Good for Josh Donaldson.
If you are deciding how to feel about his actions based on which team he plays for or the outcome of a pitcher/hitter confrontation, then you are doubling down on a problem far more problematic to our society than sticky stuff on a baseball.
Predetermining your opinion based on a team (Yankees or Twins, Democrats or Republicans) rather than on considering the issue exposes a blind devotion to a side rather than the facts. Donaldson said out loud what was being said behind closed doors — the pitcher-hitter combat is being distorted by the use of illegal sticky stuff and that Gerrit Cole’s spin went down noticeably in his start before facing Donaldson’s Twins, but immediately after much more scrutiny was placed on this matter. Facts.
If you are a Yankee fan and mad at Donaldson, here is the question: What if DJ LeMahieu said what Donaldson did, but simply cited another obviously cheating pitcher rather than Cole? Would you have lined up with LeMahieu? If so, then this is really about laundry (footnote to Jerry Seinfeld): Whoever is in your team’s uniform is right regardless of the issue or the facts.
That Cole won the duel against Donaldson — two strikeouts and a fly out — also does not push the pitcher to a higher moral ground. Heck, Cole was given yet another chance to say he wasn’t cheating with sticky stuff in Wednesday night’s game after the Yankees won 9-6 and refused, saying it was not the right forum.’
But he suggested the right forum would eventually come to explain that text message that is allegedly from him to the former Angels clubhouse manager Bubba Harkins that was sent in January 2019 and read: “Hey Bubba, it’s Gerrit Cole, I was wondering if you could help me out with this sticky situation. We don’t see you until May, but we have some road games in April that are in cold weather places. The stuff I had last year seizes up when it gets cold.”
That was part of a lawsuit that was dismissed and still nothing explaining what this was about. Again, Yankee fans, imagine how you would feel if this text was from, say, Tampa Bay’s Tyler Glasnow or Toronto’s Hyun Jin Ryu.
So good for Donaldson for stepping beyond baseball’s version of the Thin Blue Line. Because there should be no line here. This is an integrity of the game issue. Thus — deep breath — this should not be a pitcher vs. hitter issue (more Democrats vs. Republicans or one intractable side vs. another). The union, trying to take its own high ground, always states it wants to protect fairness. Well, doctoring a baseball is unfair.
It certainly is unfair to hitters. The ecosystem of the game revolves around the hitter/pitcher showdown. And throwing it out of balance is harmful to the sport. Pitchers already were gaining edges as new technology favored them on how to improve their pitches and exploit hitter deficiencies. The graduation to stickier and stickier substances to create the friction and, thus, spin to elevate deception on pitches only has exaggerated the tilt toward pitchers.
When pitchers test drive verbal spin to exonerate their pitching spin by saying that adding substances to the ball is a tradition passed down from generation to generation; just ignore that. Previous generations did not have the technology to show just what sticky substances will do nor the gumption to bring weight-lifter super glues to the mound. The pitchers went from going over the speed limit by 5-10 mph to 50 quickly and without much remorse or moral compass.
And, by the way, it is illegal. So when you hear pitchers say they want clarity, Rule 6.02(C) is pretty clear about applying foreign substances to the ball. What hasn’t been is enforcement. That has come too slowly, but is arriving soon. Good. Because the other group hurt by the cheating is pitchers — notably those not using or those who are using for fear of falling behind those who are.
The most honest assessment from a player I have seen is what Angels starter Alex Cobb told reporters in Anaheim: “It’s just like the Steroid Era. Everybody else was using and if you’re not, you’re living ethically but you’re not going to be around this game very long. I’m glad that guys won’t have to be put in that position.”
Yes, let’s hope that players no longer have to be put into either position: 1) on the wrong side of a confrontation with a cheater or 2) forced to cheat or fall behind cheaters. That is why it is better to make this all public to focus attention and correction upon it.
So, good for Josh Donaldson.