Cubs

Theo Epstein rooting for wild-card chaos as Cubs gear up for possible playoff opponents

Theo Epstein rooting for wild-card chaos as Cubs gear up for possible playoff opponents

Cubs president Theo Epstein is rooting for chaos, hoping the National League’s wild-card battle spills into a Game 163, setting up another emotionally draining elimination game the next night, leaving the last team standing among the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and New York Mets physically exhausted by the time they get to Wrigley Field.

“Each team presents its own set of challenges,” Epstein said before Monday night’s 5-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds. “It might have roster implications one way or another, too, based on the matchups. But we hope there’s a three-way tie — and then there’s about a 20-inning game to decide who plays on Tuesday (Oct. 4). And then the Tuesday game goes about 30 innings. And rain delays to push (the wild card and) make it a Thursday game.”

Weather permitting, the Cubs won’t know their first-round opponent until the night of Oct. 5, but Epstein’s front office and manager Joe Maddon will meet on Tuesday to discuss the playoff rotation, bubble players on the roster and what they need to see across the final 12 games in the regular season.

The Cubs won’t know their first-round opponent until the night of Oct. 5, but Epstein’s front office and manager Joe Maddon will meet on Tuesday to discuss the playoff rotation, bubble players on the roster and what they need to see across the final 12 games in the regular season.

A strong scouting infrastructure and a detailed game-planning system have been hallmarks of the Epstein administration and a coaching staff led by Dale Sveum-era holdovers Chris Bosio and Mike Borzello, marketing veteran pitchers for trade-deadline deals that rebuilt a fifth-place team into a division champion and helped transform Kyle Hendricks into a Cy Young Award candidate.

“We’re fully into the advance scouting process,” Epstein said. “We got our scouts out watching all the teams that we might face at some point. (We’re) doing a lot of video work as well. That ramps up as you get closer, but it’s already started.”

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With the NL Central title already wrapped up, the Cubs can treat late September like spring training, experimenting, scheduling days off and scripting out their playoff rotation. The hope is outfielder Jorge Soler (right side tightness) will be available to pinch-hit on Tuesday night and reliever Pedro Strop (knee) will throw a simulated game soon.

Meanwhile, the Mets (80-69), Giants (79-70) and Cardinals (78-71) went into Monday night’s games understanding there would only be two postseason spots available, forcing them to channel the adrenaline and sharpen their every-pitch focus.

Then again, the Cubs could also get to see the Mets and Giants burn Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner in a wild-card game, or if the St. Louis rotation will again be running on fumes by Oct. 7, creating flashbacks to last year’s playoffs.

“It cuts both ways,” Epstein said, “because then you can get run into the ground a little bit, get a little tired, especially with your pitching staff.

“All things being equal, I would rather clinch early and have the ability to rest guys. I don’t think this group is going to lose their edge because we might play games for a short period of time that aren’t quite as important as the ones that came before.

“Everyone knows what this team’s all about, why we’re here, what we’re trying to accomplish. We’ll be ready.”

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...