Chicago Cubs

After Sveum, is Maddux in play for Cubs?

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After Sveum, is Maddux in play for Cubs?

Dale Sveum didnt know Mike Maddux had withdrawn from the Red Sox managerial search until a reporter mentioned it to him on Monday night at Wrigley Field. They coached together in Milwaukee and remain good friends. They could be competing for the same job.

There are several subplots here, and Sveum and Maddux are at the center. Theo Epstein started researching candidates while he was working for the Red Sox. The Cubs are screening potential managers the same way they are in Boston.

Sveum who already interviewed at Fenway Park went through it again on Monday at Clark and Addison. Family considerations compelled Maddux to tell the Red Sox no thanks. The Rangers pitching coach is still scheduled to interview on Wednesday with the Cubs.

My wife and two daughters are together in the same state for the first time in three years and words cannot describe my happiness, Maddux said in a statement released to Texas reporters. The game of baseball has many sacrifices, but being apart from family is the toughest. I feel there is too much distance between the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and Boston to see my family as much as Id enjoy.

What about Chicago? Sveum praised Maddux as perhaps the hardest-working coach in baseball, someone who will make a good manager someday, if not this year.

But Sveum, who will turn 48 this month, can make his own compelling case to be the next Cubs manager. Near the end of his 12-year career in the big leagues, he played for Tony La Russa, Lou Piniella, Jim Leyland and Joe Torre.

The Brewers hitting coach has been given many responsibilities during his six seasons on the Milwaukee staff, including 12 games as interim manager after Ned Yost was fired. That run helped clinch the 2008 wild card and convinced Sveum that he could do the job.

Sveum emphasizes video work and is comfortable with quantitative analysis. He also has the Boston connection with Epsteins inner circle. He was the third-base coach on the 2004 Red Sox team that reversed the curse. He knows what life is like in the big city.

When youre dealing with the Cubs and any major market, Sveum said, youre expected to win that year. Youre not expected to be rebuilding or doing anything other than thinking about winning the World Series.

The Cubs have a long-range plan that makes it seem unrealistic to sign Prince Fielder to a megadeal this winter. But Sveum would vouch for the first baseman, and his influence on a clubhouse.

You wish you had 25 Prince Fielders playing as hard as he does every night, Sveum said. The leadership that he brings by the way he plays is unmatched by anybody in baseball. (I) dont think I see anybody, day in and day out, play every single game as hard as Prince Fielder.

In keeping with Epsteins vision of bringing in the best and the brightest, the Cubs also announced the hiring of Joe Bohringer as pro scouting director. The 41-year-old DeKalb resident graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has more than two decades of experience in professional baseball.

Throughout the organization, there will be new sets of eyes taking hard looks at the way the Cubs do business, trying to figure out why theyve gone so long without winning it all.

The million-dollar question, Sveum said. Being a baseball player and a coach for all these years, you always bring the Cubs up and why (they havent won). Its almost like a fluke that somebody with this kind of firepower hasnt won the World Series before.

A lot of times there is no formula. Sometimes it takes a lot of luck, a ball bouncing this way (to) win the World Series. You saw what happened to the Rangers this year. One little flyball could have been two feet (the other way) and they win the World Series.

Cubs say this isn’t the beginning of the end for their ace: ‘I believe in Jon Lester’

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USA TODAY

Cubs say this isn’t the beginning of the end for their ace: ‘I believe in Jon Lester’

MILWAUKEE – Cubs executives bet on Jon Lester because they had so much inside information from their time together with the Boston Red Sox and believed he would age gracefully with his fluid left-handed delivery, imposing physical presence and competitive personality.

The Cubs also went into it with their eyes wide open, knowing the history of nine-figure contracts for pitchers and how those megadeals usually lead to a crash.

“I think it’s way too early to talk about that,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday at Miller Park, where Lester’s mysterious struggles overshadowed the beginning of a four-game showdown against the Milwaukee Brewers that could decide the National League Central race.

The night before at Tropicana Field, Lester got rocked in an 8-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, leaving him with a 5.91 ERA in four September starts since coming off the disabled list. Lester has a body of work that will make him a borderline Hall of Famer, but he’s given up 27 hits and 12 walks in 21.1 innings since the Cubs activated him after a left lat tightness/general shoulder fatigue diagnosis in the middle of August.

“With any pitcher, you want to have that guy pitching at the top of his game going into October,” Hoyer said. “There’s no question. The timing of last night’s game, obviously, isn’t ideal. But we have two starts and we’ll hope he bounces back from that. We can’t control the timing.”

Almost exactly halfway through a six-year, $155 million commitment, the Lester investment has already paid for itself, because the Cubs are the defending World Series champs and couldn’t have done it without him. Period. But Lester is also 33 years old and has already thrown almost 2,200 innings in The Show, plus nearly another season in 14 career playoff series.

“Nope, nope, nope,” manager Joe Maddon said when asked if Lester was getting examined.

“Listen, I know a lot of people are concerned,” Maddon said. “I’m not overly concerned, because the guy’s been good for a long time. As long as he says he’s healthy – which he has – I’m fine. If he’s hurting at all – but he’s not revealing – that’s a different story entirely.

“But for right now, I believe he’s well, so I anticipate good.”

Maddon’s answers left a little wiggle room, but Lester didn’t want to make excuses and said there’s nothing wrong physically. If that’s the case, it would be foolish to write off someone who’s survived a cancer scare, thrived in the American League East, embraced the challenge of playing in two of baseball’s biggest markets and won three World Series rings.

“He has evolved as a pitcher,” Hoyer said. “When we first had him with the Red Sox, he was throwing 97 (mph). With most guys, you have to get past that loss of velocity, and the great ones do that.

“He’s always thrown hard, but he’s been kind of 93-94 tops the last few years. He’s got four pitches. He’s got a good sinker now. He’s got a good cutter. A changeup, curveball – they all come out of the same place. I think right now it’s about making some mistakes at the wrong time, and his stuff hasn’t been probably as dominant as he would want.”

This could just be a blip on the radar. But the Cubs didn’t earn the luxury of treating late September like spring training and warming up for the playoffs. These games matter, and that usually brings out the best in their ace.

“I believe in Jon Lester,” Maddon said, writing it off as a few “hiccup” games. “It’s unusual to see him struggle like that, primarily with his command. The velocity was down – but where the pitches were going – I’m not used to seeing that.

“I got to believe that’s going to get rectified soon. Guys like him, I’m normally not into physical mechanics this time of the year. But I’d bet if, in fact, there’s something wrong, it’s going to be more mechanically speaking.

“I just want to be very patient about this. I think he’s fine. Until I hear that he’s not well – which I’ve not heard at all – I think he’ll be fine.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Previewing Cubs-Brewers NL Central showdown

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Previewing Cubs-Brewers NL Central showdown

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Hub Arkush (670 the Score/Pro Football Weekly), Phil Rogers (MLB.com) and Jordan Cornette (ESPN 1000) join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel.

Jake Arrieta returns for the big NL Central showdown. Len Kasper joins the guys from Milwaukee for a preview. Plus, who should be the Cubs Game 1 starter in the NLDS?

Also, the panel discusses Mike Glennon’s leash on Sunday, the Aaron Hernandez CTE diagnosis and if Yoan Moncada’s hot September means big things in the future.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: