Phillies players and hitting coach suspect they played with juiced baseballs during Mariners and Dodgers series
When the Philadelphia Phillies went to the west coast for a seven-game road trip, they looked like the team they’re supposed to be on paper.
To put it plainly, they hit the living daylights out of the baseball.
That’s what this lineup was constructed to do, with Bryce Harper, and now Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos, and yet despite these pricy, powerful upgrades, the Phillies continue to be the same uneven, inconsistent, under-.500 team they’ve been for more than a decade.
Not in Seattle and Los Angeles, though, where, according to The Athletic’s (subscription required) Jayson Stark, their 50 runs scored over seven games was the most in baseball over that span. Those runs included an MLB-leading 14 home runs and 31 extra-base hits. Harper made history as the only visiting player ever to homer and record 2+ extra-base hits in three consecutive games at Dodger Stadium. His offensive onslaught powered him to his first NL Player of the Week award of his Phillies career.
But was it just a really good week for the hot-and-cold Phillies, or was it a different baseball?
Nick Castellanos, who had three doubles and a home run on the trip, says he can tell the ball has been “different.”
"“I just will say that I’ve hit balls personally, and I’ve also heard balls hit (hard), and it’s just, I know what should happen. And it’s just been different. But that’s not a question for me. That’s a question for Major League Baseball.”"
Their hitting coach, Kevin Long, known for his work transforming sluggers like Schwarber and Mickey Moniak, also saw a clear difference:
"“I don’t know if they changed the baseball, I don’t know if it’s the warm weather. I don’t know. But it was different. I know that.You just want consistency, and there was a lot of inconsistency. And then I picked up the balls in L.A. They were completely different. They were darker. They seemed to be harder. They just seemed to be a different baseball. But I don’t know. That’s just from feel and look and appearance. I mean, I’m not a scientist. I can’t tell you for sure. I just know the ball seemed to be traveling much better.”"
You won’t get better authority on how a baseball should look, feel, and travel than a professional hitter and a professional hitting coach.
The Phillies spent more money than ever before – exceeding the luxury tax threshold for the first time in franchise history – to build a lineup of super sluggers. And over brief stretches, they’ve brought to life what looked like a contending team on paper. But if MLB is messing with the baseball (again), it’s unfair to the Phillies, and every other team. What’s the point of constructing a roster if the league is going to play puppetmaster and switch up the baseballs?
For what it’s worth, it was plenty warm in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, when the Phillies got shut out by the Padres 3-0.
So, it’s not that.