Please have sympathy for the sportswriters

40 Comments

Frank Deford would like you to know that being a sportswriter is not fun and enjoyable like it used to be. We actually have to work during games now and attempt to be experts in a given sport rather than be generalist raconteurs who sit back and enjoy a ballgame while drinking a Tom Collins and then, several hours later, writing up a few hundred words that no one has the means to challenge or question:

But today there are no news cycles. News is like the Earth going around the sun, cycling constantly. As a consequence, sportswriters are required to update and blog and react to everything … now it is the sports fans at home with their gargantuan HDTVs who are the privileged ones watching the games, while sportswriters are the ones not able to. Now, that’s a fine how-do-you-do, isn’t it?

And it’s especially bad this time of year:

… this is the most trying time of the year, because there is no game this week, so we have this interminable countdown to the Super Bowl, and each day is worse for sportswriters because there is nothing new to analyze. And this year everything besides the Super Bowl is also so depressing … So fans, be kind. I’ve dubbed this “be sympathetic to sportswriters week,” the black hole in our sports calendar.

I don’t know. I just try to take these trying days one at a time. Wake up each morning and steel myself against the tribulations that rain down upon me and my sports writing brethren. To hope that my personal fortitude, combined with the thoughts and prayers of non-sportswriters, help me make it through and to realize that whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.

Or, alternatively, I wake up each morning and pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming about having this cool-ass job, even when it’s the offseason and there’s nothing particularly interesting to write about.  Either way.

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.