Cards manager sounds off on baseball's 'dirty little secret' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
With the Cardinals up 1-0 in the seventh inning but two men on base on Wednesday afternoon, St. Louis manager Mike Shildt turned to one of his best relievers to get out of the game.
But before Giovanny Gallegos had even thrown a pitch, umpire Joe West and the rest of the crew walked out to the mound and told him he had to change his hat because of a foreign substance on the brim.
This did not sit well with Shildt, who almost instantly was ejected from the game after coming out to confront West.
Shildt, who has just six ejections in his major league managerial career, spoke with reporters after the game about why he was particularly upset with Gallegos being singled out.
"Why do I take exception to that? Because this is baseball’s dirty little secret, and it’s the wrong time and the wrong arena to expose it," Shildt said. "Are [sunscreen and rosin] things baseball really wants to crack down on? No, it’s not. I know that completely firsthand from the Commissioner’s office. That is not anything that is going to affect his ability to compete."
Major League Baseball is in the middle of an existential crisis, with strikeout rates continuing to rise at an alarming rate and balls in play becoming fewer and farther between. The core issue is that pitchers have simply become too good, too talented, for hitters to have much of a change of facing.
According to Shildt, however, many pitchers are relying on more than just raw talent and modern analytics to fool hitters.
"Let’s get to the genesis of this conversation. Major League Baseball’s got a very, very, very tough position here. Because there are people that are effectively, and not even trying to hide it, essentially flipping the bird at the league with how they’re cheating in this game with concocted substances," Shildt said. "There are players that have been monetized for it. There are players that are obviously doing it, going to their glove. There’s clear video of it. You can tell the pitchers are doing it because they don’t want to go to their mouth. Understandably, and I know comfortably, Major League Baseball is trying their best to do it in a manner that doesn’t create any black eye for the integrity of the game that we love."
Shildt's frustration was apparent, and he mentions that he knows he can probably expect a fine after his comments. That didn't stop him from sticking up for his guys, however.
"But speaking of integrity, how about the integrity of the guys that are doing it clean? How about the guys that are pitching their tails off in Major League Baseball and doing it clean that have an unfair competitive advantage for the guys that are clearly loading up with concoctions that they actually advertise, don’t do anything to hide even in plain view. Those are the guys I’m speaking for," he continued. "I’m speaking up for the hitters that have a living to make facing stuff that’s already really, really good, and you can see based off spin rates how guys’ careers are jumping off the charts. And then you can do cause and effect."
Fans are more aware of cheating scandals than ever after the Astros' sign-stealing scheme, so the entire rant is well worth listening to as Shildt sheds some light on the less-discussed integrity issues facing baseball.
According to him, however, there's a major difference between everyday dirt and grime accrued over the course of a long season and actual substances designed to put hitters at a major disadvantage.
"Hitters don’t mind the grip. They care about the stuff making the ball do wiffle-ball stuff. And that’s the issue at hand here," Shildt said. "You want to police some sunscreen and rosin? Go ahead. Get every single person in this league. Hit-by-pitches will just continue to go up, balls will get away. But why don’t you start with the guys that are cheating with some stuff that’s really impacting the game? That’s the integrity of the game I speak up for."