Maybe Yahoo! Baseball writer Jeff Passan should track down Geraldo Rivera, and see if there are any more empty vaults out there worth wasting everyone’s time over.
By now, I think we’ve all heard about the cheating allegations against Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz stemming from his May 1st start against the Toronto Blue Jays. But just in case you’ve been under a rock for the last week, let me bring you up to speed.
After throwing seven shutout innings at Rogers Centre last Wednesday, Buchholz was accused of doctoring the baseball by Blue Jays announcers Dirk Hayhurst and Jack Morris. Hayhurst accused the Red Sox pitcher of “loading up the ball with slick’em”, while Morris said Buchholz was “throwing a spitter”—an illegal pitch.
The next couple of days, everyone seemed to have a little fun with Buchholz. But the truth of the matter was that the 28-year-old had covered his arm with rosin and wet his hair between innings (with water) as a means to get a better grip on the baseball. So everyone had their say and made their jokes, and then they dropped it. Why? Well, because Buccholz wasn’t doing anything wrong. There was no story here. There was nothing more to report. As a matter of fact, it was Morris that began to take a beating in the press for his comments.
But don’t tell Passan that everything was on the level. This veteran sportswriter would not be silenced! He saw something “glowing” and “glistening” on Buchholz’ forearm. He insisted that there was more to this story. He knew there was “something going on.” He was adamant and defiant, stating that Buchholz’ cutter had a lot more movement this season than it had in years past. So he started a crusade to uncover his very own Holy Grail. He alone was going to find out what devilry was spewing from Buchholz’ pores. Go get ‘em, Jeff.
It took mere days for Passan to dig up his smoking gun… his bloody glove… his second shooter. You get the idea. Yahoo!’s own Sherlock Holmes then proudly released his “breaking news” to the entire world of sports. Are you sitting down? Buchholz had… wait for it… Sunscreen on his arm. Sunscreen?
Was it manufactured by BALCO? Did it come from the Miami Anti-Aging Clinic? Was it some special kind of sunscreen that makes the ball dance? No. It was BullFrog brand sunscreen. You know… the stuff everyone uses. The stuff that’s baseball-gripping usage is a widely accepted practice by everyone involved in the game—including the hitters. Let the backpedaling begin.
“Baseball considers sunscreen legal. It considers rosin legal. If the two happen to make a tacky substance that helps (pitchers) hold the ball a little bit better, then I think Major League Baseball’s okay with that,” Passan said. “It’s one of these things that for years has been around… Look, if you look back at Yu Darvish‘s near perfect game earlier this year against Houston, he’s going to his left arm all the time.
“But for Clay Buchholz to continue to go out about this and say there was nothing on his arm but rosin? Rosin is a powder. His arm looked like it was dipped in Soul Glo. It was egregious. And that’s why all the pitchers with whom I spoke were like, you know what, if you’re going to cheat, at least be smart about it. And I use the word ‘cheat’ very loosely. Because it just probably really isn’t cheating at all.”
Huh? So it’s not cheating? So why are we even talking about this? If it’s not cheating, then how is it “egregious”? If Major League Baseball is okay with it, then why are you giving this the “Al Capone’s Vault” treatment?
And what about Passan’s statements about Buchholz’ pitches moving a lot more this season than they have in the past?
“I think the main point here is everybody uses this stuff,” Passan backtracked. “And so Clay Buchholz isn’t getting, to me, any sort of competitive advantage over his peers by using it. (He’s been very successful this year) because he’s been really good. It has nothing to do with the stuff that’s on his arm. His stuff is nasty. And his stuff has a lot of natural movement to it. As long as Clay Buchholz is healthy and is around the strike zone, he’s going to be this guy. He just hasn’t been healthy and hasn’t been around the strike zone in the past.”
And there you have it—investigative reporting at its best. If you’re lost at this point, it’s because Passan pulled the old “Kansas City Shuffle” on you. He investigated Buchholz as a means to catch him cheating, found nothing, and so decided that his dragnet was solely for the purpose of exonerating the Red Sox pitcher.
What an incredible waste of everyone’s time. The only thing that was accomplished here by Passan was putting Buchholz and “cheating” in the same conversation. That’s all he did. And he was wrong. His next “breaking news” should be an apology—not for doing his job, not for investigating this nonsense, but for dragging Buchholz’ name through the mud only to pull a complete one-eighty when it was all said and done. He wants you to believe that he never vilified Buchholz in all of this, but that’s exactly what he did. Don’t give Passan a free pass on this one. He made a complete fool of himself here. Be sure to let him know about it.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)