Major League Baseball hardly needs another cheating scandal, but one is brewing nonetheless.
Batting averages are lower than they've been in more than a half-century. Fewer balls than ever are being put in play. There have already been six no-hitters this season. Blame hitters who have changed their approach?
Maybe that's some of it. But others would contend that widespread doctoring of baseballs by pitchers — cheating with sunscreen, rosin and more exotic specialty concoctions — is producing off-the-charts spin rates and creating pitches that are hard to control and harder to hit.
As I talked about on Friday's Daily Delivery podcast, the controversy gained steam earlier this week when umpire Joe West asked Cardinals relief pitcher Giovanny Gallegos to change his cap after suspecting there was sunscreen on it.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt was ejected for arguing about it, and after the game he went off on what he deemed selective enforcement that amounted to a "setup," in his words, of his pitcher. He went even further than that in talking about baseball's "dirty little secret" with strong words.
"Major League Baseball has got a very, very, very tough position here,'' Shildt says, "because there are people effectively, and not even trying to hide, essentially flipping the bird at the league with how they're cheating in this game with concocted substances. There are players that have been monetized for it. There are players obviously doing it going to their glove. There's clear video of it."
If you are wondering where to find that video, Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson has entered the chat.
In a Twitter exchange with former MLB pitcher Dallas Braden, Donaldson first tweeted, "Crazy idea here but I'm going to throw it out there. Stop cheating!!" He added: "I have an entire catalog of video of these guys cheating it's coming out."
Donaldson, a career .271 hitter with an .873 on-base plus slugging mark, is hitting just .236 this season with a .752 OPS. But he's hardly alone in his offensive frustration this season, American League batters hitting just .238 collectively.
"I'm speaking up for the hitters that have a living to make facing stuff that's really, really good," Shildt said, "and you can see based on spin rates how guys' careers are jumping off the charts.''
Perhaps one could argue that pitchers are merely taking a counter-measure after the sign-stealing scandal that ensnared the Astros and Red Sox — but surely included many more times — benefited hitters.
But like Donaldson said, the real solution is for MLB to crack down on all measures of cheating on both sides.
Commissioner Rob Manfred likely has no appetite for that. But he might not have a choice if the chorus keeps getting louder — and if Donaldson releases his catalog of video evidence.