Cubs manager Joe Maddon fires back at his hometown critics: 'I have nothing to apologize for'

Cubs manager Joe Maddon fires back at his hometown critics: 'I have nothing to apologize for'

SAN FRANCISCO — “I have nothing to apologize for,” Joe Maddon said in the middle of a response that lasted more than two minutes and 400-plus words, firing back at an editorial in his hometown newspaper that criticized the Cubs manager for how he’s positioned his charitable foundation.

Nearly 3,000 miles away from the faded Pennsylvania coal-mining region where he grew up and still has family, Maddon sat in the visiting dugout at AT&T Park on Tuesday and eagerly responded to a question about the Times Leader commentary that ran with this headline: “Joe Maddon should apologize to Hazleton residents.”

The Wilkes-Barre newspaper picked apart Maddon’s recent interview with NBC News where he promoted his Hazleton Integration Project and sent a “help or die” message to the sections of the city resistant to new waves of immigration.

“Obviously, it’s based on the fact that I mentioned the word ‘die,’” Maddon said during his media session before a game against the San Francisco Giants. “I’m really surprised that more people didn’t understand that — as we continue to move forward — I’m really encouraging the people back home to become part of this positive movement.

“And understanding that if you choose not to, it’s still going to change anyway, even when you’re gone. That’s all I meant by that.”

The Times Leader published its editorial on Monday, or two weeks after the magazine-style piece on Maddon aired on “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly.” NBC correspondent Harry Smith shadowed Maddon, who regularly uses his platform to draw attention to a community organization that creates educational and athletic opportunities.

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

“There’s no ill intent,” Maddon said. “If you watched the show in its entirety, it’s a really positive piece, and I think the message is 99.9 percent positive. So for those that misinterpreted the comments, I can’t even say I apologize for that, because there’s no ill intent involved.

“I would hope that the folks back home — I really believe it’s a small percentage and of course the small percentage always gets the platform — (understand) what I’m talking about there. Please jump on board, become part of this positive situation that’s going to change our hometown for the better and accept these people that have come to our hometown to actually save it.

“Because without the Hispanic influx that we’ve had in our hometown, our hometown would pretty much have wasted away in the very near future, because there’s no business coming in. There’s no cultural involvement. There’s no youth. There’s no family involvement.”

The op-ed led with two anonymous comments from Hazelton residents that questioned Maddon’s sincerity: “He’s full of himself.” And: “I hate him. I hope he doesn’t win one game.” An overview that actually came across as generally positive of Maddon’s organization also painted him as overreaching and out of touch: “Joe, you are not a social engineer. You are a baseball manager.”

“I’m not upset at all,” Maddon said. “First of all, you can never anticipate that everybody’s going to be on board with what you’re trying to do, i.e., Major League Baseball. So in a situation like this where it really matters even more, you have to expect some pushback or blowback.

“But at the end of the day, eventually, the next 10 or 15, 20 years from now, Hazleton is going to be a beacon of how to do this. Meaning how you’re going to assimilate new groups into your area, how they’re going to provide energy, economic benefits and just people, having the population base that wants to be there.

“All that stuff is pertinent. For the folks that don’t understand that, I really can’t help that. But at the end of the day — I’ve said it 100 times — I love being from there. I’m all about it. We’re trying to make it better like it had been, and it’s slowly getting back to that point.”

Maddon famously gave his hometown a shout-out during his first press conference at The Cubby Bear in November 2014, promising to buy the first round of drinks at the bar opposite the Wrigley Field marquee. The new Cubs manager dropped the microphone for a moment, then grabbed it to make a final announcement before exiting stage left: “That’s a shot and a beer! That’s the Hazleton way!”

“It’s not that I’m wishing death on anybody,” Maddon said. “We all have an expiration date. All I’m saying is that when you’re gone from here, it’s going to change regardless. So why not get on board and make a change more quickly in a positive way?”

In another huge playoff moment, Wade Davis stays cool while everything else around Cubs goes crazy


In another huge playoff moment, Wade Davis stays cool while everything else around Cubs goes crazy

This became a three-ring circus on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, Cubs manager Joe Maddon screaming at the umpires, the video board showing the replay of Curtis Granderson’s swing and the crowd of 42,195 booing and chanting “BULLS#$!!”

The Los Angeles Dodgers are still in command of this National League Championship Series, but the Cubs won’t go quietly into the offseason, unleashing All-Star closer Wade Davis for the final two innings of a 3-2 thriller that kept them alive for at least another night.

The Cubs can worry about the daunting task of winning three more elimination games in the morning. Once Davis forced Cody Bellinger into the double-play groundball that left Justin Turner stranded in the on-deck circle and this one ended at 11:16 p.m., he pulled at his right sleeve and buttoned the top of his jersey while waiting for the Cubs to start the high-five line. “Go Cubs Go” blasted from the stadium’s sound  system and fireworks erupted beyond the center-field scoreboard and Davis acted as if nothing had happened.

To put the idea of beating the Dodgers three times in a row in perspective, the Cubs blasted three homers and got a classic big-game performance out of Jake Arrieta and still needed Davis for a heart-stopping, high-wire act.

Maddon already ruled out Davis for Thursday night’s Game 5 after the closer fired 48 pitches – or four more than he did during last week’s seven-out save that eliminated the Washington Nationals. But at least the Cubs will have those decisions to make instead of cleaning out their lockers.

“I don’t know,” Davis said. “We’ll definitely come in tomorrow and get some treatment and go out and play catch and see how I feel.”

It looks like Davis doesn’t feel anything on the mound. Davis didn’t react to Turner chucking his bat and yelling into the visiting dugout after crushing a 94-mph fastball for a home run to begin the eighth inning. Davis didn’t seem bothered by Yasiel Puig flipping his bat after drawing a walk. And Davis never lost his composure while Maddon got ejected for the second time in four NLCS games.

Maddon flipped out at home plate umpire Jim Wolf – and really the entire crew – when what was initially called a swinging strike three on Granderson got overturned and ruled a foul tip.

“Wade doesn’t care about any of that,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “That’s the right guy to have on the mound. With the mentality he has, he’s going to strike the guy out on the next pitch. Obviously with the replay, it’s not easy to keep your composure. But he’s just different. He’s a different animal.”

While the fans at Wrigley Field got loud and turned angry, Davis chatted with catcher Willson Contreras: “I was just trying to think of the next pitch I was going to throw if he ended up staying in the box.”

Davis got Granderson (0-for-4, four strikeouts) swinging at strike four, walked Yasmani Grandal and then blew away Chase Utley with a 95.1-mph fastball, needing 34 pitches to finish the eighth inning. Davis wasn’t finished, using a Kris Bryant bat to hit against Dodger lefty Tony Cingrani, fouling off five pitches before striking out looking at a 94.9-mph fastball.

“Yeah, I gave up there after a little bit,” Davis said with a look that sort of resembled a smile. “He was bringing it pretty good, and I hadn’t seen a baseball in a while coming in like that.”

If the Cubs are going to match the 2004 Boston Red Sox – the only other team to come back from an 0-3 deficit since the LCS format expanded to seven games in 1985 – they are going to need the offense to generate more runs, a great start from Jose Quintana on Thursday night and someone else to run out of the bullpen. Not that Davis is ruling himself out for Game 5.

“Go get some sleep and then come in tomorrow and start getting ready,” Davis said.

Jake Arrieta stars at Wrigley Field and doesn’t believe this is The End for Cubs: ‘Hopefully, it’s not a goodbye’

Jake Arrieta stars at Wrigley Field and doesn’t believe this is The End for Cubs: ‘Hopefully, it’s not a goodbye’

It’s not Jake Arrieta getting greedy and the Cubs being cheap when he holds up another jersey in a different city this winter, smiling for the cameras while super-agent Scott Boras watches the press conference unfold, marketing an ace to a new audience.

Even Arrieta admits that if he had Theo Epstein’s job, he would do the exact same thing, letting it play out until a 30-something pitcher hits the free-agent market. And Epstein wouldn’t have left the Boston Red Sox and taken over baseball operations at Clark and Addison if he didn’t believe in the need for change, to get outside the comfort zone and test yourself.

It’s just business, but this still felt very personal on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, Arrieta probably making his last start in a Cubs uniform while the defending World Series champs survived an elimination game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Three straight trips to the National League Championship Series might have spoiled Cubs fans to the point where standing-room-only Game 4 tickets were selling for $60 on StubHub less than an hour before the 8:01 p.m. first pitch.

By 10:13 p.m., the crowd of 42,195 started booing when manager Joe Maddon popped out of the dugout in the seventh inning to take the ball from Arrieta after 111 pitches. It turned into a standing ovation as Arrieta walked off the mound and tipped his cap, his shaved head set against a mountain-man beard.

“Hopefully, it’s not a goodbye,” Arrieta said after a dramatic 3-2 win, surrounded by reporters at his locker. “It’s a thank you, obviously. I still intend to have another start in this ballpark.

“If that’s where it ends, I did my best and I left it all out there. But we’ve won four in a row plenty of times this year. And there’s no reason we can’t do it again.”

So many times, Arrieta has been worth the price of admission, must-see TV through two no-hitters and those two World Series games he won on the road last year against the Cleveland Indians. None of this would have been possible without the Cubs finding a winning lottery ticket in that Scott Feldman flip deal with the Baltimore Orioles on July 2, 2013.

“I took a little bit of extra time in between pitches,” Arrieta said, “just to look around, foul pole to foul pole, behind home plate, just to relish it and take it in. You got the fans on their feet, pulling on the same side of the rope. It breeds some added energy.

“I had that mindset of I’m going to do everything in my power to get it to tomorrow.”

Arrieta’s pitches dart and dive in directions that even he can’t always control, but he has guts, swing-and-miss stuff (nine strikeouts) and the ability to work through traffic. He gave up five walks, hit Chase Utley with a pitch and watched as Cody Bellinger hammered a ball off the video-board ribbon in right field for a third-inning homer.

But lefty reliever Brian Duensing backed Arrieta up with two outs and two runners on in the seventh inning, forcing Bellinger to lift a flyball into shallow left field, keeping it a 3-1 game and setting the stage for a two-inning Wade Davis save.

“Jake was amazing,” Davis said. “He was throwing Wiffle balls, it looked like. Guys were just swinging at balls that started in on the zone and finished a foot off the plate. He’s just got some amazing stuff.”

For perspective on how far this franchise has come, just look at the lineup from Arrieta’s first spot start as a Cub, the second game of a July 30, 2013 doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field:

David DeJesus, CF
Junior Lake, LF
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Dioner Navarro, C
Luis Valbuena, 2B
Starlin Castro, SS
Cody Ransom, 3B
Cole Gillespie, RF

The Cubs actually sent Arrieta back to Triple-A Iowa for two more starts that summer, part of a mental/mechanical reset and the service-time calculus that would delay his free-agency clock by a year.

By 2015, Arrieta’s raw talent and natural confidence converged with a young, inexperienced team that caught fire in the second half, his Cy Young Award campaign fueling 97 wins and the momentum for chairman Tom Ricketts to authorize a spending spree on free agents that almost totaled $290 million.

"That was pretty special,” Maddon said. “I've never witnessed on the field that kind of consistent performance from a pitcher. It was other-worldly, right down to the wild-card game.

“My God, you pretty much knew if you scored one or two runs, you're going to win that night somehow. I don't know how this is going to look moving forward. But I know one thing, man, that one year of watching him play was different. It was a throwback to the ‘60s kind of pitching (I watched) as a kid.

“He's special – his work ethic and who he is and how he goes about his business. He's a very special young man.”

But Arrieta really isn’t in the mood to wonder if this is the end scene to this chapter of his life.

“There’s a little thought of that, yeah, because you never know,” Arrieta said. “But at the same time, now that the game’s over, it’s out of sight, out of mind. The thought process for me now is to be ready if I’m needed.”