Cubs

Will Cubs staff shakeup put the heat on Joe Maddon?

Will Cubs staff shakeup put the heat on Joe Maddon?

Joe Maddon likes to quote Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State and retired four-star general, even on a conference call where he essentially admits that he lied to the Chicago media, and by extension Cubs coaches and their families.

Maddon also basically doubled down on Thursday and said he would do the same thing all over again, the focus shifting away from the decorated new hitting coach (Chili Davis) and the third base coach with a great resume (Brian Butterfield). But the Cubs manager might want to remember Powell’s Pottery Barn Rule: You break it, you own it.

That’s one way to read the coaching changes announced eight days after Maddon said “of course” he wanted his entire staff back next season. There are only so many places left to shift blame when the pitching (Chris Bosio) and hitting (John Mallee) coaches get fired after being part of the teams that won last year’s World Series and made three straight trips to the National League Championship Series.

Maddon gave the vote of confidence during a session with beat writers before an elimination game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field, where he sat in his office and completely dismissed the idea of a reunion with Jim Hickey,his longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who will now be Bosio's replacement.

“Well, I was asked a really awkward question at a tough time when we’re in the playoffs,” Maddon said. “I thought that was the only way I could respond to it, because I did not want to negatively impact the room. That’s it. There’s no other way to describe it.

“If you put yourself in my position having to answer that question during the playoffs — if I had answered it any differently — I thought that would have really caused a lot of concern in the coaches’ room when we have a lot of stuff going on.

“So it’s just a tough situation to be in, question-wise. Would I have answered it differently? I don’t necessarily think so, based on the explanation I just gave you, because it’s really difficult to have your coaches read something less than that in the situation where you’re in the middle of the playoffs.”

That’s Cub. Maddon has been a big-league manager for 12 straight years, a job that requires him to do hundreds of media briefings each season, an area where he excels selling an organization’s vision.

Maddon easily could have given the non-answers: “We’re trying to win tonight. That’s offseason stuff. We’re still focused on winning a World Series. That’s also up to the boys in the front office, and our guys might have some good opportunities somewhere else.”

Two days later, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein did his year-end press conference in a Wrigley Field stadium club, where the wrong answer would have made it look like he kneecapped Maddon once the changes happened. So Epstein said: “Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back.”

“This is about all of us,” Maddon said. “We get together, we make decisions as a group. It’s not unilateral. Theo just doesn’t dictate to me, and of course I’m never going to do that to him or (general manager) Jed (Hoyer) or Mr. (Tom) Ricketts.

“When you sit down, you have discussions, and there’s going to be differences of opinion. But at the end, I’ve talked about this before and I’ve quoted Colin Powell: ‘You give your best advice and then you give your strongest loyalty.’

“You discuss. You argue. You disagree. But at the end of the day, you come to a conclusion. And once you’ve done that, you move it forward, and you move it forward as a group. Never, never individually. It’s about all of us, man. It’s about making us better.

“Don’t ever be deceived that it’s ever one guy. It’s never the manager’s seat that does all of this stuff. That’s back to the days of the 60s and the 70s, primarily, and sometimes into the 80s. We work together. We work as a group.”

This could actually refocus and reenergize Maddon, who didn’t have any answers when the uber-talented-on-paper Cubs hit the All-Star break with a 43-45 record and a 5.5-game deficit in the division and Epstein kept talking about how the team didn’t play with enough edge.

A widely respected hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox the last three seasons, Davis carved out a 19-year playing career that featured three World Series rings and three All-Star selections and overlapped with Maddon while he coached for the California Angels.

Beginning with the 2013 World Series year, Butterfield spent the last five seasons with the Red Sox, overseeing infield instruction and base running and developing a strong reputation for high energy and attention to detail.

“They are definitely force multipliers,” Maddon said, quoting Powell again. “These are definitely impact coaches.”

Given this much change, do you feel like the onus is now on you to set a new direction and win another World Series?

“Of course not,” Maddon said. “It’s about the team. We’re all a spoke in the wheel, whatever you want to call it. I think we’ve done pretty well over the last three years, actually. First World Series in 108 years, I’ll take it. Three times to the Championship Series in the last three years, I’ll take it. And if we start looking past that as not being successful, then we have to reevaluate how we look at the world in general.

“So, no, this is not just about me. It’s never just about me. It’s about all of us. This is about the Cubs moving forward, and we think that these new coaches can absolutely help take us to another level and get us back to the World Series again. But by no means am I denigrating the coaches that are leaving.”

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: