Cubs

What happened to critical ball from World Series?

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What happened to critical ball from World Series?

From Comcast SportsNet
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Corvette he won as World Series MVP is waiting at home for David Freese to drive. Provided he can pry the keys from his dad, that is. It might take a GPS to locate another prize from last October. Freese already owns the ball he hit for the home run in the 11th inning that won Game 6. He'd love to add the ball from his two-out, two-strike, two-run triple in the bottom of the ninth that saved the Series for the St. Louis Cardinals. "To me, that hit was more memorable," Freese said this week. "Because of the situation, what it meant." "It'd be great to have it," he said. "But I don't know where it is. I don't know if anybody knows." In the commotion that followed Freese's tying triple off Texas closer Neftali Feliz, that ball seems to have disappeared at Busch Stadium. So far, no one has come forward with it. It might be fated to join some of the game's most elusive souvenirs -- the famed home-run balls of Bobby Thomson and Kirk Gibson are missing, too. Freese hit .397 with five home runs and a record 21 RBIs in the postseason. Pretty nifty, considering he's played only 184 games in the majors over three years. Freese is off to nice start in spring training, batting .280 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 10 games. He said he's been able to build off his accomplishments that helped rally the Cardinals past Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Texas in the final month. "Confidence is such a big part of the game. You're happy that you succeeded in that situation," he said. "You learn that the game isn't going to run away from you. You've got to learn to embrace those moments." Freese's reward was a 2012 Corvette Grand Sport Coupe, presented by Chevrolet to the World Series MVP. A model car was on the infield during the Cardinals' celebration, and a couple of weeks ago he claimed the real thing. Or rather, his father did. The car came to a dealership in suburban St. Louis where the Cardinals have ties, customized to Freese's taste. Black on the outside, with red stitching inside. "Cardinal red," he said. "After all, it's because of the Cardinals that I got my chance." With his son at spring training, Guy Freese is enjoying the new wheels at home in suburban St. Louis. "Wearing the tires off that thing, if I know my dad," Freese said.

Javier Báez joins Cubs All-Decade Team at second base, where El Mago was born

Javier Báez joins Cubs All-Decade Team at second base, where El Mago was born

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

There may not be a player in baseball more exciting to watch than Javier Báez.

Whether at the plate, in the field or on the bases, Báez is a human highlight real. He’s one of the most powerful hitters in baseball; he has a cannon for an arm, exemplary defensive range and is a tagging maestro. He’s a dynamic baserunner who uses his elite baseball instincts to go station-to-station while magically avoiding tags along the way.

Yeah, there’s a reason Báez is known as “El Mago.” It’s not a matter of if he’ll make an incredible play each game, but a matter of when. Things come easy for the 27-year-old full of flair who makes the most difficult plays seem routine.

Báez is a career .270/.310/.484 hitter who’s hit 110 home runs in parts of six big-league seasons. One of those long balls came in his big-league debut (Aug. 5, 2014), a go-ahead blast against the Rockies in the 12th inning. The legend of El Mago was born.

Báez is the Cubs starting shortstop, though that hasn’t always been the case. Starlin Castro was the starter in 2014; Addison Russell claimed the title from Castro in the second half of 2015, holding it down until late in the 2018 season. Russell hit the injured list that August as the Cubs simultaneously acquired Daniel Murphy in an attempt to jump-start the offense.

By the time Russell returned, Báez was a clear-cut NL MVP candidate. The latter still bounced around the infield from time-to-time, but with Murphy entrenched at second, shortstop became Báez’s primary position. He’s been the starter ever since.

Báez has played 2,646 2/3 career innings at shortstop compared to 1,856 at second base (and 629 1/3 at third). He’s exclusively a shortstop these days, but the El Mago second base days aren’t forgotten.

Báez was the co-recipient of the 2016 NLCS MVP award (along with Jon Lester) and has started back-to-back All-Star Games (2018 at second, 2019 at shortstop). He was the runner-up for the 2018 NL MVP award, posting career highs across the board: .290/.326/.554, 34 homers, 111 RBIs, 129 OPS+.

And yet, it feels like Báez is only getting started. Nevertheless, his career to date has more than earned him a spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team at second base. With that, we'll leave you with this:

Adam Boqvist's entry-level contract with Blackhawks officially kicks in

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AP

Adam Boqvist's entry-level contract with Blackhawks officially kicks in

The youth movement is underway in Chicago and it's happening quicker than expected.

Adam Boqvist played in his 10th NHL game of the season on Sunday, officially triggering the first year of his entry-level contract. That means he will become a restricted free agent at end of the 2021-22 season. If he appeared in nine games or fewer, his contract wouldn't have kicked in until next season, which would've bought the Blackhawks an extra year of Boqvist playing at a cap hit of $894,167.

"Maybe that was a discussion very early on but as far as coach perspective, we like him," head coach Jeremy Colliton said on whether he and GM Stan Bowman had conversations about burning Boqvist's first year. "I think he's played well and it's an opportunity with some injuries to give him some ice time. He's handled it well so far."

Boqvist is the second rookie on the Blackhawks this season to burn their first year, joining No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach. Whether the decisions were dictated by circumstances or not, the Blackhawks have seen enough of both of them to feel they can have an impact on the team in the short term without hindering their developments in the long term.

The number to watch now is 40. Like Dach, if Boqvist appears in 40 or more games this season, it will count as a full season and bring him one year closer to unrestricted free agency. Any player that's accrued seven full seasons or is at least 27 years old as of June 30 of that respective year can become an unrestricted free agent.

Boqvist appeared in six games for the Blackhawks during the month of November before getting reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League on Nov. 14 when Connor Murphy was ready to return from his groin injury.

But with Calvin de Haan (shoulder) expected to be out long term and Duncan Keith still out with a groin injury, the Blackhawks called up Boqvist for insurance and because they lacked defensemen with offensive upside. It appears he will remain with the big club for the time being and it serves as a chance for their No. 8 overall pick in 2018 to prove he can handle NHL minutes on a consistent basis during a desperate time for the Blackhawks.

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