The Sunday Brief: Top Storylines to Follow This Week

All the stories you need to follow this week in the MLB.

Nothing makes a good series of articles like never-ending drama! In this age of forgetting information as soon as we…what was I talking about? Sorry, I just watched Aroldis Chapman lose another game. But what’s that they tell sports players? Short memory? Right? I suppose that’s why I write this stuff down, so we can track — week after week after week — the dramas that mark MLB baseball. Today we’ve got a lot of sticky situations, so let’s wash our hands of this mess and catch up on the news of the week!


Manipulating the Sticky Balls


This continues the saga from last week, where Sports Illustrated reported on the “biggest scandal in sports:” the scandal of sticky balls. Spider Tack might make you feel like Thor when you grip a baseball, but the sticky substance and its ilk are causing all sorts of drama in the MLB community, partly because of the uneven policing of grip enhancers. This week, New York Mets slugger Pete Alonso jumped into the fray, arguing that MLB was knowingly changing the baseballs — and causing batting averages to plummet — to deflate contracts in free agency by weakening hitter stats. Alonso framed his argument well, saying,

“I think that the biggest concern is that Major League Baseball manipulates the baseballs year in and year out depending on the free agency class — or guys being in an advanced part of their arbitration…So I do think that’s a big issue — the ball being different every single year. … Maybe if the league didn’t change the baseball, pitchers wouldn’t need to use as much sticky stuff.”

Of course, the counterargument to Alonso would be that pitchers get big contracts as well (see Bauer, Trevor). In fact, Bauer — considered by many to be at the vanguard of sticky pitching science — is one of the best-paid players in MLB.  But on the whole, pitchers get paid less and there are fewer pitchers who have large contracts; Alonso is correct in pointing out that hitters would be disproportionately affected by changes to the baseball and the increase in the use of grip enhancers. Stay tuned for the next episode in ball manipulation!


Preventing Harassment


ESPN’s Sarah Spain wrote a missive calling for culture change in the entire sports world to promote gender equality and gender equity in the sports workplace. Using the recent example of MLB pitching coach Mickey Callaway — whose harassment of women was considered an “open secret” among many MLB execs and staff — Spain transitions to use the example of Jen Sterger, whose career in sports media was crushed by the media after Brett Favre sent her unsolicited pictures of his genitals. Spain calls for a culture change in both the media and the sports workplaces to ensure all people have a chance to succeed. You can read the full article here.


Revenge Served Cole

The Minnesota Twins‘ third baseman Josh Donaldson threatened to start talking more about the users and abusers of grip enhancers, namely Gerrit Cole. Cole — who is one of the most successful pitchers in MLB — was named in the off-season for acquiring and using sticky substances from “Bubba” Harkins. Following Donaldson’s words, Cole seemed stunned in an interview, as if his parents were asking him if he smoked marijuana at a high school party. Here’s the clip of Cole saying something about the “culture:”

Then, Yankees television commenter Michael Kay went on the YES network to say that Cole should drill Donaldson in the ribs in their upcoming matchup.

Instead of plunking Donaldson — which Twins’ reliever Tyler Duffey tried to do to Yermín Mercedes as revenge for homering off position player Willians Astudillo a few weeks ago — Cole calmly K’d Donaldson. Cole gave Donaldson a righteous staredown as the batter walked back to the dugout.

Still, Gerrit Cole was caught buying sticky stuff from Bubba.


Watch Where You Step


In further proof that the universe works in mysterious ways — as foretold by our modern prophet Bono — both Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bobby Witt Jr. were called out this week after hitting home runs but failing to touch all the bases on the trip around the infield. For Hayes, he clearly missed first base as he rounded:

For Bobby Witt, however, the video evidence is a little less clear. Nonetheless, he was called out and the umpire considered Witt to have not touched home plate:

Two homers called back for missed bases on the same day? Indeed, they move in mysterious ways.

Required Reading


The professor has some homework for you! As part of this weekly series, I’ll be offering a reading list to help catch you up on the best reading over the past week, both from Pitcher List and elsewhere in the interwebs.

I’ll see you down in the comments! Let me know what articles you’re reading so we can share more knowledge among the community.


Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Blair Williams

Blair holds a PhD in Japanese history and is the author of "Making Japan's National Game: A Cultural History of Baseball." He's a fan of sci-fi, prog metal, and sipping rums.

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