Joe Maddon: No place for retribution in Cubs-Pirates rivalry


Joe Maddon: No place for retribution in Cubs-Pirates rivalry

The Pittsburgh Pirates know where to find Chris Coghlan if they believe in eye-for-an-eye justice.

That’s how a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review column previewed this showdown at Wrigley Field: “Will Pirates-Cubs finally boil over?” These two teams already appeared headed toward a collision in the National League’s wild-card game on Oct. 7.

And then Coghlan took out one of Pittsburgh’s most valuable players when he slammed into Jung Ho Kang last week at PNC Park, breaking the infielder’s left leg and tearing a knee ligament with an aggressive slide.

“It was a good baseball play,” manager Joe Maddon said before Friday’s 3-2 loss. “There’s nothing to cause retribution at all. I would hope not. For me, for us, it’s a dead issue. And that’s it.

“I think the people involved within the Pirates, they understand that. Others that may want to fan the flames are just fanning flames. They really don’t know what they’re talking about.”

[MORE CUBS: Playoff party on hold as Cubs lose to Pirates]

That column mentioned a feeling around the Pirates that mirrored the reaction from Pittsburgh fans on social media: Why did Maddon sound insensitive, downplaying a potential knee injury and saying he heard Kang had plantar fasciitis?

“It wasn’t my thought,” Maddon said. “It was coming from the Pirates’ side. That’s what I was hoping — that it wasn’t that serious. There’s no way I would ever make something like that up or even think about that.

“That’s what we had heard. And I thought: ‘Oh, good, then he’s not that badly hurt.’ That was my first thought. That’s all.”

Coghlan is a deeply religious person who plays with an edge and doesn’t take this for granted. He knows what it’s like to turn a double play, come back from a serious injury, get non-tendered and compete for a job after signing a minor-league deal.

Kang, a shortstop/third baseman from South Korea, is looking at a six-to-eight month recovery period after making his mark (15 homers, 58 RBIs, .816 OPS) during a superb rookie season. Hours after that devastating play, Kang exonerated Coghlan with a statement released through his agent.

[MORE CUBS: Gerrit Cole getting stronger as wild card game vs. Cubs looms]

Even if there are no fireworks this time — Maddon compared the St. Louis Cardinals to “The Sopranos” last weekend — Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has certainly noticed a different vibe around the Cubs.

“You’d have to be blind not to,” Hurdle said.

After enduring 20 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates have become a model organization in many ways, combining scouting-and-player-development methods with a strong analytical structure to clinch a playoff spot for a third straight year.

After stripping down the big-league product and sitting through five consecutive fifth-place finishes, the Cubs are on the verge of securing a wild card in Year 4 of the Theo Epstein administration.

“It was a work in progress,” Hurdle said. “When the new front office came over, they had a direction and a purpose. Everybody has direction and purpose. How it plays out? Nobody ever shows up on a new job and says: ‘You know what, let me wake up and see how I can screw things up.’ No. Managers don’t. Coaches don’t. Front-office executives don’t. General managers don’t.

“There comes a point in time where things make more sense. They find more rhythm and rhyme — and they have. They’ve been able to cultivate a very fertile and solid foundation of young players that have skills. They’ve also created a pitching staff that’s got experience, and (they) went about that a couple different ways. They have a good team. There’s no doubt.”

Yu Darvish emotional after Cubs lose another tough one: 'I'm so frustrated'

Yu Darvish emotional after Cubs lose another tough one: 'I'm so frustrated'

With their postseason hopes fading by the day and the Cubs needing him most, Yu Darvish delivered on Sunday.

And yet, the game ended in a far-too familiar way for the Cubs: with a 3-2 loss, the Cubs’ fifth-straight one-run defeat — and third since Thursday when they were tied or leading in the ninth inning or later.

“If you just play back the tape, it’s almost unbelievable that it turned out this way,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Also, the games against Cincinnati. For the last six, this is really wash and repeat. Of course it’s frustrating."

Darvish was extremely emotional postgame, as evidenced by a mud stain spread across his locker resulting from an anger-laced throw of his cleat. He pitched well — 8 1/3 innings, three earned runs, 12 strikeouts and no walks — only running into trouble in the ninth.

“I’m so frustrated, you can see it, right?” he said, looking back at his locker. “We have to win, especially today, but we lost.”

The 33-year-old right-hander was rolling heading into the ninth, which started off with pinch-hit triple by Jose Martinez that hit off Albert Almora Jr.’s glove, despite a valiant diving effort.

“It sucks that we couldn’t win that game,” Almora said. “I really wanted to make that play there. Can’t catch them all, but I tried.”

For what it’s worth, Craig Kimbrel didn’t pitch Sunday because he was unavailable, though Maddon said he would’ve stuck with Darvish even if his closer was available.

"I was happy at that point, but right now everything just….There’s no words right now," Darvish said.

That’s neither here nor there, though. What matters is that the Cubs lost another game that they seemed to have in their grasp, only to see it slip away late. They're now eliminated from NL Central contention, and their elimination number in the Wild Card race is three.

Even Maddon struggled to explain the series, one where the Cubs played quite well but only saw their playoff hopes take a big hit.

“It’s really difficult,” he said. “You look at it, how did that all happen? How did we lose all those four games? They were just one runner better than us every night and they were really evenly matched. That’s all I will concede.”

Although Darvish admitted he feels responsible for Sunday’s loss, Maddon spoke highly of the right-hander, even comparing how he's pitched to what Jake Arrieta did during his tenure with the Cubs. 

“I saw Jake pitch really well and win a Cy Young, but this is equivalent of all of that,” he said. “The stuff, command of his stuff. [Darvish] absolutely deserved a better fate.”

Whether you think that Maddon was being too hyperbolic there or not, there’s no doubting that Darvish looked excellent for majority of his outing on Sunday. Baseball is a game of inches, something the Cubs experienced firsthand this weekend.

“They got us. They got us,” Maddon said. “Give them credit for that, but we did not leave anything on the field, man.”

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Swept by the Cardinals (and playoff dreams dashed)

USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: Swept by the Cardinals (and playoff dreams dashed)

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki and Kelly Crull discuss the Cardinals sweep, Yu Darvish taking the loss so hard, and what to look for over the final six games of the year.

01:00 - Reaction to being swept by the Cards

03:30 - Darvish taking the loss really hard

05:30 - This is the Yu Darvish Cubs fans thought they were getting when he signed with the Cubs

07:00 - Almora's miscue in the 9th inning of the loss

08:00 - It feels like the end of an era

12:00 - Is this the end of an era for the Cubs?

16:00 - Surprised Rizzo was available on the field for the entire Cardinals series?

20:00 - There is no one thing you can look to that didn't work this season

22:00 - What do you want to see over the final six games?

25:00 - Seeing a cornerstone being helped off the field for a second Sunday in a row

29:00 - How much will we see the injured guys on the field?

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Cubs Talk Podcast