Cubs

Jon Jay: The underrated hero the Cubs need

jon_jay_hero_slide.jpg
AP

Jon Jay: The underrated hero the Cubs need

Willson Contreras is the best player on the planet right now. Anthony Rizzo is the face of the franchise. Kris Bryant is the reigning NL MVP.

But Jon Jay has been the hero the Cubs need.

The 32-year-old outfielder has flown under the radar with fans, but players and coaches around the league have always appreciated his game.

Jay began the year as a part-time player for the Cubs — a pinch-hitter off the bench, a defensive replacement and spot-starter at any of the three spots in the outfield.

But he's been playing full time lately and filling the void at the top of the order. Jay has started nine of the Cubs' last 11 games, playing a ton of center field while rookies Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. work to make adjustments. 

"He's playing at a very high level right now," Joe Maddon said. "We have really been in need of his services. He's made a great impact this year and we wouldn't be nearly in as good of shape without him right now."

Jay's numbers don't jump off the page, but he is hitting 298 with a .388 on-base percentage and is sixth on the team in position-player WAR, ahead of guys like Jason Heyward, Ian Happ, Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber.

In addition to what he's done on the field, Jay has helped fill the leadership void in the clubhouse with David Ross now in the broadcast booth and Cubs front office. Maddon has even called Jay his sidekick.

"It's very important when you get that kind of support," Maddon said. "Jon Jay is a pro. I do lean on him a little bit talking to some of the younger guys. I'll say things to him and I know that he'll take the message properly to the player.

"He has influence. There's no question. Who works better at-bats than he does right now? Who works harder than he does? Watch him in the outfield shagging fly balls when we take batting practice. He wears his little beanie and his hoodie and he goes out there and he works his butt off and I love it.

"In the weight room, he's always on the treadmill or on the bike or doing something to stay ready. Just has a great method about him. He's got a good way with the guys about him also. They kinda gravitate toward him."

Jay has never been an All-Star. He's only notched more than 500 plate apperances once in his eight seasons. His career high in homers is 10 and has never driven in or scored more than 75 runs in a season.

But he also doesn't try to do too much. He's not up there swinging for the bleachers, choosing instead to spray the ball from sideline to sideline with a line-drive approach.

His teammates love him. To a man, when asked about Jay, each guy in the Cubs clubhouse immediately goes to his work ethic and preparation. 

You'd think the phrase, "he's a true professional" might have actually been invented for Jay the way his teammates and coaches keep coming back to it.

Just ask John Lackey about Jay (the two played together in St. Louis in 2014-15). Lackey often spends his post-start media sessions giving reporters short answers or calling teammates out for not turning enough batted balls into outs, but his face lit up when asked about Jay.

"Man, just a pro," Lackey said. "He's prepared, he's ready to play every day whether he's in the lineup or not. He does his work, he puts together a professional at-bat every time he's up there.

"He knows what he's trying to do. He knows who he is as a player. He's a guy you can trust, for sure."

Jay has always been this way, according to Almora, a Miami-area native who watched Jay play with the University of Miami.

Jay has really taken Almora under his wing this season, helping the young outfielder handle a reduced role and staying ready for any opportunity in the game, whether as a pinch-hitter, defensive replacement or pinch-runner.

"His work ethic's off the charts ever since I've known him," Almora said. "He came into the University of Miami, he had his own gameplan and workout. He knew what he had to do to get ready and maintain for a whole baseball season. 

"Now being with him day in and day out, just the preparation work, the mental part of the game. He loves the game. He's a student of the game and every time he sees an opportunity to tell me something for me to learn, he's always there."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Covering the MLB All-Star Game from the media’s perspective

mlb-as-stadium.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Covering the MLB All-Star Game from the media’s perspective

NBC Sports Chicago’s own Kelly Crull and videographer Scott Changnon recalled what All-Star week in the nations capitol was like from their point of view.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

 

Cubs, Bears, Bulls among the top 25 wealthiest sports teams in the world

tom.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs, Bears, Bulls among the top 25 wealthiest sports teams in the world

What Chicago sports team is worth the most money in 2018?

As reported by Kurt Badenhausen in a Forbes article about the 50 richest teams around the globe, the Cubs are the most valuable organization in the Windy City.

Chicago’s North Side baseball team ranks as the 16th wealthiest team in the world, valued at $2.9 billion, an 8 percent increase from 2017. The Cubs are the third-most affluent franchise in Major League Baseball, behind the New York Yankees ($4 billion) and the Los Angeles Dodgers ($3 billion).

This year, the baseball club owned by the Ricketts family surpassed the wealth of the Boston Red Sox ($2.8 billion), who the Cubs were ranked behind last season at $2.68 billion. In the span of a year, the North Siders gained two spots in the top 50 from 18 to 16 on the list.

What could be the reason for this increase?

Could it be that the Cubs are in first place in the NL Central? Or could it be the incredible performances from players like Jon Lester and Javy Baez?

Whatever the reason is for the Cubs’ prosperity, the team is doing something right.

The club also surpassed the Bears on the list this year. In 2017 the Bears (worth $2.7 billion last year) were tied with the Red Sox as the 16th most valuable sports team on Earth. The McCaskey-owned football team has fallen to a tie at 17 with the San Francisco Giants, both valued at $2.85 billion in 2018. The Bears even increased by 6 percent in the last year, making the Cubs’ jump seem greater.

The Bulls, owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, are the last team from Chicago to make the cut. They stand at 23 in the top 50, tied with the Denver Broncos. Both franchises are worth $2.6 billion. Chicago’s NBA team even fell a spot from 2017, but they still increased their value by 4 percent (worth $2.5 billion last year).

The Bears are the seventh richest team in the NFL, while the Bulls are fourth wealthiest in the NBA.