No argument from Cubs' Maddon over use of replay
It may seem like the longest 15-20 seconds in a baseball game.
A close play happens at first or second base, and an aggrieved manager looks out toward the umpire and back into his dugout, awaiting word.
Should he challenge the play and ask for a replay? Or should he not risk losing his challenge for later?
As far as Cubs manager Joe Maddon is concerned, the wait is worth it.
Even though baseball fans may miss the good, old-fashioned rhubarb on the field, Maddon says one of the reasons he doesn't mind waiting those few seconds before getting word on whether to challenge is that he doesn't have to argue with officials.
"I still think it's better," he said of replay. "I was thinking about that. I was anticipating me going out there to argue the call -- much more than 20 seconds, I promise you. It has saved me so many jogs out to second. I hate when it happens at second base. Then the umpire walks out toward center field with his back toward you. That is the umpire who is really smart and really upsets me, because I've got to run farther.
"I'm out of breath by the time (I) get there. That's at least two minutes, easily. Then you come back, and you're out of breath. It (stinks). I think that to wait 20 seconds to get it right is not that big of a deal."
Maddon led the major leagues last year in successful replay challenges. This season, the Cubs are 4-5 in challenges, and opponents are 4-4.
One thing Maddon says he doesn't do is look for a player reaction when it comes to challenging a call. If a player thinks he's safe, or if he believes he has made the tag in time if he's in the field, he'll wave and gesticulate to get his manager to make the challenge.
"It just depends who's the player," Maddon said, without naming names. "There are some drama boys out there, and you know that in advance. That has nothing to do with me wanting to challenge anything. Now, if (second baseman Ben) Zobrist says something, I'm checking it. Ben is above reproach for me. So if Ben argues with an umpire, like he did recently on a called third strike, I knew the umpire blew it. I knew it. There's no question. So if Zo argues, I really have to pay attention, especially on a Sunday."
Practice makes perfect?
By now, most Cubs fans know that Maddon believes batting practice is the most ridiculously overrated part of what we do every day."
So the Cubs have taken just a handful on mandatory on-field batting practices in recent weeks. Where and when did this mentality take root with Maddon? He says it was in the minor leagues.
"I was hitting coach," he said of his days in the Angels system. "There's some definite moments, i.e., Jack Howell, whenever he got sent down to Triple-A, the middle '80s. I was down with him in Tucson, and he was struggling. Jackie couldn't even catch up to an 85-mile-an-hour fastball at that time. He could hit anybody's fastball, anybody's fastball, prior to that.
"So he goes down to Tucson, and I'm throwing to him. The first five or 10 minutes, he's killing it. I wanted to quit. He wants some more. So he hits another 20 minutes. By the time we get to 30 minutes, he was awful. You hit right through feel. Feel is a big part of what I think we do in this game. I think there's a point of diminishing returns in terms of physical activity, and it subtracts feel from what you're doing. That was probably the first example in my mind's eye of what's too much."
The Cubs cut back on batting practice significantly last August. In September-October regular-season games, they were 23-9 and well on their way to the National League championship series. That was another old lesson put to use by Maddon.
"The other part was, with the Angels, as a young coach in the big leagues, we hit for an hour every day," he said. "And we were terrible in September. I really thought that it's not only just the players, it's the coaches, it's the training staff, it's everybody. Everybody's fatigued by having to be there too early to do nothing. Literally, to do nothing except to be there and pretend you're doing something.
"For me, I thought, 'Let's condense the work day, work smart as opposed to just work for the sake of working.' I thought that things would become better."
Good luck to him:
It doesn't sound impressive, but right fielder Jason Heyward has his batting average up to .236 heading into the road trip to Milwaukee, San Francisco and St. Louis.
After the first game of the just-concluded homestand, Heyward's average stood at .207. A wrist injury, suffered by Heyward earlier in the season, didn't help. He is still without a home run, and his slugging percentage stands at .276.
Joe Maddon also points out Heyward has hit into some bad luck. In April, Heyward's batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was at .288. The league average usually hovers around .300. A lower-than-average BABIP often suggests a hitter is enduring bad luck, such as line drives being hit right at fielders.
Maddon says he feels Heyward's luck will change.
"It's got to," he said. "That one week we played in St. Louis and Cincinnati, he must have had eight really well-struck line drives caught. It's going to come back to him. It will shift back in his favor because he doesn't cave, he doesn't give in, he's not lost confidence, he understands.
"Look at his on-base (.345) is over 100 points higher than his batting average … The rest of the stuff, the power's going to come, the gappers are going to come."
Ill winds blowing:
If the Cubs sounded Sunday like they were glad to be heading out on the road, maybe it had something to do with the wind at Wrigley Field.
In 20 games at Wrigley, the wind has blown in 16 times. It has blown out only twice, and crosswinds have prevailed twice.
• Follow Bruce's reports on Twitter@BruceMiles2112.
Scouting reportChicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park
TV: Comcast SportsNet Tuesday and Thursday; WGN Wednesday
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Kyle Hendricks (2-2) vs. Chase Anderson (1-5) Tuesday at 7:10 p.m.; John Lackey (4-2) vs. Jimmy Nelson (4-3) Wednesday at 7:10 p.m.; Jason Hammel (5-0) vs. Junior Guerra (2-0) Thursday at 12:40 p.m.
At a glance: The Cubs took both games from the Brewers during a rain-shortened series at Wrigley Field in late April. The Brewers (16-22) are battling to avoid last place in the NL Central. Ryan Braun has a line of .367/.434/.586 with 7 home runs and 27 RBI. Chris Carter leads the Brewers with 11 homers. Pitching has been a sore spot, and the Brewers have a team ERA of 5.14, last in the NL. The Cubs entered Monday first in runs scored, on-base percentage and walks taken by their batters. Their pitchers led the NL in ERA, at 2.64. This begins a nine-game road trip for the Cubs.
Next: San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park, Friday-Sunday
-- Bruce Miles