The Rockies can no longer monitor the entire process of using humidor balls, the San Francisco Chronicle learned. In the ninth year of the humidor era, Major League Baseball took a big step today in overseeing the process.
Starting tonight, the umpires will have more say in keeping their eyes on balls transported from the humidor to the Rockies' dugout to the umpires' ball pouch to the pitcher's hand.
The Giants filed a complaint late last night with MLB, and MLB acted.
"We did get a complaint from the Giants," MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said. "There's going to be a change to the protocal. From the point balls come out of the humidor to the umpires' room and into the dugout, there will be visual inspected at all times."
Regarding the Giants' complaint, Courtney said, "They said there was a concern about the procedings, so we changed them."
The latest hubbub that there's funny business with the baseballs used here came from none other than Tim Lincecum, who threw a gem in Friday night's series opener but had an issue with one of the balls that was supposed to be stored in a humidor.
During the sixth inning, a new ball was thrown in to Lincecum after Lincecum's 2-2 pitch to Miguel Olivo was in the dirt. Lincecum looked at the new ball oddly, began to rub it up and finally threw it back to catcher Buster Posey, asking for a new ball.
"F***ing juiced balls. It's bulls---," Lincecum was seen saying on camera.
If you want to see it yourself, here it is, or see it at the end of this post.
I wrote a piece about the humidor in Tuesday's paper, giving both sides of the issue, but it's clear it's really up to the Rockies how the process of getting the balls from the humidor to the pitcher's hand is monitored.
MLB needs to do more, perhaps putting an official not on the Rockies payroll in charge of the process. I'm told the issue could be addressed at the GM meetings in November.
In this story, an MLB official -- my source because Joe Garagiola Jr., MLB's senior VP of baseball operatations, did not make himself available for an interview after I suggested to him full disclosure would be wise -- suggested the umpires have final say about which balls are used and that they can tell the differece between a humidor ball and non-humidor ball.
But I spoke with this series' crew chief, John Hirschbeck, and he had another story.
First off, I asked Hirschbeck if he could tell the difference between humidor balls and non-humidor balls.
"No, I really can't, he said. "We take six out of here (the umpires' room), whatever you carry normally when you leave here and start the game with. When foul balls go in the stands, we have to call for the ball boy."
Does the process of selecting balls that go in the ball bag (which is placed at the end of the Rockies' dugout after they're to be removed from the humidor) involve the umpires at all?
"We have nothing to do with it," Hirschbeck said.
He added, "Whatever they're doing, it's fair to both sides."
I told him that's the question: Is it really fair to both sides? "There's only one bag," he said. "Two bags, actually. One with the scuffed balls. The other, our attendant takes out from here."
That's what we want to believe, I told Hirschbeck, adding if it's not fool-proof, it ought to be.
"I've never thought twice about it," he said. "What you're telling me is the first I've ever heard about it. I know about the humidor. But as far as changing the balls, that's an age-old thing, someone's trying to screw with the other team. But I doubt it very much."
He thought of the young ball boy and added, "You'd have to get some kid over there" to be in on the conspiracy.
Hirschbeck said more than 100 balls are used in a game and that he carries as many as six in his pouches at one time.
Before I left the umpires' room, Hirschbeck smiled and cracked, "I'll tell you what. This week, we'll make sure we don't switch them on you guys."
I laughed and reminded him I'm not employed by the Giants.
For Lincecum, however, it's no laughing matter.http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/giants/detail?entry_id=73157#ixzz10aP15hhF