Cubs

A week removed from disappointing end to Cubs season, Jon Lester provides perspective

A week removed from disappointing end to Cubs season, Jon Lester provides perspective

"Sometimes you need to get your dick knocked in the dirt in order to appreciate where you're at. And you know what? Maybe we needed that. Maybe we needed to get knocked down a peg or two and realize that nothing's gonna be given to us."

That was Jon Lester's...um, unique...rapid reaction to the heart-wrenching end of the Cubs' season after just one postseason game last week.

A week later, the Cubs ace still has the same perspective and believes the criticism of Joe Maddon is unfair and an unfortunate byproduct of a season that ended short of expectations.

Roughly 14 hours after Lester's NSFW summation, Cubs president of baseball opertations Theo Epstein spoke more eloquently on the matter, believing his team lacked urgency at times throughout the year and it came back to bite them by forcing a Game 163 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

"In our business, we have bosses and Theo's our boss," Lester said on ESPN 1000 Wednesday. "He obviously saw something that lacked in our team throughout the year. He sees it as a different view than we see it and if he feels that way, then he's probably right. With such a long, long season, you go through spurts where, yeah, it may not necessarily lack the sense of urgency, it may just be you're in a rut — mentally, physically, whatever it may be.

"We've all said it; I've been guilty of saying it — 'Hey, this is just one of those days and we'll move on.' Well, 'one of those days' turns into Game 163. Unfortunately, our lackluster performance falls on Joe's shoulder and that's the unfortunate part of any game - any athletic sport on the professional level.

"I think Joe has done a phenomenal job the past four years. I mean, he's given the city of Chicago expectations for us. So I think you gotta look at that. We're still fresh. We're literally a week removed from losing, so everybody's still got that bitter taste in their mouths and rightfully so. I think everybody needs to step back and realize we overcame a lot, but we still came up short.

"There are some positives we can take from this and we're gonna go forward with it and it's gonna make us stronger as a unit. It's gonna make Joe stronger as a manager. We all got Joe's back and we all believe in what he does. But like I said, the unfortunate part is when you provide expectations for a city, this is the stuff you have to deal with and we'll get through it."

Despite the heat Maddon took, his status as Cubs manager "remains unchanged" and is expected to once again be at the helm of a team with World Series expectations in 2019. 

Javy Baez also felt like the team lacked a sense of urgency all season and was outspoken about what he felt even before the Cubs were eliminated by the Rockies in the 13th inning of the NL Wild-Card Game. 

Yes, the season ended in disappointing fashion. Yes, everybody expected the Cubs to at least make the NLDS, especially after spending most of July, all of August and all of September as a first-place team with the best record in the entire NL.

Nobody's happy the Cubs fell short of their ultimate goal of winning the World Series.

That doesn't mean they choked, however.

"Let's get one thing straight — we're best record in the league minus 1," Lester said a few hours after his gutsy performance against the Rockies in the one-game playoff. "We had to play 163 in order to lose that title. So I like my chances every year if you're gonna come down to the last game of the year and you're fighting for the best record in the league.

"The Brewers got hot, they played really good. I feel like we played really good. I mean, I don't feel like we lost this. I feel like they beat us and we got ourselves in this situation."

As tough as this ending was for the 2018 Cubs, it sure doesn't seem like the 2019 team will be lacking any urgency, motivation or chip on their shoulder.

It'll be World Series or bust for the Cubs once again next year.

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.