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.”