Cubs

Lackey Being Lackey after Cubs win: ‘I’m 38 years old, I’m bothered by a lot of things’

Lackey Being Lackey after Cubs win: ‘I’m 38 years old, I’m bothered by a lot of things’

John Lackey’s press conference after Wednesday’s feel-good win over the Tampa Bay Rays lasted two-plus minutes. Within four questions, the old-school grump confirmed how brittle the Cubs rotation is now and what the clubhouse thinks of Joe Maddon’s decision-making.

Maddon went first in the Wrigley Field interview room and revealed that Lackey has been dealing with pain in his right foot, the plantar fasciitis being one reason why the Cubs reconfigured their starters so Jon Lester would pitch an extra time before the All-Star break. Another being that Lackey will take a 5-9 record and a 5.20 ERA into his extended vacation.

“I got a ways before I got to pitch again,” Lackey said after getting a quality start and the no-decision in a 7-3 comeback victory. “I think I’ll be all right. I’m 38 years old, I’m bothered by a lot of things.”

Like the star manager Lackey once knew before Maddon got famous, doing the grunt work as Mike Scioscia’s bench coach on the 2002 Anaheim Angels team that won the World Series.

Lackey crushed a softball question about Jon Jay, the super-sub who delivered a pinch-hit, game-tying, three-run homer in the sixth inning, driving an Erasmo Ramirez pitch into the left-center field bleachers and showing why he’s so respected among his teammates. 

“He’s been everything we needed this year,” Lackey said. “Honestly, I can’t believe he doesn’t play more.”

With that one-liner, Lackey chuckled and walked out of the room.

One of many strange aspects to this 42-42 start is that Theo Epstein’s front office nailed so many offseason moves, except for the inevitable Brett Anderson breakdown that could leave the Cubs vulnerable if Lackey keeps pitching like a guy who’s 38 years old, Lester and Jake Arrieta collapse after back-to-back playoff runs and Kyle Hendricks (right hand tendinitis) experiences a setback that pushes him into August or later.

But the Cubs focused on bringing in serious professionals with their own World Series rings, players like Jay (.305 average), plus elite setup guy Koji Uehara (2.93 ERA) and All-Star closer Wade Davis (16-for-16 in save chances), who combined to get the last four outs against the Rays (44-42).   

Maddon would probably write it off as Lackey Being Lackey and not feel the need to respond to the passive-aggressive criticism. But the manager nailed the afternoon’s biggest matchup, summoning Uehara with two outs and two runners on and the Cubs clinging to a two-run lead in the eighth inning. Uehara struck out Evan Longoria for the 13th time in 25 career at-bats. 

Whenever he retires and disappears to Texas, Lackey’s to-the-point responses and refreshing honesty will be missed.

Lackey knows this isn’t a jumping-off point for a 42-42 team. Just look at how the shorthanded Cubs hung on to beat the Washington Nationals on the road last week, only to hear Miguel Montero torch Arrieta and lose two games in a row. That ninth-inning rally to salvage the split on getaway day in Washington led to two straight losses to a Cincinnati Reds team that’s now in last place.     

“I don’t think we do the whole ‘Today is the day,’” Lackey said. “It’s a long season. Just stay in your approach, stay in what you do. We got a lot of talent in the room. And hopefully it works out in the end.”

Kris Bryant owns St. Louis, pisses off Cardinal Nation

Kris Bryant owns St. Louis, pisses off Cardinal Nation

As far as Cubs fans are concerned, Kris Bryant is saying and doing all the right things in advance of what may be a major bounceback season for the former NL MVP.

Bryant assured everybody his shoulder is feeling great Friday evening and he's shown his standard one-handed finish in offseason workout videos.

He also cracked a couple jokes at his Cubs Convention panel, from serving as a resident "hitting poet" to playing up his wholesome image.

Bryant also managed to piss off Cardinals Nation, much to the delight of Cubs fans.

Bryant was a guest on Ryan Dempster's talk show Friday night at the Sheraton Grand Chicago and the topic of Bryce Harper came up (of course) along with Nelly, whom the two baseball superstars were photographed with over the winter. 

As Harper continues his free agent tour, Nelly apparently tried to pitch the superstar on St. Louis, the hometown of the rapper.

Fans booed when Bryant reminded everybody Nelly is a diehard Cardinals fan.

"Yeah, boo," Bryant said. "He was trying to work the magic on Bryce. Who would want to play in St. Louis? Boring. So boring. 

"I always get asked, 'Where would you like to play? Where would you not like to play?' St. Louis is on the list of places I don't like to play. It is rough."

Cubs fans absolutely loved it, of course, but those comments are not going over well in the shadow of the arch:

Even Cardinals reliever John Brebbia apparently took exception to Bryant's comments, reportedly calling the Cubs slugger a "loser" at their own fan convention over the weekend:

In addition to Brebbia's comment, Yadier Molina weighed in on Instagram, indirectly calling Bryant and Dempster "stupid players" and said they should have more respect:

All stars, elite players and leaders of their teams do not speak bad about any city. There should be respect and you should play and compete with respect... only stupid players and losers make comments like the ones made by bryant and dempster ..
#ceroRespectforthisstupidplayers
#QuevivaStlouis #LOVESTL

Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna responded to Molina's Instagram, saying, "From outside they speak and talk like tiger but at the end they gonna be like little cat."

Daniel Descalso is the only main addition to the Cubs this winter, but he's also a guy who came up with the Cardinals and spent the first 5 years of his career in St. Louis. But now he's on the North Side of the rivalry and when asked Saturday afternoon which fan convention is better - Cubs or Cardinals - Descalso didn't miss a beat and said "this one." (Then again, what else is he supposed to say??)

The NL Central already promised to be one of the most interesting divisions in baseball in 2019. The Cubs-Brewers rivalry (or not, if you ask Cole Hamels) took center stage last year, but Cubs-Cardinals may be getting the fire back if this early trash talk is any indication.

What new bench coach Mark Loretta brings to the 2019 Cubs

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AP Photos

What new bench coach Mark Loretta brings to the 2019 Cubs

Mark Loretta was happy in San Diego. And as icy wind whipped snow across downtown Chicago on Saturday morning -- where Day 2 of Cubs Convention had just gotten started -- it’s easy to understand why. 

Loretta, who had spent the last decade as a special assistant in the San Diego Padres front offices, was hired as the Cubs’ newest bench coach back on January 3rd. His familiarity with the Cubs front office goes all the way back to 2006, when he played for the Boston Red Sox under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. He was then hired by the Hoyer-run Padres after he retired in 2009. 

A Northwestern alum, Loretta had never thought about leaving Southern California - until the Cubs came calling. 

“I think it was just a really unique opportunity for a lot of reasons,” he said. “You know, obviously the Chicago connection, the team, Joe, so many factors that I thought made it a good fit. I always felt that I would want to get back in a uniform at some point. I didn’t know when it would happen, but when this opportunity came up my family was very excited about it and it seemed like the right fit at the right time.”  

Loretta joins a Cubs team that, as you’ve surely heard by now, is returning most of last year’s roster. Though they won 95 games last summer, their late-season stumble soaked up most of the fans’ goodwill. Going 0-2 in home clinchers, while scoring two runs in the process, will leave a bitter taste in most anyone’s mouth. 

“I think the silver lining of last year is that this team is really motivated,” he added. “From the front office all the way down, I’ve talked to just about every one of them either in person or on the phone, and they’re stung by last year. There were some tears in the clubhouse after the Wild Card game.” 

“I think these guys realize that they can’t just show up and be this dynasty, even though they’re extremely talented. It’s not about changing for me, it’s about growing. These guys need to take the next step and really understand what it takes for the long haul.”  

Bench coach jobs are a bit like the White House Chief of Staff in that there’s never really a set job description. During his time in San Diego, he had a hand in the Padres’ scouting, player development, and community relations. Here, Loretta sees the role as an intermediary between the players and staff; he and new quality assurance coach Chris Denorfia are already neck deep in day-to-day planning of Spring Training. Despite only being here for a little over two weeks, Loretta’s already made an impression on many. 

“I watched him growing up, and I got to talk to him a little bit,” David Bote said. “He called me a couple weeks ago to kind of get to know each other a little bit. He’s awesome, I think he fits really well into what we have going here. I don’t really know his coaching style, but I don’t think there are going to be any issues based on our conversations. I think he’s really into what we’re doing and I’m really excited to see what he brings.” 

The elephant in the room, of course, is that manager Joe Maddon only has one year left on his current contract. He enters 2019 with about as little job security as he’s ever had in Chicago. Though his last two bench coaches have found managerial jobs of their own in D.C. and Baltimore, Maddon’s uncertain future only adds fuel to the potential-replacement fire. 

“I think you can read things into it, but as far as I’m concerned, that was not on my radar,” Loretta said. “It was nothing obviously that I talked to Jed or Theo about, so again, I understand the speculation - you can start adding things together. But again, Joe is a huge reason why I was interested in taking this job. I think he’s one of the best managers in the game for sure.”

“I look really forward to learning from him next year.”