Through ups and downs with Cubs, Jason Hammel and Jorge Soler earned their World Series rings

Through ups and downs with Cubs, Jason Hammel and Jorge Soler earned their World Series rings

It looked weird, three Kansas City Royals employees wearing gold-trimmed Cubs jerseys on their day off. But there must be some sort of 108-year exception to Major League Baseball's no-fraternization policy or whatever unwritten rule that might fall under now.

Jason Hammel, Jorge Soler and Travis Wood received their World Series rings before Monday night's game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. Team president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and manager Joe Maddon stood near home plate as the Cubs played a tribute on the giant video board above the left-field bleachers and handed out the championship bling, a warm tribute to three players who helped build a contender.

"I love the idea that we're bringing these guys back to honor them in this manner," Maddon said, "because they were really big in regards to us winning the World Series — and in the previous year almost getting to the World Series. I just think that if I'm them, man, I'm just digging on this and there's nothing negative about it whatsoever."

Maddon's quick hook frustrated Hammel, who felt he deserved more respect and latitude as a veteran pitcher who won 33 games and put up a 3.59 ERA in a Cubs uniform.

The Cubs buying out Hammel's 2017 option for $2 million — after he missed his last start with right elbow tightness and didn't make the roster in all three playoff rounds — led to a free-agent odyssey that didn't end until early February with a two-year, $16 million contract with the Royals.

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Whether or not Soler ever puts it all together and lives up to the enormous potential the Cubs saw when they gave the Cuban defector a $30 million, major-league contract, it wasn't going to happen at Wrigley Field now.

Where would Soler play and could he stay healthy? The Cubs felt like they had a diminishing asset on their hands when they executed the Wade Davis trade at the winter meetings. Soler opened the season on the disabled list with an oblique injury.

"I would hope that they would really appreciate the fact that they both got a World Series ring," Maddon said. "That's a nice conclusion to your time in Chicago. The group that we had out there playing last year — I think that they understood what we had going on and why at the time.

"Jason had a great season — 15 wins last year — and again it's just a matter of keeping Georgie out there as often as we possibly could. George the previous year made quite a dent in the (playoffs). I think both of them — regardless of their participation in the World Series — have to take that ring as an indication of all the good stuff they did as a Cub.

"If you're altruistic in regards to your method in being part of a team, then you accept that ring and understand that you're a part of something a little bit bigger than yourself.

"They're all big boys. They understand how it goes."

During a conversation in spring training, Hammel said his family plans to keep their house in Lakeview and would be open to the idea of a return at some point in the future.

"I loved my time as a Cub," Hammel said. "And who knows? Maybe I finish out there in the bullpen at the end (of my career). I don't hold grudges. I'm certainly not going to burn a bridge.

"I'm very happy. We won the World Series. And now I get to go try and do it with another team that's very capable of doing it."

How the Cubs, John Baker, are navigating the mental challenges of 2020

How the Cubs, John Baker, are navigating the mental challenges of 2020

The Cubs have spent months fortifying Wrigley Field against the outside world.

It’s supposed to be somewhere they feel safe, from the coronavirus pandemic, racial injustice, record unemployment rates. Even just for a few hours.

But even Wrigley’s ivy-covered walls aren’t impenetrable.

“I just feel like every day there’s something new,” Cubs manager David Ross said on Monday. “And I hope … our world gets back to being better in so many ways: health, society, emotionally, trying to get back to loving one another as best we can, as human beings.”

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The Cubs anticipated that mental health would be especially important this season and gave mental skills coach John Baker Tier 1 access. That way MLB’s health and safety protocols wouldn’t limit his in-person conversations with players and coaches.

“I think he’s handing it great,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “I think he deserves credit, and so do the players for being there for each other and be willing to talk about the challenges we all face and anxieties we all face.”

As people across the country have experienced, those anxieties are ever-mounting and ever-present.

At work, the Cubs are risking their health – and the health of those who live with them – to make a living and play a game they love. And hopefully provide fans with “levity and distraction,” as Hoyer put it.

Pregame interviews never conclude without a mention of the coronavirus. There’s always some sort of news between the Marlins’ and Cardinals’ outbreaks, commissioner Rob Manfred’s comments, and other teams violating protocols.

Then, at home their escapes are limited.

“This is a hard sport and it's a sport of failure,” Hoyer said, “and you want to be able to have some levity in your life that isn't this job of failure. And I think that not having that I think has created player health issues and we haven't had before.”

So, the Cubs built a little levity into their practice on Monday. The Cubs hadn't played a game in four days because their weekend series at St. Louis was postponed after the Cardinals had three more positive test. On Monday, Ross and his coaching staff put on a  “fun” competition, involving obstacles and target practice.

“I thought the way Rossy and the coaches and the players handled this break right now has been perfect,” Hoyer said. “I think they realize that in 2020 there's going to be strange things happen. You're going to have  breaks, and you're going to have doubleheaders, and there's nothing you can do about those things. You just have to roll with the punches, and you can't be upset by them.”

Next, they head to Cleveland to play a team that just had players violate protocol while in Chicago to play the White Sox.

Zach Plesac apologized for leaving the team hotel to go out, and he traveled back to Cleveland via car service to remain separated from the team in case of infection. But Mike Clevenger, who ESPN reported went out with Plesac, flew home with the team. He will be quarantined instead of starting against the Cubs on Tuesday.

Another anxiety to face.  

“How do I keep these guys in the moment?” Baker said. “They do it themselves. We have players that love playing baseball. I see it in the smiles on the faces now that they’re back on the field.”

That’s how they fortified Wrigley Field.


Cubs' Javier Báez, wife Irmarie are expecting a second child

Cubs' Javier Báez, wife Irmarie are expecting a second child

Cubs shortstop Javier Báez made a big announcement on Monday: he and his wife, Irmarie, are expecting a second child. 

Báez revealed the news in an adorable social media post with the help of his 2-year-old son, Adrian.

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Congrats to the Báez family!

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