Cubs

Examining Cubs new coaching additions and how Chili Davis got his unique name

Examining Cubs new coaching additions and how Chili Davis got his unique name

Charles Theodore Davis is not a household name in Wrigleyville.

But "Chili" Davis, on the other hand, is a name that resonates with baseball fans everywhere.

The former slugger is now tasked with coaching up the most important assets the Cubs have — a stable of young hitters.

Davis was hired Thursday afternoon as the Cubs' new hitting coach, taking over for hometown hero John Mallee, who helped guide the team to its first World Series championship in 108 years last fall.

Davis has instant clout that comes with racking up nearly 10,000 plate appearances (9,997 - 87th all time) over the course of a 19-year MLB career, playing for the San Francisco Giants, California Angels, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees.

The Jamaican native also carries one of the most unique names in baseball history. Davis' dad gave him that moniker at age 12:


“My dad gave me a haircut...and it wasn’t a very good one. When I went out of the house, my friends got on my case and said it looked like someone put a chili bowl over my head and cut around it.” One friend in particular coined it, Shawn Shephard – a cousin of Shane Mack, Chili’s future teammate with the Minnesota Twins. Although the “Bowl” part dropped away over time, “Chili” stuck for good. Davis himself wound up becoming a barber on the side. In 1985 he said, “I like playing with hair...it’s a hobby, I guess.”

Davis' hobby now blends with the Cubs' main focus, ensuring their young hitters take that next step forward.

Joe Maddon and Davis crossed paths for three years in California: 1994-96, when Davis was smashing 74 homers while Maddon was working on the Angels coaching staff.

Davis played until age 39 in 1999 and began his coaching career in 2010 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He spent three seasons (2012-14) as the hitting coach of the Oakland A's before taking the same position with the Boston Red Sox for the 2015-17 seasons.

During his three years in Boston, the Red Sox scored the most runs in baseball, saw the most pitches and had the highest on-base percentage. 

They finished 10th in baseball in runs and 22nd in OPS in 2017, but in 2016 — before David Ortiz retired — they scored 33 more runs than any other team in the league.

Of course, that helps when you have Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts leading a young core at Fenway to blend with Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and 2017 newcomers Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers.

Davis' experience in Boston working with all those young hitters will help in Chicago as he tries to develop an offense that just turned in the lowest batting average in postseason history this fall.

"Here's another guy that is really good with regards to helping our hitters get to the next level possibly situationally," Maddon said on a conference call Thursday.

Situational hitting is the main area of improvement needed for a Cubs offense that scored the second-most runs in the National League in 2017 and led baseball with 5.7 runs per game in the second half while awakening from a World Series hangover.

Maddon talked about the offense ad nauseam throughout the year and Theo Epstein addressed the desire for their team to have consistent, tough, team at-bats in his 2017 postmortem last week.

"Grinding at-bats where we perform well with situational hitting, where we perform well with runners in scoring position," Epstein said. "Where we have a dependable, consistent, two-strike approach. Where we're no fun to pitch against. And really, really good pitchers — elite pitchers — feel the same way.

"We did a lot of things really well offensively this year, but at times and in the postseason when we came up against elite pitching, it became tough. And that's usually what happens against elite pitching.

"But to be a consistent championship organization and to win multiple World Series, you have to get to a point where your at-bats are so mature and so consistent that you even give the good pitchers fits. If we're honest about it, we didn't get to that point this year."

The Cubs and Maddon clearly think Davis will help the offense progress more than Mallee was going to, in part because it's a different person delivering the message.

Brian Butterfield joined Davis in the pilgrimage from Boston to Chicago, where he will serve as the new third-base coach, pushing out Gary Jones.

Butterfield has spent 22 seasons as a big-league coach, including 17 as a third-base coach. He has worked with the Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays.

"I've known Butter for a long time and part of his background is that he's an excellent third-base coach," Maddon said. "But beyond that, he's a really outstanding baserunning coach, too, and we wanted to add that skillset to our group."

Albert Almora Jr. made a Gold Glove-type catch that would make Willie Mays proud

albert_almora.jpg
USA TODAY

Albert Almora Jr. made a Gold Glove-type catch that would make Willie Mays proud

Albert Almora Jr. has been hot with the bat as of late, but he reminded us on Saturday what makes him so valuable to the Cubs.

With the Cubs leading 2-0 in the bottom of the third, DJ LeMahieu smoked a shot to center field that would've cut the lead in half and extended the inning had it gotten to the wall.

Instead, Almora showed off his defensive abilities by making an extremely difficult over-the-shoulder grab look so easy, and somewhere Willie Mays tipped his cap.

That's a Gold Glove-type catch, and one to bookmark when reviewing the highlight reel as a whole at the end of the season.

Almora also recorded two of the team's six hits and scored a run, but it wasn't enough in a 5-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies.

Colorado native David Bote gets chance to make MLB debut in home state after Cubs place Ben Zobrist on DL

zobrist-421.jpg
USA TODAY

Colorado native David Bote gets chance to make MLB debut in home state after Cubs place Ben Zobrist on DL

Ahead of Saturday's game in Colorado, the Cubs placed Ben Zobrist on the 10-day disabled list with back tightness and called up David Bote, who is set to make his MLB debut in his native Colorado.

Zobrist missed the last three games and weather postponements mean he hasn't played since April 14. The 36-year-old is hitting .326 with a homer and seven RBIs. He was placed on the DL retroactive to April 18.

Zobrist's injury created an opening for a cool story for Bote. The 25-year-old was drafted by the Cubs in 2012 and hasn't exactly lit up the minors, but worked his way onto the 40-man roster after the 2017 season ended.

Bote is from Colorado and is in the lineup for Saturday's game at the Rockies. That means he will get to make his big league debut in his home state.

Bote was hitting .234 in Triple-A Iowa with a .511 slugging percentage.