As baseballs fly out of ballparks at eye-popping, record-breaking levels and players openly accuse MLB of juicing the balls, commissioner Rob Manfred vehemently denied on Tuesday that the league had purposely altered the baseballs.
"Baseball has done nothing, given no direction, for an alteration of the baseball," Manfred said, noting that the league is still trying to figure out why the balls -- made by Rawlings -- are different this season.
"The flaw in logic is that baseball wants more home runs," Manfred explained. "If you sat in owners meetings and listen to people on how the game is played, that is not a sentiment of owners for whom I work. There's no desire among ownership to increase homers in the game -- to the contrary they are concerned about how many we have."
While Manfred is denying that baseball purposely directed the balls to be altered, he said recently that scientists came to the conclusion that the "pill" at the center of the ball could be one of the culprits for the home run spike.
"We think one of the things that may be happening is they're getting better at centering the pill," he said about Rawlings. "It creates less drag."
The better-centered pill seems to be just one of many reasons for the spike in home runs, though, according to Dr. Meredith Wills, who recently tackled the subject for The Athletic. And the ball isn't just flying out at a record rate, it's also harder for pitchers to grip and throw.
According to Wills, along with the pill being different, the seams are lower, the cover is slicker, and the ball is rounder.
As far as MLB making a change to the baseballs going forward in an effort to reduce the number of home runs, Manfred said "If we were going to do it, we would do it in a way that was transparent to the media and fans before making that change."
In the meantime, pitchers -- such as Justin Verlander, who recently savaged the league over the apparent juiced balls while talking to ESPN's Jeff Passan -- will likely continue to call out the league for what they believe is an intentional altering of the ball.
Earlier this season, Noah Syndergaard -- who is all of a sudden unable to throw his slider like he has the first four years of his career -- compared the ball to an ice cube. And on Monday, Jacob deGrom said "That's what they thought fans wanted to see" when asked about the home run spike.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon was recently blunt in his assessment of the baseballs, saying "You could just have stamped Titleist on the sides of these things."
This isn't just about baseballs flying out of the park at an insanely high rate. It's not that black and white. It's also about the impact it's having on pitchers when it comes to difficulty gripping the ball and their hesitation -- as Verlander explained to Passan -- to throw certain pitches out of fear that last year's routine fly out is this year's home run.