By Bob Ibach
Years ago, when growing up in the Bronx and as a Yankees fan, I was often mystified by how sometimes a specific pitcher or hitter could "own" an opposing team. For instance, Detroit Tigers pitcher Frank Lary "owned" the Yankees -- he had the tag “Yankee killer” because he beat the pinstripers so often. And Tigers’ hitter Charlie Maxwell "owned" the Yankees when it came to hitting against them on Sundays.
When I moved to the Washington, DC area, there was a Cleveland Indians pitcher named Jim "Mudcat" Grant who owned the Washington Senators. When he was later traded to the Minnesota Twins, Grant continued his mastery over the Nats. It seemed that all Mudcat had to do was take the hill against the DC gang and it was game over.
The Senators, I recall, tried just about everything to put a jinx on Grant. They had a witch doctor come out and parade around the mound before a game, they wore beads around their necks when batting against him. They even burned some incense and an assortment of herbs near the mound. Nothing worked. Perhaps had they burned a few bats.
I was reminded of these players when watching the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks continue his mastery over the Cardinals on Friday, as he permitted just 5 hits in 7.1 innings of shutout pitching in an eventual 3-0 win over St. Louis. This is a guy who is just 3-6 on the season and was facing a team that had won 12 of the past 17 contests against the Cubs.
But including last night's win, the right-handed Hendricks improved to 13-3 in 25 starts against the Redbirds lifetime, the most victories he has posted against ANY MLB team. Hendricks, a man of few words, doesn't believe in jinxes. He said afterwards, "I've just got to keep getting lucky against them. Use what I did today and build on it."
Cubs manager David Ross countered that it may have something to do with really knowing the Cardinals hitters. "Some teams have your number, and some that you feel like you pitch pretty good against,” he said. “In game, in season, in division, maybe that has a lot to do with it. Just facing the team a lot, you kind of know how you want to work them, how you have worked them (in the past) and you know where their holes are."
With the trading deadline approaching in a month or so, and with the Cubs staring at a 95-or-more-loss season and going nowhere in 2022, it will be Camp Tryout in August and September at the Expensive Confines.
Two tradeable pieces on the team are catcher Willson Contreras and Hendricks.
So, who are potential suitors for these men?
If the Yankees have a need for ANY player, it's probably at the catching position. Why not "loan" the NYC team Contreras so he can either get another WS ring and sign with another team in the off-season as a free agent, or even stay in NYC along with former mate Anthony Rizzo.
As for Hendricks, I suggest any NL team that has the possibility of facing the Cardinals in October, Hendricks would be a GREAT guy to have in your rotation. NL West teams like the Dodgers, Padres or Giants would seem to be a good match, as would the Braves or NY Mets in the NL East. Or maybe Kyle goes over the border to Milwaukee.
Personally, I'd love to see Kyle go to the Tampa Bay Rays as they have been hit hard with injuries to key starting pitching. And with another Kyle down in that dugout--pitching coach Kyle Snyder -- it would be an ideal match-up. Snyder has done wonders with less talent then Hendricks with the Rays staff in recent years, taking some guys off a parking-lot dump and tweaking a few things and all of a sudden a career is on the upswing.
Anyway, food for thought. Remember you heard it here first.
Bob Ibach is the former publications and publicity director for the Chicago Cubs. He now has his own sports PR firm from his Chicago-area home. E.mail him at email@example.com.