A day after Justin Verlander accused MLB of juicing its baseballs to create more offense -- "It's a fu**ing joke," he said -- his former Tigers teammate Max Scherzer took a notably different stance.
"It's a fu**ing joke," said Verlander. "Major League Baseball's turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you've got (commissioner Rob) Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the fu**ing company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it's not a guess as to what happened. We all know what happened. Manfred the first time he came in, what'd he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It's not coincidence. We're not idiots."
Per ESPN, home runs this year are up almost 60 percent from the 2014 season. The current pace of 6,668 would crush the previous record of 6,105 set in 2017. Verlander, who has given up the most homers (111) in the majors since 2016, said he "100 percent" believes MLB is consciously juicing its balls, adding that it affects the way he pitches.
"I hate the way I feel out there," he said. "No matter who's the batter, I feel like I'm constantly walking a tightrope, because any batter can go opposite field. Any batter can leave with any pitch that's anywhere in the zone. You can't miss barrels anymore. You have to miss bats. There's been multiple times this year where five years ago I'd probably just throw a fastball away. I can't do that. Because you're the 8-, 9-hole hitter and you still can hit an opposite-field homer."
"I'm not going to respond specifically," he told reporters. "I'm going to stand by what I said. What we need to be on the baseball issue is transparent and forward-looking. There has been no intentional alteration in the manufacturing process."
Despite his vulnerability to the long ball this season, Verlander, 36, is still on top of his game. He's 10-4 with a 2.98 ERA and an MLB-best 0.813 WHIP. He'll start for the American League All-Stars Tuesday night.
Scherzer, an NL All-Star, is 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA and an MLB-high 181 strikeouts. He's surrendered nine home runs.