Cubs

Managing just fine, but Reds overpower Cubs

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Managing just fine, but Reds overpower Cubs

Friday, Aug. 27, 2010
10:10 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

CINCINNATI Joey Votto is on the cover of Sports Illustrated and chasing the Triple Crown. Dusty Baker has been offered a contract extension, but might want to wait for a more lucrative offer, if not a better job in a bigger market.

Lou Piniella will celebrate his 67th birthday on Saturday, out of uniform and away from a big-league stadium. Cincinnati reporters wont be able to ask him how great that 1990 Reds team was 20 years ago.

This city can worry about locking up Votto arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and Baker at a later date. Right now, a franchise that has made the playoffs just once since Piniella led it to a World Series title is enjoying the thrill of a pennant race.

It sounded like a Springsteen concert on Friday night at Great American Ball Park, with a crowd of 36,219 chanting Bruuuuuuuuuuce!

The fans were saluting Jay Bruce, who launched three home runs and powered the Reds to a 7-1 victory over the Cubs, beginning a three-game series that shows just how far the gap has widened between these two teams.

The Cubs (54-75) now trail the first-place Reds (74-54) by 20.5 games in the National League Central, a division they dominated only two years ago.

On Thursday, general manager Jim Hendry interviewed Eric Wedge, who managed the Cleveland Indians to within one victory of the 2007 World Series before being fired nearly two years later.

The next night marked the first loss of the Mike Quade era. The Cubs manager for the next 33 games at least said he has no problem with Hendry meeting other candidates.

Quade felt Hendry was upfront with him on Saturday night, when he was informed that he would be promoted from third-base coach. This is how an extensive search process is going to work.

We covered everything and Im actually surprised that I remember most of it, because I was buckled, Quade said. Look, hes going to interview people. This is going to give him time to do that and not have some crush at the end of the season. (He) knows Im good with it.

And why wouldnt you (do more interviews)? Theres a lot of good baseball people out there. (Its) not a distraction at all. I get it.

Amid all these changes, Quade has found it to be most relaxing once the game begins 7:10 p.m. local time and the Cubs swept the Washington Nationals this week with the strength of their starting pitching.

Tom Gorzelanny who had thrown 240 pitches combined in his previous two starts watched as Bruce drilled a hanging slider and a fastball that stayed right in the middle of the plate.

Bruce and Chris Valaika hit back-to-back homers in the fifth inning that together traveled an estimated 801 feet, suddenly turning a 2-1 game into a 6-1 blowout. Gorzelanny surrendered six runs and snapped his streak of throwing at least six innings in eight consecutive starts.

Nothing was working, Gorzelanny said. Ive been focused on trying to keep the ball down and just get guys to ground out. Ive been fortunate enough to not give up too many long balls (this season.) You run out of luck real easy pitching in a park like this, facing a lineup like this.

Its not as if Quade was going to finish the year undefeated. And the front office clearly respects his teaching background after managing 17 seasons in the minor leagues. But he doesnt want to think about the alternative, like if the organization will find a spot for him even if someone else is managing the 2011 Cubs.

I love Chicago Id love to be here, Quade said. (Ill) do this audition (and) then (well) see where we go from there. For me to think, Well, if I dont get it, Ill do this Thats not how Im geared.

Right now Im going to do the best job I can here and see what happens. And if the scenario doesnt involve me here running this club, then you take a look at other scenarios. Just let me get through these five weeks.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Joe Maddon not expecting a shake-up of Cubs coaching staff

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USA TODAY

Joe Maddon not expecting a shake-up of Cubs coaching staff

Unless Joe Maddon gets blindsided by top-down changes or a personal decision, it sounds like the Cubs manager expects his entire coaching staff to return for the 2018 season, keeping together the group that has made three consecutive trips to the National League Championship Series.

“Of course,” Maddon said Wednesday at Wrigley Field, where the defending World Series champs were facing an elimination game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, on the verge of getting swept out of the NLCS. “Listen, the staff’s done a great job. Our staff’s been awesome. It’s a tightly-knit group. Really, there’s a lot of synergy involved.

“Nobody knows everything. Everybody helps everybody. There’s a lot of cross-pollination. Nobody’s on their own little island. I really like that.”

Pitching coach Chris Bosio – who would be an in-demand candidate after helping develop Jake Arrieta into a Cy Young Award winner and turn Kyle Hendricks into last year’s major-league ERA leader – also told WSCR-AM 670 that he believes the staff will remain intact.

Maddon – who only brought bench coach Dave Martinez over from the Tampa Bay Rays after the 2014 season – is a hands-off boss and a baseball lifer who did a lot of grunt work before becoming rich and famous.

“I don’t think any of them ever withhold saying something to me that they have on their mind, which I really appreciate,” Maddon said. “They don’t feel like they can’t say it. That’s the one thing I always wanted to build, that kind of a method where: ‘If you got something, say it. Don’t hold it back. Just say it. You know you can.’

“There’s nothing held against you for doing it. I think in some places that isn’t the case, so there’s a lot of positive messaging going on.”

This would be a connect-the-dots scenario, but Maddon ruled out the idea of hiring Jim Hickey, the longtime pitching coach who has roots in Chicago and parted ways with the Rays this month. Hickey’s influence helped turn the Rays into a viable small-market contender, coaching up young pitchers like David Price and Chris Archer.

“I called him to console a friend,” Maddon said. “We have not discussed (anything else). I just wanted to know how he was doing, purely because it kind of surprised me, and it surprised a lot of us. So I did talk to ‘Hick,’ but we talk all the time.

“He sends me texts when he’s driving over the causeways down there, because he knows how much I love looking for dolphins driving over the Howard Franklin or the Gandy Bridge. So he (texts): ‘I saw a couple dolphins this morning.’ And I try to get him to come to our parties – he’s a funny guy.

“We had a great relationship and he’s going to turn out just fine. He’s going to be well-sought-after.”

Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 4: The beginning of the end

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USA TODAY

Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 4: The beginning of the end

Once again, baseball has proved it's far too wacky to predict.

It's not just the Cubs offense that's been slumping: I've gone 0-for-3 in predictions for each game of the NLCS thus far.

So what's the point in throwing out a prediction again? Based on the last four days, it would be easy to pick the Cubs to lose and that's what I would do, but I've been wrong the first three games, so what do I know?

I never thought the Cubs would get swept in this series. They're too talented, too experienced, too deep to get steamrolled.

But they're also completely worn out and it's showing. The mood in the locker room and the body language on the field is not at all indicative of the same team that showed legendary resiliency last fall.

That's OK. It's understandable. The Cubs have played more games and pitched more innings than any other team in baseball since the start of 2015. 

After all, they are human. 

There is something to be said for a lack of pressure. The Cubs have absolutely nothing to lose right now and they've procastinated all season, playing their best baseball only when they've been backed into a corner.

"Nobody's expecting us to come back except the guys in this room," Kris Bryant said. "I don't know if it's a comforting feeling, but it takes a little pressure off us because nobody expects us to do it."

Bryant also aptly pointed out that if any group can become the second team in baseball history to climb out of an 0-3 hole in a seven-game series, it's the team that ended a 108-year championship drought by erasing a 3-1 deficit in the World Series.

But Bryant said these things without much conviction Tuesday night in the Cubs home clubhouse. 

It looks like these guys left everything in D.C. after that epic Game 5. 

But if I'm wrong again and these Cubs are going to get another entry into the baseball history books, it starts Wednesday night against Alex Wood. Here's the lineup they'll roll with:

1. Albert Almora Jr. - CF
2. Kyle Schwarber - LF
3. Kris Bryant - 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
5. Willson Contreras - C
6. Addison Russell - SS
7. Javy Baez - 2B
8. Jon Jay - RF
9. Jake Arrieta - P

Dodgers starter Alex Wood is a pretty neutral pitcher, really good against both right-handers and lefties. So it makes sense that Almora and Schwarber are both in the lineup and atop the order, as they've had the best plate appearances of anybody on the team in this NLCS.

It also makes sense that Jason Heyward is not in the lineup, as his postseason numbers with the Cubs have been downright icky. 

Heyward deserves a ton of credit for his clubhouse leadership, that rain delay speech and incredible defense in the outfield. But he's hitting .109 with a .186 on-base percentage and .156 slugging percentage in 70 postseason plate appearances in a Cubs uniform. That's a .342 OPS.

Barring a curveball with more break than his own, this will be Arrieta's last start in a Cubs uniform, which is maybe the biggest storyline of the game after the whole will-the-Cubs-swept-out-of-the-NLCS-for-the-second-time-in-three-years thing.

When Arrieta started Game 4 of the NLDS, he admitted he couldn't help but take a moment or two to look around Wrigley Field and try to take it all in. This is the place that turned his career around.

Arrieta is also a gigantic reason this Cubs team has played so many games these last three seasons, winning the Cy Young in 2015 and beating the Cleveland Indians twice on the road in the World Series.

It'll be great to see the reaction from the crowd and his own reaction when he steps out to the mound and whenever it is he walks off the bump to the third base dugout.