Report: Jim Hickey Likely Out as Cubs Pitching Coach

Jed Hoyer said Tuesday that the coaching staff wasn’t fully settled, though he did not offer any specifics beyond “a number of people are exploring different things.” The Cubs have already changed hitting coaches for the second time in as many years, so it seemed really unlikely another major change was coming. But according to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, that’s exactly what is happening.

“As of last night, I’m pretty sure Jim Hickey is not back,” Rogers told ESPN 1000’s David Kaplan. “And so this is an amazing turn of events. They will be firing the pitching and hitting coach in back-to-back years. Just crazy. So I don’t believe Jim Hickey is back, I’m pretty much reporting that at this moment. It’ll be interesting who replaces him.

“There’s a chance that there’s a guy out in San Francisco, Curt Young. He was the pitching coach for the Red Sox in 2011, Theo’s last year. They blew it up, he went back to the West Coast, he was a pitching coach for the A’s and the Giants.

“This is totally my guess…if they want Curt Young, is the Giants have had nobody in charge. You gotta ask permission to talk to him.”

Wow, that is certainly something. The Cubs’ pitching staff was widely viewed as the strength of the team last season, even in light of the major disappointments with both big free agent signings. And unlike with Chili Davis, there weren’t any major rifts between Hickey and his charges. At least not publicly. And Hickey was a Joe Maddon guy from their many years together in Tampa.

But the Cubs’ overall walk rate went up from 9.1 percent and 3.44 BB/9 in 2017 to 9.9 percent and 3.79 BB/9 under Hickey. The bullpen actually improved ever so slightly, which means the real culprit in all this is probably Tyler Chatwood. Still, it’s a poor reflection on Hickey, a coach who had been known for his pound-the-zone mentality.

As Rogers notes, this is a pretty shocking turn of events all things considered. Those close to the situation could likely point to things behind the scenes over the course of the season, but Theo Epstein has been pretty clear about creating a winning mentality and providing the proper atmosphere in which players can make the most of their talent. It sounds as though Hickey may not have been the best man to get that done.

I suppose we could also speculate as to what this means about the relationship between Maddon and a front office that may be looking to exert a little more control over things. If Hickey is indeed replaced by a “Theo guy,” which is sort of what happened with bringing in Anthony Iapoce as hitting coach, there’s a sense that the staff is being remade more in Epstein’s image than Maddon’s.

Total speculation there, though, so feel free to call me a fool for even mentioning it. Expect official word on this one way or the other before long, as the Cubs surely won’t want it just hanging out there.


Evan Altman

Evan Altman is the EIC and co-founder of Cubs Insider and has proclaimed himself Central Indiana's foremost Cubs authority. He is a husband, father, homebrewer, and award-winning blogger with entirely too much pop culture knowledge. Evan's greatest accomplishments include scoring 400 points in Magic Johnson's Fast Break, naming all 10 members of the Wu-Tang Clan in under 3.5 seconds, and winning the Meese Literary Award at Hanover College.

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  1. I think something that’s going on with “the millennials,” is not that they have changed, but that the game they grew up watching and playing has; and this change hasn’t been communicated to them in a way they can process. Hickey’s staff seemed to struggle early, then did well. Can’t see how he merits replacement. I could see Maddon wearing Edwards out in ways a sensible bullpen manager could have avoided. That’s not on Hickey.

    1. CJE has never been someone whos good when used on back to back days. Just a fact of life he doesnt have the durability to throw mor ethan about 50-60 IP a yr, which maens hes never going to be closer material.

  2. I’m ready for the Theo era to be over. He’s a master at the rebuild, but a disaster at maintaining things.

    Bad contacts, Bad trades and a crazy amount of coaching changes passing on generational talents. Thank god they came back from 3-1 down to the Indians or people would be ready to burn the guy at the stake.

    1. Now THAT is a sharp and well aimed blade there; just think how the fan base would be reacting to all of this if they hadn’t won in ’16?! Most of us fans are quite tolerant of all this turmoil, but it would be massively different if we were on year 111 of “almost”!

  3. Nothing like a solid finger in the chest of Joe Maddon to see if he’ll quit. Too bad Theo doesn’t point a finger at himself for his bad free agent signings, and his lousy trades for Jose Quintana and Justin Wilson. Jason McLeod is a guy I would love to see Theo Epstein start to question about his drafts and development of minor Leaguers. Outside of the four first-rounders what else has he produced. Not one starting pitcher not one quality reliever, not much past the second round on of position players either

  4. On the surface, it seems like a man who wants total control or perhaps he is trying to bait Maddon into not coming back to collect a final season of paychecks.
    After all this, I can’t see Maddon wanting to stick around where would seem to be little more than in-game hand
    Ditto to the first 2 comments.

    If indeed Hickey is out, I expect Maddon to either decide to step outside or be shown the door.
    The only reason Joe would come back, under those circumstances, is to collect the paychecks.

    Worse yet, apparently, Maddon has little input into personnel he has to manage and minimal choice in his coaches. I wonder if Theo also has to approve the line-up card for each game.

    Time for Rickets to thank Theo for the World Series ring and wish him success in his next rebuild venture.
    Theo knows the rebuild scenario; but he appears to have failed, for a 2nd time, to figure the challenge of dealing with the next phase. The Cubs are in a division and a league and compete with other teams; and you can’t win each and every time. After all, others are also trying to do the same thing you are.

    If Joe is gone, I’ll put aside my support of the Cubs until Theo is no longer part of the furniture.

    Maddon, given the bad free agent hand Theo dealt him plus no legit back-up catcher, did a masterful job getting them to 95 wins.
    All this seems to make less and less sense.

    Wonder if there are any parallels from Theo’s Red Sox experience that might explain things.

    1. Oh please! Joe is an EMPLOYEE like everyone else. They paid him royally…he HELPED win a WS & now it may be time to move on. He is certainly no reason to stop watching the Cubs. LoL. Stop with the dramatics.

      Theo is mainly right….let’s get some consistent line-ups & stop yanking a starter when he is performing well.

  5. Looking back, I am guessing that Theo and Joe haven’t seen eye to eye on a whole bunch of things.
    They have differing views of life, politics, value systems, and how baseball is played and who is valuable to a team, upon occasion. They won in ’16’ because maddon had them playing and thinking as a team.
    There was chemistry there, not just talent.

    Thinking back to early ’17’, it was somewhat amazing how Maddon fonded over Travis Wood when he came to a game to collect his WS ring.
    I could have sworn that he had wishes he was back on the staff.

    A couple of weeks later, when Theo DFAed Matty Szczur, Maddon expressed comments that went out of the way praising Szczur’s contributions. I’m almost certain that Theo probably was scratching his head trying why a utility man was being lavished such praise.
    Old school baseball vs new school.

    And, I’m in the same age group as Joe and somewhat of the same socio-economic background.
    Probably that’s part of the reason I have always admired Maddon and was delighted that the Cubs had hired him though it seemed somewhat tacky how they shoved the now Sox manager out the door.

  6. Harper to the Cardinals nightmare is starting to become a reality

    The 26-year-old outfielder is intrigued by overtures from the
    Cardinals, multiple sources confirmed, and another source referred to
    the Cardinals as “in a better position than maybe they realize.”

    Boras, personally, has a fondness for the Cardinals franchise that goes
    deeper than any sales pitch, and he refers to the late George Kissell, a
    beloved Cardinals coach, as a mentor. After several high-profile
    players have rejected the Cardinals’ offers, there are reasons to
    believe Harper would entertain one.”

  7. bring back Bosio……..he may be abrasive, used an inappropriate word, and hard headed but the pitching staff responded to him. Wonder what he could do with Chatwood & Darvish’s mental approach.

  8. With Scioscia gone in Anaheim, Maddon is one of the few old-school managers left beside perhaps Terry Francona. Showalter and Gibbons are out. Bochy is still there, and I guess you could make a case for Mattingly and Hurdle. But as someone in the know pointed out to me, with all the Ivy Leaguers upstairs and the Frat Boys and nerds doing their analytics stuff on the computers, in reality most day-to-day lineups are fed down to the dugout from the brain trust upstairs. Theo and his boys basically tell Maddon what they want, and then it is up to Joe and Jim Hickey to process and do it. Now, that said, Maddon is not one to take his marching orders from the upstairs group that well. Neither is Hickey. Both are stubborn and like to do things their way. I see this as Theo putting a heavy hand out there and saying MY way. And by axing Chili Davis, and perhaps doing the same to Hickey (both of whom were wanted by Maddon), perhaps there’s also a message for Joe. MY way or the highway. And with no extension, Route 66 is coming sooner than later.

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