Cubs

Cubs: Maddon not worried about 'being nice' with quick hook on Hammel

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Cubs: Maddon not worried about 'being nice' with quick hook on Hammel

Joe Maddon is trying to win baseball games, not make friends.

These are the kinds of calls Theo Epstein's front office envisioned when they pitched the idea of coming to Chicago to Maddon in the offseason. 

The celebrity manager was at it again Wednesday night, yanking starter Jason Hammel out of the game after just 65 pitches, when he had given up only one run in 5 2/3 innings.

His last time out, Hammel threw just 76 pitches against the San Francisco Giants, and the veteran was not happy with the decision.

He wasn't any happier this time around, refusing to speak much on the matter after the game, saying he was "obviously" surprised and upset that he came out of the game.

[MORE CUBS: Six in a row: The Cubs are feeling 'unbeatable']

Maddon said he was "certain" Hammel would be upset but explained his reasoning while also reminding the media that the number of pitches doesn't matter because "it's not a 100-pitch exercise."

Maddon didn't like how Hammel matched up against Adam Lind with a runner on second and two outs, so instead of walking the Brewers first baseman, he brought in left-hander Clayton Richard from the bullpen to face the lefty Lind.

"From my perspective, where I'm sitting, it's not about being nice," Maddon said. "It's about trying to do the right thing at the right moment. I've been watching Lind all year. He's one of the scariest left-handed hitters out there right now.

"You could have chosen to walk him or 'pitch around him,' which I wasn't comfortable with that either. I thought Clayton could put the ball on the ground; he did not. ... I thought it was the right thing to do."

[MORE CUBS: Cubs searching for spots to get Kyle Schwarber in at catcher]

Hammel is a 32-year-old veteran in his 10th year in the big leagues. He has been one of the Cubs' most consistent starters all year, posting a 3.11 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 22 games.

So even catcher Miguel Montero was surprised by Maddon's quick hook.

"It caught me a little off guard there," Montero said. "But he had his plan. Obviously, Hammel threw his ball good, maybe not quite as good as I've seen him in the past.

"They were putting good swings on it. (Maddon) saw that. He saw that they were hitting the ball good. That's probably why he made that decision.

"As a player, we don't understand because we like to compete and we think we're still good and all this. But sometimes, we kinda actually step back and go, 'You know what? You were right because I didn't pitch that great.'

"He didn't pitch bad, but I've seen him better before."

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But, all's well that end's well, maybe? The Cubs did get the win, and Hammel talked about how proud he was of the way his teammates played.

However, given this is two starts in a row, Maddon knows the frustration is building for Hammel.

"I'm sure there's a statute of limitations involving something like this, and I might be, like, pressing it right now," Maddon said. "However, I really like the guy a lot; I think he's outstanding. I'm sure we'll be able to get through it. 

"I want him to be upset, actually, because of his competitive side. I'm fine with that."

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

If baseball wants stars that transcend the game, they need guys like Javy Baez on the field MORE, not less.

That whole debate and baseball's marketing campaign isn't the issue the Cubs took exception with, but it's still a fair point on a nationally-televised Saturday night game between the Cubs and Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Baez was ejected from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when he threw his bat and helmet in frustration at home plate umpire Will Little's call that the Cubs second baseman did NOT check his swing and, in fact, went around. 

Baez was initially upset that Little made the call himself instead of deferring to first base umpire Ted Barrett for a better view. But as things escalated, Baez threw his bat and helmet and was promptly thrown out of the game by Little.

"I don't think I said anything to disrespect anything or anyone," Baez said after the Cubs' 6-3 loss. "It was a pretty close call. I only asked for him to check the umpire at first and he didn't say anything.

"I threw my helmet and he just threw me out from there. I mean, no reason. I guess for my helmet, but that doesn't have anything to do with him."

Baez and the Cubs would've rather Little check with the umpire who had a better view down the line, but that wasn't even the main point of contention. It was how quickly Little escalated to ejection.

"We're all human," Baez said. "One way or the other, it was gonna be the wrong [call] for one of the teams.

"My message? We're not animals. Sometimes we ask where was a pitch or if it was a strike and it's not always offending them. I think we can talk things out. But I don't think there was anything there to be ejected."

Upon seeing his second baseman and cleanup hitter ejected in the middle of a 1-0 game against a division rival, Joe Maddon immediately got fired up and in Little's face in a hurry.

Maddon was later ejected, as well, and admitted after the game he was never going to leave the field unless he was tossed for protecting his guy.

"He had no reason to kick him out," Maddon said. "He didn't say anything to him. I mean, I watched the video. If you throw stuff, that's a fine. That's fineable. Fine him. That's what I said — fine him — but you cannot kick him out right there.

"He did nothing to be kicked out of that game. He did throw his stuff, whatever, but he did not say anything derogatory towards the umpire.

"...You don't kick Javy out. If he gets in your face and is obnoxious or belligerent or whatever, but he did not. He turned his back to him. That needs to be addressed, on both ends."

Maddon and the Cubs really want Major League Baseball to get involved in this situation. 

There are many other layers to the issue, including veteran Ben Zobrist having to come into the game as Baez's replacement. Maddon was not keen on using the 37-year-old Zobrist for 1.5 games during Saturday's doubleheader and now feels like he has to rest the veteran Sunday to lessen the wear and tear of a difficult stretch for the team.

There's also the matter of the groundball basehit in the eighth inning that tied the game — a seeing-eye single that just got past Zobrist as he dove to his left. It tied the game at 3 and the Cardinals took the lead for good the following inning.

Does Baez make that same play if he were out there instead of Zobrist? It's certainly possible.

"The dynamic of our defense was lessened by [the ejection]," Maddon said. "Again, listen, if it's deserved, I'm good. It was not. They don't need me out there, we need Javy out there.

"And it surprised me. I stand by what I'm saying. It was inappropriate. MLB needs to say something to us that it was inappropriate because it was and it could've led to the loss of that game."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 37th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 37th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 37th homer of the 1998 season was a big one, an opposite field blast off the front row of fans in right field and into the basket at Wrigley Field.

The eighth-inning 3-run shot gave the Cubs some insurance in a game they ultimately won 9-5 and the Wrigley faithful responded by throwing a bunch of trash on the field.

Earlier in the contest, Sosa tied the game with an RBI single in the fifth inning. He finished with 4 RBI, giving him 93 on the season with more than 2 months left to play.

Fun fact: Vladimir Guerrero was the Expos' No. 3 hitter for this game an dhe also hit a homer (his 20th). Now, Guerrero's son is nearing his MLB debut as a top prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays system.

Fun fact No. 2: Mark Grudzielanek - who later played for the Cubs in 2003-04 - was Montreal's No. 5 hitter for the game at Wrigley. He was traded 10 days later from the Expos to the Los Angeles Dodgers for another fellow Cub - Ted Lilly.