Cubs

Cubs waiting to see what FBI investigation means for Cardinals

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Cubs waiting to see what FBI investigation means for Cardinals

It would probably take a hacker to find out what Theo Epstein really thinks about the St. Louis Cardinals being investigated by the FBI and Justice Department for allegedly breaking into the Houston Astros’ database.

Maybe the Cubs president sent a few text messages to his buddies or wound up on an e-mail chain after this bombshell report from The New York Times exposed The Cardinal Way.

But Epstein didn’t want to talk trash about the franchise’s biggest rival during his media session before Tuesday’s 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field.

“We have a lot on our plate in this organization,” Epstein said. “I’m not going to get into other organizations’ business. But I’m glad it wasn’t us.”

This isn’t working the backchannels the Cubs may or may not have used in hiring Epstein away from the Boston Red Sox after the 2011 season, and luring manager Joe Maddon with a five-year, $25 million contract last fall. This isn’t the Tampa Bay Rays forcing Major League Baseball to launch a Maddon tampering investigation.

This could be white-collar crime, with MLB and St. Louis officials reportedly getting subpoenaed after the Cardinals accessed “Ground Control.” It will be fascinating to see what this means for the rest of the National League Central.

[MORE: Maddon gets Stanley Cup moment, but Cubs can't match effort]

This appears to be personal. Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow spent eight years with the Cardinals, helping rebuild the scouting-and-player-development machine and leaving after the 2011 World Series title.

Luhnow is a polarizing figure within the industry, someone who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, got his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Company.

Around this time last year, the Astros granted special access to Sports Illustrated and made the cover as “YOUR 2017 WORLD SERIES CHAMPS.” And then got embarrassed when short-form notes on trade talks were shared anonymously on Anonbin.com and spotlighted on Deadspin, the influential sports website.

That data breach forced the Cubs to take another look at their own proprietary system.

“We double-checked our security protocols,” Epstein said. “When I started working in baseball, I never thought I’d utter those words. But, yeah, we did.

“The guys doing our software are a thousand times smarter than I am, and they have all that covered. They definitely understand the importance of security.”

With Luhnow doing it his way, the Astros are in first place in the American League West after losing 310 games combined across the last three seasons.

The Cubs seem to be forever chasing the Cardinals. Last year, Epstein complained about St. Louis taking handouts in the form of competitive-balance draft picks: “That’s probably the last organization in baseball that needs that kind of annual gift.”

[MORE: Cubs have big plans for Kyle Schwarber this year]

But any reporters hoping Epstein would go in that direction again walked away disappointed.

“We have our own issues to occupy our mind,” Epstein said. “You just take the proper steps, the same way if you have your scouting reports in triplicate in a file cabinet somewhere. You lock the file cabinet. You lock the front door. It’s the equivalent on a computer. You just make sure you know who’s in there – and that it’s really hard to get in there.”

Epstein has a very sharp sense of humor and appeared to be in a good mood with top prospect Kyle Schwarber about to make his big-league debut, the Blackhawks bringing the Stanley Cup to Wrigleyville and the Cubs now emerging as contenders.

Epstein referenced a beat writer’s first name after listening to another question about the Cardinals and computers.

“Yes, we are changing our passwords from ‘GordonSucks’ to something else,” Epstein joked.

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

If the season ended today, Javy Baez may be your National League MVP.

Of course, the season isn't ending today, only the first half of the 2018 campaign is.

He flashed his skills again over the weekend — scoring the game-winning run Friday, posting a 5-RBI game Saturday and then drove in the Cubs' first run in their 7-4 victory Sunday to close out a sweep of the Padres.

Entering the All-Star Break, Baez should be the frontrunner for Most Valuable Player.

For starters, he's the best player on the best team in the league.

Thanks to a recent hot surge by the Cubs and an ugly weekend for the Brewers (who have lost 6 straight), Baez and Co. will go into the break with the best record in the NL. 

Baez, meanwhile, leads the Cubs in WAR and nearly every offensive category — OPS, slugging percentage, homers, RBI, runs scored, doubles, triples, total bases, stolen bases and hits.

And that's not even saying anything about his glovework at any position on the infield or dynamic baserunning.

He's on pace to become the first Cubs player to drive in 125 runs since Sammy Sosa in 2001.

Baez also is on track for a 30-30 season — something only Sosa accomplished in a Cubs uniform in 1993 and 1995. 

El Mago will enjoy his week in the Home Run Derby and as the NL's starting second baseman in the All-Star Game, but those shouldn't be the end of his accolades this year if he can find a way to keep this pace up in the second half.

What other NL candidate would be a better choice for the MVP right now?

Baez is tied for the league lead in RBI. Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar is just behind Baez with 70 RBI, but he also has 70 fewer at-bats than the Cubs star due to a platoon to begin the year. 

Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett are also having great years, but the Reds are nowhere close to a playoff spot. 

Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt are also having very good seasons on teams that are currently in the playoff hunt, but how do you deny the best player on the league's best team?

After all, where would the Cubs be without Baez this season? 

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have battled through injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness, the pitching staff has had all kinds of consistency/health woes and Willson Contreras has yet to find his power stroke at the plate.

At the very least, "El Mago" has been the most important player on the North Side of Chicago during the first 3.5 months of 2018.

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Cubs first-round pick Nico Hoerner made his debut with the Class-A South Bend Cubs, and he did not disappoint.

The 23-year old shortstop showed off impressive hops during an acrobatic grab in the topf of the second inning in his first game with the South Bend Cubs. Hoerner will surely be an exciting defensive prospect with ability like this.

As far as offense goes, through four at-bats at South Bend, Hoerner is batting .500, and this comes after he hit .318 with a home run and two RBI through seven games with the Eugene Emeralds, the Cubs Class A short-season affiliate.

Here is to hoping we continue to see big-time plays from Hoerner.