One received loads of criticism for the way he handled the Cubs’ talented pitching staff when they had a chance to finally achieve ultimate success, the other is Dusty Baker. Wait, didn’t Baker receive some flak for that too? It’s been a while, so I definitely don’t distinctly remember what happened to Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.
But there’s something about the below image of Stephen Strasburg doing a “towel drill” that feels eerily familiar. If only I could put my finger on it.
Hendricks plays catch, Strasburg employs the towel drill the day before Game 1 of NLDS: pic.twitter.com/5PUEqDFa1u
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) October 5, 2017
Neither the current nor the former Cubs skipper have been immune to criticism of their managerial styles and decisions, though you might not immediately jump to compare the two. Then again, they do have a few similarities when you get down to it. Joe Maddon addressed that idea when he spoke to the media on Thursday.
“The thing about Dusty, if anybody would ever compare, I’ve always heard how good he is with his players,” Maddon said. “That’s the thing that has always stood out to me when I first started doing this. (There were) always platitudes regarding his ability to connect with the group in the clubhouse. So that’s always been…and if I get compared in that way in any way, shape, or form, I’ll take it.”
There are some obvious differences in the specific manners in which they go about their business, but both do fall quite firmly in the players-manager camp. That’s pretty much where the similarities stop, though, and I’m more interested to see how they stack up as tacticians in this case.
Both have been accused at times of overthinking things and perhaps trying a little too hard, but it sounds like Maddon is consciously working to simplify his moves. In discussing his potential lineups, he noted that there might only be one change between how they match up with Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. I’m thinking that might be Ian Happ in center for one and Jon Jay in the other, but we’ll see.
Over in the opposite dugout, I can imagine Baker getting a little tight and maybe even paranoid. He already seems to be engaging in some cloak-and-dagger business with his rotation, even if the moves are plainly obvious to third-party observers with access to Twitter. And his whole us-against-the-world mentality can wear thin and cause his team to clench up a little bit. Or maybe that’s just me thinking back to his time in Chicago.
Not Great, Bob
I generally try to avoid calling out other publications, particularly blogs that I know are often run as hobbies (like this one), but there are times when a rebuke is called for. Such is the case with Bob Nightengale’s recent USA Today column.
I took no issue with Nightengale calling Baker “the coolest dude in the game,” though I’m not sure it’s accurate. I wasn’t surprised that the scribe mentioned the chip on Dusty’s shoulder that’s as big as a boulder, though I hadn’t realized that the skipper is older…than any other manager in baseball.
It was decent stuff, a quick look into what motivates Baker to keep going after so long in the sport and so much achievement that hasn’t yet included a World Series title as a manager. But it was when Nightengale got into the facts that things took a hard left turn into Wrongsville.
When Baker led the Giants to three playoffs berths and a National League pennant, it took them seven years to return to the postseason after his departure. He was fired from the Cubs after the 2006 season, and it took them four years to get back to the playoffs. The Red went to the postseason three times in four years, and they still haven’t been back since Baker was let go.
Listen, I get that we can make mistakes from time to time; I mess up quite frequently. To be so egregiously erroneous on such simple facts, though, man…It’s not great, Bob. Unless my understanding of time has been irreparably warped, the Cubs’s back-to-back division championships in 2007 and ’08 fell within four years of Baker’s departure in 2006.
In fairness, Nightengale was probably still thinking of 2010 for the Giants and just got things mixed up. And I can’t blame him for wanting to forget about what the Cubs did in the playoffs in both of those seasons. Still, it’s one of those things that sticks in my craw when it comes to the idea of being considered legit and earning the privilege of being credentialed and that sort of thing.
Arrieta on track
Jake Arrieta wasn’t very talkative Thursday, but he did say that he’s feeling fine after his bullpen session the previous day. That’s to be expected and it’s indicative of his continued health as he tracks toward a Game 4 start. The same can’t yet be said for Scherzer, who was unable to throw his scheduled ‘pen for the second straight day.
The Nats’ ace has been able to play catch and his body language said he was pleased with his recent session, so there’s no reason to believe he won’t make his start. At the same time, the inability or unwillingness to throw from the mound will be a big problem if it persists into the weekend.
Happ has been preparing for WS
We covered the hell out of Jason Heyward working on his swing this winter in Mesa. Hours after Kyle Schwarber arrived in Des Moines, he immediately jumped into the cage with hitting instructor Andy Haines. And as Patrick Mooney wrote recently, Ian Happ essentially put those things together.
The young infielder/outfielder has authored a breakout performance in Chicago, one that I don’t think anyone really saw coming. Unless, that is, you paid close attention to what Happ said this spring.
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) October 3, 2017
More news and notes
- Jose Altuve is awesome and I’m glad he’s getting some national exposure with the Astros in the playoffs. Those three homers yesterday were all crushed and they made him just the 10th man in MLB history to hit three dingers in a postseason game.
- Paul Molitor is reportedly weighing an offer to return as Twins manager.
- David Wright underwent another surgery, this time a laminotomy on his back. This is a procedure in which a hole is carved in the lamina, one of the “arms” of the vertebrae, in order to relieve pressure on a compressed spinal nerve. Sounds fun, huh? Despite the fact that he hasn’t played in almost a year and a half and that he’s been hampered for much longer than that that by various medical issues, Wright has not expressed an intent to retire. More power to him, but I’m afraid this guy isn’t going to be able to move by the time he’s 40.