MLB threatened players from investigating juiced balls

February 17, 2019; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred addresses representatives from the grapefruit league during the annual spring training media day at the Hilton in West Palm Beach. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball has denied that any so-called “juiced balls” were still in circulation during the 2022 season, and the league seems to have gone to great lengths to prevent anyone from concluding otherwise.

Meredith Wills, the astrophysicist who discovered that MLB used two different baseballs in 2021, analyzed more than 200 balls that were used during games this season and shared her research with Insider’s Bradford William Davis. She determined that there were three different balls — the “juiced” ball, a “dead” ball and a third ball that Insider called the “Goldilocks” ball — used during the 2022 season. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred insisted in July that all baseballs were produced using the same process this season and the variation last year was the result of a COVID-era manufacturing issue.

It is unclear how Wills collected the game-used balls to study, but one player says MLB tried to keep them out of his hands. San Francisco Giants outfielder Austin Slater, a union rep, told Insider that MLB discouraged him from sending any baseballs to Wills for testing. Slater says he was told that any MLB employee found to be sending balls to nonaffiliated organizations for testing could be fired.

The league suggested in text messages to an MLB Players Association official to instead send balls to labs at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Washington State University, which the league has worked with in the past. The union rep said MLB claimed they were not comfortable with game-used balls being sent for third-party testing because those balls could have been distorted when they were “hit around (and) thrown around.”

Slater said he did not send any baseballs to Wills because he was concerned stadium workers who were linked to the collection of balls would be fired. MLB denied threatening anyone’s job but did not dispute other claims made by Slater.

Even with MLB insisting baseballs were deadened in 2022, there were still some noteworthy theories about balls performing differently. MLB obviously doesn’t want any more life being breathed into that talk.


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