Cubs

Cubs: Social media is biggest winner/loser at trade deadline

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Cubs: Social media is biggest winner/loser at trade deadline

PITTSBURGH — Starlin Castro says he heard enough speculation about getting traded that he stopped checking his Instagram account, trying to block out the noise from Cubs fans wondering what’s next for the All-Star shortstop.

The lasting image from this deadline will be New York Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores in tears, thinking he’s about to be traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. Amid a flurry of jump-the-gun reports, Carlos Gomez posed with teammates on a charter flight for a goodbye photo that went up on Twitter and has since been deleted.

That deal fell apart, and by July 30 the Brewers had shipped their All-Star/Gold Glove center fielder to the Houston Astros. The next night, Flores made it through the deadline and hit a walk-off homer in the 12th inning to beat the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.

This in a season where the Boston Red Sox benched Pablo Sandoval for “liking” an attractive woman’s pictures on Instagram during the middle of a game. Sandoval admitted to checking his cell phone while using the bathroom, and it became the perfect storm for a last-place team, an overheated media market and the new guy with a five-year, $95 million contract.

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If you are a young, rich and famous ballplayer, why even bother being on social media?

“I like to talk s--- to people,” Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “People like to talk s--- to me.”

As soon as Arrieta started his bromance with David Price on Twitter, it became part of a larger story about what the Detroit Tigers might do at the trade deadline and how hard the Cubs will pursue the Toronto Blue Jays rent-a-pitcher this winter.

“I like to connect with fans,” Arrieta said. “I don’t use Facebook because it’s all people that I used to kind of know, (back) in high school, third cousins and stuff. I don’t like Facebook.

“With Twitter, it’s more like a fan experience. I can interact with them and people from all over the world. Different businesses, companies, networking, I like to (explore) things I’m interested in, so I do reach out to people, or they reach out to me.”

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Joe Maddon started a Twitter account at his old job to help promote the Tampa Bay Rays, and it has grown to around 246,000 followers. The Cubs manager explained his social-media policy in less than 140 characters: “Just don’t get caught.”

“People are going to talk,” said Addison Russell, the rookie second baseman who found himself under a completely different microscope when the Oakland A’s traded him to the Cubs last year. “People are going to share their opinions.

“I myself have a personal life. If I have a free minute, and I feel willing to post something that I’m doing, or something that I’m interested in, I’ll go ahead and post it if it’s not offending anyone.”

Even if it sometimes feels like the game is trending this way, players aren’t robots or only numbers on a screen.

“I still have family and friends back home that are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” Russell said. “I like to let them know how I’m doing from time to time. People are going to talk. They’re going to send you rude messages. They’re going to send you great messages.

“At the end of the day, a ballplayer is another person. We’re just trying to do our job, have some fun and provide for our families. That’s No. 1 for us.”

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Jon Lester engaged with angry Red Sox fans on Twitter last December after signing his six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs, which amounted to $20 million more than what Boston guaranteed in its final lowball offer.

Lester said: “The important part of that whole deal was to get the Boston fans that truly understood the decision, and that truly support us, and try to give them a response.

“Let them know that they’ll always be a part of our lives and part of our hearts. We’ll never forget our times and our relationships and memories that we’ve had there.

“Obviously, within that, you’re going to get just a few people that ruin it for everybody else. The biggest thing is we didn’t want (to let) them ruin it for everybody else. We wanted to continue with the good ones — and we felt like we could be a little bit of a smartass with the bad ones.”

The smart-ass New York tabloids — Daily News, Post and Newsday — went with pictures of Flores and “CRYING SHAME.”

“That’s kind of awkward, obviously,” Maddon said. “That’s just a product of today’s society and technology. Without social media and everybody having a voice and an opinion right now, something like that probably could not happen — wouldn’t have happened — 10 years ago (or) maybe even five years ago.

“It’s the world we live in right now. There’s a lot of things in today’s existence that I think make everything better. I can’t tell you that social media actually does. You got to live with it.”

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.