Where are they now: Jake Fox

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It seemed like a safe enough assumption; Jake Fox had made 10 starts in left field this season and he’d hit .286/.332/.526 in his 175 at-bats for the Cubs. Of course he was going to see additional playing time with Alfonso Soriano being shut down with a knee injury. It was a given.
But now it’s Sept. 11, and Fox was on the bench for the seventh straight game Friday against the Reds. He hasn’t started since going 2-for-4 with the Cubs’ only extra-base hit in a 5-0 loss to the White Sox on Sept. 3. Soriano has missed all seven games since. Milton Bradley just missed one Wednesday. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez have each had a day off in the span. Yet Fox has been limited to three pinch-hitting appearances.
The most stunning absence came the very day after the shutout. Fox hit a grand slam off the Mets’ Bobby Parnell on Aug. 29, yet didn’t start when Parnell faced the Cubs again on Sept. 4. The Mets ended up winning that game 6-2 behind seven scoreless innings from the rookie.
The whole scenario seemingly has Cubs writer Carrie Muskat baffled. “Fox has opportunity to step up for Cubs” was the headline for her preview column for Friday’s game. That was written after Fox had sat out six straight.
I’m pretty baffled myself, but it’s clear Fox is in manager Lou Piniella’s doghouse. He has yet to prove adequate anywhere in the field, whether it has been his 22 starts at third, his 12 in the outfield or his two at first base. The former catcher has also been behind the plate for seven innings, but the Cubs saw so little to like there that they had Koyie Hill catch every single game when Geovany Soto was forced to the DL for a month.
It’s still hard to justify the current treatment, though. When given the chance, Fox has provided oodles of power to a lineup that’s been surprisingly short of punch this season. Maybe he shouldn’t be a full-timer given his limitations, but about the only time he definitely shouldn’t play is when flyball pitcher Ted Lilly is on the mound.

The Japanese playoffs are super unfair

Hiroshima Carp
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I know a little about Japanese baseball. Not a lot, mind you. Like, I couldn’t hold my own with people who actually watch it or report on it or whatever, but I could explain some of the broad differences and similarities between the NPB and the U.S. majors.  I can say a few things about how the two leagues compare competitively speaking. I can name some stars and (I think) all the clubs. But there’s, quite obviously, a ton I don’t know.

A thing I did not know until today: the NPB playoffs are really messed up.

The NPB is divided into two leagues, the Central and the Pacific, with the winner of each league facing off in the Japan Series. Like the U.S. majors, they have preliminary playoff rounds in each league. Each league has three playoff teams, with the second and third seed teams playing a series first, and the winner of that series playing the top seed — the team with the best record in the league — in what is called the Climax Series.

Here’s the weird part: the higher-seeded team in the Climax Series — the team which won the league in the regular season — gets every single playoff game at home. What’s more, that team begins the Climax Series with an automatic 1-0 advantage. So, yes, it’s a seven-game series on paper, but one of the teams only has to win three games to advance to the Japan Series.

Oh, in Japan, they also have no problems ending a playoff game early if it rains. That’s what happened in the Central League Climax Series last night, where the lower-seeded Yokohama BayStars took on the league champ Hiroshima Carp. Here’s the report from Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times:

The rainy conditions in Hiroshima caused the umpires to stop play for over 30 minutes and ultimately call the game after five innings, minutes after the Carp put three runs on the board. Just like that, it was over. The Carp won 3-0, with Yokohama robbed of the four innings (at least) it would’ve had to try and rally.

Even better: as Coskrey notes, there are five days in between the end of the Climax Series and the beginning of the Japan Series, so there is no reason they could not suspend a game and resume it the next day. They just choose not to. The upshot: the Carp were staked to a 2-0 series lead despite the fact that they had only played five innings of baseball. UPDATE: they played a full game today, the BayStars won, so now it’s 2-1 Hiroshima.

Imagine if that happened in the NLCS. Imagine if the Dodgers began the series with a 1-0 lead over the Cubs and played all of their games in Los Angeles. Imagine there was a freak L.A. storm and it ended one of the game in the fifth inning, right after Justin Turner hit a homer. I’m pretty sure people would riot.

Kinda makes our complaints about the replay system seem rather quaint, eh?