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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Report: Rawlings may have inaccurately marketed ‘authentic’ postseason baseballs

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Rawlings’ handling of baseballs used in Major League games continues to come under scrutiny, though for slightly different reasons now than they have previously.

Dr. Meredith Wills, who has studied various baseballs on behalf of The Athletic, ordered authentic 2019 postseason baseballs to examine for a study. The baseballs she received from Rawlings, marketed as being the same that were being used in 2019 playoff games, contained numerous differences compared to 2019 regular season ones. Many had thicker seams, and some of the batch codes on them did not match up with those appearing in 2019 batches. In essence, these served as hints that the baseballs may have been intended for use in 2018.

Rawlings CEO Dennis Sollberger suggested in a statement to Katie Strang of The Athletic that it was possible for the baseballs to have been manufactured in 2018 and that such baseballs would not have been used on the field. Experts suggested to Strang, however, that while that may not be uncommon, it could be fraudulent if Rawlings authenticated these as 2019 postseason baseballs when they were never intended for that use. Rawlings CEO Mike Thompson dismissed this interpretation as “incorrect,” stating that it was normal for baseball supply to be held over from year-to-year and all baseballs are manufactured under the same standards.

The major issue here is that these Rawlings baseballs are explicitly marketed as authentic to the postseason, complete with authentication stickers and numbers. These baseballs are sold at a much higher price — just shy of $300 for a box — as opposed to a typical ball marketed for regular season use. If they were never actually intended for postseason use in 2019, it would, at best, be misleading marketing, and could even be of interest to the Federal Trade Commission, according to experts and attorneys Strang spoke to.

The major question surrounding postseason baseballs in 2019 was whether there was something different about them to depress the playoff home run rate compared to the regular season baseballs, which were widely believed to be different. This is an entirely different question entirely — and while it may not impact the games played on the field, it would certainly have some interest to fans and memorabilia collectors.

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