Cubs

While others hit reset button, Cubs waiting for game-changers

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While others hit reset button, Cubs waiting for game-changers

The Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox have slammed the reset button while the Cubs patiently wait for game-changers like a renovated Wrigley Field, a new television deal and their homegrown core to get to the big leagues.

As Jeffrey Loria stepped onto a down escalator at the Hyatt Regency OHare, one pack of reporters followed him down the stairs. Another media group came at the Marlins owner from the left flank once he got to the ground floor.

Loria went to open the wrong door on Wednesday and got turned around trying to find the right conference room for Major League Baseballs ownership meetings. He was wearing loud, thick sunglasses indoors, with lenses that literally looked rose-colored.

Not today boys, Loria said dismissively. If you havent figured it out yet, Im not going to figure it out for you.

Loria has left South Florida taxpayers in the dark, using public money to help build the Marlins Park spaceship in Little Havana, triggering an SEC investigation. Not to mention the big-ticket free agents he signed to back-loaded contracts without no-trade clauses, like Gold Glove left-hander Mark Buehrle (four years, 58 million) and All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes (six years, 106 million).

Commissioner Bud Selig said the deal hadnt yet been submitted for his final approval, but the powerbrokers on layover inside this airport hotel in Rosemont were buzzing about the potential blockbuster 12-player trade between the Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays.

Well played, said Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, tipping his cap to an American League East rival set to acquire Reyes, Buehrle, pitcher Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck and utility guy Emilio Bonifacio.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts refused to stop and speak with beat writers and disappeared into meeting rooms throughout the day. Selig didnt want to take questions either, but will be asked about the Wrigley Field renovations and the role of the commissioners office in those negotiations during Thursdays news conference wrapping up the meetings.

From here, a new stadium plan and the television money that will pour in once the WGN contract expires after the 2014 season look like the biggest, boldest moves the Cubs could make in the near future.

By late August, the Red Sox had lost their way and didnt hesitate to trade away some of Theo Epsteins big-money guys Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett to a Los Angeles Dodgers team pumped up by a new ownership group and a huge upcoming television deal.

It takes two to tango, Lucchino said. You got to have a special situation on each side (to) have any sort of epic trade.

Toronto, which might be a top-five market, was looking to make a splash, send a message to the fan base and compete in a brutal division. The Marlins are in full retreat, and Selig will almost certainly be asked if Loria is fit to be a big-league owner.

New York Yankees president Randy Levine who in the past has criticized the idea of simply pocketing money from revenue sharing didnt complain about this mega-trade.

Theres a collective bargaining agreement, Levine said. As far as I understand, everybodys following the rules and teams are allowed to do what they want to do. (Just) from what I read I havent talked to anybody both sides think they improved. Thats what its all about.

Its interesting to note that after signing Scott Baker on Tuesday, Epstein was asked what the next rotation piece might look like, given that the right-hander recovering from Tommy John surgery received only a modest one-year, 5.5 million deal.

The Cubs president mentioned trades as one option a week after saying at the general manager meetings that the team wont have many trade options this winter.

This fire sale in Miami could change the entire landscape across baseball. Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco who is owed 11.5 million next season declined to comment when reached by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and sent this text message: Im next anyways. Its also worth monitoring Logan Morrisons Twitter feed for reactions.

Wherever the Cubs go the rest of this winter remember its still a week away from Thanksgiving they arent going to hit delete-all keys like the Marlins or the fast-forward button like the Red Sox.

Most every teams situation is different, Lucchino said. I wouldnt compare us to other clubs. I dont think many other clubs would compare themselves to us. Every team has its own distinctive market and its own special needs.

The Red Sox were reportedly discussing trade scenarios with the Marlins involving Reyes and Johnson. They now have a huge amount of financial flexibility to reshape their roster, as well as their image, and try to get back to the World Series.

We refuse to put a timetable on it, Lucchino said, but we sure dont have any five-year plans or anything like that.

The Cubs are looking at those types of windows. This was a little over a year after Epstein left Fenway Park, ending his power struggle with Lucchino and starting a compensation fight that dragged out into spring training. The Red Sox president sounded distant out of sight, out of mind? when asked about his relationship with Epstein and the Cubs now.

I think were on good terms with that organization, Lucchino said. Theyre in the other league, so we dont have a lot of direct dealings with them. Our view of the National League teams is quite different than our view of teams in the American League East. We think about them much more often.

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.