Cubs

How Cubs responded to Brett Anderson’s passive-aggressive shot on Twitter

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USA TODAY

How Cubs responded to Brett Anderson’s passive-aggressive shot on Twitter

PITTSBURGH – The Cubs gave Brett Anderson $3.5 million guaranteed, a clear spot in their rotation and the chance to pitch in front of what had been a historic defensive unit, making him the only guy on the Opening Day roster who hadn’t already earned a World Series ring.

The Cubs got close to a zero return on that investment, but those are the gambles teams take on the free-agent market with talented, injury-prone pitchers, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.

Anderson put up an 8.18 ERA in six starts and accounted for 22 innings before going on the disabled list for the 10th time since 2010. It became out of sight, out of mind as the lefty recovered from another back injury, got designated for assignment in late July and signed a minor-league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.

But Anderson resurfaced Sunday night on Twitter after two decent starts for Toronto – the last-place Blue Jays lost both games – and took a passive-aggressive shot at the Cubs: “It’s crazy what happens when you aren’t tinkered with and can just go out and pitch.”

“I’m happy he’s healthy and he’s pitching,” pitching coach Chris Bosio said before a 12-0 loss Labor Day loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, walking away from a group of reporters in PNC Park’s visiting dugout. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Jake Arrieta had every chance to scream told you so, but he never said anything quite like that when he blossomed into a Cy Young Award winner after a change-of-scenery trade with the Baltimore Orioles. Still, the entire industry noticed how Bosio allowed Arrieta to be himself and worked with the unique crossfire delivery that made him comfortable.

Bosio has sharp edges to his personality – and is still dealing with the recent death of his father – but there is no denying his influence in transforming the Cubs from a last-place team into a championship organization.

Whether it’s helping coach up Kyle Hendricks into a major-league ERA leader – or market trade-deadline chips like Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija – Bosio highlights individual strengths and never believes in a cookie-cutter approach.  

“That’s why I love Twitter so much,” said manager Joe Maddon, who was not aware of Anderson’s post on social media or apparent issues with the staff. “How many characters in Twitter?

“To purvey your thoughts, your deepest, darkest thoughts. That’s what the President does every day, oh my God. You get everything out there in 140 characters, my God, it’s so in depth, it’s so meaningful.”

Maddon repeatedly talked up Anderson in spring training as someone who – if healthy – could perform like a top-of-the-rotation starter. Anderson can also be extremely entertaining on Twitter and refreshingly honest while dealing with the media.  

“When a guy’s going to say something like that, he’s had a tough year,” Maddon said. “God bless him, I hope he comes back. I hope he wins 20 games next year. I mean that sincerely. But when a player has a tough year, it’s on the player.”    

Amid all that optimism in Arizona, Anderson explained how Bosio’s reputation and this pitching infrastructure made the Cubs such an attractive destination to reboot his career.

“It’s one of those things where he’s not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Anderson said after his first Cactus League outing in late February. “It’s more trying to limit the pressure on my back and mild mechanical adjustments where I don’t land on my heel as much – and kind of land on the ball of my foot or my toes – so it’s not such a whiplash effect.

“He’s had a good track record with health, especially the last couple years, and hopefully I can fall in line there, too.”

Theo Epstein’s perspective on David Bote’s historic moment

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USA TODAY

Theo Epstein’s perspective on David Bote’s historic moment

As a team, the Cubs do well with letting go of bad losses quickly and celebrating the good wins just as quickly, and then moving on. Except after David Bote’s two-out, two-strike grand slam to win Sunday night’s game against the Nationals, the team is still basking in the afterglow. Joe Maddon held his third annual “Try Not to Suck” celebrity golf outing at the Bryn Mawr Country Club in Lincolnwood on Monday, and like the rest of Chicago, Bote’s miraculous handiwork dominated the conversation. 

“Yesterday, the group at the golf tournament were effervescent just based on David's home run.” Maddon said prior to Tuesday’s game. “That's all they could talk about." And at the top of the Cubs organization, Vice President Theo Epstein offered perspective on what has made Bote successful beyond just Sunday night. “He's got a big barrel,” Epstein said. “It just comes off hot more often and he's just a combination of the way his hands and wrists work in his swing and the swing plane that he's got now, it's a huge barrel.”

 Bote leads the majors in average exit velocity, and he has always hit the ball hard. Adjustments to his swing leading in to the 2017 season helped to get the ball in the air more, so displays of power like his dead center homer two days ago are more common. “He was hitting the ball down into the ground. Getting the swing on a little bit better plane, he's been able to pull that off while continuing to barrel up balls, so you're seeing balls just explode all over the park,” Epstein said. “He has opposite field power, he's routinely hitting the ball over the right fielder's head. You don't see guys hit the ball in the middle of the field as far as he did. And obviously when he pulls the ball, good things happen, too.” After Sunday’s win, Bote said that after being beaten by low sinkers on Saturday, he was keyed in to Nationals closer Ryan Madson’s four seam fastball. That slight adjustment helped him to create the moment that won the game. 

And on the whole, Bote has offered the kind of depth that has helped the Cubs to be a perennial playoff contender for several years in a row. Not many teams can offer that. “Sometimes we have two starting caliber players on the bench, sometimes we've had one, sometimes we've had three,” Epstein said. “The more you have the better because it just makes you more dangerous when you're writing off the lineup any given day.” Bote’s future is a bit in question as Kris Bryant continues to prepare for his return to the lineup, but as he showed, Bote is fully capable of producing off of the bench or when called upon in the bottom of the 9th. “As you saw with Bote the other day,” Epstein said, “pinch-hitting, to be able to create that matchup in that spot, I don't think a lot of teams would have that ability.”
 
 

David Bote's family and friends had some incredible - and hilarious - reactions to his walk-off grand slam

David Bote's family and friends had some incredible - and hilarious - reactions to his walk-off grand slam

It was the type of moment that transcends baseball.

So many people who are not Cubs fans or not avid baseball followers saw David Bote's grand slam Sunday night and were moved by the excitement and drama of it all.

Bote has had a whirlwind couple of days since that epic moment, which will go down as one of the most memorable plays in Cubs franchise history.

His celebration was iconic, but how his family and friends took in that moment may have been just as good.

Bote and his wife, Rachel, live right near Wrigley Field with their two kids. Rachel initially did not have Sunday's game on the TV, but flipped it on three pitches into her husband's at-bat, as David recounted to Kelly Crull in a 1-on-1 interview Tuesday:

"She had a really cool perspective," Bote said. "She just turned on the game and it was 1-2, because she knew it was kinda getting toward the end of the game. She realized I was up and she's like, 'Uh oh, I've missed all these things.'

"We can see Wrigley Field from our apartment. She watched the rest of the at-bat and she opened the door just to kinda hear what was going on. She watched the hit and then she heard Wrigley Field erupt and she took a picture of Wrigley Field, bright lights and just listening to the crowd singing, 'Go Cubs Go' and screaming and she could watch it on TV. 

"So it was kinda cool. Because she's had to grind it out with us as well — six years in the minors. So for her, she goes, her words were, 'Sometimes baseball gives you a moment to just sit back and enjoy.' So it was really cool to hear her say that."

Their 2-year-old daughter, Shayli, was happy for her dad, but had more important concerns:

"My daughter was very nervous about the jersey-ripping," Bote laughed. "She called it a 'sweater.' I mean, I answered that question like 70 times. 'What happened, Dad?! What happened?!' I'm like, 'It's OK!'"

Bote has heard from a lot of different people after the grand slam, including hugging Bill Murray on the field. He also received text messages from David Ross and Ryan Dempster and got admittedly "geeked out." 

"I'm like, 'Oh my goodness, Ryan Dempster and David Ross texted me??'" Bote said. "I think it's so cool. They're such good dudes."

When told about Theo Epstein's reaction that he got more texts about that grand slam that after some of the World Series games, Bote was speechless for a moment before getting back into the team-centric mindset.

"I don't even know what to say to that," he responded. "That's incredible. I'm blessed and humbled. Again, it's just one step towards what we're trying to do here — which is to be back in the World Series and win the final game.

"If that [win is] a catapult, then that's awesome. If not, then we're just taking it day-by-day. As cliche as it sounds, that is the truth of it."

Bote isn't on social media apart from a private Facebook account. He tries to keep it just for family and friends, but random people have reached out.

"I've had quite a few Facebook messenger messages from people," he said. "It was funny — someone said, 'I proposed and you made it that much more special.' And, 'It was my first Cubs game and it was a great win!' Things that you don't know you impact and that's cool to hear."

But life moves on. Bote was back at Wrigley field Tuesday afternoon for the Cubs' loss to the Brewers and yes, he had a new "sweater" from the team.

Though that won't keep his daughter's questions at bay.

"I guarantee she'll still ask about it tonight."