Long before we started talking about sticky stuff on a near daily basis, or even knew what “Spider Tack” was, Trevor Bauer was obliquely calling out the Houston Astros for getting their recently-acquired pitchers to ramp up their spin rates. That happened right around the time Bauer’s former college rotation-mate Gerrit Cole was experiencing a dramatic spike in his spin rate after coming to the Astros. The implied dots were not hard to connect.
Fast forward a few years, and Cole, having signed the richest free agent pitching contract in history, is one of the top few starters in baseball with the Yankees. He was implicated directly by an Angels clubbie who was allegedly getting sticky stuff for pitchers, and we’ve seen video of him extremely obviously having sticky stuff on his hat or fingers, but he hasn’t actually gotten too much heat from the league or the media.
That, uh, changed today. With MLB on the verge of actually cracking down on illegal grip substances, and Cole presumably among those who are in for some very close inspections, he was asked, point blank, if he’s ever used Spider Tack. That’s probably the cheating-est substance out there in terms of cranking up your RPMs and pitch movement, and nobody involved could honestly believe it was just about getting a slightly better grip on the ball for batter safety. So this was a very good and fair question.
But Cole had absolutely no answer, and it was kinda crazy how he sat silently before not at all answering and trying to talk around it.
Quite something and eye-opening to watch the usually insightful and incredibly articulate Gerrit Cole talk in circles like a politician when asked point blank if he’s ever used Spider Tack, one of the sticky substances MLB is cracking down on pic.twitter.com/OBd1bWiE0S
— joon 이준엽 (@joonlee) June 8, 2021
Q: Have you ever used Spider Tack while pitching?
Cole: “Um … I don’t … (long pause) I don’t know, I don’t know if uh … (long pause) I don’t know quite, I don’t quite know how to answer that … I mean … there are customs and practices …. ”
I mean, holy crap. Just say yes at that point, man.
We know that things are bad and the usage is pervasive. We know that MLB has long not enforced this stuff, and pitchers were left to kinda cheat or get lapped by other players (who are all trying to win spots/get contracts/etc. and be judged on things like spin rate and pitch movement, to say nothing of results). I understand more and more how this has happened. But just yikes. This is one of the most prominent, highest-paid players in baseball. And he can’t even answer the most direct question about the most egregious substance.