Joe Maddon's up-and-down roller coaster with Cubs: 'I'm enjoying it in a perverse way'

Joe Maddon's up-and-down roller coaster with Cubs: 'I'm enjoying it in a perverse way'

Every morning, Joe Maddon tries to block out 20 minutes for meditation, making the room as dark as possible, laying down in bed with a pillow on top of his face and focusing on slowing things down.

Zen doesn’t come easily for Cubs managers. But Maddon has too many outside interests to be consumed by this up-and-down start, sitting down with Charlie Rose last week in New York and showing a “Dateline” crew around his blue-collar hometown in Pennsylvania.

Maddon has perspective at the age of 63, the job security from a long-term contract that will pay him $6 million this season and the World Series ring that should silence any second-guessers.

So what if the Cubs haven’t run away from the rest of the National League Central?

“I’m enjoying it in a perverse way,” Maddon said. “Of course, I’d rather we be 10 games up, but I’m good with what’s going on right now, because it is challenging, and every year presents differently.”

Then Maddon should take sick pleasure in this: After Wednesday afternoon’s 3-2 loss to the San Diego Padres, the Cubs won’t play again at Wrigley Field until the Fourth of July.

This 11-game road trip through Miami, Washington and Cincinnati could be a playoff preview (Dusty Baker’s Nationals), a revealing window into how aggressive Theo Epstein’s front office should be at the trade deadline or more of the same with a 36-35 team.

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“Right now, there’s been a lot of micro stuff, injury-wise, going on,” Maddon said, “nothing horrible, but guys being banged up a little bit. And then you’re trying to situate a lot of youth, giving them more opportunity to play.

“Ian Happ is just showing up. (Albert) Almora is still trying to create his everyday chops here in the big leagues. (Kyle) Schwarber’s been struggling. A lot of youth that you’re trying to get really involved.”

In a game where a strained right foreman forced Miguel Diaz to leave in the third inning, the Cubs generated all their offense with one swing — Happ’s two-run homer into the right-center field bleachers. Otherwise, what can be an all-or-nothing lineup went 1-for-27 against a 29-44 Padres team.

The day after Mike Montgomery shut down the Padres through six scoreless innings, Eddie Butler couldn’t get one out in the fifth, another bad sign for a rotation that doesn’t know when Cy Young Award finalist Kyle Hendricks (right hand tendinitis) will be able to come off the disabled list.

All this day-to-day stress might finally break a strong bullpen, with reliable veteran Koji Uehara forcing in the go-ahead run with a two-out, bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning.

What do you see when you close your eyes and think about the Cubs? The group that made history last year or the team that can be hard to watch this season?

“It’s a different method this year, there’s no doubt about it,” Maddon said. “I think primarily — I’ve talked about it from the beginning — it’s the inexperience of a lot of the players that I’m aware of and how it plays on a daily basis. The youthful mistake will show up, and you have to teach through it and eventually hope that it would go away.

“It is challenging, but I am kind of enjoying it.”

Addison Russell awaiting word from MLB after wife files for divorce and declines to meet with investigators

Addison Russell awaiting word from MLB after wife files for divorce and declines to meet with investigators

Addison Russell’s estranged wife has declined to meet with Major League Baseball officials, a development that could significantly hinder the investigation into an abuse allegation made against the Cubs shortstop. 

Thomas T. Field – the partner at Beermann Pritikin Mirabelli Swerdlove LLP representing Melisa (Reidy) Russell in divorce proceedings – confirmed that decision two weeks after a third-party accusation on social media triggered MLB’s domestic-violence protocols.

“I haven’t heard anything” new from MLB, Russell said, surrounded by reporters at his locker after Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field. “It’s been sticking out for a while now. I just want to get back to baseball.”

Through Facebook, WGN’s Dean Richards surfaced a press release from a local marketing firm that announced Melisa hired Field and filed for divorce in Cook County. The statement said: “It is her desire to pursue a resolution that is, first and foremost, in the best interest of the parties’ son,” hoping for closure in a “swift, amicable and private fashion.”

After his wife publicly aired their marital issues on Instagram – and a woman believed to be one of Melisa’s close friends made the explosive charge in a comment beneath the photo – Russell released this statement through the team: “Any allegation I have abused my wife is false and hurtful.”        

That Instagram post was quickly deleted as it drew more and more attention from fans, media and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who notified MLB on June 8 as part of a process that largely leaves the matter out of the club’s hands. The Cubs gave Russell that night off and told him to stay away from Wrigley Field, allowing him to collect his thoughts and explicitly framing it as not being a one-game suspension.

In these types of cases, the collective bargaining agreement grants broader disciplinary powers to commissioner Rob Manfred, even without an arrest or a prosecution. But an alleged victim’s cooperation would be crucial to the investigation.

Russell is 23 years old and coming off an All-Star season where he helped the Cubs win an epic World Series and end the 108-year drought. But from Epstein’s measured tone to manager Joe Maddon’s listening mode to the calculated comments in the clubhouse, the Cubs projected the right image, focusing only on what they know about Russell as a player, not rushing to judgments or dismissing the seriousness of the situation.

“Definitely not ignoring it,” Russell said. “I have the right support system. I have a lot of fans out there that are definitely making me feel better about the whole process. But when it comes down to it, I love playing baseball. I absolutely love this game. Whatever happens on the field, I’ll take care of it.”

Iconic part of Cubs' World Series run is for sale, and it will cost fans some serious green

Iconic part of Cubs' World Series run is for sale, and it will cost fans some serious green

To get their hands on the greenest part of the Cubs' run to their World Series title since 1908, some Cubs fans are going to have to fork over some serious, well, green.

ESPN's Darren Rovell reported Tuesday night that the Cubs are offering up leaves of ivy that covered Wrigley Field's outfield wall last season to season ticket holders — and the pricetag is $200 per leaf. Well, $215 per leaf after shipping.

From Rovell:

The team emailed premier clients and season ticket holders on Tuesday offering the Ivy leaves that cover Wrigley Field's outfield walls from the 2016 season. Typically discarded when the ivy turns to red and sheds its leaves in November, the team, after the 2016 historic season, instead chose to collect the leaves for the first time and have them each authenticated with a hologram.

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While it might at first blush sound a little ridiculous to drop multiple Benjamin Franklins on a leaf, the Wrigley Field ivy is pretty darn iconic. To be able to have a piece of it from the year the Cubs broke the curse? That would be a unique souvenir.

How many leaves are up for sale? 2,016 of them, according to Rovell.

So those who want to own this particular part of Cubs lore better make like a tree and ... well, you get it.