Joe Maddon Got the Boot After Making the Right Argument About a (Probably) Correct Call

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Joe Maddon Got the Boot After Making the Right Argument About a (Probably) Correct Call

Chicago Cubs

Thankfully, it didn’t matter.

That’s all I could think about after the Cubs closed down their win yesterday, once the initial wave of “whoa, that was a REALLY good win” wore off, and I started ruminating on how the Cubs got there. Thankfully, it didn’t matter.

I’m talking about the umpire’s call in the bottom of the 7th inning, with the game tied, and the Cubs having seemingly just put runners on second and third to begin the inning. But that second runner, Willson Contreras, was deemed to have run inside the baseline to first after an excellent bunt, so he was called out, and the lead runner, Kyle Schwarber, was returned to first base.

Joe Maddon was livid at a call that could have totally changed the game, and ultimately got the boot:

As you can see in the video there, Contreras did run inside the baseline pretty much the entire way – which almost every runner does – so, on first blush, it appeared to be the right call.

As we saw last year on a similar play with Jason Heyward, you *are* allowed to come into fair territory as you approach first base (because the base, itself, is in fair territory), but only “by means of a step, stride, reach or slide in the immediate vicinity of first base for the sole purpose of touching first base.” Contreras took multiple steps inside the baseline well before he got to the immediate vicinity of first base. So, no help there.

Why was Maddon so angry then? Why did he disagree with the call and get himself kicked out? He actually has a very good explanation:

Here’s the rule (5.09(a)(11)), with the aspect Maddon correctly references in bold:

“In running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he runs outside (to the right of ) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of ) the foul line, and in the umpire’s judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base, in which case the ball is dead; except that he may run outside (to the right of ) the three-foot line or inside (to the left of ) the foul line to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball;”

In other words, Maddon was making the argument that the umpire made the wrong judgment call that Contreras’s body position actually interfered with the throw at first base because the throw was – in Maddon’s view – so far inside the base.

I think that’s an excellent argument by Maddon, who 100% has the correct interpretation of the rule. The problem, though, is the umpire could simply very easily respond that, but for Contreras being on the side of the baseline, the first baseman could have more easily tracked the ball and come across the bag to make the catch. (To which Maddon would likely respond, “But if Contreras were over on that side of the baseline, that would have actually made it even more difficult for the first baseman to make the catch!”)

In the end, the play was one that came down to a bang-bang, instantaneous judgment call by the umpire as to the relative wildness of the throw as compared to a runner who had otherwise clearly violated the rule. I don’t think I can come down too hard on the umpire for that particular call in the moment, though I do think that Maddon is making the correct argument as to why he believes it was the wrong call.

So … everyone was right? Can we do that?

(I mean, the Cubs later scored in the inning and won the game, so I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that probably has an impact on how I’m reacting this morning.)

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.