Cubs

Is the NBA season in jeopardy?

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Is the NBA season in jeopardy?

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Unable to reach a deal, NBA owners and players walked away from the table and don't know when they will meet again. If it's not in the next few days, they can forget about playing 82 games. Without an agreement by Monday, the beginning of the regular season will be canceled, and both sides will lose millions of dollars and perhaps countless fans. "We're ready to meet and discuss any subject anyone wants to talk about," Commissioner David Stern said. "We'd like not to lose the first two weeks of the season, but it doesn't look good." Though the financial gap closed slightly, once the players' association said it wouldn't entertain the idea of a 50-50 revenue split, the league canceled the remainder of the preseason Tuesday and will wipe out the first two weeks of the regular season if there is no labor agreement by Monday. "We were not able to make the progress that we hoped we could make and we were not able to continue the negotiations," Stern said after nearly four hours of talks between owners and players ended without gaining ground on a new deal. No further meetings are scheduled -- union executive director Billy Hunter said it could be a month or two until the next one -- making it even more likely the league will lose games to a work stoppage for the first time since 1998-99, when the season was reduced to 50 games. Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said owners offered players a 50-50 split of basketball-related income. That's still well below the 57 percent that players were guaranteed under the previous collective bargaining agreement, but more than the 47 percent union officials said was formally proposed to them. The only numbers that matter now, however, are the millions that stand to be lost when arenas go dark. "The damage will be enormous," Silver said. Players had offered to reduce their BRI guarantee to 53 percent, which they said would have given owners back more than 1 billion over six years. They say they won't cut it further, at least for now. And they insist the 50-50 concept wasn't an even split, because it would have come after the league had already deducted 350 million off the top. "Today was not the day for us to get this done," players' association president Derek Fisher said. "We were not able to get close enough to close the gap." With superstars like Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett standing behind him, Hunter said the players' proposal would have made up at least 200 million per season -- a sizable chunk of the 300 million owners said they lost last season. "Our guys have indicated a willingness to lose games," Hunter said. The sides are also still divided on the salary-cap structure. Training camps were postponed and 43 preseason games scheduled for Oct. 9-15 were canceled on Sept. 24. Both sides said they felt pressure to work toward a deal with deadlines looming before more cancellations would be necessary. Stern said the owners had removed their demand for a hard salary cap, were no longer insisting on salary rollbacks, and would have given players the right to opt out of a 10-year agreement after seven years. But the money split was always going to be the biggest hurdle in these negotiations, with owners insistent on the ability to turn a profit after the league said 22 of its 30 teams lost money last season. "We want to and have been willing to negotiate, but we find ourselves at a point today where we in some ways anticipated or expected to be, faced with a lockout that may jeopardize portions if not all of our season," Fisher said. After hardly budging off their original proposal for 1 years, owners finally increased their offer to players from 46 to 47 percent of BRI. It was then that the top negotiators discussed the 50-50 concept, and while Stern sounded disappointed that it didn't work, Silver was more frustrated. "I am not going to get a good night sleep," he said. "After this afternoon's session, I would say I'm personally very disappointed. I thought that we should have continued negotiating today and I thought that there was potentially common ground on a 50-50 deal. I think it makes sense, it sounds like a partnership. There still would have been a lot of negotiating to do on the system elements, but I'm personally very disappointed." On what both sides stressed was an important day, the owners' entire 11-man labor relations committee came to New York to meet with 11 players. They could still work something out before Monday's deadline, but neither side sounded optimistic. "Right now, we had our committees, we gave it a really good run, and it didn't work," Stern said. Hunter said the union would hold regional meetings with its players, set up workout centers and help in other ways. And many players -- including Bryant, who has been in talks with an Italian team -- will have to decide if they want to explore playing overseas. And without a deal, the battle could go to the courts. Hunter said the union would have to consider decertification, and on Tuesday a federal court judge scheduled a hearing for Nov. 2 to hear arguments in the league's lawsuit against the players seeking a declaration that the lockout doesn't violate antitrust laws. All things both sides hoped to avoid Tuesday. "It wasn't to be, and we don't have any plans right now," Stern said.

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.