Cubs

Cubs will find out if Theo's right on the money

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Cubs will find out if Theo's right on the money

MESA, Ariz. It doesnt matter how much Oscar buzz the film generates. Theo Epstein has zero interest in seeing Moneyball.

The Cubs president of baseball operations took it personally. He feels like that loaded term misrepresents how he looks at the game. It also destroyed a competitive advantage he had built while running the Boston Red Sox.

By Saturday, as pitchers and catchers reported to Fitch Park, the compensation issue still hadnt been settled by commissioner Bud Selig. But the Cubs are spending almost 20 million on Epstein, to find that next cutting edge, and build a team thats consistently playing in October.

Were just trying to teach the game the right way, Epstein said. I wasnt a huge fan when certain proprietary information was made available to the public in the first place. Instead of a handful of clubs knowing certain things within a year or two, 30 clubs knew. Its not my cup of tea.

But it sounds like they made a really good movie and a lot of people got entertained. Thats terrific, but its baseball time, not movie time.

Epstein seemed a little annoyed by the question, but that might as well be the starting point for a team that made one real blockbuster move all offseason. The Cubs Way will be playing at a ballpark near you.

Epstein spent the past few days running organizational meetings at a nearby hotel, where roughly 175 staffers sat in conference rooms and shared ideas and debated their visions for a championship model. Michael Lewis wont be getting a byline, but the scouting manual is already complete.

Theres also a rough draft for the book on player development, which should run a few hundred pages. Everyone who works for the Cubs from Clark and Addison to the Dominican Republic is supposed to be on the same page.

Everything from what foot you hit the bag with when youre making the turn, Epstein said, to how we run bunt plays to what our overall hitting philosophy is (as an organization). Were going to approach (it) the same way, (from) the Dominican summer league through A-ball, Double-A, Triple-A, right up to the big leagues.

It sounds obvious, but playing hard will be central to The Cubs Way. It will reflect first-year manager Dale Sveum, whos vowed to hold everyone accountable and jump anyone who doesnt run a ball out.

You can tell that he means that, outfielder Reed Johnson said. A lot of staff members can say that sometimes. You can tell that its not genuine or theyre not really going to follow through. But he doesnt care if youre making 15 million or youre making 450,000. Youre going to go out there and youre going to play hard. And if youre not, youre not going to play.

Thats really refreshing (because) throughout the league (and in) my experiences, that hasnt really been true. The players know that if you come in with that attitude, youre going to be in for a rude awakening.

Even though Epstein says the goal of the 2012 Cubs is to win the World Series, they are clearly building toward the future. They are banking on hustle, drive and desire from a largely unproven group. Maybe their improved pitching depth can carry them deeper into the season, and a few young players have bounce-back or breakthrough years.

Perhaps there are more big names here, and we just dont know it yet. But after all the hype about a game-changing hire in the front office, were about to find out. The focus will drift away from Epstein. The Cubs are stepping off the red carpet of stadium club press conferences and into the arena.

Thats the nature of the offseason, Epstein said. It really just boils down to a whole lot of talk and sometimes writing some checks. (But) this game is about what happens between the white lines and organizations are built or broken by what happens (there). This is what were all about, and now the real work begins.

Predicting Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 5: 'Why not us?'

Predicting Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 5: 'Why not us?'

"NOT IN OUR HOUSE!" a Cubs coach yelled as he walked through the media throng awaiting entry into the clubhouse.

There was Kyle Schwarber standing at his locker, emphatically saying, "we're not gonna go down quietly."

There was Jake Arrieta, already making plans for what he would do to celebrate after the Cubs beat the Dodgers in the NLCS.

What a difference a day makes.

The Cubs looked completely beat and worn down after Game 3 Tuesday night. Kris Bryant echoed the same line — "why not us?" — he delivered last fall when the Cubs were down three games to one in the World Series, but this time, it just didn't feel the same.

Bryant looked shellshocked and admitted the team was drained after the NLDS and traveling across country to get steamrolled by the Dodgers in the first two games of the NLCS.

Wednesday night, things were different.

Even though the offense still hasn't broken out. 

Even though all the Cubs' runs still came off early homers — they have yet to score in this series not off a longball.

Even though Wade Davis is unavailable for Game 5 Thursday — the Cubs haven't won a game this postseason in which Davis did not pitch.

Even though the best pitcher on the planet — Clayton Kershaw — awaited the Cubs Thursday night at Wrigley Field.

The belief was back in the home clubhouse at Wrigley, even if it was just for one day.

But was it just for one day? 

I've been saying it all fall — the only time this Cubs team has played up to their potential is when they've had their backs against the wall. Your back couldn't possibly get more against the wall when down 0-3 in the NLCS, a deficit only one team in baseball history has come back from.

Conceivably, yes, the Cubs can pull this off. They can climb all the way out of this hole and make a second straight World Series.

If any team can do it, it's the group that erased the longest championship drought in American sports history and did it in the most dramatic way imaginable.

Will the Cubs be able to pull it off? 

I have no idea, honestly. I know that's a cop-out, but screw predictions at this point of the postseason. 

There's a very real possibility the Cubs offense finally breaks out and takes one more step toward writing this team's entry into the baseball history books.

There's also a very real possibility Kershaw comes out and slams the door on any talk of Cubs magic and finally pitches his way into the World Series for the first time.

Either way, the build-up to Thurday night around Wrigleyville is gonna be fun as hell.

In another huge playoff moment, Wade Davis stays cool while everything else around Cubs goes crazy

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USA TODAY

In another huge playoff moment, Wade Davis stays cool while everything else around Cubs goes crazy

This became a three-ring circus on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, Cubs manager Joe Maddon screaming at the umpires, the video board showing the replay of Curtis Granderson’s swing and the crowd of 42,195 booing and chanting “BULLS#$!!”

The Los Angeles Dodgers are still in command of this National League Championship Series, but the Cubs won’t go quietly into the offseason, unleashing All-Star closer Wade Davis for the final two innings of a 3-2 thriller that kept them alive for at least another night.

The Cubs can worry about the daunting task of winning three more elimination games in the morning. Once Davis forced Cody Bellinger into the double-play groundball that left Justin Turner stranded in the on-deck circle and this one ended at 11:16 p.m., he pulled at his right sleeve and buttoned the top of his jersey while waiting for the Cubs to start the high-five line. “Go Cubs Go” blasted from the stadium’s sound  system and fireworks erupted beyond the center-field scoreboard and Davis acted as if nothing had happened.

To put the idea of beating the Dodgers three times in a row in perspective, the Cubs blasted three homers and got a classic big-game performance out of Jake Arrieta and still needed Davis for a heart-stopping, high-wire act.

Maddon already ruled out Davis for Thursday night’s Game 5 after the closer fired 48 pitches – or four more than he did during last week’s seven-out save that eliminated the Washington Nationals. But at least the Cubs will have those decisions to make instead of cleaning out their lockers.

“I don’t know,” Davis said. “We’ll definitely come in tomorrow and get some treatment and go out and play catch and see how I feel.”

It looks like Davis doesn’t feel anything on the mound. Davis didn’t react to Turner chucking his bat and yelling into the visiting dugout after crushing a 94-mph fastball for a home run to begin the eighth inning. Davis didn’t seem bothered by Yasiel Puig flipping his bat after drawing a walk. And Davis never lost his composure while Maddon got ejected for the second time in four NLCS games.

Maddon flipped out at home plate umpire Jim Wolf – and really the entire crew – when what was initially called a swinging strike three on Granderson got overturned and ruled a foul tip.

“Wade doesn’t care about any of that,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “That’s the right guy to have on the mound. With the mentality he has, he’s going to strike the guy out on the next pitch. Obviously with the replay, it’s not easy to keep your composure. But he’s just different. He’s a different animal.”

While the fans at Wrigley Field got loud and turned angry, Davis chatted with catcher Willson Contreras: “I was just trying to think of the next pitch I was going to throw if he ended up staying in the box.”

Davis got Granderson (0-for-4, four strikeouts) swinging at strike four, walked Yasmani Grandal and then blew away Chase Utley with a 95.1-mph fastball, needing 34 pitches to finish the eighth inning. Davis wasn’t finished, using a Kris Bryant bat to hit against Dodger lefty Tony Cingrani, fouling off five pitches before striking out looking at a 94.9-mph fastball.

“Yeah, I gave up there after a little bit,” Davis said with a look that sort of resembled a smile. “He was bringing it pretty good, and I hadn’t seen a baseball in a while coming in like that.”

If the Cubs are going to match the 2004 Boston Red Sox – the only other team to come back from an 0-3 deficit since the LCS format expanded to seven games in 1985 – they are going to need the offense to generate more runs, a great start from Jose Quintana on Thursday night and someone else to run out of the bullpen. Not that Davis is ruling himself out for Game 5.

“Go get some sleep and then come in tomorrow and start getting ready,” Davis said.