‘The train’s coming’ now: What were Cubs thinking against Bryce Harper?

‘The train’s coming’ now: What were Cubs thinking against Bryce Harper?

WASHINGTON – Bryce Harper – the Washington Nationals superstar anointed as “Baseball’s Chosen One” on a Sports Illustrated cover when he was only 16 years old – stood at home plate and admired the flight of the ball as it soared out toward the second deck in right field.

Harper stared into the home dugout and flipped the bat up and out of his right hand, the sellout crowd of 43,860 at Nationals Park roaring on Saturday night as the entire feel of this National League Division Series instantly changed. Fireworks went off, the smoke hung in the air and suddenly the Cubs didn’t look so invincible.

With one thunderous left-handed swing, Harper forced a rewrite of any the-Nationals-are-chokers stories, launching Carl Edwards Jr.’s curveball for a game-tying, two-run homer in the eighth inning. Three batters later, Ryan Zimmerman lifted a Mike Montgomery pitch just over the left-field wall for the go-ahead, three-homer that became the exclamation point to a 6-3 win that turned this into a best-of-three series.

“The train’s coming,” Harper said, believing Max Scherzer’s hamstring “tweak” won’t stop him from doing a Cy Young impression on Monday at Wrigley Field. “We’re a great team.”

What were the Cubs thinking?

Winning the World Series last year didn’t stop the first- and second- and third-guessing about Joe Maddon’s decisions, but the manager isn’t going to Wade Davis for five-out saves now. Harper has put up 122 of his 149 career homers and a .952 OPS against right-handers (compared to .783 vs. lefties). Edwards is young, confident and right-handed, the trusted reliever who handcuffed lefty hitters this season (.437 OPS, 31.8 strikeout percentage) and forced Harper to pop out in the eighth inning of Friday night’s Game 1 win.      

“That was the only option,” Maddon said. “That was the right option. C.J. was the right man for the job. Harper is good. C.J. is really good. C.J’s numbers against left-handed hitters are amongst the best in all of baseball.

“I have all the confidence in the world in him. If that happens again, you’re going to see C.J. back out there. He made a bad pitch and the guy didn’t miss it. That’s it. Sometimes that happens. Bryce is good. C.J. is good. Bryce got him.”

We wondered if Harper and Scherzer would be anywhere close to full strength this October and the game-changers the Nationals needed. Harper is still a freak of nature with five homers in only 16 career playoff games – and apparently on time after spending six-plus weeks on the disabled list in August and September with a bone bruise in his left knee.

“You just can’t make a mistake to him,” said Kris Bryant, who’s played with and against Harper since he was a prodigy growing up in Las Vegas. “He’s super-smart. It almost looked like he was sitting curveball on that pitch 3-1. You got to tip your cap to him.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him. I think he’s totally fine. Obviously, playoffs you have a little adrenaline.”

As reporters hovered near his locker, Edwards quietly changed into a faded pink T-shirt, tan-colored jeans and white Air Jordan sneakers. He turned around to meet the press and framed it as a matter of the right pitch in the wrong location, knowing it was gone as soon as it left his hand, only regretting not burying that curveball in the dirt, and looking forward to facing Harper again.

“I just hung it,” Edwards said. “That’s Bryce Harper. He can hit. But I don’t feel like it was his time. I could have made that wrong pitch to anybody and it probably would have been the same thing.   

“It hurts. But we still have two chances to finish this thing off. I hope we can do it at Wrigley.”   

Cubs Talk Podcast: Covering the MLB All-Star Game from the media’s perspective


Cubs Talk Podcast: Covering the MLB All-Star Game from the media’s perspective

NBC Sports Chicago’s own Kelly Crull and videographer Scott Changnon recalled what All-Star week in the nations capitol was like from their point of view.

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


Cubs, Bears, Bulls among the top 25 wealthiest sports teams in the world


Cubs, Bears, Bulls among the top 25 wealthiest sports teams in the world

What Chicago sports team is worth the most money in 2018?

As reported by Kurt Badenhausen in a Forbes article about the 50 richest teams around the globe, the Cubs are the most valuable organization in the Windy City.

Chicago’s North Side baseball team ranks as the 16th wealthiest team in the world, valued at $2.9 billion, an 8 percent increase from 2017. The Cubs are the third-most affluent franchise in Major League Baseball, behind the New York Yankees ($4 billion) and the Los Angeles Dodgers ($3 billion).

This year, the baseball club owned by the Ricketts family surpassed the wealth of the Boston Red Sox ($2.8 billion), who the Cubs were ranked behind last season at $2.68 billion. In the span of a year, the North Siders gained two spots in the top 50 from 18 to 16 on the list.

What could be the reason for this increase?

Could it be that the Cubs are in first place in the NL Central? Or could it be the incredible performances from players like Jon Lester and Javy Baez?

Whatever the reason is for the Cubs’ prosperity, the team is doing something right.

The club also surpassed the Bears on the list this year. In 2017 the Bears (worth $2.7 billion last year) were tied with the Red Sox as the 16th most valuable sports team on Earth. The McCaskey-owned football team has fallen to a tie at 17 with the San Francisco Giants, both valued at $2.85 billion in 2018. The Bears even increased by 6 percent in the last year, making the Cubs’ jump seem greater.

The Bulls, owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, are the last team from Chicago to make the cut. They stand at 23 in the top 50, tied with the Denver Broncos. Both franchises are worth $2.6 billion. Chicago’s NBA team even fell a spot from 2017, but they still increased their value by 4 percent (worth $2.5 billion last year).

The Bears are the seventh richest team in the NFL, while the Bulls are fourth wealthiest in the NBA.