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."

Joe Girardi steps down as manager for Olympic qualifying team to pursue MLB openings

Joe Girardi steps down as manager for Olympic qualifying team to pursue MLB openings

Joe Girardi’s name has come up for just about every managerial opening in Major League Baseball and it sounds like he is all in on pursuing that opportunity.

Girardi was set to manage USA Baseball’s Olympic qualifying team. He was named the manager of Team USA in August. His first tournament was going to be the upcoming Premier12 tournament, which is the first chance to qualify for the Olympics. Camp was set to begin on Oct. 21 and the U.S.’s first game is Nov. 2.

Instead, Girardi has stepped down. USA Baseball broke the news with a press release that announced Scott Brosius, a former teammate of Girardi’s on the Yankees, will take over.

The reason is the interesting part. He stepped down “as he pursues open managerial opportunities in Major League Baseball.”

At the very least, it sounds like Girardi is interested in at least one of the openings in MLB. He interviewed with the Cubs last week so this won't quell any speculation that he would come back to the North Side as a manager.

David Ross may still be the odds on favorite to fill the Cubs’ vacancy, but Girardi’s apparent interest in rejoining the ranks of MLB managers is certainly noteworthy. One would think if Girardi wants to get back into managing in MLB, at this indicates, he will get a job. Now the question is where he will land.

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Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Barring a Cubs-Angels World Series, the Wrigley Field faithful might not have much of an opportunity to welcome Joe Maddon back to The Friendly Confines.

It didn't take long for Maddon to find a job, as he reportedly agreed this week to join the Los Angeles Angels as their next manager. This was a widely speculated move after the Angels let go of manager Brad Ausmus just one year into a three-year contract immediately after the Cubs announced they were parting ways with Maddon. 

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers, Maddon's deal will likely be for three years at $4-5 million a season:

Maddon came up as a coach in the Angels system, referencing his three decades there often during the course of his five years in Chicago.

Once the Cubs got rid of Maddon, it was obvious he would have plenty of suitors, as just about any team with a managerial vacancy would be interested in the future Hall of Famer. But instead of going to an up-and-coming team like the Padres or a squad on the cusp of the playoffs like the Phillies, Maddon opted to return to his baseball home.

That means he will most likely not face off against the Cubs over the next couple of seasons, as the Cubs hosted the Angels in 2019 and are not slated to play each other again until 2021 (which will take place in L.A.). Barring the aforementioned World Series meeting, Maddon and the Cubs likely won’t cross paths in Chicago for the next few seasons.

It also means Maddon will get to team up with the best player in the game (Mike Trout) and an exciting young two-way star (Shohei Ohtani) while inheriting a roster that otherwise has some major flaws. The Angels have struggled to build up a roster around Trout over his nine seasons, making the playoffs just once in 2014 and getting bounced from the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals that season.

But the Angels do have some intriguing prospects coming up the system — led by outfielder Jo Adell — and Maddon has experience taking a team and elevating them to contender status immediately. He also carries immediate clout that will help draw free agents to L.A., as he did in Chicago with Jon Lester.

Maddon will be reunited with former Cubs fan favorite Tommy La Stella, who was starring for the Angels earlier this season before a leg injury sent him to the shelf for several months.

In many ways, this is an ideal fit for Maddon, who will get to stay in a big market with a team willing to spend and a roster that at least has some incredible talent from Day 1. It would obviously be a difficult task to try to overtake the juggernaut Houston Astros in the AL West, but he accomplished a similar feat in Chicago when he led the Cubs past the Cardinals in Year 1 (and kept the Cards out of the playoffs for the next three years until their return to October baseball this fall).

The Cubs, meanwhile, have not yet announced a new manager, though David Ross still looms as the favorite to take over Maddon's former gig. Theo Epstein's front office interviewed Mark Loretta, Will Venable, Joe Girardi and Ross earlier this month and also planned to talk to Joe Espada and Gabe Kapler this week.

Epstein said the Cubs are "full speed ahead" to hire a new manager, so expect them to move quickly to finalize Maddon's heir.