Scherzer makes case for pine tar, not stickier stuff

After offering an update on the status of a tweaked groin that will prevent him from starting Wednesday’s series finale against the Pirates, Max Scherzer offered a lengthy take on a subject matter that has become current issue No. 1 across baseball: foreign substances.

With Major League Baseball attempting to crack down on pitchers using so-called “sticky stuff” to improve their grip and spin rate, Scherzer spoke of both players’ desire to allow certain substances to be used to help prevent errant fastballs at hitters’ heads while eliminating others being used for less noble reasons.

“Look, this has gone on for decades, guys using substances for tack,” the three-time Cy Young Award said during an on-field interview with reporters before Monday’s game. “Our hitters, the Nationals’ hitters, want pitchers to use substances for tack. We don’t want to see balls flying at our heads. Point in case: Austin Voth. He’s got a broken nose. You can look at him every single day right now and think: Do we want more of that, or less of that?”

Thumbnail image for Scherzer-Talking-With-Suzuki-Gray-Sidebar.jpgScherzer mentioned pine tar among the officially illegal substances for pitchers commonly used for grip, and noted that it typically doesn’t draw the ire of anyone. He then said other, more elaborate concoctions that have become more commonplace in recent years perhaps should be legislated by the league.

“We understand it’s gone beyond just pine tar, that there’s been bad actors throughout the game,” he said. “Teams have been bad actors in this, in trying to find ways to create substances that are beyond just pine tar to try to actually influence spin rate, instead of trying to use a substance to keep the ball from slipping out of the pitcher’s hands. In a lot of players’ minds, there’s a big difference between the two.”

It should be noted here that Scherzer’s name was featured prominently in a Sports Illustrated article published Monday about former Angels visiting clubhouse manager Brian Harkins, who was fired last year after club officials learned he was making and sending a popular mixture of sticky substances to pitchers for multiple teams for many years.

Harkins name-dropped Scherzer and now-Yankees ace Gerrit Cole among his clients and supplied text messages to SI from an unnamed Nationals employee, one of which was sent in February 2018 and read: “Bubba, Max needs the stuff ASAP. He will pay for overnight shipping please.”

Asked specifically Monday about his inclusion in the story, Scherzer cited an active lawsuit involving Harkins and the Angels as reason he couldn’t comment yet.

“In terms of with that, there’s still pending litigation, so the Nationals have asked that I don’t comment on that yet until that’s resolved,” he said. “When that does, then we can have a conversation.”

For whatever it’s worth, Scherzer has made only two starts in his career in Anaheim, both with the Tigers, in 2012 and 2014.

Scherzer believes there is a solution to the foreign substance issue, if all the involved parties can come to a consensus on what should be allowed and what should not. He’s worried, though, not all of the involved parties will get to participate in the discussion.

“The players should have a say in this,” said the longtime member of the MLB Players Association’s executive subcommittee. “Unfortunately, I don’t think we will. It just appears that MLB is going to do whatever they want with this.”

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