CHICAGO -- The only reason Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon knew of Friday’s back-and-forth between Cubs reliever Pedro Strop and White Sox base runner Alexei Ramirez is because he turned on the news that night.
“At least 90 percent of the time I don’t notice it,” Maddon said Saturday before the two teams played Game 2 of their series. “To me it’s rather amusing. I don’t have any issue with it at all.”
What Maddon didn’t notice was Ramirez wagging his fingers at Strop as the pitcher turned towards second base for a potential pickoff throw in the eighth inning of a one-run game. The finger waving was as if to say ‘no need to throw here.’ So when Strop struck out the hitter, Tyler Saladino, to end the inning a few seconds later, he demonstratively did a fist pump in Ramirez’ direction.
“Strop got excited,” Maddon stated. “Good for him. If he didn’t get excited, good for him also. I have no strong feelings one way or another.”
A little harmless emotion is good for the game, in Maddon’s estimation. There are limits, of course, like when former Cub Junior Lake bat flipped a home run and “shushed” the Miami Marlins as he rounded the bases earlier this year. The manager admonished him for that. But Friday was harmless -- both Ramirez and Strop said as much after the game.
“I thought ‘I don’t have to get you out. I can get the guy at the plate,’” Strop said after the game. “That’s what got me a little pumped up but nothing personal.”
Ramirez’ take: “It wasn’t trying to disrespect him. It was just like ‘we’re ok.’ I was close [to the bag].”
Maddon has always encouraged his players to be themselves -- though he wasn’t the type to openly celebrate or care if the opposition did.
“I’ve never been a bulletin-board guy to create my motivation,” he said. “Your motivation has to come from within, and if someone else has to provide it for you, then you’re not the professional that you thought you were. It’s a lot about nothing for me.”
It’s hard to argue with that logic. Problems can occur when one side misinterprets celebrating as taunting, but there’s usually a line players know not to cross. If they stay on the right side of it, celebrate away.
“I have no strong feeling one way or another,” Maddon said.