Tim Benz: A bad look for Joe Maddon ... and the Pirates
The Pirates looked bad Tuesday. Again.
So did Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Again.
For those who wanted the Bucs to throw at Anthony Rizzo to even the score for his takeout slide of catcher Elias Diaz on Monday, they really didn't. A Michael Feliz pitch in the dirt nearly hit Rizzo's foot on ball four in the eighth inning with Chicago up 8-4. That's as close as they came to plunking Pittsburgh's newest sports villain.
By that point, Rizzo had already homered and been given an intentional walk with first base open and two outs.
Instead they just tried to pitch effectively. That didn't work out so well either, as the Cubs scored those eight runs on 14 hits against six Pirates pitchers.
One of the position players who had some positive moments for the Pirates was Diaz. He hit a home run and threw out Jayson Heward trying to steal second base early in the game.
If it had been me, after homering, I probably would've looked right at Maddon in the dugout grabbed my crotch and spit.
No. Wait. Roseanne Barr did that once. No one wants to be associated with her right about now.
OK, maybe I would've pulled a Justin Verlander and simply given a sarcastic cap-tip .
Diaz was more professional and calmly went back to the dugout.
"I'm grateful (the home run) got out," Diaz said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. "I enjoyed it the same way I enjoyed any home run. But my goal today was just to play good baseball."
I wonder what Maddon thought about Diaz's technique in either of those situations. He certainly had plenty negative to say about Diaz's form earlier in the day, in essence blaming him for Rizzo's slide occurring in the first place.
After that game, Maddon suggested Diaz needed to clear out from home plate more before throwing his potential double play ball up the first base line prior to contact from Rizzo.
I don't know about this slide by Anthony Rizzo. pic.twitter.com/oozPIy1j3V— Zachary D. Rymer (@zachrymer) May 28, 2018
Based on the photo, it looks like Diaz is as close to the grass as he is to home plate. How much further should he clear out, Joe? To the pitcher's mound?
Nonetheless, Maddon doubled down on Tuesday before the game.
Joe Maddon didn't name names but made it clear he blames Elias Diaz for all this:'It's about technique, it's about having a clock in your head, it's about eyes in the back of your head. If you can't do that, then don't catch. Don't play the position.'— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) May 29, 2018
Maddon said if Diaz makes a good throw and doesn't fall down 'We aren't talking about this.''The catcher has an option to get rid of the ball more quickly, get farther out in front of home plate, or just hold on to it. He could have done those three things also.'— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) May 29, 2018
Is Maddon serious? That would've been like Barry Trotz blaming Zach Aston-Reese for skating into Tom Wilson's shoulder with his jaw.
Conversely, Maddon went so far as to call Rizzo's slide a "perfect play." He even suggested that's how kids should learn how to play the game.
Here's to hoping Maddon never coaches a little league team.
The Pirates Twitter account had some fun at Maddon's expense after Diaz homered.
Teach your kids to swing like Elias. pic.twitter.com/EUq8FilUdf— Pirates (@Pirates) May 30, 2018
Diaz took that negative critique for his role in the incident at home plate in stride.
"I didn't know he made those comments about me," Diaz said. "I understand that he's protecting his players, but he is only seeing it from one way. If that's the way he wants to speak and judge the play, then that's on him."
On a few occasions since the Rizzo slide, Maddon talked about his "baseball sensibilities being under attack."
Someone should tell Maddon that's the very point of changing the rules to protect catchers and middle infielders on such plays. The hope is to change "our sensibilities" regarding how we view the legality of take out slides and the breaking up of double play chances.
That's the goal: To change the belief that it's OK for a guy who has already been ruled out to continue with a play in an effort to wipe out a player who is — in some cases — stiff-legged, having already planted to make a throw.
A play like that doesn't make me think, "Is this new rule OK?" I think now, more than ever, why was the old way OK for so long? Why had it been acceptable for a guy who has been retired to intentionally "break up" an ongoing play and risk injury to an eligible fielder?
Maddon can protest the legality of Rizzo's slide all he wants. He's wrong. Major League Baseball said as much .
It's obvious Rizzo violated Rule 6.01 (i). It states "if a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play, he should be called for interference."
All those opinions from Maddon were bad. But his blame-shifting to Diaz was even worse.