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Rays’ Rich Hill concerned foreign substance flap will ‘turn baseball into Jerry Springer’

Major League Baseball’s rushed crackdown on pitchers over the use of foreign substances has gotten off to a bumpy start, to put it mildly. Veteran Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Rich Hill expressed concern this week that the spectacle of it all could lead the league down a metaphorical path into trashy daytime talk show-like territory.

Calling how umpires are now cleared to inspect pitchers for foreign substances on the field “dehumanizing,” Hill also speculated just how ugly things could get if scenes like the ones that played out during Tuesday’s MLB action continue.

“This is something that we need to come up with a better solution to,” Hill said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “This is not baseball. This is not what people buy a ticket to come and see. … We don’t want to turn baseball into Jerry Springer. That’s all I’m saying.

“I think we’ve got to get back to the game itself and the great things that are going on with the game as opposed to being (subject to) unsolicited search.”

Two incidents in particular illustrate just how poorly foreign substance enforcement has been rolled out. A wild scene played out during Tuesday’s Washington Nationals-Philadelphia Phillies tilt when a flabbergasted Max Scherzer was checked multiple times by umpires for foreign substances. Suffice to say, Scherzer was not happy with the repeated scrutiny.

The examination of Scherzer ultimately led to a confrontation between Scherzer and Phillies skipper Joe Girardi. The Nationals ace lost it after Girardi requested umpires inspect him a third time. Girardi was ultimately tossed due to his antics.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw demonstrated solidarity with his fellow three-time Cy Young Award winner in the aftermath, arguing that managers should be held accountable when such an instance arises where a pitcher is found not breaking the rules following a managerial request for inspection.

Another ugly incident played out Tuesday night when Oakland A’s reliever Sergio Romo went so far as to remove his pants once umpires requested an inspection.

Hill added in his comments this week that MLB has to figure out a way to avoid such awkward spectacles like the ones involving Scherzer and Romo.

“The umpires, they’re in a really tough position,” Hill said. “They didn’t sign up for this. We’ve got to continue to keep the dialogue open. They didn’t sign up to be monitors. They signed up to be umpires, and I think that’s one thing that everybody can agree on. …

“I think we need to continue to push forward as the (players association) and MLB and work together as far as coming up with a better solution.”

Further muddying the waters in the foreign substance inspection kerfuffle is how MLB commissioner Rob Manfred inexplicably believes things are going well with how the new policies, procedures and protocols have been implemented.

“My view is the first two days have gone very well,” Manfred told The Athletic on Wednesday. “We’ve had no ejections [for foreign substances], players in general have been extremely cooperative, the inspections have taken place quickly and between innings. Frankly, the data suggests that we are making progress with respect to the issues [in spin rate] that caused us to undertake the effort in the first place.”

Manfred’s rose-colored glasses rhetoric notwithstanding, it’s clear MLB has an issue on its hands. Given the events of the past few days — not to mention the perspective brought to the situation by Hill, among others — the league has some serious damage control to navigate in the near future.