NBC Sports

Braden explains why MLB substance crackdown was poorly timed

NBC Sports

Dallas Braden doesn't hide it, saying he was an unapologetic and admitted user of a sunscreen-rosin mix during his pitching days. Braden, like just about every big league pitcher in recent memory, needed something to help him grip baseballs that are slick when they come out of the box and can have an even worse texture after being prepared for the game. 

Having himself experienced the difficulties in finding the right grip, Braden, now an A's analyst for NBC Sports California, has been an outspoken critic of MLB's midseason decision to start checking every pitcher for foreign substances during games. On Thursday's Giants Talk, he said people need to understand that there's a difference between using something innocuous to help you grip a ball and lathering on spider tack or some other substance to increase your spin rate. 

"It's been ingrained in the DNA of our game," Braden said of using things to help your grip. "For (the crackdown) to happen really in the first third of the season is troublesome to me."

Braden explained how the changes could impact pitchers' health (Tampa Bay Rays ace Tyler Glasnow already has connected the new rules to his elbow injury), and how the implementation was poorly timed. 

"It's not about everybody trying to cheat their butt off to see what they can do. There's a method to this madness" he said. "Over the course of your life, over the course of your career, you've established a way that you've been able to grip the ball and throw a ball, and, side note, how you've established that has kind of been allowed by Major League Baseball, so let's remember that much. When you take that away and you don't have the ability to grip as comfortably, you start really searching for a grip. 

 

"You're applying pressure and that's where injuries can occur, which is why the idea of this happening midseason is crazy for a lot of guys. You're taking out the tool that has effectively allowed them to do their job. You're now removing it, and so guys are searching. The problem is, when you have over half of your athletes or competitors using or applying something that is now deemed illegal, there's going to be an adjustment period. 

"Unfortunately, injuries can be part of that adjustment period, which is why I've been so vocal about the timing of this issue, especially after (commissioner) Rob Manfred had gone out and told people, 'Look, we're not going to make any crazy moves this year, that's not what we're going to do. We're just collecting data.'"

Major League Baseball collected baseballs and data for the first two months of the season and then implemented new rules that went into place Monday. Aside from putting pitchers' health at risk, the timing of the decision led to some strange moments this week. A's reliever Sergio Romo made a show of his first check by umpires, and during a game between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies, the dugouts got heated when Phillies manager Joe Girardi asked umpires to check Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

RELATED: Ohtani came away impressed with Gausman's split

Braden said he's concerned that the requests will become a tool some managers use late in games to try and slow a dominant starting pitcher. He had a pretty good suggestion for how to keep managers from going overboard. Braden would like to see the challenges of pitchers connected to replay challenges, suggesting that if you are out of replay challenges, you can't ask an umpire to check a pitcher just because you have some suspicions.

"Let's say you never challenge (a pitcher) to begin with but you challenge a play at home in the second inning, but you lose that," Braden said. "You know what you also lost? The right to slow the game down or impede the progress of the opposing pitcher. That's gone, you no longer get that." 

Download and follow the Giants Talk Podcast