Pierce Johnson provided another strong effort in his final AFL start of the season as Mesa toppled Salt River 5-1 on Wednesday. A few Cubs players got into the act offensively as well. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action:
- RHP Pierce Johnson (5.47) pitched four strong innings, giving up one earned run and striking out six to pick up the win. He surrendered four hits and a walk in the outing.
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (.346) went 1-for-3, recording an RBI single in the sixth. He added a pair of walks and a run scored.
- C Cael Brockmeyer (.214) singled to lead off the third. He also walked and recorded a run scored in the win.
Mesa wraps up its season Thursday with a home matchup against Glendale. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 local time.
The Cubs and right-handed pitcher Andury Acevedo have agreed to terms on a 2016 contract. The club’s 40-man roster now stands at 31 players.
Acevedo, 25, spent the last four seasons pitching in the Yankees organization, reaching the Triple-A level for the first time last year, going 1-2 with one save and a 2.31 ERA (3 ER/11.2 IP) in 10 relief outings with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. After starting 2015 with Single-A Tampa, Acevedo pitched at three levels in the Yankees, combining to go 3-4 with three saves and a 2.59 ERA (17 ER/59.0 IP) in 41 relief appearances. Acevedo earned Florida State League mid-season All-Star honors, posting a 1.40 ERA (3 ER/19.1 IP) in 13 relief appearances with Tampa.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Acevedo was originally signed by Pittsburgh as an infielder in 2007 before he converted to a relief pitcher upon signing with the Yankees in 2012. Overall, Acevedo is 8-8 with four saves and a 4.00 ERA (55 ER/123.2 IP) in 95 professional relief outings.
Acevedo is a native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta was named the National League Cy Young Award winner by the Baseball Writers Association of America on Wednesday. Arrieta received 17 of the possible 30 first-place votes, 11 second place votes and two third place votes for a total of 169 points. Los Angeles’ Zack Greinke placed second with 147 points.
Arrieta is only the fifth pitcher in Cubs history to win the Cy Young Award, the first in 23 years since Greg Maddux took home the honor in 1992. Fergie Jenkins (1971), Bruce Sutter (1979) and Rick Sutcliffe (1984) join Arrieta and Maddux as Cy Young winners in franchise history.
In 2015, Arrieta went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA (45 ER/229.0 IP) in 33 starts, leading the majors in wins and posting the lowest ERA by a Cubs pitcher in 96 years (Pete Alexander, 1.72 ERA, 1919). Arrieta went 12-1 with a 0.75 ERA (9 ER/107.1 IP) in 15 starts after the All-Star Break, the lowest ERA in the second half of a season since the All-Star Game was instituted in 1933. He went 11-0 with a 0.41 ERA (4 ER/88.1 IP) in his final 12 starts beginning Aug. 4 to win NL Pitcher of the Month honors in August and September. The 0.41 ERA is the lowest post-Aug. 1 mark since ERA became an official statistic.
Arrieta became only the fifth pitcher to have at least 22 wins with no more than six losses and an ERA under 2.00 since the ERA became an official statistic, joining Sandy Koufax (1963), Denny McLain (1968), Ron Guidry (1978) and Dwight Gooden (1985). Arrieta also became the first pitcher in major league history to close a campaign with 20-consecutive quality starts. He also set a Wrigley Field record by finishing the year with a 40.2 scoreless innings streak.
On Aug. 30 at Dodger Stadium, Arrieta tossed his first career no-hitter with a 2-0 victory against Los Angeles. Arrieta struck out 12 and walked only one batter.
(Photo By Stephen Green)
Starting Thursday, Cubs fans can get first access to tickets for the hottest matchups of the 2016 season by purchasing Cubs 6-Game Packs and Cubs 12-Game Flex Packs before single-game tickets go on sale in February.
These multi-game packages are the team’s most extensive ticket offering before the holiday season in recent years, featuring tickets to the team’s home opener vs. the Reds, summer Friday games, Kids Sundays and holiday matchups. Fans also can catch rivalry contests against the White Sox, Pirates and Cardinals, as well as Interleague matchups with visits from the Angels, Mariners and Rangers.
“After an exciting season and equally optimistic outlook for 2016, we’re pleased to once again offer Cubs 6-Game Packs and Cubs 12-Game Flex Packs—now available before the holiday season,” said Cubs Vice President of Sales and Partnerships Colin Faulkner. “These multi-game packs are the best way for our fans to secure tickets to their must-have matchups before single game tickets go on sale.”
Cubs 6-Game Packs and Cubs 12-Game Flex Packs go on sale at cubs.com/packs this Thursday at noon CST.
Cubs 6-Game Pack
The Cubs 6-Game Pack provides a choice of four different pre-selected, six-game plans, with each option tailored to different fan interests. Options include the “Friday Pack,” featuring six Friday games throughout the season; the “Sunday Pack,” featuring Sunday home games with opportunities for kids 13-and-under to run the bases postgame; the “Rivals Pack,” featuring matchups with the White Sox, Mets and NL Central Division foes; and the “Holiday Pack,” featuring games on holidays such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day Weekend.
Cubs 6-Game Packs are available in both the Budweiser Bleachers and reserved seating bowl of Wrigley Field. Fans must order the same number of tickets for each of the six games in their package. Prices start at just $126 before service fees and City and County amusement taxes for a “Rivals Pack” in the Upper Deck Reserved Outfield, with other prices varying based on plan and location.
Cubs 12-Game Flex Pack
Fans looking to customize their ticket package can choose the Cubs 12-Game Flex Pack. This package allows fans to select from three prime games, such as the team’s home opener vs. the Reds or Crosstown Cup Series vs. the White Sox, plus nine additional games from each month throughout the season. Cubs 12-Game Flex Packs are available in both the Budweiser Bleachers and reserved seating bowl of Wrigley Field. Prices start at just $179 in the Upper Deck Reserved Outfield before service fees and City and County amusement taxes, with other prices varying based on plan and location. Overall, fans can select from 56 total games when purchasing the Cubs 12-Game Flex Pack.
Tickets may be purchased online through cubs.com/packs, by calling 1-800-THE-CUBS (1-800-843-2827) or by speaking with the Fan Services team at 773-388-8270.
After getting rained out on Monday, Mesa returned to action Tuesday, falling 4-2 to Salt River. A few Cubs prospects got into the game with mixed results:
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (.347) got Mesa on the board early with an RBI single in the first inning, scoring Chad Hinshaw (Angels). He finished 1-for-4.
- RF Mark Zagunis (.234) was 0-for-3.
- LHP Rob Zastryzny (5.19) got the start, but gave up three earned runs in 3.0 innings for his second loss of the fall. He struck out three and walked one, giving up three hits.
Mesa hosts Salt River Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 local time.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Not since the 2009 National League Cy Young voting has the league seen three different pitchers each receive more than one first-place vote for the award. That year, Adam Wainwright grabbed the most first-place votes, despite finishing third, while Tim Lincecum collected his second consecutive Cy.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if the voting went down in a similar fashion in 2015, as a trio of nominees all put up stellar seasons that would likely make them hands-down favorites almost any other year. Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw looks to make it three in a row and four in five years after another dominant season. His teammate and 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke completed the finest season of his Los Angeles tenure. But at the end of the day, both could be looking up at Cubs ace Jake Arrieta, who put up a historically great second half in 2015.
On the entire season, the 29-year-old Arrieta’s final numbers are more than deserving of final consideration as the league’s top pitcher. For starters, he won a league-best 22 games. Before the relevancy of pitcher wins is argued, it’s worth noting the teams he defeated and how dominant he was against them. In 18 regular-season starts against teams better than .500 this season, he went 12-3 with a 1.48 ERA and managed an elite-level 9.0 strikeout-per-nine rate. Here is how he fared against playoff-bound NL teams:
His 236 strikeouts ranked fourth in the National League and his ridiculously low 1.77 ERA trailed only Greinke this season. But it’s also the second-lowest NL earned run average since 1995, and the ninth-lowest in the last 50 years (aside from Greinke and Dwight Gooden, the other six totals were produced by Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver).
The story of Arrieta’s season and candidacy really boils down to his second half, where he was empirically the most dominant starter in baseball history. His 0.75 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break was the best all time, surpassing Gibson’s 1968 season, in which he went a seemingly unsurpassable 11-4 with a 1.19 ERA in 16 starts. In Arrieta’s last 12 starts, he gave up just four earned runs in 88.1 innings for a 0.41 ERA, and struck out 89 batters. The ace highlighted that stretch with a dominating no-hit effort on Aug. 30 against the Dodgers, striking out 12 and giving up just one walk before getting mobbed by his teammates.
One of the many reasons Arrieta was so strong in 2015 was because teams were essentially starting innings with only two outs to play with. He opened a frame on 232 occasions, holding leadoff hitters to a .167/.203/.194 line. Of the 37 hits he allowed to leadoff men, just three were doubles and one was a homer.
And when batters fell behind 0-1 in the count, they hit just .167/.212/.227. That occurred almost 49 percent of the time (11 percent of the time a play ended after the first pitch). Overall, when Arrieta got ahead in the count, batters were just .114/.122/.161.
There isn’t a lot separating these three pitchers, but Arrieta matched Kershaw’s power and Greinke’s command down a historic back stretch of the season. Add in Arrieta’s big-game resume, and his case is difficult to dismiss.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs skipper Joe Maddon was named the National League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America on Tuesday. Maddon received 18 of the possible 30 first-place votes, 11 second place votes and one third place vote for a total of 124 points. St. Louis’ Mike Matheny placed second with 87 points.
Maddon is only the fourth skipper in franchise history to earn Manager of the Year honors, the first since Lou Piniella in 2008. Don Zimmer (1989) and Jim Frey (1984) also won the award, and Maddon joins Frey as the only two Cubs managers to earn the award in their first seasons with the Cubs. Maddon has now earned three Manager of the Year awards in his career, previously winning AL honors in 2008 and 2011 with Tampa Bay.
Additionally, Maddon is one of only seven managers (and three currently active) to win this award at least three times, joining Tony La Russa (four times), Bobby Cox (four), Dusty Baker (three), Jim Leyland (three), Buck Showalter (three) and Piniella (three). Maddon is now the sixth manager (and just the second active) to win the award in both leagues, joining La Russa, Cox, Leyland, Piniella and Bob Melvin.
In 2015, Maddon guided the Cubs to a 97-65 record, the most victories ever by a first-year Cubs manager and tied for the ninth-most wins in the 140-season history of the franchise. The 97 wins equaled the most by any club Maddon has managed, matching his 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. Maddon led the Cubs to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2003, and the club reached 101 total wins in 2015 (including four postseason victories).
Maddon is 878-794 (.525) in 10 full seasons as a major league manager, plus two interim managerial stints, with the Angels (interim stints in 1996 and 1999), the Rays (2006-14) and the Cubs (2015).
(Photo by Stephen Green)
On Tuesday night, Major League Baseball will select its Manager of the Year Awards. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon is a National League nominee, along with the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny and the Mets’ Terry Collins. Earlier this season, Vine Line ran a feature on the Maddon effect, in which we examined the positive attributes the Cubs’ first-year manager brought to the table in 2015. This story can be found in the October issue of Vine Line.
For the past half-century, the Cubs have paraded out a succession of managers with big plans for changing the team’s culture, creating the groundwork for sustained success and finally hanging that long-awaited World Series banner at Wrigley Field.
Leo Durocher came to town after the 1965 season and declared he was not the manager of an eighth-place team. He was right. The Cubs finished 10th in 1966 before vastly improving their fortunes over the next several seasons. Still, his clubs never qualified for the postseason.
Dusty Baker reminded the public that, “My name is Dusty, not Messiah,” all the while asking, “Why not us?” when he took over after the 2002 season. He even handed out T-shirts with “Why not us?” printed on them. The Cubs came within five outs of the World Series in 2003, but we all know how that ended.
Lou Piniella hoped to develop a “little Cubbie swagger” when he replaced Baker following the 2006 season. The Cubs indeed swaggered into the playoffs in 2007 and 2008, but staggered out in the Division Series each time. They have not returned to the postseason since.
But this year, the Cubs are undergoing a fresh culture change—if not a complete culture shock—under the leadership of inimitable manager Joe Maddon. So far, the 61-year-old skipper’s plan to turn things around at Wrigley Field has worked perfectly, thanks to his unique combination of charisma, creativity, quirkiness and deep baseball knowledge.
Though the Cubs, coming off a 73-89 season in 2014, were expected to be better this year, many thought they wouldn’t contend until 2016 at the earliest. But the North Siders charged into the lead for the second Wild Card spot in late August and eventually made a run all the way to the NLCS. Throughout the ups and downs of the long campaign, this rookie-laden ballclub played hard, remained loose and even developed a flair for the dramatic.
After being no-hit by then-Phillies ace Cole Hamels in the midst of a lost weekend shortly after the All-Star break, the Cubs picked themselves up off the mat and engineered a 21-4 run that put them squarely in playoff contention. Though it’s nearly impossible to quantify what a manager actually means to his team in terms of wins and losses, it’s hard to deny the Maddon effect is in full force on the North Side.
“He’s different from most managers,” said starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, whose career has fully blossomed this season after a breakout in 2014. “It’s obvious from spending just a little bit of time that his personality, the way that he manages people in general, not just players, the way he approaches relationships, it’s on a different level. And it’s something that really works in an environment with a lot of young players. Everybody responds well to it.”
TRICKS OF THE TRADE
During his four decades in the dugout, Maddon has learned the rules of the game, but he’s definitely not afraid to break them. This season, he has defied convention in several ways:
He routinely bats the pitcher eighth instead of ninth.
He’ll often cancel batting practice, calling it one of the more overrated exercises in baseball.
He never officially named a closer, even though Hector Rondon has gotten the bulk of the save opportunities. When Rondon struggled or needed a breather, Justin Grimm, Tommy Hunter, Jason Motte, James Russell, Pedro Strop and Travis Wood all picked up the slack.
Maddon took Starlin Castro’s starting shortstop job away from him, yanked Jason Hammel from starts earlier than the pitcher would have liked and moved Wood from the rotation to the bullpen. And he did all this without “losing” any of the players mentally.
“It’s just a calmness at all times,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who played for three different managers in his four seasons with the Cubs. “He doesn’t really show to us that he’s ever worried about anything. That rubs off big time, especially being young, being a young team. Make a mistake? We know he’s made them, but he doesn’t show it.
“There’s no tension. He’s easy to talk to. That’s big for us.”
Off the field, the Maddon stories are legendary. He’s become famous for themed road trips, postgame parties and any number of other creative ideas for fostering team chemistry. While managing in Tampa Bay, he was even known to bring exotic animals into the clubhouse from time to time.
“I tell you, he brought in this great, big python,” said Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez, also Maddon’s right-hand man in Tampa. “I told him I wanted no part of it. I’m afraid of snakes. I wanted no part of being near that thing or touching it.”
Late in the season, he continued that theme when he brought a few animals (including a snow leopard and a flamingo) to hang out with the club. And he delivered a little magic to the team by bringing an actual magician into the clubhouse in New York. There were also his usual themed road trips (one with players wearing onesies and pajamas) and something called American Legion week, when Maddon procured a banner and a flag from Billy Caldwell Post 806 American Legion and prohibited players from entering the clubhouse until 3 p.m. for night games. If players arrived before that, they had to wait in the concourse.
The idea was to get the Cubs to approach the game the way they did when they were playing legion ball. In other words, just show up and play. The long-term benefit, according to Maddon, was that his troops would be fresher for the September playoff push.
“[It’s a] tribute to playing baseball the old-fashioned way as well as to our veterans,” Maddon said. “It’s been pretty successful in the past.”
A few days later, the clubhouse whiteboard greeted players with this instruction for arriving at the park the next day: “Game time 1:05 p.m. Use your own discretion. Be ready to play.”
Suffice to say, the Cubs have been ready to play all season long. And, for the record, they finished American Legion week 5-0, with wins over the Braves and Indians.
“I knew quite a bit about him, not much on a personal basis, but I played against his teams for four years,” said Arrieta, formerly with the Baltimore Orioles, a division rival of the Rays. “Going to Tampa, I knew that [Evan] Longoria had a drum set in their clubhouse, and they were always playing loud music, and everyone’s having a good time. We would see their guys in the weight room. The mindset and the attitude they had is something that everyone else kind of wanted.
“Now that I’m a part of one of his teams, you can see why. His attitude and his energy bred so much success because everybody was having a good time and enjoying themselves.
“Winning takes care of a lot of that, but I think the basis for winning and team chemistry starts with that looseness, that attitude of, ‘OK, I know the way we’re going to go out and have success on a consistent basis is to enjoy each other’s company.’ Work hard. Put in the hours. But at the end of the day, we need to enjoy each other.”
Major leaguers love playing for Maddon, but let’s be clear about one thing: Underlying all the fun and games is a serious focus on baseball and doing things the right way. “Respect 90” is more than just a Maddon catchphrase—something he’s notorious for—it’s also illustrative of how he approaches the game. Maddon rolled out that particular gem during Spring Training, going so far as to have it painted onto the Cubs practice fields to remind players to respect the 90 feet between the bases and play hard at all times.
“This is his livelihood,” Martinez said. “What he tries to do is take all the pressure off the players so they can go out there and function and have fun and do their daily thing. Whatever makes them click, that’s what he wants to be done. But he wants it to be done in a fun atmosphere. He wants guys to wake up and want to come to the ballpark. That’s what he’s all about.
“He treats everybody with the utmost respect. In return, he earns respect. It’s never about him. It’s about the team and the players. It’s just been incredible. For me, he’s my big brother. That’s what I always tell him. I have so much respect for the man.”
It’s nearly impossible to find somebody in the game who has a bad word to say about the Cubs manager. But there is one man who won’t be effusive with his praise, and that’s Maddon himself. Instead, he spreads credit for the Cubs’ success around to team president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, the coaching staff and the players.
“I’m a part of this whole thing,” he said. “You have to be with us behind the scenes. I didn’t acquire and accumulate all these players. I had nothing to do with that. Zero. I’m a big believer in scouting and development. I was both. I scouted and developed in the minor leagues, and that’s where it all begins. The model Theo and Jed put out there permits you to be successful. It gives you latitude.
“Nobody gives major league coaches enough credit. Our coaches are stellar. I see it. They’re the ones who are teaching these guys. The biggest thing I do is meet with the coaches. We formulate plans bimonthly, primarily. After that, I try to stay out of the way as much as I can. My job is to run the game.”
The key to Maddon’s success is not one single thing. It’s more than keeping the team loose. It’s more than making the right strategic in-game decisions. It’s more than allowing players to have postgame parties and cancelling batting practice on occasion. It’s an ineffable combination of factors that is clearly working for his young and talented team. The bottom line: Maddon is a genuine person, and this is just Joe being Joe.
“I just think Joe’s aura—and it started in Spring Training in what he allows this clubhouse to be—is his best asset,” said Chris Coghlan, whom Maddon turned into a super-utility player this season, in the style of former Tampa favorite Ben Zobrist. “I think his best asset is coming in and giving the freedom and letting everybody know, ‘Hey, you’re going to make mistakes.” It’s impossible to be perfect. When you think about it like that, it’s not like it’s the end of the world. I’m not going to get benched. I’m not going to get scolded for it. It’s like, ‘Hey, man, you duly prepare, do your work and prepare, and trust that it’s going to play in the game.’
“It starts with Joe because whoever the manager is, he’s going to establish the culture. Now, we as clubhouse guys or older guys, our job is to impact the young guys and try to hold them accountable here and there. The whole culture is Joe and, ‘Hey, everybody, do your thing. All I care about is respecting 90, going out there preparing each day and playing. That’s what I care about.’
“That trickles down to us, the same thing. We’re not worrying about all this hoopla and all these little, petty things. It’s just about, ‘How can we put everybody in the best position to succeed?’ That’s it. We try to encourage each other and be there for each other as teammates and as family members for the entire year.”
—Bruce Miles, Daily Herald
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was unanimously named the National League Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America on Monday. Bryant received all 30 of the possible first-place votes for a total of 150 points. San Francisco’s Matt Duffy placed second with 70 points.
Bryant is the first player in franchise history to earn unanimous Rookie of the Year honors and the sixth player in team history to win overall, the first since catcher Geovany Soto in 2008. Outfielder Billy Williams (1961), infielder Ken Hubbs (1962), outfielder Jerome Walton (1989) and right-handed pitcher Kerry Wood (1998) join Bryant and Soto as Rookies of the Year in club history.
The 23-year-old Bryant was a 2015 National League All-Star and led all major league rookies in several offensive categories, including 26 home runs (tied), 99 RBI, 31 doubles and 87 runs scored while placing second with 77 walks. Bryant is only the second player in major league history to reach those totals in homers, RBI, doubles, runs and walks in his rookie campaign, joining Boston’s Ted Williams in 1939. Bryant this year also set rookie franchise records in home runs, RBI, total bases (273) and extra-base hits (62).
Bryant became only the sixth rookie in franchise history to make the NL All-Star team, the first since both Soto and outfielder Kosuke Fukudome in 2008. Bryant was the club’s first rookie infielder to make the squad since second baseman Don Johnson in 1944 and the club’s first 23-year-old or younger third baseman to make the team since 23-year-old Ron Santo in 1963.
Overall, Bryant batted .275 (154-for-559) with a .369 on-base percentage and a .488 slugging percentage in 151 games with the Cubs this season. He earned National League Rookie of the Month honors in both May and August, only the second Cubs rookie to earn multiple honors in a season (Soto, twice in 2008).
Mesa powered its way to a 5-1 win versus Scottsdale Saturday, with a few Cubs getting into the action. Here are some notes from the weekend’s result:
- DH Jeimer Candelario (.352) recorded two hits, including a fifth-inning double, to finish 2-for-4. He added a run scored.
- RHP David Garner (3.48) pitched a scoreless eighth inning, giving up no hits and walking one.
- C Cael Brockmeyer (.200) went 0-for-4.