Cubs

Cardinals-Cubs: 'Boring' vs. fun?

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Cardinals-Cubs: 'Boring' vs. fun?

The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry isn't quite new school vs. old school, but it is "fun" vs. "boring," in a sense.

The Cubs are a bunch of kids who hold dance parties in the clubhouse after each win and are all about having fun (which can be easy to do with Joe Maddon as a manager).

The Cardinals are in the postseason almost every year as one of baseball's consistently elite franchises. They handle the playoffs in a professional - almost boring - manner and they don't plan on changing that in advance of Game 3 of the National League Division Series against Jake Arrieta and the Cubs Monday evening for the first playoff game at Wrigley Field in seven years.

[RELATED - Turning point for The Plan: Cubs get October close-up at Wrigley]

"[We'll approach this] the same boring way we've been doing it all year," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said before his team's workout Sunday afternoon. "Guys who have been here before and been able to play in different settings - maybe not necessarily at Wrigley - but they've been in a lot of other cities where it's a lot of excitement.

"Part of it is the experience of understanding as much as it's built up that we go play the game. We don't deny this stuff is special. We don't deny that not everybody gets to play on this stage, so don't be afraid to look around and take advantage of the atmosphere and take advantage of how unique this is.

"But when it comes down to it, it's baseball and our best chance to be successful isn't to try and be superhuman. It's to go out and do exactly what we've been doing all season long. We have enough voices that are kind of repeating that same story to how they've been successful in the postseason that I think the younger players buy in."

The Cardinals understand the culture of winning. Apart from a few curtain calls in front of their home fans at Busch Stadium after big home runs during the first two games of the NLDS, this team isn't very flashy and doesn't spend a lot of time celebrating on the field.

"Obviously, boring meaning we're professional about it," Cardinals reliever Carlos Villanueva said. "We do what we do. A lot of people might not like it. Other people might want to see it more exciting, more showmanship.

"But we just don't operate that way. We're confident in our abilities. There are guys out there that are fiery and yell and roar every time they get somebody out or get a hit. I was told, 'just act like you've done it before.' Or, 'don't act surprised when you get a big out.'

"Get your guy out, do your job, high five and cheer on the next guy. I think this is a philosophy that's instilled in these guys from the time they sign until the time they get here [in the big leagues]. And you can't argue. It works."

[MORE: Cubs counting on Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant to start producing in playoffs]

Villanueva spent the last two seasons on fifth-place Cubs teams before signing with the Cardinals as a free agent over the winter.

You probably won't see him fist-pumping or beating his chest out on the mound.

"I can't act surprised when I get the job done on what I'm needed to do," Villanueva said. "That's just the approach we take. Your job is to go out and stop the game right there and after you're done, you can celebrate at home.

"On the field, we're business. The difference for us is taking care of what we need to do to win a ring. Anything else falls short of our goal."

The Cubs go about things in almost the opposite way. Whether it's Pedro Strop letting out a roar and pounding his chest after a big out or Anthony Rizzo rubbing his helmet after a big hit or the entire team clapping along to Starlin Castro's uber-catchy walk-up song, the young Cubs enjoy having fun on the field as much as they do in the clubhouse after victories.

[MORE: Jake Arrieta emerges as October star and gets locked in for Cubs-Cardinals]

A lot of that is on Joe Maddon, a manager who marches to the beat of his own drum, lets players just be themselves and drops Michael Scott quotes from "The Office" or describes his Steak 'n Shake order in press conferences.

"Joe has been a huge part of [the loose, fun-loving persona of the team]," Jake Arrieta said. "We've bought in to the way he likes to structure his coaching style, how he likes to manage the season and he lets the players dictate kind of how things run.

"He allows us to hold each other accountable, and I think we've thrived in this environment."

Maddon is as quirky as big-league managers come, his big personality creating the perfect distraction for the Chicago media away from the young players who have enough pressure as an inexperienced group getting used to life in the majors.

After back-to-back bold calls on squeeze bunts to help jumpstart the Cubs offense in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, Maddon talked a lot about how he's been keeping things light since spring training, where he made the team work on fundamentals over and over and over again.

While the Cardinals spent almost two hours on the field working out and taking batting practice Sunday, Maddon kept the Cubs' workout to less than an hour and instead devoted time for his team to get breakfast on Wrigley Field and watch NFL action on the big video board in left field.

[NBC SHOP: Buy Cubs playoff gear]

"Part of it is the camaraderie component, the bringing the group together and having them relax and just being normal human beings," Maddon said. "I just think that sometimes, we overreact to our game and our status in the world. It's just a baseball game. It's a game.

"We're trying to win the World Series. We're trying to be the best. But at the end of the day, it is a game, and I want our guys to come out here and be themselves, be normal.

"I think if we do that, they're going to play the better game of baseball. That's where I'm coming from."

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...