Cubs

Cubs benched Jorge Soler several times in 2016 for lack of hustle

Cubs benched Jorge Soler several times in 2016 for lack of hustle

When the Cubs traded Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals for elite closer Wade Davis, it was easy for the Chicago fanbase to understand why.

After all, everybody saw the importance of relief pitching throughout the course of the 2016 postseason and there simply wouldn't be enough playing time to go around in a crowded Cubs outfield in 2017.

But Jason McLeod gave the fans a little peek behind the curtain Sunday in the final session of Cubs Convention 2017.

McLeod — the senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting — answered a fan's question about players not hustling by revealing the Cubs benched Soler several times in 2016 for a lack of hustle.

"Coaches get on guys all the time. There are a few times throughout the year where a player will get pulled out of the game," McLeod said. "This is not trying to harp on 'Georgie' at all, but he got yanked a couple of times last year for not hustling out to the outfield, for not running down the line."

McLeod said Cubs bench coach Davey Martinez and third base coach Gary Jones had discussions with Soler after such incidents and manager Joe Maddon handled it in his own way, too.

"I don't know if Joe [has conversations with players like that] so much, but Joe makes the decision" McLeod said. "And Joe's style is not gonna go up and blow somebody up, especially in the dugout, on TV. But yeah, those conversations do take place."

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Soler was a major talking point after not hustling out of the box during the Cubs' 1-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians in Game 3 of the World Series.

Soler hit a slicing fly ball down the right field line that Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall misplayed. Soler still finished with a triple (and was subsequently stranded on third base), but some fans were frustrated he didn't score on the play with an inside-the-park home run.

Maddon emphatically backed Soler in discussions with the media, saying there's no way Soler would've scored on the play. Soler wasn't in the starting lineup for Game 4 of the World Series, but Maddon pointed to Jason Heyward's defense in right field as the reason for that, not Soler's baserunning.

Soler has also struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, dealing with myriad leg injuries since signing with the Cubs in June 2012 as an international free agent.

He has averaged only 87 games per year (between both the majors and minors) in his four full seasons of professional baseball and the 108 games he appeared in in 2016 was a new high mark despite missing essentially two months with a hamstring issue.

But baserunning is a huge point of contention for Maddon, the coaching staff and the Cubs front office.

"One of Joe's biggest mottos is 'Respect 90,'" McLeod said, referencing Maddon's slogan that is also the name of his foundation. "We have that spray-painted on all our minor-league deals in spring training. We can't do it during the regular season, but it is a constant conversation.

"It's constant in the player development plan. Every single person in whatever realm of life that you're in, whatever occupation you're in, you can control your effort and you can give your best effort and that's what that's all about.

"Unfortunately, the reality is, especially when you're watching major-league games, a lot of guys don't do that. The other unfortunate reality is you're not gonna yank your best player out of the game with the stakes that are being played for at the major-league level.

"... I can assure you in the minor leagues, we pull guys out all the time. If they're dogging it down the line, I don't care who it is, they're out of the game. So that's being addressed. And it goes back to a culture thing: Taking pride, 'The Cubs Way,' all these things that we talk about."

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Have the Cubs turned the corner?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Have the Cubs turned the corner?

Hub Arkush, David Schuster and Mark Grote join Kap on the panel.

0:00- The Cubs sweep the Marlins and have won 7 of their last 10. Have they finally turned the corner?

8:00- The White Sox keep playing but the controversy surrounding Tim Anderson's bat-flip-heard-round-the-world continues. Does baseball need to lighten up or does Anderson deserve some blame?

14:30- The guys remember Chet Coppock. The "Godfather of Sports Talk Radio" died at the age of 70.

18:00- Carlos Zambrano drops by the studio. He talks to Kap about his comeback with the Chicago Dogs, his thoughts on the Cubs winning it all and his hopes to once again pitch in the majors.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast: Carlos Zambrano drops in & a statistical deep-dive with Chris Kamka

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Carlos Zambrano drops in & a statistical deep-dive with Chris Kamka

Luke Stuckmeyer and Chris Kamka go through some fun and perhaps meaningful numbers through the Cubs' first 17 games, including good trends for the starting pitching and puzzling numbers for Kris Bryant & Anthony Rizzo (1:30). Then, David Kaplan catches up with former Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano, who discusses his comeback attempt with the Chicago Dogs, his accomplishments while he pitched for the Cubs, and his newfound commitment to his faith (10:30).

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: