Former Jays' GM J.P. Ricciardi says two interesting things

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I was never a fan of J.P. Ricciardi the general manager, but I think I can get behind J.P. the talking head. He was on WEEI today, and said a couple of interesting things. First, on PEDs:

We had a suspicion of who all of a sudden got bigger, who got stronger, I
mean I could name you 10 players, I won’t, but name you 10 players that
we had that all of a sudden, wow. In a three-month offseason a guy
gained that much weight, got that much muscle, got that much stronger
and not only on our team, but on other teams and vice versa . . . We were all guilty of it. Every single one of us signed a player or got
involved with a player that we bought into what he was doing at 32 and
33 and then found out after we got him for a couple years that obviously
the testing came in and we saw the repercussions of it.

I’ve heard some executives talk about the clubs’ complicity in PED-use, but I don’t recall any of them putting it so starkly.  The other thing he said involved transactions. Specifically, he was asked to talk about a deal he was a part of that we as fans never heard about:

I had a trade done a couple of years ago where the trade was
finalized, I won’t mention the players, but a pretty prominent player.
Had him traded, everything was all set, told the president this is what
we are trying to do, kept him in the loop. I went back, already signed
off with the team, I said, I’ll just get right back to finalize, let me
run it by my president.

I went and told the president and the president told me, You know
what, I’m a really big fan of that guy, and I think the fans are, too. I
think if we trade him, we’re really going to catch it. And I said, OK,
it’s your call. I said I recommend we do this, but he said no, and we
didn’t trade him and the guy we could have traded him for is absolutely
tearing it up right now.

Based on stuff I’ve heard in the past about how it was Toronto’s ownership who insisted that the Jays first hold on to and then sign the guy, every fiber of my being wants to believe that this was Vernon Wells.  I wish Ricciardi would say who the players really were though, because this is stuff that we want to know, isn’t it?

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.