Cubs

Cubs-Royals: Setting the record straight on Jorge Soler’s hustle

Cubs-Royals: Setting the record straight on Jorge Soler’s hustle

SURPRISE, Ariz. – During a Q&A at Cubs Convention this winter, high-ranking executive Jason McLeod revealed that Jorge Soler got benched a few times last season for not hustling, a detail that seemed unnecessary, since the Cuban outfielder had already been traded to the Kansas City Royals one month earlier in a deal for All-Star closer Wade Davis. 

McLeod, the senior vice president of scouting and player development, singled out Soler in response to a fan’s general question about how a “Respect 90” organization handles those situations, saying: “This is not trying to harp on Georgie at all, but he got yanked a couple of times last year for not hustling out to the outfield, for not running down the line.”

“I didn’t do that,” manager Joe Maddon said before Wednesday’s 7-3 win over the Royals at Surprise Stadium. 

“Most of the time when they take a player out of the game for not hustling,” Soler said through Royals translator/catching coach Pedro Grifol, “they bring him in the office and say: OK, we took you out for (this). But that never happened.”

McLeod gets the benefit of the doubt as someone who has good people skills, strong relationships throughout the organization and a straightforward approach with the media. McLeod also made a larger good cop, bad cop point about Maddon not burying players during his media sessions while bench coach Dave Martinez and third base coach Gary Jones dealt with Soler in private.

Soler didn’t seem to be aware of McLeod’s comments, though he did confirm that happened in the minors.

“Maybe that’s what Jason meant, because I had not had that issue,” Maddon said. “If we had a problem with any guy, yeah, Davey talks, Jonesy might talk to him. And then if it gets chronic, then I talk to him. I try to avoid embarrassing anybody publicly in the dugout. Say a guy doesn’t run hard, I know the moment I start walking down the dugout, it becomes an issue. And I don’t like that.

“I think there are better ways. I don’t have to exert my authority publicly in order to get my point across. I’d much rather handle it through the proper channels.

“We talked to (Soler) – we talked to a lot of guys actually – about pop-ups and they’re frustrated or whatever. That happens more than you know. But I did not ever pull George for that.”  

There were times the Cubs had told Soler to not run with maximum effort, to try to preserve his body and avoid some of the leg injuries that plagued his development. It also became a World Series storyline after a 1-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians where Lonnie Chisenhall jumped and misjudged a flyball Soler drove into right field. Soler ran hard enough for a triple and has given the Cubs his size for a championship ring.

“I am really pleased with the way our guys have respected that distance,” Maddon said. “We got in trouble at the end of the year. Maybe a guy thought it was a home run. That’s interpreted badly. I get it. Of course, you don’t want that to happen. But it happens.

“That does not mean they lack respect. It just means they had a poor judgment or moment. So I think you have to treat every situation separately and exercise common sense. But I never had that issue with George in regards to pulling him, (though I) did have conversations with him, yes.”   

How the Cubs, John Baker, are navigating the mental challenges of 2020

How the Cubs, John Baker, are navigating the mental challenges of 2020

The Cubs have spent months fortifying Wrigley Field against the outside world.

It’s supposed to be somewhere they feel safe, from the coronavirus pandemic, racial injustice, record unemployment rates. Even just for a few hours.

But even Wrigley’s ivy-covered walls aren’t impenetrable.

“I just feel like every day there’s something new,” Cubs manager David Ross said on Monday. “And I hope … our world gets back to being better in so many ways: health, society, emotionally, trying to get back to loving one another as best we can, as human beings.”

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The Cubs anticipated that mental health would be especially important this season and gave mental skills coach John Baker Tier 1 access. That way MLB’s health and safety protocols wouldn’t limit his in-person conversations with players and coaches.

“I think he’s handing it great,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “I think he deserves credit, and so do the players for being there for each other and be willing to talk about the challenges we all face and anxieties we all face.”

As people across the country have experienced, those anxieties are ever-mounting and ever-present.

At work, the Cubs are risking their health – and the health of those who live with them – to make a living and play a game they love. And hopefully provide fans with “levity and distraction,” as Hoyer put it.

Pregame interviews never conclude without a mention of the coronavirus. There’s always some sort of news between the Marlins’ and Cardinals’ outbreaks, commissioner Rob Manfred’s comments, and other teams violating protocols.

Then, at home their escapes are limited.

“This is a hard sport and it's a sport of failure,” Hoyer said, “and you want to be able to have some levity in your life that isn't this job of failure. And I think that not having that I think has created player health issues and we haven't had before.”

So, the Cubs built a little levity into their practice on Monday. The Cubs hadn't played a game in four days because their weekend series at St. Louis was postponed after the Cardinals had three more positive test. On Monday, Ross and his coaching staff put on a  “fun” competition, involving obstacles and target practice.

“I thought the way Rossy and the coaches and the players handled this break right now has been perfect,” Hoyer said. “I think they realize that in 2020 there's going to be strange things happen. You're going to have  breaks, and you're going to have doubleheaders, and there's nothing you can do about those things. You just have to roll with the punches, and you can't be upset by them.”

Next, they head to Cleveland to play a team that just had players violate protocol while in Chicago to play the White Sox.

Zach Plesac apologized for leaving the team hotel to go out, and he traveled back to Cleveland via car service to remain separated from the team in case of infection. But Mike Clevenger, who ESPN reported went out with Plesac, flew home with the team. He will be quarantined instead of starting against the Cubs on Tuesday.

Another anxiety to face.  

“How do I keep these guys in the moment?” Baker said. “They do it themselves. We have players that love playing baseball. I see it in the smiles on the faces now that they’re back on the field.”

That’s how they fortified Wrigley Field.

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Cubs' Javier Báez, wife Irmarie are expecting a second child

Cubs' Javier Báez, wife Irmarie are expecting a second child

Cubs shortstop Javier Báez made a big announcement on Monday: he and his wife, Irmarie, are expecting a second child. 

Báez revealed the news in an adorable social media post with the help of his 2-year-old son, Adrian.

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Congrats to the Báez family!

RELATED: Javy Baez's 1-year-old son already has all the makings of a baseball superstar

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