Cubs

Cubs players support White Sox extending protective netting: 'That's a positive step for the sport'

Cubs players support White Sox extending protective netting: 'That's a positive step for the sport'

Albert Almora’s foul ball that struck a young girl in Houston’s Minute Maid Park started a discussion around baseball. The other team in Chicago became the first to act on it.

On Tuesday, the White Sox announced that the team will be extending the protective netting at Guaranteed Rate Field to both foul poles later this summer. As the news broke in the afternoon, Cubs players were asked about it before the first Crosstown game of the year. Unsurprisingly, all of them were in favor of the move.

“I think obviously that’s a positive step in this sport,” Almora said. “I don’t think anybody should go home with bumps or bruises or even worse so whatever they got to do to take care of that, I’m glad they’re taking procedures.”

Almora admitted that the incident he was involved in has moved the conversation forward and led to more action from teams. Before the White Sox announced the decision, the Iowa Cubs, the Cubs Triple-A affiliate, had said they would be extending the netting at their park.

“Unfortunately my incident was, I don’t want to say the reason behind it, but I think teams are obviously paying attention,” Almora said. “Even incidents that aren’t making headlines, we had one in Dodgers Stadium where I saw the section of the crowd go silent while we’re still playing. At least 10 fans go home with bumps and bruises at the best. I don’t want to see that and I know any player in this league doesn’t want to see that either.”

Manager Joe Maddon said this wouldn't have happened so quickly without Almora's incident.

"Everything that occurs like that is going to expedite," Maddon said. "It always does. It normally takes a situation to get things rolling so of course it had some bearing on it."

Jon Lester thinks more teams will follow suit now that the White Sox have been the first one to extend the netting.

“Would I like to see it? 100 percent, but we’ll see how far my opinion gets us,” Lester said. “It’s a positive. Obviously when one team does it, then you get kind of the herding effect and the rest of people follow.”

Anthony Rizzo also believes the rest of the league will get there eventually, but wasn’t sure going all the way to the foul poles is necessary.

“Both foul poles is pretty aggressive in my opinion, but you don’t want to see anyone get hurt,” Rizzo said. “I think sooner or later it probably will end up being both foul poles for every team, but I think the netting here is really good. There’s some line drives that hit fans, but that’s far enough away where it’s not the span of a finger and if you’re engaged in a game, which most everyone here is usually. You don’t ever want to see anyone get hurt so whatever it takes for people not to get hurt.”

Maddon told a story from his playing career to explain why the issue was close to him before Almora's foul ball. When he played in Quad Cities in 1976, he saw a kid sitting behind home plate get hit in the face because the net wasn't very wide. 

"I sat with his dad and the kid had a bloody face and from that moment it made an impact on me," Maddon said. "I won't let my kids sit anywhere at a ballpark unless there's a net in front of them or if they're high enough or far enough back that the velocity is off the baseball by the time it gets there. The way the nets are today, you can see through them relatively well. I'm good."

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Joe Girardi steps down as manager for Olympic qualifying team to pursue MLB openings

Joe Girardi steps down as manager for Olympic qualifying team to pursue MLB openings

Joe Girardi’s name has come up for just about every managerial opening in Major League Baseball and it sounds like he is all in on pursuing that opportunity.

Girardi was set to manage USA Baseball’s Olympic qualifying team. He was named the manager of Team USA in August. His first tournament was going to be the upcoming Premier12 tournament, which is the first chance to qualify for the Olympics. Camp was set to begin on Oct. 21 and the U.S.’s first game is Nov. 2.

Instead, Girardi has stepped down. USA Baseball broke the news with a press release that announced Scott Brosius, a former teammate of Girardi’s on the Yankees, will take over.

The reason is the interesting part. He stepped down “as he pursues open managerial opportunities in Major League Baseball.”

At the very least, it sounds like Girardi is interested in at least one of the openings in MLB. He interviewed with the Cubs last week so this won't quell any speculation that he would come back to the North Side as a manager.

David Ross may still be the odds on favorite to fill the Cubs’ vacancy, but Girardi’s apparent interest in rejoining the ranks of MLB managers is certainly noteworthy. One would think if Girardi wants to get back into managing in MLB, at this indicates, he will get a job. Now the question is where he will land.

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Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Barring a Cubs-Angels World Series, the Wrigley Field faithful might not have much of an opportunity to welcome Joe Maddon back to The Friendly Confines.

It didn't take long for Maddon to find a job, as he reportedly agreed this week to join the Los Angeles Angels as their next manager. This was a widely speculated move after the Angels let go of manager Brad Ausmus just one year into a three-year contract immediately after the Cubs announced they were parting ways with Maddon. 

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers, Maddon's deal will likely be for three years at $4-5 million a season:

Maddon came up as a coach in the Angels system, referencing his three decades there often during the course of his five years in Chicago.

Once the Cubs got rid of Maddon, it was obvious he would have plenty of suitors, as just about any team with a managerial vacancy would be interested in the future Hall of Famer. But instead of going to an up-and-coming team like the Padres or a squad on the cusp of the playoffs like the Phillies, Maddon opted to return to his baseball home.

That means he will most likely not face off against the Cubs over the next couple of seasons, as the Cubs hosted the Angels in 2019 and are not slated to play each other again until 2021 (which will take place in L.A.). Barring the aforementioned World Series meeting, Maddon and the Cubs likely won’t cross paths in Chicago for the next few seasons.

It also means Maddon will get to team up with the best player in the game (Mike Trout) and an exciting young two-way star (Shohei Ohtani) while inheriting a roster that otherwise has some major flaws. The Angels have struggled to build up a roster around Trout over his nine seasons, making the playoffs just once in 2014 and getting bounced from the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals that season.

But the Angels do have some intriguing prospects coming up the system — led by outfielder Jo Adell — and Maddon has experience taking a team and elevating them to contender status immediately. He also carries immediate clout that will help draw free agents to L.A., as he did in Chicago with Jon Lester.

Maddon will be reunited with former Cubs fan favorite Tommy La Stella, who was starring for the Angels earlier this season before a leg injury sent him to the shelf for several months.

In many ways, this is an ideal fit for Maddon, who will get to stay in a big market with a team willing to spend and a roster that at least has some incredible talent from Day 1. It would obviously be a difficult task to try to overtake the juggernaut Houston Astros in the AL West, but he accomplished a similar feat in Chicago when he led the Cubs past the Cardinals in Year 1 (and kept the Cards out of the playoffs for the next three years until their return to October baseball this fall).

The Cubs, meanwhile, have not yet announced a new manager, though David Ross still looms as the favorite to take over Maddon's former gig. Theo Epstein's front office interviewed Mark Loretta, Will Venable, Joe Girardi and Ross earlier this month and also planned to talk to Joe Espada and Gabe Kapler this week.

Epstein said the Cubs are "full speed ahead" to hire a new manager, so expect them to move quickly to finalize Maddon's heir.