Fight Over Cap Blows Lid Off Cheating Suspicions

Umpire may have gotten ahead of MLB by ejecting manager and pitcher's hat
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2021 6:37 PM CDT
Updated May 30, 2021 8:30 AM CDT
Fight Over Cap Blows Lid Off Cheating Suspicions
Third base umpire Joe West, center, tosses St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, center, as home plate umpire Nic Lentz, catcher Andrew Knizner, and pitcher Giovanny Gallegos watch Wednesday in Chicago.   (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

When Giovanny Gallegos jogged in from the bullpen to pitch during Wednesday's Cardinals-White Sox game, umpires noticed a dark spot on his cap. Crew chief Joe West, with the authority granted him by MLB rule 6.02(c)(7), asked for the cap to check for illegal substances, CBS reports. A trainer brought a new red Cardinals cap, and St. Louis manager Mike Shildt ran out to object. The argument quickly became heated, and West threw Shildt out of the game. The cap is being held by a baseball compliance officer and will be sent to New York to be examined. After the game, Shildt said he was displeased by West's action because "this is baseball's dirty little secret, and it's the wrong time and the wrong arena to expose it." He acknowledged there's probably something or other on the cap. "Gio wears the same hat all year. Hats accrue dirt. Hats accrue substances—just stuff," Shildt said. "Did Gio have sunscreen at some point in his career to make sure he doesn't get melanoma? Possibly. Does he use rosin? Possibly.”

Baseball told teams before the season began that it was going to increase its efforts to keep players from adding foreign substances to baseballs, per the Washington Post. Mostly, monitors assigned to stadiums have been collecting baseballs to be tested by an outside lab. Scenes like the one in Chicago haven't happened. It's especially hard to argue with West, who leads the league in all-time seniority; he set the major league record for games umpired, 5,376, the night before. But MLB's intention wasn't to crack down on anybody just yet, per the Post; it was to gather information about the situation, including what substances are being used and how effective they are, going so far as to compare pitches' spin rates. And this precedent could become a headache; plenty of pitchers wear caps grimier than Gallegos'. West said he was just trying to avoid kicking Gallegos out of the game. He said the pitcher told him that was sunscreen on his cap. (More Major League Baseball stories.)

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