Changing approach, Cubs hire Deer as assistant hitting coach

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Changing approach, Cubs hire Deer as assistant hitting coach

Following a trend, the Cubs have hired Rob Deer as an assistant hitting coach, adding another voice as they try to reshape their organization.

Deer will work closely with hitting coach James Rowson who replaced Rudy Jaramillo in the middle of last season and earned the job full-time as well as manager Dale Sveum. The Cubs confirmed the hire on Monday, which could be the beginning of a busy week leading into the winter meetings at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tenn.

Sveum a former hitting coach and Deers teammate on the Milwaukee Brewers from 1986 through 1990 has strong opinions about what the Cubs should be doing at the plate.

So does team president Theo Epstein, who wants to see hitters grinding out at-bats, like those Boston Red Sox teams that played deep into October. Since coming to the North Side, Epstein has described the lack of focus on plate discipline and on-base percentage as an institutional problem.

Trying to gain an edge, the San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies are among the teams that have used two hitting coaches andor will be structuring their staff that way in 2013.

Like Rowson who used to be the minor-league hitting coordinator for the New York Yankees Deer has experience dealing with young hitters. Deer, 52, had worked as a roving hitting instructor for San Diegos system, and also developed the Viz-U-Bat training device.

Deer hit .220 with 230 home runs, 575 walks and 1,409 strikeouts during his major-league career. He led the American League in strikeouts four times, but also appeared on the leader board at different points for homers, walks and slugging percentage. Coming off a 101-loss season, the Cubs need to improve in all those areas.

Baseball Prospectus once described Deer as the king of Three True Outcomes, meaning each at-bat would typically end with a home run, walk or strikeout. Those experiences will inform the next generation of hitters at Wrigley Field.

I dont teach the way I hit, Deer told Baseball Prospectus during a 2009 interview. I'm a big guy who understands the importance of using the whole field and wants hitters to understand a two-strike approach. Those are the things I implemented in my hitting system.

I tried to teach (the) things I couldnt do. I didnt have a two-strike approach when I played, so I try to make that an important part of teaching. I didnt hit the ball the other way, so I try to make them more complete hitters by having them do something I couldnt do.

Theo Epstein tops Fortune's list of World's 50 Greatest Leaders

Theo Epstein tops Fortune's list of World's 50 Greatest Leaders

The Cubs keep raking in the accolades.

Theo Epstein is the latest to be honored, with Fortune naming the Cubs president of baseball operations No. 1 on the newly-released list of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders.

Epstein — the architect of the Cubs team that ended a 108-year championship drought — beat out such names as Pope Francis, John McCain, LeBron James and Joe Biden.

Fellow Chicagoan and White Sox ambassador Chance the Rapper also made the list at No. 46.

The rationale for Epstein includes:

In his book The Cubs Way, Sports Illustrated senior baseball writer Tom Verducci details the five-year rebuilding plan that led to the team’s victory. The Cubs owe their success to a concatenation of different leadership styles, from the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts to the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of club president Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox. In the following passages, Verducci describes how a deeper understanding of important human qualities among his players—the character, discipline, and chemistry that turn skilled athletes into leaders—­enabled Epstein to engineer one of the most remarkable turnarounds in sports.

For more on why Epstein and the Cubs topped the list, head to Fortune.com.

Epstein had a classic reaction to the honor, texting ESPN's Buster Olney:

"Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house. That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It's baseball - a pastime involving a lot of chance. If Zobrist's ball is three inches farther off the line, I'm on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. And I'm not even the best leader in our organization; our players are."

Now what? Jon Lester driven to deliver more World Series titles to Chicago

Now what? Jon Lester driven to deliver more World Series titles to Chicago

MESA, Ariz. — Now what? Ryan Dempster believes these Cubs are young enough, hungry enough and talented enough to become the first group to win back-to-back World Series since the three-peat New York Yankees built a dynasty with titles in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

But Dempster already understands the expectations at Wrigley Field this season, especially after pitching on disappointing Cubs teams that got swept out of the playoffs and working as a special assistant in Theo Epstein's front office.

"Nothing can top it," Dempster said. "You can win 162 games and sweep everybody in the playoffs and it won't be as exciting for people, other than maybe the guys playing it."

That's why Jon Lester isn't putting up the "Mission Accomplished" banner at his locker, even though the Cubs had the parade down Michigan Avenue in mind when they gave him the biggest contract in franchise history at the time. Dempster — who also earned a World Series ring with the 2013 Boston Red Sox — had given Lester a scouting report as the Cubs went all-out in their pursuit of the big-game lefty.

There are still four years left on Lester's $155 million megadeal. It has been less than five months since the Cubs finally won the World Series and unleashed an epic celebration.

"Now the hard part is you don't get complacent," Lester said Wednesday after throwing six innings against an Oakland A's minor-league squad at the Sloan Park complex. "I talk about these young guys — that's where that helps. Even though you've accomplished things personally, you still want these guys to accomplish things.

"That's where that drive still gets you. You don't want to let your teammates down. You still want to be accountable for what you do. And that means showing up and doing your work in between starts and in the offseason."

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Lester believed so much in Epstein's vision, the pipeline of talent about to burst and the lure of Chicago that he signed with a last-place team. The Cubs needed a symbol to show they were serious about winning, a clubhouse tone-setter and an anchor for their rotation.

A new comfort level in Year 2 of that contract helped explain how Lester performed as an All Star, a Cy Young Award finalist and the National League Championship Series co-MVP. But Lester wants to make sure that the Cubs don't get too comfortable — or feel like they're playing with house money.

"You enjoy that, you learn from it," Lester said. "The biggest thing is not getting complacent with yourself and with your teammates. That's what drives me, making sure I'm prepared to pitch.

"I'm called upon every five days, and I have to be there. That's where that goal of 30 starts and 200 innings comes into play. I feel like if I do that, then I've done my job, for my teammates and this organization.

"The championships and the World Series — that's stuff you can't predict. It's stuff you strive to do every single year. So that's all we're going to focus on again. Our team goal again is to win a World Series."