Addison Russell arrives ahead of schedule for red-hot Cubs


Addison Russell arrives ahead of schedule for red-hot Cubs

Addison Russell could be the poster child if the 2015 Cubs are ahead of schedule.

Deep down, Russell probably would have considered this a good year if he stayed healthy and productive at Triple-A Iowa, got a September call-up and put himself in position to make the 2016 Opening Day lineup.

“No, I didn’t see any of this stuff,” Russell said. “I really wasn’t even expecting to be up in the league this year. It just kind of goes back to my work ethic. I just try to get better. The Cubs gave me this opportunity. I’m just trying to take full advantage of it.

“It’s been a hard year, (but) things are looking up.”

No doubt, the Cubs have felt the growing pains and understand they aren’t a lock for the playoffs yet. But after Saturday’s 6-3 victory over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, it would only take a 23-24 finish for the Cubs to reach 90 wins.

[MORE: Arrieta leads the charge as Cubs keep right on winning]

White Sox fans will have to get used to the idea of seeing Russell, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler for years to come. That group of rookies doesn’t even include Anthony Rizzo, a National League MVP candidate who just turned 26 and could remain under club control through the 2021 season.

This is the baseball nightmare on the South Side: The Cubs morphing into a perennial contender at a renovated Wrigley Field and becoming the game’s biggest story.

It’s misleading to say the Cubs are now a season ahead of schedule in Year 4 of the Theo Epstein administration. There have been so many recalibrations between the franchise’s financial situation, three different managers in three seasons and the unpredictable nature of scouting and player development.

“I don’t think it’s quite that simple,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “I do feel like this year was always a little bit of a land of uncertainty. You don’t know what to expect when you have effectively four rookies that are playing every day. You don’t know how well these guys are going to come along.

“It doesn’t surprise me what these guys are doing. But I think us expecting them to do it would have been probably a little bit unfair. So I don’t believe in the year-too-early (idea).

“We’re playing good baseball right now. But expecting these guys to produce at this level – at this age – would have (been) unfair to them.”

[MORE: Cubs-White Sox could use more Pedro Strop vs. Alexei Ramirez]

Russell is still just 21 and has only 14 Triple-A games on his resume. He was playing at Double-A Tennessee at this time last year after that blockbuster Jeff Samardzija trade with the Oakland A’s.

Russell is now the everyday shortstop for a legitimate contender that has won nine games in a row and 15 of its last 16.

In front of a sellout crowd on Saturday night, Russell sparked the Cubs with a two-out double in the third inning, driving a ball into the left-field corner and scoring on Dexter Fowler’s double down the right-field line to make it a 1-1 game.

Russell drove a two-out, ground-rule double over the left-field fence in the fifth inning, scoring the go-ahead run from second base when Schwarber singled into right field (after the White Sox decided to intentionally walk Fowler). As Russell slid into home plate, his left foot just beat the tag from White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers.

“You can just kind of see the fire in (our) eyes,” Russell said. “We all want to compete. We all want to win. We’re trying our best to make a big impact on this team. We’re just trying to do the small things, make the routine plays and just help the team win.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Russell basically learned how to play second base on the fly this season and handled what could have been a difficult situation with Starlin Castro moving off shortstop.

“You just have to dust off the cobwebs,” Russell said. “I think that’s my natural position. I believe that I can be even better there.”

Remember when the narrative became the Cubs eventually hitting the rookie wall?

“We definitely have to step it up,” Russell said. “We’re competing right now. That’s all we need to try to do – give 110 percent. Some days you’re not going to feel good. But you just have to push through it and do what’s best for the team.”

Bold predictions for the Cubs' 2019-20 offseason


Bold predictions for the Cubs' 2019-20 offseason

The Cubs are just a couple of weeks away from a pivotal offseason that could see a lot of change coming to Chicago's North Side.

Then again, we thought the same thing a year ago and it turned out Theo Epstein's biggest move last winter was signing Daniel Descalso to a two-year deal.

But after missing the playoffs in 2019, the Cubs are now at a crossroads as an organization. 

The NBC Sports Chicago crew previewed the offseason on the latest CubsTalk Podcast with some bold predictions for the winter.

Listen here and check out the fearless calls below:

(Note: Rationale and more context on each bold prediction in the podcast.)

David Kaplan

1. Cubs are going to take a page out of the Yankees' book and retool on the fly rather than go all-in to contend in 2020.
2. Jose Quintana has thrown his last pitch as a Cub.
3. This will be the second-to-last offseason for Theo Epstein as the Cubs president of baseball operations.

Kelly Crull 

1. Cubs re-sign Nick Castellanos and trade away Kyle Schwarber.
2. Tyler Chatwood will be in the 2020 rotation.
3. John Lackey will be named quality assurance coach on David Ross's coaching staff. (Kidding, but only kind of...)

Tony Andracki

1. Before the Cubs play a Spring Training game, Javy Baez will sign an extension that will keep him in Chicago through at least 2023.
2. Willson Contreras will be traded this winter and the Cubs will get some much-needed pitching help in return.
3. Cubs sign Howie Kendrick this winter as the professional bat and lefty-masher they craved in 2019.
4. Ben Zobrist will return on a one-year deal and finish his playing career in a Cubs uniform.
5. David Bote, Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell will all be traded or non-tendered this winter as the Cubs remake their bench/depth.

Jeff Nelson

1. Willson Contreras will sign a contract extension.
2. Ben Zobrist will return as a player/coach.
3. Jose Quintana will be traded for minor league depth.
4. Terrance Gore will be signed to be the 26th man on the roster under the new rules.

Theo Epstein’s dog damages Arizona rental property with excessive urine

USA Today

Theo Epstein’s dog damages Arizona rental property with excessive urine

In the midst of an intensive hiring process for the new Cubs manager, Theo Epstein is being sued by an Arizona couple claiming Epstein’s dog, Winston, damaged their house. The cause of damage? Peeing excessively inside the property Epstein rented for spring training in 2015.

Yes, you read that right, Epstein’s dog peed so much he’s being sued.

The lawsuit was filed this Tuesday in Maricopa County, according to the Phoenix New Times, citing Epstein’s dog left “a terrible odor and urine-stained carpeting” in the Paradise Valley, Ariz., home where he and his family stayed.

Winston is a rescue mutt, weighing in at around ten pounds. He can’t pee that much, right?

The lawsuit states the dog "peed prolifically in the $1 million house, staining tile and stone flooring, wood door jams, cabinets, and furniture."

John and Mary Valentino referenced a 2017 quote by Epstein as proof that Winston had a peeing problem. When asked about being named the world’s greatest leader by Fortune magazine after the Cubs 2016 World Series win, Epstein said: “I can’t even get my dog to stop peeing in the house.”

Epstein left the rental property two weeks early due to a scorpion infestation later was shown a repair estimate of $51,405, according to the report.

Julian Green, the Cubs vice president of communications, told the New Times the lawsuit was “baseless.” He also said that an exterminator discovered 45 scorpions on the property that “put (Epstein’s) family at risk every time they put their children to sleep.” The Epsteins moved into a different house for the last two weeks of spring training.

The owners kept the $5,000 security deposit, and according to a source the Epsteins did not hear from them again for more than four years until the suit was filed Tuesday.

When asked about the lawsuit, Epstein replied, “As I said, we have no untouchables. Winston is definitely available in the right trade.”

We’ll be keeping tabs on this story as it unfolds. In the meantime, it’s good to see Epstein still has a sense of humor, even with a dog urine lawsuit and a Cubs managerial search on the line.

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