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Column: Yankees superstar Gerrit Cole at center of latest MLB controversy

(AP Photo / Tony Gutierrez)

One of the biggest issues in baseball right now (of many, unfortunately) involves pitchers using foreign substances to enhance their game. 

This is an age old “secret” in baseball that goes back to the first games ever played. You’ve likely heard of sandpaper, pine tar, and the good old-fashioned spitball. 

Gaylord Perry allegedly made himself a Hall of Famer with foreign substances. A few years back, New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda had pine tar on his neck in plain sight! 

It’s been happening forever, but it’s back in the forefront, and maybe it’s time that this tradition dies out. After all, hitters have certainly paid the price for using illegitimate means to enhance their game. 

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Cardinals manager Mike Shildt was in some hot water with the league earlier in the season when he excused the behavior and said, in other words, that there are bigger fish to fry in terms of cheating around the league.

“This is baseball’s dirty little secret, and it’s the wrong time and the wrong arena to expose it,” Shildt said after an incident where Cardinals pitcher Giovanny Gallegos was forced to change his hat during a game. “Here’s the deal. First of all, [Gallegos] wears the same hat all year. Hats accrue dirt. Hats accrue substances.”

“Did Gio have some sunscreen at some point in his career to make sure he doesn’t get some kind of melanoma? Possibly,” Shildt continued. “Does he use rosin to help out? Possibly. Are these things that baseball really wants to crack down on? No, it’s not.”

What’s probably most intriguing about this latest look into the situation is that some of the game’s best hurlers are facing the heat themselves. 

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Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole was mocked wildly for his response to whether he had ever used Spider Tack, a sticky paste that can greatly increase the spin on pitches. When asked about it, the Yankees ace balked, and didn’t exactly exonerate himself. 

“There are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players, from the last generation of players to this generation of players,” Cole said. “I think there are some things that are certainly out of bounds in that regard and I’ve stood pretty firm in terms of that, in terms of communication between our peers and whatnot.”

“If MLB wants to legislate some more stuff, that’s a conversation we can have because, ultimately, we should all be pulling in the same direction on this.”


Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m a baseball lifer and have been under the assumption this has all happened many times, even by the best. But that answer doesn’t sound great. 

Cole signed a nine-year, $324 million contract before the 2020 season. Yankees fans and baseball fans alike don’t want to hear that one of the game’s best and brightest is using illegal substances. We’d like to think it’s the Eddie Harris in “Major League” type of pitchers who are doing it to stay in the league. 

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Cole’s awkward Zoom call answer isn’t the only evidence against him. An alleged 2019 text message from Cole to a Los Angeles Angels clubhouse attendant said the following: “Hey Bubba, it’s Gerrit Cole. I was wondering if you could help me out with this sticky situation [an emoji of a winking face]. We don’t see you until May, but we have some road games in April that are in cold weather places. The stuff I had last year seizes up when it gets cold.”

We shall see what the future holds for Mr. Cole.

Over in Queens, New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom was accused (baselessly), and his teammates quickly came to his defense. Like, almost all of them.

I haven’t seen anything defending Cole, or another pitcher being questioned throughout all of this: controversial figure and current Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer. 

Why is this all coming to the forefront now, since it’s, as Mrs. Potts put it, a tale as old as time? 

Well, the “three true outcomes” in baseball of a home run, walk or strikeout have led to much less movement on the basepaths, resulting in less action. With analytics at the forefront of strategy, the way the game has played has narrowed.

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The league probably wants to find a way to create more action, and dominant pitchers striking everyone out or walking batters isn’t the answer. 

It’ll be interesting to see how MLB handles this. The league needs to be better in so many regards. Between this, the recent scandal involving the Houston Astros with other teams implied, and the steroids era, baseball needs to get back to being in the news for its on-the-field action.

One thing is for sure – Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in the world. Nothing sticky about that take.

Follow Allen Austin on Twitter @Allen_Austin_

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