Theo Epstein riding the wave, preparing for when Cubs might crash: ‘Baseball karma is real’

Theo Epstein riding the wave, preparing for when Cubs might crash: ‘Baseball karma is real’

Sports Illustrated splashed the Cubs across another regional cover, this time calling them “The Last Great American Sports Story.” There’s Javier Baez, arms raised in triumph, about to jump onto home plate and into the awaiting mosh pit after a walk-off win on Mother’s Day at Wrigley Field.       

Sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals – two battle-tested, playoff-caliber teams the Cubs might face in October – heightened the delirious feelings out in the bleachers, on social media and within certain segments of the media.

But Theo Epstein’s job is to ignore the hype and prepare for the crash, especially when the president of baseball operations watches a 25-6 team exceed even the sky-high preseason expectations.

“This is not baseball reality,” Epstein said before Tuesday’s 8-7 victory over the San Diego Padres. “Baseball reality is it’s really hard to win a single major-league game. That’s why we celebrate it so much.” 

The Cubs are handling all phases of the game right now and must be wearing out the new Celebration Room in their tricked-out clubhouse, getting to the middle of May without back-to-back losses and pushing their run differential to plus-103.

The National League’s deepest, most patient lineup knocked out a rookie starter (Cesar Vargas) after four innings and 92 pitches, generating 12 hits and five walks against an overmatched last-place team. Jon Lester (4-1, 1.96 ERA) didn’t have his best stuff and had to grind through six innings, but he pieced together another quality start for a rotation that began the day leading the majors with a 2.26 ERA. 

The night before a doubleheader, star manager Joe Maddon pulled the bullpen levers, using six different relievers, including Pedro Strop (who got Matt Kemp to fly out to right field with the bases loaded to end the seventh inning) and Hector Rondon (now 7-for-7 in save chances with 20 strikeouts against 41 batters faced). It looked like a much closer game than it actually felt after pinch-hitter Alex Dickerson hit a grand slam off Adam Warren with two outs in the eighth inning. 

“We know we’re in a stretch right now where winning seems far easier than it actually is,” Epstein said. “We know there’s going to be a stretch – probably a long stretch this year – where winning even one game seems virtually impossible. That’s just the nature of baseball. We’re not blinded by it. 

“We’ve been saying in the office: ‘We’re in a tree right now.’ We want to stay up there as long as we can, but we’re going to get down at some point.”

The Cubs didn’t stop after shocking the baseball world last year, winning 97 games and two playoff rounds and then doubling down by spending almost $290 million on free agents. The trade deadline won’t be a time to be cautious and worry too much about the future when this team has a chance to make history. 

“We still have vulnerabilities,” Epstein said. “We still have areas where we need to get better. We still have challenges and more adversity to come. We’re going to suffer injuries. We’re going to suffer downturns in performance. We’re going to be stretched thin. We’re going to go through stretches of bad luck. We’re going to go through stretches of bad performance. We’re going to run into really hot teams. 

“We want to stay as locked in as we are right now. But the game is very humbling and we’re aware that time is coming when there are going to be great challenges. And we almost look forward to it, because I think that’s when you find out what you’re made of.”

Where last season felt like a joyride for a front office that projected around 85 wins if everything broke right, a group of rookies that didn’t know any better and a $155 million pitcher who expected 2016 to be the year where the Cubs went all-in, only a World Series title will satisfy them now.            

“Baseball karma is real,” Epstein said. “When you see some of the stuff written about us in the winter, and you see some of the World Series odds and things like that for a team that is a defending third-place team and hasn’t done anything yet, and there are some individuals who haven’t proven they can accomplish certain things back-to-back seasons, and we’re still a losing team during my tenure overall in Chicago (322-357), you get uncomfortable. 

“Hopefully, at the end of the year, we’ll look up and say: ‘Hey, we earned what people are saying about us.’”

Cubs Talk Podcast: State of Cubs-Cardinals rivalry and what lies ahead

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: State of Cubs-Cardinals rivalry and what lies ahead

St. Louis Cardinals beat writer Derrick Goold stops by to chat with CSN's Patrick Mooney about the landscape of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry and preview the weekend series at Wrigley Field on the latest Cubs Talk Podcast.

Later, Double-A Tennessee broadcaster Mick Gillespie joins the podcast to chat with Mooney about what prospects the Cubs have left in the farm system.

Also, how pitcher Dillon Maples could make an impact on the big league club as soon as this year.

Check out the entire podcast here:

Cubs vs White Sox "Crosstown Cup" coverage returns to CSN next week

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Cubs vs White Sox "Crosstown Cup" coverage returns to CSN next week

CSN’s Crosstown coverage gets underway on Monday, July 24 LIVE from Wrigley Field starting at 12 NOON CT!

CSN to carry LIVE coverage of all four Crosstown battles (July 24-25 at Wrigley Field & July 26-27 at Guaranteed Rate Field); coverage team to include

Harrelson, Stone, Kasper, Deshaies, Melton, DeJesus, Kaplan, Garfien, Crull, Santos, Mooney & Hayes!

FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER -- Live streaming coverage of EVERY Crosstown telecast – including all Pre/Postgame Shows –

to be made available to authenticated subscribers on CSNChicago.com and via the NBC Sports app

CSNChicago.com to also provide additional Crosstown content throughout the week, plus CSN’s social media portals will take fans live and up-close to all the festivities at both ballparks throughout the week

Cubs and White Sox fans can get interactive too by utilizing the Twitter hashtag #CrosstownCup

Chicago, IL (July 20, 2017) – CSN Chicago (CSN), the home for the most games and the most comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox, is ready jump start the annual northside-southside rivalry once again with expanded, LIVE coverage of ALL FOUR GAMES of the “Crosstown Cup” series beginning MONDAY, JULY 24.  Plus -- for the first time ever -- EVERY Crosstown telecast on CSN, including surrounding Pre/Postgame Live coverage, will be accessible live via CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports app to authenticated CSN Chicago subscribers.  The live stream of CSN’s White Sox & Cubs telecasts is presented by State Farm.  The live streaming service is currently available to customers of Comcast/Xfinity, DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Mediacom, RCN, WOW!, Time Warner Cable and Charter among numerous other carriers.  For a full list of carriers and more information about CSN Chicago’s live streaming service of White Sox games, viewers are urged to visit the following link: http://www.csnchicago.com/live-faq .  

CSN’s “Crosstown Cup” coverage gets underway on Monday, July 24 with a live, expanded Wrigley Field edition of White Sox Pregame Live presented by The Kowalis Family of Dealerships at 12 NOON CT (featuring host Chuck Garfien and analysts Bill Melton, David DeJesus, along with 2005 White Sox World Series hero Scott Podsednik) for a complete series preview, interviews with players and coaches and much more.  First pitch coverage of this “White Sox telecast” on CSN begins at 1:20 PM featuring Ken “Hawk” Harrelson & Steve Stone with the game call.  Immediately following the game, fans can look forward to a complete game recap/analysis, plus live post-game press conferences, player interviews and much more on Subaru White Sox Postgame Live.

Tuesday’s (July 25) game at Wrigley Field will be a “Cubs telecast” on CSN featuring the announcing tandem of Len Kasper & Jim Deshaies. An expanded, live Wrigley edition of Cubs Pregame Live presented by Fields Auto Group will take place at 12 NOON (hosted by David Kaplan and once again featuring DeJesus, Melton & Podsednik as analysts). First pitch coverage begins at 1:20 PM, which will be followed by Cubs Postgame Live presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois immediately after the game.

The “Crosstown Cup” then shifts to the southside for the final two games of the series with the Wednesday, July 26 game being a “White Sox telecast” on CSN (SportsTalk Live from Guaranteed Rate Field begins the coverage at 5:30 PM…White Sox Pregame Live presented by The Kowalis Family of Dealerships takes place at 6:00 PM featuring Garfien, Melton, DeJesus, and Podsednik…game coverage begins at 7:00 PM). The Thursday, July 27 finale will be a “Cubs telecast” with SportsTalk Live coverage from the ballpark once again starting up at 5:30 PM, followed by Cubs Pregame Live at 6:00 PM, and first pitch coverage beginning at 7:00 PM.

Kelly Crull (Cubs beat reporter) and Siera Santos (White Sox beat reporter) will also be on hand for every game providing detailed pre-game/in-game/post-game reports and player interviews throughout the Crosstown series.  Plus – CSNChicago.com Cubs “Insider” Patrick Mooney & White Sox “Insider” Dan Hayes and CSN’s expanded team of Cubs/Sox reporters & experts will provide additional reports all week long.

In addition, CSNChicago.com, will provide even more exclusive “Crosstown Cup” content including the following highlights:

  • Live stream of White Sox manager Rick Renteria and Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s “Crosstown Cup” post-game press conferences (sponsored by Xfinity) following every game.
  • #CrosstownCup – Fans from both sides of town can interact with their comments throughout the week on Twitter via the hashtag - #CrosstownCup - plus, select tweets will also be retweeted via the network’s @CSNCubs, @CSNWhiteSox, and @CSNChicago Twitter handles.
  • IPowWow – On every edition of “Pregame Live” this week, Cubs and White Sox can vote in real-time on a specific topical question that will offer up five choices…fans just need to log onto CSNChicago.com/vote to cast their vote as many times as they choose with the immediate percentages of each choice appearing on their desktop, laptop, or mobile device.
  • Complete coverage of the “Crosstown Cup” 24/7 from CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney), White Sox Insider Dan Hayes (@DanHayesCSN), plus - additional coverage provided by CSN “Pre/Post Game Live” hosts Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) and David Kaplan (@thekapman), along with Siera Santos (@SieraSantos) and Kelly Crull (@Kelly_Crull).  CSNChicago.com digital baseball reporters Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) and JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) will also be providing game day reports, analysis and features. 
  • White Sox & Cubs PODCASTS (presented by Wintrust): Crosstown-specific “White Sox” & “Cubs” PODCASTs” featuring CSN’s roster of baseball experts, and additional special guests, will be available prior to and during Crosstown week.  All of CSN’s podcasts can be downloaded at CSNChicago.com/podcasts and by simply subscribing to them via Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher.  The podcasts can be played on any mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer.

From a social media standpoint, fans can look forward to a number of Facebook Live (https://www.facebook.com/CSNChicago/ ) segments from both ballparks throughout the week.  In addition, a multitude of Crosstown “Sights & Sounds” moments will be provided via Snapchat (‘csnchicago’), along with additional photos/quick video offerings from ‘CSN Chicago’ through Instagram and Instagram Live

Note CSN’s full coverage breakdown for the upcoming White Sox vs. Cubs “Crosstown Cup” series (also available for viewing on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports app):

MONDAY, JULY 24

12 NOON – White Sox Pregame Live presented by The Kowalis Family of Dealerships – Special EXPANDED edition pre-game show LIVE from Wrigley Field with special features, player interviews, and surrounding ballpark festivities.

1:20 PM – WHITE SOX at CUBS (L) – “White Sox telecast” featuring Ken “Hawk” Harrelson & Steve Stone 

4:30 PM – Subaru White Sox Postgame Live (time approx.) – Complete game recap/analysis, plus live post-game press conferences and player interviews.

6:00 PM – SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado – Special post-game discussion & analysis with host David Kaplan and additional special guests.

6:30 PM – In the Loop Expanded “Crosstown” recap, along with the latest hot topics and can’t miss videos from the day in sports

7:00 PM – White Sox at Cubs (game replay)

10:00 PM/10:30 PM – In the Loop Prime (presented by GMC at 10pm & State Farm at 10:30pm) – Full Crosstown Cup Game 1 recap, along with the latest news/highlights/viral vids & more from the day in sports

TUESDAY, JULY 25

12 NOON – Cubs Pregame Live presented by Fields Auto Group – Special EXPANDED edition pre-game show LIVE from Wrigley Field with a recap of Game 1, special guest interviews, feature stories, and much more.

1:20 PM – WHITE SOX at CUBS (L) – “Cubs telecast” featuring Len Kasper & Jim Deshaies

4:30 PM – Cubs Postgame Live presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois (time approx.) – Complete game recap/analysis, plus live post-game press conferences and player interviews

6:00 PM – SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado – Special post-game discussion & analysis with host David Kaplan and additional special guests.

6:30 PM – In the Loop Expanded “Crosstown” recap, along with the latest hot topics and can’t miss videos from the day in sports

7:00 PM – White Sox at Cubs (game replay)

10:00 PM/10:30 PM – In the Loop Prime (presented by GMC at 10pm & State Farm at 10:30pm) – Full Crosstown Cup Game 2 recap, along with the latest news/highlights/viral vids & more from the day in sports

WEDNESDAY, JULY 26

5:30 PM – SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado – Special edition pre-game discussion & analysis with host David Kaplan and special guests LIVE from Guaranteed Rate Field

6:00 PM – White Sox Pregame Live presented by The Kowalis Family of Dealerships – Special ONE-HOUR edition pre-game show LIVE from Guaranteed Rate Field with Wrigley game recaps, special guest interviews, surrounding ballpark festivity highlights…

  • In addition on White Sox Pregame Live – CSN will debut a special update feature story on Orland Park resident and die-hard White Sox fan TIM LALLA, who was biking to all 30 MLB stadiums this summer as part of an effort to raise $160,000 to put two underprivileged youth through college via bikingforbaseball.org. Lalla was hit by a truck in Alabama on his way to Atlanta on June 15th. Lalla broke his back, his neck, lost several teeth and needed emergency spinal fusion surgery. Paralysis was a concern. Somehow, a week later, Tim returned home. CSN has been with Tim every step of the way on his road to recovery.  From the moment he returned home, to his first trip to the dentist, oral surgeon and back specialist, CSN has documented Tim's determined journey to hopeful recovery. Though the trip ended abruptly, Lalla’s goal remains the same: to present a check to the two students in September at Wrigley Field (where the journey was supposed to end).

7:00 PM – CUBS at WHITE SOX (L) – “White Sox telecast” featuring Ken “Hawk” Harrelson & Steve Stone

9:45 PM – Subaru White Sox Postgame Live (time approx.) – Complete game recap/analysis, plus live post-game press conferences and player interviews

10:00 PM/10:30 PM – In the Loop Prime (presented by GMC at 10pm & State Farm at 10:30pm) – Full Crosstown Cup Game 3 recap, along with the latest news/highlights/viral vids & more from the day in sports

12:30 AM – Cubs at White Sox (game replay)

THURSDAY, JULY 27

5:30 PM – SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado – Special edition pre-game discussion & analysis with host David Kaplan and special guests LIVE from Guaranteed Field.

6:00 PM – Cubs Pregame Live presented by Fields Auto Group – Special ONE-HOUR edition pre-game show LIVE from Guaranteed Rate Field featuring special guest interviews, Games 1-3 recap, and much more.

7:00 PM – CUBS at WHITE SOX (L) – “Cubs telecast” featuring Len Kasper & Jim Deshaies

9:45 PM – Cubs Postgame Live presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois (time approx.) – Complete game recap/analysis, plus live post-game press conferences and player interviews.

10:00 PM/10:30 PM – In the Loop Prime (presented by GMC at 10pm & State Farm at 10:30pm) – Full Crosstown Cup Game 4 & overall series recap, along with the latest news/highlights/viral vids & more from the day in sports.

12:30 AM – Cubs at White Sox (game replay)

ALL TIMES CENTRAL TIME

SCHEDULE SUBJECT TO CHANGE