Zack Britton hated what he saw Tuesday night.
The implementation of the rule to regularly check pitchers for foreign substances led to players angrily stripping on the field, Phillies manager Joe Girardi and Nationals ace Max Scherzer yelling at each other, and games getting paused as umpires searched players.
“I just think the optics of it are so bad for baseball,” the Yankees reliever said Wednesday before his team hosted the Royals. “We’re talking about that, we’re not talking about Wander Franco’s debut, we’re not talking about how well Gerrit [Cole] threw and how well Max Scherzer threw, and all this other stuff around the game. We’re talking about guys getting checked on the field, guys dropping their pants on the field, guys throwing their belts off. I just think the optics are absolutely embarrassing for our game.”
Britton, the Yankees’ union representative, believes commissioner Rob Manfred owes it to players and fans to address the issue. Manfred hasn’t given a press conference since February 2020, while players and managers have had to address the sudden change daily.
“I would like to hear from Manfred. He’s the commissioner of the game,” Britton said. “I’d love to hear Manfred answer questions and not just players.
“If you’re the head of a sport, I think part of the job description is to answer questions and speak to the media occasionally. You see it throughout the other sports. It’s frustrating for the players that we haven’t heard from him yet.”
Britton’s problem isn’t the rule but how it’s being enforced. He gets MLB had to do something with pitchers using illegal substances, such as strong adhesives, to add spin to the ball and enhance performance.
But Britton doesn’t believe MLB should have updated the guidelines in the middle of a season, giving little time for players to become adjusted to them, or that umpires should conduct the checks out in the open for everyone see.
“We can get checked in the bullpen prior to entering the game. Guys can get checked in the dugout away from cameras, away from fans,” he said. “I just think the optics looked awful last night. As somebody who loves the game, I was watching other teams, and I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed because that’s what our game looks like right now. I think getting it off the field would look cleaner.”