'Bash Brothers' 2.0: Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo will drive Cubs


'Bash Brothers' 2.0: Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo will drive Cubs

Cubs fans can dream about Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo hitting back-to-back homers for the next six-plus years.

Theo Epstein’s front office has Bryant and Rizzo under control through the 2021 season. That covers Bryant’s age-23 through age-29 seasons. Rizzo won’t turn 30 until a few weeks after the 2019 All-Star Game. The rest of the National League will have to get used to this.

“(Rizzo) jokes around, like: This is ‘The Bash Brothers,’” Bryant said before Tuesday’s 6-1 win over the New York Mets at Wrigley Field. “We have fun with it. He’s just a good guy for me to learn from and watch how he goes about his business. I’m definitely having a whole lot of fun with him so far.”

Bryant and Rizzo won’t have the same attitude as Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire from those steroid-fueled Oakland A’s teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They’re way too polite, not edgy enough, more like family-friendly Disney characters. It even sounded like Rizzo — who was born in 1989 — actually might have been making a reference to “The Mighty Ducks.”

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Bryant almost hit for the cycle against the Mets, with the 6-foot-5 slugger hustling for an infield single, showing off his speed with a triple and crushing a ball that left fans in the left-field bleachers scrambling for the souvenir.

Bryant certainly isn’t one-dimensional. His long strides beat the throw from Mets third baseman Daniel Murphy with two outs in the third inning. The Cubs didn’t score during that sequence, but it forced 22-year-old flamethrower Noah Syndergaard to throw 18 extra pitches during his major-league debut.

“Any groundball I hit, I’m going to run as hard as I can,” Bryant said. “That’s something I can control. I believe that if you play the game the right way, it treats you the right way back. That’s how I approach the game. That’s how I always play.”

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The Cubs are definitely feeling The Bryant Effect.

“He’s a baseball player, man,” manager Joe Maddon said “That’s the thing right there. That’s what you want. You want baseball players, a guy that plays the whole game, understands the concepts of offense and defense.

“The home runs are beautiful. Whatever. But how about the pick at third base? That was a great play. You’re talking about (how) that’s the second time he’s beat out a routine groundball in a week.

“He’s hit balls very far. But it’s a baseball player. Everybody’s always just talking about this guy as though he’s just a power hitter. Whatever. He’s a baseball player and a really good one.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get a Kris Bryant jersey right here]

Bryant is heating up after not hitting a home run in his first 91 major-league plate appearances, homering in three of his last four games.

“They’re still trying to get the book on him,” Rizzo said, “how you can get him out, where he’s hot, where he’s cold. I just keep telling him: Keep taking those walks.

“If you keep going up there having quality at-bats, like he’s doing, good things are going to come out of it.”

All this the night after Bryant and Rizzo hit back-to-back homers into the bleachers off Jacob deGrom, the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, which set the tone in the first inning of a 4-3 victory over the first-place Mets.

At a time when offense is down throughout the game, the Cubs have hoarded power hitters. Bryant led minor-league baseball with 43 homers last year. Rizzo doesn’t look satisfied with one All-Star selection, putting up a 1.055 OPS so far this season. Maybe this could be Bash Brothers 2.0.

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening


Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

Is this the offseason that Cubs executive Jason McLeod finally becomes an MLB general manager?

According to Bruce Levine, the Giants are reportedly interested in McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development, for their vacant general manager position.

McLeod joined the Cubs' front office in 2011 alongside Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Before the Cubs, he spent six years in the Red Sox front office and two in the Padres' (with Hoyer, who was San Diego's general manager from 2010-2011). 

Of course, the Giants' reported interest in McLeod doesn't necessarily mean that he will interview for the job. However, it's worth noting that McLeod interviewed for the Twins' general manager job in 2016; he also withdrew his name from consideration for the Padres' general manager job in 2014. 

In addition to the Giants, McLeod's name has been linked to the Mets' general manager vacancy. This is more speculation, but the point is that it seems to be only a matter of time before McLeod is hired as general manager elsewhere.

For what it's worth, though, McLeod is under contract through 2021 and has previously said that he is grateful to be with the Cubs. 

“I’m exceptionally grateful,” McLeod said. “All of us are. Look at where we are at this moment in time with this team," McLeod said in 2016. "I can’t imagine a better environment, a better culture to work at in baseball.

"We’ve been together a long time. We’re friends. We’re good. We embrace the fact that we are good. And we challenge ourselves to be even better.”

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

The Cubs are heading into a new season with a different hitting coach for the second straight winter, but the most recent choice is a familiar face.

Anthony Iapoce is set to join Joe Maddon's coaching staff this week after serving in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers for the last three seasons. The Cubs confirmed the move Monday afternoon shortly after the news broke out of the Rangers camp.

The Cubs fired Chili Davis last week after just one season as the team's hitting coach.

Entering the final week of the season, the Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister, leaving Iapoce and the rest of the Texas coaching staff in limbo.

As such, Iapoce is rejoining the Cubs, where he served as a special assistant to the General Manager from 2013-15 focusing on player development, particularly in the hitting department throughout the minor leagues.

Iapoce has familiarity with a bunch of the current star offensive players on the Cubs, from Willson Contreras to Kris Bryant. 

Both Bryant and Contreras endured tough 2018 seasons at the plate, which was a huge reason for the Cubs' underperforming lineup. Bryant's issue was more related to a left shoulder injured suffered in mid-May while Contreras' offensive woes remain a major question mark after the young catcher looked to be emerging as a legitimate superstar entering the campaign.

Getting Contreras back to the hitter that put up 21 homers and 74 RBI in only 117 games in 2017 will be one of the main goals for Iapoce, so the history between the two could be a key.

With the Rangers, Iapoce oversaw an offense that ranked 7th, 9th and 14th in MLB in runs scored over the last three seasons. The decline in offensive production is obviously not a great sign, but the Rangers as a team have fallen off greatly since notching the top seed in the AL playoffs in 2016 with 95 wins only to lose 95 games in 2018, resulting in the change at manager.

Iapoce has worked with an offense backed by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo the last few seasons.

Under Iapoce's tutelage, former top prospect Jurickson Profar shed any notion of a "bust" label and emerged as a budding star at age 25, collecting 61 extra-base hits with a .793 OPS in 2018.

When the Cubs let Davis go last week, they provided no update on assistant hitting coach Andy Haines, who just finished his first season in that role and is expected to remain with the team for 2019. The same offseason Iapoce left for the Rangers, Haines took over as the Cubs' minor league hitting instructor.