Joe Maddon lets Cubs lay down the law in clubhouse


Joe Maddon lets Cubs lay down the law in clubhouse

MESA, Ariz. — The Adam LaRoche retirement drama will either bring the White Sox clubhouse together or tear that franchise apart.

Trying to end a bizarre story that’s drawn worldwide attention, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf gave a vote of confidence to his baseball leadership team on Sunday, releasing a statement that wrote off the LaRoche situation as a misunderstanding.

Reinsdorf also issued a gag order to all White Sox employees, telling them to stop commenting on the LaRoche decision and extending a news cycle that has the rest of the industry talking.

Right around the same time, Cubs manager Joe Maddon met with his “Lead Bulls,” a group of about 12 established players, to reinforce everything from the dress code (“if you think you look hot, you wear it”) to rules for kids in the clubhouse (out of the room three hours before game time).

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Maddon believes White Sox manager Robin Ventura – a calm presence and a universally respected player who’s now in the final year of his contract – will guide his team through this media storm.

“Your focus wants to be on getting your team ready to play the season,” Maddon said at the Sloan Park complex. “And then you get the noise coming from different directions, it can be distracting, there’s no question about it.

“We’re not focused on them. We have our own way of doing things here. I would never want to interfere with anybody else’s clubhouse or their organization. That’s up to them.

“But I just know from (Robin’s) perspective, it’s got to be distracting. But I also believe he’ll do a great job with it, because that’s who he is.”

The 15 minutes of fame is just about up for Drake, LaRoche’s 14-year-old son who constantly hung around the team and had his own locker before White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams intervened (either unilaterally or on behalf of others inside the organization bothered by the workplace arrangement).

At the age of 62, Maddon knows who he is and understands what is important to him. Modern players will begin to tune out a lot of that stuff, anyway, if you try to lay down the law.

“Back in the day, when you’re a minor-league manager, you put all these rules up on the wall,” Maddon said. “And then you have the organization stuff (where the) hair is at a certain length and no facial hair. And if you can’t have an earring, take it out and then put it back in after the game.

“I’m here to manage the team, not make rules. So I learned my lesson with that – to not get nuts about it. Furthermore, it’s just counter to what I am inherently as a person.”

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Maddon expects his veteran players to police the clubhouse and believes he will get more accountability by including his players in the process. But even “Respect 90” – a fancy way to say run hard to first base – is an all-inclusive policy on some level.

“I often kid about how we don’t have any rules around here,” Maddon said. “But you do. You have almost like a force field that’s not actually a fence. Guys know if you go past a certain point, you might get stung a little bit. But you don’t have to actually see the fence there.

“Whether somebody from the outside looking in considers it lenient, wise, revolutionary, whatever, I just think it’s the right way to do things.”

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.