The Rundown: Season Ends with Half-Hearted Loss, New Era for Cubs Begins Today, Thanks to Joe Maddo for 5-Year Party

The Cubs’ season is over and Theo Epstein will hold a presser at 3pm today that will most certainly deconstruct a campaign in which his charges missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014. It will probably include a bit more detail on the decision to part ways with Joe Maddon, as well. Might he introduce a new manager? Could that new manager be David Ross?

Probably not, but Epstein will assuredly describe the type of manager he hopes to hire. Don’t be surprised if Ross checks a lot of those boxes.

Apparently Grandpa Rossy was somewhat stumping for the job on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight yesterday when he mentioned that his “heart is drawn to that dugout.” Or maybe he just knows something that the rest of us won’t know until it is officially announced.

It would seem to me that this is a match that Epstein would pursue with the same vim and vigor he displayed in courting Maddon five years ago. Ross carries instant respect from the core players who followed his lead during the 2016 World Series run and he’s probably the only guy on the planet who can help get Jon Lester right, something the team will badly need if they want to get back to the playoffs next year.

If Ross is hired, it probably means that the front office will decide to refine the roster rather than blow it all up. You’d have to believe Epstein would give the former catcher at least one season with his guys. Ross makes sense for another reason as well: He’d probably be willing to take a two-year contract that coincides with the end of Epstein’s deal.

And not that this should have anything to do with the selection process, but introducing a fan favorite and Chicago cultural icon like Ross will go a long way toward cutting through what could be a bitter Cubs Convention in January.

Oh, the Cubs lost 9-0 to the Cardinals yesterday, giving St. Louis the NL Central crown. Ben Zobrist pitched and struck out Yadier Molina.

And for the record, Maddon was not fired. He simply was not offered a contract to continue managing this team. So let’s just call it a divorce between two future Hall-of-Famers.

Cubs News & Notes

How About That!

The playoffs start Tuesday night. I realize I am not going out on a limb here but I expect the Astros to win their second World Series in three years. My picks for this season’s playoffs:

  • Wild Card Round – Brewers over the Nationals. Rays over the A’s.
  • NLDS – Braves over the Cardinals. Dodgers over the Brewers
  • ALDS – Twins over the Yankees. Astros over the Rays.
  • NLCS – Braves over the Dodgers.
  • ALCS – Astros over the Twins.
  • World Series – Astros in four over the Braves.

Here are your 2019 stats leaders.

Expect a drastic reduction in the number of home runs hit per game once the playoffs start.

The Pirates fired manager Clint Hurdle yesterday. Neal Huntington will remain as the team’s GM.

The Giants honored manager Bruce Bochy yesterday, who is stepping down after 13 seasons with San Francisco.

For the first time since 2002, one team has two 20-game winners. Astros hurler Gerrit Cole joined Justin Verlander in the 20-win club Sunday afternoon with a crisp outing against the Angels. Both are also the first teammates with 300+ strikeouts since 2002.

Top Three Stars of 2019

A pretty difficult decision and one open to debate but here are my picks, and they are based simply on the value they provide to their teams.

  1. Nelson Cruz – Twins (made this list eight times in 2019)
  2. Verlander – Astros (imagine if the Cubs would have acquired him in 2017)
  3. Ketel Marte – Diamondbacks (who incidentally did not make this list once this season).

Cubs Top Three Stars of 2019

  1. Nicholas Castellanos – What a fantastic addition. Hopefully the Cubs can re-sign him.
  2. Yu Darvish – Big Yu looks like the staff ace heading into 2020. Hopefully he stays injury-free.
  3. Javier Báez – I can’t help but thinking a fully healthy El Mago might have made a difference for the Cubs. Chicago went 9-15 after Báez injured his thumb.

On Deck

Now that the regular season is officially over, the winter format of this column will make its triumphant return, including New Music Tuesday, starting tomorrow. Here are your key hot stove dates.

  • Free Agency begins on October 29, 2019.
  • MLB Winter Meetings – December 9-12, 2019 in San Diego, CA
  • 2020 Cubs Convention – January 19-21, 2020
  • Pitchers and Catchers Report on or about February 15, 2020.
  • First Spring Training games – February 21, 2020
  • Opening Day – March 26, 2020

Extra Innings

Thank you for the five-year party, my man, and for delivering the championship we’ve all waited a lifetime to witness.

They Said It

  • “[Maddon] is a living legend in this game. He’s a bridge to the old and to the new. Talking to him, and guys he’s with and coached in his career and coming to this big market, breaking the curse and being the leader of the pack, it’s not like he’s being run out of town. He already is a legend. It’s tough for me and the guys. Losing 100 games [before Maddon] to winning 100-plus, Joe’s changed my life and changed my career. I love him like a dad. I’ll be forever grateful for him.” Anthony Rizzo
  • “We’re both going to move on. Hopefully, the Cubs are going to flourish. Hopefully, I get a chance to do this someplace else. But there’s no tears shed. It’s a good moment for everybody. And we’re both excited about our futures.” – Joe Maddon
  • “We both agreed that this type of change is…that it’s time, and that this type of change is a win-win. It’s gonna be great for Joe, [who’s] at a wonderful point in his life. He won’t talk about this right now, but I will: There’s gonna be a bidding war for his services and there should be.” – Theo Epstein

Monday Walk Up Song

Glad Tidings by Van Morrison. And they’ll lay you down low in the easy. So long, Joe.

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