Cubs

Jon Lester's message to frustrated Cubs: Figure it out

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Jon Lester's message to frustrated Cubs: Figure it out

Jon Lester's message to the frustrated Cubs was simple: "You gotta figure it out."

The two-time World Series champion and three-time All-Star knows what it takes to make it in the big leagues and has been a steady voice in a young clubhouse filled with guys still trying to adapt to "The Show."

The Cubs (46-40) had to field questions about the grind after dropping their third straight game, this time a 5-1 loss to Chris Sale and the White Sox (41-44) in front of 41,596 fans at Wrigley Field on Saturday afternoon.

"You gotta figure it out," Lester said. "The grind in the minor leagues is just the same in the big leagues. The only difference is — you get to take planes to different cities as opposed to buses.

"The grind's there. ... We all go through it. It doesn't matter how old or young we are."

[MORE: Could Cubs and White Sox get together on a Samardzija trade?]

The All-Star break may be coming at a good time for a Cubs team that just went 18 innings in between runs stretching from the sixth inning Wednesday until Jonathan Herrera delivered a pinch-hit double down the line in the seventh inning Saturday.

The Cubs have provided just one run of support total for Lester over his last four starts and for the second straight outing, Kris Bryant made a costly error that opened the door for a big inning from the other team against Lester.

But the veteran southpaw refused to play the blame game.

"I think there's an overall team frustration," Lester said. "I don't think you can point fingers at anybody. We all accept blame at different times. I don't like to single out anybody or single out a side of the baseball.

"Guys are up there grinding, they're prepared and that's all you can ask. The effort's there, the preparation's there, that's all you can ask.

"It's just a funny game — you square a ball up, a guy catches it. You hit a bleeder and it goes through a hole. It goes the same way pitching. We gotta continue to do the little things and the ball will fall our way eventually."

The Cubs have scored two runs or less in 13 of their last 18 games, though they have found a way to win four of those 13 games thanks to some record-setting starting pitching.

The Cubs — minus Bryant and Anthony Rizzo — will get four full days off during next week's All-Star break, giving those young hitters a chance to hit the reset button and get some rest before the "grind" restarts Friday in Atlanta.

"You have to relax the mind a little bit," Joe Maddon said. "The break is definitely coming at the appropriate time for us."

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The Cubs offense has floundered of late, but they've also gone up against some tough pitching, facing the likes of Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Chris Sale...even after finding a way to beat Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

"We've seen a lot of good pitching," Maddon said. "We've hit some balls well that have found leather as opposed to grass. We've seen good pitching. That's it. We have young hitters that are seeing good pitching.

"We are a swing-and-miss team. That's part of our DNA right now. They've gotten the better of us, but I am not discouraged in the least."

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

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USA Today

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon’s time with the Cubs may be over, but the memories made in his five years on the North Side will live on in Chicago sports lore forever. No matter how frustratingly his tenure may have ended, the outpouring of support and appreciation from management, fans and players alike throughout the process of Maddon’s departure are evidence of that.

“I love him like a dad,” Anthony Rizzo said

“I personally never could have imagined having such a wonderful partner,” Theo Epstein later added, standing beside Maddon as they delivered joint reflections on the end of the era.

Maddon touched the lives of so many within the organization and without in his time with the Cubs, but not many more so than catcher Willson Contreras, who burst onto the scene as one of the best young sluggers in baseball under Maddon’s guidance. Maddon — a catcher himself in his short time as a player — never shied away from criticizing Contreras in times he thought it earned, but it’s clear that the two forged a real bond over the last four years. 

Sunday afternoon, artist Austin Ploch revealed that Contreras reached out to him shortly after the end of the 2019 season to commission this heart-warming piece, commemorating the mutual respect and adoration between mentor and pupil:

The painting is derived from a photo of the two that Contreras posted to his Instagram account after it was officially announced that Maddon would not return as the Cubs manager:

Ploch has commissioned work for Contreras before, but now Willson will have a tangible memento to remember his first manager (along with his 2016 World Series ring). We’re not crying, you’re crying.

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Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Astros bench coach Joe Espada has two days off before Houston hosts Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, but it looks like some of that time will be spent in Chicago.

According to multiple reports, the Cubs will interview Espada a second time for their managerial opening. MLB Network's Jon Heyman reports that the interview is happening on Sunday.

Espada is one of the more sought after managerial candidates this offseason, as he's spent the last six seasons with two of baseball's leading franchises. The 44-year-old has been Astros bench coach since 2018, and prior to that, he spent four seasons with the Yankees — 2014 as a front office assistant, 2015-17 as third base coach.

David Ross was the presumed favorite for the Cubs' opening, when the process got underway. However, by landing a second interview, Espada has clearly given the team something to think about. In fact, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan reported on Thursday the Cubs came away "exceptionally impressed" from Espada's first interview on Monday. 

MLB prefers teams not to make managerial announcements during the World Series. So, it might be a few more weeks before the Cubs announce their decision, unless they do so on Sunday or Monday.

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