It’s no secret that the possibility of juiced baseballs has been a topic of conversation, and interest within the baseball realm recently. Approaching the Home Run Derby on Monday, Houston Astros starter, Justin Verlander commented on the fact that he believes the 2019 baseballs are juiced.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the 36 year old starting pitcher said the game balls used in Major League Baseball games this season are “a f—ing joke,” and he believes the league wanted an increase in offense to attract fans to the game.
On Monday before Verlander spoke out, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the issue. On ESPN’s podcast Golic and Winco he discussed the differences in baseballs, especially a decrease in drag, but refuting the idea that the MLB had any involvement in these changes.
The conversation about baseballs possibly being juiced began after the 2015 All-Star Break where the number of home runs grew dramatically from the previous year. Though the conversation was quieter, it eventually brewed into the controversy it is today.
Due to these talks, Manfred contracted a study to see if the baseballs had anything to do with the home run spike. The results of this study were released in 2018, and one month later, the MLB purchased Rawlings, the supplier of official Major League balls.
Since then, Manfred has continually denied the accusations of Rawlings juicing their baseballs. Besides Verlander, many other players have commented on this issue. Pitchers in particular have commented on the change in the seams, the leather, the size and the hardness of the balls.
Specifically, after Verlander spoke out before Monday’s festivities, so did Mets ace Jacob deGrom. As per ESPN, the right handed starter echoed this idea by saying he is “not going to disagree with him (Verlander).”
On the other hand, New York legend Daryl Strawberry commented on the issue agreeing with Manfred, blaming other aspects of the game on the increase of home runs. “I think the ballparks are a little smaller than they used to be and I think the guys are a lot stronger. I don’t really think they’re juicing the baseballs,” said Strawberry.
On Tuesday after the Derby, Manfred indirectly responded to Verlander. “There has been no intentional alteration in the manufacturing process,” said Manfred.
In the end, no matter where you stand on the issue, there is no denying that home runs have skyrocketed in the MLB this year. Players are on pace for 6,668 home runs this season, an increase from the previous record of 6,105 in 2017.