joe maddon speaksCubs fans really, really love Matt Murton, who is reportedly signing a minor league deal to come back. I’m not sure the last time I saw Cubs fans this excited about a transaction, but it was probably when Jason Heyward finally signed on the dotted line. So I guess it wasn’t that long ago. But, I mean, that’s Jason Heyward.

  • Fans were also excited about the Cubs’ addition of super utility man/second baseman Ben Zobrist, who took less money to come to Chicago. Zobrist was recently interviewed on ESPN1000, and the CCO has a transcript of the interview worth perusing here. I was especially intrigued when Zobrist was asked about the value of a manager, because he’s got a unique perspective (1) as a guy who spent so much time with Joe Maddon, universally considered one of the most valuable managers in the game, and (2) as a guy who was utilized by that manager in such a valuable way.


  • Among Zobrist’s thoughts on the matter: “I think the biggest thing that [managers] affect more than anything is the attitude and the perspective of the team. There are just guys like Joe that have this ability when things aren’t going well to stay positive because that’s going to happen. We’re playing the longest season in pro sports, you know, so there’s going to be dips, there’s going to be times when you’re struggling and when you’re having trouble believing who you are as a team. And Joe just has an ability to stay consistent during those times. That consistency is so important to allowing a good team to continue to be good even when they don’t feel good at the moment. I think those kinds of things are not quantifiable but they make a huge difference over the course of a season.”
  • In terms of a manager’s value, I have no doubt that Zobrist is correct that this kind of behind-the-scenes, keeping-players-in-the-right-frame-of-mind stuff is among the most important skills a manager can have. There’s a reason Dusty Baker kept getting jobs despite what always looked like not-so-good in-game management, and there’s a reason Ned Yost’s teams love him and have great success under him despite similar head-scratching in-game maneuvering. They’re great at all the other stuff a manager does, and that all happens almost entirely outside of our view as fans. So, then, when you’ve got a guy like Zobrist saying it about managers in general, and about Maddon, specifically, when we already know that Maddon is also a tremendous in-game manager … well, I just get excited once again that he’s the guy leading that clubhouse (speaking of transactions that got Cubs fans really excited). It also makes me think that there are probably a lot of things that a guy like Zobrist does behind the scenes that permeate the entire roster and provide value over the course of a season.


  • The Rays had an arbitration hearing yesterday with Drew Smyly, which is your reminder that arbitration hearings are ongoing for the first few weeks of February, and the Cubs and Jake Arrieta have not yet settled on a contract for 2016. Odds are good that a settlement will still be reached before a hearing is necessitated, but that hearing could be scheduled at any time (it doesn’t always get out into the public until it’s just about to happen). I expect we’re just going to get an announcement dropped on us at some point about a new deal – one year is most likely, but a two-year deal that buys out both of his remaining two years of arbitration is possible.
  • Mike Matheny is expecting a “ridiculous” year from 36-year-old left fielder Matt Holliday (ESPN).
  • I’m going to share a post from Baseball Is Fun, as I often do, but I’m going to share the tweet of it so that you can (1) see one of the included pictures, because it’s awesome (and hopefully you then click over to see the others); and (2) click on the “follow” button and make my day:

  • Fans ask Jake Arrieta about his beard on Twitter, he says it’s coming back, other Cubs are discussed, and then this little slice of magic happens:


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