Baltimore Orioles: Thoughts on the Brian Matusz Suspension


May 23, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; MLB umpire Paul Emmel (right) examines Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Brian Matusz (17) arms for foreign substance during the 12th inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. The Marlins won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The word came down from Major League Baseball that Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Brian Matusz will face an eight-game suspension related to the substance found on his arm in Saturday’s game against the Marlins. Joe Garagiola made the announcement on Monday morning, coming from his position as senior vice president of standards and on-field operations for MLB.

The ruling was not really a surprise, since a similar situation and suspension had been announced just days ago against the Brewers’ Will Smith. It is also no surprise that Matusz and the Orioles are going to appeal the decision.

I generally dislike these sorts of situations and writing about off-the-field matters, baseball ethics and that sort of thing. But here are the thoughts going through my mind at the moment…

The problem with this ruling is that whatever he gets – be it eight games, reduced to four games, whatever – the Orioles will be punished in the sense of having to play with a 24-man roster. That is the bigger problem than losing Matusz, who is honestly an average to slightly above average (especially against lefties) relief pitcher.

It would appear that Matusz is guilty of the infraction. And it clearly is a violation of the rule. But that raises the next question …

Is it a big deal? The answer is probably not. That “everybody” does it is a weak justification, even if everybody does something of the sort. There is a rosin bag out there. I suppose he could slow down the game between every pitch and load up on the sticky … take a walk around the mound. Would MLB like that?

Brian Matusz is one of the very last people in baseball I would expect to be a blatant, in-your-face violator of rules. I sometimes wonder if the guy has a pulse and if the competitor inside him has much bite or energy; it certainly has no bark.

Few people sweat as profusely as Brian Matusz. He pretty much always looks like he just came in out of a rainstorm. He has a very fair complexion, and the overheating is seen in his cheeks and face, etc. I could imagine that this might make for some challenges for him in firmly gripping the baseball at times. Remember how this was a part of the entire discussion in the offseason when it was revealed through his physical that he had high blood pressure – a family issue.

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Is all of the adjusting of his cap – over and over between every pitch – related to getting a substance for his fingers? Others have done that. But nope – don’t think so. I think he is just a fidgety and nervous mess most nights.

Was it small and bush-league of Marlins Manager Dan Jennings to make a deal of this? Pretty much … yes! At the moment it happened, you, me and Jennings all had the same number of career wins as a big-league manager. You know what I’m saying.

MLB probably has to follow through with some measure of punishment, and maybe, hopefully, it will be less than eight games. But hopefully also this opens a discussion on how to be more reasonable in these matters, as even the batters don’t want 95+ MPH fastballs slipping out of pitchers’ hands.

That’s about enough of that. Talking baseball, how has Matusz performed so far this year relative to other seasons as a reliever? Yes, let’s talk baseball and take a look through the first 14 games of each season…


The 2012 numbers are in the second half of the season when he was moved out of the starting rotation. In 2012 and 2014, Matusz was better in the second half of the year. Right now, he has been reasonably good, though his strikeouts to walks ratio needs to be better.

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