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

Deep Thoughts: Hayhurst-Morris accusations against Clay Buchholz edition

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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.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

Braves 2
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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.