Cubs

Why Cubs playing greedy down the stretch is a good thing

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Why Cubs playing greedy down the stretch is a good thing

The Cubs’ five-game lead for the second wild card spot could, perhaps should, afford them a bit of leeway.

It could be a reason to back off, rest a few regulars, pull starters early, or give the four stalwart rookies a bit of a break.

But with the Pirates just three games ahead for the top wild card spot, Cubs manager Joe Maddon was hearing none of it on Sunday morning. Following back-to-back comeback wins, including a thrilling one on Saturday that featured a bevy of basket home runs, the Cubs have a chance to register their fourth four-game sweep of the season.

Having already swept four-game sets from the Mets, Brewers and Giants this year, Chicago can sweep Atlanta on Sunday. The Cubs haven’t swept four, four-game series in a single season since 1945. A win would also put the Cubs at 71-51, a high watermark for the season.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

“We weren’t satisfied with splitting the series after we won the first two. I love that,” Maddon said. “That was obvious yesterday by the comeback that we had. And so now you go for it. You go for it. You’re not, ‘Oh, we won the series.’ No, no, no. You don’t do that. You can never think that way. That’s the trap that really prevents you from being as great as you can be. This is where you really go for it.”

The Cubs, who are 18-4 in their last 22 games, are testing the limits of how good they can be. Part of the excitement is that the answer to that question is largely unknown. But they’re hardly content with the fourth-best record in the big leagues to this point, because given their NL Central opponents, a solid year simply won’t make the postseason cut.

Jason Hammel gets the start on Sunday, looking to rebound from an awful outing in his last appearance against the Tigers.  Hammel, who hasn’t won at home since April 27th, allowed nine hits and three home runs on a blustery day at Wrigley last Tuesday. He hasn’t gotten through six innings since July 3 – a span of 7 starts – so the Cubs’ bullpen may be taxed yet again.

[MORE: Maddon is still all-in on Dan Haren]

In the three wins vs. the Braves thus far, Cubs relievers have been responsible for 11 2/3 innings of work. Maddon’s quick hooks are yet another indication of how important he views each game, whether the opponent is Atlanta (which owns the most road losses in the majors) or a postseason hopeful.

The contenders – San Francisco and Los Angeles – are on deck, but on Sunday, the Braves had Maddon’s undivided attention even with the series in hand. 

“It’s Sunday," Maddon said. "That’s all I’m worried about is Sunday. We’re playing the Dodgers and the Giants next week. Fine. But I’m worried about Sunday. … I think the trap is when you start getting caught up in this rush to the finish line as opposed to taking care of the moment. I think if you’re able to maintain that mindset, success follows.” 

A shortsighted perspective ensures the Cubs won't get caught up in the frenzy of a September pennant chase. Although, like it or not, that time is rapidly approaching. 

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...

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

Did Manny Machado’s value take a hit at all after he openly admitted hustling isn’t his “cup of tea”? Our Cubs team (David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jeff Nelson) debate that, plus the potential fit of Machado or Bryce Harper for the 2019 Cubs and beyond.

[MORE: The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason]

The crew also runs down the top items on the Cubs’ offseason wish list – ranging from bullpen help to infield depth to a set leadoff hitter – in what may be the most impactful winter in Theo Epstein’s tenure in Chicago.

Listen to the podcast here or via the embedded player below: