Warning: Story contains coarse language
Houston Astros right-hander Justin Verlander isn't shy about voicing his opinion, especially when it comes to the baseballs used in MLB. The veteran is convinced the league is juicing balls to increase offense.
"It's a fucking joke," Verlander told Jeff Passan of ESPN. "Major League Baseball's turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you've got (commissioner Rob) Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill.
"They own the fucking company. If any other $40-billion company bought out a $400-million company and the product changed dramatically, it's not a guess as to what happened. We all know what happened. Manfred ... said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It's not coincidence. We're not idiots."
Scoring is on the upswing in 2019. There were 1,142 home runs hit in June, a new single-month record. The previous record came in May when 1,135 left the park. Players are on pace to hit 6,668 by the end of the season - significantly more than the record 6,105 homers in 2017.
Manfred has commissioned a study to investigate if the balls have caused an increase in round-trippers this season. Though he denies the league's involvement in changes to the ball, he acknowledged there's a structural difference.
"We think what's been going on this year is attributable to the baseball," Manfred said Monday on ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" radio show. "Our scientists ... have told us that this year the baseball has a little less drag. It doesn't need to change very much in order to produce meaningful change in terms of the way the game is played on the field.
"We are trying to understand exactly why that happened and build out a manufacturing process that gives us a little more control over what's going on. But you have to remember that our baseball is a handmade product and there's gonna be variation year to year."
Verlander will almost certainly set a new career high in home runs allowed this season. He's served up 26 long balls in 126 2/3 innings, good for a 1.85 HR/9. He allowed 28 over 214 innings in 2018.
"I hate the way I feel out there," the 36-year-old said. " ... I feel like I'm constantly walking a tightrope because any batter can go opposite field. Any batter can leave with any pitch that's anywhere in the zone. You can't miss barrels anymore. You have to miss bats.
"There's been multiple times this year where five years ago I'd probably just throw a fastball away. I can't do that. Because you're the 8-, 9-hole hitter and you still can hit an opposite-field homer."
Despite the offensive surge, Verlander has remained one of MLB's premier hurlers. He's 10-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 0.81 WHIP this season - good enough to earn him the start for the American League in Tuesday's All-Star Game.