NEW YORK — Mets first baseman Pete Alonso said Wednesday that he disagrees with MLB’s crackdown on pitcher-friendly foreign substances, and that the larger issue facing the sport is the league’s manipulation of baseballs depending on free-agent class — a theory he presented as “fact.”
“The biggest concern is MLB manipulates the baseball year in and year out depending on free-agency class, or guys being in an advanced part of their arbitration,” Alonso said during a videoconference with reporters.
Asked in a follow-up question if the idea of MLB manipulating baseballs based on free-agent class is something players “talk about and believe in,” Alonso replied, “Oh no, that’s a fact.”
He continued: “In 2019, there was a huge class of free-agent pitchers and then that’s quote-unquote ‘the juiced balls,’ and then 2020 was a strange year with the COVID season. But now that we’re back to playing in a regular season with a ton of shortstops or position players that are going to be paid a lot of money like high-caliber players — I mean, yeah, that’s not a coincidence. It’s definitely something that they do.”
The league did not comment on Alonso’s charge.
The 2021-22 free-agent class is highlighted by shortstops Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Javier Baez and Carlos Correa. MLB set a leaguewide record for home runs in 2019, just two years after the previous record was broken. Pitchers around the league speculated that the baseballs were juiced in favor of the hitters.
MLB informed teams in February that it planned to slightly deaden the baseballs for the 2021 season following a years-long surge in home runs. In 2019, 3.6% of plate appearances ended in a homer, a number that has dropped to 3.1% this year.
Alonso hit 53 home runs as a rookie in that 2019 season and 16 in 57 games last year. He homered in the first inning Wednesday, his 10th of the season.
The theory from Alonso, which he presented as fact despite providing no concrete evidence, underscores the growing distrust between the players and the league ahead of the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement in December.
Alonso also said he didn’t think MLB was doing the right thing by cracking down on pitchers using sticky stuff while on the mound.
“For me, whether they are using pine tar, rosin, sunscreen or bullfrog or whatever they want to use to control the ball, let them use it because for me I go into the box and see guys throwing harder every day,” Alonso said. “And I don’t want 99 mph slipping out of someone’s hand because they didn’t have enough feel for it.”
The recent incident featuring Mets outfielder Kevin Pillar getting hit in the face by a pitch came to Alonso’s mind.
“We all saw what happened to Kevin Pillar,” Alonso said. “And that’s scary. We are lucky he only had a broken nose. It could be a lot worse depending on where it hits the guy.”
Alonso said that while hitting, he uses his batting gloves, a grip and pine tar to grasp the baseball bat.
“Maybe if the league didn’t change the baseballs,” Alonso said, “guys wouldn’t have to use as much sticky stuff.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.