MLB has had a major problem since 2017 that isn’t a focus of the lockout or collective bargaining agreement but affects every player: the baseballs in play.
In 2017, pitchers across the league claimed the baseballs were “juiced,” and two years later, the balls had “inconsistent seam heights” with other claims that the balls were changed during the postseason.
In 2021, MLB finally admitted they were going to change the baseballs but it was later revealed by a study the league used two different balls throughout the season. Also during the 2021 season, MLB banned the use of foreign substances, which upset pitchers that a major change would be made in the middle of the season.
Now, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the league’s new prototype baseball with better grip could be tested as early as Spring Training and be used in games during the 2022 season, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN:
“I think we will be far enough along that there will actually be, I’m hoping, live-game testing in spring training,” he said. “We could be in a position to use a new ball next year. Maybe it’s going to be ’23 instead, but we’re continuing to work on that project and had made real progress. The trick is tackier but not so tacky that it’s Spider Tack.”
Last year the league also shortened the window teams had to apply mud to the baseballs before the game in hopes that it helped pitchers find more consistency with the texture, but it is far from enough.
MLB’s lack of consistency with the baseballs has been a major problem within the sport and it is inexcusable they have had so many issues with them.
MLB used AFL to test baseballs with sticky substances
After the season, MLB tested baseballs that were pre-tacked with a sticky grip substance in the Arizona Fall League.
During the first half of the AFL, they used baseballs that were standard-issue and during the second half they switched to the stickier baseballs.
They also did some testing with the baseballs near the end of the Triple-A season.
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