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Joe Maddon's protest prompts Sean Doolittle to call his act 'tired'

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Joe Maddon's protest prompts Sean Doolittle to call his act 'tired'

WASHINGTON -- Sean Doolittle stood at his locker in the clubhouse still roiled by what occurred in the ninth inning Saturday. 

His clean inning for his eighth save was not on his mind. Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon was.

The Cubs appeared to enact a pre-planned grouse when they say Doolittle next. Chicago quality assurance coach Chris Denorfia was talking to the umpires as Doolittle warmed up in the 5-2 game. Following Doolittle's first pitch, Maddon popped out of the dugout to begin his banter, and eventual protest, of Doolittle's delivery.

At question was Doolittle's toe tap. With no runners on base, he raises his front leg, drops and holds it for a count, then grazes the dirt with is cleat before he fully comes to the plate. Doolittle started this almost a year ago during a late May series in Miami. No one had complained since -- until Maddon emerged from the Cubs' dugout.

If the umpires deem the move illegal, the outcome is a ball called with the bases empty or a balk called with runners on base. Saturday, home plate umpire Sam Holbrook told Doolittle he was doing nothing wrong. Which turned the postgame discussion around the event to Maddon's intentions. 

A starting point would be one of Maddon's relievers, Carl Edwards Jr., tried to add a similar move in spring training. But Edwards was putting his full foot on the ground and was told the move was illegal. 
Doolittle was more inclined to believe Maddon's primary motivation was to rattle him at the start of the save opportunity, and he calmly, but clearly, took digs at Maddon for the process. 

"After the first time Joe came out, the home plate umpire was like you're fine, just keep it moving," Doolittle said. "Don't start, stop and start again. Just keep it moving. I was like, that's what I do all the time anyway, so...in that moment, he's not trying to do anything other than rattle me and it was kind of tired. I don't know. Sometimes he has to remind people how smart he is and how much he pays attention to the game and stuff like that. He put his stamp on it for sure. 

"I actually have to thank him. After they came out the second, the [Kyle] Schwarber at-bat, I threw two fastballs and a slider and a fastball to [Kris] Bryant and those were probably the best ones I've thrown in a while. I don't do the tap when there's somebody on base so I can keep my pickoff move available if I need it. I've had a lot of traffic recently, so I've had practice doing it, so it wasn't like a huge adjustment to me. I don't know. In a way, I kind of need to thank him."
Doolittle wasn't finished. He was later asked if he thought Maddon was trying to get him to change his mechanics.

"Well, yeah, that's part of the mind game that he was trying to play and I get that," Doolittle said. "I guess I should take it as a compliment that he felt like he had to do that in order to try to throw me off my game in that situation. They're trying to get you to over-think it and change something in the middle of a save opportunity to give them a chance where you start making mistakes or are over-thinking it. 

"But once the home plate umpire tells me, he said, you're fine, just keep it moving, it's just a tap, at this point, I've been doing it for over a year. We're a month-and-a-half into the season, so I know their guy had to make an adjustment; I thought it was a thinly veiled attempt to kind of throw me off."

Members of the Nationals staff were also irked. Among their concerns was the chance for Doolittle to injure himself if he suddenly changed his delivery.
Maddon was adamant the situation was created by Edwards not being allowed to alter his delivery.

“It’s really simple," Maddon said. "That’s exactly what Carl (Edwards) was told he can’t do. And I was told it was an illegal pitch and he can’t do it. I went to Sam (Holbrook), and I told him that. And he said, ‘in our judgment.’ I said, ‘there’s no judgment. If he taps the ground, it’s an illegal pitch, period.’ There’s nothing to judge. You can judge whether he did or not. It’s obvious that he did. If you can’t tell that, then there’s something absolutely wrong. So that was my argument.

"I said if you guys don’t clean it up, I’m going to protest the game.  So we protested the game. For me, I don’t know how many he actually did make that were illegal pitches. I don’t know how they’re going to rule with this. It’s their rule. It’s not mine. I didn’t ask for it in the first place. They took it away from Carl. They took it away from (Cory) Gearrin. They’ve taken it away from a couple guys and they seem to be somewhat aware, but not aware of what had happened."

Wherever the truth resides, Saturday night became another installment in the oddities when Chicago and Washington play. The Cubs walked Bryce Harper 13 times in 19 plate appearances in 2016. The 2017 five-game National League Division Series which ended in Nationals Park included Stephen Strasburg's mystery illness and PR gaffe about who would pitch Game 4 in Chicago. Add Saturday night to the strangeness and buckle up for Sunday's series finale.

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Potential Nationals draft pick Cole Wilcox shows pitchers are athletes too

Potential Nationals draft pick Cole Wilcox shows pitchers are athletes too

With a little over a week left until the start of the 2020 MLB amateur draft, teams are combing over every bit of game footage they have to finalize their top targets for the first round.

Georgia right-handed pitcher Cole Wilcox, who’s been matched up with the Nationals in several mock drafts, made sure scouts got a look at another video of him showing off his athleticism—albeit one off the diamond.

Wilcox has apparently taken offense to the popular opinion that pitchers aren’t athletes. Hoping to put that narrative to rest, he made sure the camera was rolling when he pulled off this impressive trick shot.

The Nationals are slated in the first round at No. 22 overall, putting them right in the middle of the target range in which Wilcox is expected to be picked. If he’s still available when they’re on the clock, his display of athleticism certainly won’t be counted against him.

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Nationals’ statement: ‘We encourage our fellow citizens to lead by example’

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Nationals’ statement: ‘We encourage our fellow citizens to lead by example’

The Washington Nationals issued a statement on social media at 9:55 p.m. Tuesday while their hometown streets of Washington were marched through by protesters and closed off by various law enforcement agencies.

“The Lerner Family and the entire Washington Nationals Organization join the Washington Nationals Founding Partners Group in the following statement:

“On behalf of the Washington Nationals Founding Partners Group, the minority owners of color of the team, we hope for unity and solidarity of our fans, supporters and the DC Metropolitan community at this time. For generations the game of baseball has brought together men, women and children of all backgrounds, ethnicities and races, including men and women in uniform of every kind. Last year we stood side by side to witness and celebrate a success of ethnic harmony and resolve like no other. The 2019 World Series victory was a living example of cultural diversity blending to support a united goal not just as a team, but as a family.

As a pillar of the DC community, we see it as essential to build opportunities and offer mentorship programs that serve the next generation, as we have done since 2007 through the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy and Nationals Philanthropies. It is our goal to teach our children the virtues of respect and treating others with decency, humility and kindness. These important values find their way into every home, including ours. And let us emphasize above all that we do not support brutality or intolerance of any kind.

“On behalf of the Founding Partners Group and our families, we wish for everyone’s safety in the DC Metropolitan community, our nation and beyond. We encourage our fellow citizens to lead by example and commit to playing a meaningful role in shaping a vision and future for our youth, regardless of their race, that unifies and celebrates all of us.”

The death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers has spurred protests in cities across the country -- including the nation’s capital -- for a fifth consecutive night. Individual athletes have used their voices amid the countrywide turmoil and many organizations in turn have decided to issue statements on the current climate in the United States. The Nationals joined them late Tuesday.