Cubs

Cubs and Alex Cobb keep looking like a match in free agency

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USA TODAY

Cubs and Alex Cobb keep looking like a match in free agency

It’s too easy to connect the dots between the Cubs and Alex Cobb, a team that needs to replace 40 percent of its rotation and a pitcher who came up with Joe Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays.

The day after new pitching coach Jim Hickey went on the team’s flagship radio station and told WSCR-AM 670 that he would recommend the free agent to Theo Epstein’s front office – “I would say, ‘Go ahead, good job, yeah, I’m onboard’ – Cobb appeared on MLB Network Radio and sounded ready to follow Maddon to Chicago.

“As much of an honor as it is to be given a qualifying offer,” Cobb said Friday, “to hear your name floating around (in) rumors with potential teams, and the magnitude or the (reputations) that some of these teams have for success, year in and year out, even the smallest inkling or the thought that they want you is even more of a humbling experience.

“I don’t hide the fact that I’ve got the most respect for Joe Maddon and what he did for me coming up as a player. Not so much as a pitcher on the mound, but as a professional athlete and a professional baseball player, and how to deal with the mental side of the game. And how to deal with the stresses that come with a big-league lifestyle.

“There’s nobody better in the game to control (that) and deal with people.”

Cobb is expected to decline the one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays, tipping his hand by telling MLB Network Radio: “You’re talking about, hopefully, a decision that’s going to impact the next five years of your life.”

That framework sounds a year or two too long for a guy who underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2015 and has never made 30 starts in a season or come close to reaching 200 innings. But Cobb just turned 30 last month, has only 700 innings on his major-league odometer and went 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA and a Gold Glove nomination this year.

Hickey can help fill in the blanks for the Cubs because he was there for Cobb’s rise through the Tampa Bay system, injuries issues and recovery process.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Cobb said. “He’s become – not only a pitching coach – but a real close friend of mine. Obviously, if we move down the line and we’re able to have some discussions with them, I’d be very honored to be able to talk with them and hopefully come to a deal.”

In the same way that Maddon may have gotten restless managing the small-market Rays, Cobb sounded eager to play for the kind of built-to-last team that won the 2016 World Series and advanced to the National League Championship Series in three consecutive seasons.

“You kind of make a ranking system of what is most important to you and your family,” Cobb said. “No. 1 and foremost – and me and my wife are both onboard with this – is that we’re going to go to a place that we feel is going to be winners for the length of the contract.

“I’ve been through both. I’ve been through losing seasons and I’ve been through winning seasons. And the amount of joy that winning brings to us – it can’t be replaced by a dollar figure.”

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

In the latest CubsTalk Podcast, Kelly Crull and David Kaplan look ahead to Thanksgiving and discuss the official coaching hires for the Cubs.

They also talk about where the Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, whether Alex Cobb could factor into the rotation plans and Kap goes off on the 11:30 a.m. Opening Day start time.

Check out the entire podcast here: