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.

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.