Ryan Dempster

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

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USA TODAY

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship Series — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, a source confirming the team declined a club contract option for next year and made a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.

How Cubs responded to Brett Anderson’s passive-aggressive shot on Twitter

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USA TODAY

How Cubs responded to Brett Anderson’s passive-aggressive shot on Twitter

PITTSBURGH – The Cubs gave Brett Anderson $3.5 million guaranteed, a clear spot in their rotation and the chance to pitch in front of what had been a historic defensive unit, making him the only guy on the Opening Day roster who hadn’t already earned a World Series ring.

The Cubs got close to a zero return on that investment, but those are the gambles teams take on the free-agent market with talented, injury-prone pitchers, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.

Anderson put up an 8.18 ERA in six starts and accounted for 22 innings before going on the disabled list for the 10th time since 2010. It became out of sight, out of mind as the lefty recovered from another back injury, got designated for assignment in late July and signed a minor-league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.

But Anderson resurfaced Sunday night on Twitter after two decent starts for Toronto – the last-place Blue Jays lost both games – and took a passive-aggressive shot at the Cubs: “It’s crazy what happens when you aren’t tinkered with and can just go out and pitch.”

“I’m happy he’s healthy and he’s pitching,” pitching coach Chris Bosio said before a 12-0 loss Labor Day loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, walking away from a group of reporters in PNC Park’s visiting dugout. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Jake Arrieta had every chance to scream told you so, but he never said anything quite like that when he blossomed into a Cy Young Award winner after a change-of-scenery trade with the Baltimore Orioles. Still, the entire industry noticed how Bosio allowed Arrieta to be himself and worked with the unique crossfire delivery that made him comfortable.

Bosio has sharp edges to his personality – and is still dealing with the recent death of his father – but there is no denying his influence in transforming the Cubs from a last-place team into a championship organization.

Whether it’s helping coach up Kyle Hendricks into a major-league ERA leader – or market trade-deadline chips like Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija – Bosio highlights individual strengths and never believes in a cookie-cutter approach.  

“That’s why I love Twitter so much,” said manager Joe Maddon, who was not aware of Anderson’s post on social media or apparent issues with the staff. “How many characters in Twitter?

“To purvey your thoughts, your deepest, darkest thoughts. That’s what the President does every day, oh my God. You get everything out there in 140 characters, my God, it’s so in depth, it’s so meaningful.”

Maddon repeatedly talked up Anderson in spring training as someone who – if healthy – could perform like a top-of-the-rotation starter. Anderson can also be extremely entertaining on Twitter and refreshingly honest while dealing with the media.  

“When a guy’s going to say something like that, he’s had a tough year,” Maddon said. “God bless him, I hope he comes back. I hope he wins 20 games next year. I mean that sincerely. But when a player has a tough year, it’s on the player.”    

Amid all that optimism in Arizona, Anderson explained how Bosio’s reputation and this pitching infrastructure made the Cubs such an attractive destination to reboot his career.

“It’s one of those things where he’s not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Anderson said after his first Cactus League outing in late February. “It’s more trying to limit the pressure on my back and mild mechanical adjustments where I don’t land on my heel as much – and kind of land on the ball of my foot or my toes – so it’s not such a whiplash effect.

“He’s had a good track record with health, especially the last couple years, and hopefully I can fall in line there, too.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: The fragile nature of pitching and why Ryan Dempster came out of retirement

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AP

Cubs Talk Podcast: The fragile nature of pitching and why Ryan Dempster came out of retirement

Reporting from Cubs camp in Arizona, Patrick Mooney and Tony Andracki break down the fragile nature of pitching and how the Cubs are trying to counteract that, particularly with a guy like Brett Anderson.

Plus, hear from manager Joe Maddon on Anderson and what he brings to the roster, as well as Ryan Dempster's rationale for coming out of retirement to pitch for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic.

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