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?
- Theo Epstein and his front office entourage?
- Epstein’s choice to replace Davis, Anthony Iapoce?
- The Cubs players who helped kick Davis to the curb?
- 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?).
Joe Maddon’s response to questions about his job status: 😏 pic.twitter.com/DtjPnOrwYW
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) December 12, 2018
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
- The Orioles have hired Brandon Hyde to manage their team. Or maybe they haven’t. Smells a lot like the time Baltimore allegedly signed Dexter Fowler in 2016. The Orioles are now denying reports that they had chosen the Cubs bench coach to be their new manager, saying the reports were premature and no decision was expected this week. Excuse my French, but that is one effed-up organization. If I was Hyde, I’d hide.
- Tom Loxas, citing reliable sources, believes the Cubs are working the margins to find a way to reduce salary in order to sign Bryce Harper. It is believed Harper would like to play for the Cubs and wants them to make things work.
- The Cubs are one of three “mystery teams” that could be interested in shortstop Manny Machado.
- Epstein has challenged Maddon to coach more and be more hands-on during the 2019 season, the final season of his five-year contract with the Cubs. His response yesterday was extremely laid-back and confident, to say the least.
- Maddon believes the addition of Paul Goldschmidt makes the Cardinals much more difficult to beat.
- Epstein said Tuesday that owner Tom Ricketts was not in Las Vegas this week. The same piece indicates that the Cubs plan to add two established relievers — “not high end” — but that it likely won’t happen until the market plays out, possibly into next month.
- While no one was mentioned by name in Epstein’s post-season treatise on everything, when he got to the line about evaluating players on “production, not talent,” it was pretty clear there were only a couple players he could be talking about.
- Kyle Schwarber finished 2018 with 26 homers and a .343 wOBA in just 512 plate appearances. Regardless of your expectations for the big slugger entering the season, those numbers are pretty darn good.
- The Cubs could offer a package built around Schwarber, Ian Happ or Carl Edwards Jr. to land Whit Merrifield, but it’s really hard to see a fit. Better options for Chicago might include one of the following: Aaron Hicks, Michael Brantley, Scooter Gennett, Jed Lowrie, or Nick Markakis.
- This item warrants reading, even if it is 100% fictitious:
— One Out Walk (@OneOutWalk) December 10, 2018
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 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.
I read the news today, oh boy…
After four seasons of covering Cubs baseball, BP Wrigleyville is coming to an end. But don't worry—our writers and content will be finding a new home at the @baseballpro main page soon enough! So farewell for now, and thanks for all of your support.https://t.co/lNLdCwmYnQ pic.twitter.com/0IuaRnUPT3
— BP Wrigleyville (@BPWrigleyville) December 10, 2018
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.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) December 11, 2018
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.“