CLEVELAND — Major league baseballs are not “juiced,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday, July 9, even though four major league teams, led by the Twins, are on pace to eclipse the record for home runs in a season set last season by the New York Yankees.
“Baseball has done nothing, given no direction for an alteration in the baseball,” Manfred said before Tuesday night’s All-Star Game at Progressive Field. “As a matter of fact, we commissioned an independent study to make clear that there has been no intentional alteration in the manufacturing process.”
Manfred’s statement comes a day after American League starter Justin Verlander told ESPN that he believes MLB is using “juiced” balls to create more offense. The Twins’ 166 homers this season are the most by any team before the all-star break, and Seattle, Milwaukee and the Yankees join them on pace to hit more than the league-record 267 in a season.
It’s not the baseball, Manfred said.
“The biggest flaw in that logic is that baseball somehow wants more home runs,” he said. “If you sat in owners’ meetings and listen to people talk about the way our game is being played, that is not the sentiment among the owners for whom I work.”
An uptick in home runs this season led to both Manfred and Players’ Association head Tony Clark fielding multiple questions about the baseballs at a pre-All-Star Game press conference with members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Manfred said the “basic characteristics of the baseball as measured by independent scientists” provide no evidence that the baseball is harder, though he did acknowledge there is “support” to suggest the drag of a traveling baseball is down and that baseball is trying to figure out why.
Pitchers, he said, have raised issues both about the ball’s tackiness and the seams this year.
“The ball suddenly changed, and I don’t know why,” Clark said.
Twenty-two major league players have at least 20 home runs, including Twins outfielders Max Kepler (21) and Eddie Rosario (20). The Twins are on pace to shatter the Yankees’ season record, on pace to hit more than 300.
The Twins boast 10 different players with at least 10 home runs, and center fielder Byron Buxton has nine. Their 166 homers tie the number they hit all of last season, although a lot of that can be contributed to new personnel such as Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez, who have hit 57 between them.
“If you’re a kid, you’re not trying to strike out somebody in your backyard, you’re trying to hit a home run in your backyard,” Twins right-hander and all-star Jake Odorizzi said. “If you’re trying to relate to the next generation and get that group of players to continue down a baseball path, I don’t think it’s something that’s going to go away.
“Guys are getting stronger, guys are throwing harder. That’s fine and dandy, but I think it’s become the norm now. Everyone’s swinging for home runs.”
Odorizzi joked that he wouldn’t mind moving the fences back to 500 feet, which would benefit him as a pitcher, but as long as the Twins keep hitting them, well, that’s fine with him.
“From a home run standpoint, our team just needs to keep hitting them,” Odorizzi said. “Everybody else, they can stop.”