In case you didn't hear, Cleveland hosted Major League Baseball's All-Star Game festivities from July 5-9.
The game itself was fantastic, the home run derby was wildly entertaining (witnessed first-hand by yours truly) and the rest of the weekend's activities were very fun. The City of Cleveland is drawing high praise for its hosting duties, and overall the weekend was a smashing success.
There was just one tiny little blemish: Justin Verlander had to go and pout about juiced baseballs.
In case you missed it, the Houston Astros ace pitcher accused the MLB powers that be of "juicing" the baseball to produce more offense.
Why would he pick All-Star weekend to say such a thing? Who knows, but it probably has something to do with the fact that Verlander, a former American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner who is a lock to be enshrined in the MLB Hall of Fame after his career ends, had already given up 26 home runs prior to the All-Star Game. His previous career high for an entire season was 30.
Predictably, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred denied these allegations. But it got me thinking, what would it take to "juice" a baseball? And rubber plays a role.
There are three components to a baseball—its exterior shell made of cowhide, several layers of yarn and then a rubber coated cork core in the center. Those cores, at least in the baseballs used by MLB, consists of four parts: The cork pellet in the center and three layers of rubber.
FiveThirtyEight did a study of baseballs used before the 2015 MLB All-Star Game and found that the cores of recently used balls were less dense than the cores of those used before the 2015 event. The conclusion is that the lower density balls might cause them to fly six inches farther if hit on a home run trajectory.
The study was quite extensive, you can read about it here, but its test showed that one of the rubber layers was composed with 7 percent more polymer than the old group and contained about 10 percent less silicon. It may not seem like much, but FiveThirtyEight said these slight changes could make a big difference: If the core is less dense, the baseball is lighter and thus could travel further.
So is Verlander right? Is the juiced baseball conspiracy theory true? Well, it didn't look like it on July 9. Verlander and his fellow American League pitchers struck out 16 of the National League's best hitters in a 4-3 victory. Cleveland's Shane Bieber was named MVP for the game, striking out the only three batters he faced in the fifth inning.
Then again, it was just one exhibition game.
Chris Sweeney wouldn't be able to hit a big-league home run no matter how much the baseball was juiced. Follow him on Twitter @CSweeneyRPN.