Cubs: Joe Maddon sticking with Addison Russell as No. 9 hitter


Cubs: Joe Maddon sticking with Addison Russell as No. 9 hitter

MILWAUKEE — Joe Maddon doesn’t believe the baseball world is flat, so the Cubs manager will keep batting Addison Russell ninth. 

Russell’s 12-game hitting streak ended during Sunday’s 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. He’s hit safely in 14 of his first 17 big-league games, getting more and more comfortable at this level and showing the natural talent that made him Baseball America’s No. 3 prospect heading into this season.  

“This is a young player we’re trying to break in right now,” Maddon said. “I’m trying to optimize his opportunities. And I think by him hitting ninth, the only stigma attached to that is the fat little kid that used to play right field and hit ninth on the playground.

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“That’s where the stigma’s attached to it. It’s nothing to do with here. The batting order is a circular situation. It’s not the Columbus batting order that falls off the face of the earth. It keeps coming around and around and around.”

Russell is the youngest player in the National League at 21 years and 107 days and playing out of position at second base after rising so quickly through the minors as a shortstop. He’s also striking out about 43 percent of the time.

Russell has still generated two homers, six doubles and seven RBI since making his debuting on April 21. According to team historian Ed Hartig, the most recent Cubs rookie to hit safely in more than 12 straight games was Jerome Walton, who set a major-league rookie record with his 30-game hitting streak in 1989. 

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last NL player to have a 12-game hitting streak (or better) exclusively out of the nine-hole was Pittsburgh Pirates left-handed pitcher Wilbur Cooper in 1924 (16 consecutive games).

[NBC SPORT SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Maddon wasn’t even aware Russell had a hitting streak until a reporter mentioned it to him during his pregame media session in the dugout.

“Here’s what you have to understand about him hitting ninth,” Maddon said. “He’s not going to see any better pitches than he’s going to see hitting ninth. I don’t want to put him in the one-hole or the two-hole right now. I don’t want to lay that on him.

“If you put him seventh — or put him eighth and put the pitcher ninth — he’s going to see (fewer quality pitches). The whole game plan, in my mind’s eye, by hitting him ninth, is twofold: To be the second leadoff hitter, in a sense, with a lot less pressure on you (and) the potential to see better pitches, because 1, 2 and 3 are hitting behind you.

“That’s where people are failing to think this all the way through. They just see the pitcher hitting eighth: ‘Oh my God, hit the pitcher ninth, because it’s been done like that for the last 150 years.’ (But) by him hitting ninth, he’s going to see better stuff to hit.”


Rob Manfred apologizes for tone-deaf comment about World Series trophy

Rob Manfred apologizes for tone-deaf comment about World Series trophy

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made a tone-deaf comment over the weekend, and he apologized for it on Tuesday.

In an interview with ESPN, Manfred defended his decision not to punish Astros players for their involvement in Houston’s sign stealing scandal. Although MLB suspended (now former) Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow and fined the club $5 million, players received immunity in the case. 

Some — like Cubs starter Yu Darvish — have called for Manfred to strip the Astros of their 2017 championship.

"The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act,” Manfred told ESPN’s Karl Ravech. “People will always know that something was different about the 2017 season, and whether we made that decision right or wrong, we undertook a thorough investigation, and had the intestinal fortitude to share the results of that investigation, even when those results were not very pretty."


It’s one thing to let the Astros off with a mere slap on the wrist but degrading the value of a championship trophy — one which all players strive to secure one day — was purely ignorant by Manfred. 

RELATED: Jon Lester crushes Rob Manfred for devaluing World Series trophy 'quite significantly'

There was a more tactful way for Manfred to respond to the lack of punishment. He told Ravech the MLB Players Association likely would've filed grievances, had the league disciplined the players. That defense may not have totally sufficed, but it's far more reasonable than Manfred's piece of metal comment.

Yes, Manfred was looking to make a rhetorical point. But seemingly everyone in baseball is pissed at the lack of punishment for the Astros. Rather than put out the fire, Manfred and MLB have only doused it with kerosene. 

Jon Lester crushes Rob Manfred for devaluing World Series trophy 'quite significantly'

USA Today

Jon Lester crushes Rob Manfred for devaluing World Series trophy 'quite significantly'

Add three-time World Series champion Jon Lester to the growing list of players who are pissed.

On Tuesday, Lester was asked about MLB commissioner Rob Manfred's comments regarding the reasoning behind MLB's lack of player punishment. Manfred recently spoke to ESPN about why he ultimately decided to not strip the organization of their 2017 title, saying that "The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act." 

Now, that didn't sit particularly well with players who won that piece of metal, mainly because, yeah, it's a stupid quote. Why not just call the Hall of Fame a house while you're at it, Rob? 

Anyways, Lester obviously took offense to the idea that the Commissioner's (lmaoo) Trophy was simply a piece of metal: 

That's somebody that's never played our game. You play for a reason. You play for that piece of metal. I'm very proud of the three that I have. I mean, if that's the way he feels, he needs to take his name of the trophy, you know? That's the first thing, when people walk into my house, if they've ever been to my house, I take them to where the trophies are. There they are. I'm proud of them. A lot of years, a lot of hard work. Then, just to bring it down like that, I mean, I'm sure it hurt a lot of guys when they saw that – especially guys that haven't won it that are striving for years to get it. I'm sure if Adam Dunn heard that – he played one playoff game – he'd probably be pretty upset. It's a very, very, special thing that he brought down quite significantly. 

Put aside the enormous flex that is Lester bringing all his house guests to the trophy case first – hell yeah, Jon – and you can tell that literally not a single player considers the trophy "a piece of metal."  Manfred will have a chance to backtrack on the like, half-dozen, dumb comments he's made when he talks with reporters in Arizona this afternoon. 

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