Rafael Soriano’s media snub is a legitimate problem

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UPDATE: Our long national nightmare is over: Soriano has apologized.

9:34 AM: There is a lot of back and forth on the Internets this morning about Rafael Soriano’s decision to dress quickly and leave the clubhouse before the reporters could get to him after last night’s debacle. Mark Feinsand of the Daily News, Joel Sherman of the Post and many others have gone after Soriano for the snub.  Brien Jackson over at IIATMS and most of the commenters over at BTF think this is much ado about nothing. The media making itself the story, the tempest-in-a-teapot nature of the New York press or what have you.

Nine times out of ten I side with the guys at IIATMS and my friends at BTF because, you know, they’re almost always right. But this time I have to differ. I think Soriano’s bail-job is a legitimate issue, not a media-created one.

There was a situation with the Mets a few years ago in which Billy Wagner spoke out about how certain players wouldn’t face the media after a bad game and how it left others to do the talking. He wasn’t mad because the snub of the media created a silly controversy. He was legitimately mad at having the snub for its own sake.

Yes, it’s the Mets and there is always rancor there, but players legitimately dislike it when the people who the reporters really will want to talk to — especially goats of the game — pull a disappearing act. Track down some of the game stories from last night’s Yankees-Twins game. There were several “I guess” or “you’ll have to ask him” kinds of things said when Yankees players talked about Soriano and the eighth inning disaster. I could be imagining it, but I sense some low-level aggravation there. Aggravation that players don’t need when they’re already upset about the loss and their own failures in the game.

The Yankees have made a point to give their players media training. A big part of this is facing the music after a bad game. When Soriano doesn’t do that he’s both ticking off his teammates and not going along with the team’s program. That’s a problem.  Maybe not as big a problem as it will get blown up into today, but it’s real.

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.