Let’s Fix This Joe
Joe Maddon I have a bone to pick with you. Now before I start, let me say I understand that you’ve brought my Cubs to a place they haven’t been in over 70 years. And although it didn’t look like it last night in their 6-0 loss to the Indians, there’s a chance you may guide them to a promised land that hasn’t been seen on the North Side in 108 years. All that being said, if I see one more of your young hitters stand and admire their handiwork in the batter’s box instead of putting their head down and running, I’m going to jump through my TV.
We saw it twice with Javier Baez against the Giants in the opening round. One ball he hit actually did leave the yard….but barely, nestling into the left field basket at Wrigley. If it had fallen 6 inches shorter, Baez might have been standing on first base (instead of second or even third). The other ball he hit, which was the following night if you can believe it, wasn’t close to making it out, but Baez did his best “Joey Bats” and stood and admired his handiwork once again, then started slowly jogging out of the batter’s box.
When Baez realized the ball was going to hit low on the ivy, he had to turn on the jets to make it to second, which he then over slid, smashed his face into the knee of Giants second baseman Joe Panik (for which he still is wearing a protective face shield), and was called out after a replay review showed he had lost contact with the base while being tagged – a base he should have been standing on, not sliding headfirst into. Post game he said he learned his lesson after that play. “Last night was a big fly, this one was a line drive,” said Baez after that game. “I don’t know. Next time, no matter how hard I hit it, I’m going to try to get out of the box as soon as I can. If the ball is gone, I’m going to keep running hard.”
OK, let’s assume that was the last time we’ll see Baez do that nonsense. So fast forward to the top of the 9th in last night’s game. The Cubs have been dominated to the tune of zero runs and fifteen (yes fifteen) strikeouts. Yet Wilson Contreras steps to the plate, hits a deep ball to right, and proceeds to stand and admire his handiwork, letting everyone know the moment is all about him. When he realizes the ball isn’t leaving the park, he goes into panic sprint mode and winds up on 2nd base – a double that should have been an easy triple. Did it ultimately matter in the game last night? No. Could something so stupid matter in the next week? Let’s just say I’ve seen crazier things decide Cubs games.
When something so basic, something every little league kid learns in his first year of playing ball, isn’t being executed I have to blame the man in charge. So Joe, let’s fix this now, once and for all. It’s time for a “gather ’round and listen up” moment.
To me this is the equivalent of the recent epidemic of kids dropping footballs pre end zone in collegiate football. Absolutely mindless and no excuse for it – besides being incredibly selfish and trying to show off. One difference though – those kids are amateurs, these Cubs are professionals, no matter how young they might be. You might accuse me of old man, “get off my lawn” syndrome, and you may be right. But fundamentals can still win or lose ball games. And what’s more fundamental than running out a hit ball?
Side note: If last night’s home plate umpire Larry Vanover is the best that MLB has, they have some serious issues. To call him inconsistent last night would be a huge understatement, and Jon Lester (unfortunately for the Cubs) paid the price. If you want to call a ball a strike, Larry, at least do it for both teams.