Gerrit Cole shuts down Cubs again after last year's trash talk

Gerrit Cole shuts down Cubs again after last year's trash talk

The last time Gerrit Cole faced the Cubs at Wrigley Field, he shut them out for eight innings then promptly backed up his play by stating the Cubs are not the best team in baseball.

That was 11 months ago - May 15, 2016 to be exact - and it's not like the Cubs (6-4) had that statement printed out and tacked up on bulletin boards throughout the clubhouse before facing Cole and the Pittsburgh Pirates (4-6) Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Cole wasn't exactly dominant but allowed only two runs in six innings to beat the Cubs once again 4-2 in front of 40,430 fans to kick off the first weekend series of the season at "The Friendly Confines."

Even if the Cubs didn't use Cole's 11-month-old comments as fuel for Friday's game, it's not as if they forgot his bold statement, even after a World Series championship.

"That's fine," Joe Maddon said before the game when asked about Cole's comments. "I'm sure there's certain things I'm not sure of, either. I try to refrain from actually saying them out loud, though."

The Cubs' resume obviously speaks for itself as they proved Cole wrong by finishing 2016 with 103 victories en route to a wild World Series run that ended in the greatest baseball game ever played.

But Cole - the pitcher the Cubs beat in the one-game wild-card playoff in October 2015 - acted as a true ace for his team Friday, halting a four-game losing streak and keeping a powerful Cubs lineup at bay just enough to let the rest of his team come through against Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs bullpen.

After Kyle Schwarber broke a 1-1 tie with an RBI single in the fifth, the Pirates strung together three straight hits to re-tie the score in the sixth and chase Hendricks from the game. Two batters later, the pesky Francisco Cervelli lined a double to right-center to make it 4-2.

The Cubs threatened in the eighth when Kris Bryant walked and Anthony Rizzo was plunked to lead off the inning. But Ben Zobrist struck out on the 10th pitch of his at-bat against Felipe Rivero and Addison Russell lined out to center. Jason Heyward reached on an infield single before Willson Contreras grounded out to end the inning.

The Cubs put together another rally in the ninth with two outs when Schwarber walked, Bryant reached on an error and Rizzo was hit again. But Zobrist grounded to short to end the afternoon. 

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 incumbent bench coach Mark Loretta, first-base coach Will Venable, Astros bench coach Joe Espada, and former Cubs player and Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

The Cubs had whittled down their options to Ross and Espada, with both candidates coming in earlier this week for a second interview:

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 has been 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 how Ross told him that this game teaches you something new 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 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


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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