Cubs

Cubs: Jon Lester buys into Joe Maddon’s magical gimmicks

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Cubs: Jon Lester buys into Joe Maddon’s magical gimmicks

NEW YORK – Jon Lester seems like the last guy who would believe in magic tricks or want to play dress-up on road trips.

Lester is a serious person and – at the age of 31 – not exactly a young kid on this particular Cubs team led by ringmaster Joe Maddon.

“Thanks,” Lester said with a laugh late Wednesday night at Citi Field. “Thanks for putting that lightly.”

So Lester doesn’t have his game face on all the time, and image isn’t everything when it comes to his perception of Maddon’s management style, which developed while they were on opposite sides of an American League East rivalry, the Tampa Bay Rays trying to topple the Boston Red Sox.

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“You never know how to take it,” Lester said. “You don’t really know: Is it unprofessional?

“But being around him, he’s great. It’s great – especially for these guys that are young that haven’t done this – to keep it light, to keep it entertaining.”

That’s what Maddon had in mind after leaving Busch Stadium, the St. Louis Cardinals giving his team a reality check with that three-game sweep last weekend. Enter Simon the Magician, who did his act in the clubhouse on Tuesday before what would become a three-game sweep of the New York Mets.

“This game is so hard to stay attentive to for the whole season,” Lester said. “When you have things like that, it kind of like rejuvenates guys a little bit. You have something fun and interesting at the field. You just don’t see that.

“It kind of breaks people’s concentrations for a little bit and lets them reboot. And then (you) go back out there and play baseball.”

[MORE: The power dynamic between Epstein and Maddon]

Sweeping the Mets certainly isn’t a cause-and-effect situation, but Maddon’s look-at-me swagger and Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra” blasting on the clubhouse sound system gives some insight into the team’s chemistry.     

Lester will still send out all-business vibes, going off into his own little world on the day he pitches and rarely hanging around his locker staring at his phone or goofing off with teammates.

But someone who has pressed while trying to make a good first impression – and felt the weight of that $155 million contract – understands what Maddon is trying to do here as a mad scientist.  

“All this stuff is great,” Lester said. “It’s not tacky. It’s not in your face. It’s nothing that goes overboard with anything. It’s all in good fun. (It’s) enjoying playing baseball and winning baseball games.” 

Cubs reportedly interested in Troy Tulowitzki

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USA TODAY

Cubs reportedly interested in Troy Tulowitzki

According to MLB Insider Jon Heyman, the Cubs are one of the teams interested in free agent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. The 5-time All-Star will be holding a workout soon, with Chicago being one of the six teams reported to have a scout present at his workout.

Heyman did mention that while the Cubs aren’t necessarily the favorites right now, we will know how good of a chance they will have soon. Tulowitzki and his team are reported to be narrowing down their list to (at least) 6 teams.

Last season Tulowitzki played 66 games for the Blue Jays, batting .249 with 7 home runs and 26 RBI. For his career he is a .290 hitter and is looking for a bounce-back season after dealing with complications from bone spur injuries in both heels over the years.

Toronto has to pay the $38 million left on Tulowitzki's contract, freeing up other teams to sign the veteran to a more reasonable deal. Since the Blue Jays went the route of cutting him, teams can offer Tulowitzki a league minimum salary.

For the Cubs, he represents-however small-a chance to extract great value from a veteran player, which would be a big bonus considering how the Yu Darvish signing backfired in year one.

Tulowitzki is likely to be searching for playing time on a legit title contender, so if he can provide any solid offensive production going forward, he and the Cubs could be a solid match.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Winter Meetings recap

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Winter Meetings recap

When nothing happens in Vegas, it stays in Vegas. Luke, Kap and Tony talk about the Cubs lack of moves during the Winter Meetings.

In this episode of the Cubs Talk Podcast with Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan and Tony Andracki:

00:10 - What happen in Vegas stays in Vegas and this year that means nothing. Luke, Kap & Tony talk Cubs lack of moves at Winter Meetings.

00:50 - Where the heck is all the money? This was supposed to be a wide-open window - we step on the accelerator.

01:25 - Cubs keep throwing money at the problem (Chatwood, Darvish) and it has become a cautionary tale.

02:50 - Are the Cubs playing at the shallow end of the kiddie pool?

03:50 - Tony talks about the volatility of the relief market.

05:15 - Where is the bullpen market? Brewers are making moves, but it's still "crickets" for the Cubs.

06:20 - Tony: Other than bullpen - Cubs have to address backup middle infielder most of all.

06:57 - Daniel Descalso rumors. Kap describes him as a grinder who fits the leadership mold.

07:47 - Luke is a little worried about Steve Cishek. He threw a career-high 70 innings last season.

09:34 - The guys talk about the possibility of a "second deadline" for the Winter Meetings to force clubs to make more moves.

11:06 - Luke: "I wanted to see Machado and Harper walking down the strip and making it rain!"

12:45 - Cubs still have so much to address. Some Cubs fans are starting to get a little itchy. Teams in the division are making moves. What about us?

14:45 - Question: Is Anthony Rizzo the third-best 1st baseman in the Central Division?

15:50 - Prediction time: What's biggest move the Cubs will make before opening day? Kap believes that Ian Happ will not be a Cub before the regular season starts.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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