Major League Baseball began its enhanced enforcement against pitchers who apply foreign substances to the ball on Monday, launching a new era of inspections, arguments, and complaints. Several players and managers have derided the new guidelines this week. But commissioner Rob Manfred says the new rules are working as intended.

foreign substances Manfred Scherzer Girardi
Max Scherzer went through three checks for foreign substances on Tuesday, including one that opposing manager Joe Girardi initiated. (Image: Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)

Manfred told The Athletic on Wednesday that he’s been happy with the new system so far, which he says has “gone very well.”

Manfred: Players largely support effort

The commissioner noted that umpires had not yet had to eject a player as of Tuesday – that remains true as of Thursday – and said that overall, players are in favor of the stricter enforcement of the foreign substance ban.

“We have had overwhelming positive response from position players and we have had positive response from pitchers as well. I think the ones the media is writing about are the pitchers who are negative with the undertaking,” Manfred said. “I think most of the players understand [the] effort. The escalation of this was not good for the game and enforcing the rules as they are written is generally considered to be a positive.”

But several incidents over the first few days of the new rules have shown that not everyone is quite as fund of the changes as Manfred. On Tuesday night, Oakland Athletics reliever Sergio Romo dropped his pants when an umpire performed a foreign substance check on him. Romo says it wasn’t an intentional slight to the umpire.

“Definitely didn’t have it planned or none of that,” Romo said afterwards. “Getting caught up in the moment also, I’d just got done pitching an inning and I made a pitch I wasn’t too happy about…I’ll say this, I know it’s not the umpire’s fault.”

Girardi, Scherzer feud over foreign substances check

In a more serious incident, Phillies manager Joe Girardi called for umpires to check Washington Nationals starter Max Scherzer for foreign substances in the middle of the fourth inning in a Tuesday night game. That check came after Scherzer had already gone through two standard between-innings checks by the umpires.

Scherzer dropped his glove and hat on the ground as umpires approached him, and looked into the Phillies’ dugout. He then stared at Girardi again as he left the mound at the end of the fifth inning. Girardi climbed the starts and motioned to Scherzer as if to challenge him to a fight. Umpires ejected Girardi for the outburst.

“It’s embarrassing for Girardi, it’s embarrassing for the Phillies, it’s embarrassing for baseball,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told The Sports Junkies on the 106.7 The Fan radio station. “It had nothing to do with substances, he had no probable cause to ask for it.”

Manfred acknowledged the Girardi/Scherzer situation, saying it was the exception, not the rule. And with spin rates down and offenses warming up, he’s happy with the results.

“Frankly, the data suggests that we are making progress with respect to the issues that caused us to undertake the effort in the first place,” Manfred said. “I understand the incident in Philadelphia was less than ideal, but that was one incident. And we expect that we will continue, as the vast majority of cases so far, without that kind of incident.”

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