Cubs

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

MIAMI – Everything aligned for the Cubs to make Kyle Schwarber their leadoff hitter. Joe Maddon’s gut instincts told him to do it – so the manager asked the Geek Department to run the numbers – and the projections backed him up. A front office raised on Bill James principles endorsed the idea after Dexter Fowler took an offer he couldn’t refuse – five years and $82.5 million – from the St. Louis Cardinals.
   
It all looked good on paper and sounded reasonable in theory. But by the time the Cubs made the Schwarber-to-Iowa move official before Thursday’s game at Marlins Park, the slugger once compared to Babe Ruth in a pre-draft scouting report had devolved into the qualified hitter with the lowest batting average in the majors (.171) and an .OPS 75 points below the league average.  

If Schwarber had been batting, say, sixth since Opening Day, would the Cubs be in a different spot right now?   

“Obviously, I can’t answer that,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It’s an impossible question to answer. We put him in a leadoff position and he struggled. We obviously moved him out of that position (and) that didn’t work either. I know that’s what people are going to point to, because that’s a variable in his career. 

“Obviously, hitting him leadoff in 2017 didn’t work. Whether or not it caused the tailspin, I have no way to answer that question.”   

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The Cubs also deserve credit for: drafting Schwarber when the industry viewed him as a reach with the No. 4 overall pick in 2014; fast-tracking his development to the point where he could help the 2015 team win 97 games and two playoff rounds; and overseeing a rehab process that allowed him to be a World Series designated hitter less than seven months after reconstructive surgery on his left knee.    
 
The Cubs will have their hitting instructors give Schwarber subtle suggestions, focusing on how he starts his swing and where he finishes, trying to reestablish his balance and confidence during this Triple-A timeout.
    
But deep down, this is a 24-year-old player who never experienced a full season in the big leagues before and wanted so bad to be a huge part of The Cubs Way.

“I do think a lot of the problems are mental,” Hoyer said. “These struggles have kind of beaten him up a little bit. Like anyone would, he’s lost a little bit of his swagger, and I think he needs to get that back. But I think when you look at what a great fastball hitter he’s been – how good he was in ’15, how good he was last year in the World Series – the fact that he hasn’t been pounding fastballs this year is a mechanical/physical issue that we’ll be looking to tweak. 

“This is a guy that has always murdered fastballs and he’s not there right now.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Addison Russell speaks

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Addison Russell speaks

For the first time since being suspended 40 games in September for violating MLB's domestic violence policy, Addison Russell met the media in Arizona. We bring you his entire press conference (1:00), as well as comments from Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein about Russell's situation and how it has changed the entire organization (20:00).

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

Addison Russell talks to media for first time since domestic abuse suspension

Addison Russell talks to media for first time since domestic abuse suspension

On Friday, Addison Russell spoke to the media about his domestic abuse case for the first time since MLB placed him on administrative leave and suspended him 40 games in October.

Russell opened by saying he is undergoing league-mandated treatment and voluntary counseling. He then talked about how his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy, is the person who has been affected by this the most.

“The person that has been inflicted the most in this process is Melisa and what I want to say to everyone here today and also to her is that I want to own those actions and I am sorry for the hurt that I have caused Melisa and the pain that I put her through,” Russell said. “I am trying my best efforts to become a better person.”


Russell said he didn’t want to go into specifics, but also didn’t deny any of the allegations.

“I am accountable for my past actions,” he said. “I’m not proud of the person I was, but I do want to own this issue and take responsibility for the pain and hurt that I have caused Melisa and for that I am sorry.”

Russell won’t be eligible to play until May 1, when the suspension ends. He is suspended without pay, but can practice with the team and play in spring training games.

“I really don’t want to make any excuses for myself,” Russell said. “My past behaviors were wrong and unacceptable and I’m doing everything in my power to be a better person. I realized through counseling that I am taking the necessary steps to become a better person.”

 

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