ST. LOUIS — Joe Maddon hadn’t heard from Major League Baseball’s New York headquarters by the time he met with reporters before Tuesday night’s rivalry game at Busch Stadium.
“Not yet,” Maddon said. So MLB officials might as well put this on his tab after the Cubs manager spent roughly half of a media session that lasted 10-plus minutes criticizing the way umpire Joe West handled the end of Kyle Hendricks’ near no-hitter.
West started trending on Twitter after ejecting Maddon in the ninth inning of Monday night’s 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman had already started warming up in the bullpen when Jeremy Hazelbaker led off with a home run, which led to catcher Miguel Montero checking in on Hendricks.
When Montero returned to home plate, West tapped him on the shoulder and told him to go back out to the mound, and then warned it would count as a visit. Instead of rolling with the stall tactics, Maddon felt like “Cowboy Joe” became a distraction from a brilliant pitching performance.
“Absolutely,” Maddon said. “I mean this: St. Louis fans are really, obviously, intelligent baseball fans. The way they reacted to Kyle coming to the plate (in the seventh inning), I’m certain that had he pitched a no-hitter, they really would have given him like a St. Louis reception.
“(It’s) having to take him out of the game properly. He would have left the field in the right manner. So that was so unnecessary what occurred. There was a detraction, I thought, in regards to what the moment should have really felt like for everybody.”
West argued that an umpire has the power to count a catcher walking out to the mound as a visit, saying he’s done this before when Tony La Russa managed the Cardinals.
“Of course you can,” Maddon said. “Technically, there’s a lot of things you can do that aren’t done. Technically, if you ask a player to go speak to a pitcher from the dugout — which you do almost every night with every umpiring crew — (then it’s a visit). Technically, if you relay information from the dugout to a player to the mound, that could be considered a trip. Absolutely, if that’s what you choose to do.”
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Have you seen this rules interpretation before?
“No,” Maddon said. “That’s what I’m saying — it happens all the time. It’s just a method. Let’s give you the full monty right here: We needed time for Aroldis, only because this guy’s pitching a no-hitter. It’s a four-run lead. I don’t want Aroldis just to get totally amped up yet, because it wasn’t necessary.
“I.e., if (Kyle) walks the first guy and the no-hitter’s still intact, Aroldis is still not in that game. So you don’t want Aroldis to get to that level until it’s absolutely necessary. So there’s an 0-2 pitch that goes in the seats, it becomes necessary.
“(Aroldis) was close. Needed about 60 seconds. That’s not an exaggeration – 30 to 60 to get him properly ready for the game. That’s all we needed. That’s why I wanted the guys to go and talk to (Kyle).
“I would have taken the slow walk out there. He would have walked in. The game would (have ended) and nobody would have been wiser for it — or less than for it. That’s exactly what happened. There’s no other explanation.”
Maddon got in West’s face and made an appearance on the mound, leaving the ball in first baseman Anthony Rizzo’s glove and killing enough time for Chapman.
“My only resort was to do what I did to make sure that Aroldis got ready,” Maddon said. “That was absolutely a conscious thought on my part. I will not deny that.”
With the Cubs on the verge of clinching the division, and the Cardinals going through a bridge year, this rivalry needed a little drama and some more entertainment value.
“The fact that I got thrown out of the game — I don’t care,” Maddon said. “Big deal. It’s just something that I had to do in the moment based on an inappropriate reaction by the umpire. That’s it.
“It’s normal protocol. I’m not asking for anything extraordinary. I think any manager ... I’m almost certain the other 29 would have done exactly the same thing. There’s no question.”