Ben Zobrist breaks down the 2017 Cubs so far

Ben Zobrist breaks down the 2017 Cubs so far

Just as the Cubs invested $155 million in Jon Lester to stabilize their pitching staff, Ben Zobrist has absolutely been the right player at the right time on the hitting side, setting an example with his patient approach, taking pressure off the rest of the lineup and driving away with a 50th anniversary edition convertible Camaro for his World Series MVP performance.

Zobrist commands respect in the clubhouse as a self-made player with an unselfish attitude who will turn 36 later this month and hasn’t slowed down yet. It’s hard to find a Cub with better big-picture perspective, given his roots in downstate Illinois, long journey from undrafted to All-Star, history with manager Joe Maddon and collection of World Series rings.

Zobrist doesn’t buy the target-is-bigger theory for the defending champs. It’s the new normal for a marquee team that went into Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field at 16-15 and in third place in the National League Central.

“It was pretty big last year as it was because of the moves in the offseason,” Zobrist said. “Everybody knows across the league how good we are, obviously, after watching last year. We’re kind of ‘the team’ to beat.

“If they’re going to beat any team – or say that they had a good series – they’re going to try to beat us. I think we’re getting everybody’s best. I felt like we were getting that in June last year, though.”

Zobrist has a unique ability to break down the team without overreacting or sugarcoating. He can criticize without making it personal and give context without making excuses.

As the Cubs faded last year – losing 15 of their last 20 games before the All-Star break – Zobrist explained the impact of a brutal schedule and how teams are “gunning for us” and suggested that trying to hit a Max Scherzer fastball 500 feet might not be a good idea.

When players started grumbling and second-guessing Maddon’s spring-training approach after the Cubs clinched the division title, Zobrist acknowledged the clubhouse frustration in a routine-oriented game and then pointed to the overall goal of staying fresh for October. 

Even if the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers have made strides in their rebuilding programs, how much faith do you have in those small-market teams playing .500 through September, much less adding at the trade deadline and winning 85-plus games?  

The Cubs possess the high-end talent and big-game experience to win playoff series, but a big idea behind this roster is having the redundancies and versatility to withstand the 162-game marathon.   

“We were exhausted,” Zobrist said, after playing 24 games in 24 days last summer. “But everybody it seemed like was throwing their best games and we were just kind of getting everybody’s best for that middle of the season. As the year wore on and everybody got tired, it was harder to keep pace with us, because we were just so deep.

“We’ve started this year a little bit – obviously – more tired than we were last year and these other teams are all geared up to play us. And it’s just taken us longer to kind of get it going and really answer the bell, so to speak.”

The pitching is an immediate concern and a long-term issue. Brett Anderson is on the disabled list again with an 8.18 ERA and Jake Arrieta and John Lackey are positioned to become free agents after this season. The Theo Epstein regime is still waiting to produce an impact homegrown pitcher.

But right now it’s hard to find a team more heavily and as successfully invested in offense. All the answers for this lineup will eventually have to come from within.

The Cubs have already played 13 one-run games, four that went into extra innings and five that ended in walk-off fashion. The Cubs have so far played only three games in a stadium with a roof (Miller Park) and zero in a warm-weather city. The first-pitch temperature at Wrigley Field has been 50 degrees or below 11 times through 16 home games.

“It’s tough to get bats going in any of that,” Zobrist said. “I think some of that’s just getting in the flow, kind of getting the feel of a new season.

“We’ll score a lot of runs (as) everybody gets hot. ‘KB’ (Kris Bryant) now is getting hot. (Anthony) Rizzo is going to get hot. All of us are going to get hot. And when it happens, it’s going to be scary how many runs we score.”

Chicago athletes react to nationwide unrest over George Floyd killing


Chicago athletes react to nationwide unrest over George Floyd killing

Chicago athletes are using their social media platforms to react to the nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis quoted Martin Luther King Jr., expressing sadness over the fallout, which has included riots in cities across the nation.

Saturday night, White Sox starter Lucas Giolito said it's "time to do better" and "time for true equality & justice for all Americans." Bulls guard Zach LaVine, who played three seasons in Minnesota, tweeted "this has been going on for hundreds of years now!"

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson tweeted Nike's response, a somber video calling on Americans to "all be part of the change." Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward shared the same video on his Instagram story.

Bulls big man Wendell Carter Jr. asked "Is it that hard to just do the right thing and love one another" on Twitter.

Cubs World Series hero Dexter Fowler posted a photo on Instagram reading "I can't breathe" Thursday, writing "This isn't right. This can't go on."

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Here’s the thing. I know it’s hard to fully grasp why black people are outraged. It’s hard to grasp unless you’ve seen people hold their purses tighter when you walk by, when you have people refer to you as “not black” when you’re not “ghetto”. When your parents have to give you a talk when you’re just a kid. “you can’t act like your white friends. you’ll get killed. they won’t” This is a generational discussion EVERY black family has. It terrifies you as a kid, and as an adult. You don’t understand why we know, those officers didn’t flinch at murdering that man, because he is black. The race card. We hold it. You tell us “it’s not about race” if we ever hold you to it. You don’t want us to have even that 1 bone chilling “privilege” of defense. You don’t want us to hold any privilege. We don’t hold the privilege of being a criminal, making a mistake, or simply taking a jog, the same as a white man, and being treated the same. He couldn’t breathe. He was murdered. They were gently fired from their jobs. This isn’t right. This can’t go on. (if you assume “you”, is you, and you’re upset about the generalization...... just think about that for a second)

A post shared by Dexter Fowler (@dexterfowler) on

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What a 2020 Cubs season might look like if MLB, union reach agreement

What a 2020 Cubs season might look like if MLB, union reach agreement

Assuming safety protocols are effective enough to allow teams to play in their home stadiums and prevent coronavirus outbreaks well enough to play the three-month MLB season and subsequent postseason, we took a shot, based on conversations with multiple industry sources, at answering how the Cubs might handle several logistical questions.

The nature of the COVID-19 pandemic makes any plan open to sudden and possibly dramatic change. But if the current trends don’t change significantly in the coming weeks and months, and the generally optimistic signals from local authorities continue, a baseball season in Chicago can start to at least be envisioned. 

And here are seven glimpses of what that vision might include — with an unexpected bonus to whet fan appetite at No. 4.

What a 2020 Cubs season might look like if MLB, union reach agreement

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