On the third day of Zoom interrogations, a Yankees’ pitcher finally admitted to using Spider Tack.
Rob Manfred, you’re welcome.
Before the Commissioner’s Office even launched their ultrahyped enforcement of the rule book -- 6.02 (c) to be exact -- we got someone to come clean regarding the use of illegal substances for gripping the baseball.
That pitcher is Jameson Taillon, who acknowledged Thursday that yes, he had tried Spider Tack, the super-sticky adhesive paste created for strongman competitions, but recently adopted by the baseball industry to dramatically increase spin rate.
We should emphasize, however, that Taillon described his usage as a failed experiment, something that he dabbled with while rehabbing from his second Tommy John surgery. So don’t go studying any of Taillon’s video from these first two months in pinstripes, looking for telltale visor stains or a goo-smeared glove. As far as Spider Tack goes, it didn’t stick with him.
"I had a friend with a can of Spider Tack and I couldn’t even throw the ball with it," Taillon said before Thursday night’s game against the Twins. "It gave me the yips. It freaked me out. So that was enough for me. I think some people have figured out a way to make that kind of stuff work. But for me, it wasn’t the answer."
Credit to Taillon for copping to his dalliance with that forbidden substance, but since there are only so many minutes to a Zoom call, we didn’t quiz him on the whole catalog: Bullfrog sunscreen, Pelican Grip, pine tar, rosin or any mixture of the above. The Spider Tack alone was further than either of his fellow rotation-mates were willing to go, as Thursday’s starter Michael King flatly denied using anything -- "Because I throw a sinker, I want less spin on the ball," he said -- and Gerrit Cole famously replied with his stammering non-answer when asked Tuesday.
Cole wanted to clarify that pause-filled reply after Wednesday’s nine-strikeout performance in the Yankees’ 9-6 win over the Twins. With the chance at a do-over, Cole explained that he didn’t believe a Zoom conference was the correct forum to discuss the Spider Tack issue, which is why he first hesitated, then struggled to muddy the waters on what was posed as a yes-or-no question.
Despite a day of being dragged on every media platform, Cole patched-up his reputation to some degree with the solid six innings. He didn’t allow a walk, and perhaps more importantly, showed no dramatic drop in spin rate -- a tell-tale sign of someone maybe ditching the goo. According to BaseballSavant, Cole’s four-seam fastball dipped by only 59 RPMs on average -- a negligible number -- and his slider was down 87 RPMs from his season mark.
While that didn’t provide any concrete evidence Cole wasn’t using something against the Twins, the drumbeat of an impending crackdown is probably enough to scare most pitchers straight this week, and the sport’s attention was laser-focused on the Yankees’ ace Wednesday night. Just how much pitchers will be affected by the league-wide cleanup remains to be seen, but Cole did what he could to quiet his accusers, among them the Twins’ Josh Donaldson, who called him out before the series at Target Field.
"As a friend, it was tough to see," Taillon said. "But I was happy he went out there and had a great game [Wednesday] night. I’ve watched the way he prepares for a long time and I’m confident that he’s going to be the same guy going forward, if not even better. I think this may have lit a little bit of a fire under him ... I don’t think some sticky stuff or whatever is what makes Gerrit Cole, Gerrit Cole. I think there’s a lot that goes into it, so I think he’s going to be just fine."
Taillon didn’t go out of his way to absolve Cole from any previous allegations. He only suggested what the future would look like. And with Aaron Judge estimating that 95% of the pitchers are dipping into something sticky for that extra spin, Taillon expected there to be a significant league-wide impact when the substances dry up.
"It’s pretty noticeable which ones are using it," Taillon said. "Which ones aren’t afraid of getting checked. There’s some guys that are really sneaky about it. If you sit back and watch games, there’s definitely a lot of guys that you can tell have no fear of going to their gloves and stuff."
With that rampant cheating -- or, um, doing whatever you prefer to call not following Rule 6.02 (c) -- Taillon is all in favor of MLB’s crackdown.
"I think it’s best right now to just completely eliminate it," Taillon said. "Police it, really enforce it. If the [pitcher’s] control gets out of control, maybe we can discuss it. But for right now, the best thing to do is just go completely clean."
Taillon told us he has. And with MLB currently in this amnesty period, many would be foolish not to follow.