I caved to zeitgeist pressure and watched ‘Squid Game,’ even as the premise (as I understood it) didn’t really sound all that interesting to me. I was wrong, and it was pretty quickly easy to see why the thing became a phenomenon. I wouldn’t say it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen or anything (heck, I liked ‘Midnight Mass’ better, for example), but I’m just saying I can see why it grabbed everyone. It’s really good. For what it’s worth, I did the subtitles rather than the dubbing, because I wanted to hear the voices/emotion/cadence/etc of the original actors, even if I was having to read the screen. The dubbing just didn’t sound great to me.
• It was an LCS day for the leading teams to blow 8th inning leads in games that could’ve nearly put the series to bed. First you had the Braves giving up a 5-2 lead, in a game that could’ve seen them go up 3-0 in the NLCS. The big blow was a three-run, Cody Bellinger shot in the 8th on a pitch he had absolutely no business hitting for a homer:
Belli. Comes. Through. pic.twitter.com/H7CcIjLBDu
— MLB (@MLB) October 20, 2021
• That’s 96mph WAY up and a bit away, and he pulled it out of the park. That’s a pretty extreme homer right there. It’s the kind of pitch he absolutely could not handle all year (heck, he couldn’t catch up to pitches in the zone and put the barrel on it!). Seems like he’s been getting the barrel on the ball much more this postseason, and maybe he’s finally starting to feel more like himself after a season where he was one of the worst three hitters in baseball.
• Mookie Betts later sent one the other way to the gap to give the Dodgers the lead, and then a resurgent Kenley Jansen struck out the side in the 9th:
• So the Dodgers get back into the series, which is now 2-1, with the next game tonight at 7pm CT. Something something momentum.
• Then it was the Red Sox, up 2-1 in the series and in the game, absolutely imploding late. That 2-1 lead disappeared on a Jose Altuve solo homer in the 8th, and then the Astros put up a SEVEN SPOT in the 9th inning to win 9-2 and even up the series:
• The amazing thing is that, with one correctly called strike, none of those seven runs would’ve scored in the 9th:
The 268th pitch of Game 4 of the ALCS, the strike that wasn't.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 20, 2021
• That pitch was at least close, so it’s not like it was a totally embarrassing call. The systems had it in the zone, at the high outside corner, though:
The pitch of the night.
— Rafael Bello (@rafaelbello) October 20, 2021
• In any case, the series is now tied at two, and guaranteed to go back to Houston for at least one game. Something something momentum.
• I remember at the time of the Joc Pederson deal, the thing that I couldn’t wrap my head around was how the Cubs were not eating salary – particularly the buyout of the mutual option, since that’s basically just deferred salary – in the trade. The Cubs were getting a legit prospect in Bryce Ball for a half season of an underperforming corner outfield rental, and one who was going to cost the Braves a fairly sizable chunk of salary for just a few months. I just hadn’t thought the Cubs would get much of anything for Pederson. At the time, since it looked like – relative to Pederson’s value – Ball was a prospect who should’ve required the Cubs to eat salary, it made me more circumspect of Ball. The Braves don’t give up prospects lightly, so there had to be concerns (which was probably borne out, as his limitations showed as a bat-only, three-true-outcomes type who isn’t getting enough of the power outcome yet), but it also made me wonder just how desperate the Braves were.
• Via The Athletic, the answer is very (emphasis added):
Pederson tried to forge a full-time role with the Cubs. His start was sluggish. His production hovered beneath the league average. His opportunity to return to the postseason arose only when Acuña tore his ACL on July 10. A day later, Braves pitcher Ian Anderson injured his shoulder. Atlanta president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos felt he needed to act. He wanted to make moves to keep his club afloat.
Anthopoulos had worked in the Dodgers’ front office in between stints running Toronto and Atlanta. He recalled how Pederson’s personality connected. “I know what Joc brings into the clubhouse,” Anthopoulos said. “He’s got a swagger. He’s got a confidence.” He was also available. Anthopoulos pressed Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer to get a deal done within a week. By July 15, Pederson was a Brave.
• A fortuitous turn, then, that an exec who was very familiar with Pederson had a desperate need develop at just the right time for the Cubs to start clearing the deck. And a huge credit to Anthopoulos for knowing what he had in his team, and knowing he needed to be aggressive even after losing key players to give his team a chance in the second half. He was right. Pederson was only a slightly-above-average hitter for the Braves (.249/.325/.428, 101 wRC+), but he helped provide some stability and energy (those pearls!), and he’s hitting freaking .389/.421/.889 in the postseason because he lives for Joctober.
• A reminder, by the way: that salary the Cubs saved in the Pederson deal could theoretically go right back into the 2022 budget.
• Another reminder, by the way: you can improve your prospect return in a trade only when the other team is willing to “trade” a prospect for cash. Some teams just won’t do it. If you didn’t read yesterday’s take on how the Cubs can acquire more prospects this offseason by taking on bad contracts, see here.
• I still remember when the pursuit of Daisuke Matsuzaka was the hottest offseason story (and it was a young Theo Epstein with the Red Sox who landed him):
Daisuke Matsuzaka faces the final batter of his long career across NPB, MLB and back to NPB again. pic.twitter.com/OAZSAFAphZ
— Jason Coskrey (@JCoskrey) October 19, 2021
• Matsuzaka’s time with the Red Sox was obviously mixed, with some really good stretches, some really bad stretches, and a lot of injuries. He was a useful swing guy for the Mets in his final big league seasons, and then headed back to Japan for some decent relief seasons.
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• I wonder what the Chicago Head Coach (or Manager) rankings look like right now. If last night was any indication, we can say at a minimum that David Ross is DEFINITELY not in last place:
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) October 20, 2021
ALERT: THE NEW CHICAGO BULLS START THEIR SEASON TODAY. pic.twitter.com/j7pFCesgIw
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) October 20, 2021