Why Sveum, Maddux make sense for Cubs

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Why Sveum, Maddux make sense for Cubs

Theo Epstein says that he doesn't want to recreate The Boston Show.

Reading between the lines in Chicago, that was probably more telling than anything else Epstein said about how Terry Francona would be at the top of anyones list.

Epstein admits that he has run only one other search for a manager. But Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer clearly have confidence in the process that identified two finalists who were not obvious future stars almost eight years ago.

There is the sense that the Cubs are looking for the next Francona or the next Joe Maddon. Casting calls will continue on Monday at Wrigley Field, where Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum will audition, followed by Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux later in the week.

Sveum has built-in relationships with Epstein and Hoyer. He was part of Franconas staff when the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. Beyond those curse-busting credentials, he has a broad base of experience.

After lasting 12 seasons in the big leagues, Sveum managed Pittsburghs Double-A affiliate from 2001-03. He then became Franconas third-base coach and felt the heat from Boston fans and media for his aggressive decisions to wave in runners.

Sveum understands big-city pressures and has been described as someone whos embraced statistical analysis. It says something about his value and personality that he worked for three different managers in Milwaukee (as third-base, bench and hitting coach).

Sveum was the interim manager when the Brewers made a playoff run in 2008. He will turn 48 later this month, an age where he can grow into the job, an idea Epstein has suggested for the next leader.

As much as the Cubs have tried to copy the Red Sox model, chairman Tom Ricketts also studied the Brewers before hiring Epstein, the way theyve been able to produce homegrown impact players and have success in a small market.

MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac knows the history and expectations surrounding the Cubs. He played with Sveum and thinks his former teammate would be a logical fit on the North Side.

He knows the National League Central, Plesac said on Chicago Tribune Live last week. Hes been with a younger group of guys. You go back to the magical run with CC Sabathia. He inherited that team right before the postseason and there were a lot of people in Milwaukee that were really disappointed that he didnt get that job.

Sources have indicated that bench coaches Sandy Alomar Jr. (Indians), DeMarlo Hale (Red Sox) and Dave Martinez (Rays) figure to be involved in the search, though the Cubs havent confirmed exactly when the next round of interviews will take place.

Sveum has already interviewed in Boston, just like Philadelphias 60-year-old bench coach Pete Mackanin, the first candidate to come to Wrigley Field last week. Maddux will reportedly interview on Tuesday in Boston.

Theres a growing acceptance of pitching coaches becoming managers. Hoyer developed a good relationship with Bud Black in San Diego. John Farrell Bostons former pitching coach got good reviews during his first season in Toronto and could have been Franconas logical replacement if he werent under contract.

Epstein views keeping pitchers healthy and having them perform at a higher level as the next frontier. Those questions have vexed the entire industry. The Cubs are staring at a huge void in their rotation, and pitching figures to be their biggest need this winter.

In Texas, Maddux and Nolan Ryan pushed their pitching staff. They werent afraid to increase workloads and change the culture in a ballpark that was known for offensive fireworks.

Maddux helped guide the Rangers to the World Series twice in the past two years. He would be an intriguing choice even if he didnt have famous bloodlines. His brother Greg had been a special assistant to Jim Hendry. The future Hall of Famer recently spoke with Epstein.

Even with Hendry gone, these two ideas still remain true: Greg could have almost any job he wants in baseball, but family concerns could prevent him from taking on a full-time role right now.

(Greg) certainly appreciated knowing that he was welcome, Epstein said last week. Im sure it will work out in some form or another down the road. We agreed to stay in touch.

Epstein doesnt seem to want to be the star of this show, even though thats what everyones hyped him up to be. Hoyer is supposed to be the day-to-day voice.

The manager will be the face of the narrative, responsible for some 400 media sessions each year. Thats why each candidate will be made available to reporters as part of the interview. In the coming days, look for that image to come sharply into focus.

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jake Arrieta is a Cy Young Award winner who won't get the Opening Night assignment. John Lackey is a No. 3 starter already fitted for his third World Series ring. Kyle Hendricks led the majors with a 2.13 ERA last year and won't start until the fifth game of this season.  

Do you feel like this is the best rotation in baseball?

"We're up there, yeah," Arrieta said after homering off Zack Greinke during Thursday afternoon's 5-5 tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. "I think on paper – and with what we've actually done on the field – it's tough to not say that.

"We like the guys we have. People can rank them, but time will tell. Once we get out there the first four or five times through the rotation, I think you can probably put a stamp on it then, more so than now. 

"But, yeah, we stack up just as well as anybody out there, for sure."  

Arrieta made it through five innings against the Diamondbacks, giving up three runs and eight hits in what figures to be his second-to-last Cactus League tune-up before facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 4. 

The New York Mets blew away Cubs hitters with their power pitching and game-planning during that 2015 National League Championship Series sweep. The Washington Nationals are trying to keep Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg healthy and already watched Tanner Roark deliver for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. 

The Cubs dreaded the idea of facing Johnny Cueto in a possible elimination game at Wrigley Field last October. The Los Angeles Dodgers almost became a matchup nightmare for the Cubs with lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill during the 2016 NLCS.

But slotting Hendricks at No. 5 – five months after he started a World Series Game 7 – is a luxury few contenders can afford. 

"That just speaks to our length in the rotation," Arrieta said, "and being able to keep relievers out of the game, longer than most teams. That's a big deal, especially when you get into July and August. 

"Obviously, Kyle could be a 1 or 2 just about anywhere. Not that he's not here. We've got several of those, which is a good problem to have. It's going to be favorable for us when there's a No. 4 or No. 5 guy in our rotation going up against somebody else's. Our chances are really good, especially with our lineup." 

Arrieta talked up No. 4 starter Brett Anderson as "a little bit like Hendricks from the left side" in terms of his preparation, cerebral nature and spin rate, a combination that makes him an X-factor for this rotation and an organization starved for pitching beyond 2017. 

The if-healthy disclaimer always comes with Anderson, who played with Arrieta on the 2008 Olympic team and has been on the disabled list nine times since then. Coming out of high school, Arrieta initially signed to play for Anderson's father, Frank, the Oklahoma State University coach at the time, before going in a different direction in a career that wouldn't truly take off until he got to Chicago. 

"We're all looking forward to seeing how we pick up where we left off," Arrieta said. "Judging by what we've done this spring and the shape guys are in and the health – I don't see any reason we can't jump out to an early lead like we did last year and sustain it throughout the entire season."
 

Cubs Talk Podcast: The making of Reign Men

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Cubs Talk Podcast: The making of Reign Men

In the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull sits down with CSN executive producers Ryan McGuffey and Sarah Lauch, the creators of 'Reign Men: The Story Behind Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, which premieres March 27 at 9:30 p.m. on CSN.

McGuffey and Lauch share their experience making the 52-minute documentary as they sifted through hours of sound from the likes of Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo and more recapping one of the greatest baseball games ever played.

Plus, hear a sneak peak of 'Reign Men’ as Heyward and Epstein describe their perspective of the Rajai Davis game-tying homer and that brief rain delay that led to Heyward’s epic speech.

Check out the latest Cubs Talk Podcast right here: