season by beginning to enforce its rules against the use of foreign substances on baseballs.
The decision was in response to offensive production dropping to historic lows across the sport, which the league attributed to pitchers applying sticky substances as a means to help them get a better grip on the ball.
Many players were upset such a change came into effect in the middle of the season as they felt it could potentially lead to serious injuries. Some offered suggestions, including MLB developing a new baseball with a substance already applied to it.
It appears the league liked that idea as they are planning to experiment with a pre-tacked ball in select Triple-A games for the remainder of the season, via Kyle Glaser of Baseball America:
MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Morgan Sword told Baseball America on Thursday a “handful” of Triple-A teams will use the new baseball at some point during the final 10 games of the season, known as the “Final Stretch.”
“On a very limited basis, we are getting into games a couple of prototype baseballs that (have) a different substance applied to them for grip purposes,” Sword said. “It’s not all the way across Triple-A. We just don’t have enough of them. We’re just finding a couple of teams willing to help us out (and) get them into games. Trying to get some game action for these things before the end of the year.”
Many of the teams involved will use the prototype baseball for only one of their final 10 games, Sword said.
That MLB is willing to test a pre-tacked ball this late in the season shows they are serious about finding a long-term solution that both the players and fans can get behind.
Assuming all goes well, it wouldn’t be surprising if the league continues to experiment with the new ball next year, though where and in what fashion remains to be seen.
Pre-tacked baseballs, while new to MLB, have been used in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and South Korea’s KBO League for many years now.
A similar ball was utilized during this past summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo as well, which several MLB and Minor League pitchers raved about after throwing one for the first time.
Turner: Foreign substances checks ‘not good for baseball’
One of the biggest criticisms of MLB enforcing rules against the use of foreign substances are the mandatory checks conducted by umpires. Justin Turner previously argued that these are bad for baseball because of the optics it created and hopes they don’t return next season.
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