For five innings, New York Mets fans had two things to talk about. San Diego Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove was dealing against their team, and he was doing it with some curiously shiny ears.
The winner-take-all Game 3 of the National League wild-card series entered bizarre territory when Mets manager Buck Showalter acted on those concerns, requesting the umpires perform a substance check on Musgrove ahead of the sixth inning.
The umpires obliged, and soon Musgrove was having his ears felt up on national television as Citi Field fans prematurely waved goodbye to him.
The umps just checked Joe Musgrove's... ears for a foreign substance? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/VeAE5mNe9e— Tim and Friends (@timandfriends) October 10, 2022
Unfortunately for the Mets and their fans, the umpires apparently found no reason to show Musgrove the door. Musgrove, who took a perfect game into the fifth inning, remained in the game and delivered another 1-2-3 inning.
After the events, Musgrove had a message for the Mets dugout:
The umpires' inspection didn't stop Citi Field from chanting "cheater" at Musgrove over the ensuing inning, despite evidence to the contrary.
Meanwhile, theories abounded on social media about Musgrove. Could his ears just be really sweaty? Could it be water? Did he take off the sticky stuff after the fifth? Some fans noted Musgrove's spin rates were up triple-digits for most pitches, but that also coincided with a bump in velocity (more velocity equals more spin).
Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Andrew McCutchen might have had the most believable theory, that Musgrove was using Red Hot heat ointment to focus and Showalter was just trying to throw him off.
Here we go. I guarantee Musgrove has Red Hot on his ears. Pitchers use it as mechanism to stay locked in during games. It burns like crazy and IDK why some guys thinks it helps them but in no way is it “sticky.” Buck is smart tho. Could be trying to just throw him off.— Andrew McCutchen (@TheCUTCH22) October 10, 2022
Just another night in a very normal sport.