Boston Red Sox: Is Clay Buchholz Cheating by Throwing Spitballs?

Douglas SiborContributor IMay 3, 2013

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 1: Clay Buchholz #11 of the Boston Red Sox during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 1, 2013 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Clay Buchholz was his typical masterful self on Wednesday night, firing seven two-hit, shutout innings for the Red Sox against the Blue Jays. He has been phenomenal all season, and after this latest gem lowered his ERA to 1.01 and was named AL Pitcher of the Month for April.

So, of course, he must be cheating.

First it was some commentator named Dirk Hayhurst throwing accusations around, and then Thursday night Hall-of-Fame wannabe Jack Morris decided to get in on the action, telling ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes, “He’s throwing a spitter” despite also admitting that he “can’t prove anything.”

Natually, the question is: did Buchholz do it?

If you have ever watched or played baseball, the answer is pretty clearly no.

In Edes’ article, Buchholz and manager John Farrell freely admit that the right-hander uses a combination of water and rosin to improve his grip on the ball. Nearly every professional pitcher does this. If you watch any of them between pitches, you’ll see them wiping their hands on their jerseys, pant legs, hats, hair and pretty much anything else. It’s all part of the game and 100 percent legal.

And, quite honestly, how stupid would Buchholz have to be to think he could get away with doctoring the ball? Not only are there four umpires, 25 opposing players and a bevy of coaches watching his every pitch, but there are several high-definition cameras trained on him at all times. Brazen cheating simply can’t happen under those conditions.

Seeking rationality in this situation is clearly asking too much, though. Farrell was on point when he told the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham that “it bothers me immensely when someone is going to make an accusation, and in this case cheating, because they've seen something on TV.”

Again, though, logic simply isn’t going to win out here.

One thing I can say in praise of Toronto is this is the kind of PR move that would make Don Draper proud. The team is horrible, an underachiever reminiscent of last year’s Miami Marlins, and look to be headed towards a 2012 Marlins-esque season. They even have a couple of their players.

Since they don’t like what people are saying about the team on the field, they change the story. How many people today are talking about the Sox taking two of three and the Jays dropping to 10-19, already 10.5 games out of first in the AL East?


They may have picked the wrong team to mess with, though. The Sox have a number of equally vocal people on their side, and they have come out in force defending Buchholz.

On Thursday night’s NESN broadcast, Jerry Remy declared “there was none of that going on here [Wednesday] night,” and analyst Dennis Eckersley termed the accusations “a joke,” “nasty” and “ridiculous.”

Eckersley took it a step further when Morris’ comments came to light during the game, calling the former pitcher “clueless” and telling this “guy who can’t even make it to the Hall of Fame” to “zip it” on the NESN postgame show.

What’s funny too is that the logic of all these statements about spitballs and doctoring the baseball completely ignore how Buchholz has been getting it done on the field. His changeup and curveball have been devastating this year, with both serving as “out” pitches for the right-hander. His fastball has been good, but it hasn’t been the difference maker. Given the only pitch a spitball is useful for is a fastball, the Toronto broadcasters’ argument doesn’t make a ton of sense.

Perhaps the fact that nobody, including the Blue Jays themselves, has complained about Buchholz should be a sign that he isn’t cheating. Reality does not seem to be the strong suit of the Toronto broadcast team, however.

Buchholz himself can really just take all this controversy as a big compliment. He has flummoxed hitters all season and has received nary a complaint, a sign that he has rediscovered his form of 2010.

The best way for him to put this controversy to bed is to go out and dominate in his next start, and given how he’s pitched this season it’s a good bet he will.