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David Ortiz will be treated differently than other PED-associated Hall of Fame candidates

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On the occasion of the Hall of Fame ballot being released yesterday, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes today that, when the time comes for David Ortiz to be considered in several years, the mindset of the voters with respect to players with PED-associations had best change. And that they had better consider Barry Bonds, Rogers Clemens and other PED-tainted candidates if they consider Ortiz for baseball’s highest honor:

So before the writers judge the candidacy of Bonds, Clemens, Manny Ramirez, and others on this year’s ballot, each needs to look into the future, to that day when Ortiz becomes eligible for election, and ask: What will I do with Big Papi?

Because if the majority of the writers apply the same standard to Ortiz that they have for Bonds, Clemens, McGwire and others — if they’re going to be fair and consistent about this — then they have to leave Ortiz off their ballots.

I take no issue with anything Olney says there. Beyond that quote he spits some righteous fire at the Hall of Fame electorate in general, telling them to get off their moral high horses and, perhaps, get out of the business of awards and Hall of Fame voting in general due to manifest conflicts of interest. It’s hard to disagree.

Yet, I think Olney’s words will fall on deaf ears. I believe that Oritz will get in on the first ballot — as he should — with nary a nod to his PED history. He’s well-liked. Voters won’t say that’s why they’re voting for him over the Bonds and Clemens of the world. They’ll say it’s because of the severity of the offense — the details of which they only know some of anyway — or they’ll make reference to lying or court cases or what not. Don’t believe it for a second. They’ll vote for Ortiz in numbers far greater than they’ll ever vote for Bonds or Clemens because those guys are considered jackasses and Ortiz’s overall story was a good one that leant itself to a lot of nice press.

Indeed, even if there is a hitch to Ortiz’s candidacy, PEDs will not be the primary basis. He, like Andy Pettitte and other well thought-of guys with PED associations, has never been considered a “cheater” by the anti-PED crew the way others with similar evidence against them have. For example, Sammy Sosa, who hit over 600 home runs and who, people’s speculation and some amount of reasonable conjecture notwithstanding, actually has no more hard PED evidence against him than Ortiz has. He’s not sniffing Cooperstown, ever, and he doesn’t even get the benefit of a baseball-based breakdown like Ortiz will get.

I actually think a lot more people will hold the fact that Ortiz was a DH against him than the PED stuff. Which shows you that, if Hall of Fame voters are irrational about one thing, they can be even more irrational about another, less reasonable thing if given the chance.

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.