Cubs: Jon Lester has no problem with Joe Maddon's decision


Cubs: Jon Lester has no problem with Joe Maddon's decision

MINNEAPOLIS - Have you ever seen a pitcher actually WANT to come out of a game?

These guys are the best hurlers in the world. They always think they can get the next batter or pitch the whole game.

But Joe Maddon didn't let Jon Lester talk him into facing another hitter in the seventh inning of Saturday's 4-1 win over the Twins in Minnesota.

Lester had just gotten Torii Hunter to ground out to third base to begin the inning and the Cubs' $155-million ace admitted he wasn't happy at all to hit the showers. But he also wasn't ready to make a scene in the third-base dugout at Target Field.

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"I never [want to come out]," he said. "That's just the way I've always been. I don't want to leave games. I feel like you always have more. But that's why you have managers and pitching coaches to make those decisions for you.

"I may not be happy at the time, but I'll never second-guess a manager and what they're trying to do."

Lester understands Maddon is looking at the big picture, but the veteran left-hander also admitted he was surprised at the timing of the hook - with nobody on base and one out in a tie ballgame.

Maddon explained he didn't want to leave Lester in at 102 pitches to face Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki, who accounted for the only run off Lester with a second-inning home run on a first-pitch fastball down the middle of the plate.

Maddon said he was fine with Lester making his case to stay in the game...and being unhappy when it didn't change Maddon's mind.

"Yes, absolutely. And I want that," Maddon said. "I was watching it closely. He was over 100 [pitches] and it was really humid and hot out there. And I just thought his stuff maybe took a step backward.

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"Maybe more than that, Suzuki had some really good swings on him all day. And you're in that situation where you can't give up anything. 

"[Lester] had done his job. He had a great day. He pitched really, really well. Good stuff. But I thought it was the right [time to pull him]."

Lester is a fierce competitor who has won two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox. Maddon is a former American League Manager of the Year who has a nice track record of handling a pitching staff and communicating well with players.

This wasn't a case of a first-year manager like Rick Renteria deciding to pull a young starting pitcher like Kyle Hendricks.

Maddon gave his rationale to Lester, a gesture that sat well with the southpaw.

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"I don't need an explanation, but it's nice that he did," Lester said. "I'm not happy, but that doesn't mean I'm down there second-guessing or yelling at the manager. We're all competitors. He's competing along with us.

"I'll never second-guess what's going on in the game with moves and all that stuff. His job is hard enough, my job is hard enough, I just try to stay in my own lane.

"But the explanation was nice and I think that always kind of eases your mind when you do get an explanation."

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Why can't a trade be looked at as a win-win? 

There doesn't always have to be a clear winner and loser.

Prior to Jose Quintana taking the ball for Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, Joe Maddon was asked about the players (Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease) the Cubs gave up to acquire Quintana as well as the deal with the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman in July 2016.

Gleyber Torres is absolutely killing it in New York, hitting .323 with a 1.014 OPS, 9 homers and 24 RBI in only 29 games. Six of those homers have come in the last week alone. 

With the White Sox, both Jimenez and Cease have found success in Double-A and Advanced Class-A, respectively.

Jimenez is hitting .331 with a .992 OPS, 9 homers and 35 RBI in 35 games. Cease is 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

As the Cubs work to get their offense settled into a consistent groove, some Cubs fans have been looking at what might've been with guys like Torres and Jimenez.

"You can't have it both ways, man," Maddon said. "I'm happy for Gleyber. When he left, we talked about it. And we talked about the kids that went to the White Sox. It's good stuff. 

"I'm really disappointed if anybody's disappointed in the fact we won the World Series in 2016 and the fact that the guy we're talking about that we had to give up Gleyber for was so instrumental in that happening. That's bad process if you're gonna get stuck on something like that. Be happy for Gleyber. Be happy for him."

Maddon has been a fan of Torres' since he saw him in spring training in 2015, Maddon's first year in the Cubs organization.

"This kid's 21, with high, high baseball intellect," Maddon said. "He's very similar to Javy on the field. I've had some great conversations with him in the past. 

"The first time I saw him in spring training, I thought this guy's for real. It was like one at-bat, line drive to RF, I said who is this guy? And then you have a conversation with him. He's solid."

Maddon's point is a great one — would Cubs fans prefer to still have Torres and NOT have the 2016 World Series championship? Because that title doesn't happen without Chapman, regardless of how you feel about him as a person or what the Cubs had to give up to acquire him.

"Don't play that game," Maddon said. "Be happy for [Torres]. I'm gonna be happy when Eloy and Dylan make it up here. All these dudes, I want them to get here and be really good. And the guys that we get, I want them to be really good. 

"I don't understand why somebody's gotta lose all the time. This is an absolute classic example of what was good for both teams."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th 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.

An off-day did nothing to slow down the 1998 National League MVP as Sosa collected his second straight 2-homer game May 27 of that season.

He went deep in the eighth and ninth innings of a Cubs' 10-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field, driving in 3 runs. 

The first homer - off Darrin Winston - was an absolute blast, traveling an estimated 460 feet. The second shot was tame in comparison with only 400 feet as a recorded distance.

In a matter of two games, Sosa raised his season OPS from .930 to .988 and his slugging percentage from .521 to .577 thanks to a pair of 2-homer contests.

Fun fact: Doug Glanville - former Cubs outfielder and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst - was the Phillies leadoff hitter that day in 1998, collecting three hits and scoring a pair of runs.