Wednesday, June 16, 2021

MLB Issues New Foreign Substance Guidelines

Major League Baseball released enhanced enforcement protocols for Official Baseball Rule 3.01 and 6.02(c) regarding foreign substances and intentionally altering the ball, instructing umpires to apply stricter scrutiny regarding the rules. The changes take effect Monday, June 21.

OBR 3.01 states, "No player shall intentionally discolor or damage the ball by rubbing it with soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sand-paper, emery-paper or other foreign substance" while 6.02(c) regarding pitcher prohibitions states that a pitcher shall not "rub the ball on his glove, person or clothing," "apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball," "deface the ball in any manner," or "have on their person or in their possession any foreign substance."

The prescribed penalty for a 3.01 illegal ball violation is ejection and automatic 10-game suspension.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement and MLBUA President Bill Miller supporting the decision: "“The integrity of the competition is of utmost importance to us. We have worked diligently with MLB to develop an enforcement system that will treat all players and clubs equally.”

MLB's enhanced guidelines are as follows:
• Umpires will check players for foreign substances. Starting pitchers will have multiple mandatory checks per game, and each relief pitcher must be checked either at the conclusion of the inning after coming into the game or upon removal from the game, whichever occurs first.

For the sake of pace of play, inspections will be conducted between innings or after pitching changes to allow the umpire to perform a thorough check, including the hat, glove and fingertips of the pitcher.

• Umpires may perform a check at any time during the game when the umpire notices the baseball has an unusually sticky feel to it, or when the umpire observes a pitcher going to his glove, hat, belt or any other part of his uniform or body to retrieve or apply what may be a foreign substance.

• A player who possesses or applies foreign substances in violation of the playing rules will be immediately ejected from the game and suspended. The umpiring crew shall be the sole judge as to whether the rules have been violated.

• The use of foreign substances is not subject to challenge using the replay review system.

• Although the foreign substance prohibitions do not apply exclusively to pitchers, the pitcher ultimately will be responsible for any ball that is delivered with a foreign substance on it. If a player other than the pitcher is found to have applied a foreign substance to the baseball (e.g., the catcher applies a foreign substance to the baseball before throwing it back to the pitcher), both the position player and pitcher will be ejected and automatically suspended.

• Catchers will also be subject to routine inspections. Umpires will also inspect a position player if they observe conduct consistent with the use of a foreign substance by the pitcher. Position players will not be ejected for having a foreign substance on their glove or uniform unless the umpire determines that the player was applying the substance to the ball in order to aid the pitcher.

• A player who refuses to cooperate with an inspection conducted by the umpire will be presumed to have violated the rules, resulting in an ejection from the game and a suspension.

• Rosin bags on the mound may be used in accordance with the rules. All substances except for rosin are prohibited per the playing rules that clearly state players cannot “apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball” and may not “have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance.” Players may not intentionally combine rosin with other substances (e.g., sunscreen) to create additional tackiness or they risk ejection and suspension. Pitchers have been advised not to apply sunscreen during night games after the sun has gone down or when playing in stadiums with closed roofs. To ensure standardization of the rosin bag, clubs must submit the rosin bag along with the game balls to be reviewed by the umpires before the start of each game.

• Club personnel who help players to use foreign substances, handle foreign substances, mask player use of foreign substances, interfere with collections of baseballs or otherwise fail to report such violations of the playing rules will be subject to fines and/or suspension by the Commissioner.

• Any club employee who encourages a player to use foreign substances, or otherwise trains a player how to utilize a foreign substance in violation of the rules, will be subject to severe discipline by the Commissioner up to and including placement on the ineligible list.

• Clubs and club personnel are subject to sanctions for failing to adequately educate and manage or police their staff and players to ensure compliance with the rules. The Department of Investigations will investigate clubs whose players repeatedly violate the rules to determine the extent to which club personnel were aware of or otherwise condoned the practice.

• Clubs may not replace on the roster a player who is suspended for any on-field violation.

• MLB will closely monitor the effect of this policy on competition, and on player health, and may make future modifications to the enhanced enforcement guidance as appropriate.

Video as follows:


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