So those great 1990s Braves teams were doctoring baseballs? Awesome!

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Maybe this is fun, b.s. banter. Maybe there’s truth to it. Maybe everyone did it. Maybe only the Braves did.  But former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone was on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio with Evan Cohen and former Mets GM Steve Phillips today, and he seemed t admit that the Braves — or at least John Smoltz — put pine tar on the baseballs.

The subject came up on as they were all talking about the topic of cheating and gamesmanship, inspired by how the New York Giants apparently faked some injuries to slow down the St. Louis Rams offense the other day. Mazzone said that kind of stuff is not foreign to baseball and has been going on for many years.  But he got pretty specific with an example, and in a way that doesn’t exactly put John Smoltz in the best light:

Leo Mazzone: “Well, I don’t see anything wrong with it myself.  I watch football a lot, too, and I know that’s been going on for a while to slow a team down, it stops their momentum.  In baseball, as you well know, it’s been going on a long time.  I know that in my little ball bag I had firm grip and all kinds of goodies to take care of a baseball to get a little more movement on it. (laughs)”

Evan Cohen: “So that’s why the Braves kicked the Mets ass for all these years?”

Steve Phillips: “Wait a minute!  How come our pitchers were pitching with nice bright white shiny baseballs and your guys had pine tar and scuffs all over them?”

Mazzone: “Well, you had pine tar, that’s for sure, because when you were in the postseason and it got called, one time Smoltzy had it on his shoes and I said, ‘John, you can’t keep bending over and touching your shoes all the time.  Let’s put it someplace else!’ (laughs)”

That extended into a conversation about bat corking and the kinds of edges hitters try to get, which led Mazzone to play the “oh, everyone was doing it” card. Which makes me think that, no, this was not a bunch of b.s.

So, the Braves got all the calls off the plate and they got away with putting pine tar on the baseballs.  What should I, as a man who considers himself both a Braves fan and an ethical person think about this. Hmmmm…

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And if you’re not, well, I’m not sure exactly what we’re supposed to do about it now.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.