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.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.