Nationals GM calls Phillies' Girardi a 'con artist' after Max Scherzer substance checks

Wednesday, June 23, 2021
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Major League Baseball's crackdown on pitchers using foreign substances has already caused a sticky situation.

Phillies manager Joe Girardi is under fire. The Washington Nationals are still upset he asked the umpires to investigate pitcher Max Scherzer a third time Tuesday night, to see if he was using a banned substance on the ball.

"It's embarrassing for Girardi. It's embarrassing for the Phillies. It's embarrassing for baseball," said Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo Wednesday during an interview with The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan. "He's a con artist."

Girardi defended his actions, saying that he wasn't trying to throw off Sherzer's rhythm. The new rule implemented this week states umpires will check starters twice and relievers once for foreign substances, which can give pitchers an advantage. Girardi was still suspicious after Scherzer went to his hair.

"It was suspicious. I didn't mean to offend anyone. I just got to do what's right for my club," Girardi said.

SEE ALSO: Washington Nationals' Max Scherzer miffed as umpires inspect him 3 times during Phillies game

"For me, it's kind of confusing," said Scherzer. "If you watch the Bohm at-bat, I almost put a 95-mph fastball in his head because the ball slipped out of my hand. I'm just trying to get a grip of the ball and I almost drilled someone in the face."

MLB is trying to keep the integrity of the game intact by cutting out substances like Spider Tact, which gives pitchers a better grip on the ball. A better grip is believed to be leading to a higher spin rate, which could be the reason hitters are on pace for the lowest batting average in history.

"We are going to have more events like this," Scherzer said. "Pitchers trying to play by the rules."

"I could care less, I'm not using anything," Phillies starter Zack Wheeler stated.

Some are taking it in stride, others are not, including Oakland's Sergio Romo, who also took exception to being searched Tuesday night. He nearly pulled down his pants all the way to prove to the umpires he had nothing illegal on him.

It's already getting some people wound up, like Washington. But the Phillies insist they are not trying to mess with Scherzer or anyone else intentionally to throw a pitcher.

Phillies president Dave Dombrowski defended his manager on Wednesday.

"That's not Joe Girardi,'' he said. "It's totally improper for (Rizzo) to say that. Joe Girardi is the farthest from a con man of anybody that I know. He's a very sincere individual. He was within his rights.''