Following in Rynos footsteps, Barney wins Gold Glove

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Following in Rynos footsteps, Barney wins Gold Glove

Darwin Barney has entertained teammates by doing backflips like Ozzie Smith, a trick he learned as a kid in gymnastics.

Barney was smart enough to start out on a pre-dental track at Oregon State University before he realized he should major in baseball and helped the Beavers win back-to-back College World Series titles.

Barney had pretty much played shortstop his entire life until he saw Starlin Castro make the leap over him in May 2010, directly from Double-A Tennessee to The Show.

So Barney went to work at second base at Triple-A Iowa with Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, the last Cub to win a Gold Glove at that position (nine straight between 1983 and 1991). Barney may not be at the beginning of that kind of run, but he has forced his way into the potential team picture for 2015, or whenever the Cubs are good again.

Winning a Gold Glove on Tuesday only reinforced the belief that Barney should be a core player in Theo Epsteins future plans.

Ryno meant a lot when Starlin got called up, Barney said. Ryno was really one of the guys that kept me confident in my ability and the fact that theres a spot for me in the big leagues some day.

Barneys mix of athleticism, intelligence and intangibles proved to be a good match for Dale Sveums program. The managers stronger emphasis on breaking down video and analyzing spray charts helped put Barney in position to win this award.

By going 141 consecutive games at second base without an error, Barney tied the major-league, single-season record held by Placido Polanco. Barney probably needed a big number like that to grab the attention of National League managers and coaches.

Brandon Phillips thinks hes the best defensive second baseman in the game just ask him and had won the past two Gold Gloves, and three within the previous four seasons.

Barney beat out finalists Phillips (Cincinnati Reds) and Aaron Hill (Arizona Diamondbacks). The Fielding Bible had already recognized Barney for saving 28 runs the most by a major-league second baseman by a wide margin which shows you can be a game-changer defensively.

Barney isnt one to beat his chest. He downplayed the Phillips question, showing the diplomatic skills that should make him a clubhouse leader in the years to come.

You dont expect to pass a guy like Brandon Phillips, Barney said. Hes exceptional at what he does. I cant sit here and say that Im better than him or anything like that. I dont think it has anything to do with that. I had a good season, and I think either one of us could have won it.

Barney led all second basemen in the majors with a .997 fielding percentage, committing only two errors in 731 total chances covering 1,270.1 innings. His 3.6 defensive win above replacement rating led all players in the National League.

I felt like the transition would happen eventually, (but) I didnt think it would be as smooth as it was, Barney said. You always hope that its not the last (Gold Glove, that its) the first of some or many. But for me, Im just going to enjoy this, because you never know if it will happen again.

At the end of the season, while the Philadelphia Phillies promoted Sandberg to their coaching staff for 2013, the Cubs didnt renew Pat Listachs contract. The third-base coach had been responsible for studying video, going over scouting reports and positioning infielders before each pitch, but Sveum had his own ideas.

I wouldnt say bittersweet, Barney said. Theres a place for Pat at the big-league level somewhere, and its going to happen real soon. Im not worried about him at all.

Generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Barney knew that a job wouldnt be handed to him. He understood that he would have to fight for it. With Castro at his side, Barney thinks the Cubs could one day have the best middle infield around.

Its been a long path, Barney said. (But) you cant be satisfied. Winning a Gold Glove doesnt necessarily satisfy me for the future, (but it) makes me hungry to try and get another one some day.

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Nationals today on CSN

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Nationals today on CSN

The Cubs take on the Washington Nationals today, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (5-4, 3.83 ERA) vs. Joe Ross (4-3, 5.40 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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Jake Arrieta doesn’t see fractures forming in Cubs clubhouse

Jake Arrieta doesn’t see fractures forming in Cubs clubhouse

WASHINGTON – An erratic, distracted, disconnected Cubs team got a pregame Moment of Zen at Donald Trump’s White House on Wednesday afternoon, a smaller group of players, staffers and executives going back to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for the second time in less than six months to celebrate their World Series championship.    

The Cubs showed up at Nationals Park and of course had new Joe Maddon T-shirts folded all over the chairs in the visiting clubhouse: “Embrace the Suck” superimposed on the Captain America shield. Miguel Montero’s locker was completely empty after injecting some truth serum into the group media sessions where the Cubs almost always insist that everything is fine and will be all right in the end.

But the Cubs are at an awkward, sensitive point here, 39-39 after an 8-4 loss to a first-place Washington team that saw reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant leave the game with a sprained right ankle and veteran pitcher John Lackey give up all eight runs as his ERA ballooned to 5.24.

Paying $7 million to make Montero go away won’t magically solve the problems. Even the guy who Montero targeted late Tuesday night after the Nationals stole seven bases didn’t really have a problem with the message or the messenger. 

“I’m sad to see him go,” Jake Arrieta said. “I love Miggy. As you guys know, he’ll say some things from the heart, the way he feels. He’s open and honest. That’s the way Miggy is. He regretted what he said. He felt bad about it. I told him that I’m not upset or mad at him. I didn’t even really see the comments, and I don’t care what they were. 

“I know what it was about – and there was a lot of honesty there. I didn’t do him any favors. I was slow to the plate and (Trea) Turner’s one of the fastest guys in baseball, so it just makes it look worse than it was. It’s unfortunate it had to happen that way, but it is what it is.”

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Arrieta took his teammates along for the ride when he transformed into a Cy Young Award winner in 2015. Montero had trouble hiding his frustrations with Maddon and diminished playing time, not exactly pumped about the idea of wearing a onesie on an overnight flight from the West Coast. Montero wound up catching Arrieta’s no-hitter that unforgettable night at Dodger Stadium.    

The clubhouse vibes now aren’t necessarily awful – to use a Maddon term to downplay the injuries that have decimated the roster – but something is clearly off here.  

“It’s been slightly different, honestly, just because we’ve been up and down so frequently this season,” Arrieta said. “As soon as we get on a roll, we kind of hit the skid. We win two, lose two, win one, lose one. It’s just been this back and forth sort of rollercoaster that we’ve been dealing with. 

“As far as the guys in here, everybody gets along great. We got good relationships. Sometimes, there can be a lull in the dugout from time to time. That’s just kind of the nature of the back and forth that we’ve had, ups and downs. 

“But we’re all on the same page. We know that we need to tighten some things up. And it’s not just in one area. We’ve pitched well at times. We’ve swung the bats well at times. 

“Obviously, last season we were able to kind of collectively do all of that at the same time. That’s what we’re searching for. We’re trying to find that consistency on both sides of the ball.” 

The ironic part is that Montero clung to the idea of being Arrieta’s personal catcher last season, hoping that connection would prevent him from getting bumped off the playoff roster, and now it got him designated for assignment.        

“I don’t think either way it would have fractured the clubhouse,” Arrieta said. “There are certain things that are handled behind closed doors, but Miggy wears his heart on his sleeve. That’s one of the main reasons we all liked him. But we’re going to move forward from this and embrace the guys that are here.”