Cubs: Joe Maddon entertained by Starlin Castro’s mime routine


Cubs: Joe Maddon entertained by Starlin Castro’s mime routine

ST. LOUIS – If you love Joe Maddon’s anti-rules philosophy and free-spirited attitude, then you can’t complain about Starlin Castro’s mime routine. It’s indirectly part of the liberal arts education at The Cub University.

Castro said he wasn’t clowning around when he stood behind Kris Bryant and mimicked throwing to first base. The All-Star shortstop said instincts took over on a groundball hit to the left side of the infield during Wednesday night’s 6-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

[RELATED - GIF: Even Starlin Castro wants to be just like Kris Bryant]  

“It was very entertaining,” Maddon said Thursday at Busch Stadium. “I don’t think there’s anything awful or wrong about it. Some purists might be offended. But I guess they never saw ‘The Gashouse Gang’ play. I have no problem with it.

“You’re not going to do it all the time, obviously. It was just one of those moments that does indicate that we’re playing the game in a manner. Meaning that we’re not uptight, which I really prefer. We’re just nice and loose and play the game.”

The manager had already been ejected from the game by the time Castro did what Cubs analyst Jim Deshaies described on the broadcast as “a Globetrotters routine.”

“Yeah, Castro deked me there,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who gave him a what-was-that?-look, sort of laughed it off and appeared to tell him to calm down.

“I didn’t know who was throwing it,” Rizzo said. “And then ‘Rossy’ (catcher David Ross) just told me: ‘Hey, make sure you’re paying attention.’ It’s just one of those things where we’re goofing off.”

“He knows, he knows,” Castro said, “because he sees who catches the ball.”

Bryant made the play at third base not realizing a routine groundball would go viral.

“I just saw Anthony throw his hands up,” Bryant said. “We’re having fun out there. At the end of the day, we’re here to have fun and win as many games as possible. And (Castro) has a whole lot of fun, that’s for sure.”

Rizzo said: “We do things on the infield throughout the game. Little things. If people heard what we said or what we’re doing, they’d probably laugh at it. But it’s really keeping it loose and having fun.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

Fair or not, questions about defensive concentration and pitch-to-pitch focus have followed Castro almost from the moment he made his big-league debut, which happened exactly five years ago on Thursday. No one in the National League has more than Castro’s 878 hits in the last five years, and at the age of 25 he should be entering his prime.

“Obviously, with good health, he’s going to put up some crazy good numbers over a period of time,” Maddon said. “To get to the playoffs and the World Series is really going to enhance his reputation. It’s a maturation process. He’s piled up all these good numbers already. As he really understands himself even better and more, I think it’s going to get better.”   

Castro clearly enjoys playing for Maddon, his fifth manager in the last six seasons.

“He’s playing a nice, loose, free game of baseball,” Maddon said. “And that’s what I want.”

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening


Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

Is this the offseason that Cubs executive Jason McLeod finally becomes an MLB general manager?

According to Bruce Levine, the Giants are reportedly interested in McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development, for their vacant general manager position.

McLeod joined the Cubs' front office in 2011 alongside Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Before the Cubs, he spent six years in the Red Sox front office and two in the Padres' (with Hoyer, who was San Diego's general manager from 2010-2011). 

Of course, the Giants' reported interest in McLeod doesn't necessarily mean that he will interview for the job. However, it's worth noting that McLeod interviewed for the Twins' general manager job in 2016; he also withdrew his name from consideration for the Padres' general manager job in 2014. 

In addition to the Giants, McLeod's name has been linked to the Mets' general manager vacancy. This is more speculation, but the point is that it seems to be only a matter of time before McLeod is hired as general manager elsewhere.

For what it's worth, though, McLeod is under contract through 2021 and has previously said that he is grateful to be with the Cubs. 

“I’m exceptionally grateful,” McLeod said. “All of us are. Look at where we are at this moment in time with this team," McLeod said in 2016. "I can’t imagine a better environment, a better culture to work at in baseball.

"We’ve been together a long time. We’re friends. We’re good. We embrace the fact that we are good. And we challenge ourselves to be even better.”

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

The Cubs are heading into a new season with a different hitting coach for the second straight winter, but the most recent choice is a familiar face.

Anthony Iapoce is set to join Joe Maddon's coaching staff this week after serving in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers for the last three seasons. The Cubs confirmed the move Monday afternoon shortly after the news broke out of the Rangers camp.

The Cubs fired Chili Davis last week after just one season as the team's hitting coach.

Entering the final week of the season, the Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister, leaving Iapoce and the rest of the Texas coaching staff in limbo.

As such, Iapoce is rejoining the Cubs, where he served as a special assistant to the General Manager from 2013-15 focusing on player development, particularly in the hitting department throughout the minor leagues.

Iapoce has familiarity with a bunch of the current star offensive players on the Cubs, from Willson Contreras to Kris Bryant. 

Both Bryant and Contreras endured tough 2018 seasons at the plate, which was a huge reason for the Cubs' underperforming lineup. Bryant's issue was more related to a left shoulder injured suffered in mid-May while Contreras' offensive woes remain a major question mark after the young catcher looked to be emerging as a legitimate superstar entering the campaign.

Getting Contreras back to the hitter that put up 21 homers and 74 RBI in only 117 games in 2017 will be one of the main goals for Iapoce, so the history between the two could be a key.

With the Rangers, Iapoce oversaw an offense that ranked 7th, 9th and 14th in MLB in runs scored over the last three seasons. The decline in offensive production is obviously not a great sign, but the Rangers as a team have fallen off greatly since notching the top seed in the AL playoffs in 2016 with 95 wins only to lose 95 games in 2018, resulting in the change at manager.

Iapoce has worked with an offense backed by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo the last few seasons.

Under Iapoce's tutelage, former top prospect Jurickson Profar shed any notion of a "bust" label and emerged as a budding star at age 25, collecting 61 extra-base hits with a .793 OPS in 2018.

When the Cubs let Davis go last week, they provided no update on assistant hitting coach Andy Haines, who just finished his first season in that role and is expected to remain with the team for 2019. The same offseason Iapoce left for the Rangers, Haines took over as the Cubs' minor league hitting instructor.