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Tipsheet: Cole's non-denials expose baseball's dirty little secret

Tipsheet: Cole's non-denials expose baseball's dirty little secret

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Cole spins a win as Stanton powers Yankees past Twins 9-6

New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole throws to a Minnesota Twins batter during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Cardinals manager Mike Shildt is right. Major League Baseball looked the other way while cheating on the pitching mound escalated.

Pitchers have made increasingly effective use of foreign substances to increase the spin rate on their pitches. Elite pitchers like Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer are among the prime suspects.

Umpires made a production out of investigating Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos while letting the bigger names slide.

Ah, but it appears broad enforcement is coming. And if Cole’s recent Zoom conference is an indication, top pitchers have something to worry about.

Cole responded to direct questioning about cheating with a rhetorical bob and weave. Tipsheet gives him credit for answering the questions with non-denials instead of obvious lies.

What about the sharp decline of spin rates in his last start?

“I attribute it to just not being as good or as sharp as I wanted to be,” Cole said.

What was his response to Minnesota Twins slugger Josh Donaldson calling him out as a cheater?

“Kind of felt it was a bit of low-hanging fruit,’’ Cole said. “But he’s entitled to his opinion and to voice his opinion.”

Cole noted his leadership position with the MLB Players Association and his general concern for the sport.

“My role is to facilitate communication about all things involved in the game,” he said, dancing around the topic. “I’m open to doing that, it’s part of my role. If anyone has a concern regarding anything, we’re always available to reach out and talk if there needs to be some clarifications.”

OK, but does he put foreign substances on the ball?

“I don’t know how to quite answer that, to be honest,” Cole said. “There’s customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players.”

As in cheating?

“There are some things that are certainly out of balance in that regard,” Cole said. “And I’ve stood pretty firm in terms of that, in terms of communication between our peers and whatnot.’'

OK, but should baseball crack down on this cheating?

“If MLB wants to legislate some more stuff, that’s a conversation that we can have because ultimately, we should all be pulling in the same direction on this,” Cole said.

This is true. While Cole didn’t directly own up to doctoring baseballs, he didn’t pretend this was a non-issue either.

The next few weeks will be interesting.

TALKIN’ BASEBALL

Here is what folks are writing about Our National Pastime:

Dayn Perry, CBSSports.com: “We're winding our way toward the July 30 trade deadline, and it's becoming clearer by the day that the Cardinals -- assuming they're serious about winning the division -- badly need to land an impact starting pitcher. Max Scherzer is the most tantalizing potential target. He's a native of St. Louis, and even though he's 36 he's proved he's still capable of pitching at a Cy Young level. As well, his Nationals don't look like contenders in the NL East, and the fact that Scherzer is in his walk year increases the incentives to move him (assuming he's willing to accept a trade). On the other hand, the Nats under GM Mike Rizzo are a 'the torpedoes' kind of team, which means he may not sell if there's even a faint hope of contention. If he does decide to dangle Scherzer, it probably won't be until something close to the zero hour. The Cardinals may need help much sooner. Jon Gray of the Rockies would normally be a fitting target, but he first must prove his elbow is healthy. The Tigers' Matthew Boyd is certainly an appealing target, and Detroit may be willing to move him in June as opposed to waiting. Current AL ERA leader Kyle Gibson of the Rangers will almost certainly regress to an extent, but he's a name to monitor. Should the Twins decide they're out of it -- they probably are -- then Michael Pineda and Kenta Maeda (once he returns from the IL as early as next week) may be on the radar. Dylan Bundy and Andrew Heaney of the Angels are two other names. John Means could be a deadline darling if the O's decide to move him and he recovers from shoulder fatigue in a timely manner.  Names abound, and the Cardinals know they need at least one of them. The challenge is for the front office to determine whether the situation is urgent enough now to pursue a deal or whether they might be able to wait on a needle-mover like Scherzer. Recent events suggest the team president John Mozeliak should probably consider the situation to be urgent.  No team figures to run away with the NL Central this season, but the Cardinals are growing increasingly desperate for help in the rotation. That help doesn't appear to be on the way unless they go out and get it via trade.”

Ben Clemens, FanGraphs: “Tyler O’Neill’s batting line doesn’t make any sense. I don’t mean that in a good or bad way, though I’m sure a line like his will elicit bad feelings in plenty of people. That line, just for the record, is .278/.309/.611, with a 2.6% walk rate and 34.2% strikeout rate. As you might surmise from the silly slugging percentage, he’s clubbed 13 home runs already this season, which would put him on pace for 52 in 600 plate appearances. True outcomes? Tyler O’Neill is a champion of truth. Strikeouts and home runs have always gone together. Babe Ruth is the all-time true-outcome leader when compared to his era. But O’Neill kicks it into overdrive. Most sluggers use their prodigious power to get on base; they draw walks because pitchers are afraid to face them in the strike zone. O’Neill, again, is walking 2.6% of the time. That would be the worst rate in baseball if he qualified for the batting title, tied with Salvador Perez.”

Jesse Rogers, ESPN.com“Wrigley Field is about to be packed for the next 3½ months, and you don't trade away talent when you're in first place. In reality, being near the top of the standings is no shock, only how they've gotten there, because even after trading Yu Darvish, the Cubs had plenty of talent. It helps to reside in a mediocre division. So yes, augmenting the roster would be in order. The only question is how far will Jed Hoyer go? Will he empty the farm for a couple of rentals? Doubtful. So it could be additions around the edges. And the bigger question is what if the Cubs are three to five games out of first place come late July? Then the decision becomes much tougher. Focusing on the future would be more likely.”

Jon Morosi, MLB.com: “The story of the Cubs in recent years has been the malaise of their core players. Simply put, Kris Bryant has broken out of that. We also shouldn't forget that the Cubs won the division last year. They were a good team that underachieved. They won the division last year despite receiving very little contribution from Bryant. Now, Bryant is playing like the MVP we've known him to be. Barring a dramatic downturn, the Cubs can't rationalize trading him now.”

David Schoenfield, ESPN.com: “The Dodgers have plenty of time to catch the Padres and Giants, but it's fair to say they haven't been the superteam some of us expected. Even that statement is a little unkind, as the Dodgers entered Tuesday with the second-largest run differential in the majors at plus-83 (behind the White Sox) and on pace for 93 wins. That's a fine season for most teams but doesn't match the preseason expectations.”

Mark Feinsand, MLB.com: “One team fielding a number of calls, according to sources, is the Orioles, who have seen their season fall apart after getting off to a respectable 15-16 start. Since May 7, Baltimore is 6-22, a run that included 14 consecutive losses to finish May. Although the Orioles -- who actually won four of their first five games in June -- are still in the midst of their rebuilding process under general manager Mike Elias, the roster features a number of pieces who could net some good young talent in return. That list is headed by Trey Mancini, who missed all of 2020 while fighting colon cancer. Mancini has been one of the few bright spots for the Orioles this season, entering Tuesday with an .833 OPS, 11 home runs and 44 RBIs in 57 games. Mancini has split time between the outfield and first base during his career, though he has been a first baseman or designated hitter in all 55 of his starts as of Tuesday.”

Michael Baumann, The Ringer: “[Vladimir] Guerrero’s stunning productivity at the plate can’t just be attributed to conditioning. Since he was a teenager, Vladito has exhibited hit and power tools that are rare individually and nearly unheard of in combination. And this year, for the first time, he’s harnessing both to their fullest extent. There isn’t one completely revolutionary change to his batted ball profile, like Max Muncy’s newfound selectivity or the fly ball–heavy approach that suddenly made Matt Carpenter one of the best home run hitters in the league. Instead, Guerrero has made a few small-to-moderate changes that have had a profound effect on his offensive output. The first place to look is Guerrero’s ground ball–to–fly ball rate, which currently sits at 1.36. That’s tied for 45th out of 144 qualified hitters, which isn’t extreme by any means, but is also way down from the 1.96 GB/FB ratio Guerrero posted last season, which ranked 11th out of 142 qualified hitters. While fast guys with great bat control—like David Fletcher and Tim Anderson—can be quite productive putting the ball on the deck that frequently, power hitters like Guerrero need to get the ball in the air more. This was a well-known weakness in Guerrero’s game in years past, and he’s gone a long way toward correcting it.”

MEGAPHONE

"I was not bringing Gerrit Cole's name to the forefront because I'm putting him as the leader in all of this. I saw that, and now there's been [other] guys. Bauer's had to answer questions about it, too. You look at the spin rate drops with him and other guys, and I think you're going to see what's happened."

Minnesota Twins slugger Josh Donaldson, on calling out pitchers for using foreign substances on ball.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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