The Rundown: Maddon Meets Press, Hyde in Flux, McCutchen Signs with Phillies, More Rumors Than Movement at Winter Meetings

Aaaah, baseball. Where and when did this ivy-covered path take such a crazy turn?

Each major-league manager has a 30-minute “meet the press” session during baseball’s annual Winter Meetings, and Joe Maddon had his turn late Tuesday afternoon, promoting his latest book-of-the-month choice.

Let me map it out for you.

The Cubs fired Chili Davis, who was Maddon’s choice as hitting coach. Davis claimed he couldn’t communicate well with millennial players and that he felt clueless when it came to coaching them. Flash forward a month: Maddon shows up in Vegas for his mini-junket dressed as “hip uncle” and talking about how he is learning to navigate social media while studying a book called Managing Millennials for Dummies.

It’s a legitimate book. Perhaps the first chapter deals specifically with privileged phishing. This comes just a week or so after Maddon’s grown son went viral in a couple of scathing social media jabs at his father’s employers. I suspect the Cubs manager is trolling somebody, but who?

  1. Theo Epstein and his front office entourage?
  2. Davis?
  3. Epstein’s choice to replace Davis, Anthony Iapoce?
  4. The Cubs players who helped kick Davis to the curb?
  5. The media?

Of course Papa Joe said all the right things. It just seemed a bit too polished and obligatory. Maybe he had a highball or two before conferencing with the media (and isn’t the highball just the perfect drink for a week of baseball meetings in a city steeped in retro chic?).

But for a guy who said he was going to take the focus off himself this year and put the team first, he did anything but that yesterday. I mean, did you see that Salvador Dalí jacket? I wouldn’t be caught dead in that thing, but tastes differ and I get that. If I was of similar dash and panache I’d walk around as a human billboard for my artwork, too. Maybe one day you’ll see me sporting a hoodie lined with stick figures of my family. Has that been done before?

And let me tug on your ear here for a second. I am not a conspiracist by any means and I don’t look for exaggerated conjecture in veiled, jerry-built minutiae, but I think this is a divorce that is not going to end amicably. If I had to consult my idioms dictionary, I’d say the Cubs-Maddon marriage has gone from on the rocks to on its last legs.

Cubs News & Notes

Wednesday Stove

The Phillies have reached agreement with Andrew McCutchen on a three-year contract worth $50 million.

While the Phillies aren’t necessarily out on Harper after signing McCutchen, it appears they’re no longer in the running for Michael Brantley, according to Jon Heyman. Heyman reported the Braves and White Sox are two other teams that have been in on the former Indians outfielder.

The Yankees are among the teams Machado is set to visit not long after the Winter Meetings end.

The Dodgers are actively trying to move a pair of outfielders. Los Angeles and Cincinnati have been discussing multiple deals, some of which include Yasiel Puig. The Dodgers would also like to move Matt Kemp. The Cubs are obviously not the only team looking for creative ways to free money and sign Harper or Machado.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he believes baseball is a better game without the shift, though for now his immediate plans are to increase the time his hitters spend hitting to the opposite field in spring training to try and combat it.

The Dodgers, A’s, and of course the Rays, will employ the strategy of using openers to some extent in 2019.

The Red Sox are “openly listening to offers on Rick Porcello” to shed payroll so they can add to their bullpen. Rival teams also “insist” the Red Sox are willing to listen to offers for Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. in addition to Porcello.

A separate report indicated that Boston would have to be blown away to deal Bogaerts, and the idea that they’re actively shopping some of their established players has been “overblown,”

The Cardinals need a back-end left-handed reliever and really like Giants Tony Watson and  Will Smith. The dangle is first baseman/outfielder Jose Martinez, who is 30 but still has four years of team control. The Giants would then probably trade Brandon Belt.

The Blue Jays released veteran shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, eating the $34M left on his contract. Tulo will become a free agent, and any team could sign him for two years at the league minimum.

The White Sox acquired SP Ivan Nova from the Pirates yesterday. Nova always pitches over his head against the Cubs, so I’m happy he has left the division and the National League. Too bad the Pirates didn’t include Francisco Cervelli.

On Deck

I read the news today, oh boy…

Extra Innings

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but this jacket is awful. Dalí was highly imaginative, and also enjoyed indulging in unusual and grandiose behavior. Maddon is a spot-on facsimile these days.

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Skateaway by Dire Straits. Life feels perfect when you hear this song, doesn’t it? The deep hidden meaning of this visually simplistic video is that the threats of New York City — taxi drivers, big trucks, going the wrong way down a one way street, being alone at night, etc. — all disappear within the familiarity of her music and bohemian lifestyle. But for me, one stanza of this song puts it at number 13 on my list, because it truly brings the song to life: “She tortures taxi drivers just for fun / She like to read their lips / Says toro toro taxi see ya tomorrow my son / I swear she let a big truck grease her hip.

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Michael Canter

Favorite Quote: "Look Ma! Top of the World!" Cubs fan since I was five years old (1969): lover of B&W movies, the Oxford Comma, classic rock, and of course, baseball; annual roto-champ; partial insomniac; I detest the liberal use of the word 'albeit' by baseball writers; Nice guy, though somewhat brooding. Comment me, please and thank you.

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29 Comments

  1. I believe the Cutch signing takes Philly out of the Harper sweepstakes, but I never thought they had a chance anyway. Machado has been their target all along and unless the Yanks swoop in (not sure why they would with their INF depth), it should happen.

    1. I think Philly knows that Harper really wants to sign with the Cubs and decided not to wait. It’s not a bad move. They genuinely had their pick of any available OFs except Harper so they pounced.

      All the signs point to the Cubs signing Harper starting with Boras stating he knows where Bryce wants to play back on Halloween Day. The Cubs just have to make it work. I have to trust what they say publicly but in my mind it’s more like this:

      Ricketts said ok on the funds request.
      He has asked Theo to try to move some payroll.
      Theo will try and he may or may not be successful.
      Their backup plan is to trade Zobrist, that gives them some cushion and keeps them out of double secret probation on the penalty when they sign Harper.
      They send Z out as a Cub lifer and hero.
      They sign Harper. They’ll get creative and make it work because that’s how they do things at Clark & Addy.
      Zobrist comes back to work in the FO or with the teams next manager in 2020, signing a one day contract to retire as a Cub.

      I’m sure they’re trying to trade Heyward because they sorta have a window this year I think. But that’s unlikely.

      I’m sure they’re trying to trade Kintzler. Maybe Russell too. I mean if the Cubs are TRULY hurting as much financially as they say publicly, they’d move all kinds of players eating SOME money to get prospects or lower priced players. It just all sounds a little fishy.

      I don’t really want the Cubs to sign Harper but I think it’s a near lock and everybody “knows” but nobody knows if that makes sense.

  2. As a pitcher/player and manager of many teams in my 30+ years of ball playing, I used to employ a strategy of using a rotation of 3-7 guys to pitch games. The idea was that batters only got one look at a pitcher per game and different types of pitchers would be stacked to make hitters constantly adjust. Mixing in hard throwers with finesse, right and left arms, seemed to work quite well when I had enough healthy arms.

    I have often wondered why the majors don’t employ this approach. Have 7-8 guys in the rotation, each to throw 2-3 innings each, based on match ups, health and how a guy’s stuff looks that day. It surely would give other managers fits and minimize platoon deployments. It would still allow for a LOOGY, set up guy(s) and a closer.

  3. I love the line you quoted from Skateaway “…she let a big truck grease her hip”, but I believe it was “graze her hip”. Lol I like yours better!

    1. I actually cross-referenced several different lyrics sites and only one of the six or seven had “graze.” the others were all “grease.”

      1. This is why, even though I live in Vegas, I never lay a bet! But you got me running to pull out my copy of Making Movies, and it does contain the lyrics…it is “graze”.

        1. Yeah I pulled them from the album sleeve too. But mine says “grease.” Of course I have the Columbia House Record Club reissue. I may have to research and write a review.

          1. I wouldn’t have had such a great record collection without Columbia House and RCA(?) record deals. Just get that reply card back in time!

          2. I think at least 2/3 of my cassette collection was from Columbia House & RCA. Signed up and cancelled multiple times.

            Oh, I read your article about Pleasant Valley Sunday being the perfect pop song. Really interesting stuff! I discovered the Monkees as a kid from reruns of their TV show, and always found their story fascinating the more I learned about it.

          3. That’s so cool and thanks so much! I’m hoping Santa brings me The Monkees Complete Series in two weekS. I’ve been good.

            I wish another Columbia House would come along. I enjoyed those deals. I’d cancel and sign up every time.

          4. Just remembered it was BMG (not RCA). I looked it up to make sure, and it looks like they stopped their mail order service in 2009.

            Vegas Jack was right – their whole business model was based on people not sending back the reply card in time and paying full price for the album of the month that they didn’t really want…

  4. Speaking as a non-millennial, I read your assessment, Michael, of the Maddon press show as you have.
    As you are into music, I see Maddon like an Elton John or Bruce Springstein who has proven successful since Theo was probably in grammar school.
    You don’t tell a guy of that stature or longevity how to do his thing even if you view it for the better.
    Maddon is calling the shots here; and he knows how to play the game.

    When Joe is out, I’m out too until Theo takes his “progressive millenial pleasing” act elsewhere or when the Rickets tell him he no longer has an office at Wrigley.
    Plenty of other teams to get into including an enticing one a few miles south.

    At first, I was tempted to read the guidebook for dummies; but, on 2nd thought, I’d probably find it more upsetting and disconcerting than helpful — and, fortunately, I don’t have to manage a bunch of kids who (apparently) don’t have much respect for the generation that brought them into the world or the parents of that generation.
    Yes, the generational divide always have existed (and I went through it, of course), but there seems such a divergence in values and culture between the millennials and their elders that I fear for our country, not just a baseball team.

    Oh, a prediction for Hyde: he’ll be a MLB manager in 2019. If the gig with the O’s falls through, he’ll be managing the Cubs at some point within the next few months.

    All it will take is for the Cub attorneys and Joe’s rep to reach an amicable resolution saving face for both sides. Apparently, this is what happened with Hickey..

    1. Might I suggest anything by Strauss–Howe and generational theory.
      Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation
      As the parent of millennial’s I can only say ‘don’t be that guy’. They work harder for less and have plenty to make us accountable for.

      1. Seconded. Born in ‘64 and two kids juuuuuuust a bit younger than a defined Millennial but the struggle is real for them just the same.

        1. Man, you started early, my son was born in 91. But it breaks my heart knowing I made more 30 years ago with a GED then he does now with a college education.

      2. I’ve got two millennials of my own, and they are both hard-working, strong character, great individuals that anyone would want on any team. Yes – ‘don’t be that guy’. It always comes down to empathy, understanding, and communication. People who have that, never seem to feel generational division.

    2. Mike, this is just not a good take. The bashing of an entire generation based on hackneyed stereotypes isn’t cool, nor is the notion that the ruination of our country is somehow the fault of those who aren’t even running it. As for respect, you get what you give.

    3. I want to be clear I’m not bashing on millennials here. Quite the opposite. I think – and I understand the frustration – that the Cubs lost a little edge when they won the WS. It’s normal and generational disposition (am I using that context correctly?) doesn’t matter. To the victor belongs the spoils. I think what Maddon is implying here is that for the first time in his career he feels a little out of touch.

      My point is strictly that Joe is being Joe. He’s going to engage a new generation of personalities in an old school way – hence, trolling.

      He doesn’t have to bow to his bosses because he is on a one year deal. It has nothing to do with age. It had everything to do with Joe exerting control. He basically said Let’s win the WS and see what happens. In other words, he wants to stay or go out on his own terms. The attitude is perfect. The presentation is Joe being Joe. It’s a troll job for anyone who wants to bite. And I think its a nice little tribute to Chili Davis, understated and blatant at the same time.

  5. Well, managers could become far more creative using their pitchers if MLB expanded the roster beyond 25 — say 30 or 32.
    The 25-man roster worked fine when staffs were 9-10; but today, the number of position players have been sacrificed to add pitchers.
    With that expanded roster idea, I would include a provision that no more than half of the roster could be pitchers (and there would have to be a definition of what a pitcher is).
    But, yes, most certainly, the more pitchers a team has available, and if their styles varied, it certainly would be a monkey wrench for batters.
    And, perhaps, another roster modification would allow a player to re-enter the game if taken out; say, for instance, the game went extra innings.

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