No, it doesn't. Honeycutt was fined $250 and suspended for 10 days, the last five of the 1980 season and the first five of this season. The last pitcher to be suspended for throwing a doctored baseball was Nels Potter of the St. Louis Browns; he was caught by Umpire Cal Hubbard and told to take a walk for 10 days in 1944, which was, perhaps coincidentally, the year Potter had his best season, with 19 wins.
With all the slicing and dicing going on, it seems strange that it took umpires 36 years to catch another pitcher in the act. Actually, Umpire Doug Harvey nabbed Sutton, then with the Dodgers, in 1978 and threw him out of a game. But Sutton threatened to sue if he was suspended, so it was made clear that he was ejected not for doctoring a baseball, but for throwing a baseball that happened to be doctored. Otherwise, Sutton has always enjoyed his outlaw reputation. Once, an umpire went out to inspect Sutton's glove and found a note inside which read, "You're getting warm, but it is not here."
Dave Duncan, the pitching coach of the Cleveland Indians, estimates that close to 50% of the pitchers in baseball do something to the ball. Former Twins Manager Gene Mauch, now in the Angels' front office, says, "More pitchers are doing it than at any time in the 40 years I've been associated with baseball." Honeycutt says, "Every day I heard a new rumor about another pitcher doing it. I figured it was O.K. for me to try, too."
Dick Butler, the supervisor of umpires for the American League, doesn't see any more slippery dealings than normal among pitchers, even though both leagues sent out bulletins last year warning umpires to be on the alert for spitters and scuffers. "There's just more attention paid to it," he says. "Maybe nobody complained before. The umpires don't want to see the rules broken, but it's a lot easier to sit in the stands and say someone is doctoring the ball than to find evidence of it down on the field. If the balls have marks on them, all in the same spot, beyond the normal wear and tear a baseball gets, then the umpire can do something." That something is this: if an umpire discovers a scuffed ball, he can hold the pitcher responsible—because the pitcher was the person who threw it—and issue a warning. If the umpire detects another similarly scuffed ball, the pitcher can be ejected and suspended for 10 days.
Ray Miller, the Orioles' pitching coach, has a unique collection of abused baseballs, selections from which he occasionally sends to the American League office. His most prized relics are a series of scuffed balls handcrafted by Mike Marshall. Not only was Marshall a doctor of physiological psychology, but a doctor of baseballs as well.
"It's getting ridiculous," says Miller, who maintains that the Orioles only throw them on the sidelines. "I suggested last year that the umpires make it an automatic balk on the pitcher every time they find a scuffed ball. That way, if a relief pitcher comes in with the bases loaded, needing a ground ball, he won't be so quick to scuff the ball."
Tiger Manager Sparky Anderson has a different idea. "Myself, I'd like to see it legalized."
"Great," says Miller. "I can now conceive of the day when a pitcher will come out to the mound wearing a utility belt, complete with files, chisels, hammer, nails and hacksaw."
"I don't begrudge the pitchers," says Yankee Third Baseman Graig Nettles. "But until the umpires have the guts to stop them from marking the ball, I see nothing wrong with using a corked bat."