In case you've somehow missed all of this over the past couple of weeks: Clay Buchholz dominated the Blue Jays in Toronto to cap off a terrific April, and was then accused of cheating and throwing spitballs by Jays' radio personnel Jack Morris and Dirk Hayhurst. After much gnashing of teeth on both sides -- much of which came from a lack of evidence from the accusers other than the "I know it when I see it" defense, but Boston's own media let loose, too -- Jeff Passan of Yahoo! wrote a detailed look on what it is pitchers do to baseballs, and what very well might have been what Clay Buchholz was doing.
Shorter Passan: pitchers -- reportedly including the likes of the Rangers' Yu Darvish -- combine BullFrog spray-on sunscreen with rosin in order to improve their grip on the baseball. It doesn't add movement like a scuffed ball, and is so predominant that it was likened to being as common in baseball as sunflower seeds by Passan. Pitchers don't think it's cheating, as it's essentially their version of pine tar -- what hitters use to improve grip on the bat -- and hitters don't mind because they approve of anything that increases their chances of not being hit in the head by a baseball. That, plus the fact their own pitchers are using the BullFrog concoction likely helps, too.
Enter Curt Schilling, former Red Sox hurler and likely future Hall of Famer. Schilling spoke to Mut & Merloni on WEEI last week, admitting he used BullFrog in his own games, and explaining why Buchholz might have in Toronto:
"Here's the thing: I did it. And I did it for the same reasons Clay did it," Schilling said. "I would tell you there is no ballpark harder to grip a baseball in than the SkyDome [Rogers Centre]. It is the hardest and the driest environment - for me it was - in the big leagues. I had no saliva, I had cotton mouth in that stadium all the time. You needed something, and it was to keep a grip. You can't cheat by getting an extra grip on the ball. That's not how you cheat. You cheat by getting the ball moist and wet. If that was what Clay was trying to do, he would have been doing the opposite of what he actually did. You want the ball to be slick. You want it to be almost like - not spit, but water. He was actually using that stuff to keep a grip.
"And he says he doesn't use it. That's fine, I don't care. But we all use something. Listen, the rosin bag's on the mound. The rosin bag's there for grip. The rosin doesn't work unless there's moisture with it. BullFrog guarantees me that I'm going to be able to keep it sticky."
Between Passan's story and Schilling's further explanation of the why, you start to get a very good sense of just what it is pitchers are doing, and how it shouldn't be a big deal. To Jack Morris' credit, he seems to have realized this, too, and took the time over the weekend to apologize to Buchholz for drawing attention away from the fact that he's been stellar this season.
Now, maybe we can put this whole thing to rest, though, even with Morris and Hayhurst backing down from their comments, there are sure to be fans who still label Buchholz a cheater. That damage is done, but at least from the perspective within the game itself, no one minds, because it's something the vast majority of pitchers seem to do.
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