Joe Maddon feels Davey Johnson violated an unwritten rule Tuesday night.
I'll begin this by saying I like Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon. I enjoy his taste in glasses. We both take One-A-Day multivitamins. I think baseball is a better sport for having him in the dugout.
Too many managers go by the book when applying strategy to a ballgame, using that book to cover their rears if and when a decision backfires. ("Hey, I did what any other manager would do!") Maddon isn't afraid to challenge conventional thinking and try something different if it gives his team an advantage.
Furthermore, Maddon provides some personality and color to the game. I love the dress-up themes his team takes on the road. He doesn't resort to platitudes and cliched answers when talking to the press, as so many of his peers do.
Maddon gives honest answers and, in doing so, provides some genuine insight in his postgame remarks.
Having said all that, I think Maddon is full of it for pouting about Davey Johnson ratting out Joel Peralta for using pine tar during the Rays' victory over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.
According to Maddon, the Nats manager broke another one of baseball's unwritten rules by asking home plate umpire Tim Tschida to check Peralta's glove for pine tar. What made Johnson's inquiry especially offensive in Maddon's eyes is that he was using inside information, likely obtained when Peralta pitched for the Nationals in 2010.
Was Johnson a tattletale? Sure, you could say that.
Resorting to such measures to try and gain an advantage, rather than beating Peralta by employing information from scouting reports and swinging the bats against him is a bit unseemly. You might even use the five-letter word describing feline characteristics that Maddon chose to use—twice—in postgame comments about Johnson.
Maddon absolutely did the right thing in sticking up for his player and making sure Peralta isn't singled out as a cheater from here on out. It's yet another reason why Maddon is one of the best managers in baseball and has the respect of players throughout baseball.
But if the situations were reversed, would Maddon do the same thing if he thought it would help the Rays win a ballgame? It's obviously speculation on my part, but I'm guessing that he'd do it. And many Maddon lovers would applaud the fact that he refused to play by baseball's obscure, arbitrary draconian unwritten rules.
If Maddon felt so strongly about this, why did he retaliate by asking Tschida to check Ryan Mattheus' glove?
Was this an attempt by Maddon to demonstrate how silly Johnson was to rat out Peralta? Was he trying to emphasize the belief that many pitchers use pine tar to get a grip on the ball? And was Maddon really just trying to prove a point when he waited until there were two outs in the inning to have Mattheus checked?
Whatever the reason, Maddon just looked petulant—especially when Mattheus' glove checked out clean. He looks more like a guy who was mad because he was caught.
If Johnson did violate some sort of code, he'll have to answer for it eventually.
Maddon is probably right when he says that Nationals pitchers, according to MASN's Pete Kerzel, probably aren't too happy that a fellow pitcher's mischievous tactics were exposed by their own manager. If any Nats pitchers use pine tar, they'd better do a good job of hiding it from now on.
But Johnson also has 16 years of big-league managerial experience on his resume and is probably wondering who appointed Maddon the arbiter of baseball's unwritten rules.
Did Johnson realize he was managing against Abner Doubleday on Tuesday night? And oh, by the way, Johnson has done this before, as Jason Collette pointed out on Twitter. Baseball somehow managed to move on.
Give Maddon this: He certainly knows how to keep the game interesting. The next two games of this series between the Rays and Nationals ought to be very intriguing.
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