Cubs

Is this season a failure if Cubs don’t win the World Series?

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Is this season a failure if Cubs don’t win the World Series?

ANAHEIM, Calif. – If the Cubs don’t win the World Series, will this season be a failure?

The Cubs are light years away from pitchers getting asked about the trade deadline as soon as they report to spring training, or managers sitting on the hot seat, or prospects becoming overloaded with attention to distract everyone from the awful big-league product.

Year 5 of the Theo Epstein administration began on a beautiful, 75-degrees-and-sunny night in Southern California, with fireworks, a flyover and a sellout crowd (44,020) at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. But anxious Cubs fans, the build-‘em-up Chicago media and all those national experts can’t fast forward to October.

There is still more than 99 percent of the season left to play after Jake Arrieta again looked like a Cy Young Award winner while dominating the Los Angeles Angels during Monday’s 9-0 victory.

“I don’t think it’s fair to sit here on Opening Day and determine what’s going to be a success and what’s going to be a failure,” Epstein said. “It’s fair at the end of the year. As I look back on last year, I can identify a lot of things that were successes. And I can identify a lot of things that were failures, even in what was overall seen as a pretty darn good year for the organization.

“That’s what we’ll do at the end of the season, sit back and take stock on that and hope that these are the types of questions we’re asked again next Opening Day. The fact that you’re asking that means a lot’s going right for this organization.

“That’s a good feeling, but it doesn’t mean anything. We have to go out and prove it. We have to go out and earn it. We have to go out and overcome the adversity. That process starts today.

“That’s how we’re wired as an organization. Not to sit here and judge exactly what a success might be or who’s starting what game of the playoffs. We have to go earn it. We have nothing. We have nothing but each other, talent, character and an opportunity.”

[MORE: Cubs moving closer to extension with Theo Epstein]  

The Cubs skipped the steppingstone season by winning 97 games and two playoff rounds last year – and then slamming on the accelerator this winter with almost $290 million spent on free agents.

The Cubs still had four 25-and-under players starting on Opening Day – Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler – for the first time since 1975. That critical mass of young talent means the buzz around this team is here to stay.

“Nothing’s promised in this game – or in life,” Epstein said. “Windows slam shut. People get run over by buses crossing the street. You can’t control everything. So you want to make the most of every day. You want to make the most of every opportunity.

“If you don’t get there, you want to make sure it wasn’t because you didn’t work hard enough, you weren’t aggressive enough, you weren’t committed enough. And I don’t think these players have that problem whatsoever.”

Looking physically recharged and emotionally refreshed after the greatest second half by any pitcher in the history of the game, Arrieta allowed only two hits and one walk across seven innings before the Cubs shut him down at 89 pitches.

“That’s a tone that we want to set early,” Arrieta said. “We were ready for this moment.”

A lineup with some American League thump generated 11 hits and seven walks. The Cubs made Garrett Richards throw 97 pitches before knocking the Angels starter out after five innings.

There was Dexter Fowler – Joe Maddon’s “You go, we go” leadoff guy who waited all winter for the big score in free agency only to return on a one-year, $13 million guarantee – beginning the game with a double to right field, scoring on Anthony Rizzo’s two-out single up the middle and getting on base three more times.

There was the designated hitter Soler – a young player who looked like he might get lost in the shuffle on an uber-team – smacking an RBI single past diving Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons for a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning.

There was Miguel Montero – a two-time All-Star catcher hitting in the eighth spot – blasting a two-run homer to put the game out of reach in the sixth inning.

“The way we grinded at-bats today is the winning formula,” Rizzo said.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Cubs fans!]

The Cubs are too deep and too talented to not be thinking about making history and unleashing the biggest party Chicago has ever seen. At the end of the night, you could hear the fans singing “Go Cubs Go” as they headed out toward the parking lots.

“Any time you don’t win the World Series, there’s some degree of disappointment,” Epstein said. “The expectations thing – I know it can kind of create the subtext that hangs over the club with every two-game losing streak or every game that goes wrong.

“Or every injury – people try to put it in the context of the ultimate goal of the World Series. But the reality is that’s not how we feel internally. We know it’s a grind. We know it’s a process. We know what we’re shooting for. We’re here to win the World Series.

“But you don’t think about that on a daily basis. You think about the challenges being presented to you, how you can overcome that, coming together as a team and an organization and working your tail off to move forward. That’s what drives us.”

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

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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.

It looks like rough times are ahead for Brewers relief ace Josh Hader

It looks like rough times are ahead for Brewers relief ace Josh Hader

The Brewers' best pitcher is in some serious hot water before the second half of the MLB season gets underway.

As he was serving up a 3-run homer in the All-Star Game Tuesday night, Josh Hader's Tweets from 2011 were aired publicly and the result was...not good.

Hader's Tweets as a 17-year-old reflected racist and homophobic remarks, among other issues. (A summary of his Tweets can be found at Deadspin.)

After the All-Star Game, Hader was immediately put in front of reporters to respond to the Tweets and admitted he will accept any punishment that comes his way — including any possible suspension:

He won't be suspended by the league and will instead under go sensitivity training, but this absolutely could affect Hader mentally moving forward. 

Case in point:

He can ask teammate Ryan Braun how to deal when fans turn on you, but it's going to be a lot more difficult for a 24-year-old in his first full big-league season to deal with any hate that comes down. 

Hader has been the Brewers' most valuable pitcher all season, going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and a ridiculous 16.7 K/9. 

But over the last month-plus, he's been...human.

Ever since Jason Heyward turned on a 98 mph Hader fastball to tie the game in Milwaukee on June 11, the Brewers' relief ace has a 2.84 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 13.5 K/9.

Still great numbers, to be sure, but not the Superman-esque line baseball fans came to expect from Hader after the first couple months of 2018. (Plus, the All-Star Game homer he served up to Jean Segura, but that obviously doesn't count for anything.)

With the Brewers already chasing the Cubs by 2.5 games in the division in the second half, they can't afford Hader's slump to worsen.

Though Cubs fans may be rooting for that...