MINNEAPOLIS – The notion that Gerrit Cole’s mostly excellent performance Wednesday night would somehow lessen discussion of a topic that has taken over the sport at the moment – pitchers loading baseballs with illegal substances for increased spin rate – was quickly disabused after the game.
And the evidence came from his own clubhouse.
Though praising the ace’s performance in the 9-6 victory over the Twins, neither Aaron Judge nor Giancarlo Stanton went out of the way to avoid the subject afterward.
Or downplay the significance of the issue.
"I feel like 95 percent of the guys I face in the league, something going on," Judge said. "It’s kind of one of those rules I feel like hasn’t really been enforced or defined, whatever you want to say about it."
Plenty of hitters this season have been saying plenty about it and continue to.
That includes, of course, Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson, who created a mini-firestorm last week when he singled out Cole, then dug in before Wednesday night’s game.
Still, while not backing away from those remarks and not pulling any punches regarding the subject matter overall, Donaldson made clear more than a few times Wednesday he wasn’t singling out Cole. It was more a matter of Cole being the first pitcher who saw a drop in his spin rate after a handful of minor leaguers were suspended June 2 for putting illicit substances on balls, part of MLB’s intent – slow as it was coming – to crack down on the practice (Cole allowed five runs and five hits in a 9-2 loss to the Rays June 3).
"With Gerrit Cole, he was the first one to pitch since the suspensions [in the minor leagues] had happened," Donaldson said. "And he’s the first guy that you could see spin rates going down … Since [then], there’s been 12 or more guys already whose spin rates have magically dropped in the last week. So it’s not just Gerrit Cole. I want to get that out [there]. With that being said, we’ll see how it plays out."
How it played out after Wednesday’s game was interesting because the reality was, though few Yankees’ fans likely want to hear it, Judge and Stanton sounded more like Donaldson than players interested in reflexively defending one of their own.
Hitters, not just Donaldson, are fed up. In all 30 clubhouses.
"Balance for me is just to have everyone on an even playing field," Stanton said. "And that's with nothing added to (enhance) performance. I think we’re all out here, we grind every day. It’s not fair for somebody, (whether) half the people are doing it, two-thirds, all of them, whatever. It should be none, and we’ll see how the performance is from there."
Stanton said there has been a "good amount" of discussion of the topic all season, both among his teammates and hitters from other teams he’s talked to.
"I mean, we understand, we know how pitches should move," Stanton said. "I've seen professional pitching for 13,14 years now, you know how balls are supposed to move and you face some guys for that long as well. So if you're getting older and your ball is moving more and having more life to it, you know, usually something's up there."
What would happen with the sudden elimination of the substances that so many in the game believe have contributed to the steep drop in offense?
"I think the numbers speak for themselves, how this year has gone and years prior and their (pitchers) numbers being enhanced," Stanton said. "That’s not opinion-based. It’ll be better for hitters in general if everyone’s even."