Cubs

NFL opening temporary store in Manhattan

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NFL opening temporary store in Manhattan

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- The NFL is setting up shop in midtown Manhattan -- literally. Eight blocks from Radio City Music Hall, where the draft will be held April 22-28, the league is establishing a temporary facility with a theme: NFL Shop at Draft. It's the first such endeavor, a chance to not only unveil products from the league's new partners, including Nike, New Era and Under Armour, but to whet fans' appetite for the NFL's biggest event that doesn't actually involve football. The draft has become an industry unto itself. Analysts, personal trainers and broadcasters make a living solely from the buildup, which actually begins with the kickoff of the college season in late summer, and ends with the selections. Radio City is packed with die-hards, dressed in their team colors, perhaps even painted thusly. Every early pick is cheered or jeered -- often both. That fervor helped spark the NFL's decision to open up shop across from New York's landmark Bryant Park, beginning on April 2. The official presentation of Nike's new jerseys for all 32 teams and New Era's headgear will come at what the league is calling a "huge NFL energy space" where Commissioner Roger Goodell is planning to man one of the cash registers on opening day. "We're looking at marketing opportunies anytime we have an event," said Leo Kane, the league's senior vice president of consumer products. "We will have a kickoff event in the New York metropolitan area with the Giants having won the Super Bowl. We look at our international season focused in London and at Wembley. We moved into (merchandising at) the Super Bowl and were thrilled with what we were able to do in Indianapolis. Now we are showing what we can do before and at the draft. We want to have a year-round footprint." Certainly the NFL has done that on the news side with one of the busiest headline-grabbing offseasons. Much of that was concencerned bounties and salary cap reductions. But the fans' interest displayed emphatically the fervor they carry for pro football. So, of course, does spending their money on merchandise. In many cases, that involves online purchases. But for one month, New Yorkers and visitors to the Big Apple -- including those who come in for the draft -- will have a place to set foot in and pick out apparel and the like. "I've been 19 years at the NFL, and I don't think there's been a year we have not talked about (building) a store," Kane said. "We're not sure it makes sense. We did a pop-up in New Orleans when the season kickoff was there the year the Saints won the Super Bowl and it was dedicated to products for women and phenomenally successful. "Anytime you do a pop-up store, you are testing. One of the things we like is testing in New York. There's a Super Bowl here in 22 months and we will get a good indication if makes sense along these lines for Super Bowl 48. If we are successful in doing this for the draft this year and the draft next year and then Super Bowl 48, will it make sense? We don't know that yet." What the NFL does know is that Nike will unveil its jerseys for the 32 teams and New Era will present caps specifically for the draft that are sure to get noticed. Those caps will be given not only to the Andrew Lucks of the world but all the other draftees at the music hall. "It's a city-based theme," New Era President Pete Augustine said. "All these guys coming through the draft are getting a new hometown. "What we like for the draft this year is we have a level of fashion that should be appealing to die-hard fans and one allowing the look and feel of the logo on the front. We have a variety of products that have the same look and feel beyond what the drafted athlete can wear." New Era, Nike and Under Armour are among seven marketing partners that are replacing Reebok, whose 10-year deal with the league concludes at the end of March. The other companies are Gill, VF, Outerstuff and '47 Brand. Kane said it was time for a change. "Reebok was a great partner for 10 years, the right partner 10 years ago, and we're very proud of some of the things we have done with them," he said. "We now have a more flexible model for our fans. It is difficult to be the best jersey guy and headwear guy, to provide (merchandise or equipment) for the field and the NFL combine. The business is still segmented, but we looked to put world-class leaders in each category. I think it will bring more innovation."

Cubs ride unconventional pitching performances to 8-6 win over the Reds

Cubs ride unconventional pitching performances to 8-6 win over the Reds

Before Thursday’s game against the Phillies, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon was asked if, given the current state of their bullpen, Tyler Chatwood could see some innings as the closer. 

“I think he’s amenable to it...” Maddon responded. “... the big thing with him is throwing strikes. If he does that -- his stuff is that electric -- we’ll use him any time. As he gets well from [throwing 4 innings on Wednesday night] it’ll probably a solid two days, maybe three, before he’s ready to go again. We’ll see - we’ll see that night needs. I’m not afraid of it by any means.

“I would say that the first time he got a chance with us, it would be because the other guys aren’t available that night.”

48 hours later, with the Cubs white knuckling a two-run lead, it was Chatwood coming out of the ‘pen in the top of the 9th. Two singles, a double-play, and a Yasiel Puig flyout later, Chatwood had closed out one of the Cubs’ more unconventional wins of the season, a 8-6 nail-biter that featured a little bit of everything.  

“It was a little bit [surprising],” Chatwood said. “But I kept myself ready. I was able to get loose in the pen and luckily I got that double play right there, and we won. So it’s good.” 

On a day when the Cubs’ cobbled together their pitching performance, it was Yu Darvish’s 7 innings -- the first time he’s gotten that deep into a game since 2017 -- that kept Chicago in punching distance. The line itself isn’t particularly flattering; six runs on 12 hits is an eyesore. His performance may not have played well on Cubs Twitter, but those inside the clubhouse could not stop talking about it. 

“That was huge. I thought he was really good today,” Albert Almora, who already surpassed his 2018 home run total (5) with a solo homer in the 2nd inning, said. “I didn’t think he was going to come back out, so I said ‘good job’ to him in the 7th. I saw him back out in the 8th and was like ‘all right, he wanted it.’” 

“It looked like he emptied the tank against Puig in the 7th with a big strikeout,” Chatwood added. “But he still went back out there and battled and pitched into the 8th. That’s huge. We didn’t have many people available today, and I think he knew that. I thought that was one of the best games he’s thrown the ball.”

Darvish managed to strand eight base runners, though, and only walked two. He’s now gone three straight games while walking three batters or less, something he’d failed to do at any point prior. 

“I knew that the bullpen was going through a little struggle, and didn’t have much rest,” Darvish said. “So my main goal was to go more than 7 innings today.” 

On a warm day, with the wind blowing straight out at 16 miles per hour, Wrigley played as small as it has all year. The Cubs (and the Reds, for that matter) went deep three times, which brings their homestand total to 11. 

“The wind was a friend to both sides today,” Maddon said. “But really, you’ve got to give Yu a ton of credit for getting deeply into the game today. He still had his good stuff in the end. The stuff was still there, but it’s 107 pitches, and it’s just deflating when all that happens.” 

Not to be outdone by the guy who started the game or the guy who finished it, recently-called up pitcher Dylan Maples was the winning pitcher of record. He and Tim Collins came in from Triple-A Iowa that morning, and Maddon wasted no time throwing Maples into the fire. After walking his first batter, Maples got Reds’ rookie Nick Senzel to strikeout on a 91mph fastball to end the 8th. 

If it hasn't seemed easy of late, that's because it hasn't been. Of the Cubs’ first 50 games, 16 have been decided by one run (9-7). Over their last 12 games, eight have been decided by two or less runs. 

“They seem to all be like that,” Maddon said with a laugh. “Especially recently. We’re seeing a lot of good pitching. 

“That’s entertainment, guys. Woah.” 

Joe Maddon on MLB's absurd home run rate: 'The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird'

Joe Maddon on MLB's absurd home run rate: 'The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird'

Cubs manager Joe Maddon usually isn’t one for conspiracy theories, but even he’s wondering what’s going on. MLB teams are hitting home runs at an absurd rate, including the Cubs, who are hitting them at a historic rate for the franchise’s standards.

Entering Saturday, here’s where MLB teams stand in average home run rate and total home runs in 2019 compared to recent seasons:

2017: 1.26/game, 6,105 total
2018: 1.15/game, 5,585 total
2019: 1.33/game, 2,009 total

While the MLB season is just over 30 percent finished, teams are on pace to hit a combined 6,483 long balls in 2019. This would absolutely obliterate the 2017 total, which, like the 1.33 home runs per game figure, would be an MLB record.

The Cubs are no exception to this home run wave. Including Saturday (game No. 50 of the season), the team has hit 80 home runs (and counting) in 2019. Only the 2000 Cubs (83) hit more home runs in their first 50 games in franchise history.

“We’re having home runs hit here into some firm breezes, which has not happened before,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters before Saturday’s game against the Reds. “That’s the thing that stands out to me. It’s been crazy.

“Even [Kyle] Schwarber’s home run, I know that was hit well, but dang, that wind was blowing pretty firmly across at that point.”

Schwarber absolutely crushed his home run yesterday, a 449-foot blast that needed little help getting into the bleachers. However, Maddon has a valid point regarding home runs being hit despite the wind. Entering Saturday, 54 total home runs have been hit at Wrigley Field this season, 29 of which have come with the wind blowing in.

By the eighth inning of Saturday’s game, the Cubs and Reds had hit a combined six home runs, one of which appeared to be a routine fly ball hit by Jason Heyward that wound up in the left field basket thanks to the wind. At the same time, Yasiel Puig hit one 416 feet onto Waveland Ave. that had a 109 mph exit velocity. The wind blowing out at Wrigley Field helps, but it isn’t everything.

MLB players have questioned time and time again if baseballs are “juiced,” including Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester. And while Maddon didn’t flat out say that he thinks the baseballs are juiced, he notices a difference in how they're flying off the bat.

“I don’t know, I’m normally not into the subplot component of all of this and the conspiracy theorists, but I’m telling you right now, it’s jumping,” he said. “It’s absolutely jumping.

“Nobody is ever going to admit to it. The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird.”

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