I just read an announcement that said studies of Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball from his record-breaking 1998 season showed it contained “a material not outlined in official Major League Baseball specifications.” Apparently there is a synthetic rubber ring around an enlarged rubberized core.
Using a CT scanner, The Center for Quantitative Imaging at Penn State University also studied additional MLB baseballs from 1998 and found the baseballs have significantly enlarged cores in a variety of shapes and sizes. It’s almost as if the balls were on steroids…
This contradicts the findings of a 2000 MLB commissioned study about concerns over altered balls. That report found no change in the balls at all. Even though photos of the rubber ring were included in the report itself.
Wait. So, the report found nothing unusual in the balls. Nothing out of the ordinary. Except this photo of a rubberized ring around the core. But just ignore that.
MLB I hope you’re listening. These next few paragraphs are for you.
I’m a sports fan. One of the greatest times I’d had as a fan was watching McGwire and Sosa chase the single season home run record that year. I even got to see Mark hit numbers 68 and 69 in person. Even though he was on the visiting team, the crowd went crazy when he came to the plate. Even crazier when he crushed the balls over the wall. So, yeah, I was pissed when allegations came up that both he and Sosa were taking “performance enhancing substances”. Disappointed too. And glad you said something was going to be done about “cheaters”.
But apparently you were cheating as well. Or did you not know “performance enhancing” balls were being used all season? Did the manufacturer decide entirely on their own to change the way the balls are required, by your rules and specifications, to be made? Without your knowledge? Was this a surprise gift to you?
It’s no secret baseball was in trouble before the ’98 season. Strikes. Sky-high salaries. Whining players. All combined for complete fan apathy. But nothing sells tickets like excitement. And nothing is more exciting in baseball than crushing home runs. If we fans are to believe your 2000 commissioned study, your ball supplier engineered the single greatest act of charity in creating a juiced ball for you without your prior consent or knowledge. Pretty ballsy of them. (Pun intended.)
Now, I’m no synthetic rubber engineer, but I gotta think having a rubber ring and an enlarged core would make the ball go much, much further when hit. Whether or not the hitter was “performance enhanced” himself.
It’s very hard for me to take a sport seriously when the people in charge (meaning you, MLB) stand up in the nation’s capital and publicly condemn cheating, while secretly taking part in it. I’ll be keeping that in mind next season when tickets become available. And I think a good number of other fans will too.