Corey Kluber is being accused by Brian Harkins, a former Angels employee, of cheating during his time with the Cleveland Indians.
The Cleveland Indians got some masterful years out of Corey Kluber to the tune of two Cy Young Awards and consideration for at least two others. For a span of five years, he was the most dominant pitcher in baseball. Yet, according to court documents filed during Brian Harkins’ wrongful termination trial, the former Angels staffer named dozens of former pitchers that he helped cheat during his time with the Anaheim-based club. Gerrit Cole was chief among the names, as was Justin Verlander, but unfortunately, it was the addition of Kluber’s name that will disappoint Tribe fans most.
During the interview, Harkins claims, he identified Cole, Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber, Joba Chamberlain, Adam Wainwright and Tyler Chatwood among the pitchers who previously asked for his specific blend of pine tar and rosin, which became popular throughout the league after he made it for former closer Troy Percival more than 20 years ago.
Harkins, who was fired from the Angels for selling a doctoring substance that pitchers used on baseballs, is suing his team because he believes he was made a scapegoat for a club (perhaps league-wide) problem. Something Angels bench coach Mike Gallego even claimed was happening to Harkins.
No one is disputing the use of substances in baseball for a competitive edge, and many players claim that the practice is needed, to help control the ball in cold weather. The methodology states that it’s for the batter’s own protection, as pitchers are in more control and that it’s not a form of cheating.
Except, MLB already alters the balls slightly before the game with New Jersey Mud. So any extra substances would in fact create a competitive edge. More so, pitchers rely on location over velocity. So the ability to control a pitch even more effectively than you naturally would be able to would seriously alter the course of a game.
This is where Kluber comes into play. During his peak, he was known for his accuracy. Accuracy that was apparently aided by banned substances. This shouldn’t be too surprising, as former Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer even said it was happening, telling Real Sports that “70%” of pitchers use some sort of substance.
If the allegations are true and Kluber was doctoring balls during his career with Cleveland, he’ll never again be seen in the same light.
You can argue that it’s “no big deal” but it is. It alters the perception and expectation of who he was as a pitcher. He had a late start to the Majors, debuting when he was already 25-years-old. Was he always going to be this good, or did he cheat to make it to the majors? Now we’ll never know and that uncertainty is the killer.
This is also very bad for baseball, which just looks more and more like a sport of cheaters. The league constantly looks the other way on things until it blows up. Steroids, sign stealing, and now ball tampering? No wonder attendance is going down and the league is suffering. Fans can no longer in the magic of the sport.
The worst part is the number of excuses that players and coaches make to justify it. The sport needs to be cleaned up, once and for all. Sweeping changes need to be implemented to make sure that anyone who does anything like this ever again is met with the most severe penalties possible and that anyone and everyone linked or participating in such a practice is met with the same fate.
Fans deserve a clean game, with competitive balance. If that means that balls are all treated with something uniformly before the game, or if that means changing the ball itself to make it easier to grip and throw, then so be it. This has got to stop though because the sport is already waning in popularity and more league-wide scandals will only hurt the sport even more.
No doubt fans will become disenfranchised after reading the story, as flashbacks to Jose Conseco outing the Steroid-Era will surely flashback into people’s consciousness. Hopefully, if that does happen, the MLB can finally step up and fix its problem with doctored balls.
Until then, the only thing we now know is that Kluber’s dominance is in question. That realization is absolutely devastating because now not only will Kluber never again be viewed in the same light, but the creeping shadow of doubt will poison the rest of the player’s perception.
Did Carlos Carrasco really pitch as well as he did after chemo on his own? Was Shane Bieber truly as dominant in 2020 as we thought? What other methods of cheating will be uncovered that will ruin a star’s legacy?
This type of thing can’t keep happening. Baseball needs to fix itself before there’s no one left to care about it.