Cubs

Cubs-Mets: Curtis Granderson explains how to survive in a big market

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Cubs-Mets: Curtis Granderson explains how to survive in a big market

The Chicago media, the New York tabloids and the national TV networks have tried hard to sell this as coming attractions, a sneak preview for October, the Cubs and Mets as two National League teams on the rise.   

But before we anoint them as playoff contenders for years to come, just listen to Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson, the kind of veteran leader the Cubs probably would have tried to sign after the 2013 season if their timelines had matched up better.

“The big thing is: 1.) You got to hope everybody stays healthy,” Granderson said before New York’s 2-1 loss on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field. “That’s one thing that we can never control and never can see. And 2.) Hopefully, everybody continues not to be content. It’s one thing getting there and getting excited that I’ve made it. But then some people stop working at that point.

“Hopefully, everybody continues to keep wanting to get better and will look and say: This is one point of where I want to be over the course of my career. And, hopefully, I’m a little further at this point next year, and the year after that. But (that’s) a lot easier said than done.”

[MORE CUBS: Cubs find a way to beat Mets on Matt Harvey Day]

Granderson, a three-time All-Star, stood in front of his locker inside the cramped visiting clubhouse, explaining how to survive in a big market and keep your reputation intact.

Granderson knows this city after graduating from Thornton Fractional South High School and the University of Illinois at Chicago and staying involved here with his charitable foundation.  

Granderson knows what it’s like for a talented young core to come together after making a surprise run to the 2006 World Series with the Detroit Tigers.

Granderson knows New York and win-or-else expectations after going to the playoffs with the Yankees in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

[MORE CUBS: Is Kris Bryant the long-term answer at third base?]

“You just got to understand that you’re going to get asked questions in the best times, and also the worst times,” Granderson said. “Be ready to step up and answer those (questions). Definitely don’t hide from it, because it’s always going to be there.

“A big thing (I learned) from Derek Jeter early on (was) not reading what’s being written. I think I was doing that even in the minor leagues when you had such publications as Baseball America and the different almanacs and references that were putting guys here, there and everywhere.

“But those guys aren’t the ones making the decision. You guys have a story to do, and we respect that and understand that. But at the same time, if I go out there and play, and know what I can do, and talk to my coaching staff and my organization on how I need to get better, then ultimately I can get to where I want.”

For years, Cubs prospects have been told how great everything’s going to be in Chicago, a city that caters to athletes and has so many distractions.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here]

Kris Bryant got his own adidas billboard on Addison Street before his big-league debut, and filmed a Red Bull commercial during his time with Triple-A Iowa. Addison Russell is the third-youngest player in the majors at 21 years and 111 days and learning a new position (second base) on the fly.

Who knows when Javier Baez will hit his way out of Des Moines and if he can make the adjustments at this level? Jorge Soler hasn’t made it look quite as easy this season, striking out 49 times through 143 plate appearances.

Starlin Castro earned three All-Star selections before his 25th birthday and some people still think it would make sense to trade him to New York. (The Mets aren’t a fit.)

“One day, you can be the best person in the paper,” Granderson said. “The next day, you can be the worst person in the paper. So I leave that to family and friends to read that and get the highlights.

“Just come ready to play and just continue to have fun. You have fun – it doesn’t matter where you’re playing at.”

Forget 2015, the Brewers are more like 2016 Cubs

Forget 2015, the Brewers are more like 2016 Cubs

With the Milwaukee Brewers about to kick off the NLCS, many Cubs fans and pundits have taken to comparing them to the 2015 Cubs.

At first glance, it's easy to see why — they're in the playoffs for the first time as something of an underdog and "surprise" team — but that's not the recent Cubs squad we should be comparing the 2018 Brewers to.

This Milwaukee team is a lot more like the 2016 Cubs.

Here's why:

1. They're not a surprise.

Nobody expected the 2015 Cubs to win 97 games and wind up in the NLCS. They were expected to compete very soon, but everything went right in a red-hot August, they rode Jake Arrieta's right arm to the NLDS and then toppled the Cardinals to get to the LCS, where they ran into the brick wall that was Matt Harvey and and the Mets pitching staff.

The 2018 Brewers are not — and should not be — a surprise. Anybody who was caught off guard by this team being so good hasn't been paying much attention. The Brewers were leading the NL Central in 2017 for much of the year before a late-season fade that coincided with the Cubs' late-season surge.

This Milwaukee squad was always supposed to be one of the top teams in the NL in 2018 and they really hit their groove in September to chase down the Cubs. Still, it took a Game 163 to force a changing of the guard atop the division.

2. They greatly improved expectations with a big free-agent OF signing over the winter.

The Cubs had Jason Heyward in between 2015 and '16. The Brewers had Lorenzo Cain.

Cain has provided quite a bit more offense in the first season of his 5-year, $80 million contract but both Cain and Heyward provided leadership in the clubhouse and elite defense in the outfield in the first years with their new teams.

3. The Brewers have the NL MVP.

This one's an easy comparison to make, though Cubs fans will hate it.

Christian Yelich is this season's NL MVP. Sorry, Javy Baez fans. "El Mago" had a great season, but it's impossible to give the award to anybody but Yelich.

Yelich winning the league's most coveted accolade would be another perfect tie-in to the 2016 Cubs, who had Kris Bryant take home NL MVP.

4. They have a dominant LHP out of the bullpen.

Josh Hader has been doing his best Aroldis Chapman impression in 2018 as an absolutely dominant southpaw out of the bullpen. Unlike Chapman, Hader's spent all season with the Brewers, but like Chapman in '16, Hader will be leaned on heavily for multiple innings throughout the rest of the playoffs.

5. They picked up some valuable in-season assets.

The 2016 Cubs dealt for Chapman, but they also traded for reliever Joe Smith and called up Willson Contreras in the middle of the year, who provided a spark for the offense.

The 2018 Brewers have acquired plenty of valuable assets along the way this season from Mike Moustakas to Jonathan Schoop to Erik Kratz (more on him later) to Gio Gonzalez. But one of their most important additions (especially in October) was the promotion of top prospect Corbin Burnes, a flame-throwing right-hander who posted a 2.61 ERA in 30 regular-season games and allowed only 1 hit in 4 shutout innings in the DS.

6. They're on a mission with a chip on their shoulder.

The 2015 Cubs had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder as they attempted to take down the divisional powerhouse that was the St. Louis Cardinals. But again, they were a surprise contender - even within that clubhouse (especially early in 2015). But after falling short in the NLCS, the Cubs retooled over the winter and came back with one goal in mind - to win the World Series.

It was a goal they accomplished. We'll see if the Brewers will be able to do the same, but they certainly came to play in 2018 with a chip on their shoulder and the ultimate goal of winning the final MLB game of the year.

The Brewers didn't lead the division from Day 1 and weren't able to coast into October, but they still wound up with homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

7. They have journeyman catcher who is winning over fans' hearts.

This is a fun one.

The 2016 Cubs had David "Grandpa" Rossy who still elicts deafening cheers whenever he's shown on the giant video board at Wrigley Field. The 2018 Brewers have Kratz, who has become a fan favorite recently and was mic'd up for the final out of the NLDS.

Ross was 39 when he helped lead the Cubs to the 2016 World Series and Chicago was his eighth stop (seventh different team) along his MLB journey. Kratz is 38 and on his ninth stop (seventh different team) along his MLB journey.

In fact, Ross and Kratz are so intertwined, they've already been compared to each other by MLB.com.

But the major difference is Kratz has zero postseason playing experience until a week ago. Will he be able to ride off into the sunset with a championship ring on his finger the way Ross did?

We'll have an answer to that over the next few weeks in the final chapter of the Brewers' 2018 season, though Cubs fans surely wouldn't be too happy to see their division rivals celebrating with a World Series parade just 90 minutes north of Wrigley Field.

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed for Rangers' manager opening

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USA TODAY

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed for Rangers' manager opening

The Cubs just lost one coach with hitting coach Chili Davis getting fired. Another opening on Joe Maddon's coaching staff could also open up.

According to report from MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed with the Rangers on Thursday.

Rangers farm director Jayce Tingler was the first candidate the club interviewed, but Hyde and Astros bench coach Joe Espada were also interviewed.

The 45-year-old Hyde has been with the Cubs since 2014. He was a bench coach in 2014 under Rick Renteria before moving to first base coach from 2015-17. This past season he moved back to his original role as bench coach.

He played four seasons in the minors for the White Sox.

The Rangers job opened up when Jeff Banister was fired on Sept. 21. Banister won AL Manager of the Year in 2015 and guided the Rangers to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016, but couldn't get out of the ALDS either year. A 78-84 season in 2017 was followed by an even worse 2018, which led to his firing late this season.