Cubs

Epstein's search won't include Sandberg

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Epstein's search won't include Sandberg

Updated: November 3, 2011 1:01 a.m.

Theo Epsteins fingerprints will be all over the Cubs organization, from the summer league in the Dominican Republic to the cramped clubhouse at Wrigley Field.

In one of his first signature moves as the new president of baseball operations, Epstein flew to Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday and fired manager Mike Quade. The search for Quades replacement begins immediately, and will not include Ryne Sandberg.

Epstein reached out to the Phillies and asked to speak with Sandberg as a courtesy, to let the Hall of Famer know that he will not be considered for the position. In a statement that outlined the general qualities hes looking for in a manager, Epstein listed a very specific requirement.

He must have managerial or coaching experience at the major-league level.

That eliminates Sandberg, who managed his way up in the Cubs system before losing out to Quade last year. The Cardinals have asked for permission to interview Sandberg the manager at Philadelphias Triple-A affiliate as a potential replacement for Tony La Russa.

There are now three good jobs open in Chicago, Boston and St. Louis, and there will probably be some overlap on those lists. Epstein worked alongside Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington for almost a decade. They share a similar philosophy.

The Red Sox have already interviewed Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin and met Wednesday with Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum, which could speed up this process.

Its possible that well be talking to some of the same people, Cherington told Boston reporters. (But) the teams are at different stages, the cities are different. I think that the right manager in Boston is not necessarily the right manager in Chicago."

Mackanin graduated from Brother Rice High School and has been an interim manager in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Sveum was the third-base coach when the Red Sox broke the curse in 2004, and was the interim manager when the Brewers made a playoff run in 2008.

Epstein has already surrounded himself with two people who were essential to his success in Boston general manager Jed Hoyer and senior vice president Jason McLeod so it wouldnt be surprising if he found someone with a Red Sox pedigree.

Terry Francona, who guided the Red Sox to two World Series titles, is now a free agent, though its unclear if hed rather recharge (or if Epstein even wants to reunite). DeMarlo Hale, a graduate of Chicago Vocational High School, was Franconas bench coach in Boston the past two seasons (including that epic September collapse).

In luring Hoyer and McLeod from San Diego, the Cubs made a deal that they would not grab any other Padres employees for a certain amount of time, which eliminates Bud Black from the list.

The Blue Jays recently changed their policy of allowing employees to interview for lateral positions. This was in response to rumors about the Red Sox being interested in manager John Farrell, their former pitching coach. So Farrell will remain under contract in Toronto.

If the Cubs wanted someone with a pitching background like Black or Farrell they could inquire about Mike Maddux.

The Rangers pitching coach has shaped a staff thats won two consecutive pennants, and the rotation should be the No. 1 priority this winter at Clark and Addison. Epstein has already spoken with his brother Greg about his part-time role in the Cubs organization (family figures to be a major consideration).

When the Red Sox fired Grady Little after losing Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Epstein zeroed in on Francona and Joe Maddon, two candidates who didnt create nearly as much buzz as they do now.

Francona never won more than 77 games in his four seasons as Phillies manager. Maddon never had a full-time job managing in the big leagues before, but would later show a great feel for players in Tampa Bay. So Epstein who didnt comment beyond Wednesdays statement doesnt necessarily need a big name.

The Cubs have three coaches already signed for 2012 hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, bench coach Pat Listach and bullpen coach Lester Strode. Their fates will be determined by the next manager.

That man could also decide whether or not he wants Sandberg on staff, though that would probably be a major distraction. The Cubs are looking to start over, and Epsteins supposed to be an agent of change.

Cubs playoff race: Hope on life support after another disastrous meltdown

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USA Today

Cubs playoff race: Hope on life support after another disastrous meltdown

The Cubs took the field Saturday afternoon with only a 21.3 percent chance of making the postseason.

That number will certainly go down after another epic meltdown in a season full of disastrous moments.

Just five days earlier (after Monday's win), the Cubs had a 76.7 percent chance of October baseball.

But that's what five straight losses will do, especially when the other teams in the race keep on winning. They still couldn’t get back to their winning ways Saturday despite a hard-fought effort in a wild 9-8 loss that saw seven lead changes.

The Cubs are now 6 games back in the division and – as of the final out of their game – 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the National League with only eight games remaining.

Quick thoughts

Kimbrel’s disastrous weekend

This is not what anybody had in mind when the Cubs addressed their biggest weakness and signed Craig Kimbrel to a three-year deal in early June.

In his first 19.2 innings as a Cub, the closer on a Hall of Fame trajectory surrendered 9 home runs – the latter two coming on back-to-back pitches in the top of the ninth inning Saturday.

Called on to protect a 1-run lead, Kimbrel could only watch in disbelief as Yadier Molina sent his first pitch into the left-field bleachers and Illinois native Paul DeJong followed suit on the very next offering.

Kimbrel spent most of this month on the injured list with right elbow inflammation, but returned Thursday only to give up the lead and get saddled with the loss in the 10th inning after the Cubs had just pulled off an epic 3-run rally in the bottom of the ninth to send the game to extras.

Kimbrel now has a 6.53 ERA in 23 games with the Cubs this season.

The winds of change

At first pitch Saturday, the wind was blowing straight out at Wrigley Field at 17 mph. That proved to be a *huge* factor in the game.

Each team felt the benefit of Mother Nature, with Marcell Ozuna somehow golfing this very low 0-2 pitch from Kyle Ryan into the bleachers in the top of the seventh inning for a go-ahead blast:

The Cubs’ big boost from the wind came on Tony Kemp's signature moment as a Cub in the bottom of the inning (though this game won’t be remembered for his heroics).

After Ben Zobrist had doubled with one out, Kemp was sent up to the plate as a pinch-hitter and appeared to strike out, only to get new life when it turned out a balk was called. He hit the next pitch in the air to center field, deep enough to at least get Zobrist home from third as the tying run, but it wound up carrying just a few rows into the bleachers for an enormous, game-changing home run.

The Cubs had been waiting for their baseball luck to turn and I think it's safe to say the balk call qualified, though it ultimately proved to only set the stage for even greater heartbreak for the fanbase.

Brad Wieck's big moment goes for naught

Kemp wasn't the only player to deliver his signature moment with the Cubs Saturday afternoon.

Wieck was called on to protect the 1-run lead in the eighth inning of a crucial, Game 7-esque contest Saturday - just like everybody predicted back when the Cubs traded for him on July 31. Despite walking the leadoff hitter and plunking Tommy Edman, Joe Maddon left Wieck in the game to face the heart of the Cardinals order - righties Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna - even though veteran Steve Cishek had been warming up in the Cubs bullpen.

Goldschmidt flied out to left field and Ozuna struck out, giving Wieck a huge boost of confidence and setting the Cubs up for a much-needed victory before the ninth-inning meltdown.

Oh, that's where the offense was hiding...

Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson certainly helped out with back-to-back-to-back-to-back walks after Nicholas Castellanos' double in the first inning.

The team that scored only 1 run on 9 hits in Friday's ballgame then plated 3 runs on just 1 hit in the first inning of Saturday's contest.

Baseball, man.

The Cubs generally had a solid approach at the plate all day, drawing 6 walks and slugging 7 of their 10 hits for extra bases.

Rookie Nico Hoerner delivered a clutch go-ahead homer in the bottom of the sixth, his third longball of the homestand after hitting just 3 homers in 75 minor-league games this year.

What bum ankle?

This weekend series hasn't gone the way the Cubs wanted, but Anthony Rizzo's shocking return to the field and subsequent play has been one of the consistent bright spots.

After a nasty-looking sprained ankle that was originally thought to keep him out for the rest of the regular season, Rizzo returned to the Cubs leadoff spot just 20 minutes before Thursday's game and he even provided a homer in that contest before the Cardinals pulled out a victory in the 10th inning.

In 11 plate appearances over those three games, Rizzo reached in six of them, including three hits Saturday. He even hustled out a double in the second inning, sliding into second on that injured ankle and trying to give his team a spark.

Q's about Q

What is going on with Jose Quintana. He hasn't made it through 4 innings in any of his last three starts and has gone more than a month since pitching at least 6 innings (Aug. 18).

He's now given up 18 earned runs and 25 hits in 13.2 innings this month - good for an 11.85 ERA and 2.19 WHIP.

Quintana was a rock for the Cubs in the rotation for the first five months of the season, but he's taken a sharp turn in the wrong direction at the absolute worst time. His struggles are even tougher to swallow when taken alongside Cole Hamels' last couple months of injuries and ineffectiveness.

At the moment, Quintana would be in line to start the first game in St. Louis next weekend, but the Cubs could always utilize the off-day to change up their rotation a bit.

Brewers update

Milwaukee hosts the Pirates Saturday evening with Kyle Davies on the mound. The Brewers are 2.5 games up on the Cubs for the final playoff spot in the National League.

Nationals update

Washington sends Stephen Strasburg to the mound in Miami against the 100-loss Marlins. The Nationals have a 3.5-game lead on the Cubs and are 1 game up on the Brewers for the top Wild-Card spot.

What's next?

The Cubs finish their 2019 regular season home slate Sunday afternoon, though the weather is on track to be awful all day.

If they are able to play, will this be the final game at Wrigley Field in 2019?

Yu Darvish takes the hill for the Cubs against Miles Mikolas. Catch all the action on NBC Sports Chicago or the My Teams app, with pregame live beginning at 12:30 p.m.

 

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Cubs struggling to pinpoint source of inconsistent offense as season nears finish line

Cubs struggling to pinpoint source of inconsistent offense as season nears finish line

If the Cubs could determine why their offense goes from scoring often in one series to struggling to scratch out more than a single run each game in the next, they would.

But the thing is, finding the answer to that problem is far easier said than done right now.

“It’s just one of those things,” Cubs outfielder Nick Castellanos said on Friday, a 2-1 loss to the Cardinals. “I don’t think there’s really a rhyme or reason for it. It’s baseball.”

After scoring a whopping 55 runs from last Friday to Monday, the Cubs offense has scuffled their last four games. Granted, 47 of those 55 runs game against the lowly Pirates, and the Cubs have faced better pitching this week (specifically Reds starter Sonny Gray on Tuesday and Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty on Thursday).

Still, it’s hard to fathom how the Cubs have scored just nine times since Tuesday, a stretch where they’ve lost four straight home games for the first time since May 2018.

The up-and-down nature of this Cubs team has been a common sight in 2019, with the last 10 days being a microcosm of the season as a whole. Their current four-game losing streak comes on the heels of a five-game winning streak, one where the Cubs reached a season-high 14 games above .500 (82-68).

Perhaps most frustrating is the fact that while the offense has struggled as a unit, many Cubs hitters are having successful seasons individually. Six Cubs have hit at least 21 home runs this season – seven, if you include what Castellanos has done before and after the North Siders acquired him from the Tigers.

Six Cubs also hold an OPS above .800 (minimum 220 at-bats), so it’s not that they’re getting less production than needed from their core guys. For some reason, the Cubs tend to struggle as a unit offensively.

“Statistically, you look at a lot of the numbers [and] it just doesn’t correspond to where we’re at,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said on Saturday. “We’ve had a lot of really good individual years offensively."

Maddon expanded on the up-and-down nature of the 2019 Cubs, mentioning the infamous home/road splits and that while his bullpen is maligned, their overall numbers are solid.

“These are some really crazy, hard to wrap your mind around things,” he said. “Just to have your mind try to extrapolate what is going on, it’s hard to pinpoint anything.

“A lot of guys are having really good seasons and we’ve lost a lot of one-run games. Is that the lack of a hit, or is that a lack of a pitch? I don’t know. A lot of close games – is it the other teams have gotten better?"

Whether it’s the lack of a big hit or making the right pitch, the fact of the matter is that the Cubs are 19-25 in one-run games this season. Their last three losses have come in such a fashion, with the latter two coming in their biggest series of the season.

The Cubs entered Thursday three games back of the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central. They now sit five back, with time running out on them to secure even a Wild Card spot. Whatever is plaguing the offense, it has to go away, and fast.

“It’s so hard to really cull it down to one particular event or moment or thought,” Maddon said. “It’s difficult, but we still have this strong opportunity in front of us that we have to focus on."

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