Cubs

Braun news could have big effect on baseball

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Braun news could have big effect on baseball

Saturday's news that NL MVP Ryan Braun's performance-enhancing drug test came up positive has turned the baseball world upside down. Very much like when Alex Rodriguez ultimately admitted to steroid usage back in 2009.

I won't sit here and say Braun is for sure guilty, because he's not. Innocent until proven guilty. That's how America works, right?

But either way, Braun's name and good image are being dragged through the mud. He may not have been for baseball what Tim Tebow has been for the NFL, but he was pretty darn close. The Brewers have utilized their outfielder's popularity to help promote the team and the city while the league has been quick to have the reigning MVP help pump up the game's image.

Justifiably so, I might add. Up until about 24 hours ago, Braun seemed like one of the best people in baseball.

Now that this news has come out, however, it could change the entire game. Baseball was supposed to be the cleanest professional sport and the new CBAs were supposed to do more to get the game even cleaner. The league has been doing its best to try to rid the sport of all performance-enhancing drugs.

And then the MVP gets busted. That doesn't look good. At this point, maybe the only person that could help make the game look worse than Braun just has is Albert Pujols, what, after his quarter-of-a-billion-dollar contract and all the attention he received after leading the Cardinals on the most improbable of improbable playoff runs that culminated into a World Series win in St. Louis.

Al Yellon over at SBNation has a great column examining the impact Braun's test has had -- and could have -- on the game.

My question is, how did it even get here? How was Braun so careless as to even find himself in this position? Professional athletes -- especially baseball players -- should never put anything into their body without checking and double-checking with the team's training staff that it won't make them test positive in PEDs.

It's either carelessness or ignorance on Braun's part that he even tested positive, whether he is actually guilty or not. Either way, he makes himself and the game look bad.

This saga isn't over and likely won't be anytime soon. But it's important to watch closely as both Cubs fans and baseball fans. Whichever way it goes, the ruling will have a big effect on the game and the Brewers. If Milwaukee is without their best player and Prince Fielder does indeed leave town like all are assuming, it will be an awfully wide-open NL Central that will already be without Albert Pujols.

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

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USA TODAY

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.