CHICAGO — The check-swing call in baseball has always been one of the most difficult for umpires to make. After a late Chicago Cubs rally was thwarted on a strike-three, check-swing call on Kyle Schwarber, Chicago manager Joe Maddon suggested that maybe it shouldn’t be the umpires making the call.
“You see the check swing where the hands [don’t move] — to me that’s not a swing,” Maddon said. “It’s what you do with the barrel [of the bat]. Everybody’s worried about an electronic strike zone. I want an electronic method to control a check swing.
“That would be much more interesting. I would prefer that. Let the umpires call that game like they always do, but let’s figure out a way to control check swings. I’ve got ideas on that, too.”
Runners were on second and third base when Schwarber was rung up by third-base umpire Gabe Morales to end Chicago’s 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Schwarber immediately fired his batting helmet into the turf and charged at Morales, who threw him out of the game about the same time as home plate umpire Jerry Meals tossed Schwarber.
“They both [threw me out],” Schwarber said. “I don’t like to get thrown out, but I just don’t like the way the game ended.”
Schwarber isn’t sure an electronic remedy would work, but either way, he wasn’t happy about a game ending in that fashion, especially against a tough pitcher such as Angels closer Cody Allen.
“I don’t know,” Schwarber said when asked about his manager’s idea. “I don’t know how you can do that. I just didn’t like the way it ended, [after] grinding out an at-bat against him. It was a big situation right there. I worked him. You’ve got to battle. I thought I didn’t go, and he thought I did.”
The final pitch resulted in Schwarber’s second checked swing during the at-bat against Allen. The first one was called a ball, though it appeared that Schwarber might have gone further on the first check swing than the one that ended the game.
“If I didn’t go the first time, I didn’t go the second time,” Schwarber said. “If you’re not 100 percent sure, you can’t call it. Obviously, I was frustrated. Who’s not going to be frustrated when they end the game like that, and you’re that close to sniffing out a run? I just don’t think it was a good call.”
Schwarber played linebacker back when he was a high school athlete in Middletown, Ohio. That was never that relevant to his baseball career until after Saturday’s game ended, as teammate Javier Baez — the runner on third base — grabbed Schwarber and prevented him from getting near the umpires.
“I could have gone either way,” Baez said. “I think he was a bit emotional. Everybody was pretty hyper. I just think the umpire called it a little bit too early. That’s what got Schwarber fired up.
“Pretty big dude. He played football. I didn’t play football. He kind of took me with him, but I held him pretty good. He moves to the side pretty good. He almost got by me, so I have to work on my defense.”
Maddon reached Morales first to plead Schwarber’s case while the mayhem played out behind him.
“I caught it out of the corner of my eye,” Maddon said. “I think we circumvented it a bit, didn’t we?”
For the Cubs, the loss was a rough way to end a contest they nearly rescued from an early deficit that was largely the result of another wave of walks issued by their pitching staff. Starter Kyle Hendricks and six relievers combined for eight free passes. The Cubs have walked 5.05 batters per nine innings this season, the most in the major leagues.
“Really tough,” Maddon said. “Love the fight. I thought we came back, had to fight through, but we just walked too many guys from the pitching perspective.”
Nevertheless, it could have worked out for Chicago in the end, if only Schwarber had gotten one last swing.
“I was a little hot,” Schwarber said. “I’m able to calm down now, but I wasn’t the happiest person in the world.”