Cubs

Cubs: Joe Maddon thinks Dave Martinez is ready to manage

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Cubs: Joe Maddon thinks Dave Martinez is ready to manage

PITTSBURGH — Dave Martinez wants to run his own team someday, but he also wants to win big in Chicago, and those forces could push the Cubs bench coach into a difficult decision.

As the Cubs matured into a potential National League powerhouse, Theo Epstein didn’t expect his front office to get raided during this hiring cycle. But Joe Maddon’s right-hand man should draw interest as a high-energy leader with a broad range of experience.

Martinez spent seven years as Maddon’s bench coach with the Tampa Bay Rays before returning to the organization that originally drafted him in 1983, helping the Cubs accelerate their rebuilding program with a 97-win season.

“He’s definitely ready to manage,” Maddon said before Wednesday night’s wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

[MORE CUBS: How Joe Maddon chose his wild-card lineup]

The Washington Nationals had identified Martinez as a managerial candidate two years ago but ultimately chose Matt Williams, who got fired this week after a massively disappointing finish for a preseason World Series favorite. The San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins are also searching for new managers now.

Martinez is 51 years old but looks much younger and has the instant credibility that comes from playing 16 seasons in the big leagues. Maddon compared this situation to his time as Mike Scioscia’s bench coach with the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels.

“He gave me a lot of latitude regarding just do my job,” Maddon said. “His advice to me on a daily basis was to walk in the door and go about my business as though I was going to manage that particular day. That was the primary premise of me being a bench coach, and I want Davey to be the same way.

“When he comes to the ballpark every day, he walks in the door as though he’s going to manage the game.”

[MORE CUBS: Giordano's knows Cubs fans are hungry for a 'W' vs. Pirates]

Martinez interviewed with the Cubs after the 2013 season, losing out on the job that went to Rick Renteria for a bridge year. Speculation had linked Martinez as a possible replacement for Ozzie Guillen after the 2011 season, but that didn’t gain any traction, as the White Sox made a surprise pick in Robin Ventura.

Martinez has been exposed to two data-driven organizations that emphasize developing young talent. He can relate to players, helping organize Anthony Rizzo’s postgame celebrations/dance parties. He also runs interference for Maddon and helps police the clubhouse.

“He understands all the numbers that are out there,” Maddon said. “He understands people. He’s really good at tough conversations. He’s very straight up, straightforward and upfront.

“That’s really vital. You have to have those ‘Godfather’ days, man. Sometimes you just got be very blunt and honest with somebody in order to get your point across. He’s got all that.

“He’s absolutely ready. Some team’s going to get lucky.”

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

If the season ended today, Javy Baez may be your National League MVP.

Of course, the season isn't ending today, only the first half of the 2018 campaign is.

He flashed his skills again over the weekend — scoring the game-winning run Friday, posting a 5-RBI game Saturday and then drove in the Cubs' first run in their 7-4 victory Sunday to close out a sweep of the Padres.

Entering the All-Star Break, Baez should be the frontrunner for Most Valuable Player.

For starters, he's the best player on the best team in the league.

Thanks to a recent hot surge by the Cubs and an ugly weekend for the Brewers (who have lost 6 straight), Baez and Co. will go into the break with the best record in the NL. 

Baez, meanwhile, leads the Cubs in WAR and nearly every offensive category — OPS, slugging percentage, homers, RBI, runs scored, doubles, triples, total bases, stolen bases and hits.

And that's not even saying anything about his glovework at any position on the infield or dynamic baserunning.

He's on pace to become the first Cubs player to drive in 125 runs since Sammy Sosa in 2001.

Baez also is on track for a 30-30 season — something only Sosa accomplished in a Cubs uniform in 1993 and 1995. 

El Mago will enjoy his week in the Home Run Derby and as the NL's starting second baseman in the All-Star Game, but those shouldn't be the end of his accolades this year if he can find a way to keep this pace up in the second half.

What other NL candidate would be a better choice for the MVP right now?

Baez is tied for the league lead in RBI. Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar is just behind Baez with 70 RBI, but he also has 70 fewer at-bats than the Cubs star due to a platoon to begin the year. 

Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett are also having great years, but the Reds are nowhere close to a playoff spot. 

Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt are also having very good seasons on teams that are currently in the playoff hunt, but how do you deny the best player on the league's best team?

After all, where would the Cubs be without Baez this season? 

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have battled through injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness, the pitching staff has had all kinds of consistency/health woes and Willson Contreras has yet to find his power stroke at the plate.

At the very least, "El Mago" has been the most important player on the North Side of Chicago during the first 3.5 months of 2018.

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Cubs first-round pick Nico Hoerner made his debut with the Class-A South Bend Cubs, and he did not disappoint.

The 23-year old shortstop showed off impressive hops during an acrobatic grab in the topf of the second inning in his first game with the South Bend Cubs. Hoerner will surely be an exciting defensive prospect with ability like this.

As far as offense goes, through four at-bats at South Bend, Hoerner is batting .500, and this comes after he hit .318 with a home run and two RBI through seven games with the Eugene Emeralds, the Cubs Class A short-season affiliate.

Here is to hoping we continue to see big-time plays from Hoerner.