Joe Maddon
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The Cubs played under protest after Joe Maddon disputed an ‘illegal’ pitching motion

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The Cubs found themselves in a disadvantageous position toward the end of their 5-2 loss to the Nationals on Saturday. Down by three in the ninth, they were finally looking to gain some ground against closer Sean Doolittle after wearying themselves against Stephen Strasburg for the first eight innings of the game. Instead, the game ended under protest when Cubs skipper Joe Maddon took umbrage with Doolittle’s delivery:

The issue appeared to stem from the motion Doolittle made with his left foot, a kind of “toe-tapping” gesture that Maddon believed had previously been made illegal. The official rules state that a pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate during his delivery, a stipulation that had previously been violated by Cubs’ pitcher Carl Edwards Jr.:

Comparing the two motions, however, one would be hard-pressed to characterize Doolittle’s tapping motion as a full step toward the plate. Maddon clearly didn’t see it that way, and emerged from the dugout to dispute the pitcher’s delivery twice. Following Doolittle’s first-pitch strike to Albert Almora, the manager informed home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook that the Cubs would play the remainder of the game under protest.

An official decision has not yet been announced regarding the illegality of the delivery and the validity of the Cubs’ protest. According to league rules, “the game will not be replayed unless it is also determined that the violation adversely affected the protesting team’s chances of winning.”

During the inning in question, however, the umpiring crew allowed Doolittle to continue his delivery. He helped secure the Nationals’ 5-2 win after inducing a groundout from Almora, striking out Kyle Schwarber, and getting a game-ending pop-out from Kris Bryant.

After the game, both Holbrook and Doolittle took issue with Maddon’s protest.

“In that moment, he’s not trying to do anything other than rattle me,” Doolittle told reporters. “And it was kind of tired. I don’t know, sometimes he has to remind people how smart he is and how much he pays attention to the game. So he put his stamp on it, for sure.”

Holbrook, meanwhile, said Doolittle did “absolutely nothing illegal at all.”

The Royals are paying everyone. Why can’t all of the other teams?

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Over the past several weeks we’ve heard a lot of news about teams furloughing front office and scouting staff, leveling pay cuts for those who remain and, most recently, ceasing stipends to minor league players and releasing them en masse. The message being sent, intentionally or otherwise, is that baseball teams are feeling the pinch.

The Kansas City Royals, however, are a different story.

Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that the Royals are paying their minor leaguers through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended, and unlike so many other teams, they are not releasing players either. Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Royals will not lay any team employees off or furlough anyone. “Nearly 150 employees will not take pay cuts,” he says, though “higher-level employees will take tiered cuts.” Passan adds that the organization intends to restore the lost pay due to those higher-level employees in the future when revenue ramps back up, making them whole.

While baseball finances are murky at best and opaque in most instances, most people agree that the Royals are one of the lower-revenue franchises in the game. They are also near the bottom as far as franchise value goes. Finally, they have the newest ownership group in all of baseball, which means that the group almost certainly has a lot of debt and very little if any equity in the franchise. Any way you slice it, cashflow is likely tighter in Kansas City than almost anywhere else.

Yet the Royals are paying minor leaguers and front office employees while a great number of other teams are not. What’s their excuse?