Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Will Smith was ejected from Thursday night’s game versus the Atlanta Braves for having a mixture of rosin and sunscreen on his arm. Pitchers can’t put foreign substances on the ball, so ejecting Smith was an easy decision for umpire Jim Joyce to make.* But did Smith do anything wrong here?
The simple answer: of course he did, dummy! He was blatantly breaking the rules! This is a tough argument to counter, but I’ll try anyway.
Will Smith was “cheating” by using the foreign substance. As Giancarlo Stanton or Carlos Gomez can tell you, the batter’s box is a dangerous place. Smith, and pretty much every other pitcher in baseball, use concoctions to get a better grip on the ball. This, in turn, allows them to better control their pitches and avoid beaning batters in the head. Even Freddie Freeman, first baseman for the Braves, agrees with this practice:
“Every pitcher does it.” Said Freeman “As a hitter you want them to do it so they have a better grip, so we don’t get hit in the head.”
It should also be noted that baseballs are inherently difficult to grip. In fact, the game could not be played if baseballs were not treated by mud from a tributary of the Delaware River. The mud is apparently not quite grippy enough, so pitchers take extra steps to solve that problem.
So on one hand: Smith broke the rules.
On the other: he doctored the ball in a manner that’s accepted by both pitchers and hitters, and also makes it safer for opposing players. Smith wasn’t really in the wrong here and MLB should relax the rules for what pitchers are allowed to put on the ball. After all: safety first!
But then again, maybe I’m totally wrong about this. What do you think?
*Smith was later suspended eight games, which he is appealing
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