Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio was fired Saturday morning after governing a staff that walked into oblivion this past season.
No sooner had the news broken — or as it broke, in the case of Bob Nightengale’s initial tweet — than many were already speculating that former Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey would be connected to the Cubs. After all, Hickey was hired in 2007 while Maddon was entering his second year as manager for the Rays, and Maddon recently spoke highly of the pitching guru just before being eliminated from the NLCS.
A reunion does seem inevitable.
“It’s easy to coach for Joe Maddon,” Hickey said during his then-manager’s final year in Tampa. “I really, really enjoy working for him and (executive VP) Andrew Friedman because they are never concerned what public reaction or media backlash might be — he does things because he believes it’s the right thing to do.”
Likewise, Maddon has sung Hickey’s praises several times in front of the media. The Cubs manager’s nickname for the pitching coach was “Pied Paper” because Hickey communicated with rookies, veterans, and international players exceptionally well.
“The way he communicates the message to his pitchers makes him as good as he is,” Maddon said.
There’s really nothing I can say that would speak louder than his track record. All I can say is how fortunate I was to have him when I got to the big leagues. No one could have prepared me better. Alex Cobb
Communication seems to be what makes Hickey such an appealing coach and mentor for players. When David Price was being groomed into one of the league’s dominant pitchers, he leaned heavily upon the guidance of his pitching coach.
“He’s personable, he’s easy to talk to about anything, I talk to him all the time, even in the off season, at least once a week I’ll call him or text him,” Price said. “He’s quick-witted, he’s fun to talk to, he’s open. He’s one of my favorite people to talk to. He’s someone I want to be around.”
Price isn’t alone in his praise. Alex Cobb, who will be a free agent this winter, also spoke highly of his pitching coach when news of the firing broke.
“I’m not going to try to explain how great Jim Hickey is,” Cobb said. “There’s really nothing I can say that would speak louder than his track record. All I can say is how fortunate I was to have him when I got to the big leagues. No one could have prepared me better.”
Indeed, Hickey’s track record is saturated with young arms who developed into quality major league pitchers. Chris Archer, for example, stands out as the most recent to flourish. Then you throw in Matt Garza, James Shields, David Price, Scott Kazmir, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Fernando Rodney, Jake McGee, JP Howell, Alex Colome, and Brad Boxberger as a couple more handfuls of examples of those who were either supported by Hickey or experienced a career renaissance under his watchful eye.
This 2017-18 offseason is going to be a difficult one, says Theo Epstein. Cubs executives, coaches, and players know improvements need to be made in the pitching department to stay competitive. Hiring Maddon’s former pitching coach seems like a good place to start.