Cubs

Why Sveum, Maddux make sense for Cubs

581184.png

Why Sveum, Maddux make sense for Cubs

Theo Epstein says that he doesn't want to recreate The Boston Show.

Reading between the lines in Chicago, that was probably more telling than anything else Epstein said about how Terry Francona would be at the top of anyones list.

Epstein admits that he has run only one other search for a manager. But Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer clearly have confidence in the process that identified two finalists who were not obvious future stars almost eight years ago.

There is the sense that the Cubs are looking for the next Francona or the next Joe Maddon. Casting calls will continue on Monday at Wrigley Field, where Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum will audition, followed by Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux later in the week.

Sveum has built-in relationships with Epstein and Hoyer. He was part of Franconas staff when the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. Beyond those curse-busting credentials, he has a broad base of experience.

After lasting 12 seasons in the big leagues, Sveum managed Pittsburghs Double-A affiliate from 2001-03. He then became Franconas third-base coach and felt the heat from Boston fans and media for his aggressive decisions to wave in runners.

Sveum understands big-city pressures and has been described as someone whos embraced statistical analysis. It says something about his value and personality that he worked for three different managers in Milwaukee (as third-base, bench and hitting coach).

Sveum was the interim manager when the Brewers made a playoff run in 2008. He will turn 48 later this month, an age where he can grow into the job, an idea Epstein has suggested for the next leader.

As much as the Cubs have tried to copy the Red Sox model, chairman Tom Ricketts also studied the Brewers before hiring Epstein, the way theyve been able to produce homegrown impact players and have success in a small market.

MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac knows the history and expectations surrounding the Cubs. He played with Sveum and thinks his former teammate would be a logical fit on the North Side.

He knows the National League Central, Plesac said on Chicago Tribune Live last week. Hes been with a younger group of guys. You go back to the magical run with CC Sabathia. He inherited that team right before the postseason and there were a lot of people in Milwaukee that were really disappointed that he didnt get that job.

Sources have indicated that bench coaches Sandy Alomar Jr. (Indians), DeMarlo Hale (Red Sox) and Dave Martinez (Rays) figure to be involved in the search, though the Cubs havent confirmed exactly when the next round of interviews will take place.

Sveum has already interviewed in Boston, just like Philadelphias 60-year-old bench coach Pete Mackanin, the first candidate to come to Wrigley Field last week. Maddux will reportedly interview on Tuesday in Boston.

Theres a growing acceptance of pitching coaches becoming managers. Hoyer developed a good relationship with Bud Black in San Diego. John Farrell Bostons former pitching coach got good reviews during his first season in Toronto and could have been Franconas logical replacement if he werent under contract.

Epstein views keeping pitchers healthy and having them perform at a higher level as the next frontier. Those questions have vexed the entire industry. The Cubs are staring at a huge void in their rotation, and pitching figures to be their biggest need this winter.

In Texas, Maddux and Nolan Ryan pushed their pitching staff. They werent afraid to increase workloads and change the culture in a ballpark that was known for offensive fireworks.

Maddux helped guide the Rangers to the World Series twice in the past two years. He would be an intriguing choice even if he didnt have famous bloodlines. His brother Greg had been a special assistant to Jim Hendry. The future Hall of Famer recently spoke with Epstein.

Even with Hendry gone, these two ideas still remain true: Greg could have almost any job he wants in baseball, but family concerns could prevent him from taking on a full-time role right now.

(Greg) certainly appreciated knowing that he was welcome, Epstein said last week. Im sure it will work out in some form or another down the road. We agreed to stay in touch.

Epstein doesnt seem to want to be the star of this show, even though thats what everyones hyped him up to be. Hoyer is supposed to be the day-to-day voice.

The manager will be the face of the narrative, responsible for some 400 media sessions each year. Thats why each candidate will be made available to reporters as part of the interview. In the coming days, look for that image to come sharply into focus.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer 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.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

maddonmadman.jpg
USA TODAY

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

The Cubs continued their recent struggles, suffering their third straight loss to the Cincinnati Reds. 

But the game was not without its fair share of drama. The matchup was a back-and-forth affair, up until the Reds blew the game wide-open in the bottom of the third inning. This included a grand slam by Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, the first home run of his career.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to the bullpen following Cincinnati's third inning explosion, and things did not get much better from there.

With the Cubs down six runs in the bottom of the eight inning, Maddon brought in catcher Chris Gimenez to pitch. 

This was not new territory for Gimenez, who despite being a catcher, now has 10 MLB pitching appearances to his name. 

Down six runs, Gimenez didn't have a lot to lose. But Reds first basemen Joey Votto hammered a fastball in the zone for his eighth homer of the year.

Gimenez had a career ERA of 8.00 before Saturday's appearance, and he certainly didn't do much to help lower that figure.

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers: "Including one today, Cubs relievers have allowed 41.1 percent of inherited runners to score in June, sixth most in the NL." 

A tired bullpen is certainly cause for concern for the Cubs, who are locked into a battle in the NL Central with the Brewers and Cardinals. Maddon was surely hoping to keep his bullpen arms fresh with the move, seeing as the game was already out of reach. 

So yes, the game did end in a 11-2 win for the Reds. But with a grand-slam by a pitcher—on his first career HR no less—and four-seam fastballs from a catcher, Cubs baseball always keep things interesting.