Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander surrendered a MLB-high 26 home runs before the All-Star break, so it's no great surprise his opinion of the spike in offense and home runs is explicit.
"It's a (expletive) joke," said Verlander, an eight-time All-Star who is starting his second All-Star Game on Tuesday. "Major League Baseball's turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you've got (commissioner Rob) Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the (expletive) company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it's not a guess as to what happened. We all know what happened. Manfred the first time he came in, what'd he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It's not coincidence. We're not idiots."
Verlander, 36, went a step further when asked if he believed Major League Baseball intentionally juiced baseballs to increase home runs and offense across the league.
"Yes. 100 percent," Verlander said. "They've been using juiced balls in the Home Run Derby forever. They know how to do it. It's not coincidence. I find it really hard to believe that Major League Baseball owns Rawlings and just coincidentally the balls become juiced."
Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman said he endorsed most of Verlander's take, but unlike Verlander -- who said he walks a "tightrope" no matter who is at the plate -- claims he doesn't waste time worrying about it.
"I've just come to terms with it. It is what it is. You can't control it," Stroman said. "So why even think about it?"
In four of Verlander's past five starts, he's allowed multiple home runs, including three longballs July 5 against the Angels and three apiece in starts against the Reds (June 18) and Brewers (June 12). He also had 23 total strikeouts against Cincinnati and Milwaukee.
"I don't know if it's bad or good for the game," he said. "That's for them to decide. I don't think it's great -- that the true outcomes of strikeouts, homers and walks is best for the game. That's for somebody else to decide. I talk about time a lot -- how do you stack up in history? If you're going to change something so dramatically, I think you need to make people aware."
The first four batters Verlander was scheduled to face in the National League batting order for the All-Star Game -- Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, Cubs shortstop Javy Baez, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger -- have a total of 106 home runs this season. Bellinger has 30, and Yelich 31.