Swept by White Sox, Cubs look to shake things up

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Swept by White Sox, Cubs look to shake things up

Maybe the White Sox will use this as a springboard in a division that appears to be wide open. But for the Cubs, this was a lost weekend at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs are going back to the drawing board. It was 91 degrees at game time on Sunday, and you got the feeling this could be a long, hot summer at Clark and Addison.

The White Sox climbed back to .500 with a 6-0 win in front of 38,374 fans. The sweep dropped the Cubs to 11 games under, a new low point, even if everyone knew this was going to be a bridge year.

A six-game losing streak had manager Dale Sveum thinking about making changes to the top of the order, moving Starlin Castro out of the No. 3 hole and lobbying for top prospect Anthony Rizzo to be called up from Triple-A Iowa.

Getting swept by the White Sox at home is about as low as youre going to get through a seven-day stretch, Sveum said. You hope that the fans understand and stay patient the rest of the year.

If the city learned anything from this three-game series, it could be that these two teams are heading in opposite directions.

Kerry Wood stole the show with a calculated two-day retirement announcement, and an unexpected, heart-warming moment with his son, hugging Justin and carrying him down the dugout steps.

Chairman Tom Ricketts kept a very low profile after the details of his fathers political activities were leaked to The New York Times. The security concerns about the NATO summit were unfounded.

The rivalry left a mark around Paul Konerkos left eye, but no bad blood between Jeff Samardzija and the White Sox captain. The beanball war never really escalated. Check back next month on the South Side.

We are very disappointed, Alfonso Soriano said, because the way that we play against them is not acceptable.

Soriano is playing through the pain in his left knee, and the Cubs had already made 10 moves on their 25-man roster in four days. They couldnt take advantage of the conditions and tee off the way the White Sox did against Paul Maholm.

We had a lot of opportunity to score a lot of runs with the wind, Soriano said. But sometimes we see the flags like that and were not concentrating and seeing the ball and hitting it. We see the wind and we forget that we have to hit the ball first.

Maholm had spent his entire career in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization until signing with the Cubs last winter and breaking the news on his Twitter account.

Maholm (4-3, 4.73 ERA) watched the White Sox take shots at Waveland Avenue Gordon Beckham, Adam Dunn and Tyler Flowers each homered. Welcome to Cubs-Sox.

Well, obviously, it sucked because we lost three games, Maholm said. When I went out there, I didnt worry about a big rivalry series or whatever. I was trying to make pitches, and I did early. I missed some pitches and they hit home runs.

So hopefully whenever we re-up the crosstown cup, we can sweep em at their place. Its kind of like kissing your sister and just go for a tie.

A lot will happen between now and then. Though the schedule eases up a bit with a trip through Houston and Pittsburgh, the Cubs will play 16 of their next 19 games on the road.

Whether its moving Castro up, rearranging David DeJesus and Tony Campana, giving more at-bats to Joe Mather or throwing Rizzo into the fire, Sveum is looking to shake things up.

We need some production, Sveum said. The bottom line is two months into the season we have to start producing, or were going to have to start making some changes.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

Do the Cubs have a World Series hangover?

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Bay Area Giants Insider Alex Pavlovic joins CSN's Patrick Mooney to talk about the World Series hangover, how last year's playoff loss lingered in San Francisco, Johnny Cueto's quirks, the legend of Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija's ups and downs.

Plus Kelly Crull, Jeff Nelson and Tony Andracki break down the Cubs’ defensive struggles this year compared to an historic 2016 and how Ian Happ fits into the Cubs’ lineup in both the short and long term.

Listen to the latest episode below:

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

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USA TODAY

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

Caleb Swanigan, unsurprisingly, is heading to the NBA.

Last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year announced Wednesday that he’ll pass up the final two seasons of his NCAA eligibility for a paying gig at the professional level, an awesome opportunity for a kid who battled obesity and homelessness to become one of the best basketball players in the country.

But Swanigan’s departure from West Lafayette means a heck of a lot to the Big Ten.

Without the league’s most dominant big man, what becomes of Purdue’s chances at winning a conference title? Similarly, with a weakened — though still strong — group of Boilermakers, what does the Big Ten race look like going into 2017-18?

First, Purdue. Matt Painter’s program is plenty healthy, and while there’s no doubt that losing Swanigan is a big deal, the Boilers got some really good news, too, Wednesday when Vincent Edwards announced he’ll be returning for his senior season. Seven-footer Isaac Haas also made the decision to return to West Lafayette, meaning the towering frontcourt hasn’t been completely decimated just because tha man called “Biggie” is gone.

Purdue will also return Carsen Edwards, who had an impressive freshman campaign, and Dakota Mathias, a terrific defender and 3-point shooter. Two more important pieces — P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline — are back, as well. And Painter will welcome in freshman Nojel Eastern, a highly touted guard from Evanston.

So the Boilers are still in very good shape. There will be a big magnifying glass on Haas, who despite his physical attributes hasn’t always found consistent on-court success. But there have been plenty of flashes of brilliance from the big man. A big step forward in his game would go a long way in easing the blow of losing Swanigan and could keep Purdue as one of the frontrunners for a conference title.

That brings us to the Big Ten race. Ever since Miles Bridges, the conference’s reigning Freshman of the Year, announced he’d be returning to Michigan State for his sophomore season, the Spartans have been the near-unanimous favorite. Only something like Swanigan deciding to stay at Purdue could’ve changed that. And with Swanigan expectedly heading to the NBA, Michigan State remains the preseason pick to win the conference crown.

Like any good year in the Big Ten, though, there will be challengers.

But Michigan State is the popular choice to win it because of Tom Izzo’s insane 2016 recruiting class is returning completely intact: Bridges, Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford are all back. And Izzo brings in one of the top 2017 recruits in forward Jaren Jackson.

But Sparty isn’t the only one with an impressive returning group. Purdue’s experienced roster has already been covered. Northwestern, a surprise contender in 2016-17, should be even better as Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey enter their fourth year playing together. Dererk Pardon, a shot-blocking whiz at center, is also back, as is sharp-shooter Aaron Falzon, who sat out the 2016-17 season with an injury after starting during his freshman year in 2015-16.

There will be big shoes to fill for some perennial contenders like Maryland — which must replace Melo Trimble — and Michigan, which watched eligibility run out on Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin before D.J. Wilson decided to head to the professional ranks Wednesday. But those teams have plenty of talent returning, too. The Terps will have all three of their fab freshmen — Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter — back for sophomore seasons, while the Wolverines have Moe Wagner back in the fold alongside Xavier Simpson and Duncan Robinson, among others.

And what of last year’s shocking contender, Minnesota? The Golden Gophers didn’t lose too much this offseason and will return almost every main player from last year’s 24-10 squad: Amir Coffey, Nate Mason, Reggie Lynch, Jordan Murphy, Dupree McBrayer and Eric Curry.

There are up-and-comers to think about, too, such as last year’s freshman-heavy squads at Iowa and Penn State. And could new head coaches Brad Underwood and Archie Miller make instant splashes at Illinois and Indiana, respectively?

If it sounds a little too much like the annual coach speak that “any team can win on any night” in the Big Ten, that’s because there is a good deal of truth to that oft-used phrase.

There are definitely tiers to this thing, though. Even without Swanigan, Purdue is still in one of those upper tiers. But there might be no team besides Michigan State at the very top of the heap, something underscored by Swanigan turning pro.