Cubs: Social media is biggest winner/loser at trade deadline


Cubs: Social media is biggest winner/loser at trade deadline

PITTSBURGH — Starlin Castro says he heard enough speculation about getting traded that he stopped checking his Instagram account, trying to block out the noise from Cubs fans wondering what’s next for the All-Star shortstop.

The lasting image from this deadline will be New York Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores in tears, thinking he’s about to be traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. Amid a flurry of jump-the-gun reports, Carlos Gomez posed with teammates on a charter flight for a goodbye photo that went up on Twitter and has since been deleted.

That deal fell apart, and by July 30 the Brewers had shipped their All-Star/Gold Glove center fielder to the Houston Astros. The next night, Flores made it through the deadline and hit a walk-off homer in the 12th inning to beat the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.

This in a season where the Boston Red Sox benched Pablo Sandoval for “liking” an attractive woman’s pictures on Instagram during the middle of a game. Sandoval admitted to checking his cell phone while using the bathroom, and it became the perfect storm for a last-place team, an overheated media market and the new guy with a five-year, $95 million contract.

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If you are a young, rich and famous ballplayer, why even bother being on social media?

“I like to talk s--- to people,” Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “People like to talk s--- to me.”

As soon as Arrieta started his bromance with David Price on Twitter, it became part of a larger story about what the Detroit Tigers might do at the trade deadline and how hard the Cubs will pursue the Toronto Blue Jays rent-a-pitcher this winter.

“I like to connect with fans,” Arrieta said. “I don’t use Facebook because it’s all people that I used to kind of know, (back) in high school, third cousins and stuff. I don’t like Facebook.

“With Twitter, it’s more like a fan experience. I can interact with them and people from all over the world. Different businesses, companies, networking, I like to (explore) things I’m interested in, so I do reach out to people, or they reach out to me.”

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Joe Maddon started a Twitter account at his old job to help promote the Tampa Bay Rays, and it has grown to around 246,000 followers. The Cubs manager explained his social-media policy in less than 140 characters: “Just don’t get caught.”

“People are going to talk,” said Addison Russell, the rookie second baseman who found himself under a completely different microscope when the Oakland A’s traded him to the Cubs last year. “People are going to share their opinions.

“I myself have a personal life. If I have a free minute, and I feel willing to post something that I’m doing, or something that I’m interested in, I’ll go ahead and post it if it’s not offending anyone.”

Even if it sometimes feels like the game is trending this way, players aren’t robots or only numbers on a screen.

“I still have family and friends back home that are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” Russell said. “I like to let them know how I’m doing from time to time. People are going to talk. They’re going to send you rude messages. They’re going to send you great messages.

“At the end of the day, a ballplayer is another person. We’re just trying to do our job, have some fun and provide for our families. That’s No. 1 for us.”

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Jon Lester engaged with angry Red Sox fans on Twitter last December after signing his six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs, which amounted to $20 million more than what Boston guaranteed in its final lowball offer.

Lester said: “The important part of that whole deal was to get the Boston fans that truly understood the decision, and that truly support us, and try to give them a response.

“Let them know that they’ll always be a part of our lives and part of our hearts. We’ll never forget our times and our relationships and memories that we’ve had there.

“Obviously, within that, you’re going to get just a few people that ruin it for everybody else. The biggest thing is we didn’t want (to let) them ruin it for everybody else. We wanted to continue with the good ones — and we felt like we could be a little bit of a smartass with the bad ones.”

The smart-ass New York tabloids — Daily News, Post and Newsday — went with pictures of Flores and “CRYING SHAME.”

“That’s kind of awkward, obviously,” Maddon said. “That’s just a product of today’s society and technology. Without social media and everybody having a voice and an opinion right now, something like that probably could not happen — wouldn’t have happened — 10 years ago (or) maybe even five years ago.

“It’s the world we live in right now. There’s a lot of things in today’s existence that I think make everything better. I can’t tell you that social media actually does. You got to live with it.”

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening


Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

Is this the offseason that Cubs executive Jason McLeod finally becomes an MLB general manager?

According to Bruce Levine, the Giants are reportedly interested in McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development, for their vacant general manager position.

McLeod joined the Cubs' front office in 2011 alongside Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Before the Cubs, he spent six years in the Red Sox front office and two in the Padres' (with Hoyer, who was San Diego's general manager from 2010-2011). 

Of course, the Giants' reported interest in McLeod doesn't necessarily mean that he will interview for the job. However, it's worth noting that McLeod interviewed for the Twins' general manager job in 2016; he also withdrew his name from consideration for the Padres' general manager job in 2014. 

In addition to the Giants, McLeod's name has been linked to the Mets' general manager vacancy. This is more speculation, but the point is that it seems to be only a matter of time before McLeod is hired as general manager elsewhere.

For what it's worth, though, McLeod is under contract through 2021 and has previously said that he is grateful to be with the Cubs. 

“I’m exceptionally grateful,” McLeod said. “All of us are. Look at where we are at this moment in time with this team," McLeod said in 2016. "I can’t imagine a better environment, a better culture to work at in baseball.

"We’ve been together a long time. We’re friends. We’re good. We embrace the fact that we are good. And we challenge ourselves to be even better.”

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

The Cubs are heading into a new season with a different hitting coach for the second straight winter, but the most recent choice is a familiar face.

Anthony Iapoce is set to join Joe Maddon's coaching staff this week after serving in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers for the last three seasons. The Cubs confirmed the move Monday afternoon shortly after the news broke out of the Rangers camp.

The Cubs fired Chili Davis last week after just one season as the team's hitting coach.

Entering the final week of the season, the Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister, leaving Iapoce and the rest of the Texas coaching staff in limbo.

As such, Iapoce is rejoining the Cubs, where he served as a special assistant to the General Manager from 2013-15 focusing on player development, particularly in the hitting department throughout the minor leagues.

Iapoce has familiarity with a bunch of the current star offensive players on the Cubs, from Willson Contreras to Kris Bryant. 

Both Bryant and Contreras endured tough 2018 seasons at the plate, which was a huge reason for the Cubs' underperforming lineup. Bryant's issue was more related to a left shoulder injured suffered in mid-May while Contreras' offensive woes remain a major question mark after the young catcher looked to be emerging as a legitimate superstar entering the campaign.

Getting Contreras back to the hitter that put up 21 homers and 74 RBI in only 117 games in 2017 will be one of the main goals for Iapoce, so the history between the two could be a key.

With the Rangers, Iapoce oversaw an offense that ranked 7th, 9th and 14th in MLB in runs scored over the last three seasons. The decline in offensive production is obviously not a great sign, but the Rangers as a team have fallen off greatly since notching the top seed in the AL playoffs in 2016 with 95 wins only to lose 95 games in 2018, resulting in the change at manager.

Iapoce has worked with an offense backed by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo the last few seasons.

Under Iapoce's tutelage, former top prospect Jurickson Profar shed any notion of a "bust" label and emerged as a budding star at age 25, collecting 61 extra-base hits with a .793 OPS in 2018.

When the Cubs let Davis go last week, they provided no update on assistant hitting coach Andy Haines, who just finished his first season in that role and is expected to remain with the team for 2019. The same offseason Iapoce left for the Rangers, Haines took over as the Cubs' minor league hitting instructor.