Cubs

Have Cardinals done enough to keep up with Cubs?

Have Cardinals done enough to keep up with Cubs?

ST. LOUIS – The conservative St. Louis Cardinals stretched beyond their comfort zone and still couldn’t sign Jason Heyward or David Price, failing to land the counterpunch during a long winter where the Cubs dominated the headlines.

The Cardinals heard all about the big-ticket additions for Wrigley Field and the wacky antics at Camp Maddon during spring training. But a franchise with 11 World Series banners flying at Busch Stadium, three straight division titles and only one losing season since Y2K won’t be conceding anything.

The Cardinals prevented the sweep with Wednesday’s 5-3 rain-soaked win, ambushing No. 5 starter Kyle Hendricks by scoring four runs in the first two innings. Carlos Martinez – an All-Star last season who won’t celebrate his 25th birthday until late September and should be an X-factor in the St. Louis rotation – allowed only one run on three hits across seven innings before the storm rolled through and caused a delay that lasted three hours and 21 minutes.

Heyward offended The Best Fans in Baseball when he explained his decision to jump to Chicago, pointing out the aging core in St. Louis and the uncertainty surrounding Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina, Opening Day starter Adam Wainwright and All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday.

Molina will turn 34 this summer and is signed through 2017 (with a mutual option for the following season). Wainwright is 34, a Tommy John survivor and locked up through 2018. Holliday is 36 and will become a free agent if a team/vesting option doesn’t kick in for 2017.

“One of the hallmarks of the Cardinals is their steadiness,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “In the past, they haven’t really gone out and made big free-agent splashes and it’s been really effective for them. They always re-signed their own guys – think about the guys they’ve traded for like (Mark) McGwire and (Jim) Edmonds and Holliday.

“They know they have a really good team. They won 100 games last year (and) were probably on pace for 110 wins most of the season. I don’t think they felt like they had to do that much (during the offseason).”

[RELATED: Is Joe Maddon getting in the Cardinals' heads?]

Holliday flexed his muscles in the first inning when he lifted a Hendricks pitch and drove it 362 feet into the first row of the left-field seats for a two-run homer that awoke the crowd of 43,093.

Whether or not Holliday fades away, the Cardinals have their own 25-and-under group of position players in Kolten Wong, Aledmys Diaz, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, who stole a two-run homer away from Anthony Rizzo with a leaping catch at the left-center field wall in the first inning.

There might not be anyone you’d rather have in a Game 7 than Jake Arrieta. But the Cubs still haven’t been able to consistently draft and develop pitchers like All-Star starter Michael Wacha and All-Star closer Trevor Rosenthal, who all benefit from Molina’s reassuring presence behind the plate.

Baseball America still ranks the St. Louis farm system within the game’s top half and the Cardinals will benefit from a reported $1 billion TV deal that begins with the 2018 season and includes an ownership stake in Fox Sports Midwest.

“They’ve done a pretty good job so far of making the market-size thing irrelevant,” Hoyer said. “When you pack this place with 45,000 people every night, the size of the city doesn’t matter that much. They bring in a lot of revenue because they have great fans and they have great teams.”

The Cubs (11-4) still won this three-game series, plus the only playoff matchup in the rivalry’s 124-year history and six of the nine games before that in 2015. That led to fun with small sample sizes. Even when there’s more than 90 percent of the 2016 schedule remaining and the Cardinals should probably have a better record than 8-7 given their plus-31 run differential.

“I don’t think it suggests anything other than this group as a whole has more experience under their belt together,” said Heyward, who put up a 6.5 WAR for the Cardinals last season and won his third Gold Glove in right field before signing an eight-year, $184 million megadeal. “That’s what it’s about, man, being with some of the same guys and jelling and using their experience to go forward.

“It’s knowledge, there’s some comfort and it’s peace of mind.”

The last word from Heyward, who took less guaranteed money to come to Wrigley Field and hinted the Cardinals could never match what the Cubs offered in terms of the chance to make history: “I don’t think anybody that’s a baseball person will ever see St. Louis as the team that’s going to try to rebuild.”

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

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NBC Sports Chicago

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

A Cubs pitcher taking in a Blackhawks game in a suite is nothing special, but doing so with a World Cup winner is... different.

Kyle Hendricks was spotted by the cameras of Thursday's Blackhawks-Coyotes broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago. The guy he was standing next to was none other than Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, a World Cup with Germany and Champions League winner with Bayern Munich.

Hendricks is known for being reserved on the mound and in his interviews with the media. Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger was filmed yelling "Bear Down" in the hallway of Toyota Park after a Fire practice earlier in the day.

There's no telling what inspired Schweinsteiger to do this, but he has definitely embraced Chicago sports teams since joining the Fire in March of 2017.

Makes you wonder what Hendricks and Schweinsteiger were talking about. Best places to get brats in Chicago?

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

View this post on Instagram

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...