Chicago Cubs

Jackson could be next Cubs call-up


Jackson could be next Cubs call-up

The day after the trade deadline signaled a clear shift in focus for the Cubs. After trying to showcase their players to contending teams, the next two months will be auditions for 2013.
If the Cubs are looking for a jolt of energy after trading away several popular veterans, Brett Jackson is waiting at Triple-A Iowa. The front office and the coaching staff are already thinking about it.
There were discussions leading up to Tuesdays deadline. There were meetings scheduled for after Wednesdays 8-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field, and during Thursdays off-day in Los Angeles.
That happens to be Jacksons 24th birthday. The sense is that the Cubs are trying to accelerate the process of figuring out what they have really got in the 2009 first-round pick out of Cal-Berkeley.
I dont know if there is any so-called risk involved in it, manager Dale Sveum said. Everybodys always worried about the failure part instead of the guy coming up here and maybe being a better player in the big leagues than he is in the minor leagues.
Its stuff worth thinking about. Its something were really dwelling over right now what were going to do the next month before the September call-ups.
Jackson is an athletic outfielder who began the day hitting .253 with 15 homers, 25 stolen bases and an .814 OPS and 152 strikeouts in 391 at-bats.
Everyone looks at that big number, but Jackson fits Theo Epsteins vision of a well-rounded player who may not be spectacular in one area but still makes contributions across the board.
The Cubs president says you shouldnt fixate on the strikeouts and overlook Jacksons overall game.
With Jackson, the question becomes now primarily (about) his development, Epstein said, and what buttons we can maybe push to help get him to that next level, as far as that one issue that still faces him as a player.
Epstein mentioned the individual player plans every prospect in the organization received this season. There are boxes to check before being promoted as well as a loophole.
There are other instances where youre actually looking for a change of scenery, Epstein said. Youre looking for some sort of change to actually trigger further development. So theres no hard-and-fast rule for every players promotion.
Jackson turned it on last season after being promoted from Double-A Tennessee and actually put up better numbers at a higher level. People throughout the organization have noticed his sense of confidence and how he acts like he belongs.
The strikeouts are a problem, Sveum said, but on the other hand sometimes players just get to the big leagues and they hit better. You cant even explain it.
Hanley Ramirez I remember when we had him in Boston. He never put up any minor-league numbers and the next year hes in the big leagues and he wins Rookie of the Year.
Some guys struggle with the third deck in the stadium and other guys perform a lot better with the third deck. Its (difficult) predicting how guys are going to handle this kind of atmosphere."
Ramirez must be some sort of urban legend around the Red Sox. Because while Kevin Millar was trying to earn a roster spot with the Cubs in 2010, he was asked about Ramirez at a time when Starlin Castro was opening eyes in spring training.
The funny thing about Hanley is he didnt put up great offensive numbers (in) Double-A, Millar said then. He stepped up to the big leagues and then turned into a beast.
At the big-league level as weird as it sounds it becomes easier. When I say that, you get the better equipment, the better field, better lights.
Certain kids (get) better at the big-league level, and Hanley Ramirez was that guy.
In 2005, Ramirez hit .271 with six home runs and 52 RBI in 122 games for the Portland Sea Dogs. He exploded after being traded to the Florida Marlins in the Josh Beckett deal, which was engineered in part by future Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer.
Ramirez had that breakout season in 2006, batting .292 with 17 homers, 59 RBI, 51 stolen bases and 119 runs scored in 158 games.
No ones saying that Jackson is going to duplicate that performance. But it sounds like the Cubs are talking themselves into letting him take a shot.

Jose Quintana’s ‘career-altering’ game has Cubs planning clinch party in St. Louis


Jose Quintana’s ‘career-altering’ game has Cubs planning clinch party in St. Louis

MILWAUKEE – The Cubs are going to destroy Busch Stadium’s visiting clubhouse. The rivalry has fundamentally shifted to the point where the St. Louis Cardinals are hanging around the National League’s wild-card race in a transition year and it would have been a massive failure if the defending World Series champs didn’t win this division. But there will be some symbolism to popping champagne bottles and spraying beer all over that room.

“We intend to clinch there,” Ben Zobrist said after Jose Quintana’s complete-game masterpiece in Sunday’s 5-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. “And I think for a lot of the guys that have been around here for a long time, it’s going to be very satisfying.”

Quintana has only been a Cub since the Brewers failed to close a deal with the White Sox and team president Theo Epstein swooped in to make a signature trade during the All-Star break. Quintana hasn’t yet pitched in the playoffs, but this is close enough, the Cubs winning back-to-back 10-inning games against the Brewers and shaking off a walk-off loss before the lefty faced off against Chase Anderson in front of a sellout crowd of 42,212.

Quintana gave the Cubs more data points to consider as they prepare for a probable first-round series against the Washington Nationals. The magic number to eliminate both the Brewers and Cardinals is two, with Milwaukee off on Monday and the Cubs playing a rivalry game in St. Louis that night, meaning the party goggles won’t come out until Tuesday at the earliest.

“It’s the playoffs already for this team,” said Zobrist, who again looked like a World Series MVP in the seventh inning of a 1-0 game when he launched Anderson’s first-pitch fastball into the second deck in right field for a two-run, breathing-room homer. “We’re already thinking that way.

“We’re in postseason mode right now. And we intend to continue that for the next month.”

While there are valid concerns about Jon Lester’s nosedive in performance since coming off the disabled list and the state of Jake Arrieta’s right hamstring, the focus should also be on how Quintana (7-3, 3.50 ERA in 13 starts as a Cub) could be an October game-changer for this rotation.

“Once he got over here, he was really jacked up about having a chance to play in the playoffs,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s showing you that right now. Games like that, to me, could be kind of career-altering for a pitcher.

“When you pitch a complete-game shutout on the road under these circumstances, that definitely does something for your interior. It definitely fluffs it up a little bit.”

“It’s exciting to be here,” said Quintana, who allowed only three singles, piled up 10 strikeouts against one walk and hit 93 mph on his 116th and final pitch in the ninth inning. “I just try to help my team and it’s really special when you get that opportunity. It’s about winning and I have a huge opportunity here.”

In all phases of the game – dominant starting pitching, an offense that created different ways to score runs, multiple bullpen contributors and an airtight defense that committed zero errors in 39 innings – Maddon saw what he was looking for: “We reacted in a playoff manner for these four games. Our mental intensity could not be beat.”

That drifting, in-and-out focus had been part of the background when the Cubs shocked the baseball world with the Quintana trade in the middle of July. Concentration won’t be an issue at Busch Stadium. And this hangover will be real.

“It will be nice to do it there, I’ll just say that,” said Zobrist, who understands the Cubs-Cardinals dynamic as someone who grew up in downstate Illinois. “But we got to win the games.

“As John Lackey said it before (this) series: ‘This is not a small series, boys.’ We knew it was a big one here in Milwaukee. And it will be another big one in St. Louis.”

Joe Maddon gives Cubs space during national anthem: ‘Everybody’s got the right to express themselves’

Joe Maddon gives Cubs space during national anthem: ‘Everybody’s got the right to express themselves’

MILWAUKEE – As protests formed at NFL stadiums across the country, sending an anti-Trump message after the president’s inflammatory rhetoric, a group of about 11 Cubs players and coaches stood off the third-base line while a men’s a cappella group sung the national anthem before Sunday’s 5-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.

The night before, Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to follow in Colin Kaepernick’s footsteps and kneel during the national anthem at the Oakland Coliseum, sending a jolt through a conservative industry.  

“Like I’ve always talked about, everybody’s got the right to express themselves in the manner in which they feel,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I’ve always felt that way.”

That’s easer said than done in a team sport that doesn’t have the same outspoken culture as NBA or NFL locker rooms. It will be fascinating to see if this starts a similar movement across baseball. The Cubs are a marquee team that has already visited the White House twice since January and will likely return to Washington in October for a must-watch playoff series against the Nationals.

“I have no idea,” Maddon said. “We’re going to wait and see. And, again, if it does, that’s fine. I have no issues. I’m all into self-expression. And if a player feels that he needs to express himself in that manner, then so be it.”

[RELATED — Joe Maddon feels the heat from White House comments and rethinks Trump vs. sports world]

Maxwell, the son of a U.S. Army veteran who made his big-league debut last year, told Bay Area reporters this decision had been building and rooted in his own childhood in Alabama, where Trump appeared on Friday at a rally for Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange and told the crowd that NFL owners should fire any “son of a b----” kneeling during the national anthem.      

“The point of my kneeling was not to disrespect our military or our constitution or our country,” Maxwell said. “My hand was over my heart because I love this country and I have family members, including my father, who bled for this country, and who continue to serve.

“At the end of the day, this is the best country on the planet. I am and forever will be an American citizen and grateful to be here. But my kneeling is what’s getting the attention, and I’m kneeling for the people who don’t have a voice.

“This goes beyond the black and Hispanic communities because right now we have a racial divide that’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country saying it’s basically OK to treat people differently. I’m kneeling for a cause, but I’m in no way disrespecting my country or my flag.”

Maddon’s anti-rules philosophy gives the Cubs the space to do whatever they think’s necessary to get ready for the next game. It’s freedom from: dress codes on road trips, guidelines on facial hair and overloaded mandatory batting-practice sessions.

That hands-off approach has worked to the point where the defending World Series champs could clinch a second straight National League Central title as soon as Tuesday at Busch Stadium and celebrate in front of the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s not unusual to see only a small group of players, coaches and staffers standing on the field during the national anthem.

“That’s up to them,” Maddon said. “I’ve never really had a policy regarding being out for the anthem or not. A lot of times guys like to do different things right before the game begins. Sometimes, you’re on the road, you hit later and you get in later and then your time is at a premium. So I’ve never really had a specific theory about coming out for your anthem at all.”