Heading into their final game of 2017, Joe Maddon expressed confidence that his coaching staff would return the following season. Chris Bosio more or less echoed those thoughts when he spoke with 670 The Score around that same time.
Neither sentiment has aged well.
I suppose we could question the veracity of the claims by either or both men were we so inclined — I gathered by hearsay that at least one member of the media recently called Maddon a liar — but it’s not as though anyone’s going to be completely honest in those situations.
Like, can you imagine Maddon saying, “You know, I’m not really big on the chemistry of our staff and would love to see Boz fired a couple days after we lose this next one”? Yeah, me neither. Similarly, Bosio is not going to go in front of the media and talk about how he heard the footsteps when his counterpart in Tampa parted ways with his team.
Whether the Cubs’ decision not to renew Bosio’s contract was precipitated by Jim Hickey’s availability (I firmly believe it was, though there were several other reasons), the pitching coach was only the first domino to fall. We learned Monday afternoon that Eric Hinske, assistant hitting coach responsible for Anthony Rizzo’s plate-crowding stance and resident big, dumb animal (that’s a term of endearment), had been hired by the Angels to be their hitting coach.
And reports surfaced earlier on Monday that bench coach Dave Martinez would be interviewing for the Nationals’ managerial vacancy. Martinez has been trying for skipper jobs since 2010 and talked with the Nats back in 2013 before they hired Matt Williams and he almost got it again in 2015 before Dusty Baker was hired. It has seemed inevitable for some time that Martinez would ascend to a top spot, so it’s just a matter of time.
Hickey interviewed with the Cubs on Monday and there’s a sense that he’ll get the job. Not only is he the prohibitive favorite due to his time with Maddon in Tampa, but he’s a South Side native and has an excellent track record of developing pitchers with both the Rays and Astros. His presence on the staff should help to re-close Maddon’s inner circle should Martinez indeed leave.
Of course, that still leaves the Cubs skipper with a couple of open positions. Catching instructor Mike Borzello was kind of like a second bench coach already and he has had a heavy hand in matters of strategy and such, so he could perhaps slide into Martinez’s role. And there’s been speculation about David Ross’s return to the dugout, though you have to wonder whether he’s ready to give up his cushy ESPN gig and all that extra time with his young family.
That’s as far as I’ll go here in terms of any guesswork, though we won’t have to wait long for answers.
As hard as it may be to believe, the Cubs aren’t the only team with personnel changes in the offing. Nor are they the only squad in search of a new pitching coach. The Red Sox hired Alex Cora to fill their managerial vacancy and the Mets chose Mickey Callaway for theirs. Ron Gardenhire was brought aboard in that same capacity with the Tigers.
None of those moves impact the Cubs directly, but Davey Martinez was in the running for the Tigers job and Callaway had been Cleveland’s pitching coach. Wait, how does that affect the Cubs again?
There were already several pitching coach vacacies prior to Callaway leaving Cleveland, so it’s possible there could be a little more urgency in Chicago to make sure they get Jim Hickey before someone else does. St. Louis had Hickey atop their list, but they have now apparently expanded to include Mike Maddux and Chris Bosio.
With so many big-name coaches now floating around, I’ll be very interested to see how many simply find a new horse on the carousel and whether some new guys step up into those roles.
David Bote and other AFL standouts
Apropos of absolutely nothing, the titular allusion to this section was simply a way for me to make a play on Boaty McBoatface. But I guess it may have helped a few folks to properly pronounce David Bote’s last name, which makes me think of Point Break every time I hear it.
Todd Johnson had a nice piece on the eyebrow-raising utilityman and his strong play in the Arizona Fall League, in which he admitted to having not really paid much attention to Bote prior to 2015. Well, Todd, I’ll see your lack of attention and I’ll raise you a couple years.
Okay, so I actually knew of Bote when I was down at spring training this season, but his exploits during one game in particular had me feeling a little dumb. The Cubs were playing Team Japan prior to the World Baseball Classic rounds here in the US, a game we had purchased tickets to in the hopes that Shohei Otani would be playing.
No dice on that, but we did get to see John Lackey start, so…yeah. Anyway, I was flanked by fellow CI’ers Jon Strong and Brendan Miller, and we were all engaged in conversation and not paying as much attention by the time the game had crept into the later innings.
Whoa, who was that? No name on the jersey, couldn’t see his number because we were on the third base line and he’d already rounded first. Ah, it was David Bote. Who’s David Bote? I won’t throw either of my colleagues under the bus, but, I proceeded to lay out his whole story. Okay, not really, but I had heard of him.
Bote’s 1.490 OPS currently leads the AFL, as do his four home runs and 27 total bases. Not bad for a guy who primarily plays second base. He’s not the only Cubs prospect putting in good work down in Arizona, though.
Alec Mills was acquired by the Cubs back in February for Donny Dewees in one of those under-the-radar pitching-depth moves they’ve become known for. After injuries limited him to only 28 innings across seven starts in the 2017 season, Mills has already logged 11 innings in three AFL starts. Though he’s given up 15 hits in that time, he’s struck out 10 against a single walk; it’s all about throwing strikes and building strength for him.
Adbert Alzolay is another pitcher doing big things, but I realized there’s a little more I want to write about him that will require an additional piece. Suffice to say it’s pretty exciting. Well, it is to me.