Cubs

South Bend Cubs win minor league baseball's top honor

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South Bend Cubs win minor league baseball's top honor

The Chicago Cubs may have had a 2015 for the ages, but it's one of their minor-league teams is taking home some serious hardware.

The South Bend Cubs - the Class-A affiliate in Indiana - was named the 42nd annual John H. Johnson President's Award, minor league baseball's top honor handed out to the most complete baseball franchise.

The criteria for the accolade takes into account financial stability, contributions to league stability, contributions to baseball in the community and promotion of the baseball industry, according to MiLB.com.

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The SB Cubs will be honored at the Baseball Winter Meetings Banquet on Dec. 6 in Nashville, Tenn.

"On behalf of the entire South Bend Cubs organization, we are incredibly honored to accept the 2015 John H. Johnson President's Award," said South Bend Cubs President Joe Hart. "To be selected for this prestigious award over some of the best franchises across the nation is extremely humbling.

"The 2015 season broke a number of longstanding records in South Bend and would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our front office and gameday staffs. We pride ourselves on having the most passionate and customer service-focused people working for us. It is wonderful to see their hard work recognized."

The South Bend Cubs signed a player development contract with the Cubs before the 2015 season and agreed to change their name and logo to reflect the parent club. They set new franchise records in overall attendance, totaling 347,678 fans with an average of 5,039 a game.

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"Through dedication to their community and commitment to making Four Winds Field a better place for fans, the South Bend Cubs broke attendance records and became a business leader in their area," said Pat O'Conner, Minor League Baseball President & CEO. "This award recognizes them for their pursuit in setting a higher standard for all of Minor League Baseball. On behalf of Minor League Baseball, I congratulate the South Bend Cubs on an outstanding season and wish them continued success in the future."

This is the first time South Bend has won the Johnson President's Award.

Cubs early schedule is favorable, but watch out for divisional games

Cubs early schedule is favorable, but watch out for divisional games

With only 60 games this season, getting off to a good start is imperative for any team's postseason chances. That sentiment is especially true for the Cubs, based on how their schedule lines up to start the season.

The Cubs and Cardinals have the second easiest schedules through Aug. 6, based on their opponents' 2019 winning percentages (.445). The Reds (.437) have the easiest schedule through that stretch.

In those 14 games the Cubs play the Brewers (three times), Reds (four), Pirates (three) and Royals (four). They then play St. Louis three times before their first scheduled day off (Aug. 10).

MORE: 2020 Cubs schedule starts vs. Brewers, ends at White Sox

The context, of course, is Reds — a thorn in the Cubs' side last season — improved their roster immensely over the winter. Cincinnati added outfielder Nick Castellanos (Cubs) third baseman Mike Moustakas (Brewers), starter Wade Miley (Astros) and outfielder Shogo Akiyama (Japan) in free agency following a 75-87 2019 campaign. They also have a formidable rotation featuring Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Miley.

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Besides Moustakas, Milwaukee lost another cog to their 2019 lineup to free agency in catcher Yasmani Grandal (White Sox). Also gone is first baseman Eric Thames (25 homers last season), who joined the Nationals in free agency.

As has been the case in recent seasons, there are questions about Milwaukee's starting rotation. They dealt Zach Davies to the Padres and Chase Anderson to the Blue Jays, adding Erik Lauer (trade with San Diego), and Josh Lindblom (Japan) and Brett Anderson (A's) in free agency. 

Milwaukee is still a competitive rival and has proven doubters wrong by making back-to-back postseasons. Their bullpen is solid and they're still led by 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich.

Pittsburgh and Kansas City are still in rebuild mode, but lest we forget the Pirates were 44-45 at the All-Star break last season and in the thick of the NL Central race. A 60-game season is a crapshoot, and it would be foolish to take any opponent lightly.

No matter what any team did last season, 2020 is unique and unlike anything we've seen. Even with these factors, the Cubs need to get off to a good start to assert themselves in the race to October (should we get there, COVID-19 contingent).

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Cubs 2020 MLB schedule: 5 AL Central stars fans need to know

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USA Today

Cubs 2020 MLB schedule: 5 AL Central stars fans need to know

MLB announced the full 60-game regular season schedule on Monday evening, so we finally have the who, when and where down for the unique 2020 campaign.

We also know pretty well how the Cubs stack up their division rivals, since the teams are so familiar with themselves. But what about that other Central division? The one that’s used to the DH? In 2020, the Cubs will face the A.L. Central teams more regularly, when they typically only play against them every few years. So who are the big names Cubs fans gotta keep an eye on when they take the field?

Here are the Top-5 stars from the A.L. Central the Cubs will play this year