While others hit reset button, Cubs waiting for game-changers

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While others hit reset button, Cubs waiting for game-changers

The Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox have slammed the reset button while the Cubs patiently wait for game-changers like a renovated Wrigley Field, a new television deal and their homegrown core to get to the big leagues.

As Jeffrey Loria stepped onto a down escalator at the Hyatt Regency OHare, one pack of reporters followed him down the stairs. Another media group came at the Marlins owner from the left flank once he got to the ground floor.

Loria went to open the wrong door on Wednesday and got turned around trying to find the right conference room for Major League Baseballs ownership meetings. He was wearing loud, thick sunglasses indoors, with lenses that literally looked rose-colored.

Not today boys, Loria said dismissively. If you havent figured it out yet, Im not going to figure it out for you.

Loria has left South Florida taxpayers in the dark, using public money to help build the Marlins Park spaceship in Little Havana, triggering an SEC investigation. Not to mention the big-ticket free agents he signed to back-loaded contracts without no-trade clauses, like Gold Glove left-hander Mark Buehrle (four years, 58 million) and All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes (six years, 106 million).

Commissioner Bud Selig said the deal hadnt yet been submitted for his final approval, but the powerbrokers on layover inside this airport hotel in Rosemont were buzzing about the potential blockbuster 12-player trade between the Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays.

Well played, said Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, tipping his cap to an American League East rival set to acquire Reyes, Buehrle, pitcher Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck and utility guy Emilio Bonifacio.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts refused to stop and speak with beat writers and disappeared into meeting rooms throughout the day. Selig didnt want to take questions either, but will be asked about the Wrigley Field renovations and the role of the commissioners office in those negotiations during Thursdays news conference wrapping up the meetings.

From here, a new stadium plan and the television money that will pour in once the WGN contract expires after the 2014 season look like the biggest, boldest moves the Cubs could make in the near future.

By late August, the Red Sox had lost their way and didnt hesitate to trade away some of Theo Epsteins big-money guys Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett to a Los Angeles Dodgers team pumped up by a new ownership group and a huge upcoming television deal.

It takes two to tango, Lucchino said. You got to have a special situation on each side (to) have any sort of epic trade.

Toronto, which might be a top-five market, was looking to make a splash, send a message to the fan base and compete in a brutal division. The Marlins are in full retreat, and Selig will almost certainly be asked if Loria is fit to be a big-league owner.

New York Yankees president Randy Levine who in the past has criticized the idea of simply pocketing money from revenue sharing didnt complain about this mega-trade.

Theres a collective bargaining agreement, Levine said. As far as I understand, everybodys following the rules and teams are allowed to do what they want to do. (Just) from what I read I havent talked to anybody both sides think they improved. Thats what its all about.

Its interesting to note that after signing Scott Baker on Tuesday, Epstein was asked what the next rotation piece might look like, given that the right-hander recovering from Tommy John surgery received only a modest one-year, 5.5 million deal.

The Cubs president mentioned trades as one option a week after saying at the general manager meetings that the team wont have many trade options this winter.

This fire sale in Miami could change the entire landscape across baseball. Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco who is owed 11.5 million next season declined to comment when reached by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and sent this text message: Im next anyways. Its also worth monitoring Logan Morrisons Twitter feed for reactions.

Wherever the Cubs go the rest of this winter remember its still a week away from Thanksgiving they arent going to hit delete-all keys like the Marlins or the fast-forward button like the Red Sox.

Most every teams situation is different, Lucchino said. I wouldnt compare us to other clubs. I dont think many other clubs would compare themselves to us. Every team has its own distinctive market and its own special needs.

The Red Sox were reportedly discussing trade scenarios with the Marlins involving Reyes and Johnson. They now have a huge amount of financial flexibility to reshape their roster, as well as their image, and try to get back to the World Series.

We refuse to put a timetable on it, Lucchino said, but we sure dont have any five-year plans or anything like that.

The Cubs are looking at those types of windows. This was a little over a year after Epstein left Fenway Park, ending his power struggle with Lucchino and starting a compensation fight that dragged out into spring training. The Red Sox president sounded distant out of sight, out of mind? when asked about his relationship with Epstein and the Cubs now.

I think were on good terms with that organization, Lucchino said. Theyre in the other league, so we dont have a lot of direct dealings with them. Our view of the National League teams is quite different than our view of teams in the American League East. We think about them much more often.

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.

“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”

But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

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Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.

After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.

Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”

Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.

The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.

“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”