Sunday, October 27, 2013

I just can't find a hair gel card...

...yet. I asked my chief scout to look into this situation this morning, but he hasn't reported in yet. I think I need to ask all my other scouts. Who are they? Why, that would be YOU.

I guess pre-game "festivities" in the special uniforms don't merit the use of hair gel for Mr. Buchholz here, but I'm jumping ahead of the story. I just wanted a baseball card as the header image.

Baseball recovered quickly from Green-Stuff-in-the-Glove-Gate.
An errant tweet, deleted quickly (likely on the orders of Cardinal management, methinks), got the baseball world wondering about that little green spot there. I watched some message board discussion on the topic, and then wandered off into the archives on the topic myself. During the pre-game show before Game 2 of the World Series, A.J. Pierzynski swept it all back under the rug and that was pretty much the end of it, for now.

I have to wonder if this subject will blob to the surface again next season. The game of baseball is always changing. I generally like to watch the results using my baseball cards.

But I don't think this will ever be a card Toppic, unless I do get lucky and find a hair gel card some day.

Before my interest in all this was piqued a couple days ago, I already had some wonderment left over from game 2 of the ALCS. Here's Clay Buchholz on the mound, with a bit less than a minute before the first pitch:

That's some mighty moist looking hair there, I thought. A little cool to take the mound that way on an October evening, wouldn't you think?

I forget the search terms I used, but while considering things late in the evening after Game 1 of the WS, I ran across this article:

In which it is revealed that this guy:
Basically called out Buchholz for throwing spitballs. Well, Jack and another broadcaster, Dirk Hayhurst; if I have a Dirk Hayhurst card I couldn't even tell you what set it is in. And ole Jack really got up in the Red Sox' grill about this, confronting several of them personally during batting practice the next day, aside from some other public comments. Cuss words were exchanged I believe, and Morris was reported to have said to Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who denied it all, "this ain't my first rodeo."

But apparently, Mr. Morris didn't get the memo on this: everybody does it.

Which is why none of the Blue Jays in the Buchholz game back in May, or any of the Cardinals the other night, asked an umpire to inspect anyone's playing equipment.

It seems that it has been discovered that to increase the famous "movement-at-the-plate" on pitches thrown generally harder now than ever before in the game, pitchers use foreign substances to increase their grip on the ball.

Foreign Substances! Now we're getting exciting! I just love another excuse to put up this card on the blog, because it has always been one of my favorite baseball cards since I was a little boy:

We can't really have this discussion without an obligatory nod to the master, can we? I've previously had fun with a 2013 card and that one, when pretty clearly it was just an example of sweat drying on a ball cap, made a bit more interesting by glossy card stock and hi-res digital photography these days. Maybe that camera tech will get me the card I'm looking for eventually.

Now the rules of baseball say a pitcher caught with foreign substances shall be ejected from the game &/or serve a 10 game suspension. There is a bit of confusion in there about "National Association" players that I don't quite follow.

But how does this work? Rosin, of course, is legal for players to use, and there is a Rosin bag right on the back side of the pitcher's mound. But the players-of-today, making a thousand or more dollars per pitch these days, need more than that just slight drying, tacky action, they can get from Rosin. In other words, they make their own concoctions that work better than straight Rosin. Right there on the pitcher's mound, for everyone to see, if you haven't fallen asleep by now. Or if the camera is even on them.

Let's go back to Clay Buchholz and his showery locks in ALCS game 2:
Now watch what happens next:
Remember, this is about 45 seconds from the first pitch. I tried to get a .gif made of this sequence, but just wasn't up for fidgeting with a bunch of video software, yaddayaddayadda. So here's my next screenshot:
I hope that hair-whatever tastes good! Now it was mentioned during the WS Game 1 broadcast that pitchers are explicitly allowed to do this during cold weather. I'm not sure of Buchholz' actual recipe, but possibly there is a final step, almost seen just as the camera is dissolving away:

That news link up there, reports that 90% of pitchers in baseball today use sunscreen for this purpose. They can easily keep their little stash fresh between innings. And indeed, Buchholz has been called out for that as well, taking the mound in Tampa Bay with an arm with a distinct sunscreen-sheen to it. In a domed stadium.

But there again, the opposing team didn't say anything. This is just all part of the game now; here is a piece in response to Green-Glove-Gate:

Derek Lowe is the pitcher quoted, as is Pedro Martinez.

Now for a purist, a foreign substance is a foreign substance. Let's not wander off into PED land here. Apparently, as viewed by MLB, which knows all about the use of these substances, it goest that the substance is not being applied to the ball in order to alter the movement of the ball. It is being applied to the pitcher's fingertips. But basically, an improved grip results in .... better movement of the ball. "Late-breaking action", and all that.

I have to wonder how all this ties into the state of the game today. Pretty much any and all strikeout records are pretty endangered right now. It's just simply a high-strikeout game these days. Simultaneously, pitching careers are shorter than they used to be, probably because the power pitch is the #1 approach. I found another card somewhat illustrating that in Update; I'll be starting a series on these cards.

And the pitchers are more injury-prone than ever, even with lower pitch counts. Hey, quit snoring over there, let's look at another card from the neat PostSeason Heroes inserts in the new Update set:
What's wrong with that blurry card? It's actually a Chrome card. Don't ask. I'll break that bad news to you some other night. But I'm just showing you the card, because you guessed it, Yeah, I read the backs:
Now of course we will never ever see this again in baseball. Not even from Justin Verlander.

I'm just hoping baseball doesn't push this trend to the levels we see in the NFL, though I don't think that will happen. But the modern knowledge that football players are given millions of dollars in exchange for losing one or two decades of their life expectancy, just to entertain us, has really turned me off from watching that game as much as I used to.

But maybe all these pitchers, with seemingly more than half of them not making it through a whole season without visiting the Disabled List this year, really do need a few foreign substances to help them grip the ball when they throw so hard in this very live-ball era.

All this fascinates me some. I'd like to see some results on my baseball cards, and I do have a few cards in mind to share with you another time.

The article featuring Jack Morris and the word "spitball" also really brought me back to my youth, when Jack Morris came to my town on a day off from MLB. He went out on a fishing charter, and him and 2 friends landed 17 salmon. I was as deep into fishing as baseball cards at the time, and when we read the catch count there in the big front page article in our little town newspaper the next day, our eyes all bugged out. Everybody knew that the limit on salmon was 5 / person. 17 / 3 people? That's cheating.

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