Syndergaard came under fire after suspicious videos surfaced on social media that appeared to show him rubbing two fingers on the base of his glove before touching the baseball.
The allegations haven’t gained much steam on a national scale, but had lingered enough during the Mets-Phillies series that Syndergaard was asked about his alleged doctoring following Wednesday’s series finale. That’s when Syndergaard issued his denial and attempted to explain his actions.
“If I were doctoring up the baseballs, I wouldn’t be throwing 86 mph sliders.”
“You felt those baseballs, they felt like ice cubes,” Syndergaard added. “Watch a video of a dog trying to pick up an ice cube, that’s what it was like.”
The game-time temperature was 50 degrees. Not the worst conditions, but also far from ideal for a pitcher.
For what it’s worth, Syndergaard wasn’t exactly on his game in Monday’s start. He allowed five runs on nine hits and three walks over five innings. The Mets won the game 7-6 in 11 innings.
Punishment for using foreign substances
If caught with a foreign substance, such as pine tar or sunscreen, pitchers are in violation of section 6.02(c)(7) which says, "The pitcher shall not have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance." If caught applying the substance, it would violate rule 6.02(c)(4), which states: "The pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball."
Those rules are seldom enforced, mainly because opposing teams are content to let it go. As the New York Post story notes, one notable exception came in 2014, when the Yankees’ Michael Pineda was ejected and suspended 10 games for applying pine tar to his neck and dabbing the baseball. That was seen as such a blatant disregard of the rule that the Boston Red Sox couldn’t ignore it.
In 2015, then Milwaukee Brewers reliever Will Smith was suspended eight games for a similar infraction.
Why Syndergaard won’t face punishment
For starters, it would be impossible to retroactively prove that Syndergaard was doctoring the baseball.
Beyond that, the Phillies probably didn’t care.
That was the approach Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch took last October when fans were accusing Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes of applying a foreign substance.
Batters don't seem to mind either even if they believe the pitcher is using a foreign substance. That's because it gives the pitcher a better grip. A better grip means the pitcher has better control of the baseball and the batter is safer.
Of course, that won’t stop fans from watching Syndergaard closer and reaching whatever conclusions they need to help them come to grips with his excellence.
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