Cubs

Jake Arrieta - MLB's ERA leader - claims he has had 3-4 'bad' starts this season

Jake Arrieta - MLB's ERA leader - claims he has had 3-4 'bad' starts this season

Jake Arrieta cares not for the expectations placed upon him by other people.

He operates solely on his own insane expectations.

As if to reiterate how "insane," the reigning National League Cy Young winner and current Major League Baseball ERA leader said he has actually had three-to-four starts with "bad" stuff in 2016.

Yes, the guy with the 1.29 ERA and four starts removed from his second no-hitter in the last calendar year has said he's had "bad" stuff in half of his starts this season.

"That's part of being a starter," Arrieta said Thursday morning in Milwaukee. "The old cliche - you're gonna have 10 [starts] where you're good, 10 where you're average and 10 where you're bad - as far as stuff goes. 

"You can still win those games when you don't have your best stuff and that's what I've already done three or four times this year."

An incredulous reporter followed up, clairfying that Arrieta has already had some "bad" starts this season.

"Yeah, of course," the 30-year-old right-hander said as if it were obvious. "If you can't tell that it's one the nights where I haven't been as sharp as I'd like, that's what you're going for. You want to present to the other team and people in the stadium that you were on your game that night, regardless of how you actually feel.

"I've been able to disguise that well and kind of put my best foot forward regardless of my stuff that night and still get wins."

Arrieta is tied with Stephen Strasburg for the NL lead with seven wins in eight starts (plus a no-decision) and only White Sox ace Chris Sale (9-0) has more victories here in mid-May.

Arrieta's 1.29 ERA is .25 points lower than the next-closest guy (White Sox lefty Jose Quintana - 1.54). However, the Cubs ace is only third in the big leagues in WHIP (0.84), behind Clayton Kershaw (0.70) and Sale (0.72). 

Part of that is because Arrieta has walked 18 batters in 56 innings, including multiple free passes in five straight starts (three of which he walked four hitters).

Arrieta takes the mound Friday night, looking to be something of a stopper against the San Francisco Giants after a rough week for the Cubs.

Joe Maddon pointed to the Cubs' four-game sweep of the Giants at Wrigley Field last August as a major turning point in the season. 

That was the weekend Starlin Castro was benched and Addison Russell became the Cubs' shortstop. It was also when Maddon started managing like the Cubs were already in the playoffs, removing Jason Hammel after allowing only two runs and five baserunners in four innings.

"I definitely felt it going into that series," Maddon said. "We took Jason out early that one game when I thought we had to. Kind of like a momentum/paradigm shift the way we were thinking at that particular time in general.

"That was a good thing. We were doing good, but we had to do a little bit more than that. You never want guys to just be satisfied with this nice little thing you got going on.

"[Wednesday night's 13-inning thriller] is a classic example. We could easily have emailed it in. I'm really proud of our guys regarding that."

The Cubs were hoping Wednesday's five-hour, 2-1 victory was going to be a springboard to get back on track after a little hiccup, but the feeling was short-lived thanks to Thursday's 5-3 loss to the Brewers.

The Giants sit atop the NL West at 25-18, riding the high of an eight-game winning streak.

But the ultra-confident Arrieta is ready for the showdown in San Francisco, talking casually about his start in between his claims that he's had "bad" outings and a brief discussion about how he'd like to connect with Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews to do some Pilates.

"We're two really good teams going at it in their park," Arrieta said. "It's gonna be a battle. 

"I don't really remember that [series at Wrigley last year] very well. It's a new series. New team, new year. We're tough to beat. They're good, too, so we're gonna be ready.

Joe Girardi steps down as manager for Olympic qualifying team to pursue MLB openings

Joe Girardi steps down as manager for Olympic qualifying team to pursue MLB openings

Joe Girardi’s name has come up for just about every managerial opening in Major League Baseball and it sounds like he is all in on pursuing that opportunity.

Girardi was set to manage USA Baseball’s Olympic qualifying team. He was named the manager of Team USA in August. His first tournament was going to be the upcoming Premier12 tournament, which is the first chance to qualify for the Olympics. Camp was set to begin on Oct. 21 and the U.S.’s first game is Nov. 2.

Instead, Girardi has stepped down. USA Baseball broke the news with a press release that announced Scott Brosius, a former teammate of Girardi’s on the Yankees, will take over.

The reason is the interesting part. He stepped down “as he pursues open managerial opportunities in Major League Baseball.”

At the very least, it sounds like Girardi is interested in at least one of the openings in MLB. He interviewed with the Cubs last week so this won't quell any speculation that he would come back to the North Side as a manager.

David Ross may still be the odds on favorite to fill the Cubs’ vacancy, but Girardi’s apparent interest in rejoining the ranks of MLB managers is certainly noteworthy. One would think if Girardi wants to get back into managing in MLB, at this indicates, he will get a job. Now the question is where he will land.

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Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Barring a Cubs-Angels World Series, the Wrigley Field faithful might not have much of an opportunity to welcome Joe Maddon back to The Friendly Confines.

It didn't take long for Maddon to find a job, as he reportedly agreed this week to join the Los Angeles Angels as their next manager. This was a widely speculated move after the Angels let go of manager Brad Ausmus just one year into a three-year contract immediately after the Cubs announced they were parting ways with Maddon. 

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers, Maddon's deal will likely be for three years at $4-5 million a season:

Maddon came up as a coach in the Angels system, referencing his three decades there often during the course of his five years in Chicago.

Once the Cubs got rid of Maddon, it was obvious he would have plenty of suitors, as just about any team with a managerial vacancy would be interested in the future Hall of Famer. But instead of going to an up-and-coming team like the Padres or a squad on the cusp of the playoffs like the Phillies, Maddon opted to return to his baseball home.

That means he will most likely not face off against the Cubs over the next couple of seasons, as the Cubs hosted the Angels in 2019 and are not slated to play each other again until 2021 (which will take place in L.A.). Barring the aforementioned World Series meeting, Maddon and the Cubs likely won’t cross paths in Chicago for the next few seasons.

It also means Maddon will get to team up with the best player in the game (Mike Trout) and an exciting young two-way star (Shohei Ohtani) while inheriting a roster that otherwise has some major flaws. The Angels have struggled to build up a roster around Trout over his nine seasons, making the playoffs just once in 2014 and getting bounced from the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals that season.

But the Angels do have some intriguing prospects coming up the system — led by outfielder Jo Adell — and Maddon has experience taking a team and elevating them to contender status immediately. He also carries immediate clout that will help draw free agents to L.A., as he did in Chicago with Jon Lester.

Maddon will be reunited with former Cubs fan favorite Tommy La Stella, who was starring for the Angels earlier this season before a leg injury sent him to the shelf for several months.

In many ways, this is an ideal fit for Maddon, who will get to stay in a big market with a team willing to spend and a roster that at least has some incredible talent from Day 1. It would obviously be a difficult task to try to overtake the juggernaut Houston Astros in the AL West, but he accomplished a similar feat in Chicago when he led the Cubs past the Cardinals in Year 1 (and kept the Cards out of the playoffs for the next three years until their return to October baseball this fall).

The Cubs, meanwhile, have not yet announced a new manager, though David Ross still looms as the favorite to take over Maddon's former gig. Theo Epstein's front office interviewed Mark Loretta, Will Venable, Joe Girardi and Ross earlier this month and also planned to talk to Joe Espada and Gabe Kapler this week.

Epstein said the Cubs are "full speed ahead" to hire a new manager, so expect them to move quickly to finalize Maddon's heir.