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Did they mess with the balls this year?

Apr 5, 2011, 10:00 AM EDT

Rawlings baseball

You and I are men of action. Simplistic projections based on small sample sizes do not become us. So please, while there have been a lot of home runs hit in the season’s first five days, let’s not play the “on pace” game. Not yet anyhow.

But we can listen to the anecdotes, can’t we? Such as the one Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution passed along a few minutes ago in which an unidentified bullpen catcher said that the baseballs are harder this year and that he believes “they’ve been juiced to aid attendance in bad economy.”

Hurm. On the one hand, I’m guessing that there are few places on the planet where more b.s. is tossed around than in a bullpen. Lots of time to just sit there without the bosses nearby. I’ll bet there are more conspiracy theories hatched in bullpens than anywhere besides a barber shop and a Glenn Beck/Oliver Stone fishing outing. Put differently, I wouldn’t bet my life on the claim of a bullpen catcher.

On the other hand, baseball has a long and rich history of fiddling with the ball, both officially and unofficially, so you can’t really discount the notion out of hand.

My biggest question is why?  I mean, sure, a lot of people got off on calling last season “the year of the pitcher,” but there really wasn’t a lot to it. There were some high profile pitching performances and there was a dip from historic highs, but 2010 offensive levels were still elevated, historically speaking. It would make no sense to jack the ball for the purpose of boosting offense when it doesn’t need boosting.

Likewise, the economic argument is weak. Baseball has weathered the downturn pretty well, thank you. And besides, if MLB was going to make a panicky, gimmicky move to deal with the downturn, they would have done it before the 2009 or 2010 season when people were scared that we were entering the second Great Depression. Most people have chilled since then.

Fun chatter. I’d be curious to hear more of it, actually, because for every 10 lines of b.s. you hear, an interesting truth comes out.  But unless offense just goes crazy in 2011 — or unless, you know, someone actually finds some evidence of a juiced ball — I’m going to file this under “whatever dude, call me later.”

UPDATE: Official statement of MLB’s Pat Courtney: “There has been no change whatsoever on the composition of the baseball or the process in which they are made.”

Unless a scientist tells me differently, I’m goin’ with that.

  1. minnesconsin - Apr 5, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    if the ball’s juiced, my local creme-filled nine most certainly did not get the memo.

  2. sometimesphylan - Apr 5, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    I’d expect to hear something like that from a pitcher first, anyway. And I’d be more likely to believe it coming from one.

  3. heynerdlinger - Apr 5, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    As long as we’re dabbling in fantasy, could juicing the balls maybe help MLB in the upcoming labor negotiations? If the specter of rising-steroid-use looms on the horizon, would MLB have additional leverage over the union either for testing or otherwise?

  4. Professor Longnose - Apr 5, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    It doesn’t have to be a conspiracy. Maybe the baseballs are harder this year because the latest batch of pseudo-poly-goo-ylene they used was a point below last year’s on the Goo Index but still within quality control norms.

  5. heynerdlinger - Apr 5, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    Hasn’t this happened enough in the past that someone, somewhere, tests the coefficient of restitution every year?

  6. Matthew Flint - Apr 5, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    Don’t they think that if the factory producing these balls for God knows how long suddenly was told to change the way they did it that at least one employee would come out and say it? Or did Chipper come up with this theory? Idiots

    • Craig Calcaterra - Apr 5, 2011 at 10:32 AM

      Why would they? If there’s a scandal, baseball will throw the factory under the bus for not following MLB standards, they’ll change manufacturers and the whistleblower will be out of a job.

      • luckywi - Apr 5, 2011 at 10:42 AM

        Didn’t this come up a few years back? And Bud tried to blame the factory then? Yep, I’m sure it’s some guy making a nickle an hour who wan’t more home runs. Not bud.

      • Matthew Flint - Apr 5, 2011 at 11:05 AM

        You don’t think some JoeSchmo making nothing would like his five seconds of fame. I sure do. I think that someone would be more than willing to talk. The factory owner wouldn’t but I bet his employees would love to get their ugly mug on Sportscenter.

  7. O.Handwasher - Apr 5, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    You have six fingers on your right hand. Someone was looking for you…

  8. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Apr 5, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    They been messing with Barry’s berries all season long.

  9. Dan in Katonah - Apr 5, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    Could this be the same bullpen catcher who gets paid to eat guys’ boogers and get punched in the nuts?

  10. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 5, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    Did they mess with the balls this year?

    Not sure, I’ve been a bit busy with Barry so I couldn’t tell you either way.

    Sincerely,

    Orchidometer

  11. pheagles - Apr 5, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    If they did juice the balls, they forgot to tell Albert.

  12. fearlessleader - Apr 5, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    Um, Craig? Some of us are WOMEN of action.

    • paperlions - Apr 5, 2011 at 1:41 PM

      That’s an oxymoron. :-)

      • fearlessleader - Apr 5, 2011 at 1:52 PM

        I stand in awe of your hilarity.

      • paperlions - Apr 5, 2011 at 2:04 PM

        you are not alone

    • spindervish - Apr 5, 2011 at 2:55 PM

      Also, it’s a movie reference. Though I think the actual line is “We are men of action…”

  13. feartherallythong - Apr 5, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    My main takeaway from this post is that not nearly enough people have seen “The Princess Bride”, or have not seen it enough times…
    BTW, the book is even better than the movie!

  14. ta192 - Apr 5, 2011 at 9:35 PM

    Baseball has realized that they need something to take the place of steroids??????????

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