On Sunday, June 27 - a 90+ degree afternoon in Chicago, with humidity levels ranging between 80-90% - Héctor Santiago was ejected from the Mariners game against the White Sox for allegedly failing a foreign substance examination. The left-hander was subsequently issued a 10 game suspension, but announced that he would appeal the punishment.
His appeal was held Friday, July 9, and was adjudicated by John McHale, an MLB employee.
Today, July 15, Jeff Passan broke the news that Santiago’s appeal was unsuccessful. The Mariners will now be forced to play with just 25 players for the next 10 games.
Seattle Mariners pitcher Hector Santiago’s 10-game suspension for foreign-substance use has been upheld after an appeal, sources tell @kileymcd and me. He will be the first — and, so far, only — player to miss time.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 15, 2021
I’d say this is an unfathomably idiotic decision, but at this point the only real certainty in MLB’s current governance is that they will act in abject opposition to anything remotely beneficial or fun for the game of baseball.
There is some bias here, certainly, because the first victim of this mid-season crackdown is a Mariner, but the blatant inconsistencies in the implementation of this policy are the most troubling component of all.
Ryan Divish, at the Seattle Times, has reported on the internal and external rumblings that Santiago has been held to an unfair standard as MLB attempts to justify its new policy.
During the appeal hearing, Santiago’s glove was used as evidence. Per sources, when he asked all parties involved to find the sticky substance inside the glove or show them the circular spot that Cuzzi claimed, there was none.
There is a feeling within the Mariners that MLB is trying to make an example of Santiago for the new enforcement policy, and that since he isn’t a star player it’s convenient for him to be used as a scapegoat. The word “clown show” was used by one player.
“It was very noticeable and then the rest of the crew inspected to make sure we were all in agreement,” crew chief Tom Hallion said after the game in June. “All four agreed that it was a sticky substance and that’s why he was ejected.” Meanwhile, Santiago claimed it was a mixture of rosin - a legal substance made explicitly available on the mound to every pitcher who enters the game - and sweat.
“I know I didn’t use anything today,” Santiago said. “It’s just sweat and rosin. They’re going to inspect it, do all the science stuff behind it and it’s going to end up sweat and rosin.”
At no point during the investigation or appeals process did MLB conduct any sort of chemical analysis of the glove.
Major League Baseball has no shortage of problems, and regardless of how you feel about the severity of the usage of sticky stuff, it’s hard to deny that it’s small potatoes relatively speaking. Ironically, the league’s implementation of this foreign substance policy is an arguably bigger problem than the stuff itself. There’s minimal structure surrounding these player checks, and nearly all of it as at the umpire’s discretion (though managers can also ask for additional checks, as Joe Girardi attempted to do with Max Scherzer earlier this summer). There are no “stickiness standards” nor any sort of consistency in the exhaustiveness of these checks, and these vagaries open the door for all manner of controversies. Unfortunately for the Mariners, Héctor Santiago is the first to be bulldozed through that opening.