Joe Maddon and the Cubs vs. Major League Baseball added another chapter Friday evening during the Cubs' 3-2 victory over the Nationals.
For the third straight homestand, the Cubs had a serious issue with the umpires that spilled over from the field to the postgame reaction.
First, it was Javy Baez getting thrown out and Maddon sticking up for his MVP candidate against the Cardinals last month. Then it was Anthony Rizzo getting in the face of umpire Angel Hernandez at a terrible strike call to end the series against the Padres last weekend.
This time, it's Maddon going after the league for what he and the Cubs feel is a silly rule.
In the bottom of the seventh inning of a 2-2 ballgame Friday, Willson Contreras came up to the plate with Kyle Schwarber at first base. Contreras bunted and Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon came charging in, only to throw the ball into right field.
Schwarber motored around to third base, Contreras moved up to second and the Cubs looked to be in the midst of a serious threat to take the lead with nobody out.
Only that wasn't the end result.
Contreras was ruled out of the baseline because he ran into the field of play, so he was out, Schwarber had to go back to first base and the Cubs suddenly felt confused, robbed and triggered.
Maddon came storming out of the third-base dugout, arguing that there's no way Contreras should've been called for that.
The rule states a baserunner cannot go inside the field of play down the first base line, and instead have to stick to foul territory (hence the little white line on the right side of the foul line approaching first to indicate a lane for the runner). Maddon felt that given Rendon's throw was so far off the line, it should not have mattered where Contreras was running.
In his dispute, Maddon was ejected, but he got his money's worth by sprinting down to first base, mimicking the stretch of a first baseman and creating quite the commotion.
"I got upset, but I did Respect 90," Maddon joked after the game. "I know what the rule is, but there's gotta be some interpretation of it where the defense gets rewarded and the offense gets penalized. That's my problem with the whole thing."
The Cubs wound up scoring the winning run in that inning anyways as Ian Happ and Addison Russell followed Contreras with singles and Rizzo walked to force home a run.
"That could've changed the outcome of the whole game," Maddon said. "We fought through it. But for me, you make that much of an errant throw and you get rewarded for it? There's something wrong with that method. Something needs to be changed. Something needs to be spoken about.
"And I'm not the first guy that's walked down this path. I know that. But that was obviously a horrific call and I wanted him to know that at some point, I think you have to exercise judgment. Just like umpires have to exercise judgment on whether a guy is throwing at somebody intentionally or not.
"There's that part of the game that needs to be dealt with tactfully and rightfully. So regardless of if he's inside the line or not, that throw was so far off, it had nothing to do with the baserunner, to me. If the throw was in fair territory, then go ahead, make the call. When it's egregiously a bad throw that far in foul territory, play the game."
Home plate umpire and crew chief Bill Miller also reacted to the play after the game.
"In this situation, [Contreras] interfered with the first baseman's ability to catch the ball because he was running inside fair territory," Miller said. "He was not running in the lane.
"Just because he's out of the lane does not mean he's out. It does not mean it's automatic interference. If he's running outside [the lane], he has to interfere with the first baseman's ability to catch the ball. ... It doesn't have anything to do with the throw."
Maddon, however, felt differently about what turned out to be a huge moment in the game between two teams in the heat of a pennant race.
"We go from second and third with no out to now one out with a runner at first base — that's gotta be looked into somehow," Maddon said. "There's gotta be some method there that you permit somehow lattitude with the umpires to exercise baseball judgment."