O’Neil: MLB’s handling of Mariners LHP Santiago’s suspension is all wrong

Jun 29, 2021, 1:40 PM

Mariners Scott Servais Hector Santiago...

Hector Santiago was ejected after his outing for the Mariners on Sunday. (Getty)


On Sunday, we saw Hector Santiago’s glove placed into a plastic garbage bag after the Mariners’ pitcher was ejected because the home plate umpire found something sticky on it.

On Monday, Jon Morosi of the MLB Network reported the glove was to arrive in New York to be examined.

On Tuesday, the American League announced Santiago had been suspended 10 games with reports the league didn’t need to so much as look at the glove. The suspension was an automatic result of his ejection.

Confused? Don’t be. This is Major League Baseball, where rules aren’t enforced until the league is subjected to public ridicule and general incredulity. Then – once sufficiently shamed – the league seems to be making up the disciplinary policy as it goes along.

What an absolute crock.

To summarize, Santiago was ejected as he left the game on Sunday after pitching 2 1/3 innings for the Mariners. Home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi inspected the glove, appeared to find something he indicated was sticky on the inside of the glove and then unleashed the most half-hearted signal for an ejection that I have ever seen. Oh yeah, then he gave the glove to somebody who was referred to as “The Authenticator” on the NBC Sports Chicago telecast who put it into a white kitchen trash liner.

Here are the other facts that we know: Santiago said after the game he only used rosin, which is contained in the sock-like bag kept on the mound. Pitchers are still allowed to use rosin. They can’t, however, combine it with any other substance.

Santiago said after the game he only used rosin, but the umpire had indicated there were further restrictions on where it could be used.

“What he told me was you can’t use rosin on the arm, your glove hand,” Santiago said. “When I use rosin, I dab it on both sides, keep it dry. That way I’m not having a sweat coming down the hands. I didn’t know that you couldn’t. The umpire said you couldn’t use it on your glove hand so I don’t know.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais, afterward, pointed to the humidity on Sunday in Chicago and the fact that Santiago used rosin to explain what Cuzzi found.

“When you put rosin on sweat it gets sticky,” Servais said. “That’s why they have a rosin bag back there. Take it from there. The glove gets sent off and we’ll see where it goes. But our guys are doing the right thing, they’re following the rule. The umpires are trying to do the best they can in a tough situation. He thought he felt something sticky. Rosin does get sticky when you put it on sweat so we’ll wait and see what happens.”

Is that true? I don’t know. Santiago and Servais have a vested interested in maintaining innocence. Is the explanation plausible? Yeah. I think it is. Is it too much to ask that Major League Baseball provide proof that something other than a legal substance was used? I guess it is because baseball is saying there is no wait and see, no further testing.

It’s at this point the argument can branch off into a debate over collective-bargaining agreements and employment law, or we can go to something that is distinctly lacking in today’s game: fairness. Baseball has decided in the middle of the season to start enforcing a rule that has been consciously neglected for years. It started last week to use spot checks to make sure pitchers aren’t using anything to aid their grip, though rosin is still allowed. An umpire finds what he considers to be a sticky substance, ejects the pitcher who afterward said he only used rosin. His boss says that rosin – combined with sweat – does become sticky.

I believe baseball should have to be able to prove that Santiago’s story doesn’t check out. Turns out it doesn’t have to, which means this whole thing is the absolute farce it appears to be and baseball has a serious credibility problem. Namely, it has none.

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O’Neil: MLB’s handling of Mariners LHP Santiago’s suspension is all wrong