The pressure may be starting to exceed the pleasure in Chicago. Even more than exploding like a Roman candle on Pirates manager Clint Hurdle back on July 4, Joe Maddon’s recent conversation with Laurence Holmes displayed cracks in his cool facade. Joining 670 The Score’s midday show for his weekly guest spot, Maddon got a little salty as he addressed the frequent criticism of his bullpen usage.
“Fans, again, they have this really ridiculous concept about bullpens and bullpen management,” the skipper explained. “They have no idea really what all goes into it. At the end of the day, you can make a decision that may be the absolute proper and right thing to do, but it doesn’t work out and then it’s perceived as being wrong.
“That’s a really bad process. Again, we talk about the bullpen before the game. We set up our guys against their guys before the game ever begins. Sometimes it doesn’t work. It’s not going to be perfect every time.”
While it’s very true that millions of armchair managers out there really do lack functional knowledge of what actually goes into balancing a ‘pen, Maddon’s painting with a really broad brush here. As a result, his explanation comes off sounding like Tom Smykowski trying to explain to the Bobs exactly what he does here.
“[Y]ou choose to do something and there’s the exposure and if it doesn’t work out, it’s automatically deemed to be the wrong thing to do,” Maddon lamented. “Which again is a bad process. Sometimes it doesn’t work out because the other guys are professional also and the other guys are good, meaning the other team’s offense.
“So you set it up beforehand. You try to put your guys in the best possible spot. When it doesn’t work out, that doesn’t mean it was wrong. It means it didn’t work out in that moment. And that’s called baseball.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Maddon bemoan the use of outcome bias to determine the wisdom of a decision and it probably won’t be the last. But what he fails to acknowledge here, and has seemingly never grasped, is that fans do have access to a wealth of data and knowledge and many of them are able to apply it in proper context.
For every time it turns out that Jon Lester was pulled after 94 pitches in a dominant performance because he was completely gassed and begged out, you’ve got Kyle Hendricks leaving after allowing two hits on 90 pitches because reasons. People weren’t just asking why the hell Mike Montgomery was being called upon to face another left-handed batter after he’d given up a hit, they were doing it when they knew a lefty was coming up.
It’s not a matter of asking why Pedro Strop or Carl Edwards Jr. were being brought into dirty innings, it’s saying with total conviction ahead of time that neither should be used should those situations arise. It’s not the public decision being questioned, it’s the logic that led to the decision. And when you consider that one of those pitchers was demoted and other was placed on the IL shortly after ill-advised appearances, well, maybe it’s not just the fans telling the manager how to do his job.
Easy for me to say, since I’m not the one who’s got to walk out to the mound and call for the next guy to come in. But by lashing out at the fans like he did Tuesday, Maddon is showing that the pressure may be starting to get to him.