The All-Star Game is now all-DH, all the time

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2010 All-Star Game.JPGEver since Ron Blomberg and his ilk ruined our national pastime lo those 37 years ago, the rule has been that the designated hitter is to be used when an American League team hosts the All-Star Game, and that the pitchers will bat when in a Senior Circuit park.

That is no more, as baseball announced a few moments ago that, henceforth, the DH will be used in all All-Star games.  In the AL, the fans will choose the DH. The manager for the NL team will choose who will DH for him. And despite what you think I was going to say about it, I like this move.

The All-Star Game is not real baseball as we all know and love it. It’s an exhibition. Multiple substitutions are made and regular strategy is thrown out the window, so why not give the people what they want (and no matter what I say about the DH, I’ll freely admit that the masses want it). And to be honest, it may actually improve the All-Star Game. As of now, new pitchers are used almost every inning, so they’re always fresh and always firing it in there. In light of this fact, the teams could use all the extra offense they can muster.

Other changes:

  • Any pitcher selected to an All-Star Team who starts a regular season
    game on the Sunday immediately preceding the All-Star Game will not be
    eligible to pitch in the All-Star Game and will be replaced on the
    roster. Upshot: teams will make sure that their best pitchers all pitch on that Sunday, I presume.
  • Rosters will be expanded from 33 players to 34 players, with the additional player being a position player. Let’s call this the “Chris Sabo Rule,” shall we?
  • There already exists a rule that says a catcher who has already played in the game and left can come back in to the game if the last eligible catcher is injured.  That rule is being expanded to cover one additional non-catching position player.

The one rule change that we would all like to see — the elimination of the All-Star Game determining home field advantage in the World Series — did not occur. Given that was basically Bud Selig’s baby, I presume we won’t see that change until he has gone off to Commissioner of Baseball Valhalla.

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.