Giants

Obama celebrates World Series champion Chicago Cubs at White House

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AP

Obama celebrates World Series champion Chicago Cubs at White House

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama celebrated the World Series champion Chicago Cubs on Monday and spoke about the power sports has to unite people.

"Throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together even when the country is divided,"Obama said at a White House ceremony for his hometown team. "Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle but that ultimately made us think differently about ourselves."

"It is a game and celebration," he said, and noted that "there's a direct line between Jackie Robinson and me standing here." Robinson, a second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers, broke Major League Baseball's color line to become its first black player.

The White House event came four days before Obama hands the presidency over to Donald Trump following one of the most divisive elections in recent memory.

It also follows a weekend in which civil rights icon John Lewis said he didn't consider Trump a legitimate president because of Russian meddling in the election. Trump responded on Twitter by criticizing Lewis as "all talk" and suggesting the Democratic congressman take better care of his Georgia district.

Obama has a home in Chicago, but is a longtime White Sox fan. He rooted for the Cubs after the Sox failed to reach the playoffs.

His wife, first lady Michelle Obama, however, is a lifelong Cubs fan. She greeted Cubs players before the ceremony, which Obama noted was her first appearance at some of the roughly 50 events he has hosted for championship college and professional sports teams.

The Cubs gave Obama two baseball jerseys — home and away — with the number 44, among other gifts. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo also wears the number, and Obama referred to Rizzo as "my fellow 44."Obama is the nation's 44th president.

Obama said it will be hard for him to wear the jersey, but told the Cubs: "Do know that among Sox fans I am the Cubs' No. 1 fan."

Hours after the Cubs won the series in November, Obama asked the team on Twitter if it wanted to visit the White House before his term ends Friday.

The World Series title was the first for the Cubs since 1908, and they won it by defeating the Cleveland Indians in seven games.

'No red flags' for six injured Giants six weeks into the offseason

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AP

'No red flags' for six injured Giants six weeks into the offseason

SAN FRANCISCO -- A few hours before the Giants named Farhan Zaidi their new president of baseball operations, assistant general manager Jeremy Shelley stood in the lobby of the Omni Resort in Carlsbad and looked down at a notecard full of names. He had been asked about the large collection of Giants who finished the season on crutches or in slings. 

"No red flags," he said.

Zaidi's first order of business will be to build depth for a team that was crushed by injuries in 2018. That effort will be helped by the fact that all of the rehabbing Giants appear to be doing well. They're all on schedule, or in some cases, a little ahead.

It starts with catcher Buster Posey, of course. He's off his crutches and walking normally two and a half months after major hip surgery. Posey has been rehabbing five days per week in the Bay Area, and remains on pace to start baseball work in January.

Shelley said Posey "definitely" will be ready for activity in spring training, as the Giants had anticipated all along.

When Posey shows up in Scottsdale, he'll at some point run into Johnny Cueto. The right-hander is back in the Dominican Republic right now after months of rehab work in Arizona. He'll continue physical therapy at his offseason home and return to Scottsdale in February to begin a throwing program. There's still a chance that Cueto, who had Tommy John surgery, can return for a few starts at the end of next season.

First baseman Brandon Belt, who had a knee cleanup, is off his crutches and doing well. Steven Duggar (shoulder surgery), the likely Opening Day center fielder, just finished his rehab work in Arizona. He'll return to be checked later this month and then start a hitting program the first week of January. Austin Slater went down the last week of the season with an elbow sprain, but the young outfielder has started a throwing program and also is on schedule. 

Finally, there's a player who never made it back to the big leagues after a concussion. Shelley said Mac Williamson was cleared of symptoms in September and has had a normal offseason.

"He should be on schedule to compete for a job in spring training," Shelley said.

Williamson is out of options, so next spring is a big one for a player who looked headed for a breakout before he went down.

Manny Machado doesn't fit with Giants even if they clear infield space

Manny Machado doesn't fit with Giants even if they clear infield space

SAN FRANCISCO -- Around the country, MLB executives currently are having the debate. Is Manny Machado worth $300 million? Is he a better bet than Bryce Harper? Should we be wary of a player who had a postseason filled with questionable decisions, and openly admits that he isn't big on hustling?

The Giants won't have any of these discussions. 

They are one of the few big-market organizations out on Machado -- the star shortstop/third baseman -- from the start, and not because of financial concerns. 

Machado's preference is to play shortstop, and the Giants have a homegrown three-time Gold Glove Award winner who is signed through 2021 and is one of the franchise's cornerstones. Oh, and just in case you were tempted to try and get creative, Brandon Crawford has a full no-trade clause.

Machado probably should move back to third, where he was one of the best defensive talents the game has seen. At shortstop, he was simply passable, according to metrics and scouts. Even at third base, though, he is blocked in San Francisco. Evan Longoria had a down year, but he is signed through 2022, and that contract wouldn't be easy to move.

It's here that we should stop and acknowledge the most interesting part of the Machado/Giants conversation. He isn't a fit, but when the Giants hired Farhan Zaidi away from the Dodgers, multiple people familiar with his past work noted that one of his first orders of business will be to try and get out from under some contracts. One predicted outright that he will find a way to ultimately trade Longoria's contract. The more likely targets early on will be Brandon Belt and Jeff Samardzija, if the latter can prove he's healthy.

Sound unlikely? The Dodgers swapped bad salaries with the Braves a year ago and managed to stumble upon an All-Star season from Matt Kemp in the process. 

None of this makes Machado any more likely to wear orange and black. If Zaidi, who saw Machado firsthand last season, is able to find takers for some big contracts, he won't turn around and hand another player $300 million. He'll look for breathing room and flexibility. 

Machado will take up the biggest chunk of some team's budget, but even if the Giants had an open spot on their infield, Zaidi likely would back away. Don't forget what he said about the Giants' roster construction on the day he was introduced.

"The No. 1 thing that stands out to me is the importance of selfless play in baseball," he said. "We're in a baseball culture at an amateur level where there's a little bit of a showcase culture and a lot of emphasis on individual performance over the team. I think when you can create a culture where players put team over the individual, that can be a competitive advantage."

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Wednesday is dedicated to free agent infielder Manny Machado.