A handful of baseball writers have been on the altered-baseball beat for the last few years. Among them is Dr. Meredith Wills, who has studied the baseball — manufactured by Rawlings — several times for The Athletic. Wills took apart batches of baseballs, measuring things such as the width of the seams. She found that, indeed, newer batches of baseballs used seams that were about nine percent thicker. This likely contributed to the rise in blisters on pitchers’ fingers during the same time period.
Major League Baseball has an ownership stake in Rawlings, partnering with Seidler Equity Partners in 2018 to purchase the company for just under $400 million. MLB claimed it would have “even more input and direction on the production of the official ball.” Despite ever-increasing evidence that the baseball was altered, the league maintained for a while that nothing was different.
When even its own commissioned study turned up evidence that the ball was materially different, it could no longer remain in denial. Still, commissioner Rob Manfred as recently as this past February suggested that other factors contributed to the rise in home runs. 6,776 home runs were hit in 2019, shattering the previous record of 6,105 set in 2017 which shattered the previous record of 5,693 set in 2000.