Slant Pattern’s October Mailbag

It's time for another edition of the mailbag. As always, I do not receive questions, so I just poach those intended for other sportswriters.

Phil Dellio asks the estimable Bill James at BillJamesOnline.com, "Please explain to me the logic behind pulling Gio Gonzalez after two innings [in Game 1 on the NLCS]. I was, and remain, mystified, regardless of Woodruff's home run — didn't Milwaukee specifically get Gonzalez down the stretch in anticipation of making the playoffs? The Brewers got the win, yes, but they burned through seven pitchers in the process. It reminded me of something you once wrote about not changing pitchers for the sake of it, because eventually you're going to land on someone who doesn't have his stuff that day."

I write a response to this while Game 4 of the NLCS plays in the background, in the bottom of the 12th with the scored tied 1-1. Gonzalez was pulled after just one inning this time, after twisting his ankle.

This is a tough one, because I am generally in favor of bucking conventional wisdom in sports and trying new things, and boy, is Craig Counsell doing that.

That said, in the same column on a different question, Bill James pointed out (paraphrasing here) that changes in baseball need to not only work to be viable, but not turn off the fans to the point where ticket sales or ratings suffer.

I'm glad we don't run pitchers into the ground anymore, and pitch counts are taken seriously and hence, pitcher careers are prolonged. But my own "fan" opinion, which may run afoul of Sabermetric wisdom (which puts me in the wrong), is that pitchers should remain in the game until they show themselves to be ineffective or they reach their pitch count. I'm glad the LOOGY (Left-handed One Out GuY) is less used than it used to be, but it seems a waste of your bullpen if you pitch, say, eight guys in a game where you only gave up 4 runs. Let pitchers pitch.

On Twitter, "Shoredogz" sends the following in to Sports Illustrated's L. Jon Wertheim's tennis mailbag: "The toweling-off issue begins and ends with Nadal. He's never been a favorite for me due to the annoyingly excessive toweling off after every friggin' point."

His toweling-off is only the beginning. Yes, many athletes need their rituals, but he makes Mike "The Human Rain Delay" Hargrove look like Usain Bolt. Before almost every point, especially on serve, he tugs at his shorts the exact same way, smooths over this hair on each side the exact same way, and does much, much more. He's a big reason why shot clocks are becoming more of a thing in tennis.

But I don't hate Nadal for this (many, many people do, at least on MensTennisForums.com). Instead, I have a theory which, if I'm right about it, makes me pity Nadal. I think he has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, albeit a very different kind. Nonetheless, something strikes me as familiar in the urgency in which Nadal conducts his rituals. If I'm right about this, and Nadal doesn't get properly treated for it, he'd quit tennis before stopping his rituals. An OCD sufferer's rituals — compulsions — are all that keeps their world from falling apart. It's not great that people use OCD as shorthand for "likes things tidy and organized."

We'll close this out with a question Adam Sturgeon asks Barstool basketball. "If Trae Young is a bust and Luka Dončić lives up to the hype, will the Hawks/Mavs trade go down as one of the worst trades in the last decade?"

Yes, and furthermore, I am predicting that's what is going to happen. People forget just how badly Young folded down the stretch last year. He shot over 35% in just two of his final nine games. One of those was Oklahoma's season-ending loss to Rhode Island, where he shot 9-of-18. Teams adjusted defensively against him and he couldn't or wouldn't readjust. My fear is that he's just a talented gunner who will be easy to coach against.

The opposite is true for Dončić. Per Sports Illustrated, Dončić has, "Plus-plus basketball comprehension and floor vision. Feels out plays one or two steps ahead, and tall enough to see over the defense. Great in the pick-and-roll. Almost too intelligent to not succeed." He's already had great success in the Euroleague with Real Madrid and led Slovenia to a Eurobasket title to boot. Many before me have noted the ignominious speed with which the Hawks went from Eastern Conference contenders to the worst of the worst, and this trade only adds more cement to the shoes of their descent.

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