Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman exited Monday’s game after five innings and 79 pitches because he became uncomfortable when a blister formed on the middle finger of his right hand.
When asked about the injury, Stroman had an interesting response, via Sportsnet:
“I’ve never had a blister ever in my life. Nothing even remotely close to having a blister. It’s crazy. It’s extremely frustrating. I feel like it’s an epidemic that’s happened across the big leagues now. A bunch of pitchers getting blisters. Guys who have never had blisters before. For MLB to turn their back to it, I think that’s kind of crazy. I have no theory. But, obviously, it’s not a coincidence that it’s happening to so many guys all of a sudden. It’s not a coincidence.”
Stroman didn’t come up with this conspiracy theory on his own. Just last week USA Today’s Bob Nightengale spoke with several players who believe the league has altered with the baseballs. The players aren’t sure what the deal is, but they are all sure they aren’t the same this season from a year ago.
Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto said this is the first time he’s had a blister, and Red Sox pitcher David Price said the same.
“The seams are different and the balls are a lot harder,” Mets manager Terry Collins told USA Today. “I remember on Father’s Day, a ball got fouled back into the dugout and Dan Warthen came over and said, ‘Feel this ball.’ It was as hard a ball as I’ve ever felt. And with these seams different, you’re seeing guys getting more blisters.”
The debate about juiced baseballs has been going on for the past year, but mainly because of the rising home run numbers. A similar issue occurred in Japan, where the commissioner of the league had to resign over altered baseballs. As a result, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was asked last year if there were any changes to the baseballs, and he strongly denied any alterations.
“There are certain mistakes in life that if you pay attention to what’s going on around you, you are not inclined to make,” Manfred said around this time last year. “There was a scandal in Japan over the baseball being changed that cost the commissioner his job. I like my current gig, so I think you can rest assured that the baseball is the same as it was last year.”
An independent study done by The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh last month showed that baseballs made after August 2015 were bouncier and had lower seams and smaller circumferences. There was also a report from Fox Sports‘ Ken Rosenthal in 2015 revealing that Manfred had at least discussed, “Wrapping the ball tighter to make it fly farther.”
There was another study done by FiveThirtyEight.com, which also determined a change in the baseballs. They reached out to MLB, which declined to make a formal statement but did say, “the league regularly tests the balls to make sure they fall within a defined range of standards.” It’s not clear exactly what those standards are, though.
While the players can’t pinpoint for sure what’s different, there’s clearly a lot of talk going on around the league about whether the baseballs are altered. And usually where there’s smoke, there’s fire.