Our Phenom Is Better Than Your Phenom

Saturday, September 01, 2007

(posted by OMDQ)

On May 1, in only his second major league start, New York Yankees pitching prospect Philip Hughes took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a game against the Texas Rangers before departing with a hamstring injury.

Tonight, on September 1, in only his second major league start, Boston Red Sox pitching prospect Clay Buchholz pitched a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles, striking out nine and walking three. He was helped out defensively by center fielder Coco Crisp and Dustin Pedroia, who saved the gem in the seventh with a diving play on a Miguel Tejada bouncer up the middle.

In a year where Red Sox fans are being constantly reminded of the magic surrounding the 1967 Impossible Dream team, it's hard to avoid comparing this outing with the one enjoyed by Billy Rohr against the Yankees in April that year. Rohr, a rookie making his first major league start, took a no-hitter into the ninth inning (and was helped by a spectacular Carl Yastrzemski catch in that frame) before allowing a two-out single to Elston Howard.

The knock on Rohr after that game (if you can call it a knock) was that he threw three curveballs in a row to Howard, the last of which flattened out and politely asked to be hit hard. There was no chance of that happening in Buchholz's outing tonight; NESN's Jerry Remy noted several times what an outstanding game catcher Jason Varitek was calling on behalf of the rookie - primarily curves and changeups from what I could tell, with just the right number of fastballs mixed in to keep the Orioles guessing.

(Sidebar: How about Varitek? This was the third no-hitter he has caught in his career - he was also behind the plate for Hideo Nomo's second no-no in 2001 and Derek Lowe's in 2002 - making him one of only seventeen catchers to handle three or more. Whenever I wonder whether the team should have paid $10 million a year to sign him after 2004, this is what I'm going to think of.)

I could be cynical right now and elaborate on a point brushed upon by the game story, that no pitcher who has ever thrown a no-hitter this early in his career (Bobo Holloman and Wilson Alvarez are the others, in their first and second starts, respectively) has gone on to enjoy much success at the major league level. Or that the last rookie to pitch a no-hitter, Florida's Anibal Sanchez (ironically a former Red Sox prospect) last year, had a disastrous 2007, last pitching for the Marlins on May 2. But let's not focus on that stuff right now.

Instead, I'm going to focus on the look on Pedroia's face after he dove for that Tejada bouncer, sprang to his feet, got rid of the ball faster than I have ever seen, and quite clearly shouted, "Fuck yeah!" with a celebratory fist pump when the throw was on the mark and just in time.

Or the look on Buchholz's face when he got to the ninth inning and realized, "Holy crap, I'm three outs away."; I've never seen a baseball player toss his cookies on the field of play - for awhile there, I was sure it was going to happen.

Or Josh Beckett patting the kid on the back and yelling for the world to hear, "He did way better than Curt Schilling!"...followed by Schilling, who lost a no-no in the ninth earlier this year, congratulating Buchholz before beginning to plot Beckett's death.

Or David Ortiz being one of the first to reach the mound and wrapping Buchholz in a huge bear hug that lasted the entirety of the on-field celebration. We thought it odd at first, just how long the embrace lasted; it was my mother, of all people, who pointed out the obvious: "It looks like he's protecting him from everybody else."

Or a 23-year-old kid who just enjoyed what is probably the best moment of his baseball career to date struggling to hold back tears while being interviewed by NESN's Tina Cervasio. Was I doing the same in my parents' living room? Maaaaybe.

Look, I know a lot of people out there hate the Red Sox and their fans. That's okay. We deserve it (the "woe is me" thing was cute when the team wasn't winning, but even I'll admit that it's become insufferable since the 2004 World Series. Relax, people, they won a title! We don't have to be miserable bastards anymore!) to an extent. But tonight wasn't about the Red Sox, or their fans, or the Yankees. It was about the game of baseball being played the way it should be. A young kid was out there on the mound, in a situation that could have spiraled out of control at any moment, and his team was there to pick him up every time. The Captain was there to call the pitches - all he had to do was throw them. And when they got hit, somebody was there to make a play, be it Pedroia throwing his body around or Crisp wordlessly guaranteeing that nothing was landing on the outfield grass without a fight. And on the other side, the guys in the lineup went out and put ten runs on the board, just so the idea of losing the game wasn't even a remote possibility. Go work on your no-hitter, young man - we'll take care of the rest. It was team play at its finest, everyone putting forth their best concerted effort for the glory of one.

And despite what I typed a minute ago, how this wasn't about the Yankees...is there a fan of these two teams right now that isn't salivating at the thought of seeing these guys go head to head for years to come? Hughes has been below average since returning from that hamstring injury, and we'll have to see how Buchholz responds to this moment of instant glory, but both possess a remarkable, undeniable talent that should be a ton of fun to watch down the road.

Posted by One More Dying Quail at 10:24 PM


Hats off to this no name...it'll be interesting if he gets the same exposure as Jaba the Head Hunter.

Dummy said...
Sep 2, 2007, 12:33:00 AM  

Hate to nitpick..but Wilson Alvarez had a very successful career. The man had 8.5 productive, above average seasons, 102 wins, and took down nearly $50 million in salary. That sounds like a pretty good career to me. Almost any team would gladly take a random Wilson Alvarez season in their rotation.

Most pitchers don't go on to become hall of famers.

Evan said...
Sep 2, 2007, 3:08:00 AM  

Nice post though. Interesting point about Varitek, he's gotta be feeling great right now.

Evan said...
Sep 2, 2007, 3:10:00 AM  

evan, don't apologize for nitpicking. I do it all the time.

You're right - Alvarez was a decent pitcher who had some good seasons. But the point I was trying to make was that many fans will look at this game as an indicator of Buchholz's future success. To most people, 100 wins in eight seasons from Buchholz - Wilson Alvarez's career, basically - will be a terrible tragedy.

Most pitchers don't, as you mentioned, become Hall of Famers. But Buchholz will be faced with higher expectations because of one remarkable game.

Sep 2, 2007, 3:34:00 AM  

"We tried going on the field to congratulate him, but no one would let us."

- Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon

Anonymous said...
Sep 2, 2007, 6:40:00 AM  

Sorry, but you Bosox fans still have "Sweet Caroline" to answer for. (And now we Nationals fans have to put up with the song at our games, just to please all those damn Ivy Leaguers who have high-level government jobs in D.C.)

At least when the White Sox won it all in 2005, their fans largely followed the advice from Emmitt Smith's mother when he scored a touchdown and acted like they'd been there before -- even though except for a handful on South Side nonagenarians, they hadn't.

VP81955 said...
Sep 2, 2007, 9:02:00 PM  

the white sox and nationals have fans?

Steve said...
Sep 2, 2007, 10:42:00 PM  

Don't ask why, but I was wondering how Joe Buck and Tim McCarver would call Buckholz' no-hitter. I can hear Tim now: "The key to throwing a no-hitter is not to give up any hits."

Morgan Wick said...
Sep 3, 2007, 1:54:00 AM  

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