Cubs see their belief in Addison Russell pay off against Cardinals


Cubs see their belief in Addison Russell pay off against Cardinals

Even if the Cubs wanted to send Addison Russell back to Triple-A Iowa, they probably don’t have a good alternative at second base.

“Not right now, I don’t think,” manager Joe Maddon said. “But honestly I’m more than fine with Addison. I think he’s done great.”

This is the challenge of winning now — while still developing for later — when the Cubs are 46-37 after Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Russell came through with the clutch hit in Game 2 and admitted after a 5-3 victory that the confidence boost “means the world right now, especially against a team like that.”

[MORE CUBS: Cubs flip the script on Cardinals, sweep doubleheader]

This looked like the breaking point that usually happens to the Cubs against the Cardinals (54-30). Russell reached out in the seventh inning and knocked a ball up the first-base line that stayed fair for a game-tying RBI single.

“From my view, it looked like it went over the bag,” Russell said. “Off the bat, I thought it was foul, and then it had like a weird spin on it, and it just bounced over the bag.”

Frustrated Cardinals reliever Seth Maness got ejected. His replacement — Kevin Siegrist — fielded a routine grounder on the next play and threw the ball into left-center field, which helped the Cubs tack on two more runs.

The bottom line is the Cubs need Russell to produce.

Javier Baez can’t be the midseason answer at second base or shortstop when he’s sidelined with a fractured finger. Tommy La Stella hasn’t been the versatile infielder/valuable bench player the Cubs hoped for because a tricky oblique injury has limited him to only six at-bats all season.

[MORE CUBS: What we learned about the Cubs in the first half]

Gold Glove second baseman D.J. LeMahieu — a homegrown player the Theo Epstein administration overlooked and packaged in the Ian Stewart deal with the Colorado Rockies — just made his first National League All-Star team.

Gleyber Torres — the Venezuelan shortstop who showed up at No. 28 on Baseball America’s midseason prospect rankings — is only 18 years old and playing at Class-A South Bend.

So even if the Cubs somehow found a good deal for Starlin Castro and sold low on their All-Star shortstop, it’s not like this team is stocked with ready-made up-the-middle solutions.

“There’s a lot of talk about that, who’s going to move where,” Russell said. “I got dealt a pretty new hand with learning second base kind of on the fly. But I’ve grown to love the position. I’m confident at that position right now. And I’m just looking to get better."

[MORE CUBS: All-Star snub? Jake Arrieta proves his worth as Cubs beat Cardinals]

Maddon wants to protect his players and push Russell questions into a big-picture analysis of how pitching and defense now gets all the shiny new toys. Offense is being suffocated with information overload, hot zones, instant scouting reports and defensive shifts.

“We won’t quit on (our young players),” Maddon said. “We talk about Addison a lot. (It’s) not only a new position, but then to cope with major-league pitching at the same time the birth certificate says he just turned 21. Not easy. Really hard to do. And then where the pitching is at right now makes it even more difficult.”

Russell hasn’t homered since June 17 — and the Cleveland Indians designated the pitcher who gave it up (Shaun Marcum) for assignment the next day. Russell has one extra-base hit in his last 19 games, his average falling to .227.

“I think he’s on the verge,” Maddon said. “I really do. I see a lot freer swing. I see a looser swing. He’s (starting) to not chase as often. The physical swing is wonderful.

“I have no problems with his approach, his swing, the bat speed, all that stuff. There are some things we’re talking about to get him to do a little bit better, but it’s going to happen. This kid is going to be really good.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get an Addison Russell jersey right here]

No one doubts Russell’s natural talent, high ceiling or levelheaded demeanor. That’s why Epstein saw it as an offer he couldn’t refuse when Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane included his blue-chip prospect in last summer’s Jeff Samardzija deal. But we’ve all probably expected too much too soon from The Core.

“Sometimes we get a little spoiled when we get on a roll,” Epstein said. “I know I do. I start to evaluate us through the lens of what you want to see, instead of sometimes what you have. We have to recognize that we are young. It’s not an excuse. It’s just a reality.

“It’s kind of a delicate balancing act. You don’t want to use youth or inexperience as an excuse. (But) we have to constantly remember that a lot of these guys are 23 or 22 or 21. Even the veterans are 25. Not the most experienced (group) in the world.

“They’re gonna put themselves in slumps really quickly, and maybe have a longer time coming out of them, because this is the first time they’ve been through a lot of this stuff. The length of the season — in and of itself — is the first time they’ve been through something like that.

“It’s a testament to how mature they are — and how talented they are — that sometimes (we) can forget that.”

At a time when offense is down and the Cubs keep playing 1-0, 2-1 games, Maddon also mentioned how Russell grades out well with WAR (1.1), a metric that leans heavily on defense, figuring that a run prevented is as good as a run driven in.

Not the Cubs think it will be an either-or situation with Russell.

“The thing I loved is how he battled through that moment,” Maddon said. “He’s been struggling a lot. And he did not cave. He did not quit. And hopefully that’s going to really help buoy his spirits.”

Bold predictions for the Cubs' 2019-20 offseason


Bold predictions for the Cubs' 2019-20 offseason

The Cubs are just a couple of weeks away from a pivotal offseason that could see a lot of change coming to Chicago's North Side.

Then again, we thought the same thing a year ago and it turned out Theo Epstein's biggest move last winter was signing Daniel Descalso to a two-year deal.

But after missing the playoffs in 2019, the Cubs are now at a crossroads as an organization. 

The NBC Sports Chicago crew previewed the offseason on the latest CubsTalk Podcast with some bold predictions for the winter.

Listen here and check out the fearless calls below:

(Note: Rationale and more context on each bold prediction in the podcast.)

David Kaplan

1. Cubs are going to take a page out of the Yankees' book and retool on the fly rather than go all-in to contend in 2020.
2. Jose Quintana has thrown his last pitch as a Cub.
3. This will be the second-to-last offseason for Theo Epstein as the Cubs president of baseball operations.

Kelly Crull 

1. Cubs re-sign Nick Castellanos and trade away Kyle Schwarber.
2. Tyler Chatwood will be in the 2020 rotation.
3. John Lackey will be named quality assurance coach on David Ross's coaching staff. (Kidding, but only kind of...)

Tony Andracki

1. Before the Cubs play a Spring Training game, Javy Baez will sign an extension that will keep him in Chicago through at least 2023.
2. Willson Contreras will be traded this winter and the Cubs will get some much-needed pitching help in return.
3. Cubs sign Howie Kendrick this winter as the professional bat and lefty-masher they craved in 2019.
4. Ben Zobrist will return on a one-year deal and finish his playing career in a Cubs uniform.
5. David Bote, Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell will all be traded or non-tendered this winter as the Cubs remake their bench/depth.

Jeff Nelson

1. Willson Contreras will sign a contract extension.
2. Ben Zobrist will return as a player/coach.
3. Jose Quintana will be traded for minor league depth.
4. Terrance Gore will be signed to be the 26th man on the roster under the new rules.

Theo Epstein’s dog damages Arizona rental property with excessive urine

USA Today

Theo Epstein’s dog damages Arizona rental property with excessive urine

In the midst of an intensive hiring process for the new Cubs manager, Theo Epstein is being sued by an Arizona couple claiming Epstein’s dog, Winston, damaged their house. The cause of damage? Peeing excessively inside the property Epstein rented for spring training in 2015.

Yes, you read that right, Epstein’s dog peed so much he’s being sued.

The lawsuit was filed this Tuesday in Maricopa County, according to the Phoenix New Times, citing Epstein’s dog left “a terrible odor and urine-stained carpeting” in the Paradise Valley, Ariz., home where he and his family stayed.

Winston is a rescue mutt, weighing in at around ten pounds. He can’t pee that much, right?

The lawsuit states the dog "peed prolifically in the $1 million house, staining tile and stone flooring, wood door jams, cabinets, and furniture."

John and Mary Valentino referenced a 2017 quote by Epstein as proof that Winston had a peeing problem. When asked about being named the world’s greatest leader by Fortune magazine after the Cubs 2016 World Series win, Epstein said: “I can’t even get my dog to stop peeing in the house.”

Epstein left the rental property two weeks early due to a scorpion infestation later was shown a repair estimate of $51,405, according to the report.

Julian Green, the Cubs vice president of communications, told the New Times the lawsuit was “baseless.” He also said that an exterminator discovered 45 scorpions on the property that “put (Epstein’s) family at risk every time they put their children to sleep.” The Epsteins moved into a different house for the last two weeks of spring training.

The owners kept the $5,000 security deposit, and according to a source the Epsteins did not hear from them again for more than four years until the suit was filed Tuesday.

When asked about the lawsuit, Epstein replied, “As I said, we have no untouchables. Winston is definitely available in the right trade.”

We’ll be keeping tabs on this story as it unfolds. In the meantime, it’s good to see Epstein still has a sense of humor, even with a dog urine lawsuit and a Cubs managerial search on the line.

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