Cubs

How Joe Maddon's Game 4 freak out could've been even crazier: 'I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap'

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USA TODAY

How Joe Maddon's Game 4 freak out could've been even crazier: 'I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap'

Don’t make Joe Maddon angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

This NLCS umpiring crew found that out the hard way Wednesday night.

The Cubs’ skipper didn’t turn green or smash anything, but he came about as close as one can to turning into the Hulk in real life, losing his mind over an egregious blown call in a pivotal moment in the eighth inning of his team’s 3-2 win in Game 4 at Wrigley Field.

As more than 40,000 people rained boos down on the umpires and started chanting about bovine excrement — and as the Wrigley Field video board showed repeated evidence of how wrong the umpires had gotten Curtis Granderson’s third-strike whiff — Maddon was going off on any and all umpires he could set his eyes on.

It’s perhaps the angriest and most argumentative fans have seen him during his tenure on the North Side. Perhaps it’s the most nuts he’s ever gone in a game.

But there’s a way it could’ve been even worse.

“If Granderson hits the next pitch out, I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap,” Maddon said.

Now that would have added a whole extra level of insanity to what had already been the new bar-setter for insanity in this roller-coaster Cubs postseason.

To make a long story short for anyone who missed the sequence of events, Wade Davis got Granderson to strike out in a big moment in the eighth inning. The Cubs’ closer had already surrendered a homer to Justin Turner to start the inning and had a man on first with one out in a one-run game when Granderson came to bat.

You didn’t need to have eagle vision or an in-depth understanding of the rulebook to know Granderson missed Davis’ pitch for the third strike. And the initial call was just that, as Granderson was ordered back to his dugout alongside Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who came out to get his own explanation of the play. But then came a lengthy infield conference featuring all six of these NLCS umpires, and the call was reversed. No video review, just an on-field conference. Granderson had new life after supposedly foul-tipping the pitch.

Maddon did not like that decision. More so, though, he didn’t like how it was reached.

“It was not a good explanation,” Maddon said, still hot after the game ended and his team won. “Listen, I'm all about the umpires, first of all. I'm not going to sit here and bang on umpires, and I love a lot of guys on this crew. I've known them for a long time. But that can't happen.

“The process was horrible. To have that changed and if Granderson hits the next pitch out, I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap. That was really that bad. So you can't permit that to happen. The process was wrong. The explanation, eventually it turned into hearing two sounds. Not one of them saw a foul tip or thought it was a foul tip. It was based on two sounds, which I totally cannot agree with that process whatsoever.

“When you have 40-some thousand people, it's late in the game. The other sound could have come from some lady screaming in the first row. I have no idea. I can't buy that process.

“Could have been a guy, too. I don't want to bang on a lady.”

Certainly most if not all of Cubs fandom and really anyone watching in the stadium or at home had to agree with Maddon. Even home-plate umpire Jim Wolf said he blew the call after the game, going as far as saying he was "dead wrong" and that he "talked himself into" switching the call. Granderson got an extra strike and could have changed the dynamic of a one-run game with it. Maddon had reason to be upset.

But it was the way he got upset that was really something to see. Take your pick of a famously short-tempered cartoon character — Donald Duck, Yosemite Sam, the Tasmanian Devil — Maddon was doing his best impersonation of all of them, spinning around, walking around, confronting every umpire on the field and screaming right in their faces.

It earned him his second ejection of this postseason.

“I was yelling at everybody, man,” Maddon said. “That was bad process. … That's what I'm yelling at. I know Wolfy for a hundred years, I know Mike (Winters, the crew chief) for a hundred years, I know a lot of these dudes for a hundred years. But I can't accept that under those circumstances. If that next pitch goes out of the ballpark, obviously, on a wrong call, I am really not a good guy at that point.

“And there is no way, no way I'm not getting ejected at that point. I've got to make my point. Just being honest.

“I mean, I was upset. I mean, listen, this is an elimination game, man. This isn't just another one. This isn't June 23, this is an elimination game. … With all due respect, under those circumstances, that can't happen. It can't happen. If Granderson hits the next pitch out of the ballpark, that can't happen. The process was not good. That's my argument. The process was a bad process. That's my argument.

“If I don't do that, what do my players think if I don't stand up for our guys like that? What do they think in that moment?”

Everything ended up fine for the Cubs, of course, with Granderson completing his strikeout once again on Davis’ very next pitch. Davis worked his way out of the inning and then batted in the bottom of the eighth, an interesting decision that Maddon watched from the clubhouse, and then got a game-ending double play to seal the game and stave off elimination for at least one more night.

But Maddon gave fans a highlight for the ages with his on-field antics. And he showed his players he wasn’t going to take that potential game-changing situation lying down.

“He's got to do his job, you know?” Javy Baez said. “Obviously turning a play like that that could have turned the game around, he was just trying his best to get that out because it was obviously out. The umpires didn't really see it, but you can't do nothing about it.”

As for the end result?

“I don't know why they overturned the call,” Willson Contreras said, “but the ball never lies.”

Podcast: Cubs pass the first test in midst of crucial stretch

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Scott Changnon

Podcast: Cubs pass the first test in midst of crucial stretch

On the latest CubsTalk Podcast Scott Changnon and Tony Andracki discuss the state of the Cubs offense, the value of Javy Baez and Addison Russell and what it means now that the starting rotation looks to be finding its form.

With 17 games in 17 days (most of which come against contending teams), the Cubs started things off right with a series victory in St. Louis.

Listen to the entire podcast here:

The Cubs are in a way better spot than they were a year ago

The Cubs are in a way better spot than they were a year ago

ST. LOUIS — It's night and day watching the 2018 Cubs compared to the 2017 version.

Even with the injury to Javy Baez Sunday night, the Cubs are in a way better spot now than they were a year ago.

On June 17 of last season, the Cubs sat at 33-34 with a run differential of just +6.

They looked flat more often than not. "Hangover" was the word thrown around most and it was true — the Cubs really did have a World Series hangover.

They admit that freely and it's also totally understandable. Not only did they win one of the most mentally and physically draining World Series in history, but they also ended a 108-year championship drought and the weight of that accomplishment was simply staggering. 

The 2018 iteration of the Cubs are completely different. 

Even though they didn't finish off the sweep of their division rivals in St. Louis Sunday night, they're still only a half-game behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central and for the best record in the league. A +95 run differential paced the NL and sat behind only the Houston Astros (+157), Boston Red Sox (+102) and New York Yankees (+98) in the AL.

Through 67 games, the Cubs sat at 40-27, 13 games above .500 compared to a game below .500 at the same point last summer.

What's been the main difference?

"Energy," Joe Maddon said simply. "Coming off the World Series, it was really hard to get us kickstarted. It was just different. I thought the fatigue generated from the previous two years, playing that deeply into the year. A lot of young guys on the team last year.

"We just could not get it kickstarted. This year, came out of camp with a fresher attitude. Not like we've been killing it to this point; we've been doing a lot better, but I didn't even realize that's the difference between last year and this year.

"If anything, I would just pinpoint it on energy."

Of course the physical component is easy to see. The Cubs played past Halloweeen in 2016 and then had so many demands for street namings and talk shows and TV appearances and Disney World and on and on. That would leave anybody exhausted with such a shortened offseason.

There's also the mental component. The Cubs came into 2018 with a chip on their shoulder after running into a wall in the NLCS last fall against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have a renewed focus and intensity.

But there's still plenty of room for more. The Cubs aren't happy with the best record and run differential in the NL. They know they still haven't fully hit their stride yet, even amidst a 24-13 stretch over the last five weeks.

"I think we've been pretty consistent," Jon Lester said. "We've had some ups and downs on both sides of the ball as far as pitching and hitting. But the biggest thing is our bullpen and our defense has been pretty solid all year.

"That's kept us in those games. When we do lose — you're gonna have the anomalies every once in a while and get blown out — we're in every single game. It's all we can do. Keep grinding it out.

"Our offense will be fine. Our defense and the back end of our bullpen has done an unbelievable job of keeping us in these games. And if we contribute as a starting five, even better. 

"You have the games where our guys get feeling sexy about themselves and score some runs. That's where the snowball effect and we get on that little bit of a run. I feel like we've been on a few runs, it just hasn't been an extended period of time. I don't have any concerns as far as inside this clubhouse."

Lester hit the nail on the head. The Cubs sit at this point with only 1 win from Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood struggling with command and low power numbers from several guys including Kris Bryant.

Throw in the fact that Joe Maddon's Cubs teams always seem to get into a groove in August and September when they're fresher and "friskier" than the rest of the league and this team is currently in very good shape for the remainder of the year. 

If they can get 3 wins away from the World Series after going 33-34, the sky should be the limit for a 2018 squad that's in a much better position 67 games in.