Cubs

Cubs got their money’s worth with Joe Maddon at the microphone

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Cubs got their money’s worth with Joe Maddon at the microphone

Exactly one year ago, Joe Maddon killed it at The Cubby Bear, immediately talking playoffs, comparing Wrigley Field to a computer-generated scene from “Gladiator” and grabbing the microphone and offering to buy the first round.

The Cubs haven’t been the same since that shot-and-a-beer press conference on Nov. 3, 2014, when Maddon took over a team that had sunk to fifth place for five years in a row, finishing an average of 25 games out of first.

The Cubs won 97 games and two playoff rounds this year, and everyone around the team agreed that doesn’t happen without Maddon’s influence. 

While it might be a stretch to say Maddon misses his daily media sessions before and after every game, he clearly enjoys playing to the cameras and hearing the sound of his own voice. 

Even if there’s an expiration date to Maddon’s act, the Cubs still feel like that deal, which has four years remaining and guarantees at least $25 million over the life of the contract, will go down as a franchise-altering investment. (Compare that to the way the Nationals reportedly lowballed Bud Black and hired Dusty Baker as their fallback option.)      

On Opening Day 2016, the National League will feature at least six new managers from the year before, while a Cubs franchise that had been unstable and dysfunctional will be a trendy pick to win the World Series.

[MORE: Cubs, Royals and the myth/reality of a World Series blueprint]

One year after Maddon sipped a Guinness can at the bar opposite the Wrigley Field marquee, a look back on some of his best material, in the same free-association style that drives his press briefings:

Zen Master

• “I do vibrate on a different frequency, man.”

• “I never want to be dictatorial regarding the way I teach or suggest. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

• “You might have seen the body for a couple years, but the brain has not arrived yet.”

• “You don't have to go to an Ivy League school to overthink it. You could go to a state school, too.”

Bathroom Humor

“One time I overreacted as manager in Midland, Texas, in 1986, when I actually went to a local newsstand and bought newspapers from throughout the country and took the classified ads and pasted them all over my locker room, because I told my players those were your alternatives to not playing baseball well and hard.

“I learned from my own mistake there – had them on the back of the stalls in the bathroom. So the guy would sit down there, and all of a sudden he’d close the door and there would be classified ads in San Antonio.

“I did all that. I was wrong. But as you go forward, I’d never seen an uptight moment be beneficial to any group. Never. Never. So I thought if I ever got an opportunity to do this, I’d really work against that concept.

[RELATED: Cubs enter MLB offseason as 2016 World Series favorites]

“Baseball, you play every day. Football, you have a once-a-week gig. You can go through the whole week and there are different ways to get through the week and a different mindset entirely. In baseball, man, you’ve got to be in the present tense and be tension-free. I learned that, I think, and in a roundabout way.”

Gimmicks  

• (Pajama trip): “It works both ways. If you’ve won, it always makes it even better. And if you’ve lost, it’s kind of like: ‘Let’s put this behind us and let’s move on.’ So I see it as a ‘win-win-win,’ as Michael Scott would say.” 

• (Simon the Magician): “It’s hard to grab a zoo animal on the road. You can do it at the last minute at home. You always have the home connection when it comes to animals. It’s much easier to acquire a magician on the road than it is a 20-foot python. I’ve always felt that way.”

• (Talking to a zoo animal in Wrigley Field’s interview room/dungeon): “My goal is life was to eventually own a bar named ‘The Pink Flamingo.’ If that ever happens, then I’ve made it. And if that ever does happen, Warren’s going to be at the opening night. Thank you, Warren, you did not disappoint.” 

Outcome Bias

“The fans should always worry. It’s always the prerogative of a fan to worry. I absolutely believe in that. That’s what barrooms are for. That’s what little forums are for online in this 21st-century stuff. The fans should always worry. I’m always about fans worrying. Go ahead and worry as much as you’d like.

“From our perspective, we have to just go out and play the game like we always do. I’m here to tell you, man, I just can’t live that way. The line I’ve used is I don’t vibrate at that frequency. It has nothing to do with anything. 

“The process is fearless. If you want to always live your life just based on the outcome, you’re going to be fearful a lot. And when you’re doing that, you’re really not living in a particular moment.

“I’m 60, I’ll be 80, and if by the time I’m 80 20 years from now I’ve just been worried about outcomes, I’m going to miss a lot. So you’ve really got to get involved in the process. And from our players’ perspective, that’s all I talk about. I’ve not even mentioned about winning one time to these guys during this whole time. 

“If you take care of the seconds, the minutes, the hours in a day take care of themselves. So for our fans back home, please go ahead and be worried. That’s OK. But understand that from our perspective in the clubhouse, we’re more worried about the process than the outcome.”

The Geek Department

“I had one of the first laptops ever. I was like roundly laughed at and criticized: ‘How is a computer ever going to win a baseball game?’ I said: ‘No, no, no, no, it’s about organizing your information.’

“If Branch Rickey in the 40s had all this information, this stuff would have been done 50, 60, 70 years ago, if it was available. It wasn’t available. It’s new stuff. It’s color TV. It’s air conditioning. It’s power brakes. When it wasn’t invented, you could never miss it.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right now

“But it’s been invented, and now you utilize it, so to run away from technology and change and advancement…why? 

“(That’s) an archaic form of thinking. It was definitely rooted in old-school, which I really respect. But for me, old-school has nothing to do with being stuck.”

@CubsJoeMadd

“The social-media component – I don’t know if that’s going to keep getting bigger – or honestly is it going to become less? At some point, it’s oversaturated with nonsense. 

“How much nonsense do you want to hear? I don’t really want to know about everybody else’s thoughts all the time. I really don’t. That would be the next level, like if I eventually become a mind reader.

“At that point, that would really suck, because if you know too much, man, that would be awful. It’s good that you don’t know everything. So all this stuff is getting to the point now where I don’t even know – what would be the next level of communication, outside of reading someone else’s mind? 

“And I don’t want to read any of your minds at all under any circumstances. Because once you get in there, you may never get out, and you could be contaminated for the rest of your life.”

Pre-tay, Pre-tay Good

“There’s also ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ which I’m a big fan of. I got a photograph. Actually, there was a common friend. There was that one episode when he picked up a hooker to go in the diamond lane to go to the ballgame at Dodger Stadium. There’s a picture of her draped over the front seat and he wrote on her butt: ‘How bout that for a strike zone?’ Signed, Larry David.”

On Personal Grooming

• “I don’t like when it gets puffy on the side. Remember Paulie from ‘The Sopranos?’ I feel like Paulie. I get into that Paulie mode and it really bothers me. So whenever I start looking like Paulie, I get a haircut. That’s the indicator.” 

• “I’m a product of the 60s and the 70s. Every generation has its own little gig going on. Back in the day, I had long hair. It was down to my shoulders. I was very proud of it. It was actually brown at that time, too, from what I remember. So why do you always want to impose your will on everybody else?” 

Classified Information 

“If you get it on your own, then what am I going to do? I’ve already told you: I can’t tell you everything right now. And I’ll say I can’t tell you. Your job is to do what you do. And my job is to not give it up. 

“Your job is to find it out. And that’s cool. At the end of the day, what does that mean? I keep going back to the barroom. It’s great barroom banter, man. 

“And also at the end of the day, we’re not trying to conceal weaponry being sold to Iran.”

Don’t Ever Change

“If I change, I want you to slap me in the face.”

You got it.

“If you do it to me one day and just go – boom! – I’ll know why.”

You won’t see it coming.

“I won’t see it coming, then I’ll say thank you.”  

Scott Boras' history lesson illustrates why Cubs are unlikely to trade Kris Bryant

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AP

Scott Boras' history lesson illustrates why Cubs are unlikely to trade Kris Bryant

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — As the Cubs move into a new era, the Kris Bryant Decision looms large over the entire organization.

Should they trade him now, two years out from free agency (or one year away if he actually wins his service time grievance)? Or is now the time for the Cubs to deliver a huge offer and lock him up long term?

Bryant's agent, Scott Boras, has been one of the most powerful men in baseball over the last couple decades and he's seen many teams go through the same dilemma the Cubs are currently weighing.

In encountering similar situations with players of Bryant's caliber (a former MVP and Rookie of the Year), Boras shed some light on how unlikely it is that the Cubs would actually wind up dealing him.

"Certainly every player I have that is at that level, they're always asking the question about, 'will they? Won't they? Will they trade him? Will they do it?'" Boras said. "And the answer to that is always: I can give you a percentage over a decade of how many of those players get traded and the answer is very low. If you think that much of him and to get something back for him with a limited period of time is always very hard."

He's got a strong point there. Bryant has a career .901 OPS and averages 32 homers, 92 RBI and 112 runs scored per 162 games over his five years in the big leagues. He proved that the lack of power and production in 2018 was injury related with a strong bounceback season this past year, finishing 14th in WAR in the National League while battling through a lingering knee issue. 

Bryant provides a ton of value to the Cubs and his presence on the roster increases the likelihood of winning another World Series over the next two seasons. In order to trade him, they would need a huge haul in return — a package of players that sets the franchise up for success the future without completely sacrificing the short-term and current window of contention. Will some team actually meet the Cubs' asking price?

The service time grievance is a major issue here, as the difference between one and two years of Bryant would be vast. Red Sox star Mookie Betts is a free agent a year from now and Boston is in a similar situation in that they're weighing a potential trade now rather than risk losing Betts to the open market and getting only draft pick compensation in return.

Boras pointed to how the Red Sox and Cubs both won World Series with Betts and Bryant earlier in their careers, leveraging the star players on cheaper deals to allow more resources to augment the roster around them. But now both guys are due a hefty sum of money in 2020 (MLB Trade Rumors estimates the arbitration figure to be $18.5 million for Bryant and $27.7 million for Betts) and it's time for each team to decide which path to go down.

The prevailing thought around the game is that Bryant won't win his grievance, which puts the Cubs in a different spot than the Red Sox in that they have two years of control left. That's key to either dangle in a trade or to allow more time for the two sides to reach an agreement on an extension.

"I've seen clubs take this decision on and it's often been a decision that they regret — whether they've kept him or whether they've traded him," Boras said. "Again, because they're great players, they're really key decisions."

If no team is able to — or decides to — meet the Cubs' price for Bryant in any trade talks, how likely is it the two sides would work out an extension that keeps him in Chicago beyond 2021?

Both sides waved off any notion that the service time grievance has done anything to damage the relationship between Bryant and the club, with Boras emphasizing that this was a "union matter" and was more about being an "advocate for the rights of players." Even if the arbiter rules against Bryant's grievance, it could still be a major step forward in changing the structure of free agency and service time for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In the matter of extension talks, Bryant and Boras are all ears.

"Look, we're open to talking with them and we've always said that to them," Boras said. "It's always been Kris' philosophy with the team. 

"I would certainly keep the terms and conditions of the contract negotiations private with the Cubs, but obviously it's always a fairness standard. You want what's fair for him and where he stands in the industry and that's true of any player." 

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Cubs continue behind-the-scenes makeover by hiring new scouting director

Cubs continue behind-the-scenes makeover by hiring new scouting director

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The Cubs are close to the point of the offseason where their sole focus will be on the roster.

As the final coaching staff comes together, the organization also announced their scouting director Wednesday, adding Dan Kantrovitz as the VP of scouting.

Kantrovitz, 41, spent the last five seasons as the assistant general manager to Billy Beane with the Oakland A's and previously served as the director of scouting for the St. Louis Cardinals for three seasons (2012-14). He is a Brown University graduate and also got his Master's Degree at Harvard.

Kantrovitz is a St. Louis native and was reportedly discussing a return to the Cardinals this winter before he took the job with the Cubs:

He was part of the Cardinals scouting department that drafted Jack Flaherty 34th overall in 2014, plus current Cubs reliever Rowan Wick in the ninth round (300th overall) in 2012 and has other successful high picks on his resume (Michael Wacha, Stephen Piscotty, Luke Weaver).

"We're really excited to be able to bring Danny Kantroviz on board," Theo Epstein said Wednesday at the MLB GM Meetings. "To be able to hire somebody to run our drafts who's already held that position and already run successful drafts in the past, it's a unique opportunity. Guys don't usually go back once they reach the assistant GM level. But in Dan's case, he has just discovered that his passion is running the draft.

"It really fits the exact profile we're looking for. He can scout - he goes out and sees 200 players a year when he's running the draft - and he can really relate very well to scouts and he's also got experience building advanced analytical models and combining both those worlds in a really effective manner. I think he fills a big void for us and look forward to working with him for years to come."

Epstein also called the Kantrovitz hire a "best case scenario" for the Cubs as they reshape their front office infrastructure. In September, Epstein moved Jason McLeod from head of scouting and player development (the position he held since coming over to the Cubs after the 2011 season) into a special assistant role in the big-league front office and shook up the player development department.

They wanted a fresh perspective and new insight into the draft and developing players given the organization's inability to produce homegrown pitchers in the eight years under Epstein's reign. Kantrovitz is the guy they've chosen to now lead the scouting department and the hope is he's able to find more success in the draft.

"Dan is as qualified as maybe anyone out there in baseball to do [balance all the information on draft day] since he has scouted extensively and is on the road the entire draft season seeing players and has done so for many years," Epstein said. "He also is one of the top quants [quantitative analyst] in the game as well. Builds his own models and understands it on a granular level - not just to the R & D department, but being a part of it and not just relating to scouts but being one. He brings a really unique skillset and set of experiences to the position."

That's another big hire to check off the list for the Cubs as the offseason starts to heat up. Epstein and Co. can now turn their attention to fine-tuning the roster to ensure the whole is greater than the sum of the parts in 2020. 

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