Cubs

While others hit reset button, Cubs waiting for game-changers

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While others hit reset button, Cubs waiting for game-changers

The Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox have slammed the reset button while the Cubs patiently wait for game-changers like a renovated Wrigley Field, a new television deal and their homegrown core to get to the big leagues.

As Jeffrey Loria stepped onto a down escalator at the Hyatt Regency OHare, one pack of reporters followed him down the stairs. Another media group came at the Marlins owner from the left flank once he got to the ground floor.

Loria went to open the wrong door on Wednesday and got turned around trying to find the right conference room for Major League Baseballs ownership meetings. He was wearing loud, thick sunglasses indoors, with lenses that literally looked rose-colored.

Not today boys, Loria said dismissively. If you havent figured it out yet, Im not going to figure it out for you.

Loria has left South Florida taxpayers in the dark, using public money to help build the Marlins Park spaceship in Little Havana, triggering an SEC investigation. Not to mention the big-ticket free agents he signed to back-loaded contracts without no-trade clauses, like Gold Glove left-hander Mark Buehrle (four years, 58 million) and All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes (six years, 106 million).

Commissioner Bud Selig said the deal hadnt yet been submitted for his final approval, but the powerbrokers on layover inside this airport hotel in Rosemont were buzzing about the potential blockbuster 12-player trade between the Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays.

Well played, said Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, tipping his cap to an American League East rival set to acquire Reyes, Buehrle, pitcher Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck and utility guy Emilio Bonifacio.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts refused to stop and speak with beat writers and disappeared into meeting rooms throughout the day. Selig didnt want to take questions either, but will be asked about the Wrigley Field renovations and the role of the commissioners office in those negotiations during Thursdays news conference wrapping up the meetings.

From here, a new stadium plan and the television money that will pour in once the WGN contract expires after the 2014 season look like the biggest, boldest moves the Cubs could make in the near future.

By late August, the Red Sox had lost their way and didnt hesitate to trade away some of Theo Epsteins big-money guys Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett to a Los Angeles Dodgers team pumped up by a new ownership group and a huge upcoming television deal.

It takes two to tango, Lucchino said. You got to have a special situation on each side (to) have any sort of epic trade.

Toronto, which might be a top-five market, was looking to make a splash, send a message to the fan base and compete in a brutal division. The Marlins are in full retreat, and Selig will almost certainly be asked if Loria is fit to be a big-league owner.

New York Yankees president Randy Levine who in the past has criticized the idea of simply pocketing money from revenue sharing didnt complain about this mega-trade.

Theres a collective bargaining agreement, Levine said. As far as I understand, everybodys following the rules and teams are allowed to do what they want to do. (Just) from what I read I havent talked to anybody both sides think they improved. Thats what its all about.

Its interesting to note that after signing Scott Baker on Tuesday, Epstein was asked what the next rotation piece might look like, given that the right-hander recovering from Tommy John surgery received only a modest one-year, 5.5 million deal.

The Cubs president mentioned trades as one option a week after saying at the general manager meetings that the team wont have many trade options this winter.

This fire sale in Miami could change the entire landscape across baseball. Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco who is owed 11.5 million next season declined to comment when reached by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and sent this text message: Im next anyways. Its also worth monitoring Logan Morrisons Twitter feed for reactions.

Wherever the Cubs go the rest of this winter remember its still a week away from Thanksgiving they arent going to hit delete-all keys like the Marlins or the fast-forward button like the Red Sox.

Most every teams situation is different, Lucchino said. I wouldnt compare us to other clubs. I dont think many other clubs would compare themselves to us. Every team has its own distinctive market and its own special needs.

The Red Sox were reportedly discussing trade scenarios with the Marlins involving Reyes and Johnson. They now have a huge amount of financial flexibility to reshape their roster, as well as their image, and try to get back to the World Series.

We refuse to put a timetable on it, Lucchino said, but we sure dont have any five-year plans or anything like that.

The Cubs are looking at those types of windows. This was a little over a year after Epstein left Fenway Park, ending his power struggle with Lucchino and starting a compensation fight that dragged out into spring training. The Red Sox president sounded distant out of sight, out of mind? when asked about his relationship with Epstein and the Cubs now.

I think were on good terms with that organization, Lucchino said. Theyre in the other league, so we dont have a lot of direct dealings with them. Our view of the National League teams is quite different than our view of teams in the American League East. We think about them much more often.

What To Know: News and Notes From the Upcoming Reds-Cubs Series

What To Know: News and Notes From the Upcoming Reds-Cubs Series

It’s finally Memorial Day Weekend, which is great time to take a moment and reflect on all those who were, when the Cubs were 2-7, adamant about waiting to pass judgement until the holiday weekend. It’s here, and you were right. Congrats to you. Conventional wisdom rules the day, once again. 

The Cincinnati Reds are in town for the final series in this 7-game homestand. The two teams played in Cincinnati a little over a week ago, and the Reds took two of three despite never winning a game by more than two runs. It’ll be Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, and José Quintana on the mound for the Cubs, countered by Anthony DeSclafani, Tyler Mahle, and Tanner Roark for Cincinnati. Here’s what else to look out for: 

Schwarber’s Staying Put

It sounds like the Kyle Schwarber Leadoff Experiment isn’t going anywhere. He’s lead off for the Cubs in each of the last nine games (including Friday), and is hitting .267/.368/.567 with a .935 OPS over that span. He’s hit 2 of his 7 homers and drawn 6 of his 26 walks out of the leadoff spot. While it’s not his first rodeo, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon talked pregame about how the team is more convinced that it’s the right fit now. 

“It’s one of those things where you have to believe it to see it,” he said. “And sometimes there’s folks that have to see it to believe it. I just thought it was the right time. Again, I liked it back then -- I did -- however he did not react to it well in that moment. But if you look at his overall abilities  as they stand right now, for me, that’s the perfect spot for him.” 

Cincinnati’s Record: a Reds Herring?

The Reds enter this weekend’s series as the last-place team in the NL Central, and owners of the 5th-worst record (22-27) in the NL. What’s interesting, though, is that they also have the 2nd-best run differential (+25) in the division, which also happens to be the 4th best in the NL. According to Baseball Reference, their actual record is *five* wins lower than it should actually be. 

“We’re playing a team right now that’s record is not good, but they are really good,” Maddon said. “I have a lot of respect for this group.”

The Reds have had some of the best pitching of any team in baseball through the first 40+ games. Going into the long weekend, they rank:

2nd in FIP (3.47)
3rd in ERA (3.50)
5th in K/BB% (17.6)
7th in WHIP (1.23)
4th in HR/FB (12.4% - especially impressive given how homer heavy Great American Ballpark is.) 

Miscellaneous News and Notes

The Cubs called up James Norwood before Friday’s game. He briefly pitched for the Cubs last season, making 11 appearances to the tune of a 4.09 ERA. This season, over 20 innings in Triple-A Iowa, Norwood is holding batters to a .206 average while posting an impressive K/BB of 22.5%. The corresponding move was optioning Rowan Wick back to Triple-A. There’s also been no update on the status of Ben Zobrist, who remains away from the team on a personal absence. 

Sports Talk Live Podcast: What's up with Jon Lester?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: What's up with Jon Lester?

David Haugh, Hub Arkush and Ben Finfer join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The Cubs had chances but fall to the Phillies after Jon Lester gets roughed up again. Is anybody worried?

4:00 - It's Kap's daily call for the Cubs management to sign Craig Kimbrel.

8:00 - The White Sox look for a split. Do they need to try to compete in the division or just focus on developing their future stars?

13:00 - The Bears' Top 100 players list is out. The guys debate if Brian Urlacher is too low and if "The Fridge" should have cracked the list.

20:00 - Drake's shoulder rub is dominating the Eastern Conference Finals. The guys weigh in on the touchy subject.

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