Cubs

Burish's idea develops into Champs for Charity game

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Burish's idea develops into Champs for Charity game

Adam Burish had an idea.

The former Blackhawks winger was missing hockey a lot, missing his 2010 Stanley Cup champion teammates more. For Burish, it was simple: nothing going on right now, so why not get a bunch of players together, including 2010 Cup teammates, play a game and do it for charity?

On Oct. 26, that idea is slated to come to fruition.

Most of the 2010 Blackhawks and other players around the league, including Bobby Ryan, Ryan Suter and Jack Johnson, will play in the Champs for Charity exhibition game on Oct. 26 at AllState Arena. Proceeds from the game will benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana.

It was an idea that Blackhawks players past and present embraced immediately.

You want to be a part of it, said former Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell, who still lives in Chicago in the offseason. For us, its great to be able to be involved with it. Its great of Adam to start it up and lift it off. When Adam has an idea, its always first class. It wont be a legit game with hitting and everything, but its nice to get out there for the cause.

So far, currentpast Blackhawks slated to play are Burish, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Brian Campbell, Dave Bolland, Jake Dowell, James Wisniewski, John Madden, Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg.

Patrick Kane was originally not on the roster, as he was set to sign with a European team. But between the charity game and the hope that NHLNHLPA negotiations will yield a new deal, Kane decided to stay and play in the Oct. 26 exhibition.

When Burish first had the idea, he sent out a mass email to about 25 fellow players. He said he got responses from 10-12 of them in the first hour, so he got on the phone with agent Bill Zito and set the game wheels in motion.

I told Zito, All these guys are in. Lets work on this. They all wanted to help out, have a good game, and it all came together pretty quick, Burish said. We get the best of both worlds: we give back to a good cause and get a game with your best buddies together. Its a no-brainer.

Players were ready to play and give to the great cause.

As busy as we are during the regular season, traveling all over the place, we dont get to do as much hands-on charity work as wed like in Chicago. So playing this game would be a good opportunity to do that, Toews said. Well go out there, have some fun and give the fans what they want.

Ducks winger Ryan was added to the roster late Wednesday. Others slated to play are Al Montoya, Mike Brown, Alex Goligoski, Tom Gilbert, Ville Leino and Jared Boll.

Tickets range from 10, 15, 30 and 60 levels. There are also 100 500 VIP tickets, which include a glass seat, an event jersey, and a pregame meet-and-greet with the players from 6 to 6:45 p.m. All tickets can be purchased now through www.ticketmaster.com.

It was an idea that took shape quickly. And its developing into a game that will bring back 2010 Cup memories, help those who need it and provide that hockey fix.

We want to give fans who are starving for hockey something fun to watch, Burish said. People are going to be excited watching this game. The Ronald McDonald House (charities) are doing this first class. Its going to be as close to a hockey game as is going on anywhere close by. So people can be excited bout that.

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.