The breaks of the game: Selig's state of play

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The breaks of the game: Selig's state of play

Friday, Sept. 24, 2010
7:27 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

This week Bud Selig spoke with Tyler Colvin as the Cubs outfielder rested at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, recovering from the wound left in his chest by a shattered piece of a maple bat.

It remains to be seen whether all the headlines generated by Colvins freak injury will result in significant change. But the commissioner defended baseballs safety record on Friday at Wrigley Field, saying the industry has reduced broken bats by 50 percent across the past 20 years.

Every time a bat cracks, Selig said, its sent to Major League Baseball headquarters in New York, and then forwarded to researchers retained at Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin to study the issue.

You watch something like the Tyler Colvin incident (and) it scares you, but were making progress, Selig said. Our experts think we may have some solutions, so hopefully this offseason we can really finish solving the problem. But progress has been made. We just need to do more.

Selig deflected part of the responsibility to the Major League Baseball Players Association, whose members like to use maple bats and figure to make it a negotiating point once the collective-bargaining agreement expires after the 2011 season.

Selig pushed several items like expanding the playoff field to his offseason agenda during Fridays session with reporters that lasted nearly 13 minutes inside Wrigley Fields press box dining room.

(Im) the guy who brought (in) the wild card and took a lot of abuse, Selig said. Two or three years ago we had a special committee (and) I really thought we were going to increase it then. (But) the more we talked about it, the less desirable it became for a lot of reasons. However, this winter, its time to revisit that and we will.

The commissioner remains intrigued by the concept of expanded instant replay, but come October you shouldnt expect to see radical changes for the postseason. Hes brought it up for review, but is concerned about the pace of the game.

I know that some (in the media) would like us to do it for the playoffs, but if were going to do anything, were going to do it permanently, Selig said. If you play all year 162 games (in) six months you ought to play by the same rules when you get to the playoffs. But well take a look at it again. Im not averse (to it).

On Friday Selig toured Wrigley Field which he first visited as a kid in 1944 with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and he later dodged a question about the 2014 All-Star Game.

The Cubs have lobbied the commissioners office for the event which is expected to go to an American League city andor a new facility as a way to commemorate the stadiums 100th anniversary.

They didnt put you up to asking me that, did they? Selig said. There are a lot of people begging for All-Star Games.

Wrigley Field will pass the three-million mark in attendance on Saturday, but the vast stretches of empty seats have been noticeable this season.

Selig recognizes this, but projects that 73-plus million fans will go to a game in 2010. The former Milwaukee Brewers owner remembers when the average attendance for a franchise was around one million in the 1970s.

Look, here we are in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Selig said. I could bring a hundred economists and nobody (would disagree). This year the average team will draw 2.4 to 2.5 (million) with every game on television.

Overall were doing remarkably well. The game has never been stronger than it is today.

This season Selig points to the on-field success experienced by smaller-market contenders like Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Texas, Cincinnati and San Diego as evidence of the industrys health.

The safety of fans and players is one piece to a giant puzzle. Colvins rookie year is over, and hes said to be in decent shape. For Selig and his partners, the issue wont go away once Colvins at full strength.

With Tyler it was such a scary thing, but its not shocking because thats how bats are these days. You see (bats flying) all the time, Cubs pitcher Tom Gorzelanny said. We got a guy with a punctured lung at home right now. Its just a matter of time, so hopefully something can be done about that. Its frightening.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Preview: Cubs open final series of year against Reds on CSN

Preview: Cubs open final series of year against Reds on CSN

The Cubs open their final series of the year against the Cincinnati Reds on Friday, and you can catch all the action on CSN at 6:10 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Jake Buchanan (0-0. 9.00 ERA) vs. Josh Smith (3-2, 4.77 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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Playing mind games, Joe Maddon fires back at frustrated Cubs players

Playing mind games, Joe Maddon fires back at frustrated Cubs players

PITTSBURGH – Joe Maddon’s job is an endlessly complex maze of egos and insecurities. His players want to make history and know they will be judged in October. His boss just signed a five-year extension in the neighborhood of $50 million, making Theo Epstein perhaps the highest-paid personnel executive in the game. Reporters covering this team will consider this season a failure if the Cubs don’t win the World Series.  

But moments like this are why Maddon has his own $25 million deal, three Manager of the Year awards and the platform to become a multimedia star, liquor-store pitchman and T-shirt tycoon (for charity).

Maddon fired back after star pitcher Jake Arrieta and veteran catcher Miguel Montero questioned the manager’s in-game strategy during Wednesday night’s 8-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates – wondering why rookie Willson Contreras showed up behind the plate at PNC Park in the fifth inning – and overall spring-training philosophy since the Cubs clinched a National League Central title two weeks ago.

“My answer to that is we’re 7-2 in our last nine games,” Maddon said during Thursday’s pregame media session. “I don’t see any kind of real negative patterns right there. They all knew what was going to happen before that game. There were no surprises. And there has been no surprises.”

Except Arrieta had already done his paid weekly radio appearance on WMVP-AM 1000, telling “Waddle and Silvy” this: “Going into the game, I was really unaware we were going to go with a catching change.”

Still think this is entirely a media creation or something beat writers imagined while two established players made unsolicited comments?

The spring-training feel continued as the rain kept pouring down on PNC Park, with Thursday night’s game suspended and ending after five innings in a 1-1 tie. Major League Baseball considered this an official game – its first tie since it happened to the Cincinnati Reds and Houston Astros on June 30, 2005 – and stats will still count after an 83-minute delay.

But there is no need to make it up with the Cubs having already clinched the NL’s No. 1 seed and the Pirates eliminated from wild-card contention. The last time the Cubs finished in a tie – a 2-2 draw with the Montreal Expos on May 28, 1993 at Wrigley Field.

“Anything that changes your routine a little bit is a little frustrating,” said Ben Zobrist, who sat while Munenori Kawasaki started at second base in a Cactus League lineup. “Because this is such a routine-oriented game.

“Obviously, it’s frustrating at times. But I get it. I understand the overall goal of these games is not the same as it’s been the last six months of the year.”

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Arrieta described himself as “a little bitter” on ESPN Radio and also admitted that he “let my emotions get away from me” and could have handled the situation differently. But this has been building, from the awkwardness of three catchers to the six-man rotation concept to starting pitchers getting pulled early to relievers now working on a set schedule and players wanting to stay in a rhythm.

“You probably heard some things last night – I think if they had more time to think about it, they probably would not have said those same things,” Maddon said. “Up until (John Jaso’s three-run homer), I thought (Jake) was throwing the ball really well.

“And with the catching situation, we didn’t change that until they had four runs. So there’s really not a whole lot of credence to that, as far as I’m concerned.

“I don’t think it was attributable to a spring-training attitude as much as the Pirates had a good approach.”

Maddon isn’t going to alter his big-picture outlook after hearing about some of the clubhouse grumbling and manage Games 160, 161 and 162 any differently against the last-place Cincinnati Reds this weekend at Great American Ball Park.

“No, why would I do that?” Maddon said. “I utilized the word ‘spring training’ on several occasions, just to indicate the context regarding getting guys in and out of the game, not from the perspective of not trying to win.

“It’s still going to be scripted. They’re going to get their at-bats. Again, when you talk about recreating a ‘feel,’ that would be individualistic. It’s hard to replicate fighting for a playoff spot if you’ve already clinched it and you’re playing against a team that is not playing for anything either.

“These are all mind games you have to play with yourself in order to replicate what you want.”    

Of course, any portraits of frustration and miscommunication will be swept aside by those fun-loving Cubs posting photos on their social-media accounts of the football-jersey-themed road trip to Cincinnati. But this is a real issue for professionals who care about their craft and want to perform on the biggest stage of their lives.

“It’s a different kind of ‘on’ you have to be as a player,” Zobrist said. “That’s just weird for everybody right now to be experiencing that kind of feeling.”

Zobrist – who spent parts of nine seasons with Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays, knows the manager as well as any player in the clubhouse and won a World Series ring with the Kansas City Royals last year – admitted the Cubs are getting a little stir crazy before their first postseason game at Wrigley Field.

“We’re all looking so forward to next Friday, but that’s over a week away still,” Zobrist said. “So we have to try to stay in the moment, even though our minds want to go in the future.

“That’s the tough thing right now – staying in the moment. It’s even tougher now than it is when you’re in the playoffs and everybody’s talking and there’s a lot of stuff going on off the field. It’s even tougher now, I think, because there’s not enough going on.”