WASHINGTON -- The Cubs played Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Nationals under protest after umpires permitted Washington closer Sean Doolittle to pitch the ninth inning using a toe tap with his delivery. Cubs manager Joe Maddon emerged from the dugout on two separate occasions to raise the issue and argue with home-plate umpire and crew chief Sam Holbrook.
Doolittle first noticed the Cubs watching him during his warmup tosses, and after his first pitch of the ninth inning, Maddon emerged from the dugout right away to complain to the umpiring crew. The umpires held a conference near the mound, but permitted Doolittle to continue the motion while letting the Cubs protest the game.
“In that moment, he's not trying to do anything other than rattle me,” Doolittle said. “And it was kind of tired. I don't know, sometimes he has to remind people how smart he is and how much he pays attention to the game. So he put his stamp on it, for sure.”
Managers are permitted to protest a game when they allege the umpires have misapplied the rules. Major League Baseball will determine later whether the protested decision violated the rules, though the game will not be replayed unless it is also determined that the violation adversely affected the protesting team's chances of winning.
“[Maddon] thought [Doolittle] was tapping his foot, which in itself is not illegal,” Holbrook told a pool reporter. “And this all kind of stems from his pitcher being called on something that was a little bit different than what Doolittle was doing. So in our judgement, Doolittle did nothing illegal at all.”
The Cubs had identified this move of Doolittle's before arriving to Washington and wanted him to receive the same message.
“It’s real simple; that’s exactly what Carl was told he can’t do,” Maddon said. “I was told it’s an illegal pitch and he can’t do it. I said, 'If you guys don’t clean it up, I’m going to protest the game.' So we protested the game. It’s their rule, not mine. I didn’t ask for it in the first place.”
While Maddon argued, Doolittle decided to shift his focus to executing his pitches on the mound. He threw a few warmup pitches while the managers and umpires had a conference, exaggerating his toe tap by putting nearly his entire foot on the ground. When the action resumed, Doolittle recorded a 1-2-3 ninth inning with a strikeout on seven pitches -- a ninth inning Maddon said he would like to play over because of this.
Maddon said there needs to be a clear ruling that states whether a pitching motion like this is allowed. The Cubs believe forcing Edwards to alter his motion is one of the reasons he has struggled this season, to the tune of a 9.45 ERA, and required a trip to the Minors to sort out his issues.
Edwards, meanwhile, said he liked that Maddon raised such a ruckus about the whole thing.
“It just shows that they have my back,” Edwards said. “It’s a rule. There’s nothing I can say about it. It’s a rule. They say it’s an illegal pitch, it’s an illegal pitch.”