Cubs

At Penn State, one more chance to remember JoePa

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At Penn State, one more chance to remember JoePa

From Comcast SportsNetSTATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- The man in the white dress shirt, Penn State tie and rolled-up khakis jogged through the Beaver Stadium tunnel and on to the field before slowing down at the finish line -- the 50-yard-line.It was alumnus Gus Curtin's tribute to the iconic look once sported in the same stadium on fall weekends by the late coach Joe Paterno.A weekend during which the annual Blue-White spring game gave fans a glimpse into the Nittany Lions' future under new coach Bill O'Brien also allowed people like Curtin to remember the past. From the bouquets of blue-and-white carnations left at the bronzed Paterno statue outside the stadium to the charity 5K race run in Paterno's honor Sunday, fans paid tribute to the Hall of Fame coach who died in January at age 85."It's nice to know that the support and the love is all there, because all the people who love and support ... he's been a part of them for so many years," Paterno's widow, Sue Paterno, said before the race Sunday. "They're feeling a loss like we're feeling a loss. Our (loss) is maybe more acute."The spring football game marked the first event at the stadium since her husband's death. Many alumni still question the circumstances behind Paterno's ouster last November by university trustees in the aftermath of child sexual abuse charges against Jerry Sandusky.The retired defensive coordinator has maintained his innocence and awaits trial. Paterno testified before a grand jury investigating Sandusky that he relayed a 2002 allegation brought to him by a graduate assistant to his campus superiors, including the administrator overseeing the police department.Authorities have said Paterno wasn't a target of the probe. The Board of Trustees ousted him, citing in part a moral obligation to do more to alert authorities outside the school, and a "failure of leadership."Last week, Penn State agreed to provide millions in payments and benefits to Paterno's estate and family members under the late football coach's employment contract, although a family lawyer says the Paternos did not sign away their right to sue.But unless the subject came up in conversation, there were no outward displays by fans of protest against school administrators or trustees over the weekend. Fans were eager to see what the team looked like under O'Brien."It seems like he's genuinely excited to do new things and to put a good team out there, but he's also respectful of tradition," said Curtin, 39, of Annapolis, Md. "So far I like him."Inside the stadium, there were no apparent mentions during the spring game of Paterno's name over the sound system. No images of Paterno were seen on video boards.Like Curtin, dozens of alumni, students and other spectators wore attire that offered some kind of reminder of Paterno.Some people donned "Joe Knows Football" T-shirts, a play off the old Nike ad campaign slogan featuring Bo Jackson.Others wore T-shirts or sweatshirts that read "Team Paterno" on the front and "Make an Impact" on the back -- the latter phrase referencing a command from Joe Paterno's father, Angelo, to his son.The "Team Paterno" shirts were a gift to some donors for the cause of Sunday's race, Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, a charity long championed by Sue Paterno."We were in it together," Sue Paterno said when asked about the "Team Paterno" phrase. "I said, I help you all the time. Now you help me.' He got hooked ... It turned out to be a real good tagline this year."The charity said Sunday it hoped to raise nearly 300,000 from the race, which would triple the amount it raised last year."I'm 55 years-old, and I've never known another coach here," Rich Ellers, a lifelong season-ticket holder from Centre Hall, said Saturday at the Paterno statue. "His spirit will live on. He'll never be gone in that sense."The statue served as a gathering point for mourners after Paterno died, and visitors returned to the site in droves again this weekend. One effort organized by alumni left 409 bouquets of the blue-and-white carnations at the site -- one for each of Paterno's Division I-record career victories."Obviously I miss Joe," 2011 Penn State graduate Erin Davis said at the statue. "He's like a grandfather to this university."The small cemetery in State College where Paterno is buried has seen increased visitors since his death. Many well-wishers have left flowers there, too, and Penn State hats. Police say some mourners have held candlelight vigils. A family spokesman and police say there have been no major problems, though the cemetery last week decided to start closing at dusk.The Paterno family is planning to start a "Paterno Foundation" charity, from which sales of a DVD of the Jan. 26 memorial service for Paterno are being sold. The family has said proceeds will go to Special Olympics.Sue Paterno said she no plans to leave the modest ranch home in town where she and her husband raised their family. She plans to continue helping Special Olympics, including the state Summer Games held on the Penn State campus each year."Absolutely, they're my people," she said about working Special Olympians. "They become your buddies. This gives you a bigger family."Sue Paterno also offered backing to her husband's successor, the 42-year-old O'Brien. She called Penn State a "magic place.""The guy has got a job to do, and we've got to support him," Sue Paterno said. "Joe was in that position at one time, a little bit younger. But I hope (the O'Briens) love it here as much as we did."

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.