Mets slugger Pete Alonso seems to have emboldened like-minded baseball observers who have suspicions about the seemingly yearly fluctuations in the relative "juiciness" of the ball.
Former MLB infielder turned CBS Sports baseball analyst Will Middlebrooks weighed in on Alonso's head-turning take on Thursday, and suggested the Polar Bear's assertion shouldn't be readily dismissed.
Middlebrooks, responding to Alonso's claim that MLB manipulates the ball to suit the financial interests of the league's owners in their eternal struggle with the players over the sport's vast revenues, pointed out that the league purchased the iconic baseball manufacturer Rawlings in 2018.
The 32-year-old Middlebrooks, who won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2013 and also played with the Padres, Brewers and Rangers, said the relatively underreported story was worth further consideration.
"In 2018, Major League Baseball bought the rights to Rawlings, the company. This kind of got swept under the rug, and it's never really been anything that's come to the surface that we talked about. They bought Rawlings for $395 million in 2018. Now they have the right, and the capability, of accessing the manufacturing of the baseballs that they use every day. That's something to think about. I'm not a big conspiracy theorist here, but I do think that there's an issue there."
Echoing Alonso, Middlebrooks then pointed out that MLB is the only league that changes the ball regularly, or at least admits to it.
"Another thing is, they change the ball every year. What other sport does that? ... Football? No. Maybe in New England, but that's just for my Red Sox fans. A little too soon, I get it. But, what are we doing here? Why is the baseball changing every year? By the way, the commissioner works for the owners, don't forget about that. This issue with the sticky substance. Hmm, it's weird that it came up right now, in a season in which you've altered the baseball more than you ever have in the past.
"Something is fishy here. Something is off."
Earlier this year, it was reported the league had informed clubs of changes to the ball, supposedly meant to "deaden" it in apparent response to the home run barrage of 2019, when a new mark was set for most homers in a season, obliterating the previous record.
The constant tinkering with the ball -- with seemingly little explanation -- has prompted questions from baseball observers for years, some of them openly questioning whether it was motivated by the constant jockeying in collective bargaining.