New York Yankees: Gerrit Cole, did he or didn’t he use sticky stuff?

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The New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole has now been named again regarding using sticky substances to improve his pitching.

New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is one of several star pitchers named in a lawsuit for using illegal ball-doctoring substances provided by a former visiting Angels clubhouse manager, per an article in Sports Illustrated.

Brain “Bubba” Harkins was fired in March of 2020 by the Los Angeles Angels after an investigation stated that he had been helping pitchers with the use of illegal ball-gripping substances. In January of this year, he filed a lawsuit against MLB and the Angels. The filing follows an attempt by the Angels and MLB to dismiss Harkins’ previous motion claiming defamation.

Harkins named multiple pitchers in his lawsuit that apparently used his “concoctions” to increase the ability to improve grip on the baseball when pitching. Among those mentioned were Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Max Scherzer, and the Yankee’s Corey Kluber and Gerrit Cole. In addition, several Angels pitchers were also named.



Now before the first game of the present Minnesota series at Target Field, the normally outspoken Josh Donaldson was having a public conversation on the use of illegal substances and went out of his way to single out Gerrit Cole. This amid an MLB crackdown on the use of foreign substances by pitchers.

When the New York Yankees arrived at Target Field, there was a video conference about the 3 game set with the Yankees. Gerrit Cole responding to reporter questions as to if he ever used Spider Tack (a particularly sticky paste to improve grip), Cole stumbled in answering. This is how he responded:

“I don’t know….. I don’t know….. I don’t quite know how to answer that, to be honest.” That was followed by a long pause and he continued: “There are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players, from the last generation of players to this generation of players, and I think there are some things that are certainly out of bounds in that regard.

“This is important to a lot of people who love the game, including the players in this room, including fans, including teams, so if MLB wants to legislate some more stuff, that’s a conversation that we can have. Because ultimately we should all be pulling in the same direction on this.”

After those comments, New York Yankees fans don’t know any more than they did before the comments. It is reasonable to assume that Cole, like many other pitchers, uses some substances at times to improve their pitching. Whether those substances are legal or not is a discussion to have with MLB.

Over the weekend, Buster Olney of ESPN reported that pitchers would be checked repeatedly and randomly by umpires for illegal substances under a new program being advanced by MLB.

In third baseman Donaldson’s wandering comments in which he mentioned Cole, he stated that Cole’s spin rate reduced dramatically after four minor league pitchers were suspended for using foreign substances. Donaldson suggested that Cole’s pitches weren’t rotating as much and that Cole was suddenly trying to hide his use of sticky substances to avoid being caught in the crackdown.

Sidestepping the accusation on Tuesday, and said: “My spin rate dropoff was due to mechanical flaws. I attribute it to just not being as good or as sharp as I wanted to be. It’s as simple as that,” Cole said. The Baseball Savant website stated the MLB Statcast data showed that Cole had a 125 rotations per minute decrease last week when he allowed five runs to the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I’m just not quite bringing out my best delivery. Of course it’s something that we monitor. Of course there are other variables that we monitor as well when we’re evaluating our performance from every game. You try to take as much information as you can as a player, and certainly that’s one of them,” Cole said. “We’re trying to get better this week and put in the work, and I’ll be as prepared as I possibly can for my next start.”

Last night before the game, Cole had nothing to say about Donaldson, but he let his pitching speak for itself. One would have to believe Cole, with the accusations, certainly would not have been using anything illegal. In three plate appearances against Cole, Donaldson flew out and struck out twice, with Cole glaring in at him with each strikeout.

If this story develops further, you will read about it on EmpireSportsMedia.com. Their Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. He can be followed on Twitter @parleewilliam.

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