MLB pitchers have been putting foreign substances on baseballs to enhance their pitches since…well, pretty much since the sport was invented. Modern technology has allowed us to quantify just how much pine tar, rosin/sunscreen, etc. help the pitcher, but pitchers of yesteryear also knew it helped them gain an edge. Now MLB is trying to put an end to such practices. In doing so, they should not neglect the pitchers’ sidekicks when it comes to loading up the baseball, namely third basemen.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Third base is an excellent position for sneakily applying a substance to a baseball. The third baseman is typically the last person to touch the ball before the pitcher takes it to start a new at bat or inning. The throw down to second ends up in the third baseman’s glove after the shortstop or second baseman handle it. If there is an out made with no one on base, the third baseman is once again the guy who hands the ball back to the pitcher before he gets back on the rubber.
If the pitcher wants any sort of gunk to be applied to the baseball, there is plenty of opportunity for the man at the hot corner to do so.
Third basemen can keep the good stuff in the same areas pitchers do. Hats, belts, gloves, the usual spots. Once the ball gets to him, he rubs a bit of it on there, then hands it to the pitcher. If the umpires decide to check the pitcher for any foreign substance, he’s clean as a whistle. All while keeping his RPMs up as high as possible.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
Umpires are going to be watching pitchers like hawks. Hitters are getting dominated like it’s 1968. While stuff like pine tar isn’t the sole culprit behind that, you’d be naïve to say it hasn’t contributed. The league needs to watch what pitchers are doing up on the mound, sure. But be sure to pay attention to what’s happening between batters and between innings, i.e. the times when umpires are often busy doing other things. That’s when there’s an opportunity for some RPM-boosting.
Like I said earlier, this type of thing has been going on for a loooong time. Pitchers have a 100-year head start. MLB certainly has their work cut out for them if they really want to eradicate this form of cheating. Hopefully, they can.