Joe Girardi still thinks Max Scherzer was using an illegal substance

Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals

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Things escalated quickly last week during Max Scherzer’s start against his team, but Phillies’ manager Joe Girardi would do it all over again.

As MLB started more strict enforcement of pitchers using sticky substances last week, Max Scherzer took the mound against the Philadelphia Phillies last Tuesday night. Scherzer had already been checked twice when Phillies manager Joe Girardi called for another check of the Nationals ace. That’s when things escalated, and Girardi was ejected.

Scherzer repeatedly wiped his head during the outing, in what he said was an attempt to get moisture to mix with rosin from the bag that’s behind every major league mound and get a better grip. Sweat and rosin aren’t illegal according to MLB law, by themselves or mixed together.

After the game, Girardi cited Scherzer’s departure from what he saw as a long-running typical pattern.

“I’ve seen Max a long time. Since 2010. Obviously, he’s going to be a Hall of Famer. But I’ve never seen him wipe his head like he was doing tonight, ever. It was suspicious for me. I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I’ve just got to do what’s right for our club.”

Joe Girardi would do it all over again if he had to

With nearly a week to reflect on how he handled the situation with Scherzer, Girardi essentially said he has no regrets during an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM Monday.

I said after the game, Max is a Hall-of-Fame pitcher and I have all the respect for him. I mean, this guy’s a bulldog, and he’s been great, and I’ve watched him for 10, 11 years pitch against my teams or on TV. And I’ve never seen him do that.

So I did something that a lot of people didn’t perceive to be the right thing to do, but I have my bosses that I have to answer to. I care about this game deeply and how it’s going to go forward, and what’s coming into the game.

Girardi also pointed to wanting to preserve the game’s entertainment value and having played in the steroid era as he reasons he wants to do his part to maintain fairness for both sides. Even stretching toward absurdness or cliches, there’s really nothing wrong with any of that.

But with the crackdown on pitchers using substances they shouldn’t, there’s are some easy answers in regard to where a line should be drawn.

After the incident with Girardi and Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw suggested managers who call for a pitcher to be checked for an illegal substance get penalized (a lost challenge?) if nothing is found. Or, there’s an even better idea. Eliminate managers being able to call for the checks. Then Girardi anointing himself as a “ball guy” trying to protect the integrity of the game means nothing, and no other manager will be tempted to think they’re also the smartest guy in the room.

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