If you know me, I have grown up a die hard Cubs fan. I eat, sleep, read, and dream about the team constantly. Having watched this team through the tough times and the countless 90 to 100 loss seasons, seeing the Cubbies go to three straight National League Championship Series makes me realize that this is the “golden age” of Cubs baseball.
So on the night of Thursday October 12th I watched easily one of the most stressful Cubs games ever. (Besides game 7 of the World Series) While watching it there were some questionable moves by manager Joe Maddon that had me wondering, “is that the right thing to do in this situation?” Of course, Joe gets paid the big bucks to make these decisions, and despite winning the World Series and leading the Cubs to their third straight postseason, it’s easy to look at the manager and think that every move he makes is a crucial one.
I don’t know how he does it, but he’s been lucky.
Heading into game 4 against the Nationals, I never questioned Maddon’s pitching changes or decisions to remove a starting pitcher from a game. It wasn’t until midway through game 4 I started to question a few moves made by the Cubs skipper. The first decision I question was taking out Jon Lester.
Lester came out of the bullpen and helped keep the Nationals at 1 run which occurred on an infield hit to shortstop Addison Russell. Joe decided to remove Lester to go to reliever Carl Edwards Jr who had a nice bounce back appearance in game 3 after surrendering the game tying home run in game two. Lester didn’t throw a lot of pitches and besides the walk and 1 hit, could’ve easily finished that 8th inning. Joe took out Lester brought in Edwards who walked two batters, then after throwing 1 pitch to Michael Taylor. Joe decided then he’d seen enough and brought in closer Wade Davis who then allowed the grand slam that broke the game open.
Now granted, it is fair to say this all was a bad decision in hindsight, but let me tell you why it was a bad move to begin with. Before game 4, the Cubs used only relievers Carl Edwards Jr, Mike Montgomery, Pedro Strop, and closer Wade Davis. He still had Justin Wilson, John Lackey, and Brian Dunning in the bullpen who had yet to make an appearance. So why bring in one of your starting pitchers, and use him in a game that if you had lost wouldn’t have ended the series. Not to mention if you did come back and win the game, he wouldn’t be able to go in the following series until game 3 at the latest. Even still, since the team lost in game 4 with a final score of 5-0 the team going back on the road one “reliever” unavailable in Jon Lester.
Joe Maddon is a successful manager, and has turned around the Cubs organization from top to bottom. Despite the success he and the team has had, his decision making when it comes down to the wire are going to be talked about on a night in night out basis. Even if the move he makes is the right one. Although it’s the ones like bringing in Aroldis Chapman in a pointless time in game 6 of the world series and bringing in Jon Lester during game 4 of the NLDS this year that makes you wonder if the pressure of the playoffs get to even the most successful managers a team has ever had.
You can listen to Curtis Koch every Monday night from 7-8 on 88.1 FM WCRX on “He and She”. You can also follow him on Twitter @CurtisK_Radio.