SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs visit White House as World Series champions

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs visit White House as World Series champions

On the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Kaplan is joined by David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) to discuss the Cubs' visit to the White House.

The guys reflect on the historic day and Theo Epstein's speech. Then, the panel breaks down the Packers' impressive run and question whether it's okay for Bears fans to appreciate Aarond Rodgers and company.

Finally, are the Wild the Blackhawks' biggest threat come playoff time?

Listen to the SportsTalk Live podcast below.

 

President Obama calls Cubs gifts 'best swag I've gotten as President'

President Obama calls Cubs gifts 'best swag I've gotten as President'

The Cubs didn't arrive at the White House this afternoon empty-handed. And they came away leaving quite the impression on the President.

Apparently making up for lost time on gifts they would have brought the Commander-in-Chief over the last 108 years, the Cubs gave President Barack Obama a handful of gifts.

And what did Mr. President, who's hosted dozens of champions inside the White House during his eight-year tenure, think of the gifts?

"Let me say, first of all, best swag I've gotten as President," he said.

Here are the gifts the Cubs brought President Obama:

-- Anthony Rizzo presented the President with a No. 44 home Cubs jersey, as well as a road jersey with "Chicago" across the front in case, as Theo Epstein noted, "if you're still not comfortable putting a Cubs jersey on"

-- A No. 44 tile from the iconic Wrigley Field scoreboard

-- Laura Ricketts presented Obama and his family a lifetime pass to Wrigley Field

-- A "W" flag autographed by the entire 2016 Cubs team

Ben Zobrist knows Cubs need to make room for Javy Baez in everyday lineup

Ben Zobrist knows Cubs need to make room for Javy Baez in everyday lineup

As Javy Baez emerged from the Cubs dugout on the third-base side of Wrigley Field, he was also bursting onto the national baseball scene.

Baez had just driven a Johnny Cueto pitch into the basket down the left-field line to break a scoreless tie in Game 1 of the National League Division Series and celebrated accordingly with the raucous Wrigley crowd.

It was the biggest hit of his young career and the moment he put the baseball world on notice.

Baez broke out in a big way during the Cubs' miraculous World Series run, making dazzling plays almost every night and even taking home NLCS co-MVP honors.

"[October] really helped me a lot," Baez said. "It's basically where I made my name — in the postseason. I feel good about it, and obviously ready to do it again."

Baez started every postseason game at second base, bumping veteran Ben Zobrist to left field.

So when the Cubs reconvene in Arizona for spring training ahead of the 2017 season, one of the biggest questions will be: How does manager Joe Maddon get Baez in the lineup on a regular basis?

Zobrist understands what's coming.

"Since Javy really came into his own last year at the end of the year, my guess is you gotta get him in there more," Zobrist said on the "All-Star Infield" panel of Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. 

"At the beginning of the season, he wasn't in there much, which is why I wasn't moving around much. I'll probably be moving around more as we get into it more this year."

Zobrist — who turns 36 in May — began his big-league career as a do-it-all utility man for Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays, but when the Cubs signed the battle-tested veteran at the 2015 Winter Meetings, they envisioned him playing a majority of time at second base, hoping that sticking to one position would help keep him fresh.

With Baez's eye-popping baseball instincts, the lightning-quick tags and overall athleticism at second base, Zobrist knows what it means for him, even if he hasn't talked to Maddon yet.

"Over the years, he knows I have to be ready for anything and I know that," Zobrist said. "So over the years, he's like, 'Yeah, Zo knows.'

"I just don't want to play catcher," he joked. "That's not in the cards for me."

Baez had a similar answer when asked about his position for 2017.

"I'm pretty sure I'm gonna be moving around again, like everybody," Baez said.

At this time last year, Baez was fielding questions about his work in center field in winter ball.

Now, post-breakout, he knows that he's ready for a bigger role. (Not that confidence was ever an issue for a former first-round pick with the MLB logo tattooed on his neck.)

"Yeah, for sure. I'm 100 percent an everyday player," Baez said. "I don't mind [moving around] but obviously I wanna have my own position and just stay there some day."

In a Saturday morning panel at Cubs Convention, Theo Epstein's front office was asked a question about where the lineup stood after Dexter Fowler's surprise signing last spring and how many quality options Maddon had at his disposal. 

"We were all thinking, 'That's Joe's problem,'" GM Jed Hoyer joked.

Of course, Kyle Schwarber went and wrecked his knee in the third game of the season, lessening the everyday lineup complications.

There's no guarantee everybody is going to be healthy or produce at optimal levels in 2017.

Still, an abundance of high-level position players is a good problem to have. Especially for a team that has eyes on playing into November for the second year in a row.

"It enables us to get more off days and give guys breathers at times," Zobrist said of the depth. "I think it will be good for us."