SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Cubs had two mimes lead the team stretch one morning this week and they still can’t get their signals straight.
But the rest of Major League Baseball has received the message loud and clear, that the Cubs are coming after a 97-win season and a win-the-offseason spending spree that approached $290 million.
Camp Maddon is perfect for social media with the karaoke videos and the pictures of goofy costumes, the Cubs getting ready to break tired unwritten rules the way a motivational speaker swung a sledgehammer at the cement brick resting on the manager’s chest.
“Everybody’s going to be on our helmet,” Dexter Fowler said.
So maybe this is just the new normal, San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey getting in Jason Heyward’s face and World Series legend Madison Bumgarner storming off the mound and walking toward home plate.
That fourth-inning scene during Thursday night’s 16-14 win — in front of a sellout crowd at Scottsdale Stadium and a national TV audience — captured what the Cubs are getting into now.
After spending more than $250 million this offseason, the even-year Giants are looking for their fourth World Series title since 2010. San Francisco won’t concede anything, even in a Cactus League game, and Bumgarner didn’t like Heyward’s reaction after striking out looking at three straight pitches.
“He didn’t say anything,” Bumgarner said. “I thought he was looking at me or talking to me. But he said he wasn’t. So there’s only one other person for him to be talking to — the guy standing on second base.”
The implication being that Fowler had been tipping pitches to Heyward.
“Might want to be a little more discreet about that if you’re going to do that kind of thing,” Bumgarner said, standing in front of his locker and brushing off the idea that pitching against the Cubs and Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta in an ESPN game meant any more emotions or intensity.
Arrieta’s night didn’t go according to script, leaving the game in the first inning with a blister on his right thumb. Over in the visiting clubhouse, Heyward and Fowler laughed off Bumgarner’s interpretation.
“Madison made a great pitch on me — a front-door cutter — and I wasn’t sure if it was a strike or not at the time,” Heyward explained. “I just looked out at second base and saw Dex (and gave him a look like): ‘Hey, what do you got? Ball or strike?’
“And then the next thing you know, I see Buster come out of my peripheral like: ‘Hey! Hey! Hey!’
“I’m like: ‘What’s going on?’ And then I saw Madison (say): ‘You looking at me?’”
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Heyward — who signed the biggest contract in franchise history this winter — stepped into the batter’s box again in the fifth inning and got booed by the crowd of 12,114.
“I wasn’t trying to show anybody up,” Heyward said. “I played against that battery — Madison and Buster — since 2008 in the minor leagues. It’s always a battle. It’s always fun. They’re first-class guys. They play the game the right way.
“I try and do the same. And that was it. I think it was a misunderstanding. (Madison’s) a gamer, man. He wants to go out there and be in every big spot for his team.
“Also, no tipping of signs. I understand people would say: ‘Oh, they wouldn’t tell us anyway.’ But believe it or not — genuinely — that wasn’t going on, especially not in a spring-training game.
“I wouldn’t show up my teammate if they ever gave me the wrong sign or anything like that. That just looks bad.”
The Cubs viewed that four-game sweep of the Giants at Wrigley Field as a turning point in their season last August, realizing they were in playoff mode already and could compete with anyone.
Sitting at his locker in front of a group of reporters, Fowler looked at Heyward and made exaggerated thumbs-up and thumbs-down signs, promising nothing would ever get lost in translation again.
“They’re a competitive team,” Fowler said. “They’ve won numerous World Series. They’re trying to defend their throne. Each and every game, they’re going to come out, and they’re going to battle. Especially with the type of hype we have over here.”