We were all watching yesterday in the top of the 8th inning, when the Brewers had the bases loaded and nobody out in a 3-3 game.
If you needed the answer to the question “What does it sound like when thousands of fans say “uh-oh” at exactly the same time?” – you would have gotten it in that moment.
But a funny thing happened on the way to misfortune for the Cubs. Ryan Braun hit a hard grounder to Kris Bryant, and the Cubs executed a really nice 5-2-3 double play. Whew. Cub fans wiped their collective brow and now were a little (and I mean just a tiny little bit) more comfortable with a second and third and two-out scenario.
Then Joe Maddon decided to intentionally walk Adam Lind to get to Aramis Ramirez.
With Pedro Strop in the game (who was yet to give up an earned run this season), the numbers made some sense; Lind presented a less than ideal righty/lefty matchup and was hitting over .300. Aramis was hitting in the low .200s, gave the Cubs the righty/righty matchup they wanted and, in the twilight of his career, is a shadow of his former self.
But this is the Cubs, this is Wrigley Field, and this is Aramis Ramirez.
Numbers be damned. If a Cub fan had been sitting next to Joe Maddon in the dugout, he might have looked at Joe and said, “I know what you’re thinking here, but this just doesn’t feel right.” Aramis Ramirez, over time, is certainly a better ball player than Adam Lind. The career numbers bear that out. But you also have to look at the situation and take into account Aramis’s history with the Cubs. He’s emotionally invested in getting the better of his former team – and players of his caliber (a proven professional hitter) find ways to come through in those situations.
When he fisted a ball into left field, not the prettiest of hits, it all made perfect sense -- at least to us fans. If Joe had opted to pitch to Lind in that situation I don’t think fans would have faulted him for it, even if Lind had done the same thing Aramis did. Cubs fans know you don’t let the ex-Cub beat you there.
But that was yesterday, and today is another day. None of it changes the fact that I love Joe Maddon and I think he’s a great manager. He’s a huge reason for the Cubs early success – a success I am confident they will enjoy all year.
But the baseball gods camp out at Wrigley pretty much on a regular basis and decide to rear their ugly head around Clark and Addison more often than not. And sometimes the numbers will tell you something and your gut will tell you something else.
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