For all of the recent chatter about the use of foreign substances by pitchers, we had yet to hear a concerted stance from the MLB Players Association.
On Friday night, when Nationals ace and MLBPA Player Representative Max Scherzer spoke to reporters, he gave a small glimpse into the players' conversations on the matter.
"League-wide, the players are starting to get together," Scherzer said following the Nationals' 1-0 defeat to the San Francisco Giants. "We have union calls about this where we go through things. I'm not going to say exactly what's said on those calls, but as players we're cognizant of what's going on. There's been a proliferation of sticky stuff."
By "sticky stuff," Scherzer is referring to various grip-enhancing substances known to be prevalent among MLB pitchers despite the rule which states pitchers cannot be in possession of any "foreign substance while on the mound."
In the spring, the league issued a memo to teams warning that umpires would be cracking down on violators, a warning that they doubled down on last week. And while one might expect a clear partisan line between the pitchers who enjoy the advantage of increased control -- and in turn spin-rate -- and the league's hitters who have seen a consistent decrease in productivity on the mound in recent history, Scherzer confirmed that it's not a simple 'us versus them' debate.
"There's a downside to taking a lot of the sticky stuff away from everybody, because there's a safety issue with the hitters," he said, pointing to the recent incident involving his teammate Austin Voth who suffered a broken nose against Philadelphia on Monday when a pitch struck him in the face.
"You're kind of dealing with two things here, that's why we have these calls to kind of go through all of the pros and cons of everything that goes on in the game. Hopefully, we find a way to navigate this issue," he said.
Scherzer, who exited Friday's game with a lower-body injury after throwing just 12 pitches, was asked about his opinion on a potential threshold for substances proposed by Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo.
"There's been many solutions discussed. I think all the chatter that's been around the game and everything that's been said on the calls, guys have made it known how they feel about certain situations, and I'll leave it at that," Scherzer said.
The Players Association has yet to release an official statement on the issue.