Cubs

Final MLB Power Rankings: Giants No. 1, but who's No. 2?

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Final MLB Power Rankings: Giants No. 1, but who's No. 2?

Each Monday throughout the regular season, Cubs Talk's Tony Andracki and White Sox Talk's JJ Stankevitz ranked all 30 MLB teams. These are the final power rankings -- be sure to check out previous rankings below and offer up your comments to us on Twitter @CubsTalkCSN and @WhiteSoxTalkCSN.

Previous rankings: Preseason Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 First Half Week 15 Week 16 Week 17 Week 18 Week 19 Week 20 Week 21 Week 22 Week 23 Week 24 Week 25 Regular Season

Tony
JJ Comments 1
Tony: Well, duh. They deserve it. Clearly the best team right now.
JJ: Two titles in three years. Good on you, San Francisco.
2
Tony: Don't deserve No. 2 slot, but WS runner-ups have to be, right?
JJ: Best team in baseball in regular season. Bullpen collapse doesn't erase that.
3
Tony: Had a second straight magical year, led NL in run differential.
JJ: Yep. National League had the three best teams in baseball.
4
Tony: Roster packed with talent...but it's an aging group. JJ: Got hot late after plenty of mediocre play.
5
Tony: Really wish they coulda won it all. Great story.
JJ: Incredible run to win the West deserves top-5 love.
6
Tony: Were my NL favorites from start of preseason. Love the core.
JJ: One controversial loss does not make a season. 7
Tony: Called it from outset -- postseason success won't come 'til 2013.
JJ: One loss does not make a season. 8
Tony: I put their chances of repeating at...4 percent.
JJ: Did well to win East, but offense totally tanked in playoffs.
9
Tony: Can they actually play more than one playoff game next year?
JJ: Apparently they play better with backs against the wall.
10
Tony: Everybody's due an off-year, right? World Series or bust in '13.
JJ: No matter what happens next year, '12 was a special year for O's.
11
Tony: My pick to win AL East next year.
JJ: Best team to miss playoffs. Thought about ranking them higher.
12
Tony: Can they really get by without Haren or Ervin?
JJ: Now we sit and wait to see if Trout gets the MVP.
13
Tony: Roster will be loaded next year.
JJ: All that money better pay off in 2013.
14
Tony: Sad end to the season. Will they challenge again in '13?
JJ: 85 wins not bad, but missing playoffs still disappointed.
15
Tony: Really think they should have hung on to Victorino, Pence.
JJ: Great AugustSeptember run fell short.
16
Tony: Will come on fast and furious next year.
JJ: Brutal spate of injuries doomed a talented team.
17
Tony: Norichika Aoki looks like a solid piece.
JJ: Has nothing to do with '12, but don't like the Bell trade at all.
18
Tony: Need to trade young talent for some major-league caliber offense.
JJ: Have some good pieces coming along, but can't fold in August again.
19
Tony: Once young pitching comes along, will be annual contender.
JJ: Like what they're building, but Headley's future is interesting.
20
Tony: Can they ever get over the hump?
JJ: Will moving the fences in help generate some more offense?
21
Tony: Really excited to see how they do next year.
JJ: So. Many. Injuries.
22
Tony: Should be more drama-free next year, at the very least.
JJ: Won't get over the hump until they find some pitching.
23
Tony: Should trade some offense for pitching. Maybe deal with SEA?
JJ: Continue to wallow in mediocrity.
24
Tony: Need to find a way to retain Wright.
JJ: We'll see if Farrell can clean up the mess.
25
Tony: Like Boston, will have much less drama in 2013.
JJ: Baseball's biggest disappointment, and now Ozzie's out of a job.
26
Tony: Don't appear to be anywhere close to a contender.
JJ: Were just awful after the All-Star break.
27
Tony: What is their goal? Are they technically rebuilding?
JJ: Echo Tony's sentiments -- what, exactly, are they doing?
28
Tony: Full season with Tulo, CarGo, Fowler, Rutledge will be interesting.
JJ: Pitching wound up looking like those bad pre-2007 teams.
29
Tony: What if everything goes right next year?
JJ: Gonna be a few years, but like the foundation being built.
30
Tony: Going to be a looooong couple of years, esp in AL West.
JJ: Long way to go, but have a talented front office for the job.

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

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USA TODAY

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

The Cubs now apparently believe they are a stronger organization without Chris Bosio, firing a pitching coach known for his strong convictions, brutal honesty and bottom-line results in a move that doesn’t seem like an actual solution.

Hiring Jim Hickey – who has a good reputation from his years with the Tampa Bay Rays, a close friendship with Joe Maddon and what looks like a slam-dunk interview lined up for Monday – might make the manager feel more comfortable and less isolated.

But the new-voice/different-direction spin doesn’t fundamentally address the pitching issues facing a team that needs to replace 40 percent of the rotation and find an established closer and has zero expectations those answers will come from within the farm system.

This is an operation that won a seven-game World Series last year without a homegrown player throwing a single pitch.     

If the Cubs can say thanks for the memories and dump “Boz,” what about “Schwarbs?”

Advancing to the National League Championship Series in three straight seasons doesn’t happen without Bosio or Kyle Schwarber. But the fastest way for the Cubs to dramatically improve their pitching staff isn’t finding someone else who thinks it’s important to throw strikes. It could mean breaking up The Core and severing another emotional attachment.   

Theo Epstein saw Schwarber play for Indiana University and used the Fenway Park frame of reference, envisioning him as a combination of David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia with his left-handed power and energizer personality.

Epstein wasn’t the only Cubs official to develop a man-crush on Schwarber, but he’s the only one with ultimate control over baseball operations. Epstein’s style isn’t pounding the table as much as the ability to frame questions in the draft room, gather as many opinions as possible before the trade deadline and at the winter meetings, trying to form a consensus.

“I will say that it’s really an organization-wide evaluation of this player, but I’m not skirting responsibility,” Epstein said. “I’ll happily endorse him as the type of player that we want to win with here at the Cubs, and have won with. I don’t know, the fact that he hit 30 bombs in a bad year is a good start.

“But power is not everything. I think he fell into this year becoming more of a slugger and less of a hitter than he really is. It’s important for him to get his identity back as a dangerous hitter. Honestly, I think we feel he has the potential to be an all-around hitter on the level of an Anthony Rizzo. When he reaches his prime, that’s what he could be.”

Where will that be? As a designated hitter in the American League? That’s obvious speculation, but Schwarber has improved as an outfield defender – his strong throw at Dodger Stadium led to another NLCS Maddon Moment where the manager compared the Buster Posey Rule to the Chicago soda tax.      

A 43-45 record at the All-Star break also exposed some of the weaknesses in the clubhouse and downsides to Maddon’s methods. The Cubs flipped a switch in the second half, got hot in September and had the guts to beat the Washington Nationals in the playoffs. But that doesn’t completely wipe away the concerns about a group that at times seemed too casual and unfocused and didn’t play with enough edge. For better or worse, Schwarber approaches the game like a blitzing linebacker.

“He’s got a certain toughness and certain leadership qualities that are hard to find,” Epstein said, “and that we don’t necessarily have in surplus, in abundance, running around in this clubhouse, in this organization.

“A certain energy and grit and ability to bring people together – that’s important and we rely on it. But the biggest thing is his bat. We think he’s the type of offensive player that you build around, along with a couple other guys like him.”

Maddon would never admit it, but was the Schwarber leadoff experiment a mistake?

“I’ll judge that one based on the results and say yeah,” Epstein said. “I think we can talk about the process that went into it. Or in an alternate universe: Does it pan out? But those are just words. It didn’t work.

“Everything that went into Kyle’s really surprising and difficult first half of the season, we should look to correct, because that shouldn’t happen. He’s a way better hitter than that. What he did after coming back from Iowa proves it.”

In the same way that Maddon should own what happens with the next pitching coach, Epstein will ultimately have to decide Schwarber’s future.

Schwarber didn’t complain or pout when he got sent down to Triple-A Iowa this summer, finishing with 30 homers, a .782 OPS, a .211 batting average and a 30.9 strikeout percentage.    

Trading Schwarber would mean selling lower and take another team having the same gut instincts the Cubs did in the 2014 draft – and offering the talented, controllable starting pitcher that sometimes seems like a unicorn.

Is Schwarber still the legend from last year’s World Series? An all-or-nothing platoon guy? An intriguing trade chip? A franchise player? Eventually, the Cubs are going to find out.

“We have to look to do everything we can,” Epstein said, “and more importantly he has to look to do everything he can to get him to a point where he’s consistently the quality hitter and tough out and dangerous bat in the middle of the lineup that we know he can be.

“He wasn’t for the first half of this year – and he knows it and he feels awful about it. He worked his tail off to get back to having a pretty darn good second half and getting some big hits for us down the stretch.”

And then the offseason was only hours old by the time the Cubs showed they will be keeping an open mind about everything this winter, not afraid to make big changes.

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

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USA TODAY

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

It's become a tradition that Jake Arrieta shaves his beard after the season ends.

The 31-year-old did it again days after the Cubs were eliminated from the 2017 postseason, and it's still a sight we'll never be used to seeing.

Check it out:

Weird, right?

Here's how he looked following the Cubs' World Series win in 2016:

And again in 2015:

It's crazy how much younger he looks.