Cubs

Joe Maddon changes his tune on Cubs hosting concerts at Wrigley Field

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Joe Maddon changes his tune on Cubs hosting concerts at Wrigley Field

The day after his AC/DC comments went viral and made national headlines, Joe Maddon flip-flopped his position on the Cubs hosting concerts at Wrigley Field.

Whether or not someone upstairs told the manager to change his tune – or a master manipulator of the media didn’t realize how much his words would echo on Twitter and across the Internet – Maddon backtracked during Tuesday’s pregame media session and gave a pro-concert message for the cameras.

“That’s good stuff,” Maddon said. “I have no problem with any of that. Zero. Zilch. Nada. That was an attempt at weak humor yesterday, so I was guilty of that, and I can be very weak at times. Regarding the bad hop, I have no problem with the concert whatsoever. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.”

[MORE: Joe Maddon blames Starlin Castro’s error on AC/DC concert at Wrigley]

Sitting in the same interview room/dungeon after Monday night’s 9-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, Maddon took an innocuous question about Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro finally being able to play winning baseball in September and seemingly used it to make a larger point about the franchise’s business/baseball priorities.

Maddon blamed Castro’s fielding error on last week’s AC/DC concert, which “totally messed up our infield.” The explanation roughly 18 hours later sounded like a bit from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” one of Maddon’s favorite TV shows. 

“I was very flippant,” Maddon said. “‘Very flippant’ – is that redundant? Could you be ‘very flippant?’ Or are you just ‘flippant?’ I think I was just ‘flippant.’ Or I was just ‘very.’ One of the two.”

Do you like AC/DC?

“I do, but I’m not as current or hip to their stuff,” Maddon said. “My group is like the 60s and the 70s groups.”

Maddon enjoys talking to reporters and wants to protect Castro, who has thrived as a part-time second baseman after losing his status as a franchise shortstop.

Maddon has also complained about the inconsistent start times for weekend games at Wrigley Field, another complicated issue for Crane Kenney’s business-operations department.

Every business in the neighborhood should be hustling and hoping to cash in on the clinching celebrations and possible home playoff games in October.

The Ricketts family wants to leverage an iconic venue and turn Wrigleyville into a year-round destination. In theory, revenue-generating events like an AC/DC concert should help the Cubs get players and improve the on-field product.

“I don’t know how that all works,” Maddon said. “The citizenry really enjoys this stuff. And I’m all about that. In this particular area, my God, it’s so vibrant, why wouldn’t you do it here with that marquee?

“Springsteen was here. And then you see Billy Joel. And I think it’s great. It’s absolutely awesome. I would never want to get in the way of that. If there’s any way that we could attend at least one, I would really appreciate that.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The Cubs haven’t really answered what happens to the Masahiro Tanaka money ($20 million) rolled over from last season and built into this year’s budget. The surge of interest in this team – plus the potential for a long playoff run – should help the bottom line for Theo Epstein’s baseball-operations department. 

Ultimately, the Cubs having a big-market payroll again depends on the next TV deal and the complex leveraged partnership between the Ricketts family and Sam Zell’s Tribune Co. (which included a piece of Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, the owner of exclusive cable rights through the 2019 season).

It doesn’t sound like the Cubs will stop showcasing performers like Foo Fighters and Zac Brown Band. The synergy and access to musical talent had helped drive the decision to leave WGN-AM 720 and start a new partnership with CBS Radio this season.

“The only thing I’d like to see changed is the fact that we could attend them,” Maddon said. “I don’t know how that could happen, though. Like you’re playing a home series, it would be hard to play the game, set it up and then set up for the field afterwards. I have no problems with the concerts whatsoever. I’m a big music fan.”

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel is one step closer to joining the Cubs bullpen.

According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, Kimbrel will join Triple-A Iowa and make his first appearance on Tuesday, against the Sacramento River Cats.

While the Cubs officially signed him on June 7, Kimbrel has yet to pitch in actual games. The 31-year-old has been in a condensed spring training program at the Cubs' Arizona complex, throwing live batting practice on both Thursday and Saturday.

The Cubs haven't revealed an official timeline for Kimbrel to join the 25-man roster, as they are basing things off of how he feels. The expectation is he will pitch in about five games with Iowa before joining the Cubs. However, both Theo Epstein and Kimbrel acknowledged how the goal isn't to rush the closer back into MLB action.

"We're not gonna rush it," Epstein said. "It's gonna be tempting to get him here as soon as possible, but we're trying to plan this thing the right way so that he could be in a position to succeed not just immediately but in October. That's gonna be our guiding principle as we go."

"We sat down and put a gameplan together — something to work off of," Kimbrel said. "But at the end of the day, it's based off how I recover, how I get ready. This isn't about getting back on the field as fast as I can. This is about being the best that I can be in October and down the stretch and doing what I came here to do for this team."

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Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

There were some added stakes to Saturday night’s Cubs-Dodgers matchup. Darvish made his first start at Dodger Stadium since his infamous Game 7 loss in the 2017 World Series, looking for a great effort in front of a fan base that had their up-and-downs in terms of their relationship with him. He (maybe) took a small jab at the Dodgers before the game had even started, telling the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't worried about being booed because “the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side.”

Well Dodgers faithful certainly got the message and made sure to let Darvish hear it.

However, Darvish got the last laugh on Saturday night. He pitched a stellar seven innings. Over those seven innings, Darvish gave up 1 ER on 2 hits and also notched 10 strikeouts.

Darvish has been hitting his stride as of late, maintaining a 2.96 ERA over his last four starts.

All of that being said, it would be remiss of me not to mention the contributions of Darvish’s teammates. His great outing helped keep the Cubs in the game, but the gutsy performances of Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Strop are what won the contest.

Dodgers All-Star relief pitcher Kenley Jansen had a 10-game scoreless streak coming into Saturday night, but one swing of Rizzo’s bat was all that was needed to restore balance to the everlasting battle of pitcher versus hitter. After Jansen hit Kris Bryant with a pitch to put him on base, Rizzo activated “clutch mode”, mashing a 400-foot bomb out to right field.

Though small, Saturday night’s homer gives Rizzo a three-game hitting streak, perhaps forecasting that things are trending  upwards for the first baseman as the Cubs look to close out the series against the Dodgers with a win on Sunday night. And not to be left out of the fun, Pedro Strop came in to face the Justin Turner, MVP hopeful Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Matt Beaty to nail down the save.

Never afraid of high-pressure moments, Stop came through big time.

Strop got a ground out from Turner, struck out Bellinger and Beaty in his 15-pitch save effort. This was a much-needed win for the Cubs, who have well-documented struggles on the road. As they look to split the four-game set with the Dodgers on Sunday night, the Cubs can be pleased with their fight this week.

Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was the Cubs first win of the season after trailing through six innings, as they were 0-23 in such situations prior to the victory. Amid a season that has been fraught with injury and general roster construction concerns, it was wonderful to see the Cubs pull out a tough win lead by the much-maligned Darvish and the never-quit attitude of his teammates.