Cubs

Jon Lester hoping front office gives Cubs a boost at trade deadline

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Jon Lester hoping front office gives Cubs a boost at trade deadline

Jon Lester demanded a no-trade clause before he signed that $155 million megadeal because he wanted to control his own destiny.

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein broke his own policy and caved pretty quickly, envisioning Lester in a Cubs uniform on October nights, ultimately winning a World Series here.

With about 48 hours left until Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline, the Cubs really aren’t all-in yet, looking at players who can help next season and beyond, or trying to patch holes in the roster, not desperate for the two-month mercenary who might put this team over the top.  

If the Detroit Tigers really are becoming sellers, it’s so much easier to picture the Cubs rolling out the red carpet for David Price during his free-agency tour, the way the organization gave such a detailed presentation to Lester’s family last November.

[RELATED - As Cubs look for deals, Joe Maddon tells Starlin Castro: You’re not getting traded]

So this won’t necessarily change the thinking for Epstein’s front office. But in a season filled with wild mood swings for Cubs fans, Lester settled things down on Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field, dominating the Colorado Rockies in a 3-2 victory.

“We all understand the position that we’re in,” Lester said. “We can’t just (mortgage everything). Now if we were in first place and this plan was kind of sped up, I think guys would expect something to get done. Whether it’s a big move or a small move, anytime you get somebody that just kind of gives you that little boost. That gives you that belief.

“And I’m not saying they don’t believe in us if they don’t make a move. It’s just you get that little boost in the clubhouse, like: ‘Hey, these guys think we can make a push here.’”

The Cubs are now 53-47 and trailing the San Francisco Giants by 2.5 games for the second wild-card spot, likely to land someone like Ian Kennedy or Dan Haren to stabilize the back end of the rotation.

Lester knows there are no guarantees. He got traded last year from the Boston Red Sox to the Oakland A’s on July 31 — his son’s birthday — and wound up with a no-decision after giving up six runs in a one-and-done wild-card loss to the Kansas City Royals. 

Lester (6-8, 3.26 ERA) sliced through Colorado’s lineup, striking out seven of the first nine hitters he faced and finishing with 14 strikeouts. The lefty unloaded his arsenal for eight innings — cutter, curveball, sinker, changeup — and gave up only two runs.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans]

“Everything was on,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We definitely needed that. He supplied it. That’s what guys like Jon Lester do for a team. That’s a perfect example.”

The Cubs got home runs from Dexter Fowler (.518 on-base percentage since the All-Star break) and Anthony Rizzo (his first since July 7). Hector Rondon notched his 13th save after their frontline starter pitched like an ace.

All this reinforced the idea that improvement will have to come from within if there’s going to be meaningful games played at Wrigley Field in late September.

But Lester would still like to see the front office deliver at the trade deadline.

“Would it be nice? Yeah,” Lester said. “If it doesn’t happen, I think we all understand. We have the pieces. We just need to consistently play well on all fronts of the game.”

Cubs expected to hire Mike Napoli — David Ross' former teammate — as quality assurance coach

Cubs expected to hire Mike Napoli — David Ross' former teammate — as quality assurance coach

David Ross will not only be managing former teammates with the Cubs in 2020, but he'll be coaching alongside one, too.

The Cubs are expected to add former MLB catcher Mike Napoli to Ross' coaching staff, per multiple reports. Napoli will assume the title of quality assurance coach, vacated by Chris Denorfia, who held the position for one season.

Napoli played in parts of 12 big-league seasons from 2006-17 with the Angels, Rangers, Red Sox and Indians. He won the 2013 World Series with Boston — alongside Ross and Cubs starter Jon Lester — and was also a key figure with the 2016 Indians, whom the Cubs defeated in the World Series. He finished his career with a .246/.346/.475 slash line with 267 home runs. 

According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, the Cubs pursued Napoli last winter, though the 38-year-old wanted to take a short break from baseball before jumping into coaching. He'll join a Cubs coaching staff that is almost finalized, with the exception of one vacant base coach spot. Here's what the group looks like right now:

Manager — David Ross
Bench coach — Andy Green
Pitching coach — Tommy Hottovy
Associate pitching coach, catching and strategy coach — Mike Borzello
Hitting coach — Anthony Iapoce
Assistant hitting coach — Terrmel Sledge
Bullpen coach — Chris Young
Base coach — Will Venable
Base coach — open
Quality assurance coach — Mike Napoli

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday the organization hopes to have the coaching staff finalized by the end of the week. With Napoli on board, the Cubs are one step closer to making that goal a reality.

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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 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 innings across two starts. This includes Game 7, when he threw 47 pitches in 1.2 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, 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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