Major League Baseball's widely anticipated and controversial crackdown on pitchers using foreign substances is imminent, as the league announced Tuesday that beginning June 21, any player caught applying "sticky stuff" to the baseball will be automatically ejected and suspended for 10 games.
There's immense pressure on MLB to strictly enforce its long-standing rules on foreign substances. The league's strikeout rate is near an all-time high -- its collective batting average is near an all-time low. Suffice to say, it's a rather sticky situation, and St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong hopes that MLB's new rules and guidelines will help level the playing field.
"It's definitely an interesting debate. People have been using sticky stuff since the beginning of the game, so it's almost part of the game," DeJong told the Tiki and Tierney show on Wednesday. "I'm kind of on the fence with it. I don't want it to create any extra distractions and more policing, and more MLB personnel in the dugout and around us. I think that'll just be bad news, overall. But I think some honest competition is all we really want. We don't want guys blatantly cheating and we can watch it and see it in real time. We want honest competition. That's what we all want...
"It's hard to tell [how many players doctor the ball], because I don't really know when they're using and when they're not. In the big leagues, you expect to see some nasty pitches, some super talented guys. Then you also see the guys who are going to the glove every time or the wrist -- you see video evidence of it. So, I think there's a combination of guys. There's plenty of pitchers out there who aren't using it and are playing the game right. Those are the types of guys you want to highlight.
"It's a big thing going on right now, especially with all the cameras and stuff these days on everybody. They're capturing everything you do on this field, whether you're a pitcher or position player. So, I guess baseball's evolving, and this is the direction we're going."
The consensus around the league is that advanced grip aids -- a product named Spider Tack is a popular example -- are the leading cause to Baseball's historically poor offensive numbers. According to Baseball Reference, batters are hitting a scant .238 this season, the lowest league-wide average since the mound was lowered following the 1968 season.
DeJong, who was recently activated off the injured list after missing four weeks with a non-displaced rib fracture, is slashing .168/.265/.357 with eight home runs, three doubles, and 19 RBI in 41 games.
The entire conversation between DeJong and Tiki and Tierney can be accessed in the audio player above.