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Posted by Temmy Thu, May 27, 2021 3:23pm
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Joe West Umpire

Cardinals manager Mike Shildt upset about reliever having to change hat when real cheating is going on

Second base umpire Dan Bellino gives a confiscated St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap to a Chicago White Sox bat boy.
Second base umpire Dan Bellino gives a confiscated St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap to a Chicago White Sox bat boy.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, who has tried to keep his cool all season about the rampant cheating in baseball, vented his frustrations loud and clear Wednesday for the entire baseball world to hear.

“This is baseball’s dirty little secret,’’ Shildt said after being ejected, “and it’s the wrong time and in the wrong arena to expose it.’’

Well, it was all revealed in living color in the seventh inning of the Cardinals’ 4-0 victory against the Chicago White Sox when crew chief Joe West walked to the mound and asked Cards reliever Giovanny Gallegos to remove his cap.

Gallegos looked surprised, touched his cap, then his right forearm and told West that he simply had sunscreen on his cap.

“It felt like a setup,’’ Shildt said, “to be honest with you. It just came out of nowhere.’’

Shildt raced to the mound, demanded an explanation, cursed at West, was ejected and continued to argue for two minutes on the field saying it was hypocritical for umpires to start checking pitchers for sunscreen and rosin when pitchers are blatantly cheating using foreign substances.

“Major League Baseball has got a very, very, very tough position here,’’ Shildt says, “because there are people effectively, and not even trying to hide, essentially flipping the bird at the league with how they’re cheating in this game with concocted substances.

“There are players that have been monetized for it. There are players obviously doing it going to their glove. There’s clear video of it. You can tell the pitchers who are doing it because they don’t want to go to their mouth.

“Understandably, Major League Baseball is trying to do their best to do it in a matter that doesn’t create any black eye to the integrity of the game that we love.’’

Shildt, who anticipates a potential fine for his outburst -- later issuing a statement that umpires “having to police foreign substances, candidly, shouldn’t have to be a part of their job’’ -- was just getting started.

“Speaking of integrity, how about the guys who are pitching their tails off in Major League Baseball and are doing it clean?’’ Shildt said. "How about the guys who are clearly loading up with concoctions they actually advertise, that don’t do anything to hide even in plain view? Those are the guys that I’m speaking for.

“I’m speaking up for the hitters that have a living to make facing stuff that’s really, really good, and you can see based on spin rates how guys’ careers are jumping off the charts.’’

Yes, it’s the same complaint hitters have quietly spoke about this year, too, with Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto saying last week that MLB needs to step in and enforce the rules.

“I think the substance issue is real,’’ Realmuto said. “I think pitchers are using a lot more substances now than they have in the past. Not just a lot more, but it’s been more effective than it has been. Guys are increasing their spin rate. That’s why there’s so many walks and strikeouts every game because guys are just letting it rip with all the spin. It’s harder to control but also harder to hit. …

“I think if they cracked down on that, that would honestly help the offense a lot, get the ball in play more often, and less swing and miss.”

If it’s sunscreen and a little rosin, hitters will tell you, they’re fine with it. They’re tired of these young pitchers throwing 97 mph and having no idea where it’s going. Hitters are being hit by pitches at a record clip this year.

So, Shildt isn’t going to swear that everyone of his pitchers strictly abides by the rulebook, but there’s no harm with a substance to help the grip, and not be used simply to generate exaggerated spin rates.

“Here’s the deal, first of all Gio wears the same hat all year,’’ Shildt says. “Hats accrue dirt. Hats accrue substances. We pitched in a day game. So, did Gio have some sunscreen at some point in his career to make sure he doesn’t get some kind of melanoma? Possibly. Does he use rosin to help? Possibly.

“Are these the things baseball really wants to crack down on? No, it’s not. I know that completely first-hand from the commissioner’s office. That is not anything that is going to affect his ability to compete.’’

Certainly, Gallegos proved his point by immediately striking out the White Sox’s best two hitters, Jose Abreu and Yermin Mercedes, although his spin rate was down 30 RPM.

Yet, if you’re cheating you’re cheating, and West said his umpiring crew simply was following the letter of the law, with second base umpire Dan Bellino first noticing the spot on Gallego’s cap as he came in from the bullpen.

“We didn’t let him put himself in jeopardy,’’ West said. “We did that as a defensive mechanism for everybody. We want the players to play the game, we don’t want anybody to be accused of cheating or any of that stuff.

“So, it was smarter to just remove the cap than to let him pitch and have somebody come out and complain.’’

White Sox manager Tony La Russa insisted there was no complaint or request by the White Sox staff to check on Gallego’s hat, saying, “I don’t know how it started.’’

Simply, it started with Bellino detecting the black spot on Gallegos’ cap. He walked over and informed West, and West went to the mound and asked Gallego to remove his cap.

“Rather than get into a confrontation after the fact and put the pitcher in jeopardy,’’ West said, “I decided to make him remove the hat so that he doesn’t do anything with an illegal substance on his hat. All I asked him was to change the hat.

“I don’t think he had any problem with it. He said it was sunscreen. When Mike got upset about it, I don’t think he really knew what we were doing. I was just trying to keep the pitcher in the game.’’

Gallegos remained, Shildt departed, and the cap is on its way to the MLB offices in New York where it will be examined for foreign substances.

In the meantime, Shildt spoke with his pitchers after the game, hopes that he’s not creating a greater spotlight on his staff, and simply wants MLB to clean up its act.

“Let’s go check the guys that are going to their glove every day with filthy stuff coming out,’’ Shildt says, “not some guy before he steps to the mound with a spot on his hat. That’s how you want to start policing this? And, unfortunately, that’s how this is going start. Now maybe this is a crescendo for things to come.

“Hitters don’t mind the grip. They don’t want the stuff that’s doing wiffle-ball stuff, and that’s the issue at hand here. So you want to police sunscreen and rosin? Go ahead. …But why don’t you start with the guys that are cheating with some stuff that are really impacting the game, and impacting how people play this game?

“That’s the integrity of the game I’ll speak up for. Popular? I really don’t care. It’s accurate.’’

Shildt reiterated that he wasn’t blaming West and his umpiring crew for upholding the rules, but it’s time to crack down on the real cheaters before the game’s integrity is permanently damaged.

“Now that you’ve opened it up,’’ Shildt says, “let’s go. We got these guys [MLB compliance officers] going around locker rooms. Really, what are they doing? We’re into May. You want to talk about sample size and collecting data?

“Well, let’s see it.’’

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