Former Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks thinks Pete Alonso’s theory about MLB “manipulating baseballs” to benefit the free-agent market “makes sense.”
The 2013 World Series Champion weighed in on the Mets star’s theory Thursday and admitted that while there isn’t enough evidence to prove the claim, “something’s fishy here,” Middlebrooks told CBS Sports.
Middlebrooks shed light on MLB’s purchase of sporting-goods manufacturer Rawlings and how it could support the theory.
“In 2018, MLB bought the rights to Rawlings, the company… for $395 million,” he said, adding that the business deal was “swept under the rug” for sometime.
“Now, [MLB] has the rights and the capability of accessing the manufacturer of the baseballs that they use every day. That’s something to think about. I’m not a big conspiracy theorist here, but I do think there’s an issue there. And, another thing is they change the ball every year, What other sport does that?” Middlebrooks asked before noting that sports including hockey, tennis, basketball and football do not change the ball each year.
“All of a sudden in 2018, they juice balls and then like he said, they had that big class of pitchers. Well, those ERAs are obviously through the roof and there are home runs given up, runs given up, obviously everything is bigger so you don’t have to pay them as much. It makes sense,” Middlebrooks continued.
Middlebrooks continued to question, “What are we doing here? Why is the baseball changing every year to fit the needs and wants of the ownership groups?” before warning not to forget that “the commissioner works for the owners.”
He added, “Something’s off… Hoping something comes out before the CBA because this could get really messy.”
The current collective bargaining agreement expires in December.
Middlebrooks said he’s heard “rumblings of this” type of theory at the very end of his career. The 32-year-old missed the entire 2018 season with the Orioles after he suffered a broken leg in spring training. He later announced his retirement in January 2019.
Middlebrooks also weighed in on the “sticky substance” situation, in which MLB is cracking down on pitcher-friendly foreign substances.
“This issue with the sticky substance. Hmm, that’s weird that it came up right now in a season in which you altered the baseball more than you ever have in the past,” Middlebrooks said. “You can ‘de-juice’ it by ‘five percent,’ but you can’t admit to ‘juicing’ it. That makes no sense to me.”
The league has not commented on Alonso’s theory, which he presented as “fact.”
Alonso was vocal about his thoughts when MLB informed players of its stricter policy on pitcher-approved foreign substances.
“The biggest concern is MLB manipulates the baseball year in and year out depending on free-agency class, or guys being in an advanced part of their arbitration,” Alonso said during a videoconference with reporters on Wednesday.
“Maybe if the league didn’t change the baseballs, guys wouldn’t have to use as much sticky stuff,” he added.