Friday, May 3, 2013

Is Clay Buchholz Throwing Spitballs?

By now, most Red Sox fans have heard the news that Toronto commentators and former major league pitchers Jack Morris and Dirk Hayhurst have accused Clay Buchholz of cheating in his start on Wednesday night by buttering up the baseball with a foreign substance:

Before we dive into this story, here’s a few words from the leading authority on greasing baseballs:

 

Morris and Hayhurst’s comments have led to a mostly hilarious war of words between Toronto’s former-major-leaguers-turned-commentators and Boston’s former-major-leaguers-turned-commentators Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley.  Here’s what Rem Dog and Eck had to say during Thursday’s pre-game show:

Gordon Edes posted a good write-up of the issue yesterday evening with quotes from Morris, Farrell, Buchholz, Salty, and Ross.  It’s a fascinating read.

So is Buchholz buttering up the balls?  Or is he just using the rosin allowed to all pitchers? Is he loading up his hair with vagisil? Or is he just wearing a shirt he hasn’t washed in three years?  I have no idea.  I’m just a guy who watches games on TV from his couch.  But here are some thoughts on the issue, in no particular order:
  • The first thought I had when I heard about this story breaking was about our comments in our live chat on Wednesday night.  There was a stretch in the middle innings when Buchholz walked a batter or two and Barry made a comment that his pitches were moving so much that he couldn’t control them.  Spitball-type movement? Maybe.  
  • Also in our live chat on Wednesday, we talked repeatedly about how filthy Buchholz is.  And by filthy, we meant the movement on his pitches, specifically his two-seamer and his change-up.  But also filthy in terms of his hair, scraggly pre-teen beard, and porn stache.  It would be pretty easy to load that hair up with some substance, rub his hands through it (which he was seen doing repeatedly), and get some extra movement on the ball.
  • Random Side Note: Buchholz may be filthy and wear a shirt he hasn’t washed in three years, but he gets to go home every night to this:

Life isn’t fair.
  • To me, the best defense of Buchholz that I heard from anyone was from David Ross.  Ross said, “I touch the ball as much as Buch does and I know when a pitcher is messing with the ball.  He’s not putting anything on it.  And that shirt he wears is about 40 years old”.  Since Buch is only 28 years old (I’m 19 days older than Buchholz.  Excuse me while I go stare wistfully out the window and wonder what has happened to the passage of time whilst a singular tear runs down my cheek...and I’m back), apparently he’s wearing a shirt made twelve years before he was born.
  • Check out this picture from Hayhurst’s twitter feed:

  That looks pretty damning to me. Buchholz and Farrell claim he had nothing but rosin on his forearm, but isn’t rosin a chalky white substance? I don’t see anything chalky on his forearm, only grease.  If is was rosin, why wouldn’t he be loading it on his entire hand instead of only his fingertips that grip the ball?
  • The main argument that Remy and Eck keep making is that somehow Morris and Hayhurst are unqualified to make these claims.  Eck has dismissed Hayhurst’s claims by saying he is a “career minor leaguer who shouldn’t be getting any play” and Morris’ by saying, “Jack Morris is a guy that can’t even make it to the Hall of Fame yet, and he’s chirping over there - zip it”.  Eckersley needs to look up the term “ad hominem”.  Making a counter-argument by attacking the character of the speaker rather than addressing the argument itself is fallacious and counter-productive.  Morris and Hayhurst could be the worst pitchers in the history of the major leagues and still be able to see when a guy is greasing up his hands and getting a foot of movement on his pitches.  If, you know, that’s what happened.  I better stop right there before Eck starts attacking my character or credentials.
  • Salty’s response to Morris in Edes’ article is baffling.  According to Morris, Salty responded to Morris’ claims by saying, “it gets dry in Boston.  I’ve seen him put water all over his pants”.  Really?  It gets dry in Boston?  If that’s really what Salty said to Morris, then that’s not only the dumbest response I’ve ever heard, but Morris was absolutely in the right to doubt him and respond, “Salty, this isn’t my first f***ing rodeo”.
  • I give Morris credit for not just hiding in his press box and making his claims.  He went right up to John Farrell, Salty, and Ross and confronted them face-to-face.
  • Buchholz’s responses in Edes’ article are baffling, too.  Buchholz says, “Loading up with what, rosin?  I get wet from my hair.  Are they talking about the stains on my shirt?”.  Buchholz goes in three different directions in three consecutive sentences.  Seems kind of fishy, that’s all.
  • I also find it hilarious that Salty called out Vicente Padilla for throwing a spitball last year in Edes’ article.  According to Salty, “I’d see Padilla get water from the back of his head, and the ball would sink six inches or so”.  If I was Salty, I’d be looking into the witness protection program about now.
  • Nobody from the Jays dugout ever asked the umpire to check the ball or Buchholz.  Now, it’s unclear whether John Gibbons actually has coherent thoughts during the game or whether he is even watching the game, but still.  You would think somebody would be noticing from field level if Buch was loading the ball or getting absurd movement or rotation on his pitches.
  • Until Buchholz is proven to be cheating or told to stop from an umpire or Joe Torre or Bud Selig or Major League Baseball, I hope the hell he keeps doing what he’s doing.  He’s 6-0 and has looked like the best pitcher in baseball so far in 2013.

12 comments:

  1. The first reason to defend Buchholz would be because you are a red sox fan. That could be called into question if this was someone's first time reading your work.

    I love the fact that Eck came to Buchholz defense so adamantly. The reason why you see Remy and Eck attacking the source is because they broke a baseball code. This type of stuff should come from the people on the field or in the dugout, not from the booth. That's one reason why Remy and Eck got so upset. They know the code of the clubhouse and they abide by it. Evidently that code doesn't carry over into Canada (Perhaps that's why the Jays have sucked for 20 years).

    Guys put Rosin on their forearms all the time. Buchholz is going to sweat while he's on the mound. The picture of the "substance" on his forearm looks like nothing more than sweat with the glean of the lights shining on his arms, to me. Pitchers use sweat and rosin all the time to improve their grip not doctor the ball. If Buchholz is cheating than so are 75% of the pitchers in baseball. Which after a decade plus of gluttonous offensive numbers in the steroid era. It's OK by me if the pitchers have their time to get an advantage (I know pitchers were juicing too).

    To me, this is mostly coming across as sour grapes from an angry Blue Jays fan base, which the announcers are a part of, because of John Farrell leaving and the Blue Jays sucking. If this was some sort of mind game to get into Buchholz' head then shame on Morris and Hay-what's his name.

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    1. P.S. after the opening series in Toronto when the fans were booing Farrell and flying paper airplanes. I went on here and on twitter to talk about a potential new rivalry in the AL east. I used the NYJ vs Patriots analogy after Belichick left NY to come to New England (that comparison seems better now than before, because Toronto sucks every year just like the NYJ).

      In order to have a good rivalry both teams need to be good. That may not happen, but I know one thing: One month into the season and I hate everything associated with the Blue Jays right now. Even more than the Yankees.

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  2. So in order to be a Red Sox fan I have to just blindly accept everything they ever say to the media and believe that they would never ever bend or break the rules in any way? If I ever try to take an objective view of an issue and give both sides some consideration then I'm a traitor? Come on.

    Salty's and Buchholz's quotes in the Edes piece were disjointed and weird. Maybe they were just blown away by the accusation. Maybe they were guilty and trying like hell to cover something up. I don't know.

    The fact that Eck has no better response than to say someone is not in the Hall of Fame so they should shut up is childish and stupid.

    It's possible that Clay is using nothing more than rosin and water like 75%+ of all pitchers in baseball. But it's also possible he is lathering some greasy substance onto his forearm and hair and using it to get extra movement on his pitches. It is possible. I have no idea whether he is or not. I want to believe he is only using rosin and water. But questioning it does not make me any less of a Red Sox fan.

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    1. "Traitor" was your word, not mine. Your post, which was one of the best we've ever done btw, seems like you are supporting Dick...I mean Dirk...Hayhurst and Jack Morris. "There comes a time in a man's life when he has to pick sides" -Remember the Titans.

      You should be on the Red Sox side. That's all I'm saying. Yes part of being a fan is blind faith. We'll all be upset when we realize that Daniel Nava's miraculous story didn't all come from "hard work". I'm sure all Sox fans in this day and age have asked themselves if Nava is on Roids or HGH. That doesn't make us traitors. Neither does asking if Buchholz' doctors the ball, but when some two bit Toronto Blue Jay announcer create an unfair and unnecessary controversy. I think we should be attacking them. In fact I think we ought to consider invading Canada...(I kid) (kind of).

      "The fact that Eck has no better response than to say someone is not in the Hall of Fame so they should shut up is childish and stupid." To simplify what Eck said to that level is also a bit unfair. As I said above, Remy and Eck know the baseball code and I'm sure if they were given truth serum they would say that Buchholz is a little fishy, there biggest problem is that these Blue Jay announcer blowhards have no business making accusations like that without proof. If a Blue Jay hitter, manager or coach makes a complaint than fine, but people should not be saying that from the booth. Even if they are former pitchers.

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    2. While the Jays' announcers may have not had any proof, they did have evidence. They had video evidence of Buchholz repeatedly going to his greasy hair and forearm. It wasn't like they just started making these claims because his two-seamer had late life.

      Looking back on the post, the majority of my thoughts are supportive of the Jays' announcers. This is because Salty's and Buchholz's comments in the Edes article are so damned weird. Neither of them really explained in a clear way what Clay is doing with his hands/fingers and the ball. It seemed to me like they should have had a better explanation. It doesn't mean I was "taking the Jays' side", it just means I smelled some fish. If you notice, I did include some thoughts about what Ross said in support of Clay and the fact that no Jays players/coaches asked for the ball or Buchholz to be checked.

      "Yes part of being a fan is blind faith". Really? So when the team releases a story that Tito Francona cheated on his wife and was a painkiller addict, we should just blindly accept them at their word? When David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez test positive for PED's, we should just blindly accept that they took some bad vitamins? When Bobby Valentine says Youkilis doesn't play hard or any other damned thing he said last year, we should just blindly accept it because he is our manager? No thanks. I'd rather keep an open mind and decide what to believe for myself.

      Which doesn't mean when the Sox take on the Rangers tonight I won't be cheering my ass off for them to win.

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    3. That's circumstantial evidence at best. I guess what I'm saying these announcers should be held to some sort of journalistic integrity. They over stepped their bounds a little bit. If they want to speculate about what Buchholz is doing than that's fine, but for Morris to say that he "knows" that he's cheating is crossing the line in my opinion.

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  3. I've never seen this blog before, but I think it's pretty good. That said, I'd like to point out that you seem to ignore Jerry Remy's comments on the matter. While Eckersly used ad hominem arguments and anything else said was disjointed, at best, Remy backed up his claims with observable evidence: a spitball has a distinct movement, and the other team didn't ask the umpire to check the baseballs. He didn't take a side in either direction, but instead just offered some facts and allowed the viewer to make a decision. Just my thoughts.

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    1. Thanks for checking out the blog, Johnsonsaurus!

      I probably should have done a better job of separating Eck's comments from Remy's. You're right - Eck was the main culprit of resorting to attacking Morris and Hayhurst rather than presenting any kind of evidence to counter their claims. Remy did make a good point that he personally faced Gaylord Perry and his legendary spitballs and he knows what a spitball's movement looks like.

      But the thought that I can't shake is how in our live chat Wednesday night we were all talking about how much Buchholz's pitches were moving, to the point where he couldn't even throw strikes for extended stretches at a time. They were darting and diving all over the place. However, as I said a couple time in the post, I'm just a guy watching the games on his couch. I'm not an ex-major leaguer and I certainly haven't faced Gaylord Perry like Remy, so he probably knows better than me. It just bothered me a little that everybody in Red Sox Nation immediately started trash-talking the Jays announcers instead of maybe considering that they had a point.

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    2. Johnsonsauras,

      Thanks for checking out the blog! Be sure to tell your friends about us. We're only a little more than a year old so we're relatively new to the scene. Keep checking out the blog!

      You made an excellent point about Remy. I agree totally.

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  4. Also, for anybody wondering, "where would Buchholz learn to do this stuff?", look no further than Salty's comments that Vicente Padilla loaded up the ball with grease from his hair and got six inches of drop on his pitches. Buchholz and Padilla spent a lot of time together on the pitching staff last year under the Valentine regime that had no rules, regulations, rhyme, or reason.

    Just picture Buchholz as Rick Vaughn and Padilla as Eddie Harris. Padilla says to Buch, "I don't have an arm like yours. So I don't wash my hair for two days before I pitch, then I take a mixture of my hair grease, rosin, and sweat, and get an extra two inches drop on my curve ball. Some day you will too".

    Wild conjecture, but plausible???

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    1. Perhaps, but I didn't get the impression that Padilla talked to anybody on the team last year.

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  5. I think the best two points that defend Buchholz are the point Remy made, as mentioned above by Johnsonsaurus, NO ONE from the Jays the entire game asked to have the ball checked even ONCE. And if the umpires think they have seen a pitcher cheating by doctoring the ball they can go and check the pitchers uniform, hair, or any other damned thing...they did not.

    Despite any confusing answers by Salty, Buchholz, or anyone else John Farrell very simply said when asked that is is resin and it is legal. No different than going to the resin bag.

    Do pitchers doctor the ball? I am sure it happens every day in the bigs. Do any Red Sox pitchers doctor the ball on occasion? I would suspect so. But the so-called video proof of the Jays broadcasters is completely and totally inconclusive at best and a crock of bull crap otherwise.


    Jack Morris and the Dirk ought to shut the hell up until their team wins once in a while

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