There are a few types of bad columns: poorly written, poorly sourced, illogical, unprovable, and just plain mean. Adam Kaufman's column on Boston.com yesterday, "Clay Buchholz's frame of mind is concerning," was something of a Yahtzee of a bad column, and a sight to behold.
Kaufman set his snake eyes on Buchholz, who has been cleared by team doctors to resume throwing but who is still experiencing soreness in his bullpen sessions, for dragging his feet in his recovery from a trapezius injury. Buchholz is determined to come back at 100 percent and not a moment before, and shut down the whole operation over the All-Star break with the support of the team. ""We decided to take the break as a break, not really mess with it and then get back to it when we get back (to Boston for the start of the second half)," he told Sean McAdam, who bothered to actually speak with the ace. Clay called the process "pretty tough, frustrating for sure," and cited the team's AL-best record as a reason that he feels comfortable waiting it out. "I've said it all along: at least all the other guys are going out there and doing their jobs," he told McAdam. "It would be a lot more tough if everything wasn't going as we want to. That would make it a little bit tougher to sit back and watch. But you've got everybody going out there and doing their job. So, that's why I'm going to keep it to be 100 percent before I come back."
Last year, Dustin Pedroia tried playing through a thumb injury but only hit .210 over 26 games before ultimately going to the disabled list to heal up. He used virtually identical language to that of Buchholz this year. "I'll be back in a few weeks," he told ESPN's Gordon Edes, who also did a little thing called "reporting." "It's not like I'll be out all year," Pedroia said. "Guys will weather the storm. We'll be fine." They weren't, but it's not like Pedroia could have saved them: When he did return, in July, he ripped the cover off the ball through the end of September for the league's biggest laughingstock. The team was bigger than one guy.
If Buchholz is able to return and continue his stellar season, it could pay huge dividends for a Sox team that looks like it's headed for the playoffs. Buchholz has said he wants to be healthy for September and October, and his wait-and-wait approach has its supporters in the media. "I might even be in favor of their patience for the same reason he appears scared to return: the Red Sox will need him down the stretch and the postseason," wrote one Globe writer. "Scared" is not the same thing as "careful," but we'd be willing to give the writer a pass on his language if that wasn't the only semi-logical thing he could scrape up; the writer was Kaufman, and every other sentence in his piece is a train wreck.
How do you even begin to make sense of something like this, even after you clean up the syntax? "It's impossible to get inside his body and relate to how he's feeling, but the overall message simply does not exude a burning desire to win," he writes. First, this is guesswork and totally unprovable. That could be the end of it, but let's keep going. Second, to paraphrase John Updike on Ted Williams, for the guy with the sub-2 ERA to lack a desire to win would be unparalleled in the annals of selfishness. Kaufman compares Buchholz to Derrick Rose, sitting out the NBA postseason after being cleared by team doctors to return, despite the fact Buchholz said he's specifically waiting to be ready for the postseason. Kaufman, desperate to make a point, is playing a shell game with invisible shells where you can see the ball the entire time, his only hope being that he can move it around fast enough that you don't bother to collect your money because you feel bad for a guy whose hustle couldn't fool a three-year-old. (Naturally, after the fact, he has some supporters in the comments and on Twitter.)
Kaufman believes it's "problematic" that Buchholz has been given some leeway to tell the team how he feels in his rehab; that he's "idiotic" for being honest with reporters about how he's the one fiddling with the knobs at this point, trying to mitigate his own soreness; that "it's literally part of Buchholz's job to be more headstrong"; and that "many are accusing an undefeated All-Star of being soft, fragile, and lacking in heart." The only person quoted in the piece is Buchholz, and the only one lobbing accusations is Kaufman, assassinating another professional's character as casually as filling up a glass of water.
Maybe if Buchholz' injury looked worse, Kaufman would be okay with his continued rehab; if he was run over at first base by Prince Fielder, there'd be no question that he would get all the time he needed from this particular judge, jury and executioner. As anyone who saw Bo Jackson's innocuous career-ending injury can attest, looks can be deceiving, just like anyone who clicked on a Boston Globe link expecting to find a typically well-reasoned argument would be heartbroken by this dreck. The Red Sox are in first place. Clay Buchholz has been amazing. On the slowest sports day of the year, Kaufman has reminded us that as well as things are going, as fantastic as this year has been, we still can't have nice things.
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