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ST. LOUIS – With offense down across the league this season, attention is turning to the illegal foreign substances that many pitchers are believed to use.
After St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Genesis Cabrera was forced to change hats before he pitched against the Chicago White Sox last week because of an apparent illegal substance on the brim, manager Mike Shildt argued and was ejected from the game. Shildt called it “baseball’s dirty little secret” and said it shouldn’t be on umpires to police it.
Nick Castellanos, one of the best hitters in the league this year, was asked about pitchers using foreign substances when he made an appearance on “The Chris Rose Rotation.”
“Is it illegal or is not illegal to put stuff on a ball?” Castellanos said in an episode released Thursday. “It’s illegal. The league obviously knows that they are doing it, but the league doesn’t care. They don’t care because if it was really a problem that they wanted, they would put people in the bullpen to check gloves, to check hats, whatever. The league would do something about it. But honestly, I don’t think it’s that important to them.”
Castellanos was asked whether it should be an issue at the forefront of MLB.
“Listen, if I truly start speaking my mind, I usually get in trouble,” Castellanos said. “It’s just the league has to figure out if it wants it to be illegal or not and stick by it.”
Hitters are batting .236 as a collective league this season, which is an all-time low. It’s even lower than the .237 batting average in 1968, which prompted MLB to lower the mounds. The league had a collective .255 batting average as recently as 2017.
The league is experimenting with different rule changes in the minor leagues this year, including limiting defensive shifts, to try to create more offense. The league’s average on-base percentage is .312, which is a 10-point drop from last season and the lowest since 1972.
“For the pitchers to say, ‘well, we need it for control, so we don’t hit you in the head,’” Castellanos said, “you know, fine, drill me. I’m on first base. That helps my OPS and I get paid for that. Sacrifice some velocity for some control.
“I honestly don’t pay too much attention to it. Everybody else (complains) about it, but my frame of mind right now, the moment that I start (complaining) about it, I give them an advantage. I don’t want to give these dudes not one slight advantage over me. So, sticky (stuff), no sticky (stuff), throw it over the dish and it’s going to get hit hard.”
Trevor Bauer drew attention to the issue prior to the 2020 season, telling HBO Real Sports in an interview that foreign substances are a bigger advantage than steroids because it affects every pitch. He estimated at the time that 70% of pitchers were using foreign substances.
Bauer’s spin rates jumped in 2020 as he won the National League Cy Young.
“Trevor did a phenomenal job of just explaining how important spin rate is and how much of a difference it can have on careers, how much difference it can do just pitch to pitch,” Castellanos said. “Trevor is controversial, but he’s real and he’s right on the money and he’s super educated, so you’re not going to be able to (BS) him and get him off the point that he’s trying to make.
“To say that it doesn’t help is a lie. It’s a huge, huge, huge difference. … I think it just comes down to the league doesn’t care. It’s not a problem they feel like they need to fix.”
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Nick Castellanos: MLB 'doesn't care' pitchers using illegal substances