How Jon Jay morphed into Joe Maddon's sidekick

How Jon Jay morphed into Joe Maddon's sidekick

Imagine Joe Maddon and Jon Jay remodeling with bunk beds to create more room for activities and calling each other by nicknames like "Dragon" and "Nighthawk."

The two are not staring in "Step Brothers 2" anytime soon, but Maddon has said he would adopt the Cubs veteran outfielder as a sidekick.

Or a son.

"If I needed a son or a sidekick, I'd go for Jon Jay," Maddon said.

When asked where that came from, he laughed and admitted he has "no idea."

Maddon even joked he'd look into getting the paperwork filled out.

"That'd be cool," Jay said, laughing at the matter. 

Jay received a third straight start Monday night against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies. He only started seven of the Cubs' first 22 games of 2017, ceding playing time to Albert Almora Jr. and Ben Zobrist in an outfield that already features everyday players in Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward.

Schwarber served as the designated hitter over the weekend in Boston, leaving the door open for Jay to play and reach base five times in nine trips to the plate, bumping his season average to .385 and on-base percentage to .478.

"His batting average and stuff is high, but the way he's playing does not surprise," Maddon said. "He always works a good at-bat. He's never in trouble. He gets to two strikes and the at-bat is not over. Sometimes, he does his best work with two strikes.

"You saw the baserunning [Sunday to score from second on a wild pitch]; he played the wall well in Fenway, too. But there's all the ancillary stuff. You watch him on the bench and how he interacts and I watch the conversations, even when he talks to me. There's all this stuff, too.

"He brings a lot. He knows what it's like to be on a championship-caliber team and he's just wonderful to be around."

The Cubs handed the 32-year-old Jay a one-year, $8 million deal this winter in part to help fill some of the veteran leadership void left by David Ross' journey from backup catcher to professional dancer.

Maddon also admitted that Jay is an "acquired taste" given that the outfielder's stat line typically does not jump out at people. He boasts a .289 career average and has hit .300 or better three times while working the count and sporting a .354 career OBP. 

But Jay has not flashed much power (31 homers) or speed (46 stolen bases) in his eight big-league seasons and has only topped 500 at-bats in a season one time.

"I didn't get him when I first saw him," Maddon admitted. "When you watch him from a scout's perspective — there's certain guys where if you walk in a ballpark and you see him once or twice, you don't quite understand where the benefit is.

"He's the guy where you watch for a week straight, you totally get it. Especially last year with the Padres — a team that wasn't that good — just really watching how he went about his business really convinced me how good he is. Love having him here, man."

After six years in a Cardinals uniform, Jay hasn't had a ton of time to endear himself to Cubs fans, but he's played all three outfield positions already and has shown his ability off the bench with five pinch-hits in the first month.

"I take pride in that — doing extra work or whatever it takes to be ready," Jay said. "There's no excuses. Your name gets called — you wanna be able to go up there and deliver and help the team, so I just try to stay ready as much as I can."

Jay understands his role on the team isn't to be an everyday player and he didn't take the bait when a reporter asked him if his hot start to the season should equal more playing time.

"I'm at the point in my career where I can still contribute and that's all I ask for," Jay said. "This is a great team here, a great chance to win and that's why I wanted to come here. I'm just staying ready."

Cubs expected to hire Mike Napoli — David Ross' former teammate — as quality assurance coach

Cubs expected to hire Mike Napoli — David Ross' former teammate — as quality assurance coach

David Ross will not only be managing former teammates with the Cubs in 2020, but he'll be coaching alongside one, too.

The Cubs are expected to add former MLB catcher Mike Napoli to Ross' coaching staff, per multiple reports. Napoli will assume the title of quality assurance coach, vacated by Chris Denorfia, who held the position for one season.

Napoli played in parts of 12 big-league seasons from 2006-17 with the Angels, Rangers, Red Sox and Indians. He won the 2013 World Series with Boston — alongside Ross and Cubs starter Jon Lester — and was also a key figure with the 2016 Indians, whom the Cubs defeated in the World Series. He finished his career with a .246/.346/.475 slash line with 267 home runs. 

According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, the Cubs pursued Napoli last winter, though the 38-year-old wanted to take a short break from baseball before jumping into coaching. He'll join a Cubs coaching staff that is almost finalized, with the exception of one vacant base coach spot. Here's what the group looks like right now:

Manager — David Ross
Bench coach — Andy Green
Pitching coach — Tommy Hottovy
Associate pitching coach, catching and strategy coach — Mike Borzello
Hitting coach — Anthony Iapoce
Assistant hitting coach — Terrmel Sledge
Bullpen coach — Chris Young
Base coach — Will Venable
Base coach — open
Quality assurance coach — Mike Napoli

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday the organization hopes to have the coaching staff finalized by the end of the week. With Napoli on board, the Cubs are one step closer to making that goal a reality.

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Fans apologize to Yu Darvish following Astros cheating allegations

Fans apologize to Yu Darvish following Astros cheating allegations

When the Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish at the 2017 trade deadline, he was expected to be one of the final pieces to their championship puzzle.

After a solid nine-start regular season with Los Angeles, Darvish was stellar early in the postseason. In two starts (one in the NLDS, one in the NLCS), he allowed two runs across 11.1 innings, racking up 14 strikeouts compared to a single walk.

Things went downhill for Darvish in the World Series, where he surrendered nine runs in 3.1 innings across two starts. This includes Game 7, when he threw 47 pitches in 1.2 innings, allowing five runs in a 5-1 series-clinching win for the Astros.

Darvish became a scapegoat for the Dodgers' World Series loss and faced heavy backlash from fans. Consequentially, he had concerns about re-signing with the Dodgers when he became a free agent that offseason, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, due to fears of how the city's anger towards him would affect his family.

Two years later, fans are now apologizing for directing their anger at Darvish for his World Series performance. Why?

Tuesday, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported the Astros stole opposing teams' signs electronically during the 2017 season. This conflicts with the notion of Darvish tipping his pitches in the World Series, which an anonymous Astros player told Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci was the case.

The notion of Darvish tipping his pitches is now in question altogether:

As has often been the case this offseason, Darvish had a brilliant reaction to the whole situation on Twitter:

Darvish joined the Cubs in 2018 on a six-year deal. After an injury-riddled debut season with the Cubs, he took off post-All-Star break in 2019 and is expected to be the team's Opening Day starter in 2020. Although what happened in 2017 can't be changed, it's nice to see he's moved forward.

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