The Seattle Mariners have made history, with veteran LHP Hector Santiago becoming the first player punished under MLB’s midseason re-emphasis on their rules regarding “sticky stuff” a.k.a. foreign substances for pitchers on the mound.
Seattle left-hander Hector Santiago has been suspended 10 games for having a foreign substance on his glove.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 29, 2021
He will appeal.
Santiago was investigated as all pitchers are upon leaving the game, however the umpires determined Santiago’s glove had some sticky substance on it, a violation of league rules. The glove was removed from play, Santiago was ejected, and the glove was sent to New York for testing... theoretically. Today, however, MLB announced Santiago’s suspension, and Santiago intends to appeal it, though the outcome is murky for all involved and ensuring the suspension’s enforcement will be delayed.
On the one hand, Santiago has all but clarified he did indeed break MLB rules, which note rosin cannot be placed upon a player’s glove (or uniform, hat, basically anywhere but their skin), though even those details are somewhat unclear. In a quote to Jesse Rogers of ESPN, Santiago claimed he dabbed rosin on both sides of his hand, and potentially both arms, neither of which would be illegal.
What Santiago *actually* said (per @JesseRogersESPN): "When I use rosin, I dab on both sides [of my pitching hand]. The umpire said you couldn't use it on the glove hand." Either he misunderstood or the umpire explained the rule incorrectly. But I wouldn’t call this an admission. pic.twitter.com/6K6APwhWSx— Dr. Meredith Wills (@Bbl_Astrophyscs) June 29, 2021
There are a couple options here, including a lack of clarity that in fact simply notes Santiago dabbed the rosin bag all over his glove, which, if so, is obviously against MLB’s rules. Alternatively, if he was merely dabbing the glove side arm, that raises the risk on a midday game in Chicago of sweat melding with the rosin and dripping down onto the glove, which is also a violation, but seems to put greater focus back on the impossibility of asking umpires to litigate legal substances against illegal ones, and legal practices with approved substances to boot. Scott Servais remarked on that issue this afternoon.
More of Servais' quote: For him to be the guy because he was using rosin and it got sticky that they're going to try to put a suspension on him is just crazy. But again, it's a rule...If rosin is going to be the thing that gets you suspended, it probably shouldn't be on the field https://t.co/tDPdPLaVPI— Brent Stecker (@BrentStecker) June 29, 2021
So it seems likeliest that everyone is right, and also wrong. Santiago appears to have broken MLB’s rules by getting rosin on his glove (with or without intent), and earned a suspension. He also did so using approved substances (rosin and sweat), making this more a byproduct of increased scrutiny on pitchers than a major coup for nabbing elicit Spider Tack use or something of its ilk. MLB’s new system (a.k.a. enforcing its own rules as written finally) has largely been successful in the goal of reducing substance use, if spin rate drops (without corresponding velo drops) league-wide are to be maintained, but it also has raised major questions on its testing process, as Santiago’s suspension was guaranteed from the moment he was ejected, and the league has STILL yet to test his glove. Now, Santiago will stand in front of a “partial arbiter”, an MLB employee that is far from objective or independent.
Santiago was suspended because umpires determined he was using a foreign substance, and when a pitcher is ejected, a suspension is part and parcel. Tough thing for Santiago is he will appeal to a partial arbiter. On-field appeals are adjudicated by John McHale, who works for MLB.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 29, 2021
A sticky situation, all around, and if Santiago’s suspension is upheld, the Mariners will be forced to play with just 25 active players for 10 games, or whatever the length of the suspension is ultimately determined to be.