Sports Outside the Beltway

Down on the Farm: Cheers for Buchholz Rankle Fisher Cats

Clay Buchholz is drawing rave reviews while plowing through the Eastern League this season. He’s Boston’s top pitching prospect, and is showing signs of being capable of making the leap to the big leagues in 2008. The Red Sox may have an opening, depending on how Curt Schilling feels about coming back next year, and how Theo and company feel about him coming back. With all that hype, denizens of Red Sox Nation already know who Clay Buchholz is, and some are ready to name their next born after him.

So this week, when Buchholz shut down the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the folks in New Hampshire gave Buchholz a standing ovation. The Fisher Cats, who were ostensibly the home team, were not amused.

Some Fisher Cats felt slighted. One player, who requested anonymity, said he felt like vomitting during the ovation.

“When I came to the dugout after that standing ovation, players were not happy. I just think it rubbed my team, and especially myself, the wrong way,” New Hampshire manager Bill Masse said yesterday after a day of reflection. “These guys are out there competing every night and giving the fans some awesome games, and they came away feeling like they were the visiting team.”

This is the nature of locating a minor League affiliate in New England when you are not the Red Sox. Washington’s New York-Penn League entrant – the Vermont Lock Monsters – no doubt hear a fair few more cheers for the opposition when Boston’s NYP farm team – the Lowell Spinners – comes to town. Of course, those guys were likely disappointed when Spinners players got a lot of cheers during games. The Fisher Cats (and the Lock Monsters) have reason to be disappointed. Nobody wants to hear cheers from “your” crowd for the guy you’re trying to beat.

Buchholz may be destined for greatness, or perhaps his tremendous talent will not pan out. He is being managed carefully by the Red Sox, but still has managed to post 111 Ks in 80.1 IP. He’s got a microscopic 1.79 ERA and a OBA of .187. Those are numbers that will get you mentioned with Yovanni Gallardo, Philip Hughes and Homer Bailey. Red Sox fans are understandably excited. And they will not be denied an opportunity to declare, “I was there when…” about any once, current or future legend. My advice to the Fisher Cats: earplugs and and perseverance.

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