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Deep Thoughts: Hayhurst-Morris accusations against Clay Buchholz edition

May 3, 2013, 8:50 AM EDT

Boston Red Sox Buchholz pitches to Toronto Blue Jays during their MLB baseball game in Toronto

So I’ve been looking at this whole little Clay Buchholz drama. Or, I should say, this Dirk Hayhurst-Jack Morris drama, because it seems to be centering way more on them than Buchholz. For those who missed it: Hayhurst accused Buchholz of doctoring the ball on Wednesday and Morris chimed in and agreed.

Worth noting:

  • No Blue Jays player or coach accused Buchholz of anything;
  • No umpire was asked to inspect Buchholz’s arm, which allegedly had goop on it;
  • Buchholz’s pitches did not appear to be doing anything out of the ordinary;
  • Buchholz’s explanation — that it was rosin on his arm — satisfies my Occam’s Razor requirements and has the benefit of appearing to be true, which is always good.

This is, in its entirety then, an accusation by a couple of Blue Jays analysts. Which seems to be — sorry Dirk and Jack, and do know that I love ya otherwise — pretty weak on the substance. Maybe it’ll lead to future Buchholz opponents to ask umps to inspect balls as a means of getting into his head, but there just isn’t any there there.

I will say, though, that the reaction to all of this from some Boston quarters is less than impressive. I’m looking mostly at NESN’s Dennis Eckersley, whose entire response to this consisted of ad hominem attacks on Hayhurst (“he’s a career minor leaguer!”) and Jack Morris (“He hasn’t even made the Hall of Fame yet!”) followed up with a variation of the “how dare they accuse this guy of cheating; he’s having a great season and doesn’t need to cheat!” thing.

I guess I can understand Eck getting emotional here, but appeals to authority, ad hominem attacks and admonitions against even raising questions of those who perform at a high level is pretty much how the steroids thing was able to fester for as long as it did. It’s how Steve Wilstein of the Associated Press was ostracized after he found andro in Mark McGwire’s locker (“who is this guy, and how dare he make such accusations?!”). It’s how everyone was basically convinced to ask no questions because, really, why would sluggers as prolific as these men before us even need to cheat? And, if one were so inclined, it could be used to just as easily discredit whatever Eck has to say about any number of topics. For he, like all of us, has personal baggage too which some may choose to throw back in his face if ever makes an accusation or offers some particularly sharp bit of criticism to a player.

But some shouldn’t choose to do that. Some, instead, should stick to the accusation at hand and deal with it on its merits. Say Morris and Hayhurst are peddling nonsense for reasons (a), (b) and (c), which Jerry Remy mostly did in his comments during that same segment. Don’t say they’re wrong because of some thing that has nothing to do with the matter at hand and which is offered merely to insult the accuser.

I do not think Buchholz was doctoring the ball. I see no evidence that even seriously suggests it. But that’s the very point that should be made — the lack of any credible evidence in the face of an accusation — not the beside the point, emotional defenses of the hometown kid. That kind of stuff is what screws up the discourse when it comes to topics like these.

  1. unclemosesgreen - May 3, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    Jerry Remy was really heated over this during the game, and he went so far as to mention that Don Orsillo takes steroids (for asthma) and when Don calls a great game, Jerry doesn’t say it was the steroids that made him great.

    Don and Jerry are the best in the game for my money. They are really funny together, the best times with them are when a game is out of hand and close to done – they get giddy and loopy, trust me when I tell you those are the times to stick with them.

    • skeleteeth - May 3, 2013 at 9:13 AM

      • buggieowens - May 3, 2013 at 9:34 AM

        my favorite line from that, sk, is “he was asked to leave the ballgame for ruining a good piece of pizza”….thanks for the laughs

      • gerryb323 - May 3, 2013 at 9:40 AM

        You know Jerry, that was a really cheesy way to handle that situation.

        YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

      • gerryb323 - May 3, 2013 at 11:28 AM

        Does
        “/Caruso
        cue The Who”
        help the thumbs-downers?

      • sabatimus - May 3, 2013 at 1:34 PM

        In years of funny Remy-Orsillo moments, this is the absolute best. Orsillo’s voice went up so high I think he descended back before puberty.

    • nesuperfan - May 3, 2013 at 5:33 PM

      First, I am a Boston fan, but Jerry Remy clearly does not know his ass from his elbow, medically speaking. He clearly brought up steroids to make a point, but his point is, well, pointless, since the type of steroids he references are not anabolic steroids, As someone, who has been prescribed “steroids” in the past for allergies, I can tell you they are not the same as “anabolic steroids”. They are in a totally different class, called Corticosteroids, and do absolutely nothing to make you stronger, or bigger.

      According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the term “steroid” is a chemical name for any substance that has a characteristic chemical structure consisting of multiple chemical rings of connected atoms. Some common examples of steroids are Vitamin D, cholesterol, estrogen, and cortisone. In other words, the word “steroid” describes a type chemical compound, but not all are performance enhancing.

  2. largebill - May 3, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    The real question is does throwing baseless accusations around endear Morris to more of the HoF electorate? Should help him fit in better with some of that crowd.

    • sabatimus - May 3, 2013 at 10:29 AM

      I was going to say that Craig’s “pretty weak on substance” statement could easily be applied to Morris’ HOF candidacy.

  3. baseballicious - May 3, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    Well, that’s Eck being Eck, he’s an emotional guy.

    That said, the best evidence in Buchholz defense is that you can actually see something on his Left arm – it’s white and looks like wet chalk…or wet rosin.

    I’ll try and find a good image of it when I get to my office. Dang, I should’ve just called in sick.

    • heyblueyoustink - May 3, 2013 at 9:22 AM

      “Oh, and next Friday is Hawaiian shirt day. [silence] So, you know, if you want to you can go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans.”

      • psousa1 - May 3, 2013 at 10:57 AM

        heyblue – “What would you do if you had a million dollars?”

      • number42is1 - May 3, 2013 at 1:07 PM

        “What would I do? Two chicks at the same time”

      • heyblueyoustink - May 3, 2013 at 1:11 PM

        ^See above, that’s the only obvious answer.

    • sabatimus - May 3, 2013 at 10:31 AM

      When Eck was the color guy (filling in for Remy when he had cancer), he often said cringe-inducing things. And yes, he’s an emotional guy, who literally drank himself out of the league at one point. So I take stuff that he says salted.

  4. randygnyc - May 3, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    Hes gotten away with it if he was doing it. We’ll see his performance going forward. If his strikeout ratios drop or he starts getting hit more, than I’d be inclined to think he cheated. More people will be watching more closely now.

    • quintjs - May 3, 2013 at 9:10 AM

      That is such an unfair comment. Because Buchholz isn’t going to continue to post a 1.01 ERA, no one could sustain it. So going forward he isn’t going to be as good, and people are going to point and say “see, he cheated”. Ignoring the fact that we could all agree 2 days ago before this all came up that he was going to natuarally regress a little.

      Why has Buchholz pitched well this year? well there was a good article on Fangraphs a day or two ago about the improvement in his command.

      Here is an idea – instead of focusing on what Eck said (which was over the top) how about his accusers show up with the evidence they claim to have so easily seen on TV (that no one else did)… If they produce it, he is guilty. If not, he was innocent and they should apologise or be fired.

      • faulkner22 - May 3, 2013 at 9:33 AM

        I’m going to think that with his next start, Monday, May 6th, with the Twins in town, that his arm is going to be watched like a guy in a casino when the house thinks they’re being cheated.

      • kopy - May 3, 2013 at 9:53 AM

        What if a 1.01 ERA is sustainable when you doctor the baseballs?

      • sabatimus - May 3, 2013 at 10:33 AM

        That’s an excellent analogy, faulkner: because, at casinos, the house ALWAYS thinks it’s being cheated.

      • anxovies - May 3, 2013 at 4:17 PM

        Maybe Buchholz should have to bring in the shirt. Like Monica Lewinsky.

    • turdfurgerson68 - May 3, 2013 at 2:54 PM

      Ha ha, good ol’ randygayc; every comment section needs a fool’s commentary…and he, as always, just provided it.

      Funny how Yankee fans jump at the chance to comment on other teams alleged ‘cheating’ when in fact the Yankees are the biggest cheaters of all; three admitted cheaters (A-Roid, Pettitte, and Giambi) and one more (Cano) soon to be outed.

      • anxovies - May 3, 2013 at 4:19 PM

        How did this turn into a Yankee thing? ADHD?

      • turdfurgerson68 - May 4, 2013 at 7:03 PM

        Randygayc is a Yankee clown/fan who’ll easily comment on another team while his team is in fact, the big cheater.

  5. crispybasil - May 3, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    Definitely agree about Eck’s rant. I haven’t read much of what’s been written about this incident, but I wonder what the reaction of the general baseball world would have been if it wasn’t Hayhurst, e.g. someone less well-liked, making what seem to be baseless accusations about something serious like doctoring the ball.

    • nategearhart - May 3, 2013 at 9:13 AM

      To clarify: You agree that any baseball opinions Hayhurst makes are dismissable because he’s a “career minor leaguer”, and Jack Morris is just looking for attention? Because that was Eck’s rant.

      • crispybasil - May 3, 2013 at 9:35 AM

        No, I agree with Craig’s take on it…Eck has gone off the rails before, and it’s been embarrassing.

      • nategearhart - May 3, 2013 at 9:53 AM

        Very sorry, mate. I misunderstood your first sentence.

      • hasbeen5 - May 3, 2013 at 10:19 AM

        He said he agrees about Eck’s rant, not with his rant. I think he was asking what the reaction would be if it was, say, Rob Dibble making the accusation instead of Hayhurst.

      • hasbeen5 - May 3, 2013 at 10:20 AM

        Hadn’t hit refresh in a while. Work getting in the way of baseball again.

    • proudlycanadian - May 3, 2013 at 9:34 AM

      When it came to doctoring baseballs, Eck was not a saint either. I remember one day several years ago when a visiting team clubhouse attendant at the SkyDome noticed that Eckersley had placed in his glove an object that allowed him to scuff baseballs. The Jays were notified and Cito Gaston went to out to protest. Nothing was found on Eck; however a TV camera did catch the object fluttering to the ground after Eck had ditched it. Methinks that Eck’s response was pure sour grapes.

      • crispybasil - May 3, 2013 at 9:36 AM

        Yeah, I agree, it definitely was sour grapes – should have been clearer in my first comment, but I agree with what Craig wrote.

      • dirtyharry1971 - May 3, 2013 at 9:57 AM

        Me thinks the bluejays are in some big trouble boy

      • proudlybostonian - May 3, 2013 at 12:21 PM

        “Me thinks the bluejays are in some big trouble boy”

        10.5 games back – stumbling out of the gate – I have to agree. You don’t win games on paper, you still have to play them and the SOX are playing them WELL……

    • Cris E - May 3, 2013 at 10:58 AM

      Hayhurst has written about doctoring the ball before. Last summer he wrote a whole piece on how to do it that’s well worth the read.

      http://dirkhayhurst.com/2012/06/valverde-and-his-spitter-so-what/

      “Most of the time, pitchers try to keep the ball clean so we can control what it’s doing better from a default setting. That’s the thing about throwing doctored pitches: they’re advanced forms of the art. I respect a guy who can make a ball dance when it’s got a foreign element on it. Goodness knows It’s hard enough to make it do what you want when all conditions are perfect, but it’s flat out masterful when you can make it dance covered in Vagisil or Crisco…
      If I was Valverde, I’d take this little internet meme and play into it because distraction, doubt, and suspicion are the best doctoring agents of them all.”

  6. manute - May 3, 2013 at 9:05 AM

    Is that Doug Henning?

  7. oldnumero7 - May 3, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    JACK MORRIS DO YOU LIKE APPLES

  8. skeleteeth - May 3, 2013 at 9:07 AM

    Chalk another one up for the Eck!

    • proudlycanadian - May 3, 2013 at 9:35 AM

      Eck did doctor baseballs himself.

      • skeleteeth - May 3, 2013 at 9:50 AM

      • skeleteeth - May 3, 2013 at 9:51 AM

        Damnit…start @ 45 min mark.

  9. pastabelly - May 3, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    Jack Morris is a bitter middle aged former player. Toronto hates John Farrell. Eck is a homer. Buch has always been a very talented pitcher. Buch and Farrell are now in the heads of Toronto. This all adds up and is kind of funny.

  10. Navy Teacher - May 3, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    Where’s that proudlycanadien guy? I’m sure he has something to say considering he was non-stop on this site before the season. Much like last year for the Red Sox fans, it’s tough being a Blue Jays fan right now. It’s a long season but the Sox are making a run that nobody outside their organization believed was possible. The fact that people are accusing Clay of cheating speaks volumes about how dominant he has been this year. It’s still early but man is it fun to watch!! ‘B Strong’!!

  11. faulkner22 - May 3, 2013 at 9:30 AM

    Normally, Eck is “the most honest” NESN employee out of the rest who are your usual homers. He’s got no problem calling guys out usually but look at the source.
    NESN is owned by the Red Sox, so expect your “our people are healthy and fine” DPRK-style stuff here. Even worse is that most of your Boston baseball writers (Cafardo, Pete Abe, etc) circle the wagons just as fast. If there were to be something here, it’d come from a national guy. Look at last year as living proof with the number of writers who continued (and still continue) to defend the Bobby Valentine decision and all of the problems.

    I’d hope that someone independent looks into this and either dispells or maybe finds more. Trust in the Boston media? Don’t bother.

    • sabatimus - May 3, 2013 at 1:36 PM

      I trust no media. Life’s somehow simpler when you expect BS.

  12. jbartlett79 - May 3, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    The key response from NESN was during the game; I agree that Remy’s “I faced Gaylord Perry” argument is pointless, but the video doesn’t lie.

    They showed several clips of Buchholz dabbing his fingers on his forearm — and then wiping them on his pants. Immediately. Every time. For some inexplicable reason, the accusers here are completely ignoring this. He touches his arm and then IMMEDIATELY wipes his fingers on his pants, every single time. Usually, he touches his hair, then wipes, then his arm, then wipes.

    That’s not how you doctor a ball. That’s not even how you doctor your pants.

    Why are Hayhurst and Morris overlooking this?? Why show half a video clip instead of the whole thing? I’m sorry that Morris thinks the movement on Clay’s two-seamer is implausible… but, then again, we don’t all have the overwhelming stuff of Jack Morris.

    He’s been doing it for a long time, and if you watch him pitch you can see him dab the rosin bag on his left forearm before every inning. He also usually keeps his hair wet so he can touch his hair (instead of licking his fingers) and wipe them on his pants.

    If I weren’t so lazy, I’d dig into his PitchF/X data to show how that there isn’t any anomaly in his fastball movement…

    • scoocha - May 3, 2013 at 12:52 PM

      I saw one video where he rubs his arm, wipes it off, rubs his arm, wipes it off, and then goes to the back of his head (wet nappy hair for some reason) and goes IMMEDIATELY to the ball. So we’ll see what;s up over the next couple of starts.

      I don’t think it’s fair to say he cheated if he gets hit a little over the next few starts but if he starts getting destroyed again then all the cheating accusations may be warranted.

      • sabatimus - May 3, 2013 at 1:39 PM

        If I had a dollar for every time a pitcher went to the underside of his cap or his head and then without wiping it off touched the ball, I’d probably own MLB.

  13. Jack Marshall - May 3, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    I think this can be explained by two factors: 1) Buchholtz really does have remarkable stuff, and head issues and injuries have kept him from showing what he can do. This isn’t some putz who’s suddenly become Super Pitcher. This is a guy who threw a no-hitter as a rookie and who has only now put it all together. Like they did with the rest of the Red Sox, “experts’ were basing their expectations on the 2012 train wreck, which was incompetent in March and obviously so now. 2) Toronto believed its press notices, and the gang is panicking, as they should. Non-Yankee juggernauts assembled over the winter via checkbook seldom play to hype (just ask the Mets), and everyone is looking for excuses, This is just the start.

  14. dirtyharry1971 - May 3, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    back in the playoffs in 2006 i think it was kenny rogers was caught red handed with a handful of something all over his hand and arm. Nothing was ever done so even if this guy is doing something illegal i highly doubt anything will be done this time. So its a non story

  15. gregbeau - May 3, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    It should come as no surprise that the BlueJays broadcasters are throwing around accusations to try and explain their team’s poor performance so far. For years, Toronto has had some of the worst TV broadcasters ever, guilty of blatant boosterism and being about as big a bunch of homers as you could possibly find. The Red Sox side should have countered by talking of “whispers” about Joey Bats being on the juice for the last few years. Then both sides would be into the mud-slinging.

  16. mathieug79 - May 3, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    Honestly I don’t care…but here’s a photo, why does he only use 2 fingers? Bluejays didn’t lose that game because of that, they could have taken advantage of Bucholz in the 2 inning, he couldn’t find the strikezone, but they didn’t… here’s the photo sportsnet showed.

    http://www.google.ca/imgres?imgurl=http://l1.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/ju6wxtyfIHv.SqJpRgX.jw–/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3M7cT04NQ–/http://media.zenfs.com/en/blogs/sptusmlbexperts/buchholz050213.jpg&imgrefurl=http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/red-sox-pitcher-clay-buchholz-accused-doctoring-ball-220110543.html&h=315&w=630&sz=30&tbnid=LBM9p6IktVYHxM:&tbnh=61&tbnw=122&zoom=1&usg=__93vNkDThMyCntxvF6W2Jr5pEqdU=&docid=Phz6OPEYc8BH_M&hl=en&sa=X&ei=BcaDUcPeIrir4AODyYGoAQ&ved=0CEoQ9QEwBA&dur=0

  17. jaysfan64 - May 3, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    Eckersley and Jack Morris have been taking verbal shots at each other for over 20 years – while Eckersley certainly made his point he went too far in his comments..personally I think he’s still bitter about ’92…

    http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1992-10-13/sports/1992287061_1_eckersley-jack-blue-jays

  18. psousa1 - May 3, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    I think Morris just had to make himself relevant to the conversation. They asked him what he thought and he probably felt he couldn’t just say “No, he just blew everyone away”.

  19. hitdog042 - May 3, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    Canadian is not proud. Eckersly never doctored the ball. It was proven. Is Canadian TV censored? Buch is also not doctoring. He does what many pitchers do. Gets rosin off his forearm. Wipes off excess on his pants. Uses his sweat to rinse. Then repeats. Completely legal. Morris is an idiot. And eckersly never had “something” fall to the mound. Or in his glove. Ever. Oh boy. Blue Jays fans are restless. Get over it built team stinks like I said they would in March and got blasted for it. No leaders. Bad defense. And I am being proven right.

  20. uyf1950 - May 3, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    I don’t have a horse in this race. But lets be honest some guys are going to get the benefit of the doubt and some guys wouldn’t. Buchholz is a young likable guy who has been though a lot. If this was Aceves he would have been lynched by the media and even some Red Sox fans themselves.

    • sabatimus - May 3, 2013 at 1:42 PM

      No, we’d lynch Aceves merely for being an asshole.

  21. scoocha - May 3, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    You know that everyone would be flipping out if this occurred with any other team except Boston. You know ESPN, NESN, HBT, will all try to bury this story including video evidence, etc.

  22. djpostl - May 3, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    “Buchholz’s pitches did not appear to be doing anything out of the ordinary”

    Um, yeah right.

    MLB Network ha da great breakdown showing how much more movement his pitches have this year, as compared to last year.

    The same piece showed how last year, even with his ritual of applying rosin to his forearm, his arm didn’t glisten as it does this year.

    They also showed where whatever it was on his arm caused a strange discoloration in his uniform etc…

    • amandamartino - May 3, 2013 at 9:18 PM

      You mean as compared to last year when he was injured for most of the year? Isn’t that essentially the same argument as “he’s hit fewer HRs this year therefore he must have been on steroids?”

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