I really don’t think there’s a whole lot to make of this “the Red Sox are totally cheating, you guys” thing, especially for anyone who took seriously– or found completely fucking laughable– the accusations about Jose Bautista or the Man In White that have been levied against the Jays in recent years.
The biggest takeaway, for me, is that Jack Morris, wary as I was of his arrival on the Jays’ broadcasting scene, is kind of super fucking awesome.
Truth be told, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Morris behind the mic this year, but this? This takes it to a whole other level.
From Gordon Edes’ piece at ESPN Boston:
Asked if he believed the action of Buchholz’s pitches suggested he was throwing a spitter, Morris said, “What do you think? Look at the pitches. Fastball at 94 that goes like that,” Morris said, his hand darting swiftly down and away. “On a fastball?
“He’s not the first guy to ever do it? You can get away with it. Gaylord [Perry] made a nice career out of it.”
Perry is in the Hall of Fame.
Asked if he has seen any other current pitchers throw a spitball, Morris said he hasn’t.
“But I’ll be looking,” he said. “I’ll be looking. You warn all your boys I’ll be looking.”
Morris said he shared his suspicions with Red Sox catchers David Ross, who caught Buchholz on Wednesday, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia before Thursday’s game.
“I went up to Salty and I told him,” Morris said. “He said, ‘It’s dry in Boston, and I’ve seen him put water all over his pants.’ I said, ‘Salty this isn’t my first [expletive] rodeo.’ He didn’t know what to say to that, so we ended the conversation right there.”
Bahahahahahahaha! That. Is. Fucking. Awesome.
The Edes piece says that Morris approached John Farrell about the accusations, too.
That was back on Wednesday night, and last night the “scandal” reared its ugly head again, as Toronto broadcasters noted a sheen on the arm of Junichi Tazawa.
“”Well, it looks to me like he’s got a little something on his forearm, also,” Morris said during the telecast, according to a piece from Chris Toman of MLB.com. “I don’t know as though that’s anything in the slippery point. It might be some tacky stuff to get a feel, but it’s obvious that he has gone to his forearm, too. Who knows? That might just be deception, too. A lot of time you have perspiration you’re going to go to that just to mess with hitters.”
Mike Wilner pointed out Tazawa’s shine, and didn’t take kindly to Peter Abraham’s trolling:
— Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness590) May 3, 2013
— Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness590) May 3, 2013
Abraham finds his own laughable conspiracy in it– but at least has one thing absolutely fucking bang on:
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) May 2, 2013
@eproctor17 I usually look at who pays people when evaluating their opinion.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) May 3, 2013
It’s “Rock N Roll Night” at Rogers Centre. Team employees in leather jackets and wigs playing fake guitars, etc. Yeesh.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) May 2, 2013
Richard Griffin fires shots…
— Richard Griffin (@RGriffinStar) May 3, 2013
But surely not at the legendary Peter Gammons (Peter Gammons… Peter Gammons… GAAAAAAAMONS… GAAAAAAMONS… PETER PETER!)
One trip, the embarrassing Farrell Boo(ze). Next, Bucholz “spitter.” Paranoia strikes deep. Baseball with subtitles. — Peter Gammons (@pgammo) May 3, 2013
“I was upset during the game when we found out what was happening with Jack Morris, and the more I saw it, the more I started thinking about it, it made me more and more angry about Jack Morris. To me, that’s clueless on his part,” Eckersley said on NESN. “If he knew anything about Buchholz, he knows how nasty he is. His ball doesn’t dance all over the place. The guy paints. He’s got nasty stuff. [Morris] should know that, and he’s gotten carried away. It becomes about Jack Morris almost.
“Where’s Jack Morris been all these years, anyway?” Eckersley continued. “He finally gets a job up there in Toronto and he has to make statements like that and take away from what this kid has done? I think it’s wrong. He’s pitched long enough to know. Guys, you talk about stick-’em, whatever that is, pine tar. He knows that you go to something if you’re sweaty just to get a grip. It’s all about a grip. You saw the comment — that guy [Hayhurst] backed off a little bit, saying maybe it’s rosin, maybe it’s this, but if you just watch the game, you know: the ball disappears on you.
“When you throw a spitball, the ball falls off the table, and you know it right away. The hitters didn’t complain, but Jack Morris is. I think Jack Morris should zip it,” Eckersley added. “I feel sorry for Buchholz to even have to deal with this. I’m styling here, and you’re taking away from me, a guy that can’t even make it to the Hall of Fame yet, and he’s chirping over there — zip it.”
Like just about every insufferable thing in this, there’s right and wrong in what Eckersley is saying. The Hall Of Fame dick-measuring is hilariously meaningless– as we discussed in… er… length on today’s Getting Blanked Podcast– and it’s similarly hilarious for Eckersley to be calling Morris clueless about Buchholz while asking where he had been, not knowing that he had been doing Twins games for the last few years.
That said, by his actions it kind of has been made about Morris in a way, which I’m entirely for. One, because it turns out– again– that Jack is kinda fucking awesome. And two, because Eckersley is pretty much right about the kind of pitcher Buchholz is.
Yes, there appeared to be something on his arm, and on the bottom of the sleeve of his undershirt on Wednesday night– as we can see in this image:
And no, as we can see in this picture from one batter later (via @KennedyMLB), it didn’t appear to be consistent with what was happening on his other side:
But the Sox are saying it’s water, rosin, sweat, or something, at the very least, entirely legal. Maybe it’s not, but Matthew Kory of Baseball Prospectus has it right:
— Matthew Kory (@mattymatty2000) May 3, 2013
I know– from damn experience– that we’d all be pushing back with as much force as possible if someone was making these sorts of allegations about our own players based on less-than-airtight evidence. Especially when– sorry, Jays fans– they simply don’t make a lot of sense.
Marc Normandin of Over The Monster sums it up:
Honestly, if Hayhurst and Morris think that Buchholz needs to cheat to get movement on his pitches, then they haven’t been watching Clay Buchholz over the years. He’s always had the stuff and the movement, he just hasn’t always had the same command of it he’s shown to start 2013 – and enhanced command doesn’t necessarily paint a picture of a baseball doctored to get more movement on it. Hell, if you look at PITCHf/x numbers, Buchholz actually has less horizontal movement on his two fastballs right now than he has had in his career as a whole.
The first link he points to in the paragraph above is from Jack Moore at FanGraphs, who sees the difference in the 2013 version of Buchholz and last year’s– and it isn’t something you’d attribute to the kind of extra crazy breaking movement that Normandin has already pointed out doesn’t appear to exist.
So what’s new? Via last night’s Blue Jays broadcast, Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said Buchholz’s biggest difference is improved fastball command. And indeed, the numbers (via BrooksBaseball.net) bear this out: Buchholz has thrown his four-seam fastball for a called strike 27.5 percent of the time this year after just 22.8 percent in 2012. Conversely, the pitch has seen a similar drop in in-play rate. Considering Buchholz has allowed a .537 slugging on contact on the pitch for his career — the worst by over 100 points for any pitch he still throws — the fewer four-seam fastballs put in play the better.
By keeping the fastballs on the corners, something he did proficiently Wednesday night, he’ll turn what used to be balls in play into called strikes or foul balls. He has thrown the fastball for a strike but not in play 51.8 percent of the time this year, six points higher than last season. And, with 160 four-seam fastballs thrown already this season, this difference is already statistically significant (in a 90 percent confidence interval, to be specific).
Maybe I’m wrong, but, like Marc, I don’t quite see how more movement on pitches from a guy who already had trouble commanding nasty stuff would lead to those outcomes. And I especially don’t see how there’s enough there to, as Kory says, slander a guy’s name for it. We sure wouldn’t stand for it around here, right? The Jays themselves haven’t been willing to do it– I think understandably, given the codes that govern that sort of conduct. But hey, at least it gives us something to talk about besides how fucking shitty they’ve played this year, right?