Just over a week ago, Joe Maddon addressed the media and said he’d like for his entire staff to return. Life comes at you fast, huh?
Citing a need to maintain a positive atmosphere as the Cubs were fighting to stay alive in the NLCS, Maddon admitted Thursday that his words may not have been entirely honest. Sure, he may have wanted to keep everyone together in theory, but the reality was that there were going to be new voices in the clubhouse.
Maddon referred to his new lieutenants as “impact coaches” and “force multipliers,” men who can lead the Cubs back to the World Series.
The most recent of those was actually the first to be rumored as an addition to the coaching staff, though Maddon stressed that Jim Hickey’s availability had nothing to do with Chris Bosio’s departure. While I find that claim to be somewhat dubious, it really doesn’t matter.
Hickey has plenty of experience working with young pitchers and getting the most out of what he’s given. The Cubs have had such an embarrassment of riches from an offensive perspective over the past few seasons that there’s almost a tendency to put the pitching on the back burner. That’s certainly the case with the development of young pitchers, which is something the organization really hasn’t done.
With several guys yet at the low levels of the minors, we could soon see a reversal in the trend of promotions through the system. As those guys get to Chicago Hickey could be a big boon in that regard. He was also brought into to improve the team’s approach, specifically to limit high-leverage walks and be more aggressive when behind in the count.
I can’t sit here and pretend to know much about Hickey’s coaching style and how he’ll go about doing that, but I have to imagine the very public knowledge that things need to change will help.
Another new voice in the players’ ears will be hitting coach Chili Davis, who brings a slightly different philosophy from that of John Mallee. Whereas the former coach was more focused on mechanics, Davis emphasizes approach and pitch recognition.
That may not seem like much until you think about the development of the Cubs hitters. They set records with something like 47 guys hitting 20+ homers, but were inconsistent throughout the season. Other than Jason Heyward, there isn’t a whole lot they need to improve mechanically. But understand pitch sequencing and location? That’s big.
I’m already imagining how much better Javy Baez could be with more of that knowledge.
And lest you think the Cubs have made a seismic shift or are taking a different tack overall, understand that they also promoted Andy Haines to assistant hitting coach. Haines had previously worked in the minors as a roving instructor, getting a fair bit of publicity when he helped Kyle Schwarber get his groove back.
Not that Davis will avoid it entirely by any stretch, but Haines will be able to work on some of the mechanical stuff and the two appear to be excellent complements to one another. I sort of threw Heyward out there in jest, but he’s one who might really benefit from new voices. Maybe no one can get him to stop wringing his hands on the bat and getting that left wrist into such an awkward spot, but a chance can’t hurt.
Maddon’s job security
It seems ludicrous to even think about the the seat warmers being turned on beneath Maddon’s fanny, but here we are. Not that I believe that’s actually the case, mind you, just that the conversation is being had. We have seen John Farrell, Dusty Baker, and Joe Girardi fired/non-renewed over the last couple weeks, so it’s not as if just making the playoffs is enough for some organizations.
Still, I can’t imagine the Cubs parting ways with their World Series-winning skipper shy of the exhaustion of his contract. Whether the two sides will continue beyond that, however, is another matter. Barring a complete collapse and Maddon losing the players’ attention, I’d imagine he’ll be brought back two years from now for more time.
He’s absolutely made some questionable decisions and the bullpen usage has been particularly scrutinized, but that’s not going to change no matter who you have. There’s this funny thing about having talented players performing to their potential that makes managers look way smarter.
Until the end of Game 2 of this World Series, Dave Roberts could no wrong with his relievers. Lose one game and all of a sudden he’s micromanaging. Whatever.
More news and notes
Enjoy Game 3 of the World Series tonight. Or watch a movie instead, whatever tickles your fancy. Not much else to report on outside a couple of those managerial searches, so check out MLBTradeRumors dot com for that stuff.