By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — ‘The Big Bang Theory’ owns a totally different meaning when it comes to Major League Baseball. The Big Bang in baseball is home run, home run, home run.
On Thursday night in Oakland the Athletics and Houston Astros combined to hit 10 home runs in a 7-6 game.
In New York, the Cleveland Indians hit three homers in the first inning en route to a 19-4 rout of the Yankees.
A raw rookie with an unorthodox stance named Aristides Aquino arrives in Cincinnati and hits nine home runs in 13 games.
New York Mets rookie Pete Alonso owns 39 home runs, tying the record for National League rookies, with a month-and-half left in the season.
And it isn’t just the burgeoning number of home runs hit, it is also the distances. It is not unusual for a skinny shortstop to launch one 450 feet. Some home runs need taxi meters. It isn’t unusual for teams to go back-to-back-back.
The players can no longer ‘juice’ their bodies with performance enhancement drugs so there are indications Major League Baseball decided to help them out by juicing the baseballs.
Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer answers with an emphatic yes when asked if the balls are juiced.
“Yes,” he said when asked. “I don’t know if it’s intentional, but the balls definitely are different.”
Asked if the balls feel different, he said, “Yeah. They are a little bit smoother, the seams are lower. And they feel a little bit smaller. There were times in previous years when the ball felt a little big or a little small. And you would notice it because the majority of them felt normal. This year I haven’t felt any that felt big, what we consider normal. So most of them feel smaller than before.”
Reds manager David Bell says that if baseball says they aren’t juiced, “Then I guess I believe them.”
He offers another theory that isn’t so much of a conspiracy theory.
“I don’t have any good answer, I don’t know,” he said. “Things do change and making baseballs probably isn’t a exact science. Or maybe it is.
“The art of hitting continues to evolve, guys are getting strong and pitchers are throwing harder,” he said. “That conclusion, when those strong guys connect with high velocity, they are going to go a long way.”
The evidence is so overwhelming, though, that denials are absurd.
They should erase ‘Rawlings’ off all the baseballs and stamp ‘Titleist’ on them. If they raided a golf ball manufacturing plant they probably would find baseballs being made.
Did you know that Major League Baseball purchased Rawlings last year, the company that produces MLB’s baseballs?
MLB-TV’s ‘Quick Pitch’ show, the nightly recap of games, is boring, boring, boring because all it shows is home run, home run, home run, grand slam home run.
During a TV game recently a foul ball near the first base dugout hit a concrete aisle and bounced into the upper deck.
Former Cincinnati Reds outfielders Glenn Braggs and Kal Daniels believe the baseball is ‘juiced.’ Braggs and Daniels both were Greek statues, as solid and cut as Mount Rushmore. Glenn Braggs was the prototype for Yasiel Puig.
Braggs, though, never hit a 450-foot opposite field home run his entire career. It seems as if 98-pound weaklings hit opposite field home runs these days. Cincinnati’s Jesse Winker, not a big guy, has hit 10 opposite field home runs this season.
Braggs, Daniels and former Reds catcher Brian Dorsett engaged in this Facebook exchange recently.
GLENN BRAGG: “I love it as a hitter, but those MLB baseballs are juiced, no doubt about it. They explode off the bat like golf balls.”
KAL DANIELS: “Yes, they are juiced.”
GLENN BRAGGS: You know how hard it is to hit opposite field home runs? Guys are hitting opposite field home runs 460 feet. They are getting jammed and still hitting it out the other way.”
KAL DANIELS: “Yup. I hate to say it, but MLB is cheating the fans.”
BRIAN DORSETT: “I agree, Glenn.”
Yes, guys are bigger and stronger these days. Yes, ball parks are smaller. Yes pitching is diluted. But 450-foot home runs are commonplace these days and it seems anybody can do it.
Just last month, three players on three successive days hit three home runs in one game.
Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper shattered his bat into kindling in a game last year and hit a home run. On Thursday night, he reached the upper deck in Citizens Bank Ball Park with a walk-off grand slam to beat the Chicago Cubs, a drive the nearly rang the Liberty Bell — the real one, not the fake one in the ball park.
And chew on this one. When there were more than 60 games to be played by most teams, more home runs already had been hit than the entire 2014 season.
A record was set in 2017 when 6,105 home runs were hit. This season they are on pace for close to 7,000. Because the ball flies like an eagle, every hitter is all about launch angle. In layman’s terms, that mean an upper-cut swing.
Why even have a Home Run Derby at the All-Star game? Every MLB game is a Home Run Derby.
Houston pitcher Justin Verlander, one of the game’s best, believes the baseballs are hyper-active, nearly as bouncy as those superballs kids used to play with.
“Major League Baseball is turning into a joke,” he said. “They own Rawlings and you have commissioner Rob Manfred saying it might be the way they center the pill (the rubber ball that is baseball’s core).
“They own the damn company,” he added. “If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it’s not a guess as to what happened. We all know what happened.
“What did Manfred say as soon as he became commissioner? He said they wanted more offense,” said Verlander. “All of a sudden he comes in and the balls are juiced. It’s not coincidence. We’re not idiots.”
The solution is simple. Soften the cover, loosen the wool string that covers the core. Raise the seams back up a bit. Just make the baseballs so they can’t also be used as pool cue balls.