Cubs

Harvard reaches 1st NCAA Tourney since 1946

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Harvard reaches 1st NCAA Tourney since 1946

From Comcast SportsNet
PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) -- A year after stealing the Ivy League title from Harvard with a last-second shot, Princeton gave the Crimson the crown and an NCAA berth, and took no joy in doing it. Ian Hummer had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Tigers to a 62-52 victory over Pennsylvania on Tuesday night, giving Harvard the league title and its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1946. "It was an interesting game coming in," said Princeton senior forward Patrick Saunders, who scored 10 points. "We don't have much love for either team. So it's definitely nice to get a win but it's kind of tough to swallow, knowing that our win puts Harvard in the tournament." Penn (19-12, 11-3) needed to win the game to tie Harvard (26-4, 12-2) for the regular-season championship and force a one-game playoff for the league's automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. However, the Quakers came out flat, fell behind by 17 points early in the first half and never got over the hump. It allowed Harvard to celebrate a year after Princeton and Douglas Davis dashed their hopes in a playoff game with a last-second game-winner. "We are thrilled and honored to have an opportunity to compete in the 2012 NCAA tournament," Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said in a statement. "This is a tremendous moment for Harvard University, our basketball program and our community. Go Crimson!" Davis felt the same as Saunders. He took no joy in helping Harvard. However, he didn't want to help Penn, either. "I didn't feel right letting Penn win the Ivy League, or share the Ivy League title and win it on our home court," said Davis, who finished with 12 points. "This is a rivalry. Our rivalry with Penn goes way back. Harvard, they're good, but our rivalry is with Penn, so yeah. Harvard, yeah, they won the Ivy League, but Penn wasn't going to win it on our court." Princeton (19-11, 10-4) had some anxious moments in the second half, when Penn got to within 34-31 with 12:25 to play. Hummer then hit a 15-footer to ignite a 7-0 run and the Tigers closed out the game for their 17th straight league win at home. Penn coach Jerome Allen wasn't happy with the way his team played defensively and was disappointed to come up short of a title. "From the start of the game, (Princeton) really didn't have anything to play for other than to just be the spoilers," Allen said. "How can the team playing for nothing, play harder than the team that is supposedly playing for something. That's really what blew my mind. OK, the ball wasn't going in but defensively they just got whatever they wanted." Princeton shot 58.3 percent (21 of 36) for the game, including nearly 65 percent in the first half. Zack Rosen had 19 points on 8-of-24 shooting from the field for Penn. Miles Cartwright added 11 for the Quakers, who were held to 38.6 percent shooting from the field (22 of 57). "We blew our opportunity," Rosen said. "That's the bottom line. There is nothing past that to say." Hummer's jumper pushed the lead to 36-31 and T.J. Bray followed with a floater before Davis, playing in his final league contest, nailed a 3-pointer for a 41-31 advantage. Rosen sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a basket by Patrick Saunders to close the gap to 43-37, but the Quakers never got any closer. Princeton hit 11 of its first 15 shots and led by as many as 17 points in the first half before Rosen got the Quakers back in the game, scoring nine points in an 11-4 spurt to close the half. Penn had to work for almost every point and Rosen, who had 28 points in the Quakers' 82-67 win on Jan. 30, was the focal point of the Princeton defense. Penn's 17 first-half points were a season low and came on 8-of-24 shooting from the field. The Tigers finished the first half 11 of 17, or nearly 65 percent. Seven of those 11 baskets were layups, while three others came from long range. Hummer led the way with eight points.

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.