DK'S GRIND

Kovacevic: Plantar fasciitis on Maddon’s brain? ☕

Joe Maddon sure didn’t seem like the smartest manager in baseball in burying the Cubs in their 6-5 loss to the Pirates.

Joe Maddon calls for a reliever Wednesday night at PNC Park. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Joe Maddon’s the smartest man in Major League Baseball.

Just ask him.

Better yet, let’s revisit all of his many smart moves that contributed so much toward the climactic ninth inning of the Cubs’ 6-5 … uh, loss to the Pirates on this even-beyond-that magical Wednesday night at PNC Park.

First, clinging to a one-run lead entering the ninth for an immensely struggling team — now losers of four in a row, with near-daily Theo Epstein threats of a shakeup — Maddon handed the ball to Craig Kimbrel, a renowned closer but one who’s still trying to get comfortable after sitting out half the season as a free agent. Since Epstein ponied up $43 million over three years to get him last month, Kimbrel’s been rocked in all three appearances.

Mistake?

Eh, there’s a reason he was acquired. Even with Kimbrel walking Elias Diaz after one out, this one’s minor.

The rest weren’t.

Willson Contreras, the Cubs’ superb catcher, started in right field for the first time in the majors. And his bullet throw home in the eighth cut down Melky Cabrera and what would have been a tying run. But that doesn’t mean Contreras needed to be out there in the ninth.

That’s how Jung Ho Kang’s popup toward the right field line turned into a Texas League double inside the chalk:

Additionally, look at how far the Cubs’ coaches had Contreras shaded toward right-center for Kang. Because a shift was going to matter more in that situation than the catcher having to cover addition ground.

Even so, Contreras did get there and didn’t catch it. The ball clanged off the thumb of a glove he wasn’t used to wearing.

Where was Jason Heyward, maybe the National League’s best defender at the position?

According to Maddon after the game, neither Heyward nor his likely backup, the versatile Kris Bryant, were available because of mishaps here in the long game Tuesday night. I was told by a source in the Chicago organization after the game that Heyward, specifically, was “banged-up.”

We’ll see how serious it was, but one inning in a pinch probably wouldn’t have set a “banged-up” Heyward and/or Bryant back.

It gets way worse.

Runners are at second and third. One out. Adam Frazier comes up. As Josh Bell would observe later, “He’d been barreling everything,” and that was understatement for a guy off to a 10-for-13 July. Plus, he’s a lefty getting to face the righty Kimbrel.

Maybe put him on or pitch around him?

Nope. Maddon explained that he feared Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte, the next two in line, as much as Frazier and, moreover, that he didn’t want Kimbrel to feel forced to throw strikes with bases loaded.

Fair enough, but how about pulling the infield up to take away the easy tying run?

Nope to that, too:

Good Lord, what was that?

With a meeting on the mound, infielders included, Maddon instructed the infield to remain at regular depth and play for the out at first unless the ball were stung. He was willing to concede the tie, he’d say, because he had ample bullpen depth at hand.

“We were playing for the out,” Maddon said. “We threw the ball to the plate, and that messed things up a little bit.”

No. Just no. Stop right there for a second. I’ll restate this with gusto: The Cubs really, really needed a W. They were holding that W. And with a bazillion-dollar closer on the mound, they concede extra innings?

Then why have him out there at all?

Further, to blame the second baseman, Addison Russell, is … well, A-OK by me considering Russell is eminently deserving of endless bad things in his life. Plus, Russell himself admitted that his hesitation in the throw and his positioning didn’t help.

“I was just a little bit too far back, and I had to move to my left,” Russell said. “It had to be a perfect play. I don’t regret my decision going home, but that play has to be perfect to be made, especially with me ranging to my left.”

Whatever. The Cubs are now 10-22 when Russell plays since his not-long-enough 40-game suspension for domestic violence ended. If that’s their latest curse, so be it.

Kimbrel stayed, of course, to face Dickerson, another right-vs.-left matchup. And Dickerson, owner of probably the best hand-eye on the  Pirates’ roster, simply choked up and sliced Kimbrel’s final fastball deep enough to left to plate Kang:

“I loved the effort,” Maddon would say. “We just didn’t get it done in the end.”

Neither did he.

• Repeat after me: Chris Archer lasted only five innings and gave up most of his damage via home runs.

Victor Caratini in the second …

… and Javy Baez in the fifth:

Sorry, but those are putrid pitches. Watch Jacob Stallings‘ mitt, then track the arrival.

Call it an almost-quality start, per the semi-official stat — five innings, three runs, five hits, eight Ks three walks — but I’ll continue to call it not nearly enough. It’s laughable that a big-league starter hasn’t made it past the fifth inning in 10 of his 15 starts, and it’s beyond laughable that he’s now conceded 20 home runs and, within those, he’s been charged with 31 of his 48 total runs.

Archer doesn’t need to be measured against a miserably lopsided trade to look bad. He just needs be measured against an average major-league starter. And that might be the biggest disappointment of all.

Clint Hurdle addresses Chris Archer after the fifth. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

• Let’s hear it for Hurdle giving Archer an earful upon returning to the dugout following the fifth, as captured above by our Matt Sunday. One can safely presume it was for Archer petulantly throwing at Anthony Rizzo after Baez’s home run.

Now Baez did stand and admire a moment, just as he’d hilariously do later for what resultantly wound up a single off the top of the center field fence. Say what one will about Baez — or, for that matter, Rizzo, who hasn’t exactly endeared himself around here with his filthy slides — but Archer’s act was selfish. He made his teammates targets the rest of the game and, with how long baseball memories last, probably beyond.

Maybe Archer should find a primary pitch that isn’t the gopher ball.

• Not much that Bell does surprises anymore, but left-handed oppo on his home run to the bleachers?

Dude.

“Sick, right?” he’d reply when I raised that. “I was looking for a pitch outside, it came over, and I just went with it.”

Everything he touches these days …

Jameson Taillon’s playing catch here this afternoon. It would be a gigantic deal if  that’s a smooth session. Imagine, with all else that’s going on, getting him back.

• Happy Fourth to one and all!

MATT SUNDAY GALLERY

Pirates vs. Cubs, PNC Park, July 3, 2019 – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

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scd5045
scd5045

By the way, who cares….about maddon….

HCJoe
HCJoe

Lyles pitched an inning too many. Starting rotation held together with duct tape….

Austinhat159
Austinhat159

Archer is my least favorite Pirate in a long time. I absolutely cannot stand cocky dudes who aren’t average players. Worry about getting out of the 5th.

jonpitt1968
jonpitt1968

Imagine where this team might be with another $30M to $50M invested in its payroll.

Woomer
Woomer

Invested in the right players.

my3sons
my3sons

Name the players that you wanted and which ones that you want off the team.

I like a team of underpaid guys who are trying hard to get paid.

Sorta like how the Penguins like guys on expiring contracts because they are motivated, except Brassard.

JoeBucco
JoeBucco

Archer is definitely struggling, but is he healthy? I mean, look at Daniel Hudson… The guy who was so bad that the only way we’d take Corey Dickerson was if Tampa took Hudson’s $5m salary off our hands. Hudson is 5-2 and over the past two months has been absolutely dominant (sub 1.00 ERA and mowing down hitters). How can a pitcher be so bad here and so great elsewhere? Health? Coaching? Philosophy? What’s that mean for Archer?

Woomer
Woomer

I saw Archer pitch for the first time last Friday (and I was only 12 rows back, so I think i got a good look).

And what struck me was how small he is — short, small build and wiry. It looked like his pitches had every joint in his body twisting just to generate enough power to pitch. I was thinking that kind of motion not only opens itself up to injuries. But it’s a motion that needs all the moving parts to work smoothly (which any one of them wouldn’t do if that joint, muscle, ligament or tendon were injured).

my3sons
my3sons

Not the Pirates pitcher ‘body type’.
Dude has been super durable in his career though.

His best quality is his availability.

Bob Sacamano
Bob Sacamano

DK, Tony Larussa is still the self appointed genius of baseball.

JoeBucco
JoeBucco

And he backed it up (with the help of a steroid-infused lineup over the course of his career).

Sid_4_Prez
Sid_4_Prez

In defense of Maddon (gosh I feel dirty for doing this), if this were the Bucs and the medical staff told you a player was unavailable you’d scold us for criticizing Hurdle for not putting someone in, even if its “just a half inning” or “just 1 IP pitched”. I believe you did this earlier in the season when people were asking for 1 IP from Liriano and/or Crick and we got some combo of Holmes/Feliz/RichRod/etc (who were pitching poorly at the time). So say Maddon puts in a banged up Heyward or Bryant and either hurts himself more severely and is out longterm or the game gets tied and they have to go to extra innings and you are out of bench player? Isn’t that worse for both the player and team

cave bonifield
cave bonifield

Your 100% right, Sid.
This was brought up earlier in defense of the manager.

Sid_4_Prez
Sid_4_Prez

Much like I don’t think Kang is the reason the Pirates have scored 10+ runs in his last 4 starts (though he better start today vs the LHP!), they just do so when he starts, I am also saying Archer is definitely not the reason they are winning in his starts, but they have 6 of his last 7 starts. The amazing stats to me are:
1) He’s given up a HR in every start except for THREE! (out of 15)
2) He’s 0-5 vs NL West, 3-1 against everyone else.
3) He’s given up at least 2 BBs in every start (and I think this is his biggest problem, leading to increased pitch count, stressful innings and extra costly when he gives up the inevitable dinger)

Sid_4_Prez
Sid_4_Prez

Luckily, the only NL West teams left in the 2nd half are 4 games at COL (which would be very ugly with his BB and HR rates) and 4 at SF (the 2nd worst team in the NL).

Fake Neal Huntington
Fake Neal Huntington

There’s no silver lining here with Archer. None. The guy stinks. I blew it.

WeaverJL1961
WeaverJL1961

Congradulations DK, you sound just like one of those national guys you rail against. Like him or hate him he has the best record in baseball the past5 years.

hford89
hford89

What does that have to do with his decisions in this game? Just ignore them? Tomlin has the second best record, does that give him a pass? Writers are allowed to critique the game they are covering. It’s their actual job. Good Lord, you can’t make it up…..

WeaverJL1961
WeaverJL1961

DK stated himself that medical staff said “Heyworth was unavailable”. He lets her personal like or dislike bleed into his game coverage. As a columnist that is fine.

Woomer
Woomer

Look at Theo Epstein’s track record over his career, and then tell me Maddon deserves the credit.

WeaverJL1961
WeaverJL1961

Look at his record in Tampa and what he did there. Theo deserves the credit for firing his under contract manager and getting Maddon when he could. They are the two best in baseball at what they do.

jglagola23
jglagola23

Not to defend my least favorite person in MLB but I buy his thinking. We had 2nd and 3rd so if you bring the infield in and one sneaks through you lose rather than have extras. If you look at the Frazier ground ball if the infield was playing in that ball sneaks right between Rizzo and Russell and Dickerson never hits because the game is over. I put that one 100% on Russell. If he makes the play he was instructed to make in that situation the game likely goes to extras and the Cubs do have a huge advantage in bench and bullpen depth since our bench was empty and Darvish went so much deeper than Archer. That’s what makes baseball great, so many different strategies and potential outcomes.

Sid_4_Prez
Sid_4_Prez

I agree with this 1st part of what you said about not playing the IF in w/ 2nd and 3rd, that’s why I think the right move is to walk Frazier and load the bases and give yourself a chance to win the game with a double play, keep the game tied with a force out at home, or keep the game tied if you only get one out, but with IF at DP depth decreases the chance of a single getting through to lose the game for you. Fearing Kimbrel might walk in a run is too much “living in your fears” managing to me. Even if he did, that doesn’t lose the game for you.

Rico
Rico

Exactly Sid

jglagola23
jglagola23

I see that argument as well and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see that happen, especially considering Frazier’s performance in the series so far. I wonder if there was data saying a Dickerson double play was extremely unlikely or something? I agree the walk doesn’t directly lose the game for you but I wonder if he was “overthinking” the situation by projecting ahead to Marte batting with a tie game and the bases loaded with one out. In that case you can’t bank on or even reasonably hope for a double play with him running. In any case, glad he did it the way he did!

Sid_4_Prez
Sid_4_Prez

I think adding the possible force play at home instead of a tag play at home is the biggest reason you load the bases.

my3sons
my3sons

The Cubs have one of the best closers over the past decade. Maybe he should have pitched better.

Woomer
Woomer

Yeah, I don’t get Russell. Haven’t major league baseball players been taught to not let the winning run get to 3rd base with less than 2 outs?

And he couldn’t stop the runner from getting to 3rd. So he’d better damn well make sure there were going to be 2 outs!

Keith Carlson
Keith Carlson

Besides being a professional and having a job to do, I just don’t know how anyone interviews that pompous ass Maddon and seriously just doesn’t want to punch him. He’s the absolute worst.

Turk482
Turk482

The perfect title to honor the pompous a## of the year.

JAR
JAR

Theo’s magic wore off with Boston and Maddon had his ride in TB. What happened to the cubbies window with that roster to win multiple titles?

Doesn’t look too promising now does it?

Years of Control
Years of Control

Jake Arietta wasn’t re-signed after some good seasons, and replaced by Yu Darvish, who isn’t the same pitcher he was in Texas & John Lester is 35 with a lot of miles on his chassis – the starting pitching is very ordinary to mediocre.

my3sons
my3sons

Arrieta is the poster boy for analytics not signing a pitcher over 30 to long term contracts. He’s barely better than replacement level any more.

Sid_4_Prez
Sid_4_Prez

I don’t like the Cubs, Theo and especially not Maddon, but can you say Theo’s magic wore off in Boston and Maddon had his ride in TB if they did actually win a WS in Chicago (who hadn’t won in 100+ years)?

JAR
JAR

I understand and give them both credit for that but with that group and core of young guys they should have multiple titles and appear in multiple WS.

Sid_4_Prez
Sid_4_Prez

Like I said, I hate defending the Cubs, but do you really think they were better than the Dodgers either of the last 2 years to make multiple WS appearances (or even the Red Sox and Astros to win multiple titles)? The Dodgers seem to have better analytics, develop their home grown talent better, and spend on free agents better than the Cubs. And the Dodgers still haven’t found a way to win 1 WS with all their recent success.

JAR
JAR

They “should” have been better than the dodgers, def not better than the Sox or Astros but should have been representing the NL in the fall classic. With their payroll and the high profile names on their team they’ve underachieved.

Sid_4_Prez
Sid_4_Prez

Okay I can see that, I just see the Dodgers having consistently MUCH better starting pitching these last 2 years and that’s the key to them being better than the Cubs in the playoffs.

JAR
JAR

That’s the kicker. The cubs arms have under performed. Aging rotation that’s past their prime.

Shocked the dodgers haven’t won a title in the last 5 years to be honest.

cave bonifield
cave bonifield

Regarding Chris Archer:
I watch him pitch and I keep sensing that a really good pitcher is still in there; but what is keeping him from emerging?
He can look overpowering one batter and look like he’s throwing BP the next.
Hopefully, the inspirational play of his team mates will motivate him to figure it out.
The overcoming of adversity this year of fellow pitchers like Michael Feliz, Richard Rodriguez, Clay Holmes or “Even” Steven Brault, could serve as a template for his resurgence.
Now that we are legitimately in a pennant race, an effective Chris Archer would go a long way towards getting us to where we want to be.

As inconsistent as he has been, I haven’t given up on him yet.

JKMonster
JKMonster

If his failings were not part of a long decline in performance I’d have hope too. He keeps getting worse every year. Maybe he can bring it back, but if so he may need a sports psychologist as much as he needs a pitching coach.

Pittsburgh Innocents
Pittsburgh Innocents

27 K’s over his last 19 IP. That’s elite. If he can avoid throwing a few meatballs each game and cut his walks in half he’ll be great. Right now he’s a serviceable 5th starter.

JAR
JAR

Maddon is a real a$$-hat!

BaseballHabib07
BaseballHabib07

I asked the same question about why Contreras was in RF with the Cubs clinging to a 1-run lead. Great points! Love seeing such an arrogant mgr eating a piece of humble pie even if he won’t acknowledge it.

my3sons
my3sons

Having played and coached a lot of baseball over the years, the baseball has a habit of finding the player that you are ‘hiding’ in the field at the most critical times.
There is no hiding in baseball.
The right fielder needs to be a good player even if your mom won’t admit.

Tomhall15001
Tomhall15001

I’m with you all the way DK. Maddens genius is overrated. And so is his team. Their pitching is mediocre and all their hitters are in love with perfecting their home run trot. My guess is their clubhouse is a mess. They get too high during a good run and blame each other during low times. The Brewers are a better team with a better, smarter manager.

Rico
Rico

One thing I love about baseball is the chances you get for redemption, and on the flip side, the way you can go from hero to goat in the space of an inning. Case in point, Kang’s egregious throwing error on a Contreras grounder that would have been the third out right before Liriano gave up the HR looked like it would cost them the game. Fast forward to the 9th. Kang’s blooper was botched by Contreras, who the inning before looked like a hero with a great throw to nab Cabrera at the plate. Kang was redeemed and karma bit Contreras, and Genius Joe, in the butt. I love this game!

Rico
Rico

In the thousands of games I’ve seen over the years, I’ve never seen a manager concede the tying run in the 9th, not once. The Buccos deserve all the credit for their tenacious effort, but they got a major assist from Genius Joe. As DK would say, just wow.

Str8steel
Str8steel

DK, making me hate the Cubs even more. Priceless!

dean.kenefick
dean.kenefick

I don’t think Clint was getting on Archer for hitting Rizzo. Archer was trying to convince Clint he could go another inning. If you watch the whole exchange on TV you can see Archer saying I feel strong.

Titan35
Titan35

Dean, I agree. Thats what I thought it was about as well.

Lambertfan
Lambertfan

Break out the brooms!

Robbie M.
Robbie M.

DK – That column was dripping with acid and venom and was totally uncalled for.

I’m going to print it and have it framed. Nice job sir!!!

SWEEP TODAY!!!!!

JKMonster
JKMonster

That’s a great picture of Pags. I love that he’s wearing the Branch Rickey batting helmet and not the soft cap. I still have a cheap plastic version of those that was a giveaway at Forbes Field.

Robbie M.
Robbie M.

Remember when Atlantic gas stations gave those away?

I think my Father gave in just to shut my bucket mouth. 😉

$now
$now

I’d give the Pirates some credit for this one too.

WeberWildcat71
WeberWildcat71

I agree with you about Russell. What a coward.

WeberWildcat71
WeberWildcat71

Three earned runs in five innings is an ERA of 5.40. That is nowhere close to quality. At best it is approaching mediocrity. Archer is the Pirates version of Derick Brassard. You keep expecting so much more from him and he continues to disappoint.

CourtJester17
CourtJester17

Brassard! Good analogy.

my3sons
my3sons

a so-called ‘quality start’ is 6 IP with 3 R or less. He was close to a ‘quality start’.

Tbunner66
Tbunner66

A series seeep of the Baby bears would make a very happy 4th. 🎇🏴‍☠️
I was thinkng the same, DK when they didn’t move the IF in…I was saying, he he playing for a tie?!

kliuch
kliuch

Ummm… Is “Plantar fasciitis on the brain” a fancy way of saying that Maddon put feet in his mouth?))

Dec Allen
Dec Allen

It wasn’t a quality start for Archer. That requires 6 innings.

jmiken8905
jmiken8905

Who are these guys? ❤️💔❤️💔

Rennie.336
Rennie.336

Archer sucks

Drew_Damico
Drew_Damico

Went to bed last night thinking “I can’t wait to read the Bucco articles on DKPS in the AM!” WOW, the Pirates have me feeling optimistic…

Karen22
Karen22

Ditto! He never disappoints! 😊

Mike P.
Mike P.

That’s part of my thought process after every good game from every one of our teams. 👍

Zebug
Zebug

And on the losses I think to myself that I need my morning therapy session from DK.

JAR
JAR

It’s the best when DK covers a win.

poz7071
poz7071

Really great read. Safe and happy 4th to all.

119bill
119bill

Really nice analysis of how the genius fumbled away the game.

Biagio
Biagio

Hat’s off to all involved with this article. This was a great piece of baseball writing and the photogs captured the essence of each point made. Very well done.

littleguitargreg
littleguitargreg

Good stuff DK.

Guido1960
Guido1960

Not sure which I enjoyed more: the Cubs getting pounded a few days ago or last night’s snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

NC-BOB
NC-BOB

Oh the Cubs getting pounded Monday on an ESPN game was special (loved DK’s updates all the way to the end of that blowout)!

HankBlackbeard
HankBlackbeard

Joe Maddon invented baseball so every decision he makes is the correct one. He’s so smart and talented too.

Fleur
Fleur

We really do despise Maddon, lowlife slime that he is.

johnnycee
johnnycee

The Bill Walsh of baseball.

HankBlackbeard
HankBlackbeard

Maddon gave Bill Walsh all of his good ideas. Drafting Rice was Maddon’s idea!

Guido1960
Guido1960

Maybe Maddon thought he got a point for a tie.

Rocco
Rocco

Ladies and Gentleman, Elvis has just left the building.

Fleur
Fleur

Plantar fasciitis. Well said. Enjoying this present baseball miracle. Don’t let it end.

Sammy C
Sammy C

Watching Maddon fumble away a game is (sorry, not sorry) just so enjoyable.