Cubs

Joe Maddon has an interesting idea on how to fix the MLB Players Weekend uniforms

Joe Maddon has an interesting idea on how to fix the MLB Players Weekend uniforms

"Woof."

That's the first "word" Joe Maddon used to describe his thoughts on the all-white and all-black MLB Players Weekend uniforms and the Cubs manager may as well be speaking for seemingly every baseball fan on Earth.

The color schemes have not been a popular pick this weekend, from Dodgers manager Dave Roberts saying his team feels like they're wearing "milkman uniforms" to the endless run of Stormtrooper or Backstreet Boys jokes:

One of the biggest draws of Players Weekend is the nicknames on the back of the jerseys, but in the white uniforms, you can't even see the team's logo let alone what the jersey number or nameplate says.

That's led to plenty of ideas for improvement, including letting the home teams add color to their white uniforms however they see fit:

But Maddon had maybe the best idea on how to make the uniforms better for the 2020 Players Weekend.

"They should have every team design their own Players Weekend uniform," Maddon said. "That would be cool. Like with us, you go to [Anthony] Rizzo, [Jason] Heyward, [Jon] Lester, whomever your team leaders are and in the offseason, say, 'we're gonna do this next year, you're gonna be on the road, so consider road kind of uniform - go. You style the Cubs uniforms.'

"Then it truly is Players Weekend. I think you'd get a lot more interesting and better unigrams if you went that route."

That would be awesome and would allow for plenty of creativity from the players' end.

The other issue with the all-black jerseys is how closely they resemble the umpires' uniforms. At various points when the home team is up, it looks like there are five or six players on one side of the infield with the umpires.

It's also led the defenders to blend in with the wall at Wrigley, too.

"From the dugout, looking out, the ivy is so dark, also, so when their players are running out there, it's almost like they disappear into the ivy," Maddon said. "Again, it was not good form. There's no way I can advocate that. It's just not good form. And that's not even being a traditionalist, honestly. It's another version of the dress code - the worst dressers create dress codes."

The Cubs also had to make a change in regards to their hats for Players Weekend.

Home pitchers are not allowed to wear white caps because of the possibility the baseball will blend in with the hat as it's being delivered. So on Friday, Jon Lester wore his blue Cubs hat and the rest of his teammates followed suit in a show of uniform uniformity.

However, they all took the field with the white hats Saturday (Jose Quintana wearing a black Cubs hat) after being told they have to wear the all-white version this weekend.

So this weekend is all about the players and fun and games...but also rules and stipulations that must be adhered to.

Carlos Beltrán pulls out of Cubs' managerial search, seeks Mets' job, report says

Carlos Beltrán pulls out of Cubs' managerial search, seeks Mets' job, report says

Scratch one name off your list of candidates to replace Joe Maddon on the North Side.

Sunday, Carlos Beltrán said that although the Cubs are interested, he won't interview for the team's managerial opening. Beltrán, a nine-time All-Star who played 20 big league seasons, told Newsday's Anthony Rieber that he's only interested in the Mets' opening.

Beltrán's interest in the Mets' vacancy makes sense, as he played seven seasons with the team from 2005-11. The 42-year-old also currently works in the Yankees front office, so leaving for Queens would mean moving his office just across town.

Beltrán was one of the few reported candidates from outside the organization linked to the Cubs' opening. The group also includes Joe Girardi — who completed an eight-hour interview last Wednesday — and Astros bench coach Joe Espada. Houston is still in the postseason, though, meaning Espada has likely not been made available for interview at this point in time.

The Cubs have already interviewed several internal candidates, including bench coach Mark Loretta, first base coach Will Venable and front office assistant/former catcher David Ross. There is no timeline for when they will make their announcement, though.

"We're not gonna drag this out any longer than it needs to be, but we also want to be thorough," Cubs president Theo Epstein said at his end-of-season press conference. "It's difficult. The interview process, you want to make sure you don't end up with the candidate who interviews the best.

"You want to end up with the candidate who's gonna be the best manager and that can be nuanced, so we want to do the best we can with that process. We're certainly not gonna hesitate."

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What the Cubs can learn from the 2019 MLB postseason so far

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USA TODAY

What the Cubs can learn from the 2019 MLB postseason so far

For the 10 teams that qualify for MLB’s postseason, October represents a chance to climb baseball’s mountain and secure a championship. For the 20 other teams sitting at home, though, October is a chance to evaluate those in the Big Dance.

Less than two weeks into the postseason, here’s some things that the Cubs can take away from the action thus far.

1. Starting pitching matters

With bullpens being relied on more than ever, starting pitchers aren’t used the same way as just a few seasons ago. The Brewers rode their bullpen all the way to Game 7 of the NLCS last season, while the Rays used an “opener” (a reliever who starts a game and pitches 1-3 innings) in Game 4 of the ALDS this season – beating the Astros 4-1.

And yet, the Astros and Nationals are proving how important it is to have a difference-making rotation. The bullpening method can work, but being able to throw Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke at an opponent in a single postseason series is downright unfair.

The Nationals have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin in their rotation, as formidable of a trio as any in the National League. They also have Anibal Sánchez, who took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cardinals on Friday. No big deal...

And despite getting eliminated, the Rays — Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton — and Dodgers — Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu — have talented rotations, as do the Cardinals and Yankees.

Meanwhile, the Cubs rotation didn’t have as big of an impact this season as they expected, a contributing factor to the team not making it to October.

“We had really high hopes for our starting group this year," Theo Epstein said at his end-of-season press conference. "You looked at it 1-through-5, we had a chance to roll out a really quality starter on a nightly basis, and that might be an area that was a separator for us versus some of the teams we were competing with. While we had a couple guys who had really good years and all our starters had their moments, it didn't prove to be a separator.

"There was some injury and regression (especially after injury) that led us to be closer to the pack certainly than we had envisioned. It’s an accomplished and experienced group, but with experience means that we could stand to add some younger talent, refresh the group as well. We certainly need to add depth and we need to add some youth and a little bit of a different look to the staff, as well, going forward.”

Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester are under contract for 2020, while Jose Quintana has an $11.5 team option. The Cubs don’t have an Astros or Nationals-esque trio, but their rotation can still be good enough to lead the charge in 2020. They’ll need them to do just that if they are to return to the top of the NL Central.

2. Manager decision-making is far more important in October than regular season

The Dodgers’ season came to an abrupt close in Game 5 of the NLDS, with manager Dave Roberts being smack dab in the spotlight.

With the Dodgers leading 3-1 in the seventh inning, Roberts called Clayton Kershaw’s number to get Los Angeles out of a two on, two out jam. Kershaw did just that, but the Nationals opened the eighth with home runs from Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto (on consecutive pitches) to tie the game.

Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in his generation, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and one-time NL MVP. However, his postseason woes are real (4.43 ERA, 32 games/25 starts), and therefore, Roberts made a questionable decision going with Kershaw in that moment. 

Where was Kenta Maeda to face Rendon? Maeda had allowed just a single hit in 3 2/3 innings at this point in the postseason. He took over for Kershaw after Soto’s home run, striking out three-straight Dodgers to end the eighth. 

Roberts also didn't bring in closer Kenley Jansen to start the 10th inning, when the game was still tied 3-3. Instead, he left in Joe Kelly, who allowed a decisive grand slam to Howie Kendrick. Only then did Jansen come in, but the damage was done. Not bringing in your closer in an extra-inning postseason game is inexcusable, and while it may be outcome bias, this game proves why.

Roberts has 393 wins in four seasons as Dodgers manager, leading them to World Series appearances in 2017 and 2018. Even with that experience, though, he made a bad decision at a terrible time. The postseason is a different animal, not only for players, but the coaches in the dugouts, too.

Of the known candidates the Cubs have interviewed for manager — David Ross, Joe Girardi, Mark Loretta and Will Venable — only Girardi has big-league managing experience. And while Epstein noted at his press conference that it isn’t everything, he added that experience is important.

"Lack of experience - and I'm speaking broadly for the group, not necessarily [about Ross] - is always a factor,” Epstein said. “It's not a determining factor, but it's a significant factor. I always have greater comfort level hiring for roles in which the person has done the role before. Especially with manager.

“But I think there are ways for that to be overcome - there are a lot of different ways to get experience in this game - beliefs, skills, personal attributes, those can outweigh a lack of experience, but experience certainly helps.”

3. Winning in the postseason is tough

After the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, there was a feeling that baseball’s next dynasty was underway. After all, the Cubs had a talented, young position player group that reached the promised land early in their time together. It made sense.

Those talks have died down, of course, as the Cubs haven’t even appeared in the World Series since 2016. And while they've had plenty of success since 2015, it feels like they could’ve had more.

The thing about baseball, though, is that it’s extremely hard to sustain those high levels of success. A few teams (Red Sox, Cardinals, Giants) have won multiple World Series this century, none have repeated as champions since the Yankees, who won three-straight from 1998-2000.

The Twins won 101 games this season and were swept out of the ALDS. The Braves won 97, only to lose Game 5 of the NLDS in brutal fashion at home to the Cardinals.

The Dodgers made it to the World Series in 2017 and 2018 and came up empty both times. They won 106 games this season, a franchise record, only to be eliminated in the NLDS by the Nationals — a Wild Card team, nonetheless.

Does that make last few seasons even more frustrating for the Cubs and their fans? Probably. October is a crapshoot, meaning as long as a team gets in, they have a shot at winning it all, no matter their record.

At the same time, the Cubs made things look easy in 2016. They had brilliant injury luck, a historic defense, a deep position player group, a loaded starting rotation and the right manager for their young core. Even so, it took erasing a 3-to-1 series deficit against the Indians to win it all, not to mention a dramatic Game 7 win that nearly didn’t go their way.

This isn’t an excuse for the Cubs shortcomings in 2019, but merely a reminder: they won the 2016 World Series, and that's no small feat. This offseason offers the chance to improve as a team for 2020, when they’ll set out to win again.

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