Cubs

Cubs don’t see any winners in White Sox vs. Adam LaRoche

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Cubs don’t see any winners in White Sox vs. Adam LaRoche

MESA, Ariz. — There are no winners in the showdown between the White Sox and Adam LaRoche.

After a very good offseason that might have turned them into playoff contenders, the White Sox are dealing with the kind of drama and distractions that led to the Ozzie Guillen-Kenny Williams breakup.   

And after a very good career representing a prominent baseball family, LaRoche will be most remembered for walking away from $13 million because the White Sox wouldn’t give his kid unrestricted access to the clubhouse.   

What if the White Sox won 97 games last year and LaRoche was coming off an All-Star season?

We’ll never know the answer to that question — or exactly what happened inside the clubhouse — but this strange spring-training story doesn’t really have any heroes or villains. Only shades of gray.

[RELATED: Report: Upset White Sox players considered boycotting game after Adam LaRoche retirement]

“I don’t think it would have been an issue if he drove in 100 and hit 25,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said Thursday at Sloan Park. “Like (LaRoche) normally does. It’s a shame.”

“Success cures a lot of problems, right?” veteran catcher David Ross said. “When things aren’t going well, unfortunately, in just about every business, you start to look and you nitpick where you can maybe clean up areas.”

Rizzo doesn’t have any children, but he goes out of his way to hang out and joke around with the kids in the clubhouse, spending time with Ross’ son, Cole. Rizzo also helped first base coach Brandon Hyde’s son, Colton, become sort of a team mascot/lucky charm when the Cubs got hot last summer and surged into the playoffs.

“It’s a dream for me to be able to have my son here hanging out,” Rizzo said. “I don’t think you need to draw a line, to be honest. Obviously, if all 25 guys are bringing in their kids and it’s a zoo and it’s a circus, then you get together as a group and police it.

“If there’s someone in here causing a ruckus, I’m sure guys (would) police it on their own. But for him to be allowed to go in there – and then all of a sudden can’t – is just bizarre.”

By all accounts, Drake, LaRoche’s 14-year-old son, wasn’t the issue, acting respectful and knowing his place inside the clubhouse. It’s also easy to understand why the White Sox wouldn’t necessarily want every moment to be bring-your-kid-to-work day.

“I feel bad for both sides,” said Ross, who briefly played with LaRoche on the Atlanta Braves in 2009. “I’ve had my son here the last two days. I cherish that. I don’t take that for granted. It’s a special thing. It is a game, but it’s also a workplace.

“My family is way more important than my job (and) sometimes you got to make decisions about your core values. And I think Adam made his decisions on what his core values were, what’s important to him in life. More power to him.

“But the White Sox are running a business (and) they make the rules. We don’t make the rules. If I made the rules, this would be a crazy place.”

[MORE CUBS: Joe Maddon expects Cubs to police their own clubhouse]

Are the White Sox making up the rules as they go along? As executive vice president, did Williams also speak for others within the organization bothered by the LaRoche arrangement? Was there a handshake agreement? 

“If I had a year under my belt with an organization and my son was allowed in — and all of a sudden he wasn’t — I would have a problem with it,” Ross said. “For sure.”

“If there’s a policy in place, you understand and you respect it,” Rizzo said. “But just to come out of the blue – I can’t grasp that.”

Ross acknowledged the Boston Red Sox needed to set some ground rules at Fenway Park, but described it as a one-meeting deal. Adam Warren – who pitched in The Bronx the last three seasons – never noticed any issues with the New York Yankees.

“I love seeing the kids,” Warren said, “because I can see myself having a son one day in here, looking up to their dad. I just think that’s really neat. I know what kind of dad I want to be when I have kids. I want to be very involved with them. I look up to guys who have them in here and respect that.”  

LaRoche can afford to retire at the age of 36 after earning more than $70 million in The Show. Friday’s Cubs-Sox game at Camelback Ranch just got a lot more interesting. 

“At the end of the day, you give your heart and soul to this game,” Ross said. “You do sacrifice a lot when it comes to family for this game. There comes a point in time when you’re tired of sacrificing for your job.”

A messy night at Wrigley Field ends without a pitch being thrown

A messy night at Wrigley Field ends without a pitch being thrown

The NLCS rematch will have to wait another day.

Mother Nature and the power at Wrigley Field care not for your excitement about a "big series" between the Cubs and Dodgers.

Thunderstorms rolled over the North Side of Chicago, where the Dodgers ended the Cubs' postseason run 8 months ago. 

On top of that, the power at Wrigley Field was not cooperating with the lights down the right field line going out for hours during the rain delay. 

The lights came back on at one point before again going out again roughly a half hour before Monday night's game was officially called. After a delay stretching almost three hours, word finally filtered out just before 10 p.m. the game would be postponed a day.

The Cubs and Dodgers will make the game up as part of a day-night doubleheader Tuesday at Wrigley Field with the first game starting at 12:05 p.m. and the second at the regularly scheduled time of 7:05 p.m. Tyler Chatwood will start the first game for the Cubs with Mike Montgomery slated to go Game 2.

As of 10 p.m. Monday night, the Cubs were unsure what caused the power issue at Wrigley Field but were working on fixing the problem ahead of Tuesday's scheduled doubleheader.

The evening started with the tarp being rolled onto the field by the Cubs grounds crew roughly an hour before scheduled first pitch with a forecast calling for a 100 percent chance of rain.

Only a light rain fell until a downpour began around 8:15 p.m.:

That lasted only about a half hour before the grounds crew came back out around 8:45 p.m. to partially remove the tarp and attempt to get the field ready to play.

The only issue at that point was the light and a sinister forecast.

"It takes 45 minutes to get the field ready to play," said Julian Green, Cubs director of communications. "So once you take that tarp off, you saw them putting the chalk lines down, getting ready.

"We wanted to be ready — even in the face of rain — if the lights came back on, we wanted to make sure we could play baseball, even if it was a limited window of opportunity."

As of 11 p.m., that second bout of rain had yet to materialize, but the lights issue also wasn't corrected and play on the field would've been impossible.

Fans lingered throughout the stadium for nearly three hours before an official conclusion came down. The Cubs kept the same announcement on the right field video board about the weather delay while the left field video board displayed the Brewers-Pirates and other MLB games.

This is the only trip to Chicago the Dodgers make throughout the 2018 season so the two teams and Major League Baseball did all they could to try to get a game in and avoid any issue where these two teams would have to play on a mutual off-day later in the year. 

The Cubs were in the midst of a stretch of 17 games in 17 days without a day off. They're still on that same schedule, though now with an unexpected day off Monday and a doubleheader Tuesday.

The Cubs are no stranger to postponements this season as wacky weather has continued to hamper this MLB season.

"Not only for the Chicago Cubs, but Chicago in general, this has been a really interesting spring and summer season," Green said. "We're taking our licks just like everybody else is.

"Our plan is to play baseball tomorrow and make sure we can accomodate fans as best as possible. So fans who have tickets to tonight's game will be able to use them for tomorrow."

How the Cubs are trying to help Kris Bryant out of his slump

How the Cubs are trying to help Kris Bryant out of his slump

Whatever Kris Bryant does from here, it's just frosting on the cake that is his legacy.

That's one way to look at the lasting impact of a guy like Bryant, who morphed from "The Chosen One" as the No. 2 overall pick. He's lived up to the hype from Day 1, has a Rookie of the Year and NL MVP Award in his trophy case and — most importantly of all — led the Cubs to their first World Series championship in 108 years.

A slump in May and June of 2018 won't tarnish that legacy.

But you can also forgive Cubs fans if they're growing a little antsy with their stud player. 

Just rest easy that he's growing a little antsy, too.

After chronicling his "temper tantrums" and actually admitting he gets so angry he is prone to breaking bats in frustration (still find that really hard to believe) last week, Bryant still isn't quite over his slump.

Maybe he's just simply trying to do too much right now.

"Kris is fine," Jon Lester said. "I mean, I think anytime you have a guy like that, he's got such high expectations not only of himself but the other people outside of the baseball world.

"I think he feels that — he feels pressure from his teammates, he feels pressure from himself and he wants to perform and he wants to do well every night. When he doesn't, it seems like he just keeps adding on. The rock on his back gets a little bigger every time."

As recently as May 22, Bryant was hitting .303 with a 1.007 OPS.

But since then — a span of 21 games — he's hitting just .241 with a .316 on-base percentage and .310 slugging percentage, good for a .627 OPS. More alarming than anything, he's struck out 28 times in 87 at-bats, taking a step back in the area he has made the most improvement in since breaking into the league in 2015.

The power has been an issue for even longer. Bryant just recently went a month without a homer before sending one into the bleachers Friday night at Busch Stadium.

Still, since May 15, he has only 8 extra-base hits (7 doubles and that 1 homer) in 27 games.

The struggle is real right now, but that hasn't stopped the Cubs from going 17-11 during Bryant's dip in power.

GM Jed Hoyer reiterated again that Bryant is the last guy the Cubs worry about in the big picture.

"The way he runs the bases, the way he plays defense, I feel like he's contributing to wins even when he might be struggling at the plate a little bit," Hoyer said Monday evening. "With guys like him, I always look at it and think to myself — that means a hot streak is right around the corner.

"I said that about Anthony [Rizzo] in April when he was struggling and he's been great since May 1. I think Kris will have the same kind of turnaraound. With him, it's just a matter of when he breaks out.

"Over the course of the season, every great player goes through one or two big slumps. We're in a strange sport where even the greatest players are not slump-proof. He'll get out of it and we'll all reap the benefits when he does."

Even with the struggles, Bryant ranks 23rd among position players in WAR (Fangraphs) with 2.3, pacing the Cubs in that category. That still puts him on pace for a roughly 6-WAR pace, which would be his lowest throughout his MLB career but is still very clearly elite.

In an effort to get him back to the "KB" we've seen so much over the last four years, Joe Maddon has twice resorted to bumping him to the top of the lineup, including Monday night's game against the Dodgers.

Maddon is hoping a move to the leadoff spot will reinstill in Bryant's head that he doesn't need to be a power hitter to help the team win.

For right now, it works. After all, Bryant is still tied for 9th in baseball in OBP (.389). 

"You really do start trying too hard," Maddon said. "You try to force things as opposed to letting them come to you. Especially a power guy that's not hit home runs in a bit. My take on power guys is that it normally is cyclical. They'll get it for a while, then they'll get away with it, then it comes back."

Like Hoyer, Maddon talked up Bryant's abilities as a "winning player" in every other area of the game even when he's not going yard. That includes his daily hustle and effort.

"When a guy like him goes through this moment, I want him to focus on that — not homers," Maddon said. "He probably hears that way too much about the power situation and I'm really not interested in that. 

"Put him back in the leadoff spot for the reasons I just said — he can help win a game in so many different ways and I want him to just focus on that. ... He needs our support; he's gonna get it. I just put him in that top spot to readjust how he's thinking and that's all."