Maddon: Fans Have 'No Idea' About Bullpen Decisions

"When it doesn't work out, that doesn't mean it was wrong," Joe Maddon says.

Laurence Holmes Show
July 30, 2019 - 12:39 pm
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(670 The Score) Amid some criticism about his recent bullpen decisions, Cubs manager Joe Maddon pushed back at the tendency of outsiders to judge his choices based on the end result.

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"Fans, again, they have this really ridiculous concept about bullpens and bullpen management,"  Maddon said on the Laurence Holmes Show on Tuesday afternoon. "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."

In a key matchup against the Brewers on Friday night, Maddon turned to struggling reliever Pedro Strop with the Cubs holding a one-run lead and runners at first and second with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Strop promptly hit a batter and then allowed the go-ahead two-run single as the Brewers rallied for a 3-2 win. 

A night later, Maddon pulled left-hander Jon Lester after he had thrown seven shutout innings of four-hit ball and was sitting at 94 pitches. The Cubs led 2-0 at the time, but the Brewers rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth off reeliver Steve Cishek to tie it before winning in extra innings with a rally off Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel.

Lester later admitted he was "gassed" after seven innings, an acknowledgement that informed Maddon's move to the bullpen. Maddon believes that's an example of how the job can be difficult. He turned the ball over to the setup man that he had throwing the best in Cishek and had the big-money closer lined up behind him, but it didn't work out. 

"In baseball, there are a lot of times you decide not to do something that people never even know that's also a decision," Maddon said. "That's part of life. You decide not to do something that you never reveal, but it's still a decision. And then you 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. 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."