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


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.

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.

Collin McHugh will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Astros

Collin McHugh Astros
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After using ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel to get past the Yankees in the Wild Card game the Astros will turn to right-hander Collin McHugh in Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Royals.

McHugh had an up-and-down year, posting a 3.89 ERA compared to his 2.73 mark last season, but thanks to good teammate support he had a 19-7 record and his 171/53 K/BB ratio in 204 innings was solid. He was particularly good down the stretch, posting a 2.89 ERA and 69/20 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after August 1.

McHugh will match up against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 1. Houston hasn’t named a starter for Game 2 yet, while Kansas City is going with Johnny Cueto. And then the Game 3 matchup figures to be Dallas Keuchel versus Edinson Volquez.