Joe Maddon, Anthony Rizzo, and Albert Almora Speak on the Darvish/A-Rod Issue

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Joe Maddon, Anthony Rizzo, and Albert Almora Speak on the Darvish/A-Rod Issue

Chicago Cubs

The 2016 Chicago Cubs were an incredibly good team largely because of their starting rotation. The 2018 Cubs are a pretty good team despite it. Even though they began the regular season with one of the strongest on-paper rotations in team history, the Cubs starting five has seriously underwhelmed.

There’s much more nuance to it than I’ll get into here, but the short version goes something like … Tyler Chatwood can’t throw strikes, Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks are riding a roller coaster, and even the All-Star, Jon Lester, has some ugly numbers behind the numbers. But perhaps the biggest disappointment of the season thus far lands on the shoulders, er … elbow, of Yu Darvish.

The Cubs’ big offseason acquisition (6 years, $126M) hasn’t thrown a pitch in the Major Leagues since May 20th and has already had one return to the big leagues spoiled by a setback at the beginning of the month. Because of that – and his continued absence from big league action in general – ESPN broadcaster Alex Rodriguez shared *what he believes* to be the Cubs’ clubhouse response to the injury/rehab on a broadcast the other night:

“Now they wont say this publicly, but it’s gotten so bad they’ve let him basically police and take control of his own rehab, which is scary because they don’t want to create anything that he can kinda push back again. He’ll let the team know when he’s ready, which, let me just tell you what that means to a clubhouse. You lose respect quickly. My concern for him, because he’s a great young talent, is it may take two or three or four years and you may never get that back.”

Rodriguez went on to contrast Darvish sitting out with Tyler Chatwood, as though the team respects Chatwood for sticking his neck out and resents Darvish for being, I don’t know, weak? It was not clear. And of course, Rodriguez ended everything with a completely unexpanded-on “It’s not good inside that clubhouse right now.” Whatever. There was even much more than that, but we already saw the full comments and we even know that Darvish’s agent clapped back pretty harshly.

But what we really wanted to know was what the Cubs clubhouse actually thinks of Darvish and his rehab. Today, we’ve got that. Let’s start with the players, who seemed to be as caught off guard by these comments as we were.

When asked to address the question “Do you guys have an issue with Yu Darvish in your clubhouse,” Anthony Rizzo told ESPN 1000, “No. Not at all. Yu’s been great and he wants to get back and pitch. And we need him … He comes in everyday and does his work. It’s unfortunate, it’s tough: when you’re hurt, people question you a lot, but I think Yu’s doing the best he can to get back and be healthy.”

Rizzo went onto explain that even the criticism won’t affect Darvish, because it’s “not his first rodeo,” and that every player get a “shot” taken at them at some point. “You’re either the best player in the world and everybody loves you or you’re the worst. You’ve gotta be even keeled and, you know, stay the course.”

After being asked a similar question on The Score, Albert Almora responded positively as well:

I know there’ll be people out there saying obviously teammates will support each other, but 1.) that’s not always entirely true, and 2.) they don’t have to do so with as much enthusiasm as the Cubs have. And if there was a “3”, I’d add that manager Joe Maddon has also thrown in his support with an equally surprised reaction (he also must’ve had his thesaurus with him):

“I was really shocked by the whole diatribe, in a sense a soliloquy,” Maddon said on the Bernstein & McKnight Show on 670 The Score on Tuesday afternoon. “It really came off to me as plastic and probably rehearsed in advance. It was definitely a contrived situation. That part of it, I didn’t really like either. Beyond the substance, it was definitely not extemporaneous. And that really is a concern, too. Because if you walk into our locker trying to substantiate something, you’ve already made up your mind to do that. That’s kind of bothersome.”

Maddon went onto explain that, in his view, broadcasters like Rodriguez have no business making those kinds of comments, which, from the sounds of it, Maddon believes was purely for attention and planned in advance. For what it’s worth, Joe Maddon said he and a “group” talked to Darvish about the comments to reassure him that none of that is true. Unfortunate that it came to that.

So, I guess, there you have it. Aside from Maddon warning Rodriguez that he might soon ruin his reputation within other clubhouses, that was it. The players are on his side. The manager is on his side. And the front office, we know, is on his side.

Yu Darvish is fine with respect to this stuff. With any luck, he’ll soon heal up and help the Cubs down the stretch and in the postseason. And that can be end of story.

It starts with another bullpen session in Pittsburgh tonight. Fingers crossed.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami