Cubs

Cubs survived what went wrong against Giants, showing how they can keep advancing through October

Cubs survived what went wrong against Giants, showing how they can keep advancing through October

SAN FRANCISCO – The Cubs are built as a team of checks and balances, blunt veterans who didn’t come here for a haircut and young players acting like they’ve been here forever. A thumping American League-style lineup has the mix-and-match parts to play the National League game. An elite defensive unit works in concert with the pitching staff. The Geek Department supports Joe Maddon’s coaching staff. An Ivy League front office nailed so many decisions through scouting and intuition.

Still, the best team in baseball, a 103-win machine during the regular season, encountered the broad message Maddon sent during his pre-playoffs meeting: Things will go wrong.

Meaning the Cubs will be defined by how they react to bad calls, bad bounces, bad performances, nonstop scrutiny and hostile environments. This team didn’t sulk or panic during the NL Division Series, responding to the awesome challenge presented by the San Francisco Giants, showing how to keep surviving and advancing through October.

“You’re going to have to scramble for some wins if you’re going to win in the postseason,” general manager Jed Hoyer said late Tuesday night amid the celebration on the West Coast, standing soaking wet in the middle of AT&T Park’s visiting clubhouse.

“Things aren’t going to go right. Obviously, Game 1 went perfect. You get eight innings out of Jon (Lester). That’s great. That doesn’t happen all the time. You got to be able to scramble in the postseason.”

The Cubs needed only four games to eliminate a Giant franchise that has the confidence and muscle memory from winning World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs postseason gear right here]

Even with two extremely reliable starting pitchers – Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey – not lasting beyond the fourth inning in Games 2 and 4. And superstar closer Aroldis Chapman blowing the six-out save in what became a 13-inning loss in Game 3.

Together, Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant committed five errors. Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell combined went 4-for-45 (.089 average) with one extra-base hit. Up until that ninth-inning rally in Game 4, pitchers Hendricks, Travis Wood and Jake Arrieta drove in almost half of the team’s runs during the NLDS.

“It shows that it doesn’t have to be the MVP candidate in Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo to win us the ballgame every night,” Arrieta said. “Guys step up, like Javy (Baez). It’s a timely hit from Kyle, a huge home run from Travis. Everybody contributes.

“To be able to have that contribution from up and down the order versus just a couple of guys really makes us a dangerous ballclub.

“If certain guys get pitched around, we know the guys behind them can handle the task of providing offense and (helping pick them up). It’s just really nice to see the growth (and) continued development of these young players at such a high level on such a big stage.”

Baez changed the entire direction of this NLDS with one swing in the eighth inning of Game 1, reacting to a Johnny Cueto quick pitch and launching it out toward Waveland Avenue. The wind knocked the ball down before it landed in the Wrigley Field basket instead of Angel Pagan’s glove, the difference in a 1-0 game.

The Plan can think of everything – every possible matchup, variable and contingency – but there is still an element of luck. Ben Zobrist – an influential player on the Kansas City Royals team that won last year’s World Series – put it this way: “Any time you’re in tight games and you’re playing against good teams, you have to get breaks.”

But the bullpen also backed up the shortened Hendricks and Lackey starts by limiting the Giants to two runs across 10-plus innings, securing a Game 2 win and keeping the Cubs within striking distance for that Game 4 comeback.

Chapman – the kind of high-octane reliever the Giants failed to acquire at the trade deadline – notched three saves. Baez – who doesn’t even have a set position on a team this talented – made so many defensive plays look easy that his human-highlight-film reputation is going national.

The Cubs can now line up Lester for another tone-setting Game 1 against either the Washington Nationals or Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Championship Series that begins Saturday night at Wrigley Field.

What can possibly go wrong? The Cubs still have so many different ways to weather two more postseason rounds and win eight more games.

“They play for one another,” bench coach Dave Martinez said. “Every day, it’s somebody different.”

MLB, MLBPA discuss playing entire 2020 season in Arizona without fans, report says

MLB, MLBPA discuss playing entire 2020 season in Arizona without fans, report says

As Major League Baseball and the Players Association think of ways to salvage the 2020 season, one idea broached involves all 30 teams playing in Arizona.

In a Monday phone call, MLB and the union discussed every team possibly playing in empty stadiums in the Phoenix area this season, according to the Associated Press. The idea is still in its infancy and the union would want to survey its members to see if they’d be on board.

There are 10 spring training ballparks in Arizona within 50 miles of each other. An obvious concern is Arizona’s severe summertime heat, which, according to MLB super-agent Scott Boras, could be combatted by playing daily tripleheaders in the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field.

Boras also noted the number of precautions that would have to be taken to ensure the league keeps those involved, and the outside world at large, safe.

RELATED: Two Cubs employees test positive for COVID-19

“You’re going to be largely separated from your families and you’re going to have to function in a very contained way,” he told AP’s Ronald Blum. “It’s not it’s not a normal life, this idea.

“You’re going to have an identified group of people. You’re going to have a constantly tested group of people. And you’re going to have a very limited access of those people to the outside world so that you can assure a very uncontaminated league, if you will, to produce a product that is inspirational to our country.”

Joe Maddon has specific plans to watch entire Game 7 of 2016 World Series

Joe Maddon has specific plans to watch entire Game 7 of 2016 World Series

One of the joys of life is basking in our past accomplishments. There’s nothing like recalling great memories with a fond appreciation for what once was.

Joe Maddon’s biggest accomplishment as a big league manager is leading the Cubs to their first championship in 108 years. We’re nearly four years removed from the 2016 World Series, and by now, Maddon has to have watched the series’ grand finale, right? Heck, MLB Network just reaired Games 5 through 7 two weeks ago.

Wrong.

On the latest Baseball Tonight Podcast, Maddon told ESPN’s Buster Olney that he has yet to rewatch Game 7 of the ’16 Fall Classic all the way through. However, the now-Angels manager already is envisioning when that moment will ultimately come.

“It’s one of those things that I think when I’m done, totally done (retired)… when I get settled in, and I’m hanging out in Pennsylvania somewhere,” Maddon said, “I’ll get this 95-inch television by that time with the great surround system. 

“I’ll pop it up there and sit there with a really good glass of red [wine], some kind of delicacy from a local hoagie shop and watch the whole thing.”

Sounds like a plan, Joe. Let us know how your viewing goes.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.