CHICAGO – For all of his Zen-like philosophies and sayings, inside the Cubs’ manager lies a fiery baseball man.
While he keeps his cool nearly the entire time he’s in the dugout or on the field, on occasion Joe Maddon shows his passion in a more outward, aggressive manner.
Wednesday was one of those times – and boy was he mad.
“I don’t even know what to say about that call,” said Maddon to the media at Wrigley Field after the Cubs’ 7-6 win that was nearly derailed by an unusual call by home plate umpire Ryan Blakney and first base ump Chris Conroy.
With the game tied at six in the ninth inning, Ben Zobrist was hit on the foot while trying to bunt runners on base to second and third with no outs. As Zobrist walked down to take first base, the umpires ruled that Zobrist made a bunt attempt at the pitch and hence it was a strike.
Livid at the call, Maddon stormed out of the dugout and immediately got in the face of Blakney. He was thrown out within 15 seconds and continued to voice his displeasure vocally to a few of the umpires before finally going back to the dugout.
Eventually the Cubs won the game when a Blake Wood wild pitch to Kris Bryant brought home the winning run. Not that it cooled Maddon down a bit over the controversial call, which he discussed in a lengthy and angry few answers to reporters in the postgame news conference.
“We’ve had different things happen and I’ve been playing really good in the ‘Sandbox,’ really good and I’m not right now. That play, that call, cannot be made under those circumstances,” said Maddon of the call on Zobrist. “I can understand if the guy is actually swinging and all the sudden you get a check swing, but he’s bunting and then trying to get out of the way, and you’re going to call that a bunt?”
“There’s no way any hitter under those circumstances, with the ball coming at his thigh, is going to bunt through it and then get hit in the thigh. That’s asinine. That almost cost us the game. Fortunately we came back, they made their wild pitch but I’ve been playing good in the ‘Sandbox’ but that was wrong.”
Maddon didn’t have the benefit of Instant Replay on the Zobrist call, so the judgement call stood up. While ejected a few times in his Cubs’ career, the manager’s anger at the call could be considered the highest of any argument in his time in Chicago. It was the time of game, according to Maddon, that made him so upset.
“That impacted the game. It’s bases loaded, nobody out. It’s a different at-bat for Almora, it’s a different thought for their pitcher. Everything’s different, the world rotates differently at that point. When its second-and-third with one out or it’s bases loaded and no outs, it’s an entirely different thought process.
“To influence a game like that is wrong. Listen, the guy is a good guy, I think he’s a good umpire, but I’m not going to concede consistently to these guys. You can’t make that mistake like that.”
In Major League Baseball’s eyes, Maddon is in the wrong for his aggressive argument and comments about the umpires. In fact, the manager already knows what’s coming in the next few days.
“I don’t worry about it – I’m gonna, that’s fine,” said Maddon. “Hopefully I’m going to get to give it to some charity.”
Thanks to him giving the umpires a big piece of his mind on Wednesday night.