Mike Piazza is probably gonna get boned in the Hall of Fame voting this year

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Bill Shaikin has a column up today in which one of Roger Clemens’ lawyers argues for Clemens’ induction to the Hall of Fame. Shocker, I know. But apart from him, this passage piques my interest:

Clemens is one of the headline attractions in what could be the most divisive election in Hall of Fame history. The first-time candidates include Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa, each of whom has been linked to performance-enhancing substances.

Clemens, Bonds and Sosa’s PED resumes are pretty well-known, but Piazza has not been publicly cast into their league. The relevant data points:

  • He admitted in 2002 to using androstenedione early in his career, but andro was not banned in baseball until 2004;
  • Murray Chass has gone on an unhinged one-man crusade (see here, here, here and here), saying that since he saw that Piazza had acne on his back, he had to be a ‘roider.

That’s it. That’s the alpha and omega of Piazza being “linked” to PEDs.

I don’t know if Piazza did anything besides andro. Maybe he did. Lots of star players of his generation did. Maybe that autobiography of his that comes out next February will say so. Maybe someone with actual first-hand knowledge of it will lay the evidence out for us.

But as Hall of Fame voters sit here today, all they have is legal andro use and Murray Chass’ back acne, which has been discredited by dermatologists as any sort of dispositive evidence. I have this feeling that alone is going to be enough for a huge number of Hall of Fame voters to withhold their vote for Piazza, despite him being ridiculously, over-the-top qualified for first ballot induction.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

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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.