Cubs

Cubs: Joe Maddon brings zoo animals to Wrigleyville circus

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Cubs: Joe Maddon brings zoo animals to Wrigleyville circus

Joe Maddon brought his zoo-animal act into Wrigley Field’s interview room/dungeon, once again showing why he’s the perfect leader for the three-ring circus at Clark and Addison.

The Cubs manager helped organize a petting zoo on the field – snow leopard, sloth, armadillo, penguin – for players and coaches and their families before Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Obviously.  

So there was Maddon during his pregame media session, sitting up on the platform in front of the microphone and talking to a flamingo named Warren. 

“My goal in life was to eventually own a bar named ‘The Pink Flamingo,’” Maddon said. “If that ever happens, then I’ve made it. And if that ever does happen, Warren’s going to be at the opening night.

[MORE: Arrieta joins 20-win club after victory against Brewers]

“Thank you, Warren, you did not disappoint.”

Maddon credited traveling secretary Vijay Tekchandani, who lined it up with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The Ohio zoo lists TV personality Jack Hanna as its director emeritus. Tekchandani had found Simon the Magician for Maddon on an off-day in Manhattan in late June, getting him to perform inside Citi Field’s visiting clubhouse before a win over the New York Mets.

Maddon’s gimmicks probably have an expiration date and might not always generate universal enthusiasm inside the clubhouse. But his overall style has turned down the pressure and deflected attention away from young players like Kris Bryant, who blasted his 26th home run on Tuesday night, breaking the rookie franchise record held by Hall of Famer Billy Williams.

[SHOP: Buy a Joe Maddon jersey shirt]

Jonny Gomes – the Kansas City Royals outfielder who knows all about clubhouse chemistry and was there when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays turned into a  2008 World Series team – explained Maddon’s stunts this way:

“There are quirks that he brings into it. It’s meaningful and there’s passion and research, of course, and big words behind it. It’s not really just like bringing in a rodeo clown and having him jump out of the barrel and get back in the barrel.

“I would love for someone to come up with a hitting coach or pitching coach and a manager where the whole team was on board to where your whole staff would take a bullet for (them). But if (there was a) book on how to do that, it would have been written (already).

“Like everything (Maddon) does, it’s prepared. It’s not a fast-food (idea) or a quick Band-Aid.”  

Maddon is 61 years old and in the first season of five-year, $25 million contract, on the verge of clinching a playoff spot and on pace for 95 wins. 

Maddon is going to enjoy this and do it his way. Happy hour with Warren at “The Pink Flamingo” can wait.

“It just came together perfectly on this particular day,” Maddon said. “Great weather outside…3 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon…what else would you want to be doing except greeting (zoo animals)? There you have it.” 

Theo Epstein brushes aside rumors: 'There's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs'

Theo Epstein brushes aside rumors: 'There's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs'

No, the Cubs are not currently talking to the Baltimore Orioles about bringing Manny Machado to the North Side of Chicago.

So says Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations who met with the media at Wrigley Field ahead of Friday's series opener with the San Francisco Giants.

Epstein vehemently shot down the notion of trade talks and specified the major diffence between trade rumors and trade talks, while refusing to comment on Machado in particular.

"I'm not addressing any specific rumor or any player with another team," Epstein said. "I would never talk about that in a million years. The simple way to put it is there's been a lot of trade rumors involving the Cubs and there's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs.

"There's a real disparity between the noise and the reality and unfortunately, sometimes that puts a player or two that we have in a real tough circumstance. And that's my job to clarify there's nothing going on right now.

"We have more than enough ability to win the division, win the World Series and we really need to focus on our roster and getting the most out of our ability and finding some consistency. Constant focus outside the organization doesn't do us any good, especially when it's not based in reality right now."

The Cubs have presented a united front publicly in support of Addison Russell, whose name has been the one bandied about most as a potential leading piece in any move for Machado.

After all, the Cubs have won a World Series and never finished worse than an NLCS berth with Russell as their shortstop and he's only 24 with positive signs of progression offensively.

Trading away 3.5 years of control of Russell for 3-4 months of Machado is the type of bold, go-for-it move the Cubs did in 2016 when their championship drought was well over 100 years.

Now, the championship drought is only one season old and the window of contention is expected to remain open until through at least the 2021 season.

Epstein likes to point out that every season is sacred, but at what cost? The Cubs front office is still very much focused on the future beyond 2018.

"Everybody's talking about making trades in May — the first part of the season is trying to figure out who you are," Epstein said. "What are the strengths of the club? What are the weaknesses of the club? What's the character of the club? What position is the club gonna be in as we get deeper in the season? What's our short-term outlook? What's our long-term outlook? What's the chemistry in the clubhouse?

"All those things. It's a process to get there and figure it out. If you rush to those kinds of judgments, you can oftentimes make things worse. I think it's important to figure out exactly who you are and give guys a chance to play and find their level and see how all the pieces fit together before you make your adjustments."

So there's no chance we could see the Cubs once again jump the market and make an early deal like they did last year for Jose Quintana or five years ago for Jake Arrieta? Will they definitely wait another five weeks until July to make a move?

"It's just the natural order of things," Epstein said. "We wouldn't be opposed to doing something, but that's not the case right now. It's not happening."

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.