Chicago Cubs fans were perplexed, annoyed or flat-out enraged by the Opening Day lineup for one reason: fan favorite slugger Kyle Schwarber wasn’t in it.
Some pundits and fans want to paint the idea of lineup construction and “platooning” as a manager’s decision that should never be questioned. That rings particularly true when discussing Chicago Cubs skipper Joe Maddon, who’s perhaps the foremost leader in mixing and matching on a daily basis.
Some fans love questioning decisions on Monday morning from their recliners or office chairs; it’s literally the reason I’m writing this and why sportswriters, analysts and most television personalities have jobs. So, while I’m going to write about the second-guessing of one decision that may seem trivial, I don’t think the sky is falling.
I don’t want to get rid of Maddon as manager of the Cubs. In fact, if I were Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer or Tom Ricketts, I would have extended the forward-thinking skipper yesterday. He’s a great manager and I’m glad he’s ours. Zoos and all.
Philosophical differences in terms of strategy and lineup construction derive from a couple of different places. Numbers and statistics drive differences for sure. Emotions motivate others. There’s also an old versus new-school approach in terms of rest and platooning. The thing is, if Maddon thinks his best chance to win is with Mark Zagunis starting, he might not be wrong.
Conversely, if I think it’s with Kyle Schwarber, I’m not necessarily wrong either (although, I don’t get to fill out the lineup card, admittedly). Things may or may not work out, but the beauty of it is that we will never truly know which way was right. Or, maybe that’s the awful part; I’m not really sure.
Regardless, there are reasons fans were a bit unhinged or, at the very least, unbalanced, regarding the Schwarber decision on Opening Day. Here is why it may have been a big deal (and also why it will continue to be a big deal) for a lot of people, even if it’s a non-issue for others.