Joe Maddon will return as Cubs manager for 2019


Bob Nightengale reports that Joe Maddon will continue to be the Cubs manager in the 2019 season. That this is news and not an obvious proposition requires a bit of backfill.

Ken Rosenthal wrote a story this morning about the possibility — speculation and tea leaf reading, not really explicit information — that Maddon and Cubs president Theo Epstein aren’t seeing eye to eye these days. That, while generally complimentary of one another, Epstein was critical of how Maddon had handled certain things this year, particularly with respect to the bullpen, his use of Brandon Morrow in the runup to his season-ending injury in particular. Rosenthal also sprinkled the article with some references to Maddon being a “celebrity manager” and a guy who is not as controllable by the front office as some of the more “mallable” — Rosenthal’s words — managers in the game.

At no point did that lead to him or anyone else saying “Maddon was on the hot seat” but the suggestion was at least there. A suggestion that someone in the Cubs front office is blowing off some steam about Maddon or laying some groundwork for . . . something. A suggestion that might seem a bit more real the morning after a disappointing playoff exit which at least some people are calling a collapse.

As Nightengale notes, and as Rosenthal suggested could happen, Maddon’s contract is not being extended at this time and, barring a change in the offseason, he’ll enter 2019 as a lame duck, finishing out the final year of a five-year, $28 million deal that makes him the highest paid manager in baseball. Rosenthal says that, for his part, Maddon is not himself asking for an extension yet. Why that is is unclear, but it could be that he feels his negotiating power is at an ebb right now and that he’d rather try to get one following a more successful season. Or maybe he wants out of Chicago. Who knows? Either way, it does suggest that a lot is riding on the Cubs’ offseason and how things get going in 2019.

My gut tells me that this is all just a lot of late season pessimism at the end of what turned out to be a disappointing finish to the 2018 campaign. Maddon had a lot to deal with injury wise in 2018 and while his high profile means that his nits are picked a bit more readily than other managers’, the consensus remains that he’s still one of the best skippers in the business. Unless there’s something we don’t know about how he relates to the front office, it would seem rather short sighted to part ways with Maddon at this juncture or to put him on a particularly hot seat next year.

Then again, no one figured he’d leave Tampa Bay either, so maybe some craziness is in the offing.

Anthony Volpe, 21, wins Yankees’ starting shortstop job

Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sp

TAMPA, Fla. — Anthony Volpe grew up watching Derek Jeter star at shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Now, the 21-year-old is getting the chance to be the Yankees’ Opening Day shortstop against the San Francisco Giants.

The team announced after a 6-2 win over Toronto in spring training that Volpe had won the spot. New York manager Aaron Boone called the kid into his office to deliver the news.

“My heart was beating pretty hard,” said Volpe, rated one of baseball’s best prospects. “Incredible. I’m just so excited. It’s hard for me to even put into words.”

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, hitting coach Dillon Lawson and bench coach Carlos Mendoza were also present.

Volpe was able to share the news with his parents and other family members near the Yankees’ dugout and said it is something he will never forget.

“It was pretty emotional,” Volpe said. “It was just an unbelievable moment to share with them.”

Volpe, who grew up a Yankees fan, lived in Manhattan as a child before moving to New Jersey. Jeter was his favorite player.

“It’s very surreal,” Volpe said. “I’ve only ever been to games at Yankee Stadium and for the most part only watched him play there.”

Volpe is hitting .314 with three homers, five RBIs and a .417 on-base percentage in 17 Grapefruit League games. He has just 22 games of experience at Triple-A.

Spring training started with Volpe, Oswald Peraza and holdover Isiah Kiner-Falefa competing for the everyday shortstop job. Kiner-Falefa was shifted into a utility role midway through camp, and Peraza was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

“While certainly the performance was there, he killed it between the lines,” Boone said of Volpe. “All the other things that we’ve been hearing about showed up. There’s an energy he plays the game with, and an instinct that he has that is evident. He really checked every box that we could have had for him. Absolutely kicked the door in and earned his opportunity.”

Volpe arrived in Florida in December to work out at the Yankees’ minor league complex.

“He’s earned the right to take that spot, and we’re excited for him and excited for us,” Cashman said. “He just dominated all sides of the ball during February and March, and that bodes well obviously for him as we move forward.”

Volpe was selected out of high school with the 30th overall pick in the 2019 draft from Delbarton School in New Jersey. He passed up a college commitment to Vanderbilt to sign with the Yankees.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get into the organization,” Volpe said. “This day, this feeling, this moment was kind of what I’ve worked my whole life for when I made that big decision.”

“Right now it’s crazy,” he added. “I don’t even know what lies ahead but Thursday I just want to go out and play, and have fun.”