Cubs

Joe Maddon doesn't believe in 'false narrative' of too much celebrating

Joe Maddon doesn't believe in 'false narrative' of too much celebrating

The Cubs, in theory, may have a balance to strike this week between celebrating their 2016 World Series title and beating a Los Angeles Dodgers bunch that looks to be among their stiffest National League competition in 2017. 

But manager Joe Maddon relayed the message he's given his group of defending champions: Enjoy the moment and don't get caught up trying to strike an unnecessary balance during Monday's banner raising and Wednesday's ring ceremony. 

"You want a strong memory of what it was like and what it felt like," Maddon said. "Don't let it go too quickly. Don't get caught up in the really false narrative regarding -- of course we want to win, of course we want to win again -- but please enjoy it, please slow it down, please take time. It's possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity, so don't miss out."

The Cubs' festivities were delayed due to a nasty cold front rolling through Chicago, but after the rain ended -- and after fans applauded David Ross' latest performance on Dancing With the Stars, which was shown on the left field video board -- the 2017 Cubs were introduced in front of a crowd that didn't lose its energy in the wet, chilly conditions. 

Chants of 'M-V-P!' rang out for Kris Bryant as the theme from "Rocky" played over the stadium loudspeakers. Fans sung along with Wayne Messmer during his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner while fireworks shot off from left and right field. 

Following player introductions, the Cubs filed under the right field bleachers and watched as Ryne Sandberg, Ferguson Jenkins and Billy Williams raised banners for the team's 1907 and 1908 World Series titles and the 2016 National League pennant. Anthony Rizzo then raised the 2016 World Series banner next to to Wrigley Field's iconic scoreboard, and a few moments later emerged from under the right field bleachers holding the World Series trophy. The Cubs strutted back to the field like rock stars. 

Part of why Maddon feels comfortable telling his players to soak in all that adulation is that the third-year Cubs skipper said his team already has done well managing everything that comes with being a defending champion. Only two teams since 1980 have won consecutive World Series titles: The 1992-1993 Toronto Blue Jays and 1998-2000 New York Yankees. 

"We've already showed it through the first six games of the season," Maddon said of the Cubs' start. "I thought we showed it during spring training. I really was impressed with our guys during camp. And I mentioned it a lot out there, you would not even have known we had won the World Series if you had walked in our locker room just based on the guys cavorted, went about their business."

But while the focus before the game was on celebrating their 2016 achievements, this is a group that certainly recognized they still had a task ahead of them in the immediate future. For all the pregame pageantry during a constant standing ovation, there was still a baseball game to be played after it. 

"(The banner) is going to be here for a long time, for generations of people to look back and realize that we did what we did will be super cool," left fielder Kyle Schwarber said. "But as us baseball players, I think we'll appreciate that more when we're done with this. Because we're worried about trying to get back there again and do it all over again, and that's what our job is to do." 

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

The last time Jake Arrieta pitched at Wrigley Field, his night ended with Cubs fans giving him a rousing standing ovation. The former Cubs right hander tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, leading the Cubs to victory in Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS—their only win against the Los Angeles Dodgers that series.

Arrieta returned to Wrigley Field as a visitor on Monday night, making his first start against the Cubs since joining the Philadelphia Phillies last season. Ironically, Arrieta’s counterpart for the night was Yu Darvish, who ultimately replaced Arrieta in the Cubs starting rotation.

Despite now donning Phillies red, Cubs fans once again showed their love for Arrieta, giving him a lengthy standing ovation ahead of his first plate appearance. Darvish even stepped off the mound in respect for the moment.

“I loved it, absolutely loved it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters postgame. “[I’m] very happy that our fans would acknowledge him like that. Yu stepped away from the mound nicely. Jake deserved it.”

Arrieta tipped his helmet in appreciation for the crowd, taking in the moment for more than 30 seconds before stepping into the batter’s box. After the game, he told reporters that moment brought back memories of his time with the Cubs.

“That was something that really brought back great memories of getting that same sort of ovation pretty much on a nightly basis,” Arrieta said. “[I’m] very appreciative of that. I can’t say thank you enough to the city of Chicago, I really can’t.”

Arrieta took fans back to his Cubs tenure on Monday, throwing six innings of one run ball in the Phillies’ 5-4 10-inning win. Although the 33-year-old didn’t pick up the victory, he matched Darvish—who threw six innings of three-run ball—pitch by-pitch.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler noted how well Arrieta handled his emotions throughout the night.

“I thought he handled the emotions really well. I thought he was in control of the game even when we were down,” Kapler said to reporters. “He always maintained his poise and he just got stronger as the outing went on and that’s why we were able to have him take down the sixth inning for us.”

It’s well-documented how Arrieta’s career improved for the better after the Cubs acquired him in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles in July 2013. When the Cubs acquired him, Arrieta held a career 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts). He finished his Cubs career with a 2.73 ERA in 128 regular season starts. He also won five postseason games with the Cubs, including Games 2 and 6 of the 2016 World Series.

Despite moving on in free agency, Arrieta spoke highly of his time with the Cubs, their fans and the city of Chicago.

“Cubs fans all across the country, all across the world, they really respect and appreciate what guys are able to do here for them,” he said. “It means a lot, it really does.

"I’ll never forget this city, the fan base, the organization, everything that they did for me. It was 4 1/2 incredible years of my career.”

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Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish was one pitch away.

Holding onto a 1-0 lead with two outs in the sixth inning, Darvish threw Phillies catcher JT Realmuto a 2-2 cutter. It made sense - Darvish had been spotting that pitch well all night, and the Phillies were averaging a paltry 79.8 mph exit velocity against it.

With one strike standing between Darvish and a 6-inning shutout, Realmuto took Darvish’s cutter and sent it back up the middle for a game-tying RBI single. A 2-RBI triple from César Hernández followed. In the blink of an eye, what was shaping up to be one of Darvish’s finest moments in Chicago was instead reduced to yet another start spent searching for silver linings.

“Really good. He was outstanding tonight,” Joe Maddon said. “He pitched really well.

“He had really good stuff. He had command of his stuff, he had command of himself. I thought he was outstanding - even better than what he looked like in Cincinnati. I thought that was probably his best game for us to date.”

Darvish has continued to lean heavily on his cutter this season, more so than any year prior. After throwing it 13 percent of the time last season, he’s going to that pitch almost 25 percent of the time now. If that holds, it’d beat his previous career-high, set in 2013, by six percentage points.

All things considered, that pitch has actually been good for him this season. It’s his go-to offering when he needs to induce weak contact, and batters are hitting .125 against it so far. He gets batters to chase cutters 29.5 percent of the time, the most of any pitch he throws. While he has admitted in games past that he relies too heavily on his fastball, Maddon sees no issues with the new trend.

“I have no concerns with that whatsoever,” he said. “There’s different ways for pitchers to attack hitters, and if it's successful, I really would not change a whole lot.”

Though the night was dedicated to celebrating one of the franchises most beloved pitchers, it was one of their most maligned that continued to show signs of figuring it out. He’s put together back-to-back starts with three or less walks for the first time this season, and has allowed two or less runs in three of the last five.

The pitcher even stepped off the mound during Arrieta’s first at-bat, in order to let the standing ovation continue on.

“He’s is a legend in Chicago,” Darvish said after the game. “And I pitched against him and pitched pretty good, so it makes me confident.”

The bullpen again struggled on Monday night, as the trio of Mike Montgomery, Brad Brach, and Kyle Ryan allowed two runs on five hits, including the game-winning solo home run from Realmuto in the 10th. For a moment it looked like the Cubs had a win wrapped up when Brach got outfielder Andrew McCutchen to bite on a two-strike slider, but was (probably incorrectly) called a checked swing.  He would eventually draw a walk, leading to Jean Segura’s game-tying single.

“On the field, I thought for sure [that McCutchen swung],” Brach said. “Looking at the first base umpire, I was a little taken aback. That’s why I went off the mound - just to regather myself, because I didn’t want to let the emotion get to me there.

“It’s a 50-50 call, and unfortunately it didn’t go my way.”

 

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