Deflategate and Baseball


March 28, 2013; Jupiter, FL, USA; A close up view of an official major league baseball in the hands of a fan seeking autographs during the spring training game between the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Enough, already, about the deflated footballs. I have heard enough about how the New England Patriots would somehow try to gain a competitive advantage by cheating! That is something that never EVER happens in the NFL. Why, that would be like stepping on the star quarterback’s calf, barking at a referee so you would get the next call, or trying to lip-read what a coach is saying on his headset.

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Can we be real for a minute?

Let’s guess how many footballs Tom Brady picks up in a week. Between practice and the game, how many passes does he throw? Twenty a day? Fifty? A hundred? Let’s say, for argument’s sake, 500 a week from warm-ups to drills to practice. Multiply that times 20 or more weeks of a football season counting training camp…10,000 passes a year, conservatively. And he’s been playing football how long? His whole life? He knows when a ball feels different. And if it feels better, he would want to keep using it. Period. And don’t expect him to tell the referee that the ball isn’t regulation. It just will not happen. “Excuse me, Mr. Zebra, but this football feels funny, and I am afraid it might give me an unfair competitive advantage. Might we change this ball to a regulation one?” Nope.

What if this was a baseball matter? How many baseballs does a pitcher use during the course of a 100-pitch outing? You think they all feel the same? I can assure you they do not. Some baseballs have higher seams, some might have a bit of a flat side or a slight scuff mark – any professional pitcher could tell the difference, and somebody that has been pitching his whole life can make those baseballs dance. A number of pitchers would do whatever he could to make sure that ball stayed in play. No pitcher in their right mind would throw a ball out because it’s “too icky” or because it gives the pitcher an advantage.

This is an area in which Major League Baseball has taken more control.  Balls that previously weren’t removed from play now seem to get tossed to the batboy after nearly every pitch.  The difference in baseball is the oversight by umpires of the balls used in play. The umps rub them up with the “magic mud” prior to game time, the umps distribute new orbs as needed, and throw them out at the slightest hint of desecration.  It isn’t that much extra work, and it avoids these kinds of conversations.

The problem is giving the footballs to the team for them to take care of. That is similar to putting your pet fox in charge of the henhouse, or the local softball team using their own softballs that have been baked in the oven to make them harder (I’ve never done this, as far as you know). Give a competitor an opportunity, and sooner or later it will be taken advantage of. Don’t blame Brady without proof, and I am skeptical of the clubhouse guy that stopped in the loo for 90 seconds. Could you deflate 11 footballs in 90 seconds? No, but one could take proper advantage of the porcelain facilities.

Enough complaining about the problem. The Colts game was a blowout, and a little more or less air in the football didn’t dictate the outcome. There will be ample time to resolve Deflategate after the season ends.  At that time, somebody will fix what happened, punish the guilty, and move on. Watch the Super Bowl, DVR the commercials, and beginning Monday we can talk about something important – Spring Training is coming up!  Let’s hear about that instead.

Bring back Jose Veras, and Go Astros!