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Future uncertain for Cubs’ Zobrist and Maddon

Chicago now a postseason longshot

By Jay Coghen
AP Sports Writer

CHICAGO (AP) — Ben Zobrist will decide what he wants to do after the season is over.

The 38-year-old utilityman already knows how he feels about Joe Maddon’s future in Chicago.

Asked Sunday about Maddon’s legacy after five years as manager of the Cubs, Zobrist responded: “No comment, because I’d like to see that continue.”

With Chicago facing increasingly long odds for making the playoffs, the uncertain future for Maddon and Zobrist is coming up quickly on the horizon. Their contracts expire after this season.

The Cubs have lost six in a row, the last five by one run. It’s the first time they have dropped five consecutive one-run games since a six-game stretch from July 21-30, 1915, according to STATS.

They are four games back of Milwaukee for the second NL wild card with six games left on the schedule.

“We’ve lost a lot of tough, close games. That makes it a little bit tougher,” Zobrist said before Chicago’s 3-2 loss to St. Louis in its home finale. “But this is not a group that just in any way folds, so we’re going to keep fighting and battling.”

For Zobrist, it’s not just a question of where he might play next year. The 2016 World Series MVP could decide to retire after spending much of the season on the restricted list while dealing with family trouble.

Zobrist is batting .296 with one homer and six RBIs in 17 games since he was activated Aug. 31, proving to himself he could play next year if he wants to do it again.

“I think I could, yeah,” he said. “I think, physically, this month helped me know that physically I’m not behind necessarily. I feel like I can keep up.”

Zobrist also played for Maddon in Tampa Bay. Maddon left the Rays after the 2014 season and took over the Cubs in a key moment for one of the best stretches in franchise history.

With Maddon in the dugout, Chicago made it to the NL Championship Series in 2015 and then won the World Series three years ago for the first time since 1908. It returned to the NLCS in 2017, but struggled down the stretch last year and was eliminated by Colorado in the wild-card game.

Asked if he was soaking in the scenery at Wrigley Field ahead of what might be his final home game as Cubs manager, Maddon responded: “Honestly, I do that every day. I don’t anticipate that. I haven’t really thought that this whole time through. I always expect a good result.”

It has been a strange year for Chicago on several fronts. The Cubs finished their home schedule with a 51-30 record, but they have a 31-44 mark on the road, including a 20-36 record for road night games. While several players have put together big years, the lineup has been plagued by inconsistency for the second straight season.

“There’s been a lot of good regarding progression of players,” Maddon said. “It’s just been that maddening quadrant, that bottom of the road trip, I mean I don’t get that. You show up like you always do. You get to the ballpark. The prep’s the same everywhere every time we do it.

“That’s the part that’s gotten away from us and that would be the one that I think requires the most thought in the offseason.”

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