Major League Baseball’s newest rule has already ticked off at least one superstar player.
Under the rule, umpires check each starting pitcher at least once a game for sticky substances used to doctor the baseball.
And Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer ― a three-time Cy Young winner ― didn’t look thrilled when it was his turn:
Haven’t seen anyone this annoyed being frisked since TSA took my almond butter. pic.twitter.com/cCNpyfuAEd
— Britt Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) June 22, 2021
ESPN notes that umps will inspect the hats, gloves and belts during these routine checks but could also look elsewhere if they have cause for suspicion.
Opposing managers are also allowed to ask umps to check the pitcher, and Phillies manager Joe Girardi took advantage of that later in the game to demand another examination in the middle of an inning.
A clearly frustrated Scherzer tossed his glove, his cap and unbuckled his pants as the umps approached in what looked like the start of a mock striptease:
This is actually absurd. Max Scherzer just got checked AGAIN in the middle of the inning and is about to pull his pants down to get these people to leave him alone. pic.twitter.com/v6OXMpPOBn
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) June 23, 2021
It didn’t end there:
Max Scherzer just struck out J.T. Realmuto to end the fifth and stared at Joe Girardi the whole way to the dugout. When Girardi walked out to say something, Max held up his glove and hat again, taunting him. Girardi was ejected.
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) June 23, 2021
Max Scherzer and Joe Girardi had a heated exchange after the 5th inning pic.twitter.com/JQIaA6ccna
— OPT (@OnePursuitTakes) June 23, 2021
Scherzer had eight strikeouts over five innings of work.
In another game later in the evening, A’s pitcher Sergio Romo went a step further with his own near-striptease during an inspection:
Oakland A’s reliever Sergio Romo was checked for “sticky stuff” and might have upstaged Max Scherzer in the process. pic.twitter.com/wL1jqt4CgE
— Chris Halicke (@ChrisHalicke) June 23, 2021
While pitchers have long used sticky substances to grip the ball, more recent players allegedly have been using far tackier compounds that the MLB argues has changed the nature of the game and given them an unfair advantage.
“This should be the biggest scandal in sports,” an unnamed major league team executive told Sports Illustrated in its lengthy report on doctored baseballs.
Under the new rule, pitchers caught cheating will be suspended for 10 games.
Baseball America notes that this season has seen more strikeouts, fewer balls in play and “some of the lowest batting averages in history.”
Phillies manager Joe Girardi asked the umpires to check Max Scherzer for foreign substancesScherzer and the Nationals were NOT happy pic.twitter.com/c4Fv4wV63d