Among all the truths I hold to be self-evident, the one to which I most steadfastly cling is that everything’s better with a Method Man quote. Well, that and the idea that a cold beer on a warm day at the ballpark is the end goal of the pursuit of happiness.
And since the topic is what new Cubs reliever Joe Smith brings to the team, I felt both of these things appropriate. Smith is an interesting case in that he’s got a funky delivery and he’s the first Cubs player in recent memory whose wife is actually more well known in the sports world. As I learned yesterday, Smith is married to Allie LaForce, an anchor for CBS sports and lead reporter for SEC college football games. She works the sidelines at college basketball games as well.
Anyway, back to Smith. The numbers don’t really make you sit up and take notice, so it seems like a bit of a curious move to make at the deadline. But he’s a low-cost rental and may have some tangible intangibles that add another dimension to what the Cubs are doing in the bullpen. Namely, that sidearm motion.
“Funk in the bullpen is always a good thing,” Joe Maddon said in the wake of the acquisition. “No hitter likes to see funk come out of the bullpen.”
Think about being a hitter and going from Jake Arrieta’s nasty breaking stuff to Carl Edwards Jr. running it past you at 96 mph. Then you’ve got Smith and his high-80’s heat coming from behind right-handed hitters giving way to Aroldis Chapman hitting triple digits from the left side. The Cubs have got a variety of different options and Smith provides that unique little twist they felt they were lacking.
“He gives us a different look,” Jed Hoyer explained Monday. “He’s a sidearm/groundball guy. We don’t have that look or that ability right now in our bullpen. It’s great to have hard-throwing guys with great breaking balls, but it’s nice to add a different look to your bullpen. He’s also a guy Joe can use to get a big double play in the right spot.”
As I wrote when the deal was announced, this probably isn’t one of those needle-moving trades that puts the Cubs more over the top than they already were. If, however, Smith can recapture the ability to torture right-handed hitting, he could be a nice little ROOGY for them as situational baseball becomes ever more important. And that’s really the key here. The front office isn’t making moves to win games in August, they’re setting the roster up to compete in October.
It’s a game of chess in which each individual gambit is made with respect to the greater contest and to what may happen several moves in the future. And every once in a while, you may do something that leaves the other guy kind of scratching his head a little. I’m not sure whether that makes Maddon either Garry Kasparov or George Clinton, but I think he’d be equally happy employing a Grünfeld Defense against Deep Blue or jamming with P-Funk on Atomic Dog.
The only real question I’ve got about Joe Smith at this point is if he can play left field. Oh, and whether he’ll use Flashlight as his warm-up music.