Cubs

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."

Glanville Offseason Journal: Traded in the offseason, but life goes on

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AP

Glanville Offseason Journal: Traded in the offseason, but life goes on

My mom’s father, my grandfather, in his North Carolina accent, used to ask me nearly every time I saw him.

“You still hittin’ that ball?!?!”

He knew my brother took extensive time to groom me in the game of baseball as soon as I could walk. So he recognized early on that my passion for the game only grew with time. So when he passed away during the offseason nearing midnight into Dec. 23, 1997, it was tough. I could no longer answer his question with a baseball career update.

He passed away in the same hospital where the legendary Negro League player, Buck Leonard, would pass away less than a month sooner. It is just so happened that Leonard’s passing coincided with the day my grandfather was first admitted into the same facility. I took it as a sign as I reviewed baseball and family history thinking about how I could honor my grandfather through both.

1997 was not the offseason I had envisioned. After coming off my breakthrough major league season, my first full season as a major leaguer with the Chicago Cubs, I had hit .300 and earned a chance to be in the starting lineup nearly every day. We had an exit meeting that year in the Astrodome. Cubs general manager at the time, Ed Lynch, was blunt and honest.

He explained very clearly that the organization tried to give the everyday job to “everyone else but you,” but was complimentary in how I was able to take advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself.

I was a speedy center fielder that was in left field for most of the season after a revolving door of our top outfield prospects didn’t quite do enough to lock down the every day role. A platoon gave me a chance to play against lefties, which grew into against righties too.

The talent was deep from my vantage point: Ozzie Timmons, Robin Jennings, Pedro Valdes, Brant Brown, Brooks Kieschnick, Scott Bullet and so on. There were a ton of a good outfielders, and when the smoke cleared, I was the one holding the starter trophy. I was hoping the offseason was a time where I could cement that status as a Chicago Cub.

So I went into the offsseason with hope. Hope that only strengthened while I was on Lake Shore Drive and heard Ed Lynch on the radio talking about my season and how the expansion of the league (1998 the league added the Rays and the D-Backs) was going to force him to make tough decisions about who to protect from the expansion draft.

He conceded that I would be seeking a significant raise after my season. Then, the minimum salary was $109,000 (I made a little more than that in year two) and because of my strong year as a second season player, Lynch was making a reasonable conclusion. I knew my agent was happy.

My grandfather’s health had been declining over time, so his passing was not a shock, but before I fully digested the loss, the phone rang around 12 hours after I got word that he was gone. Who was calling?

I took the call in the basement of my parent’s house. This was while I was in the midst of a sea of unwrapped Christmas gifts strewn all over the ping pong table, the main wrapping station in the Glanville household during the holidays. My first thought was it must be my mom, who was in North Carolina pivoting from savoring his last hours to working on funeral arrangements. My brother was with her. It already was an awkward holiday from our geographically broken family.

It was Ed Lynch on the line, telling me that I had been traded to the Philadelphia Phillies.

What?

I fielded all of the media calls the rest of that day. It was an all-day affair. Between the fresh news of my grandfather’s passing, the shock of being traded after finally breaking through as a starter, and the exhaustion at the idea of learning a new organization, I was not that thrilled.

In fact, one member of the Philadelphia press core finally asked me why I was sounding so unenthusiastic about being traded to the team I loved growing up as a kid. So I had to tell him about my grandfather’s passing and the reality sinking in that I was about to celebrate my first family Christmas with our nuclear family broken into pieces.

For the first time during the holidays, there was this divider in my family. Separated by life’s harsh terms. My father and I were home and my mother and brother were not. My dad and I celebrated at a long-standing friend’s house, a thousand miles from my mom and big bro, and a million miles away from truly accepting that I had been traded.

I had just completed my sophomore year in Major League Baseball and it was a moment when I felt like I had figured out some of my mechanics of the game. I was learning how to be consistent, learning the ropes about managing life in season and now offseason.

I was being traded to a team whose organization brought me great joy in 1980 as a die hard fan, a place where I could start in center field, but this was different. This was the business of baseball. The day I became a movable commodity, traded away for present value in Mickey Morandini. The Phillies were betting on my next chapter being my best years.

Can they do that? Just trade me away without asking me? Of course they can. Wait, why can they?

My 1980s memories of that Phillies championship was more than about the trophy. It framed an era. By my following that team since I was five or six, I saw that team build, I pulled my hair out when the Dodgers kept knocking them out in the ‘77 and ‘78 NLCS. But most of all, they had the same personnel. A core of players, nearly untradeable. Garry Maddox, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Larry Bowa and so on. They were practically glued together for several seasons.

But in the modern game of the late '90s, that dream of being drafted by a team, growing up with that organization, winning with the Cubs and retiring a Cub was no longer possible. That was how the game was evolving.

Although I was a big leaguer, I still was a fan. I still was caught off-guard even after I knew the Cubs protected me in the expansion draft. I understood that at all times, lurking were many ways in the game where I could change teams. Some voluntary, most not.

I realized that the offseason was not just this big training session to get ready for the next season. It was also a chess match of competing value. What you are worth versus what you think you are worth. The 2018 Cubs have many players asking that question. Will Kyle Schwarber be traded? Will Kris Bryant sign?

All players will experience life hitting them in the face when they least expect it. During that downtime, the reflection time, the break. That is why it can sting so much. And loss spares no one in this game, even after you hit .300. The rumors alone can eat you up.

I would attend my grandfather’s funeral and reunite with my mom and brother days after the trade. I took a moment during the time with family to make one simple declaration to the sky above.

“Granddad, I am still hitting that ball.”

Just this year, instead of Cubs blue, I would be wearing Phillies red.

Cubs fans collective rage measured in one word

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USA TODAY

Cubs fans collective rage measured in one word

Baseball is an emotional game, both for those on the field and those merely spectating. Cubs fans are no exception to this notion.

TickPick looked into how often fans used expletives on Reddit during the 2018 MLB Postseason. According to the study, Cubs fans used the f-bomb on Reddit more than any other team.

Despite playing in just one postseason game, Cubs fans ranked first in frequency of using f-bombs per postseason game played at 432 occassions. Of course, the Cubs' playoff run ended quickly with a 2-1 loss to the Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game.

There were 1,911 f-bombs used on Reddit during the Wild Card Game, including 48 when Javier Báez hit an RBI-double in the eighth inning to tie the score at 1-1.

Red Sox fans "placed" second in f-bomb frequency/game with 342, an interesting note considering a) the Red Sox played in 13 more playoff games than the Cubs and b) they won the World Series. 

Reddit users directed the fourth-most "f _ _ _ you's" at the Cubs as a team, trailing just the Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox. Individually, no Cubs ranked in the top 5 in "f-you's" directed at players, for what it's worth. 

Playoff baseball! You've got to love it, right? The full study can be found here.

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