SF Giants player says MLB suppressed weighted-ball research


Giants outfielder Austin Slater says that Major League Baseball actively discouraged him from sending baseballs for testing to see if the league was still using balls of different weights. The warning included a reminder that MLB could fire anyone who was found giving out baseballs to nonaffiliated organizations, Slater said.

Last November, Insider found that MLB had secretly been using two different baseballs during the 2021 season without notifying players. One was the ball MLB announced ahead of the season, which was lighter and therefore would not carry as far in the air after a batter hits it (which is commonly referred to as a “dead” ball). The other was a heavier (or “juiced”) baseball manufactured for previous seasons that the league had actively been trying get away from — and pitchers had been constantly maligning — because of the home run-happy game play it produced. Insider’s report forced MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to cop to the differently weighted balls, and he promised afterward that the league would use equally weighted balls the following season.

But a report from Insider this week revealed that not only did MLB continued to use differently manufactured baseballs but the league had actually increased the variation to three different balls during the 2022 season after promising more consistency. There was the “juiced” ball, the “dead” ball and a third ball, which Insider labeled the “Goldilocks” ball for being just right.

Slater, the Giants’ team union rep, got involved in the controversy this season after he read Insider’s 2021 report. He wanted to help collect baseballs for Dr. Meredith Wills, an astrophysicist and the researcher behind the initial discovery of the different baseballs in 2021, but was told by the league to back off through text messages sent to a players’ union official, he told Insider.

MLB specifically mentioned that it did not want baseballs going to Wills and said it would fire anyone involved in retrieving balls for Slater to send to a third-party researcher, according to Slater. What the league suggested as an alternative in texts sent through a union official was to run tests on baseballs through labs at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Washington State University, which the league has worked with in the past.

MLB denied the outfielder’s claim that anyone’s job was threatened, though it did not dispute anything else Slater said, according to Insider. Regardless, Slater said he was scared off over concern for the job security of stadium workers if they were somehow linked to his collection of baseballs. He also decided against the league’s offer to run tests at MLB-affiliated labs.

“I don’t know how they got wind of what we were doing,” Slater wrote to Wills, per Insider. “But considering this, I won’t be sending any balls out. I don’t want [any] of our guys getting in trouble with MLB.”


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