Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander did not mince words on the day of the 2019 MLB Home Run Derby, emphatically declaring the game is becoming a “joke,” criticizing MLB’s ownership of the league’s ball manufacturer and saying he “100 percent” believes MLB is juicing balls to inflate home-run totals.

But was he right to say that?

Former MLB veteran Will Middlebrooks doesn’t particularly care whether Verlander is correct about balls being juiced. He just thinks Verlander’s comments were out of line, in part because they read like a refusal to admit baseball has changed and in part because no one else — namely batters — have complained about other side effects of apparent ball changes.

“Man, come on,” Middlebrooks said of Verlander on Tuesday’s “Kanell & Bell” podcast. “Name me two or three other guys that could get away with this. You can’t. These comments are not Hall of Fame-worthy, in my opinion. These are trash comments, in my opinion. Are the balls juiced? Who knows. Strikeouts are also at an all-time high. You don’t see hitters saying, ‘Well, the balls are tighter, so the spin rate’s higher, your breaking balls are tighter, your fastballs are spinning more and I’m swinging and missing.’ You don’t see anyone talking about that.”

In today’s game, Middlebrooks added, “everyone throws hard,” so “there’s going to be more home runs” anyway.

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