Mets’ Pete Alonso says MLB changes baseball depending on free agent classes

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Pete Alonso: MLB alters its baseballs depending on FA class originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso wouldn’t mind pitchers continuing to use foreign substances on baseballs to improve their grip but said Wednesday that MLB needs to abandon what he described as a plot against impending free agents by adjusting the baseball each year to hinder the performance of the top players set to hit the open market.

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“Oh no, that’s a fact,” Alonso said when asked about MLB’s alleged scheme. “Yes, guys have talked about it. But I mean, in 2019, there was a huge class of free agent pitchers and then that’s, quote-unquote, ‘the juiced balls,’ and then 2020 was a strange year with the COVID season. But now that we’re back to playing in a regular season with a ton of shortstops or position players that are going to be paid a lot of money like high-caliber players — I mean, yeah, it’s not a coincidence. It definitely is something that they do.”

The 2019-20 free agent class of starting pitchers was headlined by Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Wheeler and Dallas Keuchel. MLB saw a record 6,776 home runs hit that season, a leap of more than 600 homers over the previous mark set in 2017. Amid accusations of “juicing” the baseball, MLB conducted a study that attributed the rise of long balls to inconsistent seam heights and hitters embracing the launch angle revolution.

However, MLB announced prior to this season that it would be deadening the ball and it has since seen a record-low offensive output. The league’s collective batting average of .237 is on pace to tie with the 1968 season for the lowest average since the turn of the 20th century. Some of the top free agents expected to be available this winter include Freddie Freeman, Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Corey Seager and Javier Báez.

As many home runs as the league did hit in 2019, it didn’t prevent most of those top pitchers from signing lucrative deals in free agency. Cole signed a record nine-year, $324 million deal with the New York Yankees. Strasburg returned to the Nationals on a seven-year, $245 million contract while Wheeler landed a five-year, $118 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Bumgarner and Ryu, both bearing significant injury histories, signed contracts in the neighborhood of $80 million. Keuchel held out for a multi-year deal until midseason, when he joined the Atlanta Braves before inking a three-year, $55.5 million commitment with the Chicago White Sox the following offseason.

Alonso’s accusation highlights the growing divide between MLB and its players union. The two sides will be forced to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement this offseason or else face the possibility of a lockout next spring.