Cubs

Joe Maddon thinks Ben Zobrist getting ejected would be a sign of the apocalypse

Joe Maddon thinks Ben Zobrist getting ejected would be a sign of the apocalypse

As the rest of the world readies for the upcoming solar eclipse on Monday, Joe Maddon is thinking about the apocalypse.

That's because Ben Zobrist very nearly got ejected from a ballgame Wednesday night, something that seemed essentially impossible just a few days ago.

When Zobrist squared around to bunt in the bottom of the ninth inning, he was peppered with a 96 mph fastball right on the leg. The Cubs veteran was initially awarded first base — which would've loaded the bases with nobody out — but then was called back by first base umpire Chris Conroy who insisted Zobrist did not pull back his bunt and thus the pitch was a strike.

Maddon raced out and very quickly got ejected from the game. He admitted it was the angriest he'd been in a Cubs uniform.

Zobrist also was giving the umpiring crew an earful about such a crucial play in a crucial spot of a tie game.

Zobrist was not ejected and the Cubs eventually won two batters later, but had the game continued, Zobrist would've had a tough time controlling his anger moving forward.

Envisioning Zobrist getting ejected elicited laughter from Maddon, who said it would've been more entertaining to see Zobrist get tossed than Kris Bryant's ejection last month.

"This would've been really good," Maddon said. "Because he would've had like contrived anger after the fact. Had the game continued, I really believe something may have occurred that we've never seen before. 

"You got the eclipse coming up Monday. You got Zobrist arguing with an umpire and possibly getting kicked out and an eclipse within three or four days. That's where you worry about the apocalypse at that point."

Zobrist is one of the most mild-mannered players in the game and has never been ejected in his 12-year career. Maddon always says that whenever Zobrist is actually arguing with umpires, he must really have a point, especially on a religious day like Sunday.

However, the well-respected 36-year-old just had an issue over the weekend where he struck out looking in Arizona to end the game and petitioned hard for robot umps and an electronic strike zone.

"It keeps happening to Zo, of all people," Maddon said. "I mean, Zo does not deserve this. If any baseball player does not deserve that kind of inequities, it's him. 

"Listen, I really believe had I not done that and the game ended differently, you might've seen Zo's first ejection."

It was Maddon's second ejection of the season and he expects to get fined after laying into the umpires 15 minutes after the game ended in his media session. 

He said he has no grudges to carry over into Thursday and doesn't anticipate the umpires will, either.

Wednesday's ejection reminded Maddon of the time a few years ago when he "ejected" three umpires from a game on the South Side of Chicago when he was managing the Tampa Bay Rays.

But he doesn't get tossed as much now with instant replay really cutting down the need to argue.

"That thing yesterday is not reviewable," Maddon said. "So when it's not reviewable, that's where you could get upset. Check swings, hit by pitch in that situation. There's not a whole lot to get angry with anymore.

"Balls and strikes? But it's so hard to argue balls and strikes from the side [in the dugout]. I can see up and down; I can't see in and out. I'm really wrong a lot on in and out, so I don't even say anything anymore. And so again, it's just about moments like that that are not reviewable, those are the ones that I think can create a little bit of a stir.

"But it doesn't happen that often. I'm not looking for it just to go argue. I just thought it was egregiously bad yesterday."

There is currently a report filed with the league about the incident, though that is standard procedure for any ejection.

Maddon said twice during his postgame rant Wednesday that he's "playing nice in the sandbox" with the league. When asked about what he meant by that, he gave a cryptic answer:

"There's other things that nobody's aware of that I've been playing nice in the sandbox about."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Lee Smith Hall of Fame edition

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MLB NETWORK

Cubs Talk Podcast: Lee Smith Hall of Fame edition

Listen to Lee Smith's entire Hall of Fame induction speech in the embedded player below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Cubs trade rumors: Nick Castellanos drawing interest and could be the perfect fit

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USA TODAY

Cubs trade rumors: Nick Castellanos drawing interest and could be the perfect fit

Ever since infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist hit the restricted list for personal reasons on May 8, one of the biggest talking points around the Cubs has been the team’s need for a steady, veteran bat.

Enter Tigers outfielder Nick Castellanos.

Sunday, Chris McCosky of The Detroit News reported that the Cubs have emerged as a "serious suitor" for Castellanos, citing a source. 

McCosky’s report follows that of MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, who reported that the Cubs had a scout in attendance at Friday’s Tigers-Blue Jays game in Detroit.

It’s currently unclear what a trade package for Castellanos, 27, would look like, but his fit with the team is obvious. In Castellanos, the Cubs would acquire a veteran outfield bat, one that hits extremely well against left-handed pitching.

Castellanos, who is a free agent after this season, has mainly hit second and third for the Tigers and led the team with 23 home runs in 2018. He holds a .280/.339/.467 slashline, with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs this season. Those numbers are even better against left-handers — .377/.451/.639 — albeit in a small sample size of 61 at-bats. However, in his 6+ MLB seasons, he's hitting .302 with an .871 OPS against left-handed pitching. 

The Cubs have struggled against left-handed pitching in 2019, ranking 23rd in average (.243) and 28th in hits with 164. Castellanos would rank first among qualified Cubs hitters vs. left-handers in average and OBP and only trail Javier Baez’s .776 in slugging percentage.

While it's true that Castellanos hits left-handed pitching well, he'd instantly become an everyday player in the Cubs outfield. Thus, the Cubs depth chart would be hit with several ripple effects.

Albert Almora Jr.'s  playing time against right-handed starting pitching would be affected. Almora held a .282/.315/.369 slashline against right-handed pitching in 2018, but those numbers currently sit at .255/.291/.427.

Almora's numbers against lefites (.210/.247/.296) aren't better, but his 2018 slashline there (.295/.340/.402) leaves room for hope. Also, Kyle Schwarber is only hitting .224 against lefties, so adding Castellanos would likely mean Almora starts less against righties and Schwarber less against lefties. Almora does provide Gold Glove caliber defense, so the Cubs may be more inclined to let him work through his struggles at the plate.

Similarly, David Bote's playing time could also be affected by Castellanos. Without the latter, the Cubs have more of a need to play Kris Bryant in the outfield, meaning third base is open for Bote to play. Adding Castellanos might mean Bryant playing more third base and less outfield, so Bote would have to crack the starting lineup at second base, more likely than not. The same goes for Robel Garcia, though his bat is making it hard to keep him out of the starting lineup right now.

Between Almora and Schwarber's numbers and Zobrist’s absence, the Cubs have a glaring need for more outfield offense. Adding Castellanos could be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Cubs offensively.

Update: Our David Kaplan added that the Cubs have also had discussions for Tigers closer Shane Greene.

Greene, 30, is arbitration eligible this offseason. The right-hander has converted 22 of his 25 save chances this season and has 40 strikeouts compared to 11 walks. However, his 3.54 FIP is a far cry from his 1.25 ERA, and the overriding thought has been that the Cubs would seek left-handed relief help rather than right-handed.

Greene entered Sunday with a lower ERA against lefties (0.64) than righties (1.29), though lefties are hitting .222 against him compared to .097 by righties. If the Cubs were to acquire him, he obviously wouldn't slot into the Cubs closer role, as Craig Kimbrel has the position locked down. As Kaplan noted, the cost to get both Castellanos and Greene would be steep, especially with the latter being a top relief arm on the trade market.

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