Stealing First, Robot Umpires, & Juiced Baseballs

A quick roundup from a crazy baseball week

The game is changing, and baseball purists don’t like it. I would argue that everything changes, and the only option is to embrace it!

Either way, today’s newsletter is a bit different. It’s not specifically focused on youth baseball, but three hot topics that hit the baseball news cycle this week.

The primary focus of Elbow Up is to help you stay informed of what’s happening in the game. While there is not a direct tie to the youth game (yet), you can at least be more informed!

This week there were three noteworthy developments, all of which could impact a game that has remained largely unchanged over the last few decades.

Juiced Baseballs

American League All-Star game starting pitcher Justin Verlander had a rather colorful and passionate accusation for Major League Baseball last week claiming the league had juiced the baseballs in an effort to increase offensive production.

“It’s a f—ing joke . . . Major League Baseball’s turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you’ve got Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the f—ing company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it’s not a guess as to what happened. We all know what happened. Manfred the first time he came in, what’d he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It’s not coincidence. We’re not idiots.”

Asked if he believed the balls were intentionally juiced by the league, Verlander said, “Yes. 100 percent. They’ve been using juiced balls in the Home Run Derby forever. They know how to do it. It’s not coincidence. I find it really hard to believe that Major League Baseball owns Rawlings and just coincidentally the balls become juiced.”

Major League Baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred was quick to respond:

Another legendary pitcher didn’t deny the balls were traveling further, but also said he wasn’t going to worry too much about it:

As a former pitcher myself, I’m not necessarily a proponent of “juiced” baseballs, but as a fan I love to see the long ball!

Robot Umpires

Speaking of change, this could be the biggest change since the introduction of instant replay (relax, it’s only being tested at the moment). A computer literally called balls and strikes for the first time in professional baseball history last week during a Minor League All-Star game.

I’m on the fence with this rule. I tend to lean more traditionalist, but I also have spent 30 years complaining about umpires! Now that we have a possible solution, I can’t help but be intrigued.

As you can see in the video above, there’s still a home plate umpire. They are equipped with an ear piece that calls balls and strikes, and then have to relay that call to the field. They also have to be ready just in case the radar equipment malfunctions.

I’m coming around to instant replay, so maybe I’ll come around to this too. Let’s see how it goes.

Stealing First Base

Say what? Yep, it happened. For the first time in baseball history, someone stole first base - and it was legal!

The video is a little dark, but you get the point.

In addition to the robot umpire debut, the Atlantic League is also trying out a new rule that allows a batter to steal first on any pitch that hits the ground.

This adds some excitement to the game, but I also think it changes pitchers’ and coaches’ approach to batters. In certain situations, a pitcher may be less likely to throw a pitch too far out of the strike zone for fear it could result in a wild pitch or passed ball, resulting in the batter advancing to first.

We’ll follow this one closely to see how it goes!

I won’t send one of these every week, but I thought these three stories were interesting, even for the most casual baseball fan!

If you know anyone that might enjoy, please forward them the email!

Until next time, GET YOUR ELBOW UP!