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.”   

Source: Cubs set to hire David Ross as new manager

Source: Cubs set to hire David Ross as new manager

According to David Kaplan, the Cubs have made their decision on a new manager. And to no surprise, they've landed on David Ross.

Ross was widely speculated as the heir apparent to Joe Maddon and that's exactly how the situation has played out. The team also interviewed current bench coach Mark Loretta, first-base coach Will Venable, Astros bench coach Joe Espada, and former Cubs player and Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

Ross retired after the 2016 season and has spent the last three seasons working in a special assistant role in Theo Epstein's front office while also serving as an MLB analyst/broadcaster for ESPN. He has not coached or managed at any level. 

During his two years as a player with the Cubs, Ross was an integral part of changing the culture inside the clubhouse and is revered as a legendary leader to all the young players that came up and helped end the 108-year championship drought. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant affectionately dubbed him "Grandpa Rossy" and he rode that popularity on the shoulders of his teammates in a Rudy-esque celebration after Game 7 and then a stint on "Dancing with the Stars." Every time he is shown on the video board at Wrigley Field, it elicits a deafening cheer from Cubs fans.

Even three years since he last donned the uniform, Ross' impact remains and the Cubs have been searching for the type of clubhouse leadership he provided. Earlier this season, Javy Baez brought up Ross unprompted, mentioning advice from his former teammate that he still thinks about on a daily basis.

The question was never really if and more about when Ross was going to get a chance to manage the Cubs in the future. Just last fall, he was brought up as a potential option to replace Brandon Hyde as Maddon's bench coach, but Ross still wanted to spend time with family in retirement and wasn't yet ready to commit to the grind of a long season. 

Still, Epstein mentioned at the GM Meetings last November that he and the front office were pushing Ross to be around the team more in 2019. GM Jed Hoyer followed that up at the Winter Meetings in December talking about how much of an impact Ross has on these players and the level of trust that's already inherent within this group.

Apparently, Ross is now willing and able to put in the 7-to-8 month time commitment to step in as the Cubs' new manager. When it was officially announced Maddon would not be returning, Ross was on ESPN's Baseball Tonight and expressed interest in the job and Epstein confirmed the next day Ross was on the team's list of managerial candidates.

Epstein mentioned he would prefer hiring a manager with big-league experience and the main theme of his end-of-season press conference was all about change, not hanging their hats on 2016 and climbing out of the "winner's trap." But they still opted for Ross as the organization's new field general.

"I always have greater comfort level hiring for roles in which the person has done the role before, especially with manager," Epstein said on the final day of September. "I think there are ways for that to be overcome. There’s a lot of different ways to get experience in this game. Beliefs, skills, personal attributes, those can outweigh a lack of experience, but experience certainly helps.

“David Ross has a lot of great things going for him, I would say. His connection to the players on this team, and especially his connection to the 2016 team, are not necessarily assets that distinguish him. Those are not necessarily things that are gonna be important to us.

“I think Rossy is a really attractive candidate, and he’s gonna be evaluated on the merits, what he can bring to the table as a major league manager given his skills, given his experiences, given his world-view, given what he knows about winning, all those things.”

We now know how that evaluation process has played out.

The question now becomes — how would the Cubs players handle Ross as a manager, moving from friend and teammate to boss? 

We'll find out in the coming months.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Mailbag edition

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Mailbag edition

3:00 - Listener question: Espada or Ross? Kelly Crull shares some inside info on Joe Espada

7:30 - Kelly talks about David Ross' second interview for the Cubs managerial job.

11:30 - Listener question: Say it is Espada, do you see any way David Ross comes on as a coach behind Espada?

13:30 - Listener question: Could the team regress further due to a lack of familiarity with a new manager?

20:10 - Listener question: How hard will Theo and Jed go after Gerrit Cole? And if he's not available who else is?

23:30 - Listener question: Are you trying to extend Castellanos?

26:00 - Listener question: If you sign Castellanos are you also trading Kyle Schwarber?

28:45 - Listener question: Should the Cubs trade Kris Bryant? What would they get back in return?

33:00 - Lighting round: Will Nico Hoerner be the opening day second baseman and keep the job in 2020?

33:10 - Lightning round: Will the Cubs bring back Cole Hamels?

33:45 - Can we and should we clone Javy Baez so we have a fresh Javy when he retires, or is that unethical?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

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