For the love of God, Ron Washington: get Vlad out of right field

12 Comments

I was uneasy with Vlad Guerrero playing right field before Game 1. Afterwards? Ye Gods, don’t let this happen again, Ron Washington. Vlad was hell on wheels in the outfield last night. And not round wheels. Square, stone wheels like something you’d see on the Flintstones.

Among the highlights:

  • First inning, Buster Posey at the plate. Posey hit a shallow fly ball.  Guerrero came nowhere near it. Thank goodness for Ian Kinsler who busted out from second base to get that, as if he were given a memo before the game that he was supposed to play both second and right.  He turned a double play on that one, but it could have been disastrous. And yes, maybe that was a matter of coaching — Guerrero was playing deep — but he was probably playing so deep because the Rangers knew he couldn’t go back on anything and wanted to avoid balls over his head;
  • In the eighth, He charged Edgar Renteria’s single, but gave it the Roger Dorn ole treatment, allowing it to roll to the wall and putting Renteria on third;
  • Three batters later was maybe the worst image of the night: Freddy Sanchez hit one that dropped into the bullpen. Vlad was shaky enough getting over to it, but then couldn’t find the handle, allowing Sanchez to go to second. It was originally scored a double, but the beat writers who were at the game and on Twitter said that everyone in the press box was absolutely howling at the official scorer on that one. They were right to howl, and he quickly changed it to a single and an error.

Beyond those plays he just looked slow and kind of sad. Misplayed hops. Bobbled balls. Jogging into the corner. I started making my usual Fred Sanford jokes during the live chat and people started defending Fred Sanford from such a vile association.

But I don’t mean for this to be a pile-on on Guerrero. I think he was trying his hardest. It’s just that his hardest is nowhere near good enough. Not for the World Series. Not in that outfield.  He may have done worse than expected, but the expectations shouldn’t have been high.

Ultimately, Ron Washington didn’t put Guerrero in a position to succeed. It didn’t cost the Rangers the game — there were a lot of other things that went wrong — but it cost a lot to fans in psychic terms, what with having a player who struck us with awe for so many years fumble around feebly.  I always thought the old timers who talk about Willie Mays in the 1973 World Series were overstating how bad it was, but now I know how painful this sort of thing can be.

The worst part: Ron Washington said after the game that Vlad is going back out there tonight.  For the love of God, I hope someone talks him out of it today.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
Leave a comment

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.