Ready or not, Cubs kids coming back to Wrigley

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Ready or not, Cubs kids coming back to Wrigley

SAN DIEGO Jeff Samardzija snapped the bat over his knee after striking out in the seventh inning and tossed the two pieces to the ground in disgust.

Samardzija channeled his inner Big Z for a moment, but you saw a Cubs team that wasnt just going through the motions in a 2-0 loss to the San Diego Padres at sleepy Petco Park.

There was Darwin Barney ready to chuck his bat after lining into a double play in the eighth inning, and James Russell screaming and flexing by the dugout minutes later after giving up an unearned run.

As much as Theo Epsteins front office and Dale Sveums coaching staff talk about patience and development, the losing is getting old and the frustration is beginning to show.

Samardzija had a message for Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters and all the kids heading back to Wrigley Field on an eight-game losing streak that started a few hours after the trade deadline.

They better be ready to play, Samardzija said. Dont expect any freebies from any of the fans or from anybody. You got to show up and play the game, regardless of your record, regardless of how you feel. Youre still representing your team. Youre still wearing the jersey. You got to show up and play all-out every day.

I dont think thats going to be a problem here. I dont think quote-unquote veteran guys are going to let that happen. Were going to play hard. Were going to try and win every game we can.

Samardzija is one of only six remaining players from the 2011 Opening Day roster. The Cubs (43-66) have already used 15 rookies and 46 different players this season.

It was hard for Andrew Cashner the 2008 first-round pick flipped to the Padres in the Anthony Rizzo deal to imagine this team without Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood, his idol growing up in Texas.

Those were the two guys that I really looked up to while I was over there, Cashner said. Its definitely going to be different with a lot more young guys. Theres going to be a lot more feeling out on their own, versus guys pointing them in the direction.

Cashner didnt ask to be part of the Three Cs marketing campaign leading into the 2011 season, and only Starlin Castro remains after Tyler Colvin was traded to the Colorado Rockies last winter. So it will be interesting to see how long the shelf life will be for Jackson and Vitters.

Thats just kind of the way things work, Cashner said. I wasnt one of their guys. I was one of Jim (Hendrys) guys. Its just kind of the way they do things as far as wanting their (own) guys.

Cashner, whos on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle, spoke with Rizzo during this series and they agreed this was probably a good trade for both sides. Cashner gets to pitch at Petco Park, while Rizzo gets to hit at Wrigley Field.

Rizzo was promoted from Triple-A Iowa on June 26, which seems like old news given everything thats happened to this team since then. Now Jackson and Vitters have to get ready for their close-up.

The fans are probably curious to look at all the guys that all the hype is about, Sveum said. Theres no mystery now going on with the team.

In terms of direction, yes, but eight games in 12 days against Dusty Baker and the first-place Cincinnati Reds will be revealing. Jackson will try to avoid chasing bad pitches, Vitters will be working on his defense and there are jobs that could be won in the rotation and the bullpen. See how they handle the big moments.

Were going to learn a lot here in this next month-and-a-half, Samardzija said. Were really going to see what were made of as a team. A lot of guys are going to be cutting their teeth against some good teams.

Samardzija (7-10, 4.21 ERA) again looked like a frontline starter, allowing only one run across seven strong innings. He rolls with everything, ignoring the people who thought he was a bust and not buying into the hype that hes one of the untouchables on this team.

The kids could learn from someone whos almost seen it all in Chicago and remains the same guy. He was certainly paying attention when Carlos Zambrano was breaking bats.

Just felt good to snap it like a toothpick, Samardzija said. I lost the bunting tournament in Round Sweet 16 and I snapped that thing like a twig, too. What are you gonna do? It happens.

Bowl eligibility no sure thing for Notre Dame, especially with a loss to Syracuse

Bowl eligibility no sure thing for Notre Dame, especially with a loss to Syracuse

Notre Dame hasn’t fallen short of bowl eligibility since 2007, a year that invokes visceral reactions around South Bend. But at 1-3, Notre Dame’s chances of getting to six wins aren't necessarily healthy in 2016. 

S&P+ gives Notre Dame a 21 percent chance of going 6-6, a 9 percent chance of going 7-5 and a 2 percent chance of going 8-4, so added up that’s only a 32 percent chance of becoming bowl eligible. The most likely records, according to S&P+, are 5-7 (30 percent) and 4-8 (25 percent). Notre Dame has a better chance of finishing 2-10 (3 percent) than it does 8-4, by these numbers. 

(For more on S&P+ and the methodology behind it, click here)

The reason behind those, in all honestly, shockingly low numbers: only three games in which S&P+ favors Notre Dame to win going forward. Those are Syracuse (65 percent), Navy (71 percent) and Army (78 percent). Win probabilities for Notre Dame’s other games: 40 percent (N.C. State), 31 percent (Stanford), 28 percent (Miami), 36 percent (Virginia Tech) and 39 percent (USC). 

FEI is more optimistic about Notre Dame’s bowl chances, giving the Irish a better than 60 percent chance to win games against Syracuse, N.C. State, Miami, Navy, Army and Virginia Tech. But FEI also gave Notre Dame a 90.8 percent chance of beating Duke heading into last week, which is less an indictment of the numbers and more an indictment of how poorly the Irish played against the Blue Devils. 

Syracuse, though, looks like it’ll present a difficult challenge for Notre Dame. The Orange rank 36th in offensive S&P+, largely due to their excellent passing game (15th in success rate). Notre Dame ranks 78th in defensive S&P+ and 121st in passing success rate, which certainly looks like a concerning matchup.

Syracuse’s defense is bad, though (101st in S&P+), so Notre Dame’s top-15 offense should be able to put up some points. In short: Expect a shootout if Notre Dame does win on Saturday at MetLife Stadium. 

But if Notre Dame loses to fall to 1-4, sound the alarms. Or start planning your football-less vacation during bowl season. 

Photo: Thad Matta dons Ohio State basketball uniform

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Photo: Thad Matta dons Ohio State basketball uniform

Baseball is unique among the sports in requiring managers and coaches to suit up in the same uniforms the players wear.

Could you imagine football coaches having to wear pads and jerseys? Or basketball coaches ditching their suits for the sleeveless-and-shorts look?

Well, for better or for worse, you don't have to imagine any longer.

Before Ohio State players arrived Thursday for photos in the team's new uniforms, head coach Thad Matta decided to give the new duds a test run himself.

What resulted was one of the better pictures in recent Twitter memory.

I think Matta is starting a trend here. Time to bust out the petition to get all college hoops coaches to wear their teams' uniforms on the sideline.

Looking good, coach, though I doubt they'll let you wear that watch while you play.