Joe Maddon doesn't think new Wrigley clubhouse will turn Cubs soft

Joe Maddon doesn't think new Wrigley clubhouse will turn Cubs soft

As interim manager for a going-nowhere California Angels team in 1996, Joe Maddon walked into the clubhouse just before game time and couldn’t believe what he saw.

“A guy sleeping on a couch,” Maddon said. “So I had the TVs yanked. The TVs were gone (the next day).”

The Cubs have at least nine TVs in their new Wrigley Field locker room, and that’s only a small part of a 30,000 square-foot clubhouse footprint that trails only the New York Yankees for biggest in The Show. The media got its first look — at least at the few sections that aren’t off-limits to reporters — before Monday night’s 5-3 home-opener win over the Cincinnati Reds.

“I think I’ve grown as a manager, as a person since then,” Maddon said. “I really have a lot of faith in our guys. If we weren’t to be playing well at home — I don’t think it’s going to be directly related to anything that’s going on in that room.

“That’s an easy connection of the dots that I believe has nothing to do with anything. I believe in the professionalism of our guys. I just spoke about how relentless they are in their prep for the first pitch of the game. I anticipate that to (stay) the same.

“If anything were to go wrong, everybody’s immediately going to point to the soft nature or whatever you want to call it. I’m here to tell you that would not be the case. The case would be that we’re not catching the ball well or that the other team’s playing better than us.”

Or as first baseman Anthony Rizzo said: “At the end of the day, once you step on that line, it doesn’t matter if you’re out there in a parking lot, you got to play baseball.

“Now we’re in a country club.”

If anything, the state-of-the-art facility could help the Cubs play better and feel more prepared. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein rattled off all the shiny new toys beyond the batting cage and weight room: hyperbaric chamber, cryotherapy, float tank, underwater treadmill, infrared/steam saunas.

“It’s everything you could ever imagine to help you get ready for a game,” Epstein said, “and help you recover after a game and on and on and on. When you are surrounded by nice things and high standards, it makes you want to raise your own level. It makes you want to come to work. It makes you want to hang out with your teammates. It’s a wonderful place.”

In addition to building The Jake Arrieta Pilates Room, the Cy Young Award winner also requested air-hockey and ping-pong tables and pop-a-shot games.

The Cubs also created a Dance Party/Celebration Room for the postgame blowouts that couldn’t have endeared them to visiting clubhouse attendants across the National League last season.

“It’s about time,” Maddon said. “We walked in last night, and it was in full force. It was blaring, and the lights were on. It was pretty spectacular. We’ve talked about this, and sometimes people get upset. But I really believe (in it). I love the celebration.

“Every win, I think, is a big part of the camaraderie or the unity of the group. You’re not discrediting anybody else. It’s just about your group having a good time. Again, don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure of the moment. All of that stuff is encapsulated in that one particular room right there.”

How/when/if the Cubs strike their TV megadeal will probably be the greatest equalizer in their pursuit of free agents. But players are constantly texting each other, and a clubhouse like this should help attract even more talent.

“It’s a great recruiting device,” Maddon said. “Beyond the city itself, beyond the organization, the ballpark, the team, (it’s having) this kind of a facility here that speaks — or screams — to the player and also to the players’ families.”

Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball


Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball

This past weekend Ian Happ rocked Cincinnati harder than anyone since Dr. Johnny Fever, and the White Sox from last Sunday to yesterday posted a winning 4-3 record.

It’s Monday, so let’s examine the box scores from the previous seven days for another edition of Who Knew?

Leading off

Tim Anderson started this season 5-for-5 in plate appearances leading off games: double, single, single, home run, single.

He finally made a leadoff out on Sunday.

Déjà Vu

On Monday, Ozzie Albies hit a leadoff home run off José Quintana for the second time this season. 

It was rare enough that a batter had multiple leadoff home runs against the Cubs in the same season. The last batter to do that was Hall of Famer Craig Biggio in 2006 (one each off Greg Maddux and then-starter Carlos Marmol).

But multiple leadoff home runs against the same Cubs PITCHER in the same season? Quite rare. At first, I believed it to be the first such occurrence since at least the 1880’s, but there was one other time since that I initially missed.

Prior to Ozzie Albies (off Quintana), the last batter with multiple leadoff home runs against a single Cubs pitcher in a season was Heinie Sand of the Phillies, who led off two games in 1924 with home runs off Cubs right-hander Vic Keen.

Before Sand, you DO have to go back to the 1880s. Hall of Famer Buck Ewing hit two leadoff home runs off Fred Goldsmith (who claimed to have invented the curveball, but likely did not) in 1883.  It may have happened in 1884, but there are some missing details in the home run database and I can’t be certain. But it’s rare!

Saves without Strikeouts

Cubs closer Brandon Morrow has 10 saves this season. In half of them (including his latest save Tuesday), he did not record a strikeout.

Only Wade Davis, who closed out games for the Cubs last season, has more strikeout-less saves in 2018 (no punchouts in seven of his 16 saves). Davis, for the record, saved 32 games for the Cubs last season, but in only nine of those 32 did he not strike anyone out.

Meanwhile, up in the Pacific Northwest, Edwin Díaz of the Mariners has 15 saves this season and has at least one strikeout in all 15.

National Treasure

Leury García took Jameson Taillon deep Wednesday in Pittsburgh, giving him 13 career home runs, all in a White Sox uniform.

The thing is, seven of those 13 home runs have been against National League teams!  Check out his career splits with the Sox:

Versus NL 26 games .325/.373/.636 7 home runs
Versus AL 225 games .227/.267/.306 6 home runs


Hit Bonanza

The Cubs started Friday’s game in Cincinnati like this:

Zobrist single, Bryant double, Rizzo single, Contreras single, Russell single.

It was the first time the Cubs started a game with five straight hits since Sept. 8, 2009 when they had EIGHT straight hits to start a game. They started that game as follows:

Ryan Theriot single, Milton Bradley single, Derrek Lee single, Aramis Ramírez single, Jeff Baker single, Geovany Soto double, Kosuke Fukudome double, Bobby Scales single. A Ryan Dempster sacrifice bunt snapped the streak, giving up an out in the first inning with a 6-0 lead.

Palka Dots

Sox slugger Daniel Palka has made an impact so far in the Majors. Half of his 16 hits have been of the extra-base variety.

In only 18 career games, Palka already has multiple doubles (three), triples (two) and home runs (three). Through 18 career games, Frank Thomas could check off two of those three boxes, although maybe not the two that you think.

The Big Hurt had six doubles and THREE TRIPLES in his initial dozen-and-a-half career games, but no home runs! The last White Sox player who had at least two of each type of extra-base hit through his first 18 career Major League contests?

Go back to Greg Walker, who collected two doubles, two triples and three home runs in an 11-game taste of the Majors in 1982 and his first seven games of 1983.

Ace of On-Base

Ian Happ returned to his old stomping grounds (kind of… he attended the University of Cincinnati) over the weekend and had quite a four-game series:

Friday 1 hit 3 walks
Saturday (Game 1) 3 hits 1 walk
Saturday (Game 2) 1 hit 2 walks
Sunday 0 hits 3 walks

Now granted, there aren’t as many four-game series as there used to be, but Happ was the first Cub to reach base at least three times in each game of a four-game series since Mark Grace during a four-game set versus Mets at Wrigley Field Aug. 9-12, 1991.Five hits and nine walks; Happ reached base at least three times in all four games!

Happ’s season slashline was boosted from .233/.301/.417 to .254/.361/.509 in those four games alone. His nine walks (five intentional, four unintentional) in the series is better than Javier Báez (six walks: four intentional, two unintentional) has for the entire season.

Happ on Friday became the first Cub to be walked three times intentionally in a game since Andre Dawson (FIVE times) on May 22, 1990. Back then, it actually required pitches to intentionally walk a batter.

Happ was also the first Cub to homer in both ends of a doubleheader since Chris Coghlan July 8, 2014 – also at Cincinnati. But Happ was able to do something Coghlan didn’t: in both games, Happ hit the lone Cubs home run! That’s something no Cub had done since Alfonso Soriano hit the lone Cubs' home run in each game of a doubleheader in St. Louis on Sept. 15, 2007.

Extra Extra!

José Abreu continues to produce. He doubled and homered Saturday night, making him the 23rd player in White Sox history to reach 300 career extra-base hits. He reached 300 extra-base hits in only 655 career Major League games, a number surpassed in White Sox history only by Frank Thomas (626). 

It was also Abreu’s 222nd career multi-hit game in a White Sox uniform, matching our “Beltin’” Bill Melton.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Reviewing a positive road trip for Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish and Ian Happ


Cubs Talk Podcast: Reviewing a positive road trip for Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish and Ian Happ

Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan, and Doug Glanville break down a solid 4-2 road trip for the Cubs. Plus, who would you rather have long-term: Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below. Apple Podcasts listeners can subscribe at the show page.