Cubs

Jon Lester on Joe Maddon's tenure with Cubs: 'He should be revered as a legend'

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USA TODAY

Jon Lester on Joe Maddon's tenure with Cubs: 'He should be revered as a legend'

PITTSBURGH — Wednesday evening at PNC Park might be the last time Joe Maddon takes Jon Lester out of a baseball game.

The Brewers' win earlier in the day knocked the Cubs out of playoff contention, so Wednesday's 4-2 loss marked Lester's final outing of the season. With Maddon's contract up after 2019, there has been a lot of speculation that he and the Cubs may be parting ways this fall.

When asked about Maddon's status, Lester was effusive in his praise of his manager for the last five seasons on the North Side of Chicago, referencing how the Cubs led baseball in wins from 2015-18 and were only recently passed by the Astros and Dodgers this season.

"Man, I can't say enough positives about what Joe's done, just flat out for this organization," Lester said. "Up until I think here recently this year, we led MLB in wins. That's a testament to him. We broke a 108-year curse/streak, whatever you want to call it. 

"I think no matter what happens, if he continues here, gravy. I think if he doesn't, he should be revered as a legend in this town for a long, long time. What he did for this organization — you talk about a rebuild, you talk about signings and you talk about all that stuff, he was the first guy to write his name on that paper. He believed. Him believing made other people believe. 

"What he's done, not only for this organization — but for this city — it was huge."

Lester said any decision on Maddon is "above his paygrade" but he sure didn't sound like a guy who wanted change on the top step of the Cubs dugout.

Maddon has engineered the Cubs to 469 regular-season victories in his five years as manager and three of the four postseason appearances included a trip to the National League Championship Series. 

Of course, there's also 2016. That fall worked out pretty well for the Cubs.

When asked about the Maddon situation, Theo Epstein said Wednesday: "I'm going to keep that between me and Joe. It's just not something I'm comfortable talking about."

Maddon also pointed out Wednesday that he has a say in the matter, too, since he's not under contract. There are — and will be — some very enticing managerial jobs available, including the Padres and Ken Rosenthal linked Maddon to the Angels this week.

"When you're in the position I'm in...you do have choices, which is unusual," Maddon said. "But we'll talk it all the way through. Listen, we have a wonderful relationship. We work really well together, so we'll talk about it some more and see where it goes."

He admitted he doesn't know what the chances are of Epstein's front office asking him to return as manager for 2020 and beyond.

"We really haven't talked about that," Maddon said. "We've talked a lot about next year during the course of the season. We have done that. But we haven't gotten specific yet at this point right now. Over the course of the next couple days, we'll talk in greater detail."

How Cubs stack up, according to WAR, from 2015-19

How Cubs stack up, according to WAR, from 2015-19

The Cubs made the playoffs four times in five seasons under Joe Maddon, receiving contributions across the diamond from All-Stars and role players alike.

Some players, of course, had bigger impacts for Maddon's Cubs, even in smaller sample sizes. Jesse Chavez and Cole Hamels weren't Cubs for long, but the two 2018 trade deadline pickups helped the North Siders reach the postseason for a fourth straight year.

These are the top 25 players by WAR (wins above replacement) from the Maddon era, according to Baseball Reference.

Top 25 Cubs, according to WAR, from 2015-19

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How Ian Happ promotes mental health and other things to know about Cubs outfielder

How Ian Happ promotes mental health and other things to know about Cubs outfielder

It's kind of hard to believe 2020 is only Ian Happ's fourth season in the big leagues. The 25-year-old burst onto the scene with 24 home runs in 2017, and since has been through trials and tribulations, getting demoted to the minor leagues in 2019.

Whenever the 2020 season kicks off, Happ is in line for the starting center field job. Until then, here's a few things to know about him.

1. Happ attended University of Cincinnati from 2012-15, where he studied finance. He was a star on the field (2015 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year) and an exemplary student in the classroom (3.68 GPA, 2015 Academic All-American).

2. Happ is an avid golfer and is a 2 handicap, according to Golf Digest. He competed in the Straight Down Fall Classic in San Luis Obispo, Calif., the last two Novembers.

3. Happ serves as an honorary ambassador for First Tee Greater Chicago, which strives to introduce the game of golf to young people. The organization raised $23,000 at a January fundraiser Happ participated in.

4. In 2019, Happ and artist Patrick Vale started “Through My Eyes” — a three-piece artwork series capturing Wrigley Field from different perspectives. Proceeds go to the Happ Family Charitable Fund, which promotes mental health and wellness.

Happ lost his father, Keith, to brain cancer in 2015.

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