PHOENIX – The game-ending strike call did not cost the Cubs the game in Saturday night’s 6-2 loss to the Diamondbacks.
But the controversial call on a pitch to Ben Zobrist that looked well out of the strike zone assured the potential tying run would not reach the plate, angered the Cubs, and increased the calls by some in the clubhouse for an electronic system for calling balls and strikes.
Umpire Mark Wegner acknowledged his mistake when he sought out Cubs manager Joe Maddon before the game Sunday to say he blew the call.
“He was awesome,” Maddon said. “I already had respect for him, and that increased it exponentially.”
It didn’t do anything to change the result.
“You want to get the calls right; the umpires want to get the calls right; so if we had the technology to get the calls right, I think it’d be great for the game,” said Kris Bryant, whose only career ejection, July 25, was over another strike call that looked especially bad. “It kind of takes the whole argument side out of it. If it’s a strike, it’s a strike; if it’s a ball, it’s a ball; and you move on.”
Whether the technology is reliable enough to implement anytime soon is at least debatable. And countless questions surround how the system would work, how it would be tested and phased in and how the umpire’s union would react.
But the conversation began almost as soon as the replay-challenge system was added in 2014. Zobrist said he believes an electronic balls-and-strikes system is gaining favor among players.
And even Maddon, long an advocate for preserving the human element in the game, has converted to the high-tech school of thought over the last year or so.
“A game like [Saturday] night definitely screams for it,” Maddon said. “Maybe challenging the pitch, I don’t know. Maybe you get to challenge a couple of pitches.”
The mild-mannered Zobrist argued with umpire Mark Wegner after the call Saturday and said after the game brought up the electronic system.
Zobrist said he has had only one other call “in my career that felt worse than that, especially to end the game.” That was in 2013, playing for Joe Maddon’s Rays, when Marty Foster called him out to end a one-run game that gave Joe Nathan his 300th save.
Foster later apologized for the poor call.
“It’s just an unfortunate situation,” Zobrist said Saturday. “Now that we have the technology we should probably get it right.”
Notes: Maddon has scheduled his annual “American Legion week” for the upcoming seven-game homestand against the Reds and Blue Jays – encouraging the players to arrive late and limit pregame work during this mid-August stretch. “I believe in the point of diminishing returns,” said Maddon, who has held a short-workday week in August since he managed in Tampa Bay. … Kyle Schwarber takes a career-high streak of seven consecutive strikeouts into the homestand after fanning three times against right-hander Zack Godley Sunday. …Godley, by the way, is the only pitcher the Cubs have drafted under Theo Epstein to make a big-league rotation. He was traded to the D-Backs as a Class A player in the Miguel Montero deal before the 2015 season. “It’s crazy we traded him away,” Bryant said. “He would be a nice player to have here.” … Maddon said Sunday he still doesn’t have a sense yet of whether to expect shortstop Addison Russell (foot) to be ready to return from the disabled list during the upcoming homestand. Russell is to be re-evaluated Monday.
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