Sure, like a lot of you, I've been critical of moves made by Cubs manager Joe Maddon. That's not to say that I don't think he is a good manager overall—I do. But especially in the postseason, Maddon panics and over-manages, and his bullpen management has been nothing short of atrocious.
But with all that said, the players can't use that as an excuse. They need to go out and play well and win despite the manager's somewhat curious, head-scratching moves.
Look, some of the things that make Maddon desirable as a manager of a contending club are exactly the type of things that are his undoing in short series like the playoffs and World Series. I like the way Maddon gives his players rest, and uses the entire roster.
But again, allow me to repeat: the players who aren't hitting, making errors or aren't pitching well must step up their game.
I'm sure it's just as frustration for the pitchers when Maddon takes them out when they're rolling along, or decides to use homer-prone John Lackey, who had never previously pitched in relief until this series, in such a highly leveraged situation on Sunday night, when he had All-Star closer Wade Davis in the bullpen.
When a very smart co-worker informed me that Maddon is guilty of panicking in big moments, at first I didn't buy it, mainly because Joe seems like such a cool, calm and collected cat. But the more I watch his manage, the more I begin to see his point.
I wish the Cubs copuld have two managers—Maddon for the regular season and another guy for the post. Meanwhile, I'm not calling for Joe's head. For one thing, he has been successful, and for another, who is out there that we know for sure would be better?
I like Terry Francona, but Cleveland loves Tito and wouldn't let him go back to his former bosses in Chicago. And of the young coaching commodities, I really like Alex Cora. But he's unproven and you don't hire a novice to manage a team that's expected to win a World Series every year which the Cubs are, fair or not.
So save your #firejoemaddon memes. How can you fire a manager that's won a WS and has made three consecutive playoff appearances in all three years of managing? And again, I like Joe. But I don't like him in the postseason. And it's not really debatable. This isn't nit-picky stuff I'm talking about here folks, he has been a poor manager in the postseason.
At the same time, knowing that doesn't mean as a writer I'm supposed to sit here and pretend all thsi isn't happening. But my main message here is that the players need to tun out the noise and focus on the things they can control. I think they have largely been doing just that, and so everything should be fine.
Whether the Cubs come back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Dodgers or not, the players have enough to deal with without having to worry about what Joe is doing. Not to sound like Da Coach, but players play and coaches coach. Cubs hitters are having enough trouble trying to hit Dodgers pitching as it is, they certainly don't need any other distractions.
But meanwhile, the frustration level seems to be growing, especially on social media, prompting Joe to respond, something he rarely used to do. One thing about Joe is he doesn't ever get defensive when a critical question is asked. He is comfortable explaining why he did something. You may not agree with it, but at least he can tell you why.
Still, it would be nice if he would admit when he makes a mistake. But nope—Joe says he wouldn't change a thing.
First of all, social media, the moment I start worrying about that I really need to retire,” Maddon said Monday. “ So why leave his closer waiting in the wings? “[If] we caught the lead he’s in the game. So whatever the narrative is, it’s a false narrative. He was not coming into that game until we grabbed the lead. He was not going to pitch more than three outs.”
So there you go. But I, for one, am not buying it.
Joe even went on to tell writers how to do their jobs. "So I really hope that you all understand that social media doesn’t count at all. Twitter doesn’t count at all. And really, as sportswriters, you should do a better job than relying on Twitter to write a story, quite frankly.”
So it is what it is. I don't have to like it. But the players need to ignore it and focus on playing baseball the way they can. This is a team that has a big heart and more importantly, a lot of talent. They can come back from this series, as improbable as that may seem.
I just won't Tweet about it.
Follow me on the social media site Joe dislikes, Twitter, @BobWarja