Davey Martinez makes his pitch to keep Bryce Harper in D.C. — and away from the Cubs

Davey Martinez makes his pitch to keep Bryce Harper in D.C. — and away from the Cubs

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Davey Martinez finally has his dream job of running a Major League Baseball team.

And he wasted no time in petitioning for Bryce Harper to remain in Washington D.C. next year...and not joining forces with hometown buddy Kris Bryant.

"Can I lobby for him right now?" Martinez asked reporters at the MLB Winter Meetings Monday morning. 

Harper becomes a free agent at the end of the 2018 season and Cubs fans have been dreaming about a possible Las Vegas reunion between the 2015 NL MVP and the 2016 NL MVP in 2019 and beyond. Martinez, on the other hand, hopes he gets to work with Harper for "a lot of years" with the Nationals.

Martinez also stayed true to his roots and asked Maddon for advice on managing. Martinez served as Maddon's bench coach for the last three years with the Cubs and the two were paired together in the same capacity from 2008-14 with the Rays in Tampa Bay.

As he met with the media as the new skipper of the Nationals, Martinez relayed Maddon's words of advice:

"He told me, 'Be yourself. You know what you're doing; you've been around a while. Have fun with it,'" Martinez said.

Maddon's two pillars of counsel included:

1. Be yourself
2. Don't be afraid to try things

That advice is right on par with Maddon's style, as he and Martinez have worked to create a clubhouse with the Cubs where players feel free and comfortable to be who they are as players and as people. 

And of course Maddon has rarely backed down from a crazy, half-baked idea, famously putting pitchers in the outfield, hitting pitchers eighth, bringing in magicians to the clubhouse and any number of off-the-wall concepts.

Martinez — who was drafted by the Cubs as a player in the third round in 1983 and spent seven years in Chicago as a player (four with the Cubs, three with the White Sox) — has been interviewing for managerial jobs for the better part of the last decade, but now finally gets his chance with the team the Cubs knocked out of the playoffs just two months ago.

"I really believe this feels right," Martinez said. "It feels lucky to be part of a winning organization. This is the moment and I'm going to embrace it. I can't wait to get to spring training and get started."

Cubs adding catching depth that may help them out in the Yu Darvish sweepstakes


Cubs adding catching depth that may help them out in the Yu Darvish sweepstakes

Chris Gimenez, come on down.

The 35-year-old catcher isn't exactly a household name, but he's been signed by the Cubs to add backstop depth, according to Chris Cotillo and Ken Rosenthal:

The Cubs didn't have much depth in the catching department beyond Willson Contreras and inexperienced rookie Victor Caratini and while Gimenez doesn't light up the stat column, he's a link to Yu Darvish that could give the Cubs a unique advantage in that domain:

Darvish and Gimenez played together with the Texas Rangers in 2014-15 (though Darvish was hurt in 2015) and Gimenez has been shedding some light on what the free-agent pitcher may be thinking this winter. Is this Part II of a David Ross-Jon Lester personal catcher situation?

That may be reading a bit too much into things, as the Cubs were always going to sign a veteran catcher to provide depth beyond the unproven Caratini. They saw how important that was in 2017 when Alex Avila spent roughly a month as the starter when Contreras was hurt.

The link between Gimenez and Darvish is real, but the frontline starter has also made 48 starts over the last two seasons while throwing to a catcher not named Gimenez. And the free agent catching market is pretty thin beyond Avila and Jonathan Lucroy, both of whom should earn starter's money or close to it.

Gimenez has played 361 games in the big leagues over the last nine seasons as a journeyman, with stops in Cleveland, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Texas, Cleveland (again), Texas (again), Cleveland (again) and then Minnesota last year. He played for Cubs manager Joe Maddon and new pitching coach Jim Hickey while in Tampa Bay.

Gimenez turned in a career season in 2017 with the Twins, notching new highs in games played (74), at-bats (186), runs (28), hits (41), homers (7), RBI (16) and walks (33).

He has a career .218 batting average with a .309 on-base percentage, .345 slugging and .654 OPS. 

But Gimenez isn't just a catcher. He's made nine appearances as a pitcher over the last few years, including six in 2017, where he allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings.

Gimenez will probably compete with Caratini for the backup catcher role in Chicago and can lend a veteran presence. He's also the best bet to take for first position player to pitch in a game in 2018.

Reliving the magic of Nacho Man

Reliving the magic of Nacho Man

There have been so many memorable baseball moments between the Cubs and Cardinals throughout the years. 

In 1958, Stan  Musial collected his 3,000th hit at Wrigley.  

There was the “Sandberg Game” — June of 1984, where Ryne Sandberg hit a pair of home runs off Cardinals closer Bruce Sutter.

Skip ahead to 2008, when Ted Lilly collided with Yadier Molina at home plate during a game at Busch Stadium. Few could forget that.

Just a few years ago, Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch in what the Cubs viewed as retaliation, so Joe Maddon dropped the Soprano reference: “We don’t start stuff, but we will stop stuff.”

And last season, there was Addison Russell’s run-in with Nacho Man, which is likely to go down as the only collision to bring the two rival fanbases together.

It was something I witnessed firsthand. Sitting next to the Cubs dugout on the third base side in Busch Stadium that night, the play transpired so quickly it was tough to see from my vantage point.  As he often did, Russell broke backward for the foul ball and started sprinting towards the wall in left. I could tell from the crowd reaction that the Cubs shortstop didn’t make the play, but I could see that he was slow to get back to his position. It was about this time that the video board in center field showed the replay of Russell diving into the stands and crashing into a Cardinals fan who had lost his full plate of nachos.

Russell had nacho cheese all over his arm and I heard the dugout yelling, “Get him a towel! Grab a towel!”  As Russell wiped the cheese off his arm, a few of the coaches next to me were collaborating on a way to get some new nachos for the man. Within minutes, a tray of nachos were delivered to Dave Martinez — the Cubs' bench coach at the time — and later passed along to Russell. In between innings, the often-reserved infielder made amends by bringing out another order of nachos and taking a selfie with Nacho Man.

"Normally I don't do that, but being the case of me being nacho'd all over — my cleats even — I was like, 'you know what, why not?'" Russell said after the game. "A once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Within minutes, the video of this exchange went viral. Both myself and Jim Hayes of Fox Sports Midwest set out to get our in-game interview with Andrew Gudermuth, the Nacho Man. Not exactly hard-hitting journalism, but it was entertaining nonetheless and boy did Gudermuth enjoy his 15 minutes of fame.  

“I came to catch a foul ball, but instead I caught a Russell,” he joked.  

Which to be more accurate, Gudermuth’s poor girlfriend actually “caught a Russell.” If you watch the replay, she took the brunt of the hit, but what a good sport!

No doubt, an unforgettable night for all involved, and one that proved that one thing can bring Cubs & Cardinals fans together — nachos!