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.”

Jed Hoyer says Cubs plan to add depth before the trade deadline

Jed Hoyer says Cubs plan to add depth before the trade deadline

With the second half of the season about to kick off Thursday afternoon, the Cubs front office is in the final stretch of roster building as the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline looms.

Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer spoke with NBC Sports Chicago's very own David Kaplan today on his ESPN 1000 radio show answering plenty of questions on what the Cubs' gameplan is before the trade deadline. 

There has already been a flurry of moves over the past few days, with two of the more enticing trade pieces being moved in new Dodger shortstop Manny Machado and former Padres reliever Brad Hand, who was traded to the Indians Thursday morning.

But when asked about going after big-name talent at the deadline, Hoyer explained while the team may "engage" in those conversations, the focus for him and the Cubs was on adding depth to the roster. 

"Obviously, we'll be involved in those [trade] discussions, but I do feel like adding depth is something we are going to do," Hoyer said. "We're going to be in on every discussion, but at the same time, I do believe we have the pieces internally to be a heck of a team." 

The name that has garnered attention recently has been Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom, who is currently having the best season of his career at age 30, but Hoyer made no indication the Cubs would once again facilitate another blockbuster deal.

And even with Tyler Chatwood struggling to locate in the strike zone this season, Hoyer made it clear the front office hasn't lost faith in their second biggest investment of the off-season. 

"We're confident [Chatwood] will have a better second half, we're going to have a really big, long pennant race," Hoyer said. "It's going to be really challenging second half and we're going to need all the pitching we can possibly get and I think Tyler is going to be a big part of that." 

In terms of team needs, the Cubs are a club with few holes on their roster but could stand to add more pitching in both the bullpen and rotation with everyone but Jon Lester having frustrating moments in the first half of the season.

Making moves similar to the Mike Montgomery trade in 2016 are what Hoyer relishes, telling Kaplan those are the moves the Cubs "pride themselves on." 

But when it comes to Cubs improving on their already impressive first half of baseball, Jed Hoyer continued to back the players who are currently on the roster.

And while it may not be the move that creates the social media buzz fans crave this time of year, Hoyer knows he can get more from his current roster in the second half. 

"There's no doubt that the best way we can get better is by having guys we already have [play] better than they have to date." 

 

Yadier Molina sees something familiar in Cubs: 'They remind me of what we were back in the day'

Yadier Molina sees something familiar in Cubs: 'They remind me of what we were back in the day'

Yadier Molina has been playing the Cubs for a decade and a half.

For 15 years, Molina has been one of the faces of the St. Louis Cardinals, making nine All-Star Games, winning eight Gold Gloves, playing in nine postseasons and winning a pair of World Series championships. And for much of that time, his Cardinals had the upper hand in the rivalry between the two National League Central foes.

But that's changed in recent years. The Cubs have ascended to the Cardinals' old spot as a perennial contender, and it was their defeat of the Cardinals in the NLDS back in 2015 that really seemed to usher in the current era of World Series expectations on the North Side.

If you watch any rivalry long enough, you'll see the balance of power shift back and forth. Molina has been watching this rivalry for a long time.

"They've got good chemistry, they've got good talent there, they play together," Molina said Tuesday in Washington, D.C., before suiting up alongside Willson Contreras and Javy Baez on the NL All-Star team. "So yeah, they remind me of what we were back in the day with the Cardinals."

High praise considering all that Molina and those old Cardinals teams accomplished.

It wasn't too long ago that the Cardinals were a dominant force in this division and in this rivalry. Between 2009 and 2015, the Cubs lost double-digit games to the Cardinals in all but one season. The Cardinals won a World Series title during that seven-year span (2011), ending all but one of those campaigns with a postseason appearance. The Cubs, meanwhile, had five straight fifth-place finishes and missed the playoffs in all but the last.

But since the end of the 2015 regular season, the Cubs are 30-20 against their biggest rivals, a record that includes that 3-1 series win in the 2015 NLDS.

And now it's the Cubs who have seemingly built a winning machine. Like the Cardinals dominated the division with a core cast of characters that included Molina as well as Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday, the Cubs now have that reliable core featuring Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Baez, Contreras and so many others. They're expected to be at the top of the Central standings and compete for championships, just like the Cardinals were for much of a decade.

The Cardinals, of course, have quite recently been thrown into a state of atypical tumult with manager Mike Matheny fired in the middle of the season and a couple off-the-field controversies grabbing national headlines. That's not to say they're exactly out of contention, though, as they begin the second half with an above-.500 record, 7.5 games back of the division-leading Cubs and only four games back for the second NL wild card spot.

But when you compare the drama-drenched Cardinals with the Cubs — who while no one would describe as firing on all cylinders have managed to stay not far behind their 2016 pace — there's a noticeable gap, a gap that's somewhat crazy to think about for those who can remember the Cardinals' past dominance in this rivalry.

Though the Cardinals have actually won more head-to-head matchups this season (five of the eight), the five-game set to begin the second half — the first of eight games between the two teams over the next two weekends — would figure to favor the Cubs, who won 12 of 15 to close out the first half.

"It's important for us to go out there and try to win the series. Right now, we need that as a club," Molina said. "It's going to be tough. The Cubs, they're playing good baseball right now, they've got chemistry there. It's going to be tough, but our concentration is on trying to win the series."