Tyler Glasnow has been diagnosed with a partial UCL tear and a flexor tendon strain following two pitching outings without using any form of grip on the ball.
Major League Baseball warned teams and pitchers that mid-year enforcement was coming for the use of any “foreign substance” to improve a pitcher’s grip on the ball, given the rise of more and more advanced substances — from sunscreen to pine tar to “Spider Tack” — and the correlating rise in pitch spin rates and batter strike outs.
We’ll get to Tyler Glasnow’s injury specifics in a moment, but let’s consider how irresponsible and unconscionable MLB’s recent decision is.
The risk to injury for pitchers in 2021 was already dramatically heightened due to the pandemic, where players did not have consistent work loads the previous season and thereby were already at risk for physical overexertion. USA Today reported earlier this month injury this season is already up 193% in comparison to 2019.
Why would Major League Baseball choose the riskiest time for pitcher health in the modern history of the game to change rule enforcement?
The memo outlining the plan for foreign substances is coming tomorrow, sources tell ESPN, and it includes a 10-day suspension with pay for anyone caught with any sort of substance, from sunscreen mixed with rosin to Spider Tack. News story is free at ESPN: https://t.co/9rsIVnRhTK— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 15, 2021
Glasnow — who previously used some amount of sunscreen and rosin (also referred to as “bullfrog”) on his hands to assist pitch grip — then pitched two games without any assistance, found his grip on the ball had changed, and then suffered a costly injury.
Now the American League’s top team, the defending AL Champions, are without their ace for 2021 for an indefinite amount of time, and the blame lays squarely at the feet of Major League Baseball.
Were any doctors consulted in this decision?
Tyler Glasnow, as the MLB Players Union representative for the team, referenced warnings from doctors that changing the pitch grip rules mid-season could lead to injury, and personally said he dismissed those concerns as potential “excuses.”
Now he understands how even the smallest changes in pitch grip, particularly when executed without preparation, led to physical injury.
Tyler Glasnow is NOT happy about being forced to stop using sticky substances for better grip (pt.1) pic.twitter.com/m33D9uldt2— Sports by Tampa Bay Times (@TBTimes_Sports) June 15, 2021
The vast majority of pitchers in baseball are expected to be impacted by this sudden rule enforcement. Yesterday, Glasnow was passionate in his concern for player safety following the rule change, saying, “To tell us to do something different in the middle of the season is insane.” Former Rays player Richie Shaffer posed the analogy well, calling bullfrog a mere 5 miles over the speed limit.
Glasnow explained in detail to reporters the changes needed in how he gripped the ball, and how gripping the ball deeper in his hand heightened his risk of injury. His personal frustration shined on the call — his “dreams of being an All-Star and winning a Cy Young” were “gone” with this injury — but Glasnow was also reasonable in his concerns.
A veteran, Glasnow himself believes nearly every pitcher needs something just to make sure the baseball is not hitting batters unintentionally, accurately summarizing the matter as a concern of player safety.
Forget doctors, did MLB talk to any pitchers about changing rule enforcement before making this decision?
Tyler Glasnow is NOT happy about being forced to stop using sticky substances for better grip (pt.2) pic.twitter.com/xjyorBxo8l— Sports by Tampa Bay Times (@TBTimes_Sports) June 15, 2021
Now Tyler Glasnow has gone from one of MLB’s best to MLB’s cautionary tale. “I don’t want this to happen to somebody else,” Glasnow summarized.
What happens next? League-wide, it seems likely Glasnow mayb be the first of many. More pitchers are going to get hurt, and more batters are going to get hit by mis-gripped balls. People are going to get hurt unless MLB delays their decision.
What happens next for the Rays season with Glasnow sidelined is less clear. Every fifth day their ace is now missing, while Rob Manfred’s office shoulders no consequences, and offers the pennant winners no recourse.
The Rays will promote from within from baseball’s best farm system, and will perhaps make some trades to see what they can do to fill the void. The Rays might not be baseball’s best team without Glasnow, but they will still be competitive. Hopefully Glasnow will be able to rehabilitate over the coming months quickly, but it seems likely the Rays will need to add to their roster if they hope to stay baseball’s best.
If you’re reading this, I hope you’re upset. It’s easy to see why the players are upset, as it’s easy to see how baseball’s monumentally foolish decision to change rule enforcement mid-year will also further complicate the league’s relationship with the player’s union. MLB’s decision has jeopardized player health, and raised the risk of another labor lockout with the Player’s Union.
If you’re a fan of this sport, Glasnow’s injury should raise every red flag. MLB needs to walk back this decision until 2022, and the Rays front office need to demand some kind of accountability from Major League Baseball.