Joe Maddon’s use of Aroldis Chapman in Game 6 almost came back to haunt him

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You can’t say we didn’t see this coming. During Game 6 — and in my article posted shortly after its completion — I questioned Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s unnecessary use of closer Aroldis Chapman.

The Cubs had a five-run lead facing two Indians runners on base and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Maddon chose to bring in Chapman despite it still being a demonstrably low-leverage situation. Chapman got Francisco Lindor to ground out to end the inning. That’s fine if that’s the extent of Chapman’s workload for the night.

But it wasn’t. Chapman pitched the eighth inning, striking out Mike Napoli and getting Yan Gomes to hit into an inning-ending double-play. 15 pitches doesn’t seem like a lot, but Chapman also pitched 2 2/3 innings in Game 5. Entering Wednesday’s seventh and final game, only Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta — starting pitchers — had logged more inning in the World Series than Chapman’s 6 1/3. The reliever with the most innings after Chapman? Mike Montgomery at 4 1/3. To say the Cubs have leaned on Chapman is to understate how much of a security blanket he’s been for Joe Maddon.

It showed in Game 7 when Maddon brought in Chapman to relieve Jon Lester (who, by the way, did not start) with a runner on first base and two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Chapman threw seven pitches to his first batter, Brandon Guyer. His fastball sat mostly in the high 90’s, which is pedestrian by Chapman’s standards. The lefty has thrown more 100+ MPH pitches than entire teams this season. Guyer hit a double to right-center field to bring in a run and cut the Indians’ deficit to 6-4. Chapman continued to pump high-90’s fastballs to Davis and Davis eventually connected for a game-tying, two-run home run down the left field line.

To make matters worse, Maddon sent Chapman back out to the mound for the ninth inning. Maddon gambled with Chapman on Tuesday and it didn’t cost him even when Chapman appeared to roll his ankle covering first base. It cost him in the eighth inning, but he didn’t lose all his chips, so Maddon shoved his remaining stack in the middle. Luckily for him, Chapman was able to navigate through the bottom of the ninth with no damage. Maddon, though, had Cubs fans sweating the entire time he was pumping 97 MPH fastballs in the strike zone.

Ultimately, the Cubs were able to sneak out with an 8-7 victory in 10 innings to win the World Series. It didn’t have to be this difficult.

Padres fire Andy Green

Andy Green
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The Padres fired manager Andy Green on Saturday, per an official team release. Bench coach Rod Barajas will step into the position for the remaining eight games of the 2019 season.

Executive Vice President and GM A.J. Preller gave a statement in the wake of Green’s dismissal:

I want to thank Andy for his tireless work and dedication to the Padres over the last four seasons. This was an incredibly difficult decision, but one we felt was necessary at this time to take our organization to the next level and expedite the process of bringing a championship to San Diego. Our search for a new manager will begin immediately.

In additional comments made to reporters, Preller added that the decision had not been made based on the Padres’ current win-loss record (a fourth-place 69-85 in the NL West), but rather on the lack of response coming from the team.

“Looking at the performance, looking at it from an improvement standing, we haven’t seen the team respond in the last few months,” Preller said. “When you get to the point where you’re questioning where things are headed … we have to make that call.”

Since his hiring in October 2015, Green has faced considerable challenges on the Padres’ long and winding path to postseason contention. He shepherded San Diego through four consecutive losing seasons, drawing a career 274-366 record as the club extended their streak to 13 seasons without a playoff appearance. And, despite some definite strides in the right direction — including an eight-year, $144 million pact with Eric Hosmer, a 10-year, $300 million pact with superstar Manny Machado, and the development of top prospect Fernando Tatís Jr. — lingering injuries and inexplicable slumps from key players stalled the rebuild longer than the Padres would have liked.

For now, they’ll prepare to roll the dice with a new skipper in 2020, though any potential candidates have yet to be identified for the role. It won’t come cheap, either, as Green inked a four-year extension back in 2017 — one that should have seen him through the team’s 2021 campaign.