"Everybody else gets screwed" except the Yankees and Red Sox

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Bud Selig has his little committee to talk about speed of the game, the postseason schedule and other rules changes.  The USA Today put their own committee together — including guys like Dusty Baker, Torii Hunter, Scott Boras and former umpire Steve Palermo — to talk about many of the same things, and unlike Bud’s group, USA Today showed its work.  The most interesting thing to me: everyone says that those pitch-striker strike zone boxes used on TV broadcasts are ridiculously off, which is something I’ve suspected for a while. “They should say at the bottom of the screen, ‘This is for entertainment purposes only,'” Palermo says.

The most controversial stuff — but I think the most righteous — comes when the subject of speed-of-the-game comes up:

“When you got a 15-13 game, it’s going to take
3½ hours,” Palermo says. “But I don’t think it should take 3 hours, 5
minutes to play a 2-1 game. You’re putting everybody in a deep freeze
by doing that. You might as well have Dean Smith come out and do Four Corners.”

The trouble, Palermo says, is there are certain teams and individuals who continually ignore baseball’s directives.

“This is a hot button with the commissioner,”
Palermo says. “We’ve got a couple teams — I’m not going to name names,
but I think everybody knows who they are — and they’re arrogant. They
don’t think this pertains to them. I had a president of one of those
ballclubs tell me the system is flawed. I told him, ‘Then how did the
28 other teams conform to what we’re asking except for you and your
next-door neighbor that you have a rivalry with?’

Says Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter,
realizing along with the other panelists that Palermo is alluding to
the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox “Everybody else gets screwed but those two teams.”

You don’t need a panel of experts to tell you that the Yankees and Red Sox have turned baseball into a snooze-fest, but it’s somewhat surprising to hear people in and around the game being so up front about it. They’re particularly tough on Papelbon, who always takes extra pitches in the bullpen after being summoned, thus lengthening the time for pitching changes, but they go on about the Yankees’ excessive mound visits too.  For my money they could pile on about how long and how often guys on those teams step out of the batters’ box in between pitches too.

We get it, Red Sox and Yankees: you’re important.  But you’re not THAT damn important, so get on with it, will ya?

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.