Cubs

As White Sox reportedly hire an ex-Cubs manager, Joe Maddon reacts to the Robin Ventura/Rick Renteria news

As White Sox reportedly hire an ex-Cubs manager, Joe Maddon reacts to the Robin Ventura/Rick Renteria news

CINCINNATI — If the White Sox really wanted to shake things up on the South Side and hire an ex-Cubs manager, they should have called Dale Sveum, whose fingerprints are still on the best team in baseball.

The Cubs are still paying Rick Renteria this year, and the White Sox bench coach will get another chance to manage, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report, taking over for Robin Ventura, an immensely respected ex-player who’s at the end of his fourth consecutive losing season.

“I don’t know what’s going on there internally, but I think (Robin) does a great job,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before Game 162 at Great American Ball Park. “As a friend — I’ve had dinner with him — he’s a wonderful man. I don’t know what’s happening there, so we’ll just wait and see.”

Renteria, of course, officially got fired on Halloween 2014, ending an awkward limbo period that started as soon as Maddon opted out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. Team president Theo Epstein pounced on the star free agent and gave Maddon a five-year, $25 million contract, weeks after saying Renteria “absolutely” would return in 2015.

Renteria’s one-and-done season featured a seven-game improvement from the year before, All-Star selections for Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, some shaky bullpen management and questions about how his rah-rah style could get tuned out in the clubhouse.

But firing Renteria was always more about Maddon’s sudden availability than a bad performance review. Here’s hoping Renteria shows to the Chicago media a little more of the edge and the personality that allowed him to carve out a playing career in the big leagues and become such a popular coach with the Padres.

Credit the White Sox for hiring a bilingual manager at a time when the industry’s power structure is so embarrassingly tilted toward middle-aged white guys and Ivy League kids.

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Ventura at first created the sense of calm the White Sox wanted — a complete change from Ozzie Guillen’s combustible personality — but the franchise couldn’t build off an 85-win season in 2012.

That year, the Cubs tanked and lost 101 games, but Sveum’s staff helped create a gym-rat mentality and build trade-deadline value for short-term assets, with Chris Bosio, Mike Borzello and Lester Strode still running that pitching infrastructure now. Sveum earned a World Series ring last year as Kansas City’s hitting coach.

“When you say Robin Ventura to me, I’m going to say it one more time,” Maddon said, beginning a story he’s told Cubs beat writers before. “It might have been 1995. I was a new coach with the Angels and I’m walking in the front door at Comiskey.

“I’m just a nobody. I don’t even know — I was the bullpen coach or the first-base coach at that time. He took the time to talk to me. And he knew me. And he was very, very complimentary. From that moment on, I became a Robin Ventura fan.

“Renteria — I’ve only gotten to visit with him this past spring when he came up to me on the field. We just talked briefly. I know Buddy Black loved him San Diego. I know that. I know people here like him a lot, too.

“So, again, until it’s official, I don’t have anything to say other than: Robin Ventura’s always going to get high marks in my book for that one day in 1995.”

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

In the latest CubsTalk Podcast, Kelly Crull and David Kaplan look ahead to Thanksgiving and discuss the official coaching hires for the Cubs.

They also talk about where the Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, whether Alex Cobb could factor into the rotation plans and Kap goes off on the 11:30 a.m. Opening Day start time.

Check out the entire podcast here: