Chicago Cubs

Joe Maddon’s reaction to Red Sox getting caught cheating with Apple Watch

Joe Maddon’s reaction to Red Sox getting caught cheating with Apple Watch

PITTSBURGH – Joe Maddon’s eyes lit up when a reporter mentioned the breaking New York Times story that exposed a Major League Baseball investigation into the Boston Red Sox electronically stealing signs from the New York Yankees, making the Apple Watch a new weapon in their heated rivalry.

“I just heard,” the Cubs manager said near the end of his media briefing before Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. “I’m wearing a Fitbit. I still think it has the same espionage capabilities as the Apple Watch...if in fact you wanted to turn in that direction.

“A lot going on there, man, a lot going on. Oh my God, it’s pretty impressive to be able to get all that done in that short amount of time.”

Maddon knows how the Red Sox are wired after managing nine seasons in the American League East and leading the upstart Tampa Bay Rays into Fenway Park. The New York Times report detailed the complaint Yankees general manager Brian Cashman filed with the commissioner’s office and a system where a Red Sox training staffer would check his Apple Watch in the dugout and relay messages to players.

“You can still do the old-fashioned way,” Maddon said, “just by doing it because they’re not hiding their signs properly. They have a good relay system between second and the hitter – I’m all for that. And if somebody steals our signs, that’s our fault, absolutely. 

“But the camera shooting in, and whistles from the dugout, that kind of stuff, I’m not into. I don’t think that’s right.”

The New York Times reported the Red Sox responded by filing a complaint accusing the Yankees of using their YES Network to try to steal signs and gain a competitive edge – and claiming their own manager (John Farrell) and president of baseball operations (Dave Dombrowski) were unaware of the sign-stealing scheme in the Boston dugout.  

“There’s been a lot of different ballparks (with) an urban legend behind each one,” Maddon said. “One ballpark in the American League, we used to roll our signs all the time. Not just runner on second base, runner on first base, whatever – always rolling your signs. We were concerned about it.”

Was that ballpark located not too far from Wrigley Field?

“Not far,” Maddon said. “Not far.”

It would be naïve to think this is just limited to Red Sox-Yankees bitterness. This is the new reality for a multibillion-dollar industry obsessed with technology and saturated with Big Data.

“There’s always been this concern,” Maddon said. “Light bulbs, lights, cameras, guys standing up, sitting down, towels in bullpens. All kinds of goodies.

“I’ve had other friend coaches who would text or call me (when) they had been adamantly sure about different things – chicanery – going on in these different spots.

“So like I said, your best method is to conceal your signs. Don’t just be so blatantly simple. Do something a little bit different. (Maybe) you give up one sign and then all of a sudden you do the exact opposite intentionally.”

Cubs-Brewers rivalry ready to boil over: ‘They want to establish their turf, we don’t want to give ours up’

Cubs-Brewers rivalry ready to boil over: ‘They want to establish their turf, we don’t want to give ours up’

PITTSBURGH – There are so many elements in place for this rivalry to boil over, from the 90 miles separating the two cities, to the David vs. Goliath storyline, to all the young stars who should be here for years to come, to Ryan Braun playing the villain and still getting booed at Wrigley Field.

There have also been enough petty behind-the-scenes disputes, like the Milwaukee Brewers protesting the Cubs using their clout to change Friday’s game from 1:20 to 7:05 p.m. after complaining about a May rainout on what turned out to be a beautiful afternoon in Chicago.

By late Thursday night, the Brewers had fallen to five games behind the Cubs in the National League Central, same as the St. Louis Cardinals, taking some of the juice out of this weekend. But the Cubs will still look out at the Brewers during the first Friday night regular-season game in Wrigley Field history and see what they used to be.

“Flash back to ’12 and ’13 when we were there,” said Anthony Rizzo, who grew up into a face-of-the-franchise first baseman after those rebuilding years where the Cubs lost 197 games. “We’d go and play the Cardinals and beat them two out of three or something. The Brewers were very good then. We wanted to be with them.

“I see that with them (now). They’re a young team doing really good things this year and want to prove themselves, every single game, every single day.”

Imagine if the Cubs had failed in their lobbying efforts with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Tom Tunney and didn’t get the “one-time exemption” from the city ordinance. The Cubs sat through a no-warning, 52-minute rain delay at PNC Park, played through flash storms and then changed into NFL jerseys for the flight back to Chicago after an 8-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates ended at 11:10 p.m.

The Brewers have lined up their top three starters for this weekend – Jimmy Nelson (11-6, 3.59 ERA), Chase Anderson (8-3, 3.06 ERA) and Zach Davies (16-8, 3.77 ERA) – and should be playing with the urgency Cubs manager Joe Maddon talked about after taking this job, drawing upon his experience with the Tampa Bay Rays.

“You have to take things,” Maddon said. “Things aren’t given to you. I’ve always felt that way. Back in the day there with the AL East, you had to do that. They’re not going to give you anything. You got to go take it. And I’m sure that the Brewers feel the same way, no question.”

The Cubs are no longer mostly about selling sunshine and beer and cutting corners with their on-field product. Entering Wrigley Field should now feel the same way it did for the upstart Rays going into Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.

“Just don’t take anything for granted,” Maddon said. “Don’t think because you’ve done this and they haven’t that you got it (made). I’m always concerned about just the mental approach, meaning, again, ‘Oh, we’ve done this before. They haven’t. We’re more experienced at this than they are – we kind of got it.’ I would never want my group to think that way. And our group doesn’t.

“Just as they want to establish their turf, we don’t want to give ours up, either.”

Throughout the first two years of his $155 million megadeal, Jon Lester repeatedly answered questions about learning how to win and if the Cubs could finally do it. They have that edge in experience now, can play without 1908 hanging over their heads anymore and just outlasted Gerrit Cole and beat Jameson Taillon on back-to-back nights in Pittsburgh.

“The minute you think you’re in control is the minute you get bit in the rear end,” said Lester, who gave up one run across six innings in his second start since coming off the disabled list. “You’ve seen the ups and downs of the game. You can’t take anything for granted. We got to take each individual day and try to win that day. That’s all you can really worry about.”

Oh, and the Colorado Rockies have faded enough that it doesn’t look like a lock that the NL West will get three playoff teams now, putting the Cardinals and Brewers in the wild-card mix that made the 2015 Cubs and set the stage for a World Series run a year later.

“That’s how rivalries get going again,” Rizzo said. “A team that wasn’t supposed to be very good this year – (though) we knew how good (the Brewers) were because of their young talent – is doing things that are good for the game.”

How Joe Maddon plans to deploy Wade Davis as Cubs push toward playoffs

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USA TODAY

How Joe Maddon plans to deploy Wade Davis as Cubs push toward playoffs

PITTSBURGH – The delicate business relationship between the Cubs and Aroldis Chapman involved the superstar closer’s off-the-field baggage; rocky introduction to Chicago; language barrier; personal assistant becoming an intermediary with the coaching staff; looming free agency; and a preference to pitch one clean inning at a time.

It worked out in the end, with Chapman getting a championship ring and a record-setting, five-year, $86 million deal with the New York Yankees – after throwing 97 pitches combined in Games 5, 6 and 7 of the World Series.

But where manager Joe Maddon once viewed Chapman’s 100-mph fastball as a shiny new toy, the manager has been more cautious with Wade Davis, the All-Star closer who has gone 29-for-29 in save chances so far in a Cubs uniform/during his free-agent season.

Don’t look for Maddon to push the accelerator now and start using Davis for four-out saves, even as the Cubs begin a stretch on Friday at Wrigley Field where they will play the Milwaukee Brewers or St. Louis Cardinals 14 times in 19 games and can end the National League Central race.

“I’m still not ready to do that yet,” Maddon said before Thursday’s 8-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. “If we get to that point, I would talk to him about it. I can’t tell you that he’s a bad candidate (for it). It’s just based on (how) normally guys that are able to do that are more pitch-efficient.

“Four outs costing you 30, 35 pitches – sometimes you run into trouble in that 30th to 35th pitch. Even at 25-plus, I’m always up against it about bad things happening for a short relief pitcher.

“So, listen, I would not run away from it. But I don’t think it’s time yet. And if we were going to do it, I would talk to him about it in advance.”

Would the Davis rules change in October?

“I don’t want to assume anything until I talk to him,” Maddon said.

Maybe the Cubs have learned from their miscommunications with Chapman and the World Series fallout. Theo Epstein’s front office purposely built a bigger and better bullpen after a championship team played into early November. Maddon has also known Davis since he came up as a starter with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Davis – who’s 4-0 with a 0.84 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 23 career postseason appearances – worked multiple innings six times during the playoffs as the Kansas City Royals won back-to-back American League pennants in 2014 and 2015.

“I’ve always gotten stronger later in the year and deeper into the season,” said Davis, who notched the final out in the 2015 World Series. “So hopefully that trend keeps going.”