Serenity now: Cubs will let Marlins do damage control


Serenity now: Cubs will let Marlins do damage control

The Cubs spent Mondays off-day in Miami. The sun and the sand might as well be a postcard for the teams serenity now state of mind.

One team will be in crisis mode on Tuesday in Little Havana, and it wont be the Cubs. Ozzie Guillen returns from his five-game suspension and the Marlins will have to spin the story to their citys strong Cuban community.

Protestors may gather outside Marlins Park after Guillen made sympathetic comments about Fidel Castro in an interview with TIME magazine. The Cubs will just show up for work. Theyve already had front-row seats to the media circus.

One player compared the past few years to a runaway train. The team was up for sale, and the fans blamed everything on general manager Jim Hendry, even if it wasnt all his fault. Milton Bradley and Carlos Zambrano created fireworks in the clubhouse.

Inside the managers office, Lou Piniella burned out. Mike Quade won over the players during a 37-game audition, but lost them over the course of the 2011 season.

To be clear, the Cubs dont have it all figured out yet. Theyre 3-7 and the national experts seem to think theyll wind up around 90 losses.

But now that Theo Epstein has been given the keys to the kingdom, there is a sense of stability and confidence in the long-range plan. People have noticed how quiet it is around this team.

Everybody just focuses on what we do playing baseball, outfielder Alfonso Soriano said. Everybodys relaxed and enjoys what we do.

This is different now, a lot of young guys, a lot of talent, new manager, new GM. Those guys they know what theyre doing. Theyre very smart.

Dale Sveum has zero tolerance for nonsense. The manager wont have to answer for Zambranos next explosion.

Its gonna happen, an ex-teammate predicted. Its in his DNA.

The Cubs transferred more than 15 million to the Marlins in the Zambrano trade, a deal that almost certainly doesnt happen if Guillen isnt managing in Miami.

Epsteins front office consciously tried to tape a distraction-free zone around the team. Near the end of spring training Ryan Dempster who will get the start on Tuesday night was asked about the new atmosphere.

I think its too early to say, Dempster said then. DeJesus is a real problem child. This kids crazy.

Yes, the Cubs imported low-key, low-maintenance veterans like David DeJesus, Ian Stewart and Paul Maholm. Sveum created a serious environment where hitters are in the cage early and studying video on computers late.

There are so many outside distractions in baseball, (even without) the situation in Miami, outfielder Reed Johnson said. They just kind of stressed to really focus on doing the little things weve done in spring training to help us win games.

If we can do those little things, thats really going to give us our best chance to keep putting some Ws in the win column.

Sveum believes a team takes on the managers personality, and this is where the Cubs broke off from the Red Sox model.

Boston woke up on Monday trying to interpret Bobby Valentine going on television and saying that Kevin Youkilis wasnt as physically or emotionally into the game.

Sveum doesnt need to see his face on billboards, and didnt come into the season with any plans for endorsements. He shrugs and sort of chuckles in the middle of his answers, and his grammar isnt perfect.

All that masks a very sophisticated view of the game, heavy on quantitative analysis, with an understanding of its emotional rhythms.

One thing you try and do as a manager is keep everybody on the same playing field every single day and communicate, Sveum said. As a manager, you have to be the same guy every day. Its just one of those things: Keep going, its a long season.

As an organization, the Cubs dont want any surprises. The video and the numbers will tell them where to position fielders. The background reports on potential draft picks will run four- or five-pages long. Decisions wont be made from the gut. Its all about risk management.

Chris Volstad the pitcher acquired in the Zambrano trade grew up in South Florida and spent almost seven years in the Marlins organization.

When Volstad was asked what to expect for Ozzie Night at Marlins Park, he said the two words the Cubs never want to hear: Well see.

Morning Update: Cubs tie up World Series with Game 2 win; Bulls begin season against Celtics

Morning Update: Cubs tie up World Series with Game 2 win; Bulls begin season against Celtics

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Cubs offense settling into World Series groove

Cubs offense settling into World Series groove

CLEVELAND - It doesn't take long for the 2016 Cubs to rebound.

Their American League-style lineup is just simply too talented to keep down for an extended period of time, especially with Kyle Schwarber now added back into the fold.

They Cubs hitters are so confident, they even left Progressive Field feeling good about themselves despite being shut out in Game 1 of the World Series.

The Cubs got on the board early Wednesday night, plating a run on the third batter of the game as Anthony Rizzo doubled home Kris Bryant.

"Take the momentum away. Take the crowd out of it," Bryant said. "It's nice to score first. Especially when you're the visiting team, to get out there and score within the first three batters is huge."

The early lead helped the lineup settle in and keep their foot on the gas for a 5-1 victory to take the series back to Wrigley Field tied one game apiece.

"Especially with a young lineup, I think when you see a few guys go up there and take some good quality at-bats, one happens after the other and the other guys seem to do the same thing," Ben Zobrist said. "It takes a lot of pressure off. When you see other guys having good, quality at-bats, you don't feel like you have to take pitches and you can be aggressive early on. 

"Oftentimes when you're aggressive in the zone is when you take the tough ones. We did a good job tonight laying off some good pitches. When they made mistakes in the zone, we really hit the ball hard. Even though we scored five runs, obviously we had a lot of baserunners on and we could've scored a lot more."

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Zobrist has a point.

The night after leaving nine runners on base and going 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, the Cubs left 13 runners on base and tallied just three hits in 12 tries with runners in scoring position.

Between nine hits and eight walks, there were Cubs on base all game. Indians pitchers didn't retire Cubs hitters in order in an inning until the seventh.

The Cubs also forced the Indians to throw 196 pitches in nine innings and worked starter Trevor Bauer to 51 pitches through the first two frames.

"That was good for us," Bryant said. "We saw a lot of their bullpen, so we have a lot of information to learn from and hopefully use in the next game."

Anthony Rizzo summed up the lineup's mentality simply:

"Grind out at-bats, work the pitcher's pitch count up and get the next guy up," he said.

That "pass the baton" mentality is what drives this offense and after a brief lull in that regard in Los Angeles when they were shut out in back-to-back games in the NLCS, the Cubs leave Cleveland feeling pretty good.

"When we're able to [get pitch counts up], you can kinda feel it - our offense really feeds off of that," Zobrist said. "We believe that we're going to break through eventually."