Cubs

Bulls well-represented on GM survey

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Bulls well-represented on GM survey

As a prelude to the start of the 2012-13 NBA season, NBA.com released its 11th annual GM Survey today. All 30 general managers were asked 57 different questions "about the best teams, players, coaches, fans and offseason moves. General managers were not permitted to vote for their own team or personnel. Percentages are based on the pool of respondents to each question of the survey, rather than all 30 GMs."
And the Bulls, despite missing Derrick Rose for at least the first half of the season, were wel-represented on the list. It's tough to determine whether the general managers held a bias against Rose being injured, but he still showed up on many of the superlative lists.
Of the 57 questions, here's where the Bulls or one of their players showed up.
Which team will win the Central Division?
1. Indiana (80)2. Chicago (20)
Last year: Chicago -- 96.4
Which player forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments?
1. LeBron James, Miami (50)2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City (20)3. Dwight Howard, L.A. Lakers (16.7)4. Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers (6.7)
Also receiving votes: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas; Derrick Rose, Chicago
Last year: Dwight Howard -- 29.6
Which player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2012-13?
1. Klay Thompson, Golden State (13.3)2. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland, and Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio (10.0)4. Paul George, Indiana, and James Harden, Oklahoma City (6.7)
Also receiving votes: Nicolas Batum, Portland; Alec Burks, Utah; DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento; Stephen Curry, Golden State; Kenneth Faried, Denver; Taj Gibson, Chicago; Eric Gordon, New Orleans; Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers; Gordon Hayward, Utah; Andre Iguodala, Denver; DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers; Ty Lawson, Denver; JaVale McGee, Denver; Josh Selby, Memphis; Evan Turner, Philadelphia; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City
Last year: James Harden -- 21.4
Who is the best point guard in the NBA?
1. Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers (69)2. Derrick Rose, Chicago (20.7)3. Rajon Rondo, Boston (6.9)4. Tony Parker, San Antonio (3.4)
Last year: Derrick Rose (59.3)
Who is the best international player NOT in the NBA?
1. Juan Carlos Navarro (34.6)2. Nikola Mirotic (11.5)3. Dimitris Diamantidis, Rudy Fernandez, Bo McCalebb, Dario Saric (7.7)
Also receiving votes: Nenad Krstic, Milan Macvan, Vassilis Spanoulis, Milos Teodosic, Ante Tomic, Fran Vazquez
Last year: Jonas Valanciunas (36)
Which is the best defensive team in the NBA?
1. Chicago (40)2. Miami (26.7)3. Boston (23.3)4. L.A. Lakers (6.7)5. San Antonio (3.3)
Last year: Chicago (66.7)
Which head coach makes the best in-game adjustments?
1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio (40)2. Rick Carlisle, Dallas (20)3. Doug Collins, Philadelphia (13.3)4. Rick Adelman, Minnesota (6.7)5. George Karl, Denver (6.7)6. Doc Rivers, Boston (6.7)
Also receiving votes: Mike Brown, L.A. Lakers; Tom Thibodeau, Chicago
Which head coach has the best defensive schemes?
1. Tom Thibodeau, Chicago (70)2. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio (10)3. Mike Brown, L.A. Lakers; Rick Carlisle, Dallas (6.7)
Also receiving votes: Doc Rivers, Boston; Erik Spoelstra, Miami
Last year: Tom Thibodeau (61.5)
Who is the best assistant coach in the NBA?
1. Brian Shaw, Indiana (23.3)2. Mike Budenholzer, San Antonio (20.0)3. Steve Clifford, L.A. Lakers; Mike Malone, Golden State (10.0)5. Maurice Cheeks, Oklahoma City; Jay Triano, Portland (6.7)
Also receiving votes: Ron Adams, Chicago; Kenny Atkinson, Atlanta; Brett Brown, San Antonio; Michael Curry, Philadelphia; Darren Erman, Golden State; Armond Hill, Boston; Elston Turner, Phoenix
Last year: Mike Malone (29.2)
Which player is the fastest with the ball?
1. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City (36.7)2. Derrick Rose, Chicago (23.3)3. Rajon Rondo (13.3)4. Ty Lawson, Denver; John Wall, Washington (6.7)
Also receiving votes: Aaron Brooks, Sacramento; Darren Collison, Dallas; LeBron James, Miami; Tony Parker, San Antonio
Last year: Derrick Rose (57.7)
Which player is best at moving without the ball?
1. Ray Allen, Miami (56.7)2. Richard Hamilton, Chicago (10)3. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio; Kyle Korver, Atlanta (6.7)
Also receiving votes: Luol Deng, Chicago; Marc Gasol, Memphis; James Harden, Oklahoma City; Paul Pierce, Boston; J.J. Reick, Orlando; Klay Thompson, Golden State
Last year: Ray Allen (67.9)
Which player is the most dangerous in the open floor?
1. LeBron James, Miami (60)2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City (23.3)3. Derrick Rose, Chicago (10)4. Chris Paul (6.7)
Last year: LeBron James (53.8)

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

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USA TODAY

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

The Cubs now apparently believe they are a stronger organization without Chris Bosio, firing a pitching coach known for his strong convictions, brutal honesty and bottom-line results in a move that doesn’t seem like an actual solution.

Hiring Jim Hickey – who has a good reputation from his years with the Tampa Bay Rays, a close friendship with Joe Maddon and what looks like a slam-dunk interview lined up for Monday – might make the manager feel more comfortable and less isolated.

But the new-voice/different-direction spin doesn’t fundamentally address the pitching issues facing a team that needs to replace 40 percent of the rotation and find an established closer and has zero expectations those answers will come from within the farm system.

This is an operation that won a seven-game World Series last year without a homegrown player throwing a single pitch.     

If the Cubs can say thanks for the memories and dump “Boz,” what about “Schwarbs?”

Advancing to the National League Championship Series in three straight seasons doesn’t happen without Bosio or Kyle Schwarber. But the fastest way for the Cubs to dramatically improve their pitching staff isn’t finding someone else who thinks it’s important to throw strikes. It could mean breaking up The Core and severing another emotional attachment.   

Theo Epstein saw Schwarber play for Indiana University and used the Fenway Park frame of reference, envisioning him as a combination of David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia with his left-handed power and energizer personality.

Epstein wasn’t the only Cubs official to develop a man-crush on Schwarber, but he’s the only one with ultimate control over baseball operations. Epstein’s style isn’t pounding the table as much as the ability to frame questions in the draft room, gather as many opinions as possible before the trade deadline and at the winter meetings, trying to form a consensus.

“I will say that it’s really an organization-wide evaluation of this player, but I’m not skirting responsibility,” Epstein said. “I’ll happily endorse him as the type of player that we want to win with here at the Cubs, and have won with. I don’t know, the fact that he hit 30 bombs in a bad year is a good start.

“But power is not everything. I think he fell into this year becoming more of a slugger and less of a hitter than he really is. It’s important for him to get his identity back as a dangerous hitter. Honestly, I think we feel he has the potential to be an all-around hitter on the level of an Anthony Rizzo. When he reaches his prime, that’s what he could be.”

Where will that be? As a designated hitter in the American League? That’s obvious speculation, but Schwarber has improved as an outfield defender – his strong throw at Dodger Stadium led to another NLCS Maddon Moment where the manager compared the Buster Posey Rule to the Chicago soda tax.      

A 43-45 record at the All-Star break also exposed some of the weaknesses in the clubhouse and downsides to Maddon’s methods. The Cubs flipped a switch in the second half, got hot in September and had the guts to beat the Washington Nationals in the playoffs. But that doesn’t completely wipe away the concerns about a group that at times seemed too casual and unfocused and didn’t play with enough edge. For better or worse, Schwarber approaches the game like a blitzing linebacker.

“He’s got a certain toughness and certain leadership qualities that are hard to find,” Epstein said, “and that we don’t necessarily have in surplus, in abundance, running around in this clubhouse, in this organization.

“A certain energy and grit and ability to bring people together – that’s important and we rely on it. But the biggest thing is his bat. We think he’s the type of offensive player that you build around, along with a couple other guys like him.”

Maddon would never admit it, but was the Schwarber leadoff experiment a mistake?

“I’ll judge that one based on the results and say yeah,” Epstein said. “I think we can talk about the process that went into it. Or in an alternate universe: Does it pan out? But those are just words. It didn’t work.

“Everything that went into Kyle’s really surprising and difficult first half of the season, we should look to correct, because that shouldn’t happen. He’s a way better hitter than that. What he did after coming back from Iowa proves it.”

In the same way that Maddon should own what happens with the next pitching coach, Epstein will ultimately have to decide Schwarber’s future.

Schwarber didn’t complain or pout when he got sent down to Triple-A Iowa this summer, finishing with 30 homers, a .782 OPS, a .211 batting average and a 30.9 strikeout percentage.    

Trading Schwarber would mean selling lower and take another team having the same gut instincts the Cubs did in the 2014 draft – and offering the talented, controllable starting pitcher that sometimes seems like a unicorn.

Is Schwarber still the legend from last year’s World Series? An all-or-nothing platoon guy? An intriguing trade chip? A franchise player? Eventually, the Cubs are going to find out.

“We have to look to do everything we can,” Epstein said, “and more importantly he has to look to do everything he can to get him to a point where he’s consistently the quality hitter and tough out and dangerous bat in the middle of the lineup that we know he can be.

“He wasn’t for the first half of this year – and he knows it and he feels awful about it. He worked his tail off to get back to having a pretty darn good second half and getting some big hits for us down the stretch.”

And then the offseason was only hours old by the time the Cubs showed they will be keeping an open mind about everything this winter, not afraid to make big changes.

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

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USA TODAY

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

It's become a tradition that Jake Arrieta shaves his beard after the season ends.

The 31-year-old did it again days after the Cubs were eliminated from the 2017 postseason, and it's still a sight we'll never be used to seeing.

Check it out:

Weird, right?

Here's how he looked following the Cubs' World Series win in 2016:

And again in 2015:

It's crazy how much younger he looks.