Max Scherzer knows how pitchers are perceived and understands the origins of the constant suspicion. But he doesn’t like it.
Caught up in MLB’s latest sticky-stuff controversy -- he was suspended 10 games for what umpires deemed an illegal substance on his pitching hand during a start last week -- Scherzer hopes to see the system change.
The regular checks by umpires of pitchers’ hands, gloves, hats and belts — the routine that resulted in his ejection last week — no longer are necessary, he said.
“We gotta change the climate on how we look at pitchers,” Scherzer said on Sunday as he watched the Mets play the Giants. “We’re not cheating anymore.”
“Right. The Spider Tack was cheating. The hitters were right,” he continued, adding that he never used that product, which is made for weightlifters. “And the hitters were right, they made this a spin-rate issue. They were saying we were getting too much spin and that’s unfair. The hitters were absolutely right. The pitchers were at fault. But now we’ve taken that out of the game. There’s no more Spider Tack in the game. Confident. Confident. Extremely confident there’s no more Spider Tack in the game.”
MLB first cracked down on pitchers using foreign substances in 2021. Two were suspended for violating the rules that year. Since the league re-emphasized its enforcement at the start of this season, one player has been punished: Scherzer.
He is deeply skeptical of the subjective nature of the current system and umpires’ ability to accurately tell when a pitcher has crossed a line. Phil Cuzzi ejected Scherzer last Wednesday after deciding the substance on his hand — which Scherzer insisted was rosin and sweat — was too sticky.
Officially, pitchers can be punished for using too much rosin, which is legal but only in moderation.
To Scherzer, who is eligible to return to the Mets' rotation on Monday, that is beyond the original intention of MLB’s initial effort, which was to rid the game of more sophisticated substances such as Spider Tack.
“The climate toward pitching now doesn’t need to be trying to eject guys,” Scherzer said. “It just needs to be, hey, let’s keep guys in the lane. But bumpers up. We did go 100 years without checking hands."
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred suggested Monday, during an interview at the league's Manhattan headquarters with members of the Associated Press Sports Editors, that the hand-check system has worked well, including in the case of Scherzer.
"Players have been clearly told that combining rosin with another substance is not allowed," Manfred said. "You can get rosin off your hands without alcohol. I think that’s a red herring in terms of what happened (with Scherzer). I want to commend the umpires here. They made multiple attempts to deescalate this. I think they handled it really well. I don’t think there’s any confusion out there about combining things with rosin."
With Hank Winnicki