Cubs

Cubs fan taking MLB Fan Cave experience in stride

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Cubs fan taking MLB Fan Cave experience in stride

The popular film "Back to the Future" predicted the Cubs will win the World Series in 2015. Whether that will happen or not remains to be seen, but one fan certainly believes.

Brian Pasnik is the lone Cubs representative remaining in the MLB Fan Cave contest, which features 50 fans competing for the ultimate prize: To be the last fan standing. He utilized Robert Zemeckis' Hollywood prediction and the Cubs' century-long ineptitude to earn a spot in the Top 50.

The groundbreaking contest is in its second year of existence. Last season, one fan -- Mike O'Hara -- won and spent the year watching every single one of the 2,430 MLB games from the 2011 season in the Fan Cave in New York City with wingman Ryan Wagner. Current and former MLB players joined the two fans in studio, as well as musicians and other celebrities.

This year, things will change a little bit. According to Pasnik, the 50 finalists will be whittled down to 30 on Feb. 22, and that group will head down to Arizona for some spring training interaction. That unit will then be bumped down to six by Opening Day, and those finalists will head to the same Fan Cave in New York City to spend the season following in O'Hara and Wagner's footsteps.

According to Pasnik, the MLB is not disclosing too much information on it now, but he said it sounds like the idea is to have the six fans spend a "Real World"-type summer in NYC before one ultimate fan is crowned around the World Series.

"This year is more like a reality show," Pasnik said. "Last year, they had two guys that did it through the whole season. They had a main guy and a wingman. This year, with the top six, they're going to make it more contest-driven."

The 27-year-old Bloomingdale, Ill., native has been a baseball fan his entire life. He found out about the contest while he was applying for a job with the Cubs organization.

Pasnik has also dabbled in acting, including an appearance on NBC's "The Playboy Club" (though it never aired, as the show was canceled midseason). He feels his comedic timing and laid-back outlook on life may be just what the MLB is looking for with the Fan Cave contest.

While he isn't looking to participate in the experience as a way of advancing his acting career, Pasnik is interested in trying to get a start in baseball operations with some MLB team.

The way the FanCave is set up, they do little skits and segments with the MLB players," he said. "I thought this was the perfect contest. I've always wanted to do something like this and this is the right time, I guess, to work this into my life."

All contestants were required to submit a written essay in addition to a video and a casting agency helped the MLB narrow the list down to the Top 50 finalists. Pasnik enlisted his sister and roommates to help him film his two-minute video that featured a bit of "Field of Dreams" mixed with a reenactment classic "Rookie of the Year" scene.

The Western Illinois grad said he has been receiving a lot of support so far, including from fans all over the world.

"A lot of random people that I haven't even met before are saying, 'hey, I just checked out your video and it was pretty cool. Good luck with the contest,'" Pasnik said, and also intimated a lot of support has come via Twitter.

"One fan is actually from France. I have no idea how it's getting over to France or why she's helping me re-tweet. It's pretty cool that it's gotten that far where I don't even know these people and they're from different countries and helping out a local Cubs fan. It's just proof Cubs fans are the greatest in the world, I guess."

The Top 50 finalists do not extend to each MLB squad, but several teams have a variety of contestants representing it. The Cardinals, for example, boast four finalists. However, Pasnik believes the fact that he is the only Cubs fan may work to his advantage.

"The Cubs are the second-most followed team, next to the Yankees," he said. "Wrigley Field sells out games even when they're 20 games under .500. With WGN, there's nationally televised games. There are Cubs fans across the nation. Being a Cubs fan and having the Cubs following, I think that will definitely help."

Voting ends Wednesday, Feb. 22, for the Top 50. The Top 30 will be announced shortly after that, with Arizona on the schedule for early March. Pasnik would love the opportunity to advance to the next stage of the contest, but is taking everything in stride.

"I'm excited," he said. "I don't have it now and I don't know if I'm going to have it, so why not have fun with it? I'm just trying to get people to help me out and create a following for it. Let people know about it and kind of help out the MLB with the PR to create this social media power they're trying to have for the Fancave for the summer.

"I think that'd be great, to get a free trip to spring training. That's definitely a plus. To live a whole summer in New York and interacting with Major League players and other celebrities that come in, I think that's really rewarding. To get it, I'd be so grateful for it."

You can check out Pasnik's video at MLB.com and vote for the Top 50 contestants there.

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

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USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

Game on as Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb turn down qualifying offers

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AP

Game on as Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb turn down qualifying offers

During the middle of Jake Arrieta’s 2015 Cy Young Award campaign, super-agent Scott Boras compared the emerging Cubs pitcher to another client – Max Scherzer – in the first season of a seven-year, $210 million megadeal with the Washington Nationals.

Now don’t focus as much on the money – though that obviously matters – as when Scherzer arrived for that Washington press conference to put on his new Nationals jersey: Jan. 21, 2015.

It might take Boras a while to find a new home for his “big squirrel with a lot of nuts in his trees.” Teams have been gearing up for next winter’s monster Bryce Harper/Manny Machado free-agent class for years. Mystery surrounds Shohei Ohtani, Japan’s Babe Ruth, and the posting system with Nippon Professional Baseball. Major League Baseball’s competitive balance tax may also have a chilling effect this offseason.

As expected, Arrieta, All-Star closer Wade Davis and pitcher Alex Cobb were among the group of free agents who went 9-for-9 in declining the one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer before Thursday’s deadline.

With that formality out of the way, if Arrieta and Davis sign elsewhere, the Cubs will receive two third-round picks in the 2018 draft.

By staying under the $195 million luxury-tax threshold this year, the Cubs would have to give up a second-round draft pick and $500,000 from their international bonus pool to sign Cobb, an obvious target given their connections to the Tampa Bay Rays, or Lance Lynn, another starter on their radar who turned down a qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals.

That collectively bargained luxury-tax system became a central part of the Boras media show on Wednesday outside the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, where he introduced “Playoffville” as his new go-to analogy at the end of the general manager meetings.

“The team cutting payroll is treating their family where they’re staying in a neighborhood that has less protection for winning,” Boras said. “They’re not living in the gated community of Playoffville. Certainly, they’re saving a de minimis property tax, but the reality of it is there’s less firemen in the bullpen. There’s less financial analysts sitting in the press boxes.

“The rooms in the house are less, so obviously you’re going to have less franchise players. When you move to that 12-room home in Playoffville, they generally are filled with the people that allow you to really achieve what your family – your regional family – wants to achieve. And that is winning.”

Boras also represents four other players who rejected qualifying offers – J.D Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland – another reason why this could be a long winter of Arrieta rumors, slow-playing negotiations and LOL metaphors.