Why Joe Maddon won’t create a Cubs shortstop controversy with Javier Baez and Addison Russell

Why Joe Maddon won’t create a Cubs shortstop controversy with Javier Baez and Addison Russell

Cubs manager Joe Maddon is trying to defuse any shortstop controversy involving Addison Russell and Javier Baez, framing his lineup decisions with big-picture ideas like rest, rhythm and matchups.

But what if this up-the-middle rotation evolves and Baez becomes a more consistent offensive force to go with his game-changing defensive skills? Where would that leave Russell when – for whatever reason – he’s not playing like an All-Star shortstop? 

“I’m not looking to do that, honestly,” Maddon said Wednesday at Wrigley Field. “The one thing Addison really has and does well is that he does the routine routinely. He normally doesn’t make any mistakes, which I really appreciate that about him. 

“Javy’s got all the flair in the world. He’s really good. I’m not denying that. But it comes down to the nuts and bolts for me. I’ve talked about the first time I saw Addison take groundballs in spring training a couple years ago. I was kind of like going crazy. I asked him: ‘Who taught you?’ Because his mechanics are so good.

“Javy will have his tendency to stay back on the ball. Addison’s always playing through the ball. When it goes to his right, Addie has a really good ability to put his right foot down and make that throw. There are little things that Addison does at shortstop. He’s so perfectly taught.”
Baez still started at shortstop for the 12th time that night against the Miami Marlins – after making only 21 starts there all last season. Baez has a more classic shortstop arm than Russell and his instincts and range at second base have drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar. 

Russell also isn’t performing like the guy FanGraphs credited with 19 defensive runs saved last year. He’s committed six errors through 50 games this season – after making 14 in 148 games last year – and not throwing with quite the same accuracy. The clutch hitter who put up 21 homers and 95 RBI during his age-22 season is now batting .209 with a .626 OPS. 

“He’s going to be back,” Maddon said. “As long as he’s healthy and well, he’s going to look like that again. I saw it way too much over the last two years. I can’t deny it – he has not played up to his standards to this point. But I have a lot of faith in this guy, because his mechanics, his fundamentals are that good for me.”

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.