Don’t make Joe Maddon angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
This NLCS umpiring crew found that out the hard way Wednesday night.
The Cubs’ skipper didn’t turn green or smash anything, but he came about as close as one can to turning into the Hulk in real life, losing his mind over an egregious blown call in a pivotal moment in the eighth inning of his team’s 3-2 win in Game 4 at Wrigley Field.
As more than 40,000 people rained boos down on the umpires and started chanting about bovine excrement — and as the Wrigley Field video board showed repeated evidence of how wrong the umpires had gotten Curtis Granderson’s third-strike whiff — Maddon was going off on any and all umpires he could set his eyes on.
It’s perhaps the angriest and most argumentative fans have seen him during his tenure on the North Side. Perhaps it’s the most nuts he’s ever gone in a game.
But there’s a way it could’ve been even worse.
“If Granderson hits the next pitch out, I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap,” Maddon said.
Now that would have added a whole extra level of insanity to what had already been the new bar-setter for insanity in this roller-coaster Cubs postseason.
To make a long story short for anyone who missed the sequence of events, Wade Davis got Granderson to strike out in a big moment in the eighth inning. The Cubs’ closer had already surrendered a homer to Justin Turner to start the inning and had a man on first with one out in a one-run game when Granderson came to bat.
You didn’t need to have eagle vision or an in-depth understanding of the rulebook to know Granderson missed Davis’ pitch for the third strike. And the initial call was just that, as Granderson was ordered back to his dugout alongside Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who came out to get his own explanation of the play. But then came a lengthy infield conference featuring all six of these NLCS umpires, and the call was reversed. No video review, just an on-field conference. Granderson had new life after supposedly foul-tipping the pitch.
Maddon did not like that decision. More so, though, he didn’t like how it was reached.
“It was not a good explanation,” Maddon said, still hot after the game ended and his team won. “Listen, I'm all about the umpires, first of all. I'm not going to sit here and bang on umpires, and I love a lot of guys on this crew. I've known them for a long time. But that can't happen.
“The process was horrible. To have that changed and if Granderson hits the next pitch out, I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap. That was really that bad. So you can't permit that to happen. The process was wrong. The explanation, eventually it turned into hearing two sounds. Not one of them saw a foul tip or thought it was a foul tip. It was based on two sounds, which I totally cannot agree with that process whatsoever.
“When you have 40-some thousand people, it's late in the game. The other sound could have come from some lady screaming in the first row. I have no idea. I can't buy that process.
“Could have been a guy, too. I don't want to bang on a lady.”
Certainly most if not all of Cubs fandom and really anyone watching in the stadium or at home had to agree with Maddon. Even home-plate umpire Jim Wolf said he blew the call after the game, going as far as saying he was "dead wrong" and that he "talked himself into" switching the call. Granderson got an extra strike and could have changed the dynamic of a one-run game with it. Maddon had reason to be upset.
But it was the way he got upset that was really something to see. Take your pick of a famously short-tempered cartoon character — Donald Duck, Yosemite Sam, the Tasmanian Devil — Maddon was doing his best impersonation of all of them, spinning around, walking around, confronting every umpire on the field and screaming right in their faces.
It earned him his second ejection of this postseason.
“I was yelling at everybody, man,” Maddon said. “That was bad process. … That's what I'm yelling at. I know Wolfy for a hundred years, I know Mike (Winters, the crew chief) for a hundred years, I know a lot of these dudes for a hundred years. But I can't accept that under those circumstances. If that next pitch goes out of the ballpark, obviously, on a wrong call, I am really not a good guy at that point.
“And there is no way, no way I'm not getting ejected at that point. I've got to make my point. Just being honest.
“I mean, I was upset. I mean, listen, this is an elimination game, man. This isn't just another one. This isn't June 23, this is an elimination game. … With all due respect, under those circumstances, that can't happen. It can't happen. If Granderson hits the next pitch out of the ballpark, that can't happen. The process was not good. That's my argument. The process was a bad process. That's my argument.
“If I don't do that, what do my players think if I don't stand up for our guys like that? What do they think in that moment?”
Everything ended up fine for the Cubs, of course, with Granderson completing his strikeout once again on Davis’ very next pitch. Davis worked his way out of the inning and then batted in the bottom of the eighth, an interesting decision that Maddon watched from the clubhouse, and then got a game-ending double play to seal the game and stave off elimination for at least one more night.
But Maddon gave fans a highlight for the ages with his on-field antics. And he showed his players he wasn’t going to take that potential game-changing situation lying down.
“He's got to do his job, you know?” Javy Baez said. “Obviously turning a play like that that could have turned the game around, he was just trying his best to get that out because it was obviously out. The umpires didn't really see it, but you can't do nothing about it.”
As for the end result?
“I don't know why they overturned the call,” Willson Contreras said, “but the ball never lies.”