Cubs

Cubs: Schwarber more excited by Bautista's bat flip than own HR

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Cubs: Schwarber more excited by Bautista's bat flip than own HR

Kyle Schwarber seemed more impressed Thursday with Jose Bautista’s bat flip than he is with the uproar caused by the search for his celebrated homerun ball.

A day after news cameras discovered the Cubs rookie’s prodigious homer, which led to its temporary enshrinement atop the right field scoreboard at 101-year-old Wrigley Field, Schwarber admitted he enjoyed it to have his moment recognized.

But Schwarber -- who for most of his media session before Thursday’s workout answered questions about the legendary blast -- seemed much more comfortable discussing the legendary bat flip by Bautista, whose three-run homer Wednesday helped the Toronto Blue Jays advance to the American League Championship Series.

“I thought it was awesome,” Schwarber said. “That was one of the best games I’ve seen in a while. It shows you crazy how baseball is and how in the playoffs little mistakes can come back to haunt you. The Blue Jays did a good job taking advantage of what they got from Texas and Bautista put a good swing on the ball.”

[MORE: Cubs return to work after NLDS victory]

Schwarber’s teammates displayed as much reverence for the entire saga surrounding his towering homer to start the seventh inning of Tuesday’s victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

For starters, Dexter Fowler and Starlin Castro both said Schwarber called his shot in the half inning before he hit it off left-hander Kevin Siegrist. Secondly, television footage from the TBS game broadcast never determined where the 438-foot drive landed.

It wasn’t until Wednesday that a news crew in a helicopter discovered the ball that the Cubs finally located Schwarber’s third postseason homer. The team then had the ball authenticated and returned to the location, determining to encase it where it had been found for the rest of the postseason.

“At first none of us really knew where the hell the thing went,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “But we saw that it landed on top of the scoreboard, saw the glass case and some of the pictures that they did and how they were going to kind of preserve that. I think that’s unique. I started talking to Schwarbs and saying: ‘That’s amazing. That’s history right there.’

[SHOP: Buy Cubs playoff gear]

“Whether they leave it up there long-term or not, or they put it in the Hall of Fame or wherever, it’s just a really cool thing for a guy like him to be able to experience and tell people about. That’s something he’ll remember forever.”  

Much like Schwarber called his shot, Cubs manager Joe Maddon suggested the team did exactly as he would have in how they handled the ball. He’s excited the ball will remain atop the brand new scoreboard for the rest of October and perhaps early November, too.

“It’s pure genius,” Maddon said. “The way the tradition and lore are dealt with around here, that could withstand the test of time. Now they definitely have to keep that scoreboard intact, right? If there’s any consideration to do anything differently, you’ve got to keep it there now.”

Asked repeatedly about the topic, Schwarber admitted the club’s gesture is “cool” and he’s honored to be part of Wrigley Field’s history. But Schwarber was far more eager to discuss Bautista’s feat, which perhaps traveled even farther in bat flip inches.

“If it’s probably the middle of the season, you probably say ‘Calm down,’ ” Schwarber said. “But for him to do that right there in that spot, you’re in a state of awe.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”