Cubs

Cubs ignoring outside negativity after recent rough stretch

Cubs ignoring outside negativity after recent rough stretch

Joe Maddon's message for the Cubs entering the season's second half won't be turned into a T-shirt anytime soon.

"Ignore the outside negativity" doesn't have quite the same ring to it as "embrace the target."

After a stretch in which the Cubs won just six games out of 21 in the three weeks leading up to the All-Star Break, Maddon and Co. insist there's no panic, especially after a much-needed four-day break.

"The only people that are panicking about this team is the media," Anthony Rizzo said. "No offense to [the media], but all the comments coming out of everybody's mouth has been pretty negative except in this clubhouse. We feel great. Everyone feels great to be back together. We're ready to go."

Rizzo is in his fifth season in Chicago and has endured a 100-loss season with the Cubs, so he isn't surprised at the panic in the market.

"I just think it's July whatever the date is and you need stories to write about and what better story to write about than why are the Cubs struggling?" he said. "The only people that are worried about it are outsiders, not what's going on inside this clubhouse."

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Maddon took a more measured approach in response to the recent negativity surrounding the team with baseball's best run differential (+139), saying it makes for better TV and newspaper stories to blow a tough stretch out of proportion. Maddon also thinks it's a fan's right to panic or ride the emotional roller coaster.

The Cubs manager chooses to look at the glass half-full, admitting he gladly would have taken a seven-game lead in the division to kick off the second half if the current scenario was proposed to him in spring training.

"What really matters — and I try to get this point across to [the players] from Day 1 in spring training two years in a row now — I've always believed in the 'circle the wagons' theory," Maddno said. "In other words, it really doesn't matter what's coming from outside to within. It really matters what's happening from within — the clubhouse itself, ownership, front office, coaches, etc.

"The noise coming from outside, that's necessary. It can serve as motivation. It's also fans just being fans who show up and pay money and permit us to do this wonderful thing called playing baseball. I think it's about how you channel all that.

"...It's like any other job, man. What's coming from outside to in; you should feel confident knowing that what you're doing is the right thing. From our perspective, I believe the work's great, the caring's great, the effort's great. All that stuff is in place, so that's all we can control."

Maddon has spent his entire adult life in professional baseball, but said he has never felt as tired and worn out heading into an All-Star Break as he did this season playing 24 games in 24 days.

"Understand how this happened," Maddon said. "We got off to that wonderful start and then there's really reasons why maybe we backed off a little bit prior to the break. Now we've caught our breath, we're still looking to get 100 percent well and we have a lot of confidence we're going to have a really nice run in this second half."

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein actually sees the team's stretch as a good thing — a way to rise above adversity.

"That's what defines a baseball team is how it responds to adversity that crops up during the season," Epstein said. "That's what defines a baseball player — not when he's going well — but how locked in is he, how does he respond after he goes through a slump? Same thing for teams.

"This is a good opportunity for us to show what we're all about. I think that sort of internal response and adjustment is more significant than whatever the public narrative might be. I don't think people in this organization attach too much meaning to it.

"When we were 25-6 and the media was asking us questions about how we balance players getting their rest and going for the all-time wins record, I attached zero meaning to that and called BS on the questions. The same way if I think that people are getting too down on us when we're not playing well or falsely call us out for stuff, I'll call BS on that, too.

"I just think all that matters is how we respond to that adversity and how we handle that success, not what's being said about us at the time."

[SHOP: Buy Cubs All-Star Game gear]

Epstein said the Cubs are focused on getting back to the level they were at coming out of spring training before getting off to that record-breaking start.

"It's undeniable that we didn't play well for a long stretch of time," he said. "So once you go through that as a club, then you know it's possible. So you get to the edge of the abyss, you can stare right in and realize, 'Hey, we're not just gonna rack up the wins because we're good or because we can. We have to go out and earn it.'

"And I think that can be a good thing for a team. The focus that we had when we ended spring training and started Opening Day — how palpable that was — we know we need to tap into that again to get ultimately where we want to get.

"But that's not a surprise. That's life. That's baseball. That's why this season's 162 games long. The season shows you things about yourself that you need to see at times. It's all about how you respond."

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...