Saying he was “surprised” and that it wasn’t his style to criticize another player without knowing him, Cubs manager Joe Maddon calmly but directly responded to Pirates manager Clint Hurdle’s rebuke of Javy Baez for “disrespecting the game” with an emphatic bat flip in frustration on a pop-out to shortstop in the Cubs’ 13-5 victory Wednesday.
“I was surprised by it,” Maddon said when asked before Friday’s game against the Braves about Hurdle’s response. “Clint and I have a great relationship. I don’t understand why he did what he did. I do believe in not interfering with other groups.
“I’ll never go there. I don’t know the guy enough. I’m not in the clubhouse. I haven’t had these conversations. I don’t know what kind of teammate he is. So I’d be hesitant [to be critical].
“I think most of the time when you hear critical commentary, it’s self-evaluation. It’s about your judgmental component. It reveals you more than it reveals the person you are talking about.”
Baez regretted the bat flip but took umbrage with Hurdle’s assertion that he was not respecting the game.
“There’s no one that plays the game harder than me,” Baez said. “I bust my butt every day to get here and learn something. If anybody’s got negative stuff to [say to] me, they can save it.”
That was good enough for Maddon.
“I thought Javy did a great job in his response,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m very proud of him. I didn’t see him throwing his bat, but his response . . . and the fact that he owned up to it — what else could you possibly want from one of your guys? I’m saying give young people an opportunity to make mistakes. The mistakes of youth are preferable to the wisdom of old age any day of the week.”
Maddon probably hopes the war of words ends here. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a residual impact.
“I just know it’s going to motivate Javy,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I really believe that. Javy’s motivated anyway, but I’ll be eager and curious to watch him perform in Pittsburgh.”
Maddon said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who has missed the last seven games with a bad back, is expected to play Monday against the Cardinals. He said Rizzo could’ve played Friday “if it was absolutely necessary” and if he wasn’t on the disabled list.
Happ heating up
Ian Happ had a single, double and fly ball to the warning track and is 5-for-9 in his last three games to increase his batting average from .156 to .244. He was 5-for-32 in his first eight games.
“That’s the small sample size,” Happ said of the first eight games. “Just wait until the end of the year.”
The Cubs had only four hits against starter Anibal Sanchez (1-0, 1.29 ERA) and three relievers to fall to 6-7. That’s a disappointing start but the same record they had after 13 games last season, when they finished 92-70 and won the National League Central.