The breed of people in Twitter and Facebook are vastly different. Twitter, a social platform which is incredibly easy to be anonymous, tends to be much more open to questioning outcomes with a surprising level head. Facebook on the otherhand has so many that dare not question anything Cubs cause they “trust in Theo” or “trust in Joe” or “remember, the Cubs won a World Series.”
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with either crowd, I tend to fall into both buckets rather often. I do trust that Theo Epstein knows what he’s doing. I wouldn’t want another manager, and I cried for several days after the Cubs won the World Series.
But there are times in which I step out of my hometown homer pajamas, dust off the Twitter handle, and call the Cubs out for being baseball stupid. Thursday night, with the chance to sweep the Cincinnati Reds, Joe Maddon was baseball stupid.
Here’s the jist, in case you didn’t watch or were unaware. The Cubs were leading the Reds 2-1 in the top of the eighth inning. Jake Arrieta was brilliant again (1.85 ERA in his last 10 ballgames), but this is just filler at this point. After the pen had held the Reds off (and got out of a bases loaded jam) Pedro Strop came into the game in hopes of handing this one off to Wade Davis for the save. The plan went as planned, except it didn’t at all.
Pedro was bad Pedro today (which he isn’t bad as often as you think). Struggling right away, he loaded the bases and pinch hitter Jose Peraza slapped a ball that beat Ian Happ in center for a ground rule double. That hit would cost the Cubs the ballgame.
So of course there were tons of fans that called for Pedro Strop’s head. But was it warranted?
I say no.
Joe had defensive whiz Albert Almora Jr waiting on the bench. Now, I’m not saying Albert makes that play, but I am saying he has a 1000 times better chance to do it than Ian Happ does.
Here’s a bit of background to why this was bad baseball. The first point, this was a close game, and it was late. When you have the lead, late, you do whatever you need to in order to hang onto that lead. You pinch hit for pitchers, play the averages, throw lefties verse lefties – you put your best defensive players in the game.
Again, I don’t know for sure that Almora makes that play. I know I’ve seen him make others that were more difficult. I also know Albert gets better jumps than Happ, takes better routes to the ball than Happ. I know, and you know it too, Albert is a much more gifted defensive player than Ian.
After the game Joe explained that it was all about keeping left handed hitters in the game. This makes some sense with the right handed Raisel Iglesias expected to come in if the Reds tied or took the lead. Joe also declared Almora wouldn’t have made the play.
Perhaps he’s right, but he still should have been in the game.
This one is magnafied because it was a close game, but more importantly the Cubs are in the thick of a pennant race. Any one play can impact the season, Joe used to manage that way.
Back in 2015 Joe did a ton of situational, pennant chasing type of moves. Limiting Jason Hammel’s innings to sometimes just three or four. Starting Addison Russell over All Star shortstop, Starlin Castro. Castro would eventually switch to second base, but only after he lost playing time.
There’s a lot of great qualities Joe brings, one of the greatest is he asks people to ask him why he did or didn’t do something. Fans, the media, or others. While I don’t agree with his game management at the end of this game, there’s no other manager I want making those late game decisions.