Pitchers doctoring baseballs, but is it cheating?

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

If there is widespread pitcher use, and hitters don't care, what exactly is the problem?

When Jack Morris and Dirk Hayhurst accused Clay Buchholz of doctoring the ball against the Toronto, the Blue Jays themselves were oddly quiet about it. After reading a report from Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan, we might have a better sense of why it is that the Jays didn't think Buchholz was cheating: if he was doing anything to the ball, it was with something that is as "prevalent across baseball as chewing tobacco and sunflower seeds."

Sources told Passan that pitchers use BullFrog spray-on suncreen and mix it with rosin in order to create a substance they can utilize for better grip, and that they've been doing it for years. It's not a movement thing -- the key is grip. And pitchers just don't see how it could be considering cheating:

"I just don't get the difference between BullFrog and hitters using pine tar," the NL pitcher said. "No difference whatsoever. Pitcher needs better grip so he knows somewhat where it's going and doesn't hit the batter in the head.

Hitters want a better grip on their piece of game equipment, and pitchers just seem to want the same. According to Peter Gammons, there are hitters who don't even have an issue with pitchers loading up on sunscreen and rosin:

So, pitchers don't deem it unfair, as it doesn't create movement like a scuffed baseball would. To back that up, remember, Clay Buchholz's pitches actually have less movement on them this year according to PITCHf/x, but his command seems to have improved. Then there are hitters, and while the three Gammons spoke to aren't a full sample of the hundreds in baseball, it's also probably safe to think that hitters wouldn't make a stink about it. After all, their own pitchers are utilizing the same methods, meaning it's just a part of the game at this point -- it's not exactly a secret they are just now learning because Hayhurst and Morris decided to make a stink.

Honestly, this Passan story makes Hayhurst and Morris look worse for bringing up a supposed cheating scandal with no proof to begin with, especially since Hayhurst's follow-up article essentially said, "cheating is okay and it's also okay if Buchholz uses something, he should just be more discreet about it!" and Morris was committed to calling Buchholz's pitches spitters, as well as something about the number of rodeos he's been to. But, rather than get into that whole tired thing, where Red Sox fans will defend their side and Blue Jays fans will defend their own, how about we all just quit on this one and agree that, since hitters and pitchers seem to think this is a non-story, that it's a non-story?

The real story is why Major League Baseball doesn't have an approved and readily available substance for grip like they do for hitters with their bats. Pitchers are complaining about the balls this season, saying they're harder to grip, increasing the need for something like the BullFrog and rosin concoction. It's hard to believe the league when they say, "There have been no changes to our procedures for the preparation of baseballs" when you've lived through such claims about the production of baseballs during the late-90s -- that time to the benefit of hitters -- despite research that says exactly the opposite occurred. If Passan's claims about widespread BullFrog use are true, it doesn't sound as if an MLB-approved substance would change much in the game besides the need for discretion.

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