Know your enemy: La Russa, Sveum and The Cubs Way

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Know your enemy: La Russa, Sveum and The Cubs Way

ST. LOUIS When Tom Ricketts began looking for a new executive to run baseball operations last summer, the Cubs chairman wanted a sense of how the other 29 major-league teams ran.

Staffers analyzed how teams spent their money and where they got their returns. The Red Sox model had fascinated Cubs executives, so it was no surprise that Theo Epstein became the target.

But the Brewers stood out for being so resourceful in building that homegrown core. The Yankees made headlines for signing big-name free agents, but they probably didnt get enough credit for developing their own talent.

Maybe one day the Cubs will get their renovated version of Wrigley Field, Sheffield Avenue closed off on gamedays and a PBS documentary, just like Fenway Park.

But if this works, the Cubs wont be one-dimensional, simply stealing from the Red Sox. They already went behind enemy lines to hire first-base coach Dave McKay, who spent 26 seasons on Tony La Russas staff and will receive his World Series ring on Saturday at Busch Stadium.

On some level, The Cubs Way will borrow from the Cardinals.

Thats the reason Im here, McKay said. I remember (former Cardinals pitching coach) Dave Duncan and I talked last season when we were in (Chicago. We saw some) article where Mr. Ricketts was talking about the plans.

We were saying to each other (were) worried about it these guys are going to get good fast.

No one knows how long that will take. But McKay says first-year manager Dale Sveum reminds him a lot of La Russa, the future Hall of Famer.

Ive even told Tony: Hes got a lot of you in him, McKay said. (Its) the attention to detail, routines, making sure that they get the message. I really think these Cubs are on the right track. Im happy to be a part of it. I think there are some big things to happen here.

When Sveum interviewed for the Cubs job, he could say that he played for La Russa, Jim Leyland and Joe Torre near the end of his big-league career, a point where he was thinking about managing. That time around the As in 1993 left an impression.

(La Russa) was always ahead of the game, Sveum said. Hell push the envelope. Hell try things that I dont think other managers (would).

Watching a guy like that, you learn, and I think a lot of people learned in the postseason about (how he used) a bullpen. (He) kept going to them and it probably won them the World Series.

Sveum recalled how La Russa put him in left field one day, even though he had never played the position before.

The thing with Tony was he always gave the bench players an opportunity. But hed always put them in situations where they were going to succeed.

Sveum laughed: Meaning me, because I was always on the bench. You feel good about yourself, except when one day I had to face Randy Johnson and he struck out 17 that day or something like that.

He just (put) faith in people: Oh, just go out there and you cant screw it up that bad. But, sure enough, when you do that, the guy you put in the lineup would get two hits that day. (He) had a great feel all the time for what his role players could do off certain pitchers.

So Sveum will get inside players heads, push his team to run the bases aggressively and hammer away at fundamentals. Utility man Joe Mather who spent a decade in the Cardinals organization recognized the methods.

Our camp this year, the feel, Mather said, resembled a lot of what Tony liked to do over in St. Louis. I feel like theyre trying to attribute a lot of the really good things and good ideas that St. Louis had here. Its a great place to start.

The Cardinals made the playoffs nine times in the 16 seasons McKay worked with La Russa. Thats the sustained success the Cubs are talking about.

The organization as a whole doesnt have enough impact talent yet. The new collective bargaining agreement shredded the financial advantages Epstein had planned to exploit in the draft and internationally. Its still too early for players to start tuning out Sveum.

But at Clark and Addison, there is finally a sense of stability, and that could go a long way.

Everything I feel like always starts from the top, Mather said. Thats going to be our owners, down to Theo, down to Dale. Theyve really taken a lot of responsibility and put themselves in the position to be accountable for everything. They set up a good program for this organization.

Fire can't hold onto halftime lead, settle for draw with LA

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Fire can't hold onto halftime lead, settle for draw with LA

The Fire had a chance to continue the momentum from Saturday’s win at Montreal, but couldn’t put the finishing touches on a second-straight win.

Instead, the Fire settled for a 2-2 draw at home against the LA Galaxy on Wednesday after the Fire led at halftime.

After a dull first quarter of the match, the game featured four goals, two more called back for offside, a number of close chances and wide open play.

LA’s U.S. national teamer Gyasi Zardes opened the scoring in the 31st minute and the floodgates opened soon after. Zardes pounced on a loose ball in the box with a hard and low shot after the Fire couldn’t fully clear a cross.

Just three minutes later the Fire (5-11-8, 23 points) equalized with a goal that also required a couple deflections to wind up at the feet of an open shooter. Michael de Leeuw headed a cross on frame and LA goalkeeper Clement Diop came up with the initial save. However, the save bounced off A.J. DeLaGarza’s face and landed right to Arturo Alvarez, who scored with a half volley.

[SHOP: Get your own Fire jersey here]

The Fire completed the turnaround when Luis Solignac was tripped in the box for a penalty kick, which David Accam converted to give the hosts a 2-1 lead in the 39th minute.

In the second half, Chicago had a golden opportunity to take a two-goal lead when David Accam chased down a long ball and dribbled around LA goalkeeper Clement Diop. Diop came way off his line and Accam easily took him out of the play. Instead of shooting at an open net, he dribbled into the box and passed to Luis Solignac, who missed the shot with two defenders, but still no goalkeeper in his way.

The Galaxy (9-4-12, 39 points) later made the Fire pay when two substitutes connected. Alan Gordon centered a ball to Giovany Dos Santos, who scored with his first touch.

In addition to not starting Dos Santos, LA didn’t include Robbie Keane or Steven Gerrard in the matchday lineup and Nigel De Jong was available as a substitute but didn’t play.

The Fire next play Saturday at D.C. United.

Notre Dame disappointed, embarrassed as it moves on from weekend arrests

Notre Dame disappointed, embarrassed as it moves on from weekend arrests

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly went through three stages of emotions after learning that six of his players were arrested in two separate incidents over the weekend. 

First, the seventh-year Irish coach was disappointed. Then he was embarrassed for the university.

“And then I was mad as hell,” Kelly said. 

Kelly dismissed senior safety Max Redfield and indefinitely suspended cornerback Devin Butler in a stern statement released Sunday, and meted out internal discipline for running back Dexter Williams, cornerback Ashton White, linebacker Te’von Coney and wide receiver Kevin Stepherson. Those four players — Williams, White, Coney and Stepherson — are practicing will be available for Notre Dame’s season opener against Texas unless Notre Dame’s Office of Community Standards decides to take further disciplinary action against them. 

Butler, who was charged with two felonies on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to those charges on Wednesday, remains indefinitely suspended, Kelly said. 

Notre Dame players, though, would prefer to move on from a tumultuous weekend that cost them their starting safety and plenty of goodwill in the public eye. 

“We’ve had enough meetings, it’s been talked about enough and I think it’s time to put our heads down, start working and get ready to go down to Austin, Texas and win a football game,” offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey, who was one of four team captains named on Wednesday, said. “That’s what we’re looking to do and I think our team is right on track. The last couple days they’ve put their heads down, ready to work, practice has been (guys) flying around and having fun. I think that’s what our focus needs to be on at this point. Coach Kelly and his staff and the university will handle what needs to be handled and it’s our job to play and win football games.” 

Wide receiver and newly-minted captain Torii Hunter Jr. echoed that sentiment: “We’re just looking to go forward and just make better choices as a team”

Still, there’s no whitewashing the disappointment of the arrests. Notre Dame wrapped up preseason camp on Friday, and within less than 12 hours had six players arrested. Butler was charged with resisting law enforcement and battery against a public safety official, both of which are felonies; Redfield, Williams, White, Coney and Stepherson were all charged with possession of marijuana and Redfield, Williams and Stepherson were charged with illegal possession of a firearm, all of which are misdemeanors. 

“It’s a disappointing situation,” defensive end and captain Isaac Rochell said. “You never want to be in this situation. I don’t need to do anything (as a captain) — I trust the coaching staff, I trust coach Kelly. And my only job is to support and enforce what he says to do. But bottom line, I trust them.”

Kelly said he hopes his players can take away messages about not making “selfish” decisions and representing more than just themselves out of last weekend’s incidents. The impact of those arrests will be felt immediately in Texas, when true freshman Devin Studstill and sixth-year graduate student (and natural in-the-box strong safety) Avery Sebastian are in line to fill in for Redfield at free safety. 

When asked why Redfield received a harsher punishment than the others, Kelly declined to get into specifics. 

“There’s a lot of things going on there,” Kelly said. “I think any time you dismiss somebody from the program, that’s serious. So I would say the best way to characterize that is it’s gotta be serious for me to dismiss somebody from the program.”

Sending Redfield away may hurt Notre Dame’s on-field production, but Kelly felt it was the right, and necessary thing to do. And with it made, the Irish will aim to push forward and put the the disappointment and embarrassment of the weekend behind them with a focus on Sept. 4’s trip to Texas. 

“You have to be prepared as a college coach, unfortunately, to deal with some poor decisions,” Kelly said. “They crop up. I think you have to be as fair but you also have to be quick in making decisions. And when they don’t square with your mission or philosophy in your program or your university, you can’t be afraid to make decisions. And you can’t be swayed by external factors. You gotta do the right thing.”

Preview: Channel Seed Ag Bowl opens Iowa football season Thursday on CSN+

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Preview: Channel Seed Ag Bowl opens Iowa football season Thursday on CSN+

High School football is back in Iowa as you can catch the fourth annual Channel Seed Ag Bowl live on CSN+ on Thursday night.

This year's game will feature the visiting Northeast Rebels as they take on the Central DeWitt Sabers in a game that will start at 7:00 p.m.

Taking place at Birney Field in Dewitt, this game is the season opener for both schools as these two haven't matched up on the gridiron since 1984. The former Big Bend Conference rivals are only 20 minutes apart but haven't played in over 30 years as Thursday's game should make for a unique atmosphere.

Besides the live CSN+ broadcast, you can also see this game streaming live on CSNChicago.com as you can find the live stream here. If you wish to find CSN+ click here for the channel finder