Cubs

Ben Zobrist brings World Series-or-bust mentality to Cubs

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Ben Zobrist brings World Series-or-bust mentality to Cubs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Ben Zobrist has spent most of his career as an under-the-radar player on underdog teams. Now he comes to Chicago as the big-name free agent with a World Series-or-bust mentality.

The Cubs realize the future is now and saw Zobrist as a missing piece to a contender that advanced to the National League Championship Series. That explains why Theo Epstein’s front office gave a four-year, $56 million contract to a super-utility guy who will turn 35 next season.

“I want to win a championship as a Chicago Cub,” Zobrist said during Wednesday’s press conference inside an Opryland ballroom. “That’s my one goal the next four years: We’ve got to win a championship and bring a World Series trophy back to Chicago.”

Zobrist had played nine seasons for Joe Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays, and the Cubs coveted him enough to try trading for him last winter and before the July 31 deadline. Zobrist grew up in downstate Illinois and wanted to stay in the Midwest because he keeps a home in Tennessee and would be able to access those short Nashville-to-Chicago flights.

Even with all that history, it still came down to a “split-second decision” for Zobrist when he got a phone call on Monday informing him the Cubs would be able to trade Starlin Castro to the New York Yankees, clear a spot at second base and sign a player they believe will help transform what can be an all-or-nothing lineup, a shaky defensive alignment and a chemistry experiment in the clubhouse.

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Octagon — the agency that represents Maddon and Zobrist — has a headquarters in downtown Chicago, and all sides needed to be patient as the Cubs essentially tried to trade Castro in a one-team vacuum. Only the youth-movement Yankees could absorb the $38 million guaranteed across the next four years, offer a high-upside pitcher in return (Adam Warren) and see the real potential in a three-time All-Star who hasn’t turned 26 yet.

Zobrist didn’t explicitly confirm reports that he had $60 million offers on the table, but the New York Mets, Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants simply couldn’t match the geographic fit, another opportunity to play for Maddon and the chance to make history.

“There were some other really good offers out there,” Zobrist said. “But I think in the end, the deal that I signed was exactly where I wanted to be, as far as money goes and the fact that it was the Cubs and the allure of not only playing in Wrigley, but also winning a championship in Chicago.

“It outdid a lot of the dollar-amount figures in my mind. So when I got a good offer from ‘em, I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”

For the record, Zobrist grew up rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals and will now be on the other side of a rivalry that keeps heating up.

“A lot of my family is split,” Zobrist said. “Some of them are really happy, and some of them are really mad right now. My dad, when he found out, he was so excited he was jumping up and down and (saying): 'I can’t believe I’m so excited to be a Cub fan.'”

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The Cubs saw what Zobrist just did for the world champion Kansas City Royals, hitting .303 with an .880 OPS during 16 playoff games, and hope he can lead by example and become a calming, professional influence on a young team that will absolutely have a target on its back in 2016.

“I don’t think you really ever know kind of what it takes fully to win a championship until you do it,” Zobrist said. “I got a front-row seat to watch it happen to my teammates — in their hearts and in my own — as we made the journey in the postseason and won those critical, (tough) games where you’re coming back from being down.

“It builds a sort of mettle in you and a confidence that even when things aren’t going well, you can turn it around. You kind of know the attitude you need.

“I’m not going to be satisfied with making the playoffs here. I’m not going to be satisfied with winning the NLCS here. It’s the championship. That’s what it’s all about.”

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

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NBC Sports Chicago

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

A Cubs pitcher taking in a Blackhawks game in a suite is nothing special, but doing so with a World Cup winner is... different.

Kyle Hendricks was spotted by the cameras of Thursday's Blackhawks-Coyotes broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago. The guy he was standing next to was none other than Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, a World Cup with Germany and Champions League winner with Bayern Munich.

Hendricks is known for being reserved on the mound and in his interviews with the media. Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger was filmed yelling "Bear Down" in the hallway of Toyota Park after a Fire practice earlier in the day.

There's no telling what inspired Schweinsteiger to do this, but he has definitely embraced Chicago sports teams since joining the Fire in March of 2017.

Makes you wonder what Hendricks and Schweinsteiger were talking about. Best places to get brats in Chicago?

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

View this post on Instagram

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...