No longer lovable losers — or winners? Even MLB mocked Cubs for Contreras gaffe

SHARE No longer lovable losers — or winners? Even MLB mocked Cubs for Contreras gaffe
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Willson Contreras flipped his bat and admired his fifth-inning drive Sunday -- before realizing it didn’t clear the center field wall.

PHOENIX — The first time the Cubs took the practice field with Joe Maddon as their manager in 2015, they had to step across a giant “Respect 90” logo painted onto the grass in foul territory.

And the last time they played a home game, one of the Twitter accounts run by Major League Baseball mocked Maddon’s now-famous motto with a video of Willson Contreras strutting near the plate, watching a non-home run bang off the wall Sunday, with the words, “Disrespect 90.”

Respect 90 or disrespect 90, Contreras was right back in the Cubs’ lineup against the Diamondbacks, a day after Maddon called the gaffe “horrible” and said “it will be addressed.”

Unlike Sunday, Maddon defended the remorseful Contreras on Monday as the Cubs searched for answers to a flaccid lineup on the 28th of 30 consecutive game days.

“He never disrespects the game. He never disrespects 90,” Maddon said. “He thought he hit a home run, and he didn’t. The wind kept it in the ballpark. On top of that, there’s way too much being made of this. It’s over the top. Whoever is perpetuating this is wrong. He made a mistake and he said he was sorry.

“I totally am against this dialogue because I think it’s inane. It needs to go away. Willson plays hard, and Willson’s really a great teammate to us. He had a bad moment, and he apologized for it.”

Maybe the fatigue of the rare, lengthy grind contributed to Contreras’ “bad moment.” Maybe his two-month slump contributed to a lapse in judgment on that 400-foot drive in a close game.

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What is certain is that the baseball world is paying attention to the Cubs like never before, even scrutinizing like never before.

And this: The next-day lasting power of this story was as much about Maddon’s response Sunday as it was about a starting player for the team with the best record in the National League making himself and his team look bad in the middle of a pennant race.

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Either way, this is not your father’s, mother’s — or grandparents’ — lovable Cubs of the past.

And nobody outside of Chicago is going to make excuses for moments like Sunday — or signs of fatigue, for that matter — especially for a team that wears its pride, self-opinion and even at times a target on its T-shirt sleeve.

“Listen, he wore it really well, too,” Maddon said of the apologetic Contreras. “Give him a lot of credit. I know it’s [being called] ‘dogging it,’ But this guy plays hard, runs hard all the time.

“I still don’t want him to do that, don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t like he was purely not running, because he thought that ball was 30 rows up, not taking into account our wind coming in off the lake, which was ferocious. So there was a difference there, because Willson always plays hard.

“For anybody to say otherwise, please come talk to me.”

Team president Theo Epstein on Monday said he agreed with Maddon’s response and said he’s satisfied Contreras is sincere in his remorse.

“It was also one of the best swings he’s taken in two months,” Epstein said. “Let’s hope he gets hot and makes somebody else pay for his mistake. I’m sure that’s what he’s counting on; that’s what we’re counting on.

“But that can’t, and won’t, happen again, I’m sure.”


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