DENVER – Joe Maddon insists he doesn’t check the reports every day, that he isn’t one of those managers who pays much attention to what’s going on with the minor-league clubs.
But after games like this, even just a few days into the season, nobody would blame him for stealing a few peeks at the latest reports on Kris Bryant, maybe even with a glance at the calendar to check the countdown to call-up range.
For those interested in the Bryant watch – and judging from Twitter, that’s a large demographic – Friday marked six days, the halfway point, in Bryant’s required minor-league exile to keep in play an added year of club control for the Cubs.
Not that Maddon’s paying attention.
“I have too much to do here,” the manager said before a 5-1 loss to underwhelming Tyler Matzek and the Colorado Rockies – in a game that underscored his point. “I’ll hear the scuttlebutt during the day. I may ask, `Do you have a stat sheet from the minor-league situation,’ and look at everybody. …
“I get involved with what’s going on here now.”
So far that’s not a lot offensively. The Cubs have three runs to show for three games, and if not for Jake Arrieta’s seven-inning gem Wednesday might not have a win to show for the week.
Mostly because of this: They’re 2-for-25 with men in scoring position.
And they’re not even as productive as that number suggests, considering that only one of those two hits actually drove in a run.
Maddon repeated what he said after Sunday’s 1-for-13 scoring-position effort in a 3-0 loss to the Cardinals, that “it’s an industry-wide issue.”
Maybe. But the Cubs are definitely setting the industry standard.
Nobody is worse in the majors in the early going. And while that’s obviously a small sample size, the trend doesn’t look good after finishing next to last in the majors in 2014 with a .223 mark with men in scoring position – 30 points under the MLB average. The year before? Dead last (.218).
“We have to do better, no question,” Maddon said. “And I believe we will. I liked our lineup. I thought some good guys were up at the right time and it just did not want to play today.”
This despite loading the bases with two out in the second for the top of the order (Dexter Fowler grounded out), despite loading the bases with none out in the third (fielder’s choice at the plate, sacrifice fly and fly to end it) and getting the first two men on in the fifth when the game was still 1-1 (Starlin Castro double play, Mike Olt groundout).
The results look a lot like recent years despite four players in the lineup Friday who weren’t on the roster a year ago – after playing six new ones on Sunday, and seven Wednesday.
“I don’t know anything about last year. That’s all over with in my opinion,” said Anthony Rizzo, who has reached base six consecutive times, including all four Friday. “This is a new team, and we all have to mold together and bond together.
“We keep putting ourselves in positions and battling and having good at-bats. We’ve just got to learn to capitalize more on pitchers when they’re in trouble. We’re not the ones in trouble at that time in that moment.”
Matzek, a second-year left-hander with middling results as a rookie, lasted just four innings with enough command problems that he put nine runners on base, including four on walks and twice hitting Rizzo with pitches.
“We had their pitcher on the ropes a few times and just didn’t come through,” Rizzo said. “But if we keep giving ourselves these opportunities, good things are going to happen.”
Meanwhile, anybody check the latest scuttlebutt in Iowa?