The Rundown: Maddon Responds to Harsh Criticism, Bullpen Struggles

“That was terrible. I hate him. I hope he doesn’t win one game.”

I know what you’re thinking, but this wasn’t pulled from Facebook comments to our piece about a questionable decision to go with Carl Edwards Jr. late in a tight game the other day. It was about some of Joe Maddon’s choices, though, namely the way he exhorted residents of his hometown of Hazleton, PA to “help or die.” The Cubs manager was discussing his Hazleton Integration Project with Harry Smith of “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly in a feature that ran a couple weeks ago.

The opening quote came from an op-ed piece in the Times Leader, a newspaper based in Wilkes-Barre, PA, and, was attributed to an anonymous “senior citizen.” Which, is it ageist of me to be like, “Of course it did”? Yet another gem pulled from the paper’s public comment section could just as easily have been a response to Maddon’s explanations of his moves on the field as well.

“Must be nice to have a $25 million contract and tell everyone what they should think.”

Asked about the column before Tuesday’s game, the philanthropic skipper had plenty to say.

“I’m really surprised that more people didn’t understand [the use of the word ‘die’], as we continue to move forward, I’m really encouraging the people back home to become part of this positive movement,” Maddon explained. “And understanding that if you choose not to, it’s still going to change anyway, even when you’re gone. That’s all I meant by that.

“So I have nothing to apologize for.”

CSN Chicago has the full video of Maddon’s response, which ran over four minutes and was — at least to me — a sign that he’s passionate about HIP and his hometown. He’s also concerned with perception, which some people are going to twist no matter how good the intent of the action.

The thing is, I do actually understand where the critics are coming from here, even if I don’t totally agree with their sentiment. They see Maddon as separate from the issue, maybe as more of an interloper than someone who’s actually living in the situation. And they may feel that he’s grandstanding a little here as well.

That said, it sounds like they took things a bit too seriously and didn’t really like what they saw looking back at them in the mirror Maddon held up. If I had been the one facing the cameras and answering questions about the the intent of my words and actions, I think I’d have handled it somewhat differently.

*Calls up The Black Album on iTunes, thumbs Moment of Clarity, fast-forwards to 2:13 mark*

And I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them, so I got rich and gave back, to me that’s the win/win. So next time you see the homie and his rims spinnin’, just know my mind is spinnin’ just like them. The rims, that is.

Back end is rear end

Carl Edwards Jr.’s recent struggles have been duly noted, Koji Uehara can’t seem to get batters out consistently, and even the Cubs’ big deadline acquisition is struggling early. His Cubs tenure consists of only four innings so far, but Justin Wilson’s inability to put hitters away is somewhat troubling. He’s faced no fewer than five batters in each appearance and has not logged a strikeout in either of his last two.

Again, we’re dealing with a very small sample, but the point of a pitcher like Wilson is to bring him on late to slam the door on an opponent. Instead, and this is a problem for more than just the new lefty, he’s closing said door very gently and allowing teams to stick their foot in it. Maybe even wedge their body in the gap.

This isn’t worthy of greater concern unless it persists, which there’s not reason to believe it will. Unless you’re prone to worrying or just like to be mad about things, in which case you should go to the Facebook comments on this column and shake your fist in rage.

More news and notes

  • Joe Maddon is planning to bring a witch doctor in to reverse the Freaky Friday incident that swapped Jose Quintana and John Lackey
  • Former sky-scraping righty Chris Young is mulling a comeback next year; you may remember him from his fight with Derrek Lee or from the obligatory mentions of his days playing basketball at Princeton
  • Jake Arrieta’s recent run has him up to No. 3 on MLB Trade Rumors’ updated Free Agent Power Rankings
  • The White Sox will promote ballyhooed righty Reynaldo Lopez in time for Friday’s start
  • You’ve still got a week and a half left to bid on some pretty cool items and benefit Maddon’s HIP; in other words, help or die
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