Yesterday, when looking at reports of the changes to the Joint Drug Agreement, I said that the increased penalties and testing protocols didn’t seem draconian. The latest report on the changes could change my mind about that.
Christine Brennan reports that the policy — not yet finalized — will bar from the postseason any player who was disciplined for PED use during the regular season, even if the player has already served his suspension and has returned to action. Meaning that a first-time offender can receive an 80-game suspension in April, return to the team in late June, play for the team for the final three months of the season, and then still be ineligible for postseason play.
This, I feel, is extreme for two reasons. First, it crosses the line from a penalization of the player to a penalization of the team. Clean players’ chances to advance in the playoffs will potentially be harmed through no fault of their own and front offices, likewise blameless, will be forced to scramble to fill holes despite not having any ineligible players. This despite a drug violation that could be a year old or more.
Second, this penalty may serve as a defacto order that a player be released or hidden on the DL with fake injuries. Again, if the timing is just right, and a potential playoff team has a guy coming back from a first-time PED suspension, there will be a strong incentive to release the guy or trade him to non-contender or stash him on the disabled list in order to obtain roster space for players who won’t be ineligible for the playoffs. It’s a backdoor way to add uneven discipline (players on playoff teams will be punished more than players on losing teams), in the form of incentivizing roster chicanery.
If the players want this, well, no one can stop them. But by allowing drug discipline to bleed over into team construction issues is to surrender a good bit of power and job security. Two issues players fought for for decades separate and apart from the drug penalty context. It could serve as a Trojan Horse by which the owners can sneak into areas of labor relations long since settled by the union separate and apart from the drug penalty context. Why not add pension provisions to drug penalties? Have drug penalties affect service time and free agency? Maybe guys suspended for drugs will be forced to have different travel accommodations. All of that would certainly represent a get tough attitude on drug cheats.
And all of it, like this proposed playoff suspension, would serve to undermine decades of union gains for reasons that have almost nothing to do with labor relations.
After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.
The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).
Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.
With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.
Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.
With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:
So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).
Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.