How Dare Joe Maddon Bone Chone Figgins . . . and Brian Fuentes, Too

Roger Lodge, who hosts The Sports Lodge on AM830 that is broadcast live from Angel Stadium, went off on Joe Maddon, the Tampa Bay Rays manager who also skippered the winning American League team in Tuesday night's All-Star Game from St. Louis.

During a portion of his show that is simulcast on Channel 5's KTLA Morning News, Lodge took the flat-topped, snow haired manager to task for failing to get Los Angeles of Anaheim's Chone Figgins into the game, despite Figgy having moved mountains to make it to St. Louis in time for the player introductions.

Based on accounts on and by Kathleen Nelson in the St. Louis Dispatch, here's what can be pieced together . . . * Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria had an owie on his finger and told his manager Maddon he could not play.

* Around 7 a.m. (Pacific time)  before an 8 p.m. (Eastern) game, Angels vice president of communications Tim Mead received a call from the American League office telling him to get Figgins on a plane to St. Louis because Maddon wants him to take Longoria's place.

* Mead calls team equipment manager Kenny Higdon and gets him to gather all of Figgins' equipment and send it off to St. Louis.

* As all this was going on, Figgins was snoozing peacefully in his Newport Beach pad. Mead gives him a call. No answer on the house line. Mead tries Figgy's cell. It'd been turned off.

* Flummoxed, Mead thinks of sending an intern to Casa de Figgy, but the slaves don't start their unpaid shifts until 9 a.m., which will be too late a turnaround.

* Mead calls former Angel/current Figgins friend Garret Anderson, a known early riser who lives in nearby Irvine. Mead, who has every known contact number in Halodom apparently, also calls Figgins' uncle, who calls Figgin's mom, who calls the uncle back to say Keith Johnson, the Angels' single A manager, is spending the day with Figgins.
* Word finally got to the man of the hour. Figgins quickly arranged for his family to get from Tampa to St. Louis. They made it by 7 p.m. Figgins barely beat them.

* His plane landed around the same time as President Obama's Air Force One, so after Lambert Police Chief Paul Mason greeted the president, he went over and gathered Figgins to drive him from the airport to the game. "That was my parade," commented Figgins, who missed the official parade for players.

Unlike his teammates and opponents in the 80th All-Star Game, Figgy also missed Monday's home run derby but he still got to the ballpark before game time. He missed the pre-game batting practice but he still got to the ballpark before game time. He doesn't even appear in the official team photo but he still got to the ballpark before game time. And he did not complain one bit.

Figgins cruised into the locker room just in time to congratulate his teammates for making the squad, get dressed and take the field for player introductions and the obligatory tip of his hat to the crowd. Surely their ovation for him would have been louder had they known how he'd busted his butt to get there.

Maddon does not have that excuse. He knew what Figgins put himself through. The manager's first mistake, of course, was not adding Figgins to his roster earlier, after Major League Baseball fans across the country failed to vote the Angels' third baseman in in the first place--despite his .310 batting average, 68 runs (most in the league), 23 stolen bases, seven triples (tied for first in the league) and .827 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage). Add to that his defensive highlight reel material and the fact that this was the 31-year-old's first All-Star game when it should have been his fourth or fifth, and working him into the game should have been a no brainer.

After all, Figgy does it all, filling holes in the infield and outfield every season depending on where the Angels need help. Maddon, who used to be an Angel bench coach under Mike Scioscia, acknowledged this before the game.

"I like his versatility, the fact that he's played third base and can also play second base, all outfield positions, and he can run and hits from both sides of the plate," Maddon said. "When you are making decisions to augment your bench, I think you really are trying to get the kind of fit that helps you out in so many different ways at the end of the game."

Alas, the end-of-game call never came for Figgins, nor the Angels' only other player on the team, closer Brian Fuentes, whose 26 saves leads the league.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of the Figgy snub is the memorable moment he would have produced for fans had he made it on the field. In honor of one of his (and St. Louis') heroes, Ozzie Smith, Figgins was going to perform a back flip.

Incidentally, the player himself still said after the game he would not trade his rushed All-Star game experience for anything in the world, despite his name missing from the box score. For one thing, Figgins got to meet Smith and his other hero (and St. Louis'), Lou Brock.

Still, the next time Tampa Bay comes to the Big A, it is incument upon fans to shower Maddon with our "appreciation." 


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