Joe Maddon doesn't believe in Sports Illustrated cover jinx for Cubs


Joe Maddon doesn't believe in Sports Illustrated cover jinx for Cubs

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Cubs manager Joe Maddon doesn’t believe in the Sports Illustrated cover jinx.

The Cubs landed on the front of the magazine’s baseball preview with Sports Illustrated picking the Houston Astros — another team accused of tanking during a multiyear rebuild — to beat them in the World Series.

“Well, you know, just get us there,” Maddon said before Tuesday’s Cactus League game against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. “SI, please get us there. I’d be happy with that.”

All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward, Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant and Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta made the regional cover, which labels the group as “The Revenants: Out of The Desert, into the World Series (Finally).”

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This is the same outlet that proclaimed Houston as “Your 2017 World Series Champs” back in 2014. The Astros puffed out their chests and granted behind-the-scenes access for that cover story, but their surprising breakthrough into the playoffs last season accelerated the timeline.

“It’s just part of the game, man,” Maddon said. “I’m sure they’ve been right on occasion. They’ve probably been wrong more than they’ve been right. But everybody’s wrong more than they’re right when it comes down to predicting who’s going to be where.”

Keep in mind that Sports Illustrated splashed the Cubs — and a high-stepping Pedro Strop — across the cover of last year’s Aug. 31 issue. The Cubs finished the regular season as the hottest team in baseball and eliminated the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals from the playoffs.

Cubs fans also remember the “It’s Gonna Happen” and “Hell Freezes Over” covers from the 2008 (Kosuke Fukudome) and 2004 (Kerry Wood) seasons that ended in bitter disappointment.

“I don’t put a whole lot of emphasis on any of that,” Maddon said. “I think it’s great for the organization. Just like it’s great for the Rays now to be participating in the game in Cuba (with) the stage you got there. When you’re presented on the cover of Sports Illustrated, obviously, it’s a wonderful stage for us.

“But it doesn’t mean anything other than it’s good reading (and) great photography. When I was a kid, man, you couldn’t wait for that to come out.”

Cubs Talk Producer Tony Andracki contributed to this article.

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.

Bold predictions for the Cubs' 2019-20 offseason


Bold predictions for the Cubs' 2019-20 offseason

The Cubs are just a couple of weeks away from a pivotal offseason that could see a lot of change coming to Chicago's North Side.

Then again, we thought the same thing a year ago and it turned out Theo Epstein's biggest move last winter was signing Daniel Descalso to a two-year deal.

But after missing the playoffs in 2019, the Cubs are now at a crossroads as an organization. 

The NBC Sports Chicago crew previewed the offseason on the latest CubsTalk Podcast with some bold predictions for the winter.

Listen here and check out the fearless calls below:

(Note: Rationale and more context on each bold prediction in the podcast.)

David Kaplan

1. Cubs are going to take a page out of the Yankees' book and retool on the fly rather than go all-in to contend in 2020.
2. Jose Quintana has thrown his last pitch as a Cub.
3. This will be the second-to-last offseason for Theo Epstein as the Cubs president of baseball operations.

Kelly Crull 

1. Cubs re-sign Nick Castellanos and trade away Kyle Schwarber.
2. Tyler Chatwood will be in the 2020 rotation.
3. John Lackey will be named quality assurance coach on David Ross's coaching staff. (Kidding, but only kind of...)

Tony Andracki

1. Before the Cubs play a Spring Training game, Javy Baez will sign an extension that will keep him in Chicago through at least 2023.
2. Willson Contreras will be traded this winter and the Cubs will get some much-needed pitching help in return.
3. Cubs sign Howie Kendrick this winter as the professional bat and lefty-masher they craved in 2019.
4. Ben Zobrist will return on a one-year deal and finish his playing career in a Cubs uniform.
5. David Bote, Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell will all be traded or non-tendered this winter as the Cubs remake their bench/depth.

Jeff Nelson

1. Willson Contreras will sign a contract extension.
2. Ben Zobrist will return as a player/coach.
3. Jose Quintana will be traded for minor league depth.
4. Terrance Gore will be signed to be the 26th man on the roster under the new rules.