Theo Epstein has strong words for lowly Cubs

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Theo Epstein has strong words for lowly Cubs

From Comcast SportsNet
CHICAGO (AP) -- Theo Epstein expected some rough stretches. He just didn't envision anything like this. A few hours after addressing his team's skid, the Chicago Cubs broke one of the longest losing streaks in franchise history, beating the San Diego Padres 11-7 on Monday. That ended a 12-game slide. The work, however, is just beginning. "I saw tough stretches, but I don't think this is indicative of the type of team we are," Epstein said before the game. "I think we're clearly better than this." Only seven times in their cursed history had the Cubs dropped 12 or more in a row, and they entered Monday's game on their worst losing streak since they started the 1997 season with a franchise-record 14 straight defeats. For all the optimism surrounding Epstein's arrival as president of baseball operations in the offseason, the results are awfully familiar. Of course, he needs time. He also realizes something needs to change. One thing that won't is the plan. Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer said they will continue to build for the future, but they don't want this season to get worse than it already is. "On both fronts, short- and long-term, there's work to do," Epstein said. "In the short term, in the trenches, there's a lot of work to do to get ourselves to a respectable level. This is a bad stretch. Just sort of appeal to the base instincts and start scrapping and keep grinding for pride. Long term, it underscores the magnitude of the job here and sort of how far we need to go to get where we want to be." On Monday, they let out a sigh of relief. A big one, at that. Not since they beat St. Louis on May 14 had they won a game, and the losses certainly were wearing on them. "We lost 10 in a row, but now that's in the past, so now we have to try to win 10 in a row," Alfonso Soriano said after collecting three hits with a home run. "We have to turn it around. You have to believe in this team because we're not that bad." The Cubs brought in Epstein and Hoyer, hoping they would help lift that championship albatross that's been hovering over them for more than a century. Chicago last won it all in 1908, when the Model T was rolling off the assembly line. With a new management team in place, there was a new sense of hope when the season began. After all, Epstein built the team that in that in 2004 ended Boston's 86-year championship drought and then won another title in 2007. For now, the Cubs are simply taking their hits. Hoyer called the losing streak "torturous" and insisted better times are ahead. Manager Dale Sveum sympathized with the players before the game, and when it was over, he made no effort to hide his relief. He played for Milwaukee in 1987 and was a part of a 12-game losing streak that year. That team ultimately finished with 91 wins. "Let's not kid yourself," said Sveum, in his first season as Cubs manager. "You lose 12 in a row, you finally win ... thank God I didn't break my streak. It's a big relief. All the guys, like I said today, you feel bad for them. It's tough. It shows you sometimes how tough it is to win a major league baseball game. Then to lose 12 in a row ... hopefully something like that gets everything going, the bats." Hoyer called the skid "a really painful bump that we're going through right now on the way to get there." The starting pitching, with Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster leading the way, has been solid. The bullpen has been a mess, repeatedly blowing games. Carlos Marmol lost his job as the closer, and Kerry Wood struggled before retiring. At the plate, things haven't been much better. Only three major league teams scored fewer runs entering Monday and with a .244 average, the Cubs ranked 21st. "We're losing right now and teams are beating us and we're on this kind of a streak, and it seems like a bad dream," said Bryan LaHair, one of the few bright spots in the lineup with a .312 average and 10 homers. "But if you're not becoming more hungry to want to win and go on 12-game winning streaks, then I don't know. I know it's what it's doing to me." He said it's not tough to show up at the ballpark. It is tough to leave during a stretch like this. "It beats you down more after the game than before because you've lost," LaHair said. It's not what Soriano envisioned when he signed that 136 million, eight-year contract before the 2007 season. He thought he was going to help the Cubs capture that elusive championship, and they came close, making the playoffs during his first two years. Since then, they've been on a steady decline and so has the veteran slugger. "Sometimes, it's like hard to believe where we are right now," Soriano said. "We played so good. And the last 12 games, we're nothing." Hoyer said the Cubs are "very open" to making changes, but they don't want to be "dumping guys off just to make a point." They would probably love to trade Soriano, but finding takers is not easy. Dempster has an expiring contract and might be attractive to a contender. Garza might be, too. He's eligible for arbitration after the season, and the Cubs might want to keep the 28-year-old. "When you rip the scab off, sometimes there's some pain until we grow some new skin," Epstein said. "We're going places. This is a tough road."

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Wizards at Cavaliers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Wizards at Cavaliers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards battle LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night as they aim to continue rising the ranks of the NBA's Eastern Conference.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch…

WASHINGTON WIZARDS at CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Where: Quicken Loans Arena
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m.
TV: CSN (coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: CSNmidatlantic.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Three things to watch...

Start of a long road trip

The Wizards took care of business this week by beating both the Hawks and Nets at home and in doing so clinched a playoff spot. That was all great, but their road is about to get much, much tougher. On Saturday night they begin what is arguably their toughest stretch of the entire season with their season series finale against the defending-champion Cavaliers.

After playing Cleveland in a game that will also be the second leg of a back-to-back, the Wizards play at the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz and Warriors. Add it all up and they are playing four playoff-bound teams and last year's two Finals participants all on the road. It's a brutal stretch that will probably tell us a lot about the Wizards right before they enter the playoffs.

[RELATED: Kelly Oubre, Ian Mahinmi may be keys to helping Wizards snap out of defensive funk]

Still plenty to play for

Just because the Wizards have locked up their spot in the playoffs, doesn't mean there isn't anything to watch as they play the regular season out. First and foremost is the race for playoff seeding in the East. The Wizards currently sit third and 2 1/2 games behind Boston in second. The Wizards are just one game ahead of the No. 4 seed Raptors. With 10 games left, a lot of movement can happen as the Wizards hope to maintain top three status.

The Wizards also have a chance for history. The magic number is now three for the Wizards to edge the Hawks for the Southeast Division title. It wouldn't mean much for playoff seeding under the NBA's current rules, but it would snap the longest division title drought in the NBA. The Wizards haven't won a division in 38 seasons, since 1978-79, but look poised to buck that trend this year.

[RELATED: Wall on Cousins: 'He said he would come to D.C.']

Three-point line

The Wizards have already lost the season series to the Cavs by way of their two defeats at home. On Saturday they will be playing for the third and final time. In the first two meetings, the Wizards lost both games in large part due to Cleveland's ability to shoot the three. In the first game on Nov. 11 they hit 14 threes on 33 attempts, shooting 42.4 percent. In the second meeting on Feb. 6 they hit 19 threes on 38 attempts at 50 percent. The Wizards have had trouble defending the three since the All-Star break, so Saturday will provide a good test for them.

[RELATED: NBA Power Rankings: Movement in the East]

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Draft talk, Ihenacho out

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Draft talk, Ihenacho out

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 25, 33 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 23
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 48
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 60
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 112
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 160

The Redskins week that was

Ihenacho's Redskins career appears to be over—This is based on some tweets he sent out; the team has said nothing officially or unofficially. Duke Ihenacho started 10 games at safety for the Redskins and they still don’t have enough at his position to fill out a depth chart. But apparently, they believe that Ihenacho is not part of the solution going forward and they will not offer Ihenacho, an unrestricted free agent, a contract. I think he’ll get another shot somewhere; he turns 28 in June and when he’s healthy he can play a role on defense and do some special teams.

Will the Redskins shift to drafting for need? Scot McCloughan always preached drafting the best player available rather than drafting for need. However, no GM drafts purely BPA and none draft strictly for need. How will the Redskins go with Bruce Allen having the final say and with Jay Gruden likely to have a strong voice in the draft room? Check out the post.

2017 NFL Mock Draft 6.0—A good job by Ben Standig here although I’m kind of skeptical of his first-round pick for the Redskins for reasons outlined here. And I kind of like his second round pick but I’d think he would be better in the fourth.  

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Could Miami's Kaaya be the Redskins' heir apparent at quarterback? I think that some Redskins fans have their fingers stuck in their ears and are yelling, “I can’t hear you” when it comes to the quarterback situation. The reality is that there is a very good chance that Kirk Cousins will be gone in 2018. Why wait until he’s gone to start developing his replacement? You can argue that Kaaya is not the guy but there has to be a plan.

Setting the odds on the Redskins' first-round draft pick—Mock drafts are all over the place with the Redskins picks, which is to be expected with pick No. 17. While I respect any analyst who can do a full first-round mock draft, it’s just impossible for them to be up on every team’s depth chart and thinking. As noted, nobody is sure how the dynamic of Allen and Gruden (and we could throw in college scouting director Scott Campbell there as well) will work in the draft room. While things might clear up as April 27 approaches, a big surprise at No. 17 wouldn’t be a surprise, if you know what I mean.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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