You know what you rarely see from a legitimate baseball publication? An article about how to “fix” baseball. This is mostly because baseball folks tend not to think that there’s a ton wrong with the game, and they realize that that which is wrong is complicated enough to justify a dedicated article as opposed to some omnibus baseball-sucks rant. General interest magazines seem to have some baseball dilettante run one every other month, however, and they’re almost uniformly awful, evidencing an almost total misunderstanding of the game’s business and competitive dynamics.
But Matt Taibbi’s offering to that effect in Men’s Journal isn’t so bad! Oh, it’s ignorant — badly misrepresenting baseball’s TV ratings and citing basketball and football as having their business and competitive houses in order when they most certainly do not — but it’s got two awesome things going for it:
1. A hilarious, albeit likely disingenuous mea culpa for writing last year that the Yankees were a “mercenary” team that couldn’t hope to buy itself a world title; and
2. A totally righteous defense of the old school version of Bernie Brewer, and attendant evisceration of new school Bernie Brewer, which may as well have come straight from my brain. It’s Milwaukee: if you’re gonna have a dude wearing lederhosen go down a slide after a home run, he damn well better land in a mug of beer.
Beyond that, Taibbi covers the following:
- Instant replay: Taibbi wants it formalized, I prefer a fifth umpire in a booth who can simply overrule any dunderheaded calls by his colleagues;
- Time controls: Taibbi wants to make pitchers pitch faster and hitters stay in the box. Amen, brother;
- Salary cap: He wants one, I think that making rules to protect poor billionaires from those ruthless millionaires is all rather silly. If team owners are smart enough to make enough money to afford a baseball team they can figure out how to make one profitable on their own or else they shouldn’t have gotten into the business in the first place. If it’s a competitive balance thing there are better ways to do it;
- Salary floor: I’m averse because it could prevent teams from tearing down and rebuilding when they need to. No one liked it when the Marlins cut back to a $14 million payroll, but it probably helped them get better faster than if they had pursued the course the Astros and the Royals have done.
- Expanded rosters: Taibbi wants them. I say no way, because rather than use the extra slots to expand platooning like he wants, most teams would simply add a bunch of scrapheap relief pitchers. He thinks the games are long now, wait until La Russa can make nine pitching changes a game with impunity;
Finally, Taibbi asks: “can we please bring back really gross fat guys with bad facial hair?”
I’m all for that one, actually. Anyone know if Matt Stairs made the Padres roster?
After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.
The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).
Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.
With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.
Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.
With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:
So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).
Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.