WHITEFISH, MT – My all out effort to knock Genius Joe Maddon down a couple of couple of pegs seems to be losing steam. Particularly after his Cubs just finished a 4-game sweep of the Washington Nationals. At 24-6, the Cubs own baseball’s best record. The White Sox in the very same city, have 22 victories of their own. Our very own Mets have won 19 of their first 30-not chopped liver either.
But this is not meant to be a history lesson. The Cubs’ manager though, is failing to remember his history and unfortunately is dooming baseball fans by repeating it. Remember that guy out in San Francisco? All-time home run champ.* 73 dingers in one season? Surly SOB? Played around with the “Clear” and some potent flax-seed oil? Yup! that’s the guy!
In the early 2000s, Barry Bonds underwent a body transformation that would have made Kafka proud. His bat speed was so ridiculous that anything close to the plate was immediately turned around and deposited into McCovey Cove. Statistically, even Babe Ruth was never pitched “to” or pitched “around” the way Bonds was over the last 7 years of his career.
Genius Joe decided on Sunday to give Bryce Harper the Bonds treatment. Naturally, the national media lauded Maddon for his innovation. Harper stepped up to the plate 7 times on Sunday. Two of those ABs came against the reigning Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta. Maddon decided his best chance of winning was intentionally walking Harper 3 times. In 3 other at bats, Harper was walked-technically unintentionally. He got plunked in his 7th AB. In those 7 plate appearances, Harper saw a total of 27 pitches. 2 of those were called strikes. Harper didn’t swing once on the day. 7 plate appearances. 6 Walks, and one hit by pitch. That ain’t baseball. It’s cowardice.
Ryan Zimmerman, hitting 4th behind Harper left a ghastly, record setting 14 runners on base. I get that Zimmerman had to prove the Cubs wrong. I also get that Maddon didn’t do anything illegal in deliberately pitching around Harper. The issue I have is this: When Bonds was being intentionally walked over 400 times over a three year period, it was essentially surrendering to the power of the bottle. With super human strength, bat speed and vision, trying to get Bonds out was hopeless. The edge gained by Bonds made walking him the only sensible option for opposing teams.
Harper is different. By 2015 at age 22, Harper exploded and won his first MVP. His status as the game’s best player has been earned through maniacal focus, a tireless work ethic and a lifelong pursuit of being the best. Maddon the Genius is now insisting on spoiling the best young hitter the game has seen in many years. Throw him a strike, Joe. Man up. Challenge him. Until you do, you’re still that overrated clown with the funny hair and fake erudition who’s yet to win a World Series. Otherwise the Cubs will continue to be nothing more than the lovable losers they’ve been since 1908.
Come back tomorrow for Angry Ward, unless he can’t because of “troubles” with the locals in the Tennessee mountains.