Commissioner Rob Manfred again emphatically denied that Major League Baseball has altered baseballs to generate more offense, amid widespread criticism from some of the sport's top pitchers.
"Baseball has done nothing, given no direction for an alteration in the baseball," Manfred told reporters Tuesday. "The flaw in logic is that baseball wants more home runs. If you sat in owners meetings and listen to people on how the game is played, that is not a sentiment among the owners for whom I work."
Manfred also said "there is no evidence from scientists that the ball is harder" but acknowledged that "the drag of the baseball is less."
He said MLB has commissioned laser tests to measure seam width and height in an effort to find out why the drag is less, but the league has not been given answers by scientists.
"Pitchers have raised issues particularly about the tackiness and seams on the baseball, and we do believe those could be issues," Manfred said.
Manfred's comments came one day after Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander, the American League's starting pitcher in Tuesday's All-Star Game, told ESPN's Jeff Passan that the baseballs being used this season are "a f---ing joke" and that he believes "100 percent" that MLB has implemented juiced balls to increase offense.
Verlander's sentiment was echoed by Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who said Monday that he was "not going to disagree with him," and Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who agreed that the baseball "seems to travel differently."
"All the rules that are changed in the game, that has to be cleared with the players," Scherzer told reporters. "But when the ball changes as much as it has over the last handful of years, the players have no say in that whatsoever.
"We as players wonder why the ball can change that much, that fast, and to have that big of results. That's why as players we deserve an answer to what's going on."
Players union head Tony Clark also chimed in Tuesday, saying "the ball suddenly changed, and I don't know why."
Manfred countered that there is "no desire among ownership to increase homers in the game," saying that "to the contrary, (owners) are concerned about how many we have."
Players belted 3,691 homers in the season's first half and are on pace to hit 6,668 home runs, which would obliterate the record of 6,105 hit in 2017.
Verlander, despite a 2.98 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 126 2/3 innings, has allowed a major-league-leading 26 homers.
Manfred addressed the issue earlier Monday -- before Verlander's comments -- in an interview with ESPN's Golic and Wingo, saying again that the ball has "less drag" but pointing out that "data suggests fans like home runs."
"It's easy to get carried away with 'you have too many home runs,'" Manfred said Monday. "Let's not forget that our fan data suggests fans like home runs. It's not the worst thing in the world.
"We think what's been going on this year is attributable to the baseball. Our scientists that have been now studying the baseball more regularly have told us that this year the ball has a little less drag. ... We are trying to understand exactly why that happened and build out a manufacturing process that gives us a little more control over what's going on. But you have to remember, our baseball is a handmade product and there is going to be variation year to year."
Rawlings manufactures major league baseballs in Costa Rica, then stores them in Washington, Missouri, at 70 degrees and 50 percent humidity. All teams store their balls at about 70 degrees, and Arizona and Colorado use humidors that maintain humidity at 50 percent.
Conversations about a juiced ball have percolated since after the All-Star break in 2015, when home runs spiked. They are up nearly 60 percent from the 2014 season, and a study commissioned by Manfred concluded that baseballs were performing differently but didn't attribute a reason.
In June 2018, one month after the study was released, MLB bought Rawlings, the supplier of the official major league ball.
"It's a f---ing joke. Major League Baseball's turning this game into a joke," Verlander said Monday. "They own Rawlings, and you've got Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the f---ing 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."
On Tuesday, Manfred the Rawlings purchase was "a positive" in that, without buying the manufacturer, the league would be in "a very difficult position" had something happened to it.
Manfred said if causes of the decreased drag are found, it is possible the ball's specifications could be changed to decrease homers.
"We just haven't made a decision on that,'' Manfred said. "Changing the baseball is a mechanism by which you could manage the way the game is being played. We haven't missed that idea. But if we were going to do it, we would do it in a way that was transparent to the media and the fans in advance.''
The Associated Press contributed to this report.