Gerrit Cole has strange answer when questioned about using sticky stuff
New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, who nearly led the Astros to a 2019 World Series championship before jumping ship to New York as a free agent, seemed at a loss for words when a reporter asked him Tuesday if he had ever used Spider Tack, a sticky paste designed for use by Strongman competitors that some pitchers have been using to get a better grip and spin on their pitches.
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After stumbling for words for about 10 seconds, Cole finally put together a statement, which certainly wasn't a denial.
“I don't quite know how to answer that, to be honest,” he said. “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, and I think there are some things that are certainly out of bounds in that regard. I've stood pretty firm in terms of that, in terms of the communication between our peers and what not. This is important to a lot of people who love the game, including the players in this room, including fans, including teams, so if MLB wants to legislate some more stuff, that’s a conversation that we can have. Because ultimately we should all be pulling in the same direction on this.”
Cole has been suspected of using a foreign substance on his fingertips since joining the Astros in 2018. After being traded from Pittsburgh to Houston, Cole somehow got the spin rate on his four-seam fastball to jump from 2,164 rpm in 2017 with the Pirates to 2,379 rpm with the Astros in 2018 and 2,530 in 2019.
He kept those numbers up in New York before it suddenly took a dip in his last start, which came after Major League Baseball said it was ready to crack down on pitchers using illegal substances on the mound and began suspending minor leaguers for the infraction. In his last start, Cole saw a decrease of 125 rpm in his four-seam fastball and gave up five runs in five innings in a loss to Tampa Bay.
"Is it a coincidence that Gerrit Cole's spin rate numbers went down after four minor leaguers got suspended for 10 games?" Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson told reporters. "Is that possible? I don't know. Maybe. At the same time, with this situation, they've let guys do it."
Pitchers using illegal substances has been a hot topic in baseball as punishment perhaps looms and certain pitchers suddenly are seeing a decrease in spin rate.
The Dodgers' Trevor Bauer, who had been outspoken about pitchers using sticky stuff before seeing his spin rate spike and becoming one of baseball's spin rate leaders, saw his spin dip more than 200 rpm in his last start against the Braves on Sunday.
“I don’t know – hot humid day in Atlanta,” Bauer said sarcastically in his postgame interview.
Pitchers have long used substances to get a better grip on the ball and, for the most part, baseball didn't care, but pitchers seem to have taken the substances to another level, which is what's frustrating hitters.
“Hitters have never really cared about sunscreen, rosin and pine tar. We haven’t cared about that because it’s not a performance enhancement. What these guys are doing now are performance-enhancing, to where it is an actual superglue-type of ordeal, to where it’s not about command anymore,” Donaldson said. “Now, it’s about who’s throwing the nastiest pitches, the more unhittable pitches.”