I love it when Adam Wainwright pitches. It’s as close to a guarantee you can get in baseball today the starter will work 7 innings, hold the opponent to 3 runs or less, and strike out about 6 hitters. That’s exactly what he did yesterday – 7 IP, 2 ER, 6K. Cardinals win 6-3. It was another tough game against the Reds, with the Cardinals breaking it open late with key hits from their 2 marquee guys, and this year’s hyped rookie.
Well, Carpenter and Wainwright held serve. Now the fun begins. Brad Penny makes his Cardinal debut today against Bronson Arroyo. I hope Penny likes his baseballs with ‘light’ mud applied, because that’s the way Arroyo likes to have them prepared. Speaking of which, Carpenter raised the issue of mud-less balls, first broached last season by John Smoltz. Apparently MLB took his concerns seriously, because they directed the umpires to look into the matter. Crew Chief Mike Reilly:
“I did agree with Carpenter that the balls were light,” Reilly said. “Now they were rubbed up, but they were rubbed up lighter than normal. I’ve made an adjustment. I’ve inspected the balls for tonight, and the balls are perfect.”
St Louis was concerned enough about the issue that, according to this article by Joe Strauss, both Mozeliak and LaRussa discussed the matter with Reds GM Walt Jocketty (you’ll find Reilly’s quote in that article). That should settle it.
I did find this comment by Reilly hilarious, though:
“The last thing umpires want to do is to go out there in the first inning and have somebody complaining about the baseballs,” Reilly said. “We’ve got a lot of responsibilities. One of them is not the baseballs.”
Now I know that, sometime in the not that distant past, umpires turned over the responsibility for rubbing up the baseballs to the home team clubhouse staff. I guess MLB thought the prospects for some gamesmanship (much like what was happening above, and urban legend stories of high chalk lines to help bunting teams or long infield grass to assist slow defenders) were low enough that it was worth moving the responsibility; after all, both teams use the same baseballs.
But Mr. Reilly, as the impartial arbiters of the game you’re responsible to ensure the rules are followed. Sure, you fudge the strike zone a little bit, but umpires still preside over the events on the field. If you’re not at least LOOKING at the baseballs before the game you’re making a pretty big mistake. Do a random sample of the 12 dozen boxes of balls prepared before every game. Take a look at one before throwing it back to the pitcher, and not just for scuffs and cuts. After handling millions of baseballs over the course of a career, I’m sure the crew chief knows instantly when a ball just doesn’t feel right. To me, saying ‘we’re not responsible for the baseballs’ is really dumb.
You’re presiding over a baseball game. There is no game without the baseball – just a lot of oddly dressed men wearing dead cowhide on their hands and swinging handcrafted pieces of wood. Look at the ball.