Ready for battle with Cubs in World Series, Kyle Schwarber has another chance to add to his legend

Ready for battle with Cubs in World Series, Kyle Schwarber has another chance to add to his legend

Before the Cubs hosted the Indians in the final game of 2016 at Wrigley Field Sunday night, a young fan skirted across the upper deck concourse wearing a Kyle Schwarber jersey and a black sponge taped to the base of his chin.

That's how much kids want to be like "America's large adult son," as Deadspin has started calling Schwarber.

There's something about Schwarber and his blue-collar Midwest style and lovable frat dude aura that has endeared the Cubs slugger to Chicago and, over the last week, to the nation as well as his legend grows.

That "something" will be back in the Cubs lineup for Game 6 Tuesday night (and Game 7 Wednesday night if the Cubs can pull out a win) in Cleveland, not far from where Schwarber grew up in Middletown, Ohio.

Despite a stunning return to the active roster for the World Series, Schwarber was not cleared to play the outfield and as such, led to only one plate appearance by "America's large adult son."

Now, with the designated hitter returning as an option, the Cubs will get the boost Schwarber provided when he went 3-for-7 with a double, two RBI, a run and a pair of walks in the first two games in Cleveland.

And that's from a guy nobody even thought would step on a field in 2016 after a horrendous knee injury on April 7.

“His inner drive – you can’t measure that,” outfielder Chris Coghlan said. “It’s not a skill that you can measure and people can quantify by watching him. It’s just an inner desire. And not everybody has that. That’s what makes him special.”

Schwarber's mere presence is an emotional boost to a Cubs offense that has struggled mightily to find consistency over the last two playoff series.

The Cubs have been shut out in four of the last nine postseason games and managed just five runs in the three World Series games at Wrigley Field over the weekend.

"Any bat like that can play," Dexter Fowler said. "A bat like that - impact bat - is definitely awesome to get back in the lineup."

It's funny that this is even such a major storyline. Everybody's excited about a guy who's had 15 plate appearances since spring training?

But that's the magic surrounding Schwarber right now, and his teammates believe.

"He's back and I'm sure he's chomping at the bit," Anthony Rizzo said. "He's going to have big at-bats Tuesday and he's going to be ready for it and he's got all of our confidence behind him.

"It'll be nice, especially [in Progressive Field], where it's a shorter porch to right. It's supposed to be a little warmer there - 76 [degrees]? Oh my gosh."

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Relegated to cheerleading duties for much of the historic weekend at Wrigley, Schwarber kept his anxiety at bay by taking swings throughout the game, running to the indoor batting cage as many as five times to ensure he'd be ready if that big pinch-hitting opportunity came up.

During the Cubs' pressure-packed, tense 3-2 win in Game 5, Schwarber said he was bouncing off the walls in the dugout and clubhouse. When Jason Heyward scaled the right field wall to make a ridiculous catch on a foul pop-up, Schwarber said he exploded.

For now, the big left-handed bat is just focusing on the off-day, projecting a sense of calm while standing at his locker and fielding questions from reporters.

But underneath the surface, Schwarber is relishing the chance to be able to help his team on the biggest stage, to go to war with those guys in the clubhouse after a year of adversity.

"Yeah, [there's anxiety there]," he said. "I missed the whole year. So for me to be able to step out there with them again and go to battle with them, it's gonna be fun."

Schwarber - who already is the Cubs' franchise leader in postseason homers (5) - dismisses any notion of pressure.

"I just think that once it comes to game time, once you're in between the lines, you're in between the lines," he said. "There ain't no guessing. It's go out there and battle."

And as for the facial hair?

"I always joke," Schwarber said, "if I shave it off, nobody would recognize me anymore."

Christian Yelich to Yu Darvish on Twitter, 'Nobody needs help facing you'

Christian Yelich to Yu Darvish on Twitter, 'Nobody needs help facing you'

In the wake of the cheating allegations surrounding the Houston Astros, multiple parties have weighed in with their takes on the situation, and this includes Cubs starter Yu Darvish. He stated that this past season, he had noticed "weird behavior" from batters. Bleacher Nation then tweeted out a video showing Darvish stepping off the mound in a matchup against Christian Yelich and the Milwaukee Brewers, stating that he stepped off the mound because Yelich's "eyes move first...I'm not sure what he is trying to do."

Darvish then went on to elaborate that he wasn't trying to accuse the Brewers of stealing signs, rather that he was just stating what he had noticed in terms of batter behavior. Darvish made a minor grammar mistake, saying "your" instead of "you're" and when he responded to try to clarify that, it may have accidentally caused more confusion, as some mistakenly thought he was saying that Yelich indeed was stealing signs, but this was not the case.

That didn't stop Yelich from sounding off on Darvish with quite a harsh response, a response that was so harsh that some were shocked at the nature of it.

MLB free agent Josh Donaldson chimed in, humorously stating that he could definitely  use some help hitting off of Darvish and jokingly asked for what tips Yelich might have. 

Darvish then retweeted a few tweets that illustrated the point he was trying to make. 

Darvish also responded to Donaldson, saying that he doesn't think the third baseman needs any help hitting off of him either. 

At the end of the Darvish seems to be in a good place, and from his Twitter interactions, it is clear that he was not as upset or offended over the situation as Yelich was. 

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How the Cubs can get a Javier Báez deal done now


How the Cubs can get a Javier Báez deal done now

With the MLB GM Meetings now over, the Cubs will turn their attention to seeing how their fact-finding mission will influence their offseason makeover of the entire organization.

As Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported on Friday, the Cubs and Báez’s camp have begun negotiating a long-term contract extension. While many have speculated that Báez could command a massive salary that would rank among the top of MLB in terms of the total value, the Cubs do have some leverage. Báez still has two more years of club control, which should help to suppress the contract’s total value.

Put yourself in Báez’s shoes. If the Cubs offered you a six-year deal, would you do it? If you say yes, you have lifetime security for you and generations of the Báez family. However, you could be leaving money on the table because you would never reach free agency in the prime of your career.

Rejecting an offer of that size means you would have to perform at a level among the best players in all of baseball for two more seasons, and you would have to avoid serious injury as well. Báez plays with a flair and a passion that also puts his body in harm’s way on a daily basis.

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, 27, is two months older than Báez and the highest paid shortstop in baseball at $20 million per season. He signed a six-year, $120 million contract in 2019, which runs through the 2026 season.

Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor — who was selected No. 8 overall in the 2011 MLB Draft, one spot before Báez — will also be a free agent after the 2021 season. He made $10.55 million in 2019 and is projected to make $16.7 million in 2020.

Báez is projected to make $9.3 million.

So, would Báez accept a deal that would protect him against injury and set him up with lifetime security, knowing that with two more seasons before free agency he would potentially leave significant money on the table?

There could be three elite shortstops on the free agent market after the 2021 season: Báez, Lindor and Trevor Story of the Rockies. This may affect what each guy could make on the open market and what they might be willing to accept in a deal now. 

Add in the fact that there will be a new MLB collective bargaining agreement by the time those three stars hit the market, and there should be some impetus for them to get a deal done now. Multiple MLB front office sources expect Lindor to be dealt before he reaches free agency and some of those same sources believe Story could be traded before then as well.

What about a deal that helps the Cubs achieve payroll flexibility in 2020 and 2021 and locks Báez in long-term?

A former high-ranking MLB executive suggested a deal structure that pays Báez $10 million in 2020, $16 million in 2021, plus six additional years at an average annual value of $23 million. That would bring the total value of the contract to $164 million.

Add in two club options for an additional two seasons at $30 million each and it allows Báez to have the largest contract of all active shortstops in MLB. Total value of the deal: $224 million; guaranteed value of the deal: $164 million.

A deal structured like that gives the Cubs certainty with one of their most talented and marketable players and protects Báez from serious injury for the rest of his career.

Would he sign a deal structured like that? I know I would. There is no greater feeling in the world than long-term financial security. A deal structured like this is a win-win for both sides.

If the Cubs won’t give Báez a deal in this ballpark, then they have to think about moving him now. You can’t allow a player of his magnitude to reach free agency and you absolutely cannot lose him to another team. He is on a potential Hall of Fame track and he is one of the most charismatic players in all of professional sports.

This deal has to get done.

If the Cubs can sign Báez for less than the aforementioned deal, then they should consider themselves very lucky.

Either way, get a deal done. Javy Báez has to be priority No. 1.

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