Cubs

Cubs didn’t come here for a ‘f------ haircut’ and are out to make more World Series history

Cubs didn’t come here for a ‘f------ haircut’ and are out to make more World Series history

ST. LOUIS – “He didn’t come here for no f------ haircut, boys!” Jon Lester screamed inside Busch Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, introducing John Lackey for Wednesday night’s postgame toast as the Cubs celebrated back-to-back National League Central titles.

Lackey waded into the middle of the mosh pit after his Big Boy Game, a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals that eliminated the Milwaukee Brewers from the division race and again showed the defending World Series champs are ready for October.

The Cubs huddled around Lackey in a space that looked like something out of “Breaking Bad” with big plastic sheets taped up against the walls, creating a room within a room and sealing the party off from the lockers around the perimeter.

It got quiet for Lester, who won another World Series ring with Lackey as part of the 2013 Boston Red Sox and sees him much differently than the perceptions of the old cowboy bickering with umpires, throwing his hands up at infielders and firing off one-liners at reporters.

“I’ve had the pleasure to call this guy a teammate for eight years,” Lester said. “I’ve learned a lot about this game from this guy. And I’m sure you guys have, too. He’s one of the best teammates and one of the best people I’ve ever got to play with. Tonight was probably his last regular-season start. Here’s to one hell of a f------ career!”

With that, teammates sprayed beer all over Lackey, the Cubs back in their soaking-wet element after a 43-45 first half that looked like sleepwalking and a 46-24 sprint since the All-Star break. Lackey – the guy who promised he would never go on a David Ross-style retirement party – held up a handle of Crown Royal and poured the whiskey all over his face and down his throat.

The Cubs were feeling no pain, from Lester’s left shoulder to Jake Arrieta’s right hamstring to Lackey’s bubble status on any playoff rotation. There will be more than a week to break down how they match up against the Washington Nationals and where they could be vulnerable.

Bench coach Dave Martinez started the chant “11 more!” As in how many playoff wins before the Cubs can become the first team to win back-to-back World Series titles since the New York Yankees pulled off the three-peat in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Here is one area where the Cubs will have a clear edge over the Nationals: The been-there, done-that confidence they showed in finishing this division race, the never-panic attitude created around those Yankees and the even-year San Francisco Giants.

“We’ve only got one ring,” outfielder Jason Heyward said. “We’ve got some work to do on that before we can put ourselves with the Giants, with the Yankees. (But) the experience that we have together is huge. It’s comforting. It’s calming. It’s crazy.”

Arrieta understood what this meant as someone who got traded here from the Baltimore Orioles in the middle of the 2013 season, transformed into a Cy Young Award winner two years later and will cash in with a nine-figure megadeal this winter as a free agent.

“The front office has done a tremendous job of acquiring players and drafting players and developing those players,” Arrieta said. “If you do those three things successfully, you’re going to put a quality product on the field, year in and year out. That’s what I saw when I first got here, all these young players that were really close to being at the big-league level. Then in ’15, a bunch of these guys get there. And then in ’16, we add more.

“This could be – for a lot of the guys in here – a last go-round in this organization. And we’re going to do everything in our power to take advantage of it.”

Drenched in his blue NL Central T-shirt, blue shorts and Under Armour sandals, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein held a Budweiser can in one hand and a green bottle of champagne in the other, the relaxed picture of someone who doesn’t have to deal with 100-years-and-counting pressure anymore. But this was never going to be only about 1908. It doesn’t matter how they got there. The Cubs are coming now.

“It’s opportunity,” Epstein said. “I don’t know, but I assume people aren’t picking us to win the whole thing. That doesn’t really matter. Our guys love the adrenaline. They love big games. They love competition at the highest level, so it’s an opportunity to go out and make some history.”

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

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USA TODAY

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship Series — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, a source confirming the team declined a club contract option for next year and made a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.

Report: Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio after six seasons with team

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USA TODAY

Report: Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio after six seasons with team

In Theo Epstein's end of season press conference on Friday he said that any coach Joe Maddon wants back will return in 2018.

Evidently, there's one coach Maddon didn't want back.

According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Cubs have fired longtime pitching coach Chris Bosio.

Bosio served as the Cubs pitching coach from 2012-17. He was the team's pitching coach under former managers' Dale Sveum (2012-13) and Rick Renteria (2014), and was retained when Maddon was hired as manager of the Cubs in 2015.

Bosio, who is one of the most respected pitching coaches in baseball, was instrumental in the career resurgence of Jake Arrieta who captured the Cy Young award in 2015, and the development of 27-year-old starter Kyle Hendricks (MLB's ERA leader in 2016).

One reason that could've led to Bosio's firing was the pitching staff's control issues during both the regular season and postseason, which Epstein mentioned during Friday's press conference. The Cubs issued the fifth-most walks (554) in the National League during the regular season and the highest total (53) during the postseason.

As the Cubs hit the market for a new pitching coach, Nightengale mentioned that one name that could be on the radar is former Tampa Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, who parted ways with the organization following the 2017 season.

Hickey served as Maddon's pitching coach in Tampa Bay from 2006-2014.