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).

[MORE CUBS: Jake Arrieta already feels locked in after Cy Young season]

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.”

[SHOP: Get your gear before the 2016 season, Cubs fans!]

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.”

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

The Cubs and their fans may want to invent and use one of those Men In Black neuralyzers because the four-game series in Cincinnati was one to forget.

The Reds finished off a four-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday with an 8-6 win. The way the Reds won the finale will be especially painful for the Cubs considering they led 6-1 after six innings. Mike Montgomery appeared to tire in the seventh inning and Pedro Strop got rocked out of the bullpen to lead to a seven-run seventh for the hosts.

The Reds have now won seven in a row and 10 of 12, but still sit 13 games under .500. Bizarrely, the Reds also swept the Dodgers, the Cubs’ next opponent, in a four-game series in May. Duane Underwood will start for the Cubs Monday against the Dodgers and make his major league debut.

Here are some other wild facts and figures from the series:

  • The last time the Reds swept the Cubs in a four-game series was back in 1983. That was the first week of the season and three weeks before the infamous Lee Elia rant.
  • One positive for the Cubs from the game was Montgomery’s start. Through six innings he allowed one run on three hits and two walks. However, he gave up a single, a double and a single in the seventh before Strop relieved him. Montgomery had gone six innings and allowed one run in each of his last four outings.
  • Strop was definitely a negative. On his first pitch, Strop gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Jesse Winker, the second home run for a Reds pinch-hitter in the game. Then Strop allowed a single, a walk, a single and a double before getting an out. Strop’s final line: 2/3 inning pitched, four runs, one strikeout, three walks, four hits.
  • The Cubs led in three of the four games this series, including two leads after five innings.
  • The Cubs were 5-for-23 (.217) with runners in scoring position in the series. On the season the Cubs are hitting .233 with RISP, which is 22nd in the majors and fourth-worst in the National League (but ahead of the division-rival Brewers and Cardinals).
  • The Reds outscored the Cubs 31-13 and scored at least six runs in every game. The Reds are now 6-3 against the Cubs this year after going a combined 17-40 against the Cubs from 2015-2017.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 32nd homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 32nd homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa victimized the Tigers pitching staff again on the next night, taking Brian Moehler deep in the 7th inning for a 400-foot solo blast.

The homer tied the game at 3, but the Cubs blew the lead in the bottom of the 7th when the Terrys (Adams and Mulholland) gave up 3 runs. The Cubs wound up losing 6-4.

The Cubs were putting together a really nice season in 1998 that ended with a trip to October. They entered the series with the Tigers with a 42-34 record, yet lost both games to a Detroit team that entered the series with a 28-45 record. The Tigers finished the season 65-94; the Cubs finished 90-73.

Fun fact: Luis Gonzalez was the Tigers left fielder and No. 5 hitter for both games of the series. He spent part of the 1995 season and all of '96 on Chicago's North Side. 1998 was his only year in Detroit before he moved on to Arizona, where he hit 57 homers in 2001 and helped the Diamondbacks to a World Series championship with that famous broken-bat single in Game 7.

Fun fact  No. 2: Remember Pedro Valdes? He only had a cup of coffee with the Cubs (9 games in 1996 and 14 in '98), but started in left field on June 25, 1998. He walked and went 0-for-1 before being removed from the game for a pinch-hitter (Jose Hernandez).