Chicago Cubs

Jackson aiming to bring winning tradition to Cubs

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Jackson aiming to bring winning tradition to Cubs

At a charity event in December, Cubs Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins said he thinks he would earn 30 million a year if he was in his prime during today's crazy free agent market.

Edwin Jackson isn't quite worth that -- 52 million over four years, to be exact -- but he was still one of the main draws at the 2013 Cubs Convention.

As Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer look to build the Cubs into a serial contender, they settled for making incremental moves in free agency to help improve the club. But then Jackson came along and the front office felt he was the right player at the right time.

For Jackson, a guy who has put on six different uniforms in the last five seasons, the appeal of a four-year contract was too much to pass up.

"It's always a pleasure knowing you have a chance to have stability," Jackson said Saturday at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. "You don't have to worry about moving around, and also, you get to gel with guys for a long period of time. That definitely helps you guys learn each other and it's imperative to a winning team. It helps you play better."

Jackson, who doesn't turn 30 until September, has already been traded six times in his career and granted free agency twice.

He's been on so many different teams in such a short time that in a Saturday panel with fans, new Cubs TV broadcaster Jim Deshaies actually likened Jackson to "the Kevin Bacon of baseball. But instead of six degrees of separation, you only need three to find a guy who played with a teammate of Jackson's."

Jackson says he has a "collage of jerseys," but may have finally found a home here in the Windy City.

"Chicago is a great city," Jackson said. "For us to be able to come out and try to change the tradition around the Cubs organization, I think it could be a lot of fun.

"My family and I, we love Chicago. Being on the North Side, playing at Wrigley, I can definitely picture myself being here for a long time, having a lot of success and helping bring this organization up to a winning tradition."

Of course, most baseball fans know Jackson has already spent parts of two season in Chicago, pitching for the White Sox at the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011, sandwiched in between a pair of trades.

But there's no question as to where Jackson's loyalty lies.

"I'm definitely looking forward to pitching on the good side," Jackson said Saturday, much to the delight of the fans. "I'm coming from the bad side -- the dark side -- and now I'm on the North Side. This is one of the greatest fan bases in the game and you see the turnout this weekend.

"It's been one of the greatest fan fests that I've been to...I feel great. There's a lot of energy. I'm excited to get the season started and experience it from the home side of things, instead of the visiting side where everybody is heckling me."

Jackson made the All-Star team in 2009 and already has one no-hitter to his name -- which he called the best and worst game of his career, as he also walked eight batters in the process. He carries a 70-71 lifetime record with a 4.40 ERA and 1.44 WHIP over more than 1,200 innings.

He brings gritty playoff experience to a team in the midst of rebuilding, having already won one World Series with the Cardinals in 2011 and appearing in another with the Rays in '08. Jackson was also a key part of last year's Washington Nationals team that led Major League Baseball with 98 wins in the regular season.

But that doesn't mean Jackson's going to be giving any rah-rah speeches in the locker room anytime soon.

"I'm not coming into a situation assuming I have to be a leader," he said. "You don't necessarily have to be vocal to be a leader. You can lead by actions and I'm definitely one of those guys. I'm not necessarily the most outspoken guy, unless I need to be.

"When there comes a situation to provide information, I can definitely fulfill that role. I'm just coming to play and have a lot of fun with these guys and try to win a lot of ballgames."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs and Sox gear up for the decisive Game 4 in the Crosstown Cup

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs and Sox gear up for the decisive Game 4 in the Crosstown Cup

Sports Talk Live is on location at Guaranteed Rate Field to preview the decisive Game 4 of the Crosstown Cup. 

Kap is joined by David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Sahadev Sharma (The Athletic), David DeJesus and Scott Podsednik. 

Plus new Cubs outfielder Jon Jay talks about his first season with the Northsiders .

Listen here. 

Even as they find their offensive groove, Cubs know there's more left in the tank

Even as they find their offensive groove, Cubs know there's more left in the tank

221.

That's how many pitches the Cubs saw during Wednesday night's 8-3 win over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

11.

That's the amount of runners the Cubs left on base Wednesday.

To Joe Maddon, those numbers don't quite add up.

The Cubs had 20 baserunners on 10 hits, eight walks and a pair of errors committed by Sox fielders. Yet they only plated eight, going 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Over the last two games, the Cubs have seen 412 pitches and scored 15 runs, but they've also left 24 guys on base and and gone just 9-for-33 with runners in scoring position.

"The proverbial grinding of the at-bats has been there," Maddon said after Wednesday's game. "[221 pitches], you'd think we'd score — I'm not talking about being greedy — we need to capitalize more.

"Eleven runners left on base. Again, I'm not complaining. Just the fact that we have to be more efficient as we move further along. Keep working those at-bats and I think if we do, at some point, it's gotta catch up to us in a positive way where it comes back to us and the ball's gotta fall in better moments, too."

The Cubs have gotten out to a 10-2 start to the season's second half, averaging six runs a game during that stretch and forcing the opposition to throw 154.5 pitches per game.

The Cubs have rapped out 124 hits in those 12 games as opposing pitchers have only recorded four quality starts.

And for all the issues with runners in scoring position in the first half, Anthony Rizzo and Co. are hitting .293 (37-for-126) with guys in scoring position since the All-Star Break. (Even with that, they're still only 27th in baseball with a .238 average with RISP, showing just how much the team underperformend in that area in the first half.)

The Cubs are starting to look more and more like the 2016 version of themselves as a host of other players — led by Willson Contreras, Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist — have joined Bryzzo in consistently contributing offensively.

"It's very rare when you have a game where everybody hits to their full potential," said Rizzo, who had three hits and drove in four runs Wednesday. "It's guys carrying the load one day and some other guys doing it the next day."

That's been a different script than the one the Cubs were playing off of in the first three months of the season, when only Kris Bryant and Rizzo were reaching their offensive potential.

As the Cubs hit their stride and gear up for the stretch run, they're finally starting to click offensively.

And what's scary is there's still more left in the tank.

"We don't wanna leave guys on, but we want to keep putting guys on to give ourselves opportunity," Rizzo said. "As long as we come away with the win, it doesn't matter.

"We're putting together good at-bats as a unit. [Seeing a lot of pitches] is a good formula for us. We know that if we grind at-bats, good things will happen."