|ESPN.com: SweetSpot||[Print without images]|
Cardinals starter John Smoltz said he had trouble gripping the ball. He tossed several out of play even before trying to pitch with them. Smoltz walked five batters, two more than in all the games played since he joined the Cardinals earlier this year.
Balls are supposed to be rubbed with a special mud before each game, a job usually performed by the home team's clubhouse crew.
"They were fine for me," Arroyo said. "They don't mud them up as much here as they do at other places. It was a cool night, and it's hard to hold on sometimes."
In an interview with the Post-Dispatch, Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan said, "I'm sure he had pine tar on his cap. He didn't have any problem getting a grip. Balls like that can generate a lot more movement than a slick ball that hasn't been rubbed up."
For his part, Arroyo denied the allegations in a story on the Reds' Web site.
"The reason he's saying that is because I've been using this hat all season," Arroyo said. "That's what happens from playing games in every other park, where there is so much mud on the balls. That black stuff comes off on my fingers every day."
This time it's Bronson Arroyo, and the supposed foreign substance is spotted on the bill of his cap rather than the base of his pitching thumb.
I saw a video clip of Arroyo today, explaining himself and displaying his cap. He seems like a straight shooter and I believe him. If Dave Duncan doesn't want pitchers running out with brown spots on their caps, then he should lobby his general manager to lobby for a rule prohibiting dirty baseball caps. That'd be fine with me (though I'd prefer they go after the gunky batting helmets first).
Another thing Duncan might lobby for: uniform rubbing. In the old days -- actually, just a few years ago, I think -- the umpiring crew took care of the baseballs, with the junior arbiter usually stuck with the job. But that practice died, presumably because the umpires hated the job, particularly with so many dozens of baseballs being used in every game. When the job is left to the home team, though, you're bound to wind up with a visiting team complaining when the balls don't seem up to snuff.
There's no obvious solution, other than Major League Baseball paying someone to do the dirty work. Quick, call the Commissioner's office ...