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Hoyer's message to Cubs: Come and get it

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Hoyer's message to Cubs: Come and get it

The hype was starting to build around Starlin Castro when Ryan Theriot sent the message: Come and get it.

Spring training had just begun in 2010, and by May 7 Castro was installed as Cubs shortstop, perhaps for the next decade, and by July 31 Theriot was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, along with Ted Lilly.

This isnt a shot at Theriot. As an ex-teammate once said, its not just the ring he won with the St. Louis Cardinals last season. Theriot was good enough to start Game 7 of the World Series for Tony La Russa (at second base), and you have to respect that.

But loud and clear you heard echoes of Theriots famous last words this week while sitting in the Wrigley Field interview roomdungeon listening to general manager Jed Hoyer explain the Anthony Rizzo decision.

Clearly, the Cubs considered the financial implications of waiting until late June and preserving an extra year of club control. Who wouldnt? Even Rizzo stayed on message and said he benefitted from the extra weeks at Triple-A Iowa.

The Cubs may not have been so disciplined if this was a team built to win now. But Hoyer might as well have put these four words up on the Wrigley Field marquee: COME AND GET IT.

You have to earn it, Hoyer said. Anthony certainly forced our hand. Theres no question. He went down there and put up numbers as good as any player in the minor leagues. Thats the way it should be.

Players shouldnt get promoted in the minor leagues based on draft status (or) trades. I dont think we could look our players in the eye if Anthony hit .250 with nine homers and we promoted him to the big leagues. What are we saying to the rest of the organization?

Hoyer said the evidence was indisputable that Rizzo belonged up here after the 22-year-old first baseman hit .342 with 23 homers and 63 RBI and those numbers didnt come from the Western segment of the Pacific Coast League that makes player evaluations more difficult.

Theo Epsteins front office has challenged the recent first-round picks they inherited, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters. And whenever the Cubs sign No. 6 overall pick Albert Almora, and officially welcome Cuban defector Jorge Soler into the organization, it will be the same message: Prove it.

Brett can determine his own future by just dominating down there and forcing our hand, Hoyer said. I hope he does that. Hes a really good talent. Hes got a great future ahead of him and I think hell be in a Cubs uniform for a long time. But when he forces us to call him up based on his performance, then I think well see him here.

Jackson, a potential five-tool outfielder from Cal-Berkeley, was hitting .254 with 11 homers and 111 strikeouts through 75 games at Iowa.

Its very alarming, manager Dale Sveum said. Hes on a pace to strike out 200 times in a minor-league season, which is not easy to do, despite having an OPS of .850. Its a strange, strange stat. You just watch on video and you dont understand how he can put together some at-bats and then just have some uncontested at-bats.

Its a very strange occurrence, really, for a guy with bat speed and quickness and that kind of athleticism.

Epstein and Hoyer are trying to build a team for Wrigley Field, one that will be good year after year after year.

That was our goal when we started, Sveum said, to (have) to earn getting to the big leagues, whether its throwing strikes as a pitcher, (or) not striking out, taking your walks as a hitter. (Its) not promoting people for a .220 average and 30 home runs. Thats not what we want to create here.

We want to create quality hitters (because) one day (here the winds) blowing out, but theres a lot of days where its blowing in, and you got to keep the line moving. And youre not going to do it with home runs all the time.

Vitters, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 draft, got more hype than Rizzo when they were teammates on an elite national traveling team as teenagers.

Vitters, whos still only 22, was named a PCL All-Star on Thursday after hitting .293 with 12 homers and 40 RBI through 76 games, his first half-season on the Triple-A level. He has matured, though there are questions about his defense at third base.

Just because a guys playing well in the minor leagues doesnt mean you want to move him like right away, Hoyer said. Let (Josh) get comfortable and prove it to a certain extent, but were really happy.

I know hes had some really good moments in the minor leagues, but this is probably the most consistency (and) the best performance hes shown since hes been a Cub. We dont need to upset the apple cart too much.

So the managers not on the hot seat, and the front office can take the long view. There is opportunity here. But there are no sure things, and patience wont last forever.

Jeff Samardzija seemed to make that point on Wednesday after the New York Mets put 17 runs on the board. He had to answer questions about his eye-opening splits between May (2.48 ERA) and June (10.41 ERA), and where he fits alongside Castro and Rizzo in the big picture.

I want to be a very huge part of this, Samardzija said. Im not as young as those guys are age-wise, but I still have a fair amount to learn. Im learning that right now. This is the process that were at, (but) in professional sports, you got to win right now.

You got to put results up now. This isnt a two-year plan for me. This is a four-day plan. When I come out the next time, its got to be better, and its going to be better. Thats the way it goes.

As Hoyer likes to say, you have to grab the job by the throat.

ICYMI: Bears clinch NFC North, Zach LaVine suffers ankle injury, Crawford suffers another concussion

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USA TODAY

ICYMI: Bears clinch NFC North, Zach LaVine suffers ankle injury, Crawford suffers another concussion

The Bears clinched the NFC North on Sunday, the Bulls picked up a big comeback win despite missing an injured Zach LaVine and Corey Crawford was diagnosed with a concussion after exiting Sunday's game due to injury. Here's what you may have missed from Chicago sports over the weekend:

Bears

There was no comeback to be had for Aaron Rodgers and Co. this time around. The Bears took down the Packers 24-17, ending an eight-game home losing streak vs. Green Bay. The Bears clinched their first NFC North title since 2010 with the victory, which Jordan Howard successfully predicted in February.

Winning the division should be celebrated, but the Bears have a bigger goal in mind. And when it comes to putting Sunday's game into a larger perspective, is the Bears' division title the beginning of the end for the Packers, or the end of the beginning for the Bears? 

Off the field, Mitchell Trubisky made quite the appearance when he arrived at Soldier Field, rocking a sweet ugly Christmas sweater. On the field, though, Trubisky laid a blueprint for the Bears' playoff success.

In less positive news, Eddie Jackson suffered an ankle sprain after intercepting Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter. The throw was Rodgers' first interception in more than 400 attempts, but coming at the expense of Jackson's health is less-than ideal. The Bears will know more about Jackson's status in the next few days.

In more positive news, the Bears' resiliency was on full-display Sunday. After botching a fake-punt (which led to the Packers tying the score at 14-all), the Bears bounced back and outscored Green Bay 10-7 the rest of the game.

Also, Khalil Mack sacked Aaron Rodgers with his back, while Charles Leno Jr. proposed to his girlfriend after the game. Sunday was quite an eventful day at Soldier Field.

On the latest Under Center Podcast, Lance Briggs, Alex Brown, Matt Forte and Laurence Holmes break down the Bears' win and look ahead to the playoffs.

Bulls

Thursday night, ESPN reported that the Bulls plan to drop forward and Chicago-native Jabari Parker from their rotation. And true to the report, Parker played just four minutes Thursday against the Magic and zero minutes Saturday against the Spurs.

On the latest Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and David Watson discuss Jabari Parker’s removal from the rotation and the impact it has now and in the offseason.

So, what's next for Parker and the Bulls? The team is reportedly engaging in trade talks surrounding Parker; here are three trades that could make sense from the Bulls' perspective.

Without Parker, the Bulls picked up an impressive comeback win in San Antonio. Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen showed the potential of the Bulls' young core, though they were without LaVine.

The Bulls' lead scoring suffered an ankle injury and is out through Monday's game against the Thunder, at least. Dunn will look to build off his late-game heroics from Saturday on Monday against Oklahoma City.

Meeting Michael Jordan for the first time was "godly" for a 16-year-old LeBron James, while Joakim Noah said he was "too lit" to play in New York for the Knicks.

Blackhawks

The Blackhawks lost both of their games this weekend, though they received far worse news: Corey Crawford suffered a concussion after hitting his head in a collision in the crease Sunday. He left the game in the first period and ultimately did not return.

Defenseman Jan Rutta cleared waivers and was assigned to the Rockford Icehogs of the AHL. Injured defenseman Brandon Davidson is close to returning from a knee injury, but the team has a logjam on defense that makes one wonder where Davidson will fit in.

A Blackhawks fan successfully proposed to his girlfriend Friday at the Blackhawks/Jets game, a night where the team's mascot was reportedly attacked.

Sunday, a reported surfaced that said Joel Quennville will become the Flyers' head coach. Both Quenneville and the Flyers denied the report, however.

Is Dylan Strone key to the Blackhawks' success? David Kaplan and Co. discussed that and more on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast.

Cubs 

NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs beat writer Tony Andracki offered his seven takeaways from last week's Winter Meetings. Also, Andracki, Kaplan and Luke Stuckmeyer recap what they learned about the Cubs following the meetings on the latest Cubs Talk Podcast.

The Cubs will also reportedly send a scout to watch former-Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's workout.

White Sox

The White Sox reportedly will meet with Manny Machado this coming week, as will the Yankees. Which team has the best sales pitch for the All-Star infielder?

In non-Bryce Harper/Machado news, the White Sox reportedly signed catcher James McCann and officially acquired first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Indians. Alonso is Machado's brother-in-law, interestingly enough.

The White Sox will likely shut down top prospect Eloy Jimenez until Spring Training due to a quad injury.

Watch: Bears celebrate beating Packers, winning the NFC North at "Club Dub"

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USA TODAY

Watch: Bears celebrate beating Packers, winning the NFC North at "Club Dub"

Celebrations were in order for the Bears following their 24-17 victory over the Packers on Sunday. Not only did the win clinch the NFC North championship for the Bears, but it also essentially squashed any playoff hopes held by the Packers.

As they do after every win, the Bears celebrated at "Club Dub" (located in their locker room) after the game. Based on a video posted on the team's official Twitter account, the team sure knows how to win and have fun doing so. Take a look:

It's lit, as quarterback Mitchell Trubisky would say. NBC Sports Chicago's Bears beat writer J. J. Stankevitz offered a reaction likely shared by most Bears fans.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears and stream the ‘Football Aftershow’ easily on your device.