Cubs

Joe Maddon knows it’s time to start pushing Cubs harder – except Wade Davis

Joe Maddon knows it’s time to start pushing Cubs harder – except Wade Davis

BALTIMORE – The Cubs gave Joe Maddon a shiny new toy last summer without handing over the instruction manual – or the manager never bothered to read it – or something else got lost in translation.

How to handle Aroldis Chapman became a recurring storyline, from his tone-deaf welcome-to-Chicago press conference to the first- and second-guessing even after winning a World Series Game 7.   

As the defending champs try to find another gear after a stop-and-start first half, Maddon understands “now is the time to push it a little bit, absolutely.” Except with All-Star closer Wade Davis, who has already shown an ability or willingness to work multiple innings and notched the final out in a World Series for the 2015 Kansas City Royals.  

“I learned early last year with Chappy that he didn’t want to do it,” Maddon said Saturday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “When we first got him, I thought: ‘We’re good.’ And then I found out that it wasn’t so good, so we backed off. We had the conversation right there for the postseason and then everything was easy after that.”

Does Davis have a Santiago that you have to clear it with?

“I’m not aware of it,” Maddon said when asked about Chapman’s personal assistant who hung around the clubhouse and functioned as a go-between for the 100-mph closer and the coaching staff. “Santiago, we had a great relationship, it was awesome.

“But, yeah, with Wade, I don’t want to push him on that, unless it’s absolutely necessary, with or without Santiago.”   

While Maddon can ride $155 million ace Jon Lester and new addition Jose Quintana – and make daily lineup decisions that aren’t as focused on the big picture – he’s not ready to extend Davis for four- or five-out saves: “I don’t think so, not yet.”

Because the Cubs purposely built a deeper bullpen this year with Koji Uehara, Carl Edwards Jr. and Pedro Strop and want to keep Davis performing at this optimal level (2-0, 1.74 ERA, 17-for-17 in save chances) for a full season.  

“That would be like if everybody’s exhausted,” Maddon said. “Listen, I’m good with Koji. I’m good with C.J. Stropy’s been pitching really good in the eighth. I have no problem with any of that stuff.

“I’m saying when you get on a nice run when you start winning some games, the guys get fatigued, and then all of a sudden you may have to get an extra inning or an extra out or two out of somebody under those circumstances.

“Right now, we’re OK. But that would be the reason why I would do it, because if the bullpen’s fatigued, we’re on a nice little run right here, he’s rested, so let’s see him get four outs tonight. And I want to believe I’m going to ask him before the game ever begins.”

Chapman’s overuse in the playoffs is a story that won’t go away for the New York Yankees, who’ve already stashed him on the disabled list for a month (inflammation in the rotator cuff of his left shoulder) and watched him put up ordinary numbers (3.92 ERA, 8-for-11 in save chances) in the first season of a five-year, $86 million contract.

[MORE: Cubs trying to 'become the team that everyone loves again']

Lost amid that criticism of Maddon is how his aggressiveness in August 2015 – not caring about Jason Hammel’s feelings or Starlin Castro’s ego – helped transform the Cubs into a 97-win team that would come back for more. 

“This second half, we do have to really push it a little bit,” Maddon said. “The first half, I was concerned about doing that too early. And I know (there were times): ‘Boy, that doesn’t make any sense. Why would you?’ Because the guys are fatigued from the last two years, and I thought if you get the whip out too soon, man, you will be done by the middle of August.

“Of course, we can’t just keep putting it off until tomorrow. (So) get the pitching right. Keep the bullpen in order. And to get back to the point about the lineups – make sure everybody still plays but you might push somebody a little bit more right now.”

Fans apologize to Yu Darvish following Astros cheating allegations

Fans apologize to Yu Darvish following Astros cheating allegations

When the Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish at the 2017 trade deadline, he was expected to be one of the final pieces to their championship puzzle.

After a solid nine-start regular season with Los Angeles, Darvish was stellar early in the postseason. In two starts (one in the NLDS, one in the NLCS), he allowed two runs across 11 1/3 innings, racking up 14 strikeouts compared to a single walk.

Things went downhill for Darvish in the World Series, where he surrendered nine runs in 3 1/3 innings across two starts. This includes Game 7, when he threw 47 pitches in 1 2/3 innings, allowing five runs in a 5-1 series-clinching win for the Astros.

Darvish became a scapegoat for the Dodgers' World Series loss and faced heavy backlash from fans. Consequentially, he had concerns about re-signing with the Dodgers when he became a free agent that offseason, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, due to fears of how the city's anger towards him would affect his family.

Two years later, and fans are now apologizing for directing their anger at Darvish for his World Series performance. Why?

Tuesday, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported the Astros stole opposing teams' signs electronically during the 2017 season. This conflicts with the notion of Darvish tipping his pitches in the World Series, which an anonymous Astros player told Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci was the case.

The notion of Darvish tipping his pitches is now in question altogether:

As has often been the case this offseason, Darvish had a brilliant reaction to the whole situation on Twitter:

Darvish joined the Cubs in 2018 on a six-year deal. After an injury-riddled debut season with the Cubs, he took off post-All-Star break in 2019 and is expected to be the team's Opening Day starter in 2020. Although what happened in 2017 can't be changed, it's nice to see he's moved forward.

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The Cubs' perspective on Astros sign-stealing scandal

The Cubs' perspective on Astros sign-stealing scandal

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The baseball world is reeling following The Athletic's report earlier this week detailing how the Houston Astros electronically stole signs in 2017.

It was a revelation that will have a major impact on the sport — and the Astros, in particular — for years to come, but it was not altogether surprising. Sign stealing has been a staple in the game for decades and recent technology has only added different avenues for teams looking to cheat.

What was most notable here was the alleged use of a centerfield camera in Houston that allowed the Astros to determine what pitch was coming in the dugout and then relayed that information to teammates in the batter's box by banging on a garbage can.

Here's a great example of the Astros' system at work:

Theo Epstein was asked about the scandal at the GM Meetings Wednesday and initially admitted it's best for him and presidents/GMs of other teams not to comment on the matter while MLB took the lead looking into the matter.

"Certainly not something to be swept under the rug," Epstein then said. "It needs to be fully investigated and bring light to it and I'm sure there will be appropriate action taken."

Epstein said he and the Cubs have encountered similar sign-stealing tactics in the past (including in the playoffs), but wouldn't get into any specifics with teams.

"There are always a number of teams that there's rumors about or more than rumors," Epstein said. "It's just part of baseball. I'm sure some of them are based in fact and some are based in fiction. It's just important that any time this type of stuff comes up, MLB has to investigate it and take it really seriously and we understand that they are."

With the Astros in particular, their sign-stealing may have had a major impact on the career of current Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish. The veteran right-hander pitched against the Astros in the 2017 World Series and gave up 8 earned runs on 9 hits and 2 walks in 3.1 innings across two starts in that Fall Classic. The first of those two outings came in Houston in Game 3.

It was initially thought Darvish was tipping his pitches, but the Dodgers have since concluded that wasn't the case:

Those were the last two outings for Darvish before he entered free agency and eventually signed a six-year pact with the Cubs. As he went through a difficult debut season in Chicago, he admitted that the way his Dodgers tenure ended and the backlash he received from fans in L.A. was tough to deal with.

As we've seen many times already this offseason, Darvish responded in hilarious fashion to the news on Twitter:

He's also received apologies from a number of Dodgers fans who now have more context regarding Darvish's performance in the World Series. 

These latest reports on the Astros won't help the Dodgers garner a 2017 World Series trophy and it won't change Darvish's numbers, but at least it's some vindication for the Cubs pitcher.

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