Chin Music, Episode 17: The Rat Is the King of History

Start your weekend with another episode of Chin Music. It’s a bit of a dark episode in terms of subject matter, but we get through it with plenty of laughs. The wonderful David Roth of Defector Media joins me from New York (where else) for a show that, in terms of baseball, mostly focuses on the biggest story in the game — the sticky stuff. David and I get into that as well as the general angst among Yankee fans before being joined by special guest Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic, who provides her thoughts on how Major League Baseball is complicit in the scandal of the moment. Then it’s the usual, with emails, a discussion on separating artists from artistry, the future of Defector and the general media landscape, before finishing with a Moment of Culture.

As always, we hope you enjoy, and thank you for listening.

Music by Breathtaker.

Have a question you’d like answered on the show? Ask us anything at

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Warning One: While ostensibly a podcast about baseball, these conversations often veer into other subjects.

Warning Two: There is explicit language.

Run Time: 2:06:40

Kevin Goldstein is a National Writer at FanGraphs.

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There’s a thing that is happening with the discussion surrounding the “sticky stuff” that is getting more than a little bit annoying to me. While I understand that MLB bares a responsibility for having turned a blind eye while players and coaches have been applying more and more lab experiments to the ball in order to get this kind of adhesive grip that allows the pitcher to throw pitches at max velocity with insane movement, it sounds like more and more writers want to basically say, “we shouldn’t point fingers here because everyone does it and the league knows about it so grow up”.

Well, I didn’t know. And I don’t think that I’m alone among fans. While most of us have probably been aware of the fact that the rosin bag and some sun tan oil can give the pitcher a bit more of a grip, I didn’t know that MLB clubbies were supplying guys like Kershaw, Verlander, and Scherzer with a mixture of Spider Gorilla Mongoose Goop in order to help them win multiple CY awards and MVP awards. I read the Rosenthal/Ghiroli article and it bothered me to know that you can find baseballs that are so sticky that you can press your palm to it and lift it without wrapping your fingers around it. That seems like an issue, especially since every other broadcaster and talking head out there won’t shut up about how much the game is “broken” by the lack of offense. If hitters have a problem with it, and a bunch of pitchers also feel that it’s cheating and that they feel almost pressured to go along with it despite their concerns, shouldn’t we, the fans, treat this as an issue?

This is similar to the cycle that we saw with steroids in that there was initially a feeling of, “Well, yeah, Canseco is a blow up doll because of the roids” and “Lenny Dykstra is obviously juicing” and then that was followed years later by outrage over rampant steroid abuse, especially as stories about kids having “roid rage” caused people to think that this might be a serious problem. But then some people started to counter that feeling with this kind of, “Yeah, it’s cheating but everyone did it and you can’t know for sure so stop pointing out that Bonds’ numbers were obscene once he was clearly juicing because we all know Willie Mays used greenies so grow up”.

I don’t really care about the Hall of Fame and I don’t view these records as some kind of sacred thing. I’m just a baseball fan, and a pretty big one actually. And so when I have one person one day telling me that this is a big problem and then have another person three days later saying that the players cheated but it’s not a big deal because MLB knows about it, what are we even talking about?

Is this a problem or not? Does the “sticky stuff” alter the performance to the point where everyone hates the lack of contact and balls in play or is it not that big a deal? Would offensive performance be down league-wide if not for the sticky stuff or is it the primary factor? Is blaming the players for the use of sticky stuff simply a ploy from powerful voices who want to put the onus on the players heading into the new CBA negotiations? I still love the game even though the constant “three true outcomes” style of play can be a little boring. Would a league-wide attempt to minimize the use of this stuff actually make a difference or are we destined to have this style of play for the foreseeable future regardless?

If cutting down on the sticky stuff is going to lead to more contact, more balls in play, and more action then I think MLB needs to do something about this. But if the revelations about the rampant use of “sticky stuff” is just being put out there as some sort of smokescreen, then I guess we all should just accept it and go back to watching pitchers strikeout thirteen guys a game because that’s the natural end result of progress.


Don’t mean to distract from your very interesting comment, but wanted to throw out there the following, which may feed back into your note about the CBA: Why is ownership playing with what has to be one of the most radical possible moves, changing the treasured constant of the distance between pitching rubber and home plate, of 60′-6″, rather than lowering the mound in one of the minor leagues and seeing where that leads?

Lowering the mound has a meaningful, constructive precedent, was a successful experiment, and is hardly as radical as increasing the distance to home plate. It may also yield comparable or better results. Also less radical than going to 61′-6″ to home plate would be shrinking the distance between bases to 89′. Why not try that before messing with a distance pitchers and hitters have been training for a decade to work with?