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Joe Maddon pulled a Buck Showalter and it cost the Cubs Game 2 of the NLCS

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Last October, much was made of Orioles manager Buck Showalter opting not to use closer Zach Britton in a tense situation late in a playoff game. Britton was Showalter’s best pitcher last year but he chose to go with Ubaldo Jimenez and it cost the Orioles their chance to move on in the postseason.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was guilty of a similar offense during Game 2 of the NLCS on Sunday night, but he won’t get nearly as much blowback for it because of his reputation as a savvy, unorthodox skipper.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, lefty Brian Duensing returned to the mound for his second inning of work. One probably wants closer Wade Davis in that situation rather than Duensing, especially if you figure hierarchy into the equation. Duensing walked Yasiel Puig to start the inning. Then, one should be leaning even more in favor of bringing Davis. Duensing stayed in. Charlie Culberson moved Puig to second base on a sacrifice bunt. Duensing then struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer.

Maddon made the slow stroll to the mound. This must be the part were Davis comes in. Maddon instead brought in veteran starter John Lackey. Lackey is nearly 39 years old and did not have a great regular season, finishing with a 4.59 ERA over 170 2/3 innings. During the regular season, Davis struck out hitters 12.2 percent more often than Lackey while having an equivalent strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Lackey and catcher Willson Contreras couldn’t get on the same page as Lackey repeatedly asked for Contreras to go through the signs again. He fell behind Chris Taylor 3-1 before eventually walking him, bringing Turner to the plate. Turner is a great hitter and that may even be an understatement. He hardly struck out — his 10.3 K-rate was second-lowest among qualified hitters in baseball this season behind only Joe Panik. Facing Davis, though, increases the odds he does swing and miss. Turner took a first-pitch cutter in the dirt from Lackey for ball one, then drilled a 92 MPH fastball to left-center field for a walk-off three-run home run, winning Game 2 of the NLCS for the Dodgers by a 4-1 margin.

If, before Turner’s at-bat against Lackey, one were to rank the possible outcomes from likely to least likely, a home run is not that far from the top of the list. Lackey is just not that good anymore and he’s never been a bat-missing maven.

After the game, Maddon said, “We needed [Davis] for the save,” Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. Maddon wanted to hold Davis for a situation his team was never guaranteed to reach, rather than utilizing him to bridge the gap to gaining a potential lead.

Managers are put under a microscope in the postseason. It’s just part of the game. Sometimes we are guilty of nitpicking, but this isn’t such a case. Maddon improperly utilized his personnel and his team is now behind two games to none in a best-of-seven series as a result.

The Players’ Weekend uniforms are terrible

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The Yankees and the Dodgers have a storied World Series history, having met in the Fall Classic 11 times. Part of what made those falls so classic was the livery worn by each club.

The Yankees’ uniforms have gone unchanged since 1936. The Dodgers, though changing cities in 1958, have had the same basic, classic look with only minor derivations for almost as long. You can’t even say the names of these teams without picturing pinstripes, those red Dodgers numbers, both teams’ clean road grays, the Yankees navy and the Dodgers’ Dodger blue.

They looked like a couple of expansion teams last night however, at least sartorially speaking.

As you probably know it’s Players’ Weekend this weekend, and teams all over the league wore either all black or all white with player-chosen nicknames on the back. We’ve had the nicknames for a couple of years now and that’s fine, but the black and white combo is new. It doesn’t look great, frankly. I riffed on that on Twitter yesterday a good bit. But beyond my mere distaste for the ensembles, they present a pretty problematic palette, too.

For one thing the guys in black blend in with the umpires. Quick, look at these infields and tell me who’s playing and who’s officiating:

The white batting helmets look especially bad:

But some guys — like Enrique Hernandez of the Dodgers, realized that pine tar makes the white helmets look super special:

There was also a general issue with the white-on-white uniforms in that it’s rather hard to read the names and the numbers on the backs of the jerseys. This was especially true during the Cubs-Nationals game in the afternoon sunlight. You’ll note this as a much bigger problem on Sunday. It’s all rather ironic, of course, that the players have been given the right to put fun, quirky nicknames on the backs of their jerseys but no one can really see them.

The SNY booth was reading many people’s minds last night, noting how much Mad Magazine “Spy vs. Spy” energy this is throwing off:

I’ll also note that if you’re flipping between games or looking at highlights on social media it’s super hard to even tell which team is which — and even what game’s highlights you’re seeing — just by looking which, you know, is sort of the point of having uniforms in the first place.

I’m glad the players have a weekend in which they’re allowed to wear what they want. I just wish they’d wear something better.