Bears

Cubs dont want to hear about next year

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Cubs dont want to hear about next year

Alfonso Soriano has heard Cubs fans loud and clear, the cheers and the boos, and always shows up the next day with a smile on his face.

When asked if they will be patient enough for a long-term rebuild, the 136 million man sort of shrugged his shoulders and gave a look that said: Eh.

I dont say long-term, man, because in baseball, you never know, Soriano said. We have very good young talent. If everybody stays healthy, were going to compete every game. The group that we got is hungry to win. Who knows? Well see what happens.

That pretty much sums up the team that will stare down Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals on Thursday at Wrigley Field. They are on one side of the parallel tracks baseball czar Theo Epstein likes to talk about.

So much of this season figures to be about identifying core players for the future, pushing Starlin Castro to the next level, figuring out what to do with Matt Garza and integrating Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo.

But after Opening Day, the Cubs think they can give the ball to a credible starting pitcher 161 more times this season. They are banking on bounce-backs from Ian Stewart and David DeJesus and breakthroughs by Bryan LaHair and Jeff Samardzija. They think Dale Sveums no-nonsense DNA will transform the clubhouse.

Were going to have to have a lot of things go our way, Epstein acknowledged. Were going to have to earn a lot of victories in close games in order to put us in a position where we look up in the middle of the year and were in this thing. So nothing will be given to us.

If you listen to the prognosticators, if you look at it on paper, its probably an uphill battle. But that doesnt mean were giving anything away. The goal here is to get in the playoffs and win the World Series and we start out on equal footing. Well make our own way this season.

Over the winter, the Cubs didnt import any new stars. The front office clipped coupons during the industrys wild spending spree on impulse buys. Garza has Carlos Zambranos old locker, while Carlos Marmol moved into the space once occupied by Aramis Ramirez.

The Cubs say they are going to improve incrementally, that it will all add up across the course of a six-month marathon. Kerry Wood couldnt remember doing this much work on the back fields during spring training.

Its something that they wanted to address and something they wanted to clean up, Wood said. It wont be because of lack of effort and lack of work in spring, Ill tell you that. Weve gone out and at least addressed it the way we should have, which is working at it (and) trying to get better.

Sveums Straight Talk Express rolled through Arizona, pounding away at fundamental play, and maybe this time it really will carryover into the season. His body language doesnt say first-year manager.

Its a little more purpose-driven now, utility man Jeff Baker said. Its one of those things where (when Sveum) actually says were going to focus on this stuff during the year, I think were actually going to do it. In times past, (with) some of the things that are emphasized, its like as soon as you leave spring training, theyre kind of gone.

Unfortunately, thats kind of the way it goes, but I dont think its going to happen with him.

He already has that instant credibility from his baseball card, what hes done. Hes coached on some winning teams and hes been around winning players and winning organizations and I think guys are excited here to be a part of the next winning thing.

How soon will that happen? A front office driven by data will cling to the outliers. General manager Jed Hoyer thought back to 2010, his first season as general manager of the San Diego Padres.

We had no expectations, Hoyer recalled. Las Vegas thought we were going to be under 70 wins and I think we had the best record in baseball in mid-August and we ended up winning 90 games. To say I expected that would be a lie. The most important thing you can do is be prepared every game, have a team that plays hard every game. If you have that, anything can happen.

Every single year there are teams that are going to surprise people, teams that are going to prove the experts wrong. If that doesnt happen, if that isnt our script, I certainly hope that throughout the course of the year we continue to add talent to our organization and build for a great day in the future. But I would never give away any one season.

So a Cubs organization that has grown colder and more corporate will wake up on Opening Day, quiet the talk about processes and information-management systems and think: Why not us?

WATCH: Mitchell Trubisky runs like Michael Vick for 8-yard touchdown

WATCH: Mitchell Trubisky runs like Michael Vick for 8-yard touchdown

The New England Patriots defense wasn’t giving Mitchell Trubisky many options through the air, so he decided to take matters into his own hands at Soldier Field.

The young quarterback’s legs were the Bears’ most-effective weapon in the first quarter, as Trubisky led the team with 35 rushing yards on four carries in the opening period of play.

He capped it off with an eight-yard touchdown scramble that had him looking like Michael Vick on the field.

The Bears will need to have a more well-rounded offensive attack to keep up with teams like the Patriots, but Trubisky found what was working in the first quarter.

Perhaps most importantly, he’s been smart and safe with his running, opting to slide and go to the ground on his big plays to avoid any big hits.

His legs continue to make this offense more dynamic, to keep up with top-notch opponents like New England.

Edgy Tim's Preps Power Rankings: Playoffs Edition

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NBC Sports Chicago

Edgy Tim's Preps Power Rankings: Playoffs Edition

Here are the latest @NBCSPreps Top 25 Power Rankings as teams embark on the first week of postseason play.

1. Lincoln-Way East 9-0 (1)
Last Week: Beat Bolingbrook, 31-0
This Week: vs St. Charles East
EDGY's Take: The Griffins get a playoff rematch with the Saints...this time, minus the mud and slop.

2. Batavia 9-0 (2)
Last Week: Beat Wheaton North, 24-13
This Week: vs Granite City
EDGY's Take: The Bulldogs defense will need to slow down Granite City QB "Fast" Freddy Edwards this week. 

3. Brother Rice 9-0 (3)
Last Week: Beat Montini Catholic, 31-0
This Week: vs Zion-Benton
EDGY's Take: Impressive win over Montini to capture the CCL Blue title.
 
4. Marist 8-1 (4)
Last Week: Beat Benet Academy, 24-7
This Week: vs Stevenson
EDGY's Take: The Redhawks get a very difficult opening round game in hosting the Patriots.
  
5. Mount Carmel 8-1 (5)
Last Week: Beat Fenwick, 49-7
This Week: vs T.F. South
EDGY's Take: The Caravan have a very nice path in 7A; that said, the Rebels are not an easy opening game.

6. Homewood-Flossmoor 8-1 (6)
Last Week: Beat Sandburg, 56-0
This Week: vs Fremd
EDGY's Take: Can the Vikings offense dent a strong Fremd defense this week?

7. Cary-Grove 9-0 (7)
Last Week: Beat Naperville Central, 55-41
This Week: vs Wauconda
EDGY's Take: Wow. Talk about an impressive win. Last Friday's 55-41 triumph over Naperville Central certainly qualifies.

8. Simeon 9-0 (8)
Last Week: Beat Curie, 40-0
This Week: vs Rockford East
EDGY's Take: Simeon gets the top seed in Class 7A and will host the Rockford East E-Rabs in the opening round.

9. Nazareth Academy 8-1 (9)
Last Week: Beat Marian Catholic, 42-6
This Week: vs Andrew
EDGY's Take: The Roadrunners will not have an easy opening round game as they host the T-Bolts.

10. Maine South 8-1 (10)
Last Week: Beat Niles West, 48-6
This Week: vs Huntley
EDGY's Take: The Hawks will need to buckle the chin strap against a very big, strong Huntley team.
 
11. Oswego 9-0 (11)
Last Week: Beat Plainfield South, 22-15
This Week: vs Taft
EDGY's Take: The 3-seed Panthers also have a decent path in 8A. They open up against Taft.
  
12. Richards 9-0 (13)
Last Week: Beat Eisenhower, 41-6
This Week: vs Rock Island
EDGY's Take: Richards will face a strong Rocks' running game, anchored by a big offensive line.
 
13. Phillips 7-2 (13)
Last Week: Beat Raby, 40-0
This Week: vs Lake Forest
EDGY's Take: The Wildcats will begin their 6A journey. Up first: a very solid and battle-tested Scouts team that is coming off a win against Stevenson.

14. Willowbrook 9-0 (14)
Last Week: Beat Downers Grove South, 42-20
This Week: vs Lincoln Park
EDGY's Take: The Warriors get bumped up to 7A and open up against Lincoln Park.

15. Oak Park-River Forest 7-2 (18)
Last Week: Beat Lyons Township, 48-0
This Week: vs New Trier
EDGY's Take: Could it be one of the best round one matchup in the state? The Huskies match up against the Trevians in 8A.

16. Warren Township 8-1 (19)
Last Week: Beat Mundelein, 43-7
This Week: vs Neuqua Valley
EDGY's Take: The Blue Devils defense will get another test this week against the Wildcats.

17. Glenbard West 7-2 (20)
Last Week: Beat Proviso West, 35-6
This Week: @ Bartlett
EDGY's Take: The Hilltoppers wind up on the road in the first round. They take on a 7-2 Bartlett team.

18. Hinsdale Central 7-2 (23)
Last Week: Beat Hinsdale South, 21-12
This Week: vs Conant
EDGY's Take: The Red Devils will need to bring their A-game this week against an up-and-coming Conant program.

19. Rolling Meadows 9-0 (24)
Last Week: Beat Buffalo Grove, 34-7
This Week: vs Alton
EDGY's Take: The Mustangs will host downstate Alton this weekend to open up play in 7A.

20. Naperville Central 6-3 (15)
Last Week: Lost to Cary-Grove, 55-41
This Week: @ Plainfield South
EDGY's Take: The Redhawks will need to solve Plainfield South's power option running game this week.
 
21. Hillcrest 9-0 (21)
Last Week: Beat Bremen, 43-6
This Week: vs Jerseyville
EDGY's Take: The Hawks landed a top seed in 5A and will now look to make some serious postseason noise.

22. Bolingbrook 8-1 (16)
Last Week: Lost to Lincoln-Way East, 31-0
This Week: vs Waubonsie Valley
EDGY's Take: One of the most intriguing 8A matchups will be when the 11-seed Raiders host the 22-seed Warriors of Waubonsie Valley.

23. Montini 8-1 (17)
Last Week: Lost to Brother Rice, 31-0
This Week: vs Woodstock North
EDGY's Take: The Broncos will be just fine in 5A despite the 31-0 loss to Brother Rice.

24. Glenbard East 9-0 (NR)
Last Week: Beat Larkin, 42-14
This Week: vs Prospect
EDGY's Take: Can the Rams be more than just a "happy to be here" team in Class 7A?

25. IC Catholic 9-0 (NR)
Last Week: Beat Riverside-Brookfield, 49-0
This Week: vs Raby
EDGY's Take: The Knights will host an always-dangerous Raby team in the opening round.