Jacob deGrom had the dubious pleasure of being first-come, first-frisked last Monday, when baseball government’s crackup of a crackdown on naughty sauce began officially. One night later, Sergio Romo became the first to drop trou—under his almost knee-length jersey, so nobody could bark at the moons—under the new stop-and-frisk policy.
Come Sunday, Hector Santiago, Mariners relief pitcher, had the likewise dubious pleasure of being stopped, frisked, and purged. For naughty sauce? Not exactly. The coppers saw something suspicious in what Santiago pleaded, and his team affirmed, was nothing but rosin and sweat.
Foreign substance? Only if you consider Santiago’s sweat to be of foreign origin. He was born in New Jersey. He’s of Puerto Rican descent. That makes him a natural born American.
“Says who?” Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker once asked a Puerto Rican-born janitor with whom he was stuck in an elevator, in season one of All in the Family. Said the janitor, Carlos Mendoza, played by a very young Hector Elizondo, “In 1917, the Congress of the United States, says who. We are very good citizens.”
President Woodrow Wilson made that happen when he signed the Jones-Safroth Act. Therefore, Hector Santiago’s sweat is one hundred percent, bona fide, guaranteed not to rust American sweat.
“Therefore,” said Pistolero Pringole, sub-minors relief pitcher turned police criminologist, “they cannot just bust him for foreign substances. And the last I saw of that memo, rosin’s still allowed. Sunscreen, no. SpiderTack, no. All that medicated goo in a can, no. You cannot roust a man for sweating in the summertime.”
From deGrom last Monday through Santiago come Sunday, there were 668 pitching appearances (you don’t think there are 668 pitchers in the Show this season, do you?) and not one of those pitchers got cuffed and stuffed after being served the search warrant until Santiago was carted off to the holding cell.
Well, maybe commissioner Rob Manfred was right. Maybe things were going smooth and steady most of the time from Monday through Sunday. If you don’t count Romo and Max Scherzer getting tempted to go Chippendales on a couple of stop-and-frisks.
And maybe they’ll solve the pillow case.
The way this crackup of a crackdown is going, so far, don’t be surprised if the next newlywed couple to remove the tag under penalty of law after they bring the new bed home finds itself the subject of a no-knock police raid.
“Never gonna happen,” Pistolero said. “The men and women in my department aren’t that crazy.”
“They’re not, but the people running baseball and enough of the people umpiring it are,” I said.
“Now, what’s so suspicious about Hector’s pitching this year,” Pistolero asked.
I mentioned that Santiago’s ERA in nine gigs since the Mariners exhumed him from the minors in late May is 2.65. And, that his fielding-independent pitching since then is 2.44. The former is 1.47 below his career mark; the latter, 2.43 below.
“And he’s had ERAs and FIPs within that range early in other seasons, too, sometimes even lower,” I said. “Not in the last couple, but it’s in his history.”
“I keep reading about the experiments with the baseball the last few years, “Pistolero said. “They’ve changed it more often than my wife changes her mind.”
“How often does your wife change her mind?”
“Woman’s prerogative to change her mind, right? If my wife goes a day without changing it three times we take her to the urgent care clinic. Lucky for her one of our children’s a doctor there.”
“Listen, Pistol,” I said to get back on message, “I don’t really get this all-of-a-sudden crackup of a crackdown any more than you do. I get people are afraid of cheating. I get that a lot of pitchers got wise to the spinning of their pitches a lot more acutely the last few years. And I get that baseball’s governors can’t figure out either how to make serviceable baseballs or how to come up with a syrup acceptable to both themselves and the pitchers who have to throw the damn balls.”
“What about the hitters who have to hit the ball?” Pistolero asked. He wasn’t trying to be a sabelotodo. I think.
“Well,” I said, “with less fast spin cycles on the pitches, maybe the hitters get a more even shot. Maybe the hitters were going to figure it out anyway by the time this Second Year of the Pitcher ended. If there’s one thing I know for dead last certain, it’s that pitchers and hitters usually figure each other out. Even if it takes awhile.”
“Already you sound like you’re commissioner material,” Pistolero said.
“Remember the last Year of the Pitcher?”
“Before my time.”
“Well, I remember it. By the time the World Series came around, the hitters weren’t looking all that futile even with Bob Gibson pitching three games. So sure they figured it out then. They were liable to figure it out again this time around.”
“Even with all this launch angle mierda?”
“Even with all this launch angle mierda.”
“I thought your Spanish was worse than that.”
“Well, how come you can figure out the common sense of it all and this Senor Manfred can’t?” Pistolero asked.
“It’s not exactly forensics,” I said.
Suddenly I remembered “Santiago” in English means St. James. The patron saint of Spain, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and fishermen. Something was certainly fishy enough about umpires cuffing and stuffing a pitcher over a blend made in the U.S. of A.
Santiago’s pitching repertoire includes a decent fastball, breaking balls, changeups, and the occasional screwball. Don’t say it.
“I’m only afraid of one thing, Pistolero,” I said. “The way Manfred’s going, he’s going to try to find a way to make sweating in summer against the rules.”
Picture it. We may go from Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean putting an ice block on home plate “to cool off my fastball” to Rob Manfred ordering pitching on ice blocks to stop the sweat.
“Well, I have one thing to say to this Senor Manfred,” Pistolero said. “Que tenga un hotel con mil habitaciones y la venganza de Moctezuma en cada habitacion.”
“What the hell does that mean,” I asked. “Remember, I still know about as much Spanish as you know how to solve the pillow case.”
Pistolero couldn’t help laughing while he translated: “May he have a hotel with a thousand rooms and Montezuma’s revenge in every room.”
It was my turn to laugh. “I thought you were a good American citizen and cop. Don’t you know there’s still such a thing as the Eighth Amendment?”