Joey Votto: "it's kind of fun to play the heel"

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I posted that thing the other day about Joey Votto saying he didn’t like the Cubs (and updated later when I realized that I was taking the comments too seriously).  More along those lines today in a post from C. Trent Rosecrans, in which Votto explains that yes, he was joking around a bit when he said that after the All-Star Game, but no, he’s not totally prepared to be all friendly with inter-divisional rivals either.

The post has a video in which Votto tells a young Cubs fan “I don’t sign for Cubs
fans.” Votto expands:

“I don’t,” Votto said, with a laugh. “I try not to. They’re in our same
division and we play good baseball against them. I think it’s kind of
fun to play the heel. Not everything has to be friendly, we take it
seriously every time we go there. It’s not just a game to us, it’s our
job.”

Votto traces his Cub-dislike to 2007, when he was called
up in September and watched the Cubs celebrate a division title at Great
American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

“I still remember that now, I
remember them looking at the scoreboard and Cubs fans cheering and
everyone in the stands wearing blue,” Votto said. “I still remember that
and it meant a lot to me. I guess I should probably let it go, but I’m
not an easy forgiver.”

Most of all, it sounds like Votto is just embracing, however, uncomfortably, the heel mantle a la professional wrestling. He even uses those words himself, saying “it’s kind of fun to play the heel.”

Which I kind of like, because as I’ve said many times, heel-turns are fun. There should more of those in life to break up all of the moral ambiguity. Having a villain is rather cleansing in a weird sort of way, ya know?

But really, if you’re not going to totally own it like Ric Flair or someone, you’re just giving off mixed signals.

(thanks to lar at Wezen-Ball for the heads up)

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.