Cubs

Cubs thinking bigger and better after raising World Series banner

Cubs thinking bigger and better after raising World Series banner

The Cubs walked across the grass on Monday night, like some sort of "Field of Dreams" update, and disappeared under the bleachers. Jake Arrieta rubbed his hands together as they approached Wrigley Field's iconic scoreboard. Three Hall of Famers – Ryne Sandberg (1907), Fergie Jenkins (1908) and Billy Williams (2016 National League pennant) raised the first three flags.

Surrounded by teammates, Anthony Rizzo then began pulling the cord that lifted the 2016 World Series banner, the ceremony running live on ESPN for a team that has crossed over into so many different parts of popular culture. A crowd of 41,166 that must have sat through parts of the 108-year drought waited out a rain delay that would last almost two hours before first pitch.

By 8:38 p.m., Rizzo emerged from the doors that break up the brick wall in right-center field, holding the World Series trophy above his head as AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll) blasted from the sound system.

"I wasn't expecting to get hit by that many emotions," Rizzo said, looking back after knocking a Kenley Jansen cutter into the left-field corner for a 3-2 walk-off win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. "I was fighting back tears."

To be honest, a franchise that doesn't really do subtle or understated created a championship banner that's kind of hard to see. But, whatever, there's room for more flagpoles at the beginning of this golden age of baseball on the North Side.

"The new generation of Cubs fans is spoiled," Jon Lester said. "Our guys are so young – as long as health stays on our side – I feel like we'll compete. Our goal every year is to win a World Series."

[RELATED: Cubs pull out walk-off win over Dodgers in festive night at Wrigley]

If the Dodgers didn't get enough flashbacks from the rain-delay theater on the giant video board – the Cubs showed highlights from last year's Game 6 of the NL Championship Series – Lester again looked like a co-MVP (one run allowed in six innings) against a lineup that has so many issues with lefties.

These two big-market teams appear to be on another collision course. The defending World Series champs started seven 27-and-under players, including an October legend (Kyle Schwarber), a reigning MVP (Kris Bryant), a Silver Slugger/Gold Glove first baseman (Rizzo), an All-Star shortstop (Addison Russell), a rocket-armed catcher (Willson Contreras) and two of the game's best defensive players (Jason Heyward and Javier Baez).

"We're all still hungry," Schwarber said. "We're not satisfied with what we did last year. Obviously, it was a great accomplishment. To bring it back to the city of Chicago was great. But now we got to do it again.

"We know the talent that we have. We know how good we could be for some years down the road. But no one can predict the future."

This night – which actually ended on Tuesday morning – would be bigger than the 25 guys in the underground clubhouse that opened last year with a hyperbaric chamber, an underwater treadmill, an infrared sauna and a party room for postgame celebrations.

One entrance to the clubhouse – around the corner from Joe Maddon's office and outside the press-conference room – now displays the image of the "WE DID NOT SUCK 2016" brick wall that filled up with spontaneous messages written in chalk after the Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians last November.

Hanging out in the home dugout before the game, you saw a rock star (Eddie Vedder), a Hockey Hall of Famer (Chris Chelios) and Fortune magazine's "World's Greatest Leader" (Theo Epstein). Watching David Ross on "Dancing with the Stars" became another rain-delay diversion on the video board.

"This is the lowest-maintenance group I've ever been around," Epstein said. "They handled the target on their back last year so well, and this year they're handling the fact that they won and avoiding that complacency better than I could've imagined.

"We don't have to do anything. They're just so focused and so hard-working. They understand that they need to approach this with all the intensity they did last year if they want to get back to a point where they can enjoy that special feeling late in the year again.

"It's been a total non-issue. When first pitch is thrown, they're locked in."

By the last pitch, there were rows and rows of empty green seats. The bleachers had cleared out to the point where you could see the garbage. Chairman Tom Ricketts stood in the first row off the on-deck circle as Rizzo beat an $80 million closer, pumped his fist, tossed aside his helmet and got mobbed by teammates between first and second base. After the biggest moment of their lives, the 2017 Cubs are just getting started.

"In a game like tonight versus a tough team, it builds confidence in our group this year that this is what we do," Rizzo said. "This is who we are."

Glanville Offseason Journal: Traded in the offseason, but life goes on

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AP

Glanville Offseason Journal: Traded in the offseason, but life goes on

My mom’s father, my grandfather, in his North Carolina accent, used to ask me nearly every time I saw him.

“You still hittin’ that ball?!?!”

He knew my brother took extensive time to groom me in the game of baseball as soon as I could walk. So he recognized early on that my passion for the game only grew with time. So when he passed away during the offseason nearing midnight into Dec. 23, 1997, it was tough. I could no longer answer his question with a baseball career update.

He passed away in the same hospital where the legendary Negro League player, Buck Leonard, would pass away less than a month sooner. It is just so happened that Leonard’s passing coincided with the day my grandfather was first admitted into the same facility. I took it as a sign as I reviewed baseball and family history thinking about how I could honor my grandfather through both.

1997 was not the offseason I had envisioned. After coming off my breakthrough major league season, my first full season as a major leaguer with the Chicago Cubs, I had hit .300 and earned a chance to be in the starting lineup nearly every day. We had an exit meeting that year in the Astrodome. Cubs general manager at the time, Ed Lynch, was blunt and honest.

He explained very clearly that the organization tried to give the everyday job to “everyone else but you,” but was complimentary in how I was able to take advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself.

I was a speedy center fielder that was in left field for most of the season after a revolving door of our top outfield prospects didn’t quite do enough to lock down the every day role. A platoon gave me a chance to play against lefties, which grew into against righties too.

The talent was deep from my vantage point: Ozzie Timmons, Robin Jennings, Pedro Valdes, Brant Brown, Brooks Kieschnick, Scott Bullet and so on. There were a ton of a good outfielders, and when the smoke cleared, I was the one holding the starter trophy. I was hoping the offseason was a time where I could cement that status as a Chicago Cub.

So I went into the offsseason with hope. Hope that only strengthened while I was on Lake Shore Drive and heard Ed Lynch on the radio talking about my season and how the expansion of the league (1998 the league added the Rays and the D-Backs) was going to force him to make tough decisions about who to protect from the expansion draft.

He conceded that I would be seeking a significant raise after my season. Then, the minimum salary was $109,000 (I made a little more than that in year two) and because of my strong year as a second season player, Lynch was making a reasonable conclusion. I knew my agent was happy.

My grandfather’s health had been declining over time, so his passing was not a shock, but before I fully digested the loss, the phone rang around 12 hours after I got word that he was gone. Who was calling?

I took the call in the basement of my parent’s house. This was while I was in the midst of a sea of unwrapped Christmas gifts strewn all over the ping pong table, the main wrapping station in the Glanville household during the holidays. My first thought was it must be my mom, who was in North Carolina pivoting from savoring his last hours to working on funeral arrangements. My brother was with her. It already was an awkward holiday from our geographically broken family.

It was Ed Lynch on the line, telling me that I had been traded to the Philadelphia Phillies.

What?

I fielded all of the media calls the rest of that day. It was an all-day affair. Between the fresh news of my grandfather’s passing, the shock of being traded after finally breaking through as a starter, and the exhaustion at the idea of learning a new organization, I was not that thrilled.

In fact, one member of the Philadelphia press core finally asked me why I was sounding so unenthusiastic about being traded to the team I loved growing up as a kid. So I had to tell him about my grandfather’s passing and the reality sinking in that I was about to celebrate my first family Christmas with our nuclear family broken into pieces.

For the first time during the holidays, there was this divider in my family. Separated by life’s harsh terms. My father and I were home and my mother and brother were not. My dad and I celebrated at a long-standing friend’s house, a thousand miles from my mom and big bro, and a million miles away from truly accepting that I had been traded.

I had just completed my sophomore year in Major League Baseball and it was a moment when I felt like I had figured out some of my mechanics of the game. I was learning how to be consistent, learning the ropes about managing life in season and now offseason.

I was being traded to a team whose organization brought me great joy in 1980 as a die hard fan, a place where I could start in center field, but this was different. This was the business of baseball. The day I became a movable commodity, traded away for present value in Mickey Morandini. The Phillies were betting on my next chapter being my best years.

Can they do that? Just trade me away without asking me? Of course they can. Wait, why can they?

My 1980s memories of that Phillies championship was more than about the trophy. It framed an era. By my following that team since I was five or six, I saw that team build, I pulled my hair out when the Dodgers kept knocking them out in the ‘77 and ‘78 NLCS. But most of all, they had the same personnel. A core of players, nearly untradeable. Garry Maddox, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Larry Bowa and so on. They were practically glued together for several seasons.

But in the modern game of the late '90s, that dream of being drafted by a team, growing up with that organization, winning with the Cubs and retiring a Cub was no longer possible. That was how the game was evolving.

Although I was a big leaguer, I still was a fan. I still was caught off-guard even after I knew the Cubs protected me in the expansion draft. I understood that at all times, lurking were many ways in the game where I could change teams. Some voluntary, most not.

I realized that the offseason was not just this big training session to get ready for the next season. It was also a chess match of competing value. What you are worth versus what you think you are worth. The 2018 Cubs have many players asking that question. Will Kyle Schwarber be traded? Will Kris Bryant sign?

All players will experience life hitting them in the face when they least expect it. During that downtime, the reflection time, the break. That is why it can sting so much. And loss spares no one in this game, even after you hit .300. The rumors alone can eat you up.

I would attend my grandfather’s funeral and reunite with my mom and brother days after the trade. I took a moment during the time with family to make one simple declaration to the sky above.

“Granddad, I am still hitting that ball.”

Just this year, instead of Cubs blue, I would be wearing Phillies red.

Cubs fans collective rage measured in one word

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USA TODAY

Cubs fans collective rage measured in one word

Baseball is an emotional game, both for those on the field and those merely spectating. Cubs fans are no exception to this notion.

TickPick looked into how often fans used expletives on Reddit during the 2018 MLB Postseason. According to the study, Cubs fans used the f-bomb on Reddit more than any other team.

Despite playing in just one postseason game, Cubs fans ranked first in frequency of using f-bombs per postseason game played at 432 occassions. Of course, the Cubs' playoff run ended quickly with a 2-1 loss to the Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game.

There were 1,911 f-bombs used on Reddit during the Wild Card Game, including 48 when Javier Báez hit an RBI-double in the eighth inning to tie the score at 1-1.

Red Sox fans "placed" second in f-bomb frequency/game with 342, an interesting note considering a) the Red Sox played in 13 more playoff games than the Cubs and b) they won the World Series. 

Reddit users directed the fourth-most "f _ _ _ you's" at the Cubs as a team, trailing just the Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox. Individually, no Cubs ranked in the top 5 in "f-you's" directed at players, for what it's worth. 

Playoff baseball! You've got to love it, right? The full study can be found here.

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