Cubs: Joe Maddon argues against the designated hitter


Cubs: Joe Maddon argues against the designated hitter

When Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright suffered a season-ending injury earlier this year running the basepaths, it opened up a fresh round of debates on whether the National League should join the American League in adopting the designated hitter and not having its pitchers bat.

But Cubs manager Joe Maddon — a supporter of pitchers hitting despite spending his entire career in the AL before coming to Chicago — brought up this point in addressing the DH discrepancy on Saturday: Plenty of hitters, especially young ones, don’t like being a DH.

Maddon said during his days as a coach on the then-Anaheim Angels, his team tried to rotate in a group of 20-something outfielders — Darin Erstad, Garrett Anderson and Jim Edmonds and Tim Salmon — between playing the field and being a designated hitter. And there was pushback when one of those guys’ turn to DH came around.

“They hated it,” Maddon said. “Nobody wanted to DH. ‘It’s your day to DH.’ ‘I don’t want to.’ When they’re that young they don’t want to sit around, they want to play and I understand that. The more I thought about it, the more I got it. It’s hard to do that and the more you sit around and think about it, they harder it is to do it well.”

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The transition to being a full-time hitter and not playing the field isn’t always an easy one, even for longtime veterans. Fielding provides a good distraction from hitting, and without it, players are often left with large swaths of time with little to do during a game. Being a designated hitter, then, can become more of a mental struggle than a physical one.

And for the designated hitter to become universal and add 15 more job openings? That’s not something Maddon thinks is good idea.

“The DH is a really difficult position to acquire a really good player,” Maddon said. “It’s normally a very expensive position and there’s not many guys that could sit around for a half hour and come up and give you a good at-bat consistently on a nightly basis. So it’s a tough animal to find.”

Maddon may be overstating things here — of the 17 primary designated hitters with at least 300 plate appearances in 2014, only five rated as below average hitters (by Fangraphs’ wRC+ statistic). But the players on that list — David Ortiz, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, Billy Butler, Nelson Cruz and Albert Pujols, to name a few — are mostly veterans. It’s rare to see a young player be a full-time designated hitter.

While in Tampa, Maddon said he had a young B.J. Upton learn how to play multiple positions so he wouldn’t have time to overthink his at-bats. By moving him across the infield and outfield, during games he would have to stay engaged while playing defense, which was part of the organization’s plan for developing him.

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Maybe Kris Bryant would make a good designated hitter in his early 20s, but from the way Maddon argues it’d seem like a risk to have him only hit while he learns opposing pitching and the routine of being in the majors.

Maddon, too, thinks the game is better for fans when pitchers hit. A recent poll showed 55 percent of baseball fans like having pitchers hit, and from a strategy standpoint, Maddon believes it’s more entertaining.

“I think if you’re a fan, you really want to get fans engaged, you’d like to believe the strategy of a National League game exceeds that of an American League game to the point where you should be able to capture some interest regarding building a new fanbase,” Maddon said. “So I’d prefer us to go all no DH as opposed to all DH, if it came down to that.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Mailbag edition


Cubs Talk Podcast: Mailbag edition

3:00 - Listener question: Espada or Ross? Kelly Crull shares some inside info on Joe Espada

7:30 - Kelly talks about David Ross' second interview for the Cubs managerial job.

11:30 - Listener question: Say it is Espada, do you see any way David Ross comes on as a coach behind Espada?

13:30 - Listener question: Could the team regress further due to a lack of familiarity with a new manager?

20:10 - Listener question: How hard will Theo and Jed go after Gerrit Cole? And if he's not available who else is?

23:30 - Listener question: Are you trying to extend Castellanos?

26:00 - Listener question: If you sign Castellanos are you also trading Kyle Schwarber?

28:45 - Listener question: Should the Cubs trade Kris Bryant? What would they get back in return?

33:00 - Lighting round: Will Nico Hoerner be the opening day second baseman and keep the job in 2020?

33:10 - Lightning round: Will the Cubs bring back Cole Hamels?

33:45 - Can we and should we clone Javy Baez so we have a fresh Javy when he retires, or is that unethical?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:


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Cubs reportedly had second interview with David Ross

Cubs reportedly had second interview with David Ross

The Cubs' managerial search is in full swing as they continue to line up intriguing candidates to replace Joe Maddon. In recent weeks, Houston Astros bench coach Joe Espada's name has been floated out as a strong candidate, with reports stating that the Cubs had already scheduled their second interview with the much sought after coach

While the fact that Espada is such a strong candidate in the midst of a World Series run has led many to believe he is the runaway favorite right now, it is still very much so a wide-open race. 

It was reported that while not extremely publicized, former Cub David Ross is believed to have had his second interview with the Cubs organization this week. 

Ross, who was extremely clutch in the Cubs 2016 World Series win, has an obvious and extended history with the organization. And while there are no concrete reports on the nature of any follow-up discussions between Ross and the Cubs, it was stated that the two sides have in fact at least had those expanded conversations.

As Kelly Crull hinted at in her tweet, Ross's position with the franchise definitely makes his negotiations about the managerial opening a bit more fluid, which may lead to fewer updates on his specific discussions with the team.  

Ross and Espada certainly sound like the favorites to land the Cubs' managerial opening, as our own David Kaplan stated that manager Joe Girardi, who has been connected to the Cubs throughout this search, looks like the front-runner for the Philadephia Phillies managerial spot. 

The 2019 World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros kicks off on Tuesday night. Traditionally you do not see MLB franchises make their managerial hiring announcements during the World Series,  so the Cubs' announcement could come on one of the World Series off-days, as early as Thursday. 

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