Now Cubs have to respond to the adversity and move on with or without Addison Russell: ‘Real life happens all the time’

Now Cubs have to respond to the adversity and move on with or without Addison Russell: ‘Real life happens all the time’

It’s probably too simple to say the Cubs played distracted on Thursday night at Wrigley Field. It’s also not really an exaggeration to suggest the defending World Series champs could be in crisis mode.

The Cubs held a brief team meeting before a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies, getting an update on Addison Russell’s situation and a reminder on how to handle questions about domestic-violence allegations they don’t have answers for now.

This is unchartered territory, a third-party accusation on Instagram that has since been deleted, a relatively new Major League Baseball policy that gives commissioner Rob Manfred a lot of latitude and little precedent and the Cubs not knowing when their All-Star shortstop will return.    

“We have great clubhouse chemistry, but real life happens all the time,” team president Theo Epstein said. “Sometimes, it reaches the light of day, and sometimes it doesn’t. But there are serious situations that come up throughout the course of a season and right now we’re dealing with a very serious allegation.

“We’ll see where it develops. But, yeah, it’s not always just baseball in there. Everybody has a personal life. The real world happens every day to guys and they know how to deal with it and still play the game.”

Three-plus hours after the Cubs announced Kyle Hendricks would be going on the disabled list with a hand injury, the first-place Rockies jumped  their other Cy Young Award finalist from last year. Jon Lester watched ex-Cub DJ LeMahieu – a rare miss from the early days of the Epstein administration – launch a two-out, three-run homer into the right-field basket that gave Colorado a 4-1 lead in the second inning. This kind of night: Lester was informed that LeMahieu had hit only one other home run off a left-handed fastball within the last four years.  

“Baseball is a game of adjustments,” Lester said. “It’s a game that can be cruel to you at times and be really good to you at times. With Kyle doing down, all the stuff going on with Addie, you know what, that’s why we’ve got 25 guys and we’ll figure it out. You can’t worry about stuff you can’t control.

“The next guy will step in and hopefully fill that void. That’s all you can really do in this game. You can’t dwell on the negatives and you look forward to tomorrow.”

Even if the Cubs sound optimistic about Hendricks, there are now questions up and down the rotation, from how Mike Montgomery transitions out of the bullpen to where Jake Arrieta goes from here to how much John Lackey (5.12 ERA) has left at the age of 38 to if Eddie Butler can stick in the big leagues after failing with the Rockies.

Sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals last weekend now feels like ancient history for a 30-29 team near the beginning of a 30-games-in-31-days stretch between June 2 and July 2 that hasn’t even gotten into the 17 road games in five different cities yet.

“It’s all about depth,” manager Joe Maddon said. “You don’t win without depth. That happens on an annual basis. We’ve been pretty good regarding picking other guys up over the last couple years.

“These are the kind of things you have to expect during the course of the year.”

It would be foolish to write off the Cubs when they are only one game out of first place in a weak division. Javier Baez might wind up being a better shortstop than Russell and Epstein could trade for a big-time starter before the July 31 deadline.

But it’s also probably time to slow down the Cubs Way narrative about the organization’s emphasis on character and makeup after rationalizing Aroldis Chapman’s 30-game suspension under MLB’s domestic-violence policy and making that blockbuster trade with the New York Yankees last summer.

“I think they’re distinct at this time,” Epstein said. “With Aroldis Chapman, it was a player who had served his discipline and had undergone the disciplinary action through the program.

“He was somebody who we then spent a lot of time doing our own research on whether we thought he had grown from the incident and moved on and could be a productive member of our clubhouse and a good citizen while with the Cubs.

“This is an allegation by a third party on social media. They are distinct situations, but they both fall under the same general umbrella. And because the nature of the allegation is very serious, we are taking it very seriously.”

All the players can do is shrug their shoulders, get through the initial media wave and go back to work.

“We’re human beings,” said Anthony Rizzo, the face-of-the-franchise first baseman. “We’re put on this high level, but things happen off the field that usually don’t get this far to the media. Things are going on all the time, on and off the field. You learn to deal with it.

“I love Addison. We’ve had some really good memories together, but I don’t know. I love him here. I don’t know what’s going on outside of this.”

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Why can't a trade be looked at as a win-win? 

There doesn't always have to be a clear winner and loser.

Prior to Jose Quintana taking the ball for Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, Joe Maddon was asked about the players (Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease) the Cubs gave up to acquire Quintana as well as the deal with the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman in July 2016.

Gleyber Torres is absolutely killing it in New York, hitting .323 with a 1.014 OPS, 9 homers and 24 RBI in only 29 games. Six of those homers have come in the last week alone. 

With the White Sox, both Jimenez and Cease have found success in Double-A and Advanced Class-A, respectively.

Jimenez is hitting .331 with a .992 OPS, 9 homers and 35 RBI in 35 games. Cease is 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

As the Cubs work to get their offense settled into a consistent groove, some Cubs fans have been looking at what might've been with guys like Torres and Jimenez.

"You can't have it both ways, man," Maddon said. "I'm happy for Gleyber. When he left, we talked about it. And we talked about the kids that went to the White Sox. It's good stuff. 

"I'm really disappointed if anybody's disappointed in the fact we won the World Series in 2016 and the fact that the guy we're talking about that we had to give up Gleyber for was so instrumental in that happening. That's bad process if you're gonna get stuck on something like that. Be happy for Gleyber. Be happy for him."

Maddon has been a fan of Torres' since he saw him in spring training in 2015, Maddon's first year in the Cubs organization.

"This kid's 21, with high, high baseball intellect," Maddon said. "He's very similar to Javy on the field. I've had some great conversations with him in the past. 

"The first time I saw him in spring training, I thought this guy's for real. It was like one at-bat, line drive to RF, I said who is this guy? And then you have a conversation with him. He's solid."

Maddon's point is a great one — would Cubs fans prefer to still have Torres and NOT have the 2016 World Series championship? Because that title doesn't happen without Chapman, regardless of how you feel about him as a person or what the Cubs had to give up to acquire him.

"Don't play that game," Maddon said. "Be happy for [Torres]. I'm gonna be happy when Eloy and Dylan make it up here. All these dudes, I want them to get here and be really good. And the guys that we get, I want them to be really good. 

"I don't understand why somebody's gotta lose all the time. This is an absolute classic example of what was good for both teams."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998


Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers 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.

An off-day did nothing to slow down the 1998 National League MVP as Sosa collected his second straight 2-homer game May 27 of that season.

He went deep in the eighth and ninth innings of a Cubs' 10-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field, driving in 3 runs. 

The first homer - off Darrin Winston - was an absolute blast, traveling an estimated 460 feet. The second shot was tame in comparison with only 400 feet as a recorded distance.

In a matter of two games, Sosa raised his season OPS from .930 to .988 and his slugging percentage from .521 to .577 thanks to a pair of 2-homer contests.

Fun fact: Doug Glanville - former Cubs outfielder and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst - was the Phillies leadoff hitter that day in 1998, collecting three hits and scoring a pair of runs.