Boston Red Sox

Jun 23, 2021; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Garrett Richards (43) looks down after giving up a home run during the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On June 1, Garrett Richards was skipping merrily along. Over a span of seven starts, he had a 2.70 ERA and had posted a 4-2 record. Richards had 40 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 43.1 innings, and he looked like a real find for Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom.

Since then, Richards – like many – has effectively had his pants pulled down.

So here we are now, folks, just three days into a baseball world without adhesives, and a funny thing is happening on major league mounds: without any glue, pitchers are coming apart at the seams. In his first start since baseball implemented severe restrictions on what can and cannot be used to grip a baseball, Richards lasted a mere 1.2 innings last night in an 8-2 Red Sox loss during which he allowed three hits, five runs, two homers and four walks while failing to strike out a single batter.

Now, like many others in baseball, he looks and sounds like he’s ready for the glue factory.

Red Sox starter Garrett Richards pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

“I’m an athlete,” Richards told reporters after the game. “I’d like to think that I’m going to be able to get over this and figure out a way to get it done. [Restrictions] just kind of got brought on us real quick. So I’ve only had about a week to work on it.”

This is only partly true, of course. Yes, the rule was implemented on Monday. But baseball teams and players were told about the impending change months ago, before this season even began. Communication with the players union on the topic went back to 2020. But guys like Richards ignored the missives until the last moment, it seems. It’s as if they were all sniffing glue.

As such, many baseball pitchers are being exposed now – and not just the middlers like Richards. Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer took great offense when Phillies manager Joe Girardi asked umpires to inspect him on Tuesday, presumably because he felt disrespected.

And yet, Scherzer was one of a handful of pitchers who reportedly obtained “sticky stuff” from an Angels clubhouse attendant who had been producing the adhesive for decades. In 2013, essentially overnight, Scherzer went from a good, middle-of-the-rotation MLB starter to a three-time Cy Young Award winner who finished in top five of the balloting for seven straight years.

Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer has his belt checked against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Maybe that’s a fair connection to make. Maybe it isn’t. But you get the point. Pitchers have been going unchecked for years – we can absolutely, positively blame Major League Baseball for this – and the result was a deterioration of the on-field game. Only now has baseball awoken and realized that it’s product stinks and is vastly inferior to most others in the world of professional sports.

So where does this all go from here? Good question. Last night, Richards told reporters he is “going through a little transition period right now,” which is true of the game as a whole. But baseball players being who they are – insecure humans in a game designed to break its participants down – let there be no question about the doubt creeping through his mind.

Baseball is in rehab, folks.

The game – through the pitchers – is being stripped to the studs.

And I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m actually kind of enjoying it.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.