Cubs

The next U.S. Ryder Cup captain will be...

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The next U.S. Ryder Cup captain will be...

From Comcast SportsNetIn the two months since a stunning loss in the Ryder Cup, the PGA of America talked about doing things differently when selecting its next captain.Tom Watson certainly would break the mold.Golf Digest reported on its website Tuesday night that the PGA of America plans to pick Watson, celebrated worldwide as an eight-time major champion and revered in Scotland where he won four of his five British Open titles."We look forward to sharing the news of the 2014 Ryder Cup captain on Thursday," PGA spokesman Julius Mason said when asked for comment.The PGA of America spares no expense or amount of glitz when it comes to the Ryder Cup, and that much hasn't changed. Instead of a standard news conference, it will introduce its next captain Thursday morning during a segment on the "Today" show on NBC, the longtime broadcast partner at the Ryder Cup.Later, it will have a news conference in the Empire State Building.Watson will be 65 when the Ryder Cup is played at Gleneagles, Scotland, making him by oldest captain in U.S. history. Sam Snead was 57 when he was captain in 1969. Watson has not played a full PGA Tour schedule in 14 years, though he is still capable of showing the young kids a thing or two as one of the cleanest ball-strikers in history. Remember, it was only three years ago that Watson stood 8 feet away from capturing the British Open at Turnberry at age 59.Stranger still, he says he has not been to a Ryder Cup since he last was captain in 1993 at The Belfry, which also was the last time the Americans won in Europe. And his relationship with Tiger Woods is much like how the weather can be in Scotland in the early fall -- cold and damp.He would be the first repeat captain since Jack Nicklaus in 1987 on his home course of Muirfield Village.Watson said over the weekend at the Australian Open that it would be a "great honor if I got tapped on the shoulder," though he said he had not spoken to the PGA.The organization risks some fallout.By taking a veteran of Watson's age would be to overlook Larry Nelson for the second time. Nelson is a three-time major champion -- twice at the PGA Championship -- who did not take up golf seriously until he returned from the Vietnam War. He had 9-3-1 record in the Ryder Cup and won all five of his matches in 1979, beating Seve Ballesteros in four of those matches. At least two former captains lobbied the PGA on behalf of Nelson, who was in line to be a captain in the 1990s.Nelson is scheduled to play in the Father-Son Challenge pro-am Thursday and Friday in Orlando, Fla.For the last 30 years, it was easy to predict the next American captain. The PGA of America tended to choose a former major champion still moderately active on the PGA Tour, which keeps him in touch with the current players. That ordinarily would point toward former PGA champion David Toms, though there has been discussion among PGA officials over the last month that Toms could wait until 2016 without any future candidate, such as Jim Furyk or Phil Mickelson, losing his turn.PGA president Ted Bishop has said he wants only to win the Ryder Cup. Europe has captured the cup seven of the last nine times, the most recent loss one of the most painful. The Americans had a 10-6 advantage at Medinah only to lose on the final day when everything went right for Europe and just as much went wrong for the home team.Love had said he wouldn't change anything about the week except the outcome, though he did not want to return as captain -- at least not for 2014."I can guarantee you it won't be me," Love said about the next captain.Paul Azinger was captain of the only U.S. team to win the Ryder Cup in the last 13 years, using a unique system of "pods" in which players were broken into groups of four. There was talk that he should take the U.S. team over to Scotland, though Azinger said in a text message to The Associated Press he had not been in touch with the PGA of America.Watson told reporters in Australia he had not been back to the Ryder Cup since those 93 matches at The Belfry."I'd like to go back as captain," Watson said. "That would be cool."But it might not be ideal for America's most famous player -- Woods -- who has a frosty relationship with Watson, even though both are Stanford alumni. Watson was highly critical in the aftermath of Woods' personal life crisis, saying he needed to show more humility and fewer tantrums."I think he needs to clean up his act and show the respect for the game that other people before him have shown," Watson said in early 2010.The selection could have ramifications in Europe, too. Watson is so highly regarded in Scotland -- in all of Europe, for that matter -- that Europe might want to counter with a popular captain of its own. Darren Clarke, who won the British Open last year for his first major and is a man of the people, is under consideration with Paul McGinley. Europe is not expected to announce its captain until January at the earliest."Obviously if Tom does get it he is one of the legends of the game and I am sure he would be a fantastic captain not just to the team but to all aspects of the Ryder Cup," Clarke said Wednesday at the Australian PGA. "The man is a huge name in the world of golf and rightly so, I think he would make a fantastic captain for America."

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.