Cubs’ Joe Maddon blames Pirates’ Elias Diaz for slide kerfuffle
Saying “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that play,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon stuck to his guns that Anthony Rizzo’s slide into the feet of Pirates catcher Elias Diaz on Monday was clean and legal.
Maddon emphasized he respects Joe Torre, the chief baseball officer of MLB who called him Tuesday and told him Rizzo’s slide was illegal — despite on-field umpires and then the league’s video-review crew ruling otherwise Monday. But Maddon said he “will not back down” because “I know I’m right.”
Maddon, in fact, blamed Diaz for the incident. A former minor league catcher, Maddon said Diaz did not use proper technique.
“What would have happened had the catcher thrown to first base and completed the play before Anthony knocked him down?” Maddon asked a large group of reporters who’d gathered in the PNC Park visitors’ dugout 90 minutes before Tuesday’s game. “Anybody? …
“Nothing. So don’t penalize Anthony for running hard.”
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While not unanimous, the feeling within the Pirates clubhouse is Rizzo’s slide was not “dirty,” exactly. But the Pirates argued — correctly, according to MLB on Tuesday — the slide was illegal under the new rules instituted two years ago.
Maddon said he was glad the Pirates did not think the play was dirty, but he “respectfully” disagrees it was against the rules. And though he never mentioned Diaz by name in more than 5 minutes of discussing the slide, Maddon made it clear he believed Diaz was the one in the wrong.
“Anthony is coming down the line, the catcher is right there,” he said. “The catcher has an option to get rid of the ball more quickly, get farther out in front of home plate or just hold on to it. He could have done those three things also. Those are three results that could have happened. Don’t penalize Anthony for doing the right baseball thing that he’s been taught to do from the time he was a kid.”
— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) May 29, 2018
Speaking to reporters about an hour and a half before Maddon did, Diaz said of the play, “I did everything the way I was taught to do and the way I should do.”
Signed by the Pirates as a teenager out of Venezuela in 2008, Diaz said the way he learned the game and came up as a pro was to be aware of slides such as Rizzo’s. But with rule changes governing both collisions with catchers and runners trying to break up double plays having been instituted over the past four years, Diaz said he adjusted.
“Because the rule has changed, I’m not worried about protecting myself,” Diaz said through team interpreter Mike Gonzalez. “I’m not thinking someone is going to try to hurt me or run right over me. If the rule was still the same or just the culture of baseball was still the same, playing the old-school type of way, I would have mentally been aware, ‘Hey, maybe this guy is going to probably come run over me, I need to protect myself.’ ”
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The 64-year-old Maddon, who played high school, college and pro ball in the 1970s, believes Diaz wasn’t protecting himself enough Sunday.
“It’s about technique, it’s about having a clock in your head, it’s about eyes in the back of your head,” Maddon said. “If you can’t do that, then don’t catch, don’t play the position, don’t do those things.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.