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."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 10th, 11th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 10th, 11th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa is heating up, but even a red-hot Sosa doesn't automatically equal wins for the Cubs.

Slammin' Sammy notched his first multi-homer game in 1998 in a 9-5 loss to Kevin Millwood and the Atlanta Braves. Sosa drove in 4 of the Cubs' 5 runs on a solo shot in the 4th inning and a three-run shot in the 8th. 

Sosa tallied 830 feet of homers in the game, with his first blast going 410 feet and the second shot measured at 420 feet.

The big game bumped Sosa's overall season slash line to .337/.411/.551 (.962 OPS) with 11 homers and 35 RBI.

Fun fact: Mickey Morandini hit second for the Cubs in this game and went 4-for-4, but somehow only scored one run despite hitting just in front of Sosa all game. That's because Morandini was caught stealing to end the 3rd inning, leaving Sosa to lead off the 4th inning with a solo blast.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: If Cubs somehow miss the playoffs will Joe Maddon's seat start heating up?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: If Cubs somehow miss the playoffs will Joe Maddon's seat start heating up?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Nick Friedell (ESPN.com) and Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) join David Kaplan on the panel.

The guys discuss Welington Castillo’s 80-game PED suspension, the Cubs struggles and if Joe Maddon could be on the hot seat if the Cubs somehow miss the playoffs in 2018.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: