CubsHQ 2019 Preview Part 2: New Coaches Everywhere
|Monday, February 11, 2019, 9:22 AM- -|
In Part 1, we took a look at Cubs’ manager, Joe Maddon, and the challenges he faces in 2019. Today, it’s a look at Maddon’s staff.
As we get ready to set sail for the 2019 season, the Cubs will be welcoming several new faces into the clubhouse. Despite Theo Epstein saying that the Cubs wouldn’t “change coaches just for the sake of changing,” the Cubs have found themselves with almost an entirely new staff. For the third straight year, Chicago has had to find replacements for the bench coach, hitting coach and pitching coach spots, as well as having to replace other assistants and staff members.
Former hitting coach, Chili Davis was terminated on October 12th, followed by the resignation of former pitching coach, Jim Hickey, on November 20th. Things would remain relatively quiet in the realm of coaches until December 14th, when now-former bench coach, Brandon Hyde, was named as the new manager for the Baltimore Orioles. Also leaving the staff after the 2018 season, was former assistant hitting coach, Andy Haines, who was hired by the Brewers as their new hitting coach.
While it took little time to replace Chili Davis with new hitting coach, Anthony Iapoce, Jim Hickey’s replacement (Tommy Hottovy) wouldn’t be named for a couple of weeks. Although speculation about the possibility of either David Ross or Mark Derosa replacing Brandon Hyde dominated social media, the two former Cubs’ players elected to ride out the upcoming season in the broadcast booth rather than in the clubhouse.
With the announcement of a newly hired bench coach, the Cubs completed filling vacancies to their coaching staff on January second, although other ancillary positions would subsequently be created and filled in the coming weeks.
Replacing Brandon Hyde as bench coach is Mark Loretta. During a Sirius-XM Radio interview in early January, the Cubs’ new bench coach had this to say about his new job and new boss: “The attraction to being the bench coach under a really experienced manager like Joe, is really valuable. That was a big part of the decision for me.”
Loretta is a Northwestern graduate and a former major league infielder who has spent the last nine years in the Padres front office after retiring from MLB in January 2010. Loretta’s most recent assignment for the Friars was Special Assistant to Baseball Operations. He was drafted by Milwaukee in the seventh round of the 1993 draft and made his MLB debut about two years later. Throughout his career, Loretta would see action with the Brewers (1995-2002), The Astros (2002, 2007-2008), the Red Sox (2006), the Padres (2003-2005) and the Dodgers (2009). Loretta was also a two-time All-Star (2004, 2006).
For Mark Loretta, 2019 will be a learning season and perhaps baptism under fire. With Joe Maddon’s future in question, there’s no telling what 2020 may hold for Loretta, although the skipper’s spot would seem unlikely for him, due to a lack of managerial experience.
Perhaps the most anticipated replacement among the new hires was hitting coach, Anthony Iapoce, who was taken on as Chili Davis’ replacement. Iapoce will have his work cut out for him in 2019 after the Cubs suffered an almost systemic hitting slump during the second-half of 2018.
While the blame for the weakened offense fell squarely on Davis’ shoulders, the Cubs batted .258 as a team in 2018, which was slightly better than the 2016 group who hit only .256, yet still won the World Series. The biggest struggles seemed to come in times when clutch-hitting was a necessity, with the 2018 team plating 761 runs as compared to the 2016 team who managed a total of 808 RBI.
Iapoce is no stranger to the team, as he served as a special assistant to the general manager for the Cubs from 2013-2015, working with players that included Baez, Bryant, Almora, and Contreras.
Few can dispute that the Cubs’ need to return to power, and under Iapoce’s leadership, the 2017 Rangers became the first team in major league history to have nine players hit at least 17 home runs. Iapoce doesn’t overlook situational hitting, though. “It's all about executing a run-scoring culture,” Iapoce told MLB.com after being hired by the Rangers.
Joining Anthony Iapoce in the offensive coaching department is Terrmel Sledge, who will be replacing Andy Haines as the assistant hitting coach. Sledge has most recently served as the hitting coach for the Dodger’s Double-A affiliate in Tulsa but was with the Cubs’ farm-system in 2015, where he also coached hitting.
After being drafted by the Mariners in 1999, Sledge spent four years in the majors (Expos, Nationals and the Padres) where he amassed a career slash line of .247/.327/.418. After leaving MLB, Sledge played in Japan’s NPB for five seasons, where he hit .263/.343/.487 with 96 home runs in 501 games.
Stop by for the remainder of Part 2, as we continue to work our way through the coaching staff who will represent the Cubs in 2019. After that, it’s the rotation, the relievers, and the position players.