SAN FRANCISCO – Joe Maddon saw how the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees attacked pitchers while managing the Tampa Bay Rays during those David vs. Goliath matchups.
Theo Epstein’s front office has replicated that Fenway Park blueprint in Chicago, making controlling the strike zone a priority for the Cubs and trying to build an American League East-style lineup.
Selfishly, Maddon wouldn’t mind seeing this ESPN report on Major League Baseball’s ownership meetings come into focus next season. The competition committee reportedly took a step forward this week by agreeing to raise the lower part of the strike zone. But the Cubs manager also warned about unintended consequences from trying to speed up the game and put more balls in play.
“I’m not trying to be contrarian,” Maddon said before Friday’s game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. “But then guys might just take more pitches and you’re still going to get a walk. It’s not necessarily going to create more offense.
“It can benefit a team like us, if, in fact, they call it that way, because one of the biggest things for us would be an umpire that doesn’t expand the strike zone. That’s what we would love to have.
“The Red Sox in the early 2000s wanted an umpire that will not expand the strike zone – or the Yankees, same thing. So if you’re going to shorten the strike zone like that, I think you can be counterproductive in a sense where if a guy’s pitching a lot down below that – and we’re just taking them – then we’re going to get less action.
“It’s one of those things you have to actually put into play to find out if it does answer the question.”
The ESPN report – which indicated the proposed change would go to the playing rules committee and become part of the negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement – also revealed a possible overhaul of the intentional-walk procedure, where a team could simply signal for it instead of tossing four pitches far outside the strike zone.
“I understand why,” Maddon said, “but there are certain pitchers that are going to love that, because they don’t like making those four pitches. I’ve actually had pitchers that won’t do it. It’s a small percentage. But by taking that away, you’re (removing) the potential that a wild pitch could occur that could impact the game.”
Maddon doesn’t think that will save time, except maybe when the Cubs treat Bryce Harper like Barry Bonds, walking him 13 times during a four-game sweep of the Washington Nationals two weeks ago at Wrigley Field.
“I’m not so pent up on moments like that, worrying about however many seconds that takes to have that done,” Maddon said. “I guess when we’re playing the Nationals it becomes more pertinent. Otherwise, it’s probably insignificant regarding the amount of time saved.”