The Chicago Cubs’ Jon Lester doesn’t care if the ball is juiced. But the Astros’ Justin Verlander? He’s not happy about it, and he’s directing his ire towards Rob Manfred.
About a month ago, I wrote about the Chicago Cubs‘ Jon Lester and the juiced ball theory. His take? “If it is, just tell us. We don’t really care–there’s nothing we can do about it but continue to pitch.” Fast forward to right before the All-Star Game, and the Astros’ Justin Verlander–about to start his second All-Star Game–has a different opinion.
Instead of being thankful for his second ASG start, he used his platform to go after Manfred and Major League Baseball. Verlander didn’t hold much back when talking about the record number of home runs being hit this year.
"It’s a f—ing joke,” said Verlander, an eight-time All-Star who is starting his second All-Star Game on Tuesday. “Major League Baseball’s turning this game into a joke.” h/t Jeff Passan, ESPN"
Well, then. I think that about covers it. Verlander is angry about it. He later talked about in the past, he’d throw a fastball in certain counts, but now is afraid to because the bottom of the order hitters can go opposite field.
The Nationals’ Max Scherzer is on the same page as the Chicago Cubs’ Lester. He admits they are flying further, but isn’t going to cry about it.
In chatting with my staff, one writer brought up a curious question. If the balls aren’t juiced, according to Manfred, are we back to the ‘bad old days?’ It’s a fair question. But I’d feel confident to say that I don’t believe players are using PEDs at a high-rate, again. Now, we do see a lot more minor leaguers suspended–much more than MLB players. So it hasn’t gone away, but baseball has done a solid job in the prevention of them.
Look, I don’t see players coming into Spring Training 60 pounds heavier, no body fat and hitting the ball out of any ballpark that tries to hold them. Every player, 150 pounds to 275, is hitting more home runs. It’s the ball, not performance-enhancing drugs. The ball is different, but Manfred claims no knowledge of why.
On the Golic and Wingo Show, Manfred admitted as much.
"“We think what’s been going on this year is attributable to the baseball,” Manfred told Golic and Wingo. “Our scientists that have been now studying the baseball more regularly have told us that this year the baseball has a little less drag."
Verlander pointed out that Major League Baseball owns Rawlings, and Manfred said when he took the job that he wanted to see more offense.
"“They own Rawlings, and you’ve got Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the f—ing company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it’s not a guess as to what happened. We all know what happened. Manfred the first time he came in, what’d he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It’s not coincidence. We’re not idiots.”"
The fact is Lester and Scherzer are correct. Is the ball juiced? Fine. They still need to make the pitches and execute. This year, 10 pitchers in the MLB have an ERA at 3.00 or under. Scherzer is third, Verlander is ninth. Last season, there were 11 (Mike Clevinger just missed with a 3.02.) Verlander was fifth, Scherzer was sixth. One doesn’t care; the other is HOT. Top 10 both years, but only one is complaining. Eh, who knows.