MILWAUKEE – The Cubs won’t walk onto U.S. Cellular Field on Monday night wearing black “Try Not To Cut” T-shirts with a scissors image replacing the manager’s iconic glasses. But Joe Maddon still couldn’t resist trolling the White Sox after Chris Sale’s temper tantrum.
With an AWOL pitcher, a manager on the hot seat and a front office under siege, the Cubs will see what they used to look like in a rivalry that sometimes brought out the worst in them.
This is Carlos Zambrano-level bizarre on the South Side, the White Sox suspending Sale for five days after their franchise player cut up 1976 throwback jerseys, creating a feeding frenzy in the middle of trade-deadline-rumor season. That speculation apparently bothered Sale, who got sent home before Saturday’s scheduled start against the Detroit Tigers, leaving the bullpen to cover for his unprofessionalism.
“It’s not easy,” Maddon said before Sunday’s 6-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. “Obviously, it’s only going to occur if your team’s struggling a bit.
“If you’re doing well, that doesn’t happen. So you have the struggle of the group, and then a really good player being mentioned as a trade piece. From the manager’s perspective, it’s not as difficult as the player himself – and then the inter-politics of the clubhouse. That’s where it becomes more difficult.
“You don’t even know what those conversations sound like and how that cuts at the fabric of what you’re attempting to do. No pun intended.”
Maddon’s presence as the team’s smirking ringmaster helps a rivalry that missed larger-than-life personalities like Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen. The Cubs won’t see Sale until Thursday night at Wrigley Field in this season’s fourth and final crosstown game between two franchises heading in opposite directions.
“I know it was entertaining from a distance,” Maddon said. “I’m sure being in the organization not so much. And I get that. I’ve never heard that one before.
“The dentist used to send us every six months things for a checkup. And I threw that away so my mom would not take me to the dentist. That’s the closest I could relate to what happened.”
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Maddon remembered the end of an era with the Tampa Bay Rays, when David Price got traded to the Detroit Tigers in a three-team deal at the 2014 deadline. Within the next three months, Rays executive Andrew Friedman jumped for a president’s job with the Los Angeles Dodgers, triggering an escape clause in Maddon’s contract and giving Cubs fans a new costume for that Halloween.
“It was hard for David,” Maddon said. “It really was difficult, especially if it’s your first organization. I think if you bounced (around) a little bit, it’s not so difficult. But if it’s your first time being included in trade conversations, it’s hard for the guy.
“Regardless of knowing that you could end up in a good spot, or you’re going to be wanted, (because) there’s really actually a lot of positives attached to it. It’s still the negative – you might really like where you’re at, it’s your first organization, you have a lot of friendships.
“Awkward. It’s an awkward feeling. You adjust. Everybody does. But there’s still all this unknown stuff that is unsettling.”
Like what the media circus and the fan atmospherics will be like during those two first two games at U.S. Cellular Field. So much for the White Sox bonding after Adam LaRoche’s retirement in the middle of spring training and using that money to reinvest at the trade deadline. Or Sale smoothing everything over after torching executive vice president Kenny Williams for the way he handled Drake LaRoche’s clubhouse access.
“I’m sure it will be entertaining,” Maddon said. “The South Siders have a wonderful sense of humor that we can definitely all appreciate.”