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PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JUNE 02: Pete Alonso #20 of the New York Mets hits an RBI single during the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 02, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. Mets won 7-6. (Photo : Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Several players have been weighing in on Major League Baseball’s decision to crack down on pitchers using doctored baseballs this season. After the Twins’ third baseman Josh Donaldson, it was New York Mets star Pete Alonso’s turn on Wednesday to deliver a very hot take.
Donaldson had questioned New York Yankees’ star pitcher Gerrit Cole’s drop in performance and spin rate numbers following MLB’s crackdown on foreign substances in the minor leagues.
Pete Alonso: MLB manipulates baseballs to depress free agent salaries
The Mets first baseman, in a statement to the media before their game against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, downright accused MLB of changing the baseball’s physical properties to depress free agent salaries.
“The biggest concern is MLB manipulates the baseballs year in and year out depending on the free agency class,” said Alonso. “That’s a fact. Guys have talked about it. I mean in 2019 there was a huge class of free agent pitchers and then that’s quote-unquote the ‘juiced balls,'” he added.
During that 2019 season, MLB set a league-wide record for home runs with 6,776. That’s 671 more than were hit in any previous season in the MLB. The last record of 6,105 homers was set in 2017.
To put it into even more perspective, the 2019 record was almost 1,200 more homers than the tally recorded in the 2018 season. The sudden spike in home runs that season led former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander to remark that the baseballs were definitely “juiced.”
Curiously, seven of the top 10 free agents that following offseason were pitchers, including Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Madison Bumgarner, and Dallas Keuchel.
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Offense has gone dry, and baseballs are the reason why
Fast forward to this season, and the league’s offense has suddenly dried up, with the league on pace to have the lowest batting average and highest strikeout rate in its history.
If Alonso’s conspiracy theory is to be believed, this has to do with baseballs affecting the 2021-22 free agent class, which includes star shortstops Javy Baez, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, and Corey Seager, as well as Kris Bryant, Freddie Freeman, and Michael Conforto.
Alonso added in his statement that “now that we’re back to playing a regular season with a ton of shortstops or position players that are owed and gonna be paid a lot of money, it’s not a coincidence, and I think that (altering baseballs) definitely is something that they do.”
Interestingly, Alonso benefited from that home run boom in 2019. He set the MLB rookie record for homers that season with 53. He’s still an offensive machine this 2021 season, going 10-for-30 with three homers, nine RBI, and six runs across his past eight contests. The 26-year-old went 2-for-4 with two home runs and three RBI during Tuesday’s 10-3 loss at Baltimore.
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