Put on your detective caps, amateur baseball sleuths, because we’ve got a mystery for you to solve. Our latest caper is on par with other well-known sports conundrums, like whether Babe Ruth called his shot and who smashed Sammy Sosa’s boombox.
It all happened during the seventh inning of Thursday’s matchup between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs. Matt Szczur stepped to the plate against Brett Cecil to lead things off. On the 0-2 pitch, Cecil threw a breaking ball that bounced in the dirt before reaching the plate. Szczur swung at the pitch, but failed to make contact, resulting in a dropped third strike.
But see, calling it a dropped third strike doesn’t accurately describe what happened. After Cecil’s pitch hit the dirt, it bounced up toward Yadier Molina. Like any catcher, Molina lowered his mitt and made sure to get his body in front of the ball to block it.
He was a little too successful. The ball bounced off the dirt, hit Molina square in the chest protector and then just stuck there.
The veteran catcher had no idea what happened, and began looking for the ball on the ground. That allowed Szczur to reach first base safely. Eventually, Molina realized the ball was stuck on his chest. He could only laugh when the umpire called time and pulled it off his equipment.
Now that you’ve had the situation described to you and seen the relevant footage, what do you think happened here, amateur detectives?
If we had to venture a guess, we would say it’s pretty suspicious for a ball to just stick to a player’s chest protector. There’s no indent or crease where the ball get lodged, either. It’s right in the middle of his lower padding.
That suggests either the ball or Molina’s chest protector was excessively sticky. Now, we don’t want to accuse anyone of anything here, but we know pitchers will use substances to get a better grip on the ball. In fact, it’s widely accepted by both players and managers as long as the use isn’t blatant. Not only that, but Major League Baseball has worked to try and make its balls stickier so they can better enforce its foreign substance policy.
Even though that’s generally the case, players aren’t going to admit when foreign substances are being used. After the game, Molina said he had no idea how the ball managed to stick to him.
Molina repeated “I don’t know” when asked about the mystery ball. Said “That’s a dumb question” when asked if he put something on protector.— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) April 6, 2017
We’re not saying Molina is lying here … but that’s kinda what we’re saying. How else do you explain what happened? Either gravity ceased to exist for a few seconds in St. Louis on Thursday, or some baseball shenanigans were afoot.