Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe via Getty Images
New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso told reporters this week that he believes Major League Baseball manipulates the league’s baseballs based on the upcoming free-agent class to keep contracts lower, however, Mets general manager Zack Scott is not a proponent of that theory.
“I didn’t know Pete was a conspiracy theorist,” Scott said as he laughed Friday, per Jake Seiner of the Associated Press.
He added: “The way teams value and evaluate performance is relative to levels, so we’re not going to be fooled by offense is way up or way down. We’re going to look at players about relative to how the league is playing. So it would have no influence on how players are valued or paid.”
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Alonso implied that the league “juiced” the balls before a pitching-heavy free-agent class in 2019 before doctoring balls this year with a star hitting class on the free-agency horizon:
MLB hitters this season are hitting just .237, tied with 1968 for the lowest mark in league history.
For context, that 1968 season was so pitching-dominant that MLB lowered the mound from 15 to 10 inches after the year ended. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson led MLB with a 1.12 ERA, and only one American League player, Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastrzemski, hit over .300.
This season has been boom-or-bust, with plenty of home runs but lots of strikeouts and batting averages under .200. The league average has dropped 15 points since the infamous power-hitting season of 2019, which featured the most home runs in league history.
Substances that pitchers use on baseballs have received plenty of attention, with MLB working to expand umpires’ ability to enforce the foreign-substance rules, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Stephanie Apstein and Alex Prewitt of Sports Illustrated went in-depth on the matter in a long-form piece.
“It’s like steroids,” an anonymous National League reliever said. “For us that refuse to use sticky [stuff], we get pushed out, because ‘you don’t have great spin rate.’ Well, no s–t, because I don’t cheat.”
As for Alonso and the Mets, they’ll be hosting the San Diego Padres in a three-game series beginning Friday. It’ll be a battle of aces and Cy Young winners between the Mets’ Jacob deGrom and the Padres’ Blake Snell.