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The spin is in: What’s up with the spin rate in baseball?

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... it should make you want to hurl

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Trevor Bauer has stopped just short of saying that he does it, and does it on purpose, to prove a point. And he’s said it more than once, to anyone who will listen. Gerrit Cole has been accused of it. He’s not the only one. An Angels clubhouse man named Bubba Harkins was supposedly the source of the best goo, the one all the pros use.

It’s creating a revolution in baseball. Batting averages and OPS and SLG are down across the board. The situation is so bad that Rob Manfred is rumored to be paying attention. The situation is so bad that players have been heard to desire ‘roids, and only half in jest.

“Lower the mound!” the hoi polloi cry, in their piping little voices. But baseball, you know, like anything that either costs or makes money, is the province of the well-heeled. Why, it is rumored that certain owners prance about in mixed company wearing KISS ARMY stacks and hollering about ibogaine futures. Could they possibly be more bourgeois than that?

“Fools,” the intelligentsia cry. “You could not possibly understand. It is beyond you.”

Gaylord Perry nods in remembrance, and Burleigh Grimes, and the shock of recognition runs the whole circle ‘round.

“Why, if I’d had that stuff,” Jack Chesbro exclaims, “I’d have been invincible, in addition to being desperately handsome.”

Frank Corridon was heard to agree. “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying,” he said.

It is unclear when pitchers first began experimenting with the spitball, but there is no evidence that any pitcher made it an important part of his pitching arsenal before 1902. The spitball has often been credited to Elmer Stricklett.”

The idea behind the spitball is to make spin slow as long as possible, and then act all at once, in pronounced fashion. The mechanics are slightly different.The real spitter is almost like a hard-thrown knuckler, in that it is ‘pushed’ from the fingertips so as to coax it to remain still for an extended period.

It will squeeze out like a grapefruit pip and then suddenly dart. A well-lubed spheroid will drop in the direction of the side of the ball that the lube is applied on.

Perry was an artist. But, by comparison to some modern pitchers, he was an amateur. Gaylord had a number of trick pitches, not just one. He probably had some sandpaper and a thumbtack or two on his person, along with KY jelly, pine tar, and bubble gum. He didn’t specialize, like Rick Honeycutt, who treated the ball like a substitute teacher on their first day.

I’d like to know the spin rate of Bert Blyleven’s curve ball, and Mike Marshall’s splitslider. But that’s just me. You can probably check that out with the right equipment — there IS video. I bet there are people who know.

Sometimes it makes me wonder what they teach in those pitch labs. But that’s just me, too. Or is it? “What are we even doing here?” asks Ken Rosenthal ({$}).

Elmer Stricklett probably wasn’t the first, and I seriously doubt that the practice did so much as slow down after 1934, when Burleigh Grimes retired, the last of the grandfathered-in spitballers.

Major League Baseball is said to be open to a rules change allowing such activity once again. Quelle surprise!

Good thing to talk about at the CBA, yes? Give it all a test run, never mind the sagging offenses. Make those dastardly batters adjust. They think they’re what brings the cheeks to the seats.

“Well, guys, it’s like this,” explains MLB’s legal counsel. “We have a substance so evil that it can make the ball drop in any direction, any time we choose.”

“We’re gonna use shovels,” retorts the MLBPA rep. “Cuz you’re showing your posterior to posterity.

“And we’ll put the mound behind second base.”

“Enough,” says the MLB counsel. “Let’s huddle like reasonable folk and discuss how to divvy the fleece, I mean, the profits.”

“Either way,” says his opponent, “we need to talk about spin. And I’d like to let you know that I want to talk about spin with a man who wants to talk about spin.”

“Cheers,” his opposite number retorts. “Here’s to circuitous speaking and deliberately obtuse communication.

“Now let’s talk about the pitch.”

“Yes, let’s. As reasonable men, we would like to allow the pitch but to control the effect. We want to put our spin on the spin, before it spirals out of control. But first we need to view the evidence.”

“This isn’t even why people hate this guy,” the MLBPA rep explains. “It gets better. He’s openly taunting the Commissioner:”

“But he isn’t getting as much traction as he could, because he’s a jerk.”

“But the conclusion is inescapable,” agreed the party of the second part. “He’s cheating, he’s doing it on purpose, and he’s exactly right. We’re not going to do a thing about it.”

“Yes we are. We’re beaten. Legalize it. Might as well legalize the weed, too, and put concessions in the parks.”

The clink of glasses. “To the green, green, grass of home.”

As the pie is set before them, and they begin to carve. Not long after, the reporters were summoned, the softballs were lobbed, the band played on.