Great Moments in Hypocrisy: Jim Rice Edition

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There is nothing sadder — in any walk of life, not just baseball — than hearing older people claim that the kids today just don’t do things the right way and how back in my day it was better and all of that jazz.

Such a stance simultaneously suggests narcissism, arrogance, ignorance and pessimism. “Only I and my friends did things properly,” such people are saying. They’re also saying, however, that they pay no attention to new developments in the world and that, inevitably, things will always grow worse over time rather than better, which runs directly counter to most developments in human history.  And more than anything, such statements always — always — reflect more poorly on the person uttering them than they reflect on those whom he or she is deriding.

With that in mind, I give you Jim Rice:

“The game is still the same (but) the players have changed. There are no fundamentals in the game anymore.  That’s why I really enjoyed the game was because of the fundamentals. We had to do fundamentals. If you didn’t know the fundamentals, you weren’t playing … I don’t want to [get back in the dugout] because guys are not subject to change.  If you went back to giving guys one- or two-year contracts, it’s a different story. When you give guys five-, six-, seven-, 10-year contracts, they don’t have to change. Their money is in the bank. And if the thing doesn’t go right, who do they blame?”

Just so you know, Jim Rice (a) is sixth all-time in grounding into double plays, having led his league four straight years in his prime; (b) was a poor defensive player; and (c) most damningly to his above comments, once signed a seven-year contract, making him the highest-paid player with the longest contract in all of the game at the time.

Why the interviewer for that article didn’t ask Jim why it was OK for him to have poor fundamentals and receive long-term contracts but it’s not OK for players today to do so is beyond me. For that matter, I’m baffled why he didn’t even ask Rice to offer some evidence regarding how fundamentals are lacking in today’s players.  To the contrary, I suspect that if we were able to quantify such things, today’s players would be found to be far more athletic and fundamentally-sound than players of the 70s.

Not that I’d expect Rice to realize how foolish he sounds.  He’s just the latest person to claim that the world is going to Hell in a hand basket.  Funny how it never seems to actually get there.

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.