Cubs

It's official: Rams taking offers for 2nd overall pick

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It's official: Rams taking offers for 2nd overall pick

From Comcast SportsNet
The St. Louis Rams are willing to trade the second overall pick of the April draft. Chief operating officer Kevin Demoff said Tuesday that the team would make a deal under the right circumstances, but has not made any commitments despite a report late Monday that a trade had already been decided. He said new coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead went to the NFL combine with an open mind. "I think coach Fisher and Les have been upfront that we will listen to offers for the 2nd pick," Demoff said in an email to The Associated Press. "I didn't see anything in the report that differed from their statements." Quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are expected to go 1-2 in the draft, with Indianapolis holding the top pick. The Rams need plenty of help but are set at quarterback with Sam Bradford, the first overall pick in 2010. Among a group of perhaps 50 or 60 players that the Rams are believed to have interviewed at the combine are Southern California offensive tackle Matt Kalil and Oklahoma wide receiver Justin Blackmon, a pair who would fill obvious holes. While the Colts are widely expected to take Luck as the eventual heir to Peyton Manning, it is Griffin who has sparked the speculation. Last year's Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor is seen as a good fit with a number of teams, increasing the likelihood of the Rams dealing the second pick in a bid to stock up. But the draft is still two months away and free agency has not begun. Fisher, hired in January, has consistently maintained he has a high regard for Bradford and believes he can become a star. Fisher dismissed last season's performance to a large extent because of injuries to Bradford and his offensive line, plus a time shortage getting accustomed to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' system because of the lockout. Bradford missed six games with a high left ankle sprain playing behind an injury riddled line. Tackles Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith, and guard Jacob Bell ended the season on injured reserve. The defense also needs help after threatening the franchise record for yards allowed. Fisher and Snead were hired after the Rams' 2-14 season tied for the NFL's worst. They were just 10-38 in three seasons under coach Steve Spagnuolo, who was fired along with general manager Billy Devaney. McDaniels is also gone.

Cubs refuse to push the panic button on inconsistent offense

Cubs refuse to push the panic button on inconsistent offense

Any time the Cubs offense scuffles, there's always a dichotomy between the fanbase and the clubhouse.

Many fans believe the sky is falling while inside the home clubhouse at Wrigley Field, the Cubs continue to stay the course and try with all their might not to ride the roller coaster of the season.

That's especially true right now, with the wounds from last season's second-half offensive breakdown still fresh. 

It's easy to sweep a slump under the rug after a four-game series against the Dodgers in L.A., but the lineup issues came to a head Tuesday night at Wrigley Field when the Cubs faced the pitcher with the second-worst qualified ERA in baseball (Ivan Nova) and managed just 1 run — on the first pitch of the game, no less. 

Yet the Cubs insisted there was no panic inside the clubhouse about the cold bats and to a man, they talked about simply riding the wave and waiting for things to break their way.

So naturally, the Cubs came out Wednesday night and battered around the American League ERA leader Lucas Giolito thanks to a barrage of homers — including Willson Contreras' first-inning grand slam. Contreras' second homer of the night made him the fifth different Cub to reach 15 dingers this season (no other MLB team had more than three players eclipse the 15-homer threshold).

Still, the Cubs know they need to get the offense on a more consistent trajectory and find ways to score beyond just the longball.

"We have to be able to somehow find enough runs to win a game like [Tuesday]," Joe Maddon said. "That's where the run [of wins] is. We have to win some games where your pitching isn't as good that night and we have to score one more. And then when our pitching is that good, we have to score two or three. We just have to be able to do that in order to get on that run."

Wednesday's Contreras-led offensive explosion marked the first time in a week that the Cubs had scored more than 3 runs, but again, much of that was due to facing the Dodgers, owners of the best pitching staff in the NL.

After Tuesday night's loss, Maddon and the Cubs took solace in the fact that they didn't expand the zone too much or get themselves out. They only struck out 5 times against Nova and the White Sox bullpen.

"It's a long season," said David Bote, who homered Wednesday night after not starting Tuesday's game. "It's hard to not be caught up in a couple game stretch where it's not falling. But a lot of hard hits; we're not chasing out of the zone. 

"[We know we can't] push a panic button and stress. If you do that, then all of a sudden you start spiraling even more. You trust it and if there's nothing crazy wrong with what our approach is or anything like that, you just find a way to get runs in and get on a nice little hot streak and roll with it."

The Cubs began the season firing on all cylinders offensively, but cracks have started to show in the foundation over the last few weeks as their season record fell to 39-33 after Tuesday's loss.

They're not going to the opposite field with enough authority and situational hitting (or "opportunity hitting," as coach Anthony Iapoce calls it) is still a problem area — the Cubs woke up Wednesday morning with the worst batting average with runners in scoring position (.243) in the NL.

Maddon talked at length about the Cubs' situational hitting before Wednesday's game and was blunt in his assessment:

"We gotta start figuring those moments out," he said. "We were good coming out of the shoot, I thought, and then we've gotten away from it. We've just gotta get back to that moment. There's still time to be able to do that. But that also speaks to why our record is as pedestrian as it is."

But why has the offense taken a turn for the worse after such a hot start? Much like the "broken' stretch in the last couple months of 2018, the Cubs can't really put a finger on it.

"I don't have a strong answer to that," Maddon said. "It's guys in the moment in the game situation and we just have to continually remind them to stay [in the middle of the field and not try to pull the ball.] That's it. It's one of those things to remind. Our guys are definitely capable of readjusting back to that. ... We just have to go out there and get 'er done."

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Cubs look to even the Crosstown series with a win

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Cubs look to even the Crosstown series with a win

Ozzie Guillén and Doug Glanville join Leila Rahimi on a special Crosstown edition of Baseball Night in Chicago.

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