Jim Hickey was let go as pitching coach by the Tampa Bay Rays about two and a half weeks ago.
Hickey was hired for that position by the Rays one year after Joe Maddon began his managing career there; the two worked together for eight seasons until Joe departed to join the Cubs for the 2015 season.
Just three days ago, before Game 4 of the NLCS, Maddon was asked about the possibility that Hickey could join the Cubs:
Cubs manager Joe Maddon dismissed speculation about Jim Hickey, his pitching coach with the Rays and a South Side native, joining his staff.
"I have talked to Hick, (but) purely how he's doing," Maddon said Wednesday before Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers. "It surprised me and a lot of us (when Hickey and the Rays parted ways after 10 seasons).
"He's going to turn out just fine."
That article makes an interesting note about Hickey’s connection to Chicago beyond Maddon — Hickey grew up in Chicago and went to Kennedy High School on the Southwest Side. (Also, Hickey was in Tampa for 11 seasons, 2007-17, not 10.)
The teams where Maddon and Hickey worked together in Tampa made the postseason four times and the World Series once; he worked well with Rays pitchers from David Price to James Shields to Chris Archer to Alex Cobb. Wade Davis pitched for him in Tampa; heck, he even made Edwin Jackson and Matt Garza look good in their time with the Rays.
There was some speculation that Hickey would come with Maddon when Joe was first hired to manage the Cubs, but management decided to stick with Chris Bosio at the time, and Bosio and Maddon worked together, and reasonably well, for three seasons.
Now that it’s time for a change, Hickey would be the logical choice. He and Maddon have that eight-year past relationship, and Maddon seems to value trusted colleagues, the primary reason he brought Dave Martinez with him as bench coach. Maddon and Martinez have now been together for 11 consecutive seasons.
But beyond that, Hickey’s connection to both current and former Rays pitchers might be a factor in having those pitchers join the Cubs staff. Davis, who had Hickey as his pitching coach for four years (2009-12), might like to have a familiar voice as his pitching coach, and hiring Hickey could be a factor in convincing Davis to re-sign.
Cobb is a free agent, and the Cubs are looking for starting pitching. Hickey is the only pitching coach Cobb has known at the big-league level; maybe that comfort factor could help lure Cobb to Wrigley Field. The Cubs have been looking for reliable lefthanded relief; Jake McGee, also a free agent, had Hickey as his pitching coach for six years, 2010-15.
Hickey had success in Houston before he went to Tampa; he was in the Astros organization for a decade, first as a minor-league pitching coach and then for the big-league Astros from mid-season 2004 through 2006. Among the pitchers he helped in the Astros system were Brad Lidge and Roy Oswalt.
There are other candidates for the Cubs’ job, including Mike Maddux, who presumably is being let go by the Nationals along with all of Dusty Baker’s coaching staff. On the other hand, Maddux might be a candidate for the Nats’ managing job, along with a couple of the other open managerial spots.
Jim Hickey makes sense for the Cubs organization right now. He’s a new voice to the team, but a familiar right-hand man for Joe Maddon. It’s a perfect fit.
Get it done, Theo.