Joe Maddon digging hot starts from Cubs and White Sox

Joe Maddon digging hot starts from Cubs and White Sox

The Adam LaRoche retirement fiasco figured to either tear the White Sox apart or bring them closer together. Outside Camelback Ranch, Chris Sale’s blistering takedown of Kenny Williams sounded like an All-Star pitcher daring his boss to trade him.

LaRoche popped up again on Wednesday, posting this message on his Twitter account: “Don’t forget, tomorrow is take your child to work day.” But once that media storm passed in spring training, the White Sox could go back to being the team built on a strong rotation and a lineup anchored by Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier.     

A series of low-risk, high-reward moves are paying off, with the White Sox now 16-6 after sweeping the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Cubs – another big offseason winner – are the only team in the majors with a better record (15-5).     

“Digging it,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who wore a pink Mother’s Day edition of his “Try Not To Suck” T-shirt during his media session at Wrigley Field. “I’m really happy for them and their success. I think it’s great for the city. If we could both sustain this kind of play, it could make for a very interesting summer.” 

The Cubs were digging themselves so much in Arizona that a coach’s son taking out a lineup card before a Cactus League game almost felt like Maddon’s crew trolling the White Sox (and not what it actually was – a prearranged birthday reward). 

But Maddon has deep respect for Robin Ventura and the way the White Sox manager navigated his team through the bizarre LaRoche situation, a player walking away from $13 million because his son would no longer have unrestricted access in the clubhouse. 

“I know he went through a tough gig this past spring training,” Maddon said. “I thought he handled it great.”

As an Angels coach in the mid-1990s, Maddon remembered bumping into Ventura and noticing the people skills that made him such a favorite on the South Side. 

“Robin Ventura’s a good man,” Maddon said. “I’m walking into the ballpark – (and) I’m just a year-and-a-half, a year in the big leagues – and he happened to be walking in at the same time.

“He greeted me like I had been there for 20 years. He addressed me. And I’ll never forget that.”

This year, Maddon and his old buddies from the Angels joined Ventura for dinner one night in spring training.   

“It was like me, (Mike Scioscia), Buddy Black, Ronnie Roenicke and Sandy Koufax,” Maddon said with a smile. “Did I say Sandy Koufax? And then Robin was there, too, because Robin digs wine. And Robin is always like throwing me a good bottle now and then.” 

The Cubs and White Sox haven’t both finished with winning records since 2008, when they each won division titles and had all these big, combustible personalities like Lou Piniella, Ozzie Guillen, Carlos Zambrano and A.J. Pierzynski. 

The Cubs and White Sox will play four straight games on both sides of the city (July 25-28) and we’ll see if they stay hot. But the Bulls and Blackhawks are done, and this year baseball doesn’t have to be a space-filler until the Bears report to training camp. 

“When you live in this city and you have that stuff going on, what could possibly beat that?” Maddon said.

Yadier Molina is sad and Cubs fans have a new favorite GIF

Yadier Molina is sad and Cubs fans have a new favorite GIF

ST. LOUIS — The game was over and Yadier Molina knew it.

As Ian Happ turned on Sam Tuivailala's two-strike pitch in the 7th inning, Molina crumbled to the ground in defeat.

Happ's two-out double gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead they did not relinquish in a 6-3 victory Saturday night at Busch Stadium.

The Cubs had to claw back all night against the Cardinals, fighting to tie the game at two separate spots before Happ's breakthrough off Tuivailala.

Molina couldn't contain his disappointment:

Molina is a common target of ire from Cubs fans in the heated rivalry with the Cardinals, so you can bet his #SadFace led to some glee in the Chicago fanbase (just look at the comments on that Tweet):

The 35-year-old catcher just returned recently from a nearly month-long stint on the disabled list when he took a foul tip off a Kris Bryant swing to the groin on Jordan Hicks' 102 mph pitch the last time the Cubs were in town.

Molina has drawn 3 walks and has a single in this weekend's series with the Cubs, but he also committed a miscue in Friday's game, when he threw wild to first base on Jon Lester's squeeze bunt.

The Cubs are now 24-12 since they were swept in St. Louis on the first weekend of May.

Summer of Sammy: Relive Sosa's 25th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Relive Sosa's 25th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

After victimizing poor Cal Eldred for three solo shots in the first game of the series, Sosa wouldn't let the Milwaukee Brewers leave town in June 1998 without one more dinger.

He connected in the 4th inning of the series finale on June 17, 1998, a solo shot off a pitcher named Bronswell Patrick (yes, that's his real name) that went 430 feet down the left field line.

The Cubs wound up losing the game 6-5, though Jose Hernandez did make it close with a 2-run shot in the bottom of the 9th inning.

Through this game, Sosa sported a .300/.348/.917 slash line (1.265 OPS) with 12 homers and 25 RBI in 15 June contests that season. (Yes, that's a .917 slugging percentage.)

But believe it not, those June numbers are about to get even better...

Fun fact: The Cubs lineup on June 17, 1998 featured 4 hitters with a batting average of .320 or higher — Sosa (.333), Mark Grace (.347), Mickey Morandini (.320) and Matt Mieske (.323), though Mieske was a part-time player. 

The 2018 Cubs currently feature only 1 player (part-time or full-time) hitting at least .320: Albert Almora Jr. who entered play Saturday at .321.