Cubs not counting out the 2012 season

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Cubs not counting out the 2012 season

Paul Maholm spent his entire career with the Pirates up until this week, so he knows a thing or two about losing.

But when when he was asked Friday at the Cubs Convention how it felt to go from one struggling franchise to another, he was quick to answer.

"No guarantee on the struggling part," Maholm said of the Cubs' 2012 prospects. "Last year, everybody expected us to lose more than 110 games and we played well in Pittsburgh. It takes 25 guys-plus to come together and play hard and expect to win. From Theo down, we're expecting to do that this year."

Maholm is the newest Cub, but he's preaching the same sentiment as long-tenured veterans.

"We're all tied for first right now. It's our job not to lose it," Ryan Dempster said.

"You may be surprised," catcher Geovany Soto said. "You could see a great team with great chemistry winning ball games. Everybody could be surprised here in August. You never know, that's why you have to come prepared."

To a man, the Cubs are positive. They believe they can conted in 2012.

But what else would they say? Why would they agree that the upcoming season could produce 90-100 losses?

"We'll never tell you that because we don't believe in that," newcomer Ian Stewart said. "We feel like we're going to come out and win games. The goal every game is to come out and win, not just to see how good you can do.

"There's been a lot of teams that have started the season with question marks that have gone on to be good teams, so there's no reason we can't do that here."

And that's the right attitude to have, obviously. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer wouldn't have brought in guys who are content with losing.

But Epstein and Hoyer have also done a good job dismantling the roster.

Last season, the Cubs struggled to a 71-91 record and a fifth place finish in the NL Central.

Gone from that lineup are Aramis Ramirez (26 homers, 93 RBIs, .306 AVG) and Carlos Pena (28 homers, 80 RBIs). Pitchers Sean Marshall, arguably the game's best reliever, Carlos Zambrano and young up-and-comer Andrew Cashner were all dealt and staff ace Matt Garza may very well be next.

Of course, the Cubs have added pieces, but not all -- like Anthony Rizzo -- are expected to have an impact on Opening Day. The ones that will may not be difference-makers. Theo and Hoyer have yet to make a big splash this offseason and one doesn't figure to be coming soon.

It wouldn't be hard to see the 2012 Cubs finish with a worse record than in '11. But the Cubs' Achilles' heel last year was a lack of rotation depth and effectiveness, and Epstein believes that weakness has turned into a strength.

"In baseball, anything can happen," Epstein said. "We might not have the most talent in the division, but I know we're going to play hard and I know we have young players with upside. We have a lot of players entering their prime. When you have that, you can surprise a little bit.

"If we stay healthy and one or two or three or four of the players that we have actually take a big developmental step forward, I think you might look up and be surprised in the middle of the summer. Especially with the depth of the starting pitching we have now.

"We have one advantage over some of the opponents we might face in that we can withstand an injury or two and still throw a very reputable starting pitcher out there every day. If our opponents can't in the division because of injuries or attrition or poor performance, then we might surprise some people."

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in roughly a month. We'll see then if this is all talk or not.

Cubs trip to White House for World Series celebration Monday on CSN, stream

Cubs trip to White House for World Series celebration Monday on CSN, stream

The Cubs make their visit to the White House on Monday for their World Series celebration, and CSN will have you covered the entire way.

CSN will air and live stream the celebration, the official White House ceremony, featuring President Barack Obama, honoring the team’s first World Series title in 108 years.

CSN will deliver complete team on-air/online coverage of the event and up-to-the-second Twitter reports from Cubs beat reporter Kelly Crull (@Kelly_Crull) and CSNChicago.com’s Cubs Insider Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney), which will include complete highlights from the day’s big D.C. celebration on SportsTalk Live at 5:30 p.m. and on In the Loop Prime at 10:00 p.m.

CSN will also provide viewers with a special, 30-minute "Cubs Visit the White House" recap special Monday night at 7:00 p.m., which will feature ceremony highlights, interviews with Cubs players/coaches/front office execs, and much more.

A surreal offseason puts world champion Cubs in the White House spotlight

A surreal offseason puts world champion Cubs in the White House spotlight

Three days before Election Day, Alec Baldwin walked into a dressing room on the eighth floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza to meet the Cubs in New York. Dressed in a full Donald Trump costume – but still talking in his normal voice – Baldwin chatted with Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler and David Ross while they rehearsed with Bill Murray before "Saturday Night Live."     

That scene sums up the surreal nature of two seismic events colliding, the joyous victory tour that saw Kris Bryant appear on the "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" set with a goat and a bitter presidential election that pitted sides of the Ricketts family against each other.

President Barack Obama called Cubs manager Joe Maddon from Air Force One after the team ended the 108-year drought in early November, winning the franchise's first World Series title since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. Obama amplified the message he posted on Twitter: "Want to come to the White House before I leave?"

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will happen on Monday after about two months of scheduling and discussions, with chairman Tom Ricketts downplaying the idea that the Cubs might have stalled for his brothers Todd (Trump's pick for deputy commerce secretary) and Pete (Nebraska's Republican governor). 

This is part of the family business. Laura – their sister and another Cubs board member – has clout in Democratic circles as a superdelegate/fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. The patriarch is Joe, the billionaire TD Ameritrade founder who's heavily involved in right-wing politics. 

"There's no big conspiracy here," said team president Theo Epstein, who attended Obama's farewell address at McCormick Place last week. "Tom is a very reasonable guy. And in the end, the president invited us, and then they followed up with a real invitation. Once there was a real invitation, we figured out if we could make it work. We could, and we were happy to go."

Cubs Convention – where last year Todd made headlines by describing New York Mets fans as "really, really obnoxious" and dismissing All-Star pitcher Matt Harvey as a wannabe "tough guy" – would be the only logical offseason staging ground.

Todd did not participate in this weekend's ownership Q&A session with fans at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. The Cubs will also be in Washington this summer for a four-game series at Nationals Park, not far from Todd's nominated Cabinet position. 

Epstein paused four seconds after hearing the question: Would you have gone to the White House in June?

"Uh…" Epstein said. "Yeah, if the whole team was going, I probably would have gone.

"I'm not going to tell you what I would have been wearing. But I would have gone." 

Epstein campaigned for John Kerry in New Hampshire after the Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series and then shook hands with George W. Bush during that White House visit. Epstein missed the ceremonial trip with Boston's 2007 World Series team because his young son had been hospitalized and recovering from an illness at the time: "People took it as a protest, but it wasn't."

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Jake Arrieta doesn't want to be misinterpreted, either. The Cy Young Award winner explained his anticipated absence on Monday has nothing to do with his post-election "#beatit" tweet.  

Arrieta – who is dealing with family medical issues back home in Texas – said his "#illhelpyoupack" message wasn't an explicit endorsement of Trump's agenda. Arrieta said he didn't vote and aimed the tweet at Hollywood celebrities who talked about leaving the country if Trump won. 

"People view us as athletes as being Republican and only caring about lower taxes, which isn't the case," Arrieta said. "If paying higher taxes is going to benefit the majority of society, I'm fine with that. 

"It's tough when people start talking politics. But I'll be open and honest: I just want somebody to lead our country and do a good job. Whether it's Obama – whether it's Trump or Hillary – I just want to see somebody do a good job for the benefit of everybody."

Fowler will be there on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to meet the nation's first African-American president and reconnect with his old teammates after signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. 

The Cubs had waited so long for this – winning their last National League pennant two years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 – that Fowler became the franchise's first African-American player in the World Series.

"I'm most happy for our players," Epstein said. "It's just a really special part of winning the World Series. You feel like you've finally made it. You're in the most precious building in the country, really, and you get to strut around as world champs and meet the president. 

"It doesn't get any better than that. It's very fitting that we're seeing a Chicagoan, and in his last week in office makes it even more special."

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Maddon met Obama while managing the 2009 American League All-Star team at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where the president wore a White Sox jacket while throwing out the first pitch. 

Maddon already went to the White House for a ceremony honoring the 2002 Anaheim Angels. Maddon and his wife, Jaye, also attended a small group dinner Bush's staff organized during the final days of his presidency in January 2009.  

"No matter your politics, you get invited to the White House, you go," said Jason McLeod, the senior vice president of scouting and player development. "I'm like giddy to be able to get invited on the trip." 

The Cubs are also expected to tour the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. Rizzo hopes to present the nation's 44th president with his No. 44 jersey. It will be a day in the life of the 2016 Cubs. 

"It's going to be amazing," Rizzo said. "I think everyone except the true diehard White Sox fans have a little spot for the North Side in their hearts, just because of how long it's taken to get to where we've been."