The four Major League free agents the Cubs have signed thus far in 2015 all have one thing in common: Each signed a contract for less guaranteed money than was offered elsewhere. Why would guys pass up literally tens of millions of dollars to play on the North Side? The reasons are numerous, but it comes down to the fact that the Cubs have lost a lot -- a lot.
Everyone is familiar with the numbers. No World Series appearances since 1945. No World Series victories since 1908. But when you tell guys like Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey stats like that, their eyes light up. Why? Because of the chance to be on the field when that final out is made and Pat Hughes screams with pure happiness. They all have more money than they'll likely be able to spend in their lifetimes -- winning a title as a Chicago Cubs player makes you a legend almost beyond comprehension.
Look at how this city has propped up the 1985 Bears. Richard Dent can walk into a room today and own the place. Walter Payton jerseys outnumber all others when you go to Soldier Field. Mike Ditka is still as beloved as he was on January 26, 1986. A World Series trophy at Wrigley Field might burn the city down.
Maybe the best thing about the 2015 Cubs was their versatility. Nearly every non-catcher position player on the team played multiple positions at one point or another. It made for weird lineups and some raised eyebrows at times, but it was a fantastic way to keep the rookies on their toes.
That same versatility allows the Cubs to go in whatever direction presents itself going forward. If someone makes a play at Jorge Soler, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer know they have options. Kris Bryant could play right field, or even Chris Coghlan could do it for a year while Billy McKinney continues his development. If a Starlin Castro deal presents itself, Javier Baez can play second immediately and be at least league average simply from his defense.
All options are available, but expectations need to be maintained. The Cubs already have roughly $110 million earmarked for the players signed for 2016. That includes realistic raises for all arbitration and pre-arbitration players. It's unlikely the team goes out and dumps $40 million in first year salaries to free agents. The boatloads of money for spending are still years away when the Cubs start their own TV network.
The feelings come at different times when your favorite team loses in the postseason. Some people spot the signs early and prepare themselves for what's to come. Others don't see it until the last possible moment, and they move quickly through five universally known stages of grief.
Everyone is entitled to feel the way they want. Your way isn't wrong. Neither is mine, and we certainly don't have to agree on it. In the end, we'll all end up in the same place: flipping on the television on April 5 when the Cubs open up the 2016 season against the LA Angels.
Kyle Schwarber will continue to play in the outfield (and also at catcher). Jorge Soler too. Kris Bryant will be at third, Anthony Rizzo at first, and Joe Maddon will have his hands on the controls in the dugout. Nothing is wrong with these guys. They ran into a buzzsaw of a pitching staff, filled with guys who throw 95-plus with movement and precision. If they weren't hitting the corners, the series would've probably been different.
Joe Maddon's sole focus is to put the Cubs in the best position to win every single game. He's had that mindset since the April 5th season opener against the Cardinals, and hasn't strayed from it since. For the most part, he builds what he considers the strongest offensive lineup against the opponent's starting pitcher. The goal is simple: get a lead in the first six innings, and gradually maneuver into a lineup that is more defensive oriented to give the bullpen the best chance at holding the lead.
This also means that nobody's spot in the lineup is safe. Though Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are going to be on the field everyday, they have no idea until the lineup card is posted in the clubhouse where they'll be hitting. And for Bryant, he has no idea where he'll play positionally. The only person who knows where they're fielding and batting every day is Dexter Fowler, who has started all but three of his 149 games as the leadoff hitter playing in center.
The biggest question going into every game recently has been who's flanking the steady Fowler in the outfield. Is Kyle Schwarber in left field, or is it right field tonight because Pittsburgh is a notoriously hard place for a hitting-focused left fielder? Is Chris Coghlan in the lineup, or is Maddon going to buck the lefty hitter/righty pitcher matchup to get Jorge Soler's powerful bat in the order?
With the exception of a few long balls and a sea of red Ks, there hasn't been too much to be proud of on the South side. The White Sox came into the season with high expectations and the club has been one of the league's biggest disappointments. This seems to be the Sox MO the past few years and it may be time to give the kids a shot. Pumping in some talent from the farm could give the club a shot in the arm and give them a better idea of what direction to go next year.
In his short time since becoming manager, Joe Maddon has made quite the impression with the Chicago Cubs fanbase and the city of Chicago. The team has defied expectations and is in contention for the playoffs, way ahead of schedule. And if the recent pajamas day after Jake Arrieta's no-hitter is any indication, the team is having a whole lot of fun along the way.
But Maddon's reach has extended beyond the clubhouse, as he likes to give back to the community with various charity events. One of those events will be occurring Thursday, Sept. 3 at Wrigley Field. The Cubs manager and his wife Jaye will be hosting a "Spoxing for Charity" event from 10am to 4pm inside Gate F at the Friendly Confines. This unique sport has become that latest trend in the fitness world.
Kris Bryant is an average third baseman. Starlin Castro is below average at shortstop. Kyle Schwarber is pretty bad at catching. Jorge Soler is brutal in right field. All these guys have, can, or will hit at the Major League level, but defense is more or less a skill that stays relatively consistent throughout a player's trip through the minors and into the majors.
As a hitter, a tweak in stance, swing, or approach can catapult a player into a superstar (see: Bautista, José) in the matter of months. As a fielder, it takes reps. Thousands upon thousands of ground balls or fly balls off a fungo bat and in live game action is the only way to improve on top of natural ability. Even then, one might only become incrementally better defensively.
An ace is supposed to be the most dominant pitcher of a rotation. The head honcho, the anchor, the big cheese, the trendsetter. This position on the pitching depth chart is supposed to be the one fans won't sweat about when they read the day's pitching probables. The number one starter serves the role as stop gap, but he can also help tutor the other starters in the rotation and set the mood for everyone else by being dominant every five days. The Chicago White Sox have had plenty of top dogs in their rotation.
Wilson Alvarez provided mediocre, but dependable starts in the '90s. The late Billy Pierce held it down while opposing legendary lineups. And Mark Buehrle was always a sure thing, logging 200-plus innings in every year he was a full-time starter for the Sox.
The only way to advance a sport is to tinker. Baseball isn't perfect. Neither is football, basketball, or soccer. To improve, new ideas need to be tested. In 1879, it took nine balls for a hitter to get walked. By 1887, the leaders of the sport had regulated it down to just five.
Strike zones have changed over time too. If an idea flops, you can always revert back to the old ways. The NBA moved in the three-point line for three seasons in the mid-90s before moving it back to its original 23 feet, nine inches. Trial and error leads to progress. The rules of these sports are not sacred. The DH will come to the National League in the next 25 years, and so will an automated system for the calling of balls and strikes. Don't fight it; resistance is futile.
The Cubs ownership had been battling with the neighborhood over a noise ordinance during its ballgames over the past few seasons. At one point matters became so heated the team owner threatened to move his team elsewhere.
Around the same time, renovations to the stadium were being finished off, which would update the old gem to a more state-of-the-art facility that would rival any other ballpark in the league. Of course, money would be an issue, which, ultimately, caused the team to break up its veteran squad in favor of rebuilding a winner from the ground-up.
Sound familiar? It should if you've been paying attention to the Northsiders over the last handful of seasons. But it turns out this kind of thing had been happening over a century ago -- well before stepping foot onto Wrigley Field -- to a team once defined by a dominant pitching staff and a string of world championships.
I knew nothing about the first African-American pitcher to win a World Series game. I was unaware of the man who, after finally reaching the big leagues at 28, nearly won the 1952 National League MVP as a rookie. I was clueless about the gregarious gentleman who was a major part of both professional baseball and the Greyhound Corporation for decades after his playing days ended. I didn't know about all the lives he touched.
But, as I got towards the end of his biography, Joe Black: More Than a Dodger by Martha Jo Black (his daughter and coordinator of Fan Experiences for the White Sox) and author Chuck Schoffner, I not only learned about Joe Black, I came to admire him.
The Jackie Robinson West story had many facets when the Chicago-based, all African-American youth baseball team rolled through the Little League World Series to a United States Championship last summer.
And, after the last few days, the club's story has gotten even more frenetic. JRW was stripped of its title on Wednesday.
The news hits home for a lot of people. JRW encompasses many talking points, including the issues and inflated importance of youth sports; the lack of African-Americans in baseball; the chasm between the rich and poor; penalties and the enforcement of rules; and the Chicago vs. everyone mentality. Many opinions have been offered, and here is a sampling of them.
I could break down the numbers and daydream about Shark on the Sox all I want, but I really don't think the speculation is true. I have a long-running theory -- the more a pro sports trade or signing is rumored, the less likely it is to happen.
After a kings welcome upon their arrival back at Midway Airport, the Jackie Robinson West little league team will get the full champions treatment with a Wednesday parade through Chicago.
The festivities will kick off at 9 a.m. at their home field of Jackie Robinson Park, located at 10540 South Morgan Street, with a neighborhood celebration. Starting at 10 a.m., the team will take off on their parade route north through the city and end at Millennium Park around 11 a.m.
According to the mayor's office, here's a full rundown on the parade route and recommended gathering areas:
Over the past week or so, Fox Sports 1 (at the convenient channel number 408!) has been airing classic MLB All-Star Game moments. Yesterday, they showed the 1999 game, which had some of the best players in baseball history: Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, Jr., Ken Griffey, Jr., Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez, Mike Piazza, Randy Johnson, Mariano Rivera, and Pedro Martinez. The game was loaded.
However, like every All-Star game, there were some choices that I'm sure made sense at the time but look puzzling now. For instance, who was Jose Rosado? He played for parts of five seasons (three full seasons) and was the Royals' lone representative. Though he had a career 4.27 ERA, he made two All-Star games! Also in the 1999 game? Ron Coomer, Ed Sprague, Dave Nilsson and Kent Bottenfield.
This happens every year. Unknown players are selected for the All-Star Game because they had a good first half, or because their teams need a representative. It got me thinking, who were some of the more unlikely All-Star selections in White Sox history?
Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein got offered one of the top hitting prospects in the minor leagues, and they didn't hesitate to make their move. For the third consecutive year, the Cubs have traded 40 percent of their starting rotation to add prospects -- this time, doing it all in one deal.
The Cubs tried on a few occasions to extend Jeff Samardzija past 2015, even offering him a reported $85 million over five years in their latest overture a few weeks ago. Samardzija declined, in search of Homer Bailey money, and it became an utter guarantee that he was going to be traded. Jason Hammel, a $6 million reclamation grab in free agency last winter, was always thought to be a tradeable piece, as the Cubs have done with Paul Maholm and Scott Feldman in 2012 and 2013.
All the losses from last year's White Sox team paid off to some degree last night. With the third pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, the Sox selected Carlos Rodon, a lefty starting pitcher from North Carolina State.
Rodon very well could have been the first pick of last year's draft if he were eligible, so the Sox got a steal talent-wise this year. Instead of banking on high school pitchers like the Astros and Marlins did with the first two picks of the draft, the Sox got a guy who played three years of college ball and was excellent in his time there. Rodon finished with a 2.24 ERA and 436 strikeouts in his career at NC State.
This video clip of a guy cowering away from a bat flung by Tyler Flowers during yesterday's White Sox game, and then a woman reaching over and calmly snagging the bat, has been everywhere on the internet since yesterday.
Everyone's laughing at the guy, snickering away because he's presumably been emasculated, and everyone's lauding the woman because she's a hero and whatnot (the catch prevented a kid behind them from getting hit, so that was good).
Let me give the quickest and most reasonable defense of the guy.
As the long hot summer afternoons fade gently into the short crisp autumnal dusk, so goes the iconic ivy in Wrigley Field on Clark and Addison. What starts naked and vulnerable upon the red brick in the outfield, where the likes of Moreland, Pafko and Sosa once chased flies, slowly begins to turn to an effervescent green through the dog days, until finally a yellowish-red-brown combination, unfortunately not witnessed very often by the players or fans within the Friendly Confines.
This circle of life breeds optimism amongst the Cubbie faithful, lo these decades, with the metaphoric: there always will be baseball, just as the ivy will be reborn, grow and then die off with the season itself, only to return once again.
The same generations who shared the highs and lows of this merry-go-round also have done so with buying scorecards and Cracker Jacks for their sons and daughters, while enjoying an ice-cold beer and basking in the suns' rays. As the sweat begins to bead on your forehead, so forms the condensation on the outside of that 16-ounce cup and drips to the peanut shell-covered concrete.
Having too many high-quality prospects is never a bad thing. A good chunk of them won't amount to much in the major leagues, so hoarding a large amount of them just betters the organization's chance at hitting big on a few.
Four of the Cubs hitters are almost guaranteed to be consensus Top 20 ranked in baseball when the lists come out (from MLB, ESPN, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America) in the winter. And depending how things break after the Arizona Fall League, the number of Cubs prospects in the Top 100 could be as many as nine(!!!).
The only problem with all that talent is finding a place for them all to play. You'd think with four, full-time minor league clubs on top of their summer league team in Boise and instructional league squads in Arizona, that wouldn't be an issue. But it is.
The Chicago sports landscape is a vast space, reaching as far as the Quad Cities to Nashville, with legions of fans who stick with their teams through thick and thin. And much like that landscape in the middle of February, it is often dark and cold for what seems like an eternity, with no hope in sight. But once every so often, a beam of light shines through, melting away the ice and once again restoring hope for athletics in the Second City.
With so much drama and so many teams in the country's third-largest market, it became necessary for news outlets to canvas the city's north, south and west sides with sports writers, just as they crammed the courts and morgues with beat writers as early as they dawn of the newspaper.
All-Star games are commonplace now not only across top-level professional sports, but it's also a staple of minor league, college, high school and even little league seasons. The game is not just an entertaining exhibition for spectators and a reward for talented players, it also serves as a snapshot of a moment in time; all the best players gathered for one game, a marker of what happened and who mattered in a current year. Some might say otherwise, but All-Star games, particularly Major League Baseball's, are still a big deal.
In that context, it's crazy that the game had to be invented, and that it was a radical idea. It wasn't created by the commissioner or an owner or even a player. No, it was a concept thought up by a sportswriter. In 1933, Arch Ward, the sports editor at the Chicago Tribune, organized a one-game exhibition between the best players in the National and American Leagues at Comiskey Park.
After well over five hours of hearings, backroom negotiations, along with an emotional note from Alderman Tom Tunney, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks unanimously approved the signage portion of the Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field renovation plan. The deal calls for smaller signs than the ones outlined in the April agreement, but Wrigley will be getting the controversial Jumbotron in left center (5,700-square-foot total) along with a much reduced see-through sign in right field coming in at 650 square feet if the plan is approved by the city council.
Despite the sizes being smaller than what the Cubs' ownership was hoping for, it was a major score for Tom Ricketts in an effort to monetize portions of the ballpark to offset some of the cost of the $500 million renovation and restoration project. It should also improve the game-day experience for anyone in attendance. Not sure who's coming up to bat next inning? The board will answer. Did Angel Hernandez blow that call at first base? I want the truth!
The 2200-seat stadium was built by the Thillens check cashing and armored car company in 1938, at a cost of $6 million, as a baseball field anyone could use for free. The first Little League in the city was organized at the field, and in 1950, WGN-TV made television history by putting a camera in center field for to televise Little League and 16-softball games, a technique that quickly migrated to the majors.
The field was maintained by the company until 2005, when Thillens announced the Thillens Stadium Foundation was out of money and could no longer support it financially, and donated it to the Chicago Park District, who renovated it with support from the Cubs. It reopened in 2006, renamed "Cubs Field at Thillens" at least for a time.
Countless baseball, 12- and 16-inch softball games were played there over the years, including occasional games for the Chicago Bandits women's pro fastpitch softball team. While the field will obviously remain, it's sad to see a Chicago landmark and famous family name disappear.
When you're paid like an offensive star on a team that lacks them, prolonged slumps can drag down the entire lineup, making losing weeks seem like months. The Cubs were able to rattle off a five-game winning streak to close out the month of May, but have sandwiched it with a pair of 2-8 records in the ten games before and after the streak.
Hitting and scoring runs have been the crux of the problem for the North Siders all year, and Starlin Castro's lack of production has been front and center. He ranks in the bottom-10 in the league in Wins Above Replacement (actually coming in as a -0.5 - below a normal triple-A replacement player) and it mostly has to do with his bat, posting a triple slash line of .201/.257/.269 over the last 33 games. He's striking out at a career high clip, walking at a career low, and hitting more pop ups when he does happen to make contact. It's been a miserable year for him in the batter's box.
Editors Note: Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the tragedy at yesterdays Boston Marathon. The Tribune Sports section nailed it. We are one with our friends in Boston.
Sunday night brought news that an agreement had been reached between the Ricketts family and the city on a $500 million renovation deal for Wrigley Field and the surrounding areas owned by the organization. The next step is public vetting before being voted on for approval. The process will more than likely be drawn out over the next few months, but there's little question of it's passing now that a framework is in place that includes mayor Rahm Emanuel and alderman Tom Tunney.
Despite having to bend in a few areas to make things work, the Cubs mostly got what they wanted. That fact isn't a big surprise considering the team is flipping the bill for the entire project, which is quite rare in this era of ballpark renovation.
Last year, Gapers Block had a night out at the Sox game. It was a pivotal game -- one of the last of the season against division rivals the Detroit Tigers. It ended up being rained out, but enough GB readers bought tickets that this year, we're doing it again even bigger.
Gapers Block is proud to offer special deals on not one but five White Sox home games this season.
Friday, April 26 vs. Tampa Bay Rays at 7:10pm. Fireworks after the game. Tickets are $10 to $30.
Sunday, May 12 vs. Los Angeles Angels at 7:05pm. It's "Family Sunday," when the first 10,000 female attendees over age 14 will receive a White Sox Mother's Day tote bag. Tickets are $5 to $35.
Wednesday, June 12 vs. Toronto Blue Jays at 7:10pm. See whether the Jays' buying most of the Florida Marlins' best players has turned them into a powerhouse. Tickets are $10 to $30.
Saturday, Aug. 24 vs. Texas Rangers at 6:10pm. AJ Pierzynski returns to face his former teammates! Tickets are $20 to $40.
Saturday, Sept. 14 vs. Cleveland Indians at 6:10pm This is the popular Halfway to St. Patrick's Day game! The first 20,000 attendees over age 21 receive a free White Sox green ballcap, and fireworks follow the game. Tickets are $14 to $34.
Tickets are available in Lower Box, Outfield Reserved and Upper Box sections, and you can buy as many tickets as you like, all over the stadium. Purchase yours online or by phone (866-769-4263) and use the offer code BLOCK.
TV contracts in Major League Baseball have exploded in dollars, and therefore importance when it comes to a franchise's finances. To make a bid at even a segment of games for a particular franchise, you better have a quarter billion George Washingtons to prevent being laughed out of the room.
With teams like the Rangers, Angels, and Dodgers setting record after record for money they'll earn for the right to broadcast their baseball games, the status quo has quickly become horribly outdated for a team like the Cubs.
In 2014, the team's contract with WGN-TV will expire. It's hard to imagine the Cubs not playing on channel nine (or whatever goofy number your cable carrier has assigned the station to), but those days will more than likely come to an end once the deal has run its course. It's all about the Benjamins now.
The trading of Tony Campana marks the end of the latest iteration of a Cubs player that some fans develop a foolish love for. Don't believe me? Check the comments about the trade on the Bleacher Nation Facebook page (BN is a site that every Cubs fan should be aware of and visit frequently if you want to get a pulse of the fanbase).
Mixed into the chatter about the great haul the Cubs received (two 17-year-old Venezuelan pitchers -- which is great return for a bench guy) along with the mocking of the people I'm talking about, you see the opinions that are infuriating. "SMH," mumbled one fan. "Worst trade of the year," complained another. It may take years, but a quest to rid these people of their shortsightedness is basically the job of the Cubs PR department (re: Theo Epstein).
Campana belongs in the big leagues, there's no question about it. He's quite possibly the best base stealer currently in the majors (Billy Hamilton is the best on the planet), and that skill has immense value in certain situations. But the teams that can maximize his unique abilities, while also dealing with his massive deficiencies, aren't the ones praying for 65 wins like the Cubs.
There are three things every professional sports team should be doing. They should be actively involved in events and organizations that benefit the community, treat their fans to a wonderful experience when attending games, and most of all, "Just win, baby!"
The Cubs are passing the first portion with flying colors, but when it comes to fan experience and winning, they're failing miserably.
Theo Epstein was hired over 15 months ago to take care of the baseball problem. And for a team that lacked any impact talent in the minor league system when he arrived, he's done an incredible job at flooding the farm with potentially great hitters in the coming years.
After 15 months of negotiating with the city on ways to upgrade the facilities at Wrigley Field, it seems Tom Ricketts is finally getting somewhere too. The proposed project would pour $300 million over five years into making Wrigley a better place for fans, staff, and players. The best part is not a single dollar of the cost will come from the taxpayers.
The Chicago Cubs will lower tickets prices by 2 percent for the upcoming 2013 season. A team spokesman said that ticket prices will drop for 30 percent of the seats at Wrigley Field. The biggest reduction will be in the bleachers, where for a second season in a row the cost will drop by 10 percent.
According the dynamic ticket-pricing system, the most inexpensive bleacher seat for minimum-demand games will be $19, going up to $69 for high-demand games against the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox. The upper deck reserved and upper deck box seats will also be reduced. Season-ticket holders will be charged $1 to $2 less than individual-ticket holders in the same seating area.
Attendance for the Chicago Cubs was 2.88 million for this season, 135,000 less than the 2011 season.
The season isn't over yet and the White Sox have to fend off the Tigers for the pennant for another two weeks, but Sox first-round playoff tickets go on sale Friday, Sept. 21 at noon. Tickets will be sold at whitesox.com, TicketMaster or by calling 866-SOX-GAME (709-4263); limit six per customer.
American League Divisional Series ticket prices are as follows:
• Lower Box: $65
• Lower Reserved/Bleachers/Upper Deck Box: $60
• Upper Deck Reserved: $45.
The playoffs will begin Oct. 5, with American League Divisional Series games beginning Oct. 6 and 7. In the meantime, the Sox have extended their "Postseason Chase" ticket deal to the rest of the regular season home games; get $20-26 reserved seats for series against the Indians and Rays.
When Kevin Youkilis was exiled from Boston in late June and was sent to Chicago, everyone associated with the White Sox (the players, front office and fans) were, at best, ecstatic, and at worse, optimistic. Through almost three months, Youk has not disappointed.
The Sox received a boost from Youkilis's arrival, rolling off a 9-3 record right after the deal. The team has been in first place just about every day since the trade, too. Youkilis too has been rejuvenated in Chicago, with a .362 OBP and a .812 OPS with 12 home runs in 59 games for the team. Plus, he works the count well and many of his homers have come in big spots for the Sox. Even considering his spotty defense, he's been good, and he already holds some sway in the clubhouse.
But as the Sox fixed their problems at third base, issues have been rising at second base. Gordon Beckham has been lousy since the trade. From May 7 to June 24, Beckham was plugged into the #2 spot in the lineup every day for 43 games, and he finally found a groove in the big leagues, shaking off some of the stink of his previous two seasons. Beckham became a minor threat in the order, and he hit a not-too-shabby .264 with seven home runs and 25 RBI. Even if it wasn't all-star level production, it still appeared that Beckham had something to build on.
I attended last Wednesday's White Sox game against the Yankees. Normally, those types of games sell out quickly. The final count was 26,319. That's nowhere near capacity, folks. It was embarrassing to hear Yankees fans out-cheer Sox fans. That should never, ever happen.
If Sox fans really want to get to a game this year, they can if they really wanted to. I have heard fans say the economy and the area around U.S. Cellular Field are the reasons why they don't go.
After how last season went down and how this season has turned out (far exceeded anyone's expectations) how could anyone who calls themselves a Sox fan not at least try to make it out to some games this year?
On Sunday, Jose Quintana was yet again the unheralded rock in the Sox pitching rotation, quietly hurling another splendid game - Two runs allowed in seven innings, pitching out of a couple jams, inducing a few timely double plays. He even kept the Sox in the game, despite the offense being no-hit until the seventh inning.
And as is typical for Quintana, he took a no-decision for his efforts.
One could argue that Quintana was fortunate that he didn't pick up the loss (Chicago scored two in the top of the eighth, tying the score). Yet the fact remains: Jose Quintana is quite unlucky, and, as Hawk Harrelson always says about Q, "If he didn't have bad luck, he wouldn't have any luck at all."
A quick look back at some of the examples of his misfortune in 2012:
If the rumors floating around Chicago and Peoria are true, the North Siders may have a new Low-A affiliate in 2013. According to the Chicago Sun Times, the Cubs are working toward a player development contract with the Kane County Cougars in a move that would bring their most local affiliate even closer to the Chicagoland area.
If the deal ends up happening (nothing can be signed or announced until after the minor league seasons end in September), the change in affiliates would be a major benefit to the Major League club by simply being closer geographically. The distance would allow Cubs executives a chance to see recent draftees more often, and even bring prospects to Wrigley Field on off days for workouts, along with familiarizing them with the city. It's also handy for rehabbing players being just a stone's throw away.
For the Cougars, the deal is too good to be true. They play in a great facility at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva (I was there earlier this year for the Midwest League All-Star Game, and couldn't speak more highly of it), and should see a major influx of fans (though they've had great attendance already) by housing the stars of tomorrow for the Cubs. Kane County is currently the Low-A affiliate for the Kansas City Royals.
"I'm all in," says the Bulls' Derrick Rose at the end of this new video from Adidas showing his efforts to recover from the torn ACL he suffered during the playoffs earlier this year. Adidas promises to let you follow along, whatever that means, via the Twitter hashtag #TheReturn.
This even extends to the batting order. Players like to find their spot in the lineup and stay there. Statistics and analytics determine which batting order work and can figure out the optimal lineup, sure, but part of it is just players' comfort of hitting in his certain spot. What manager wants to anger his players by disrupting their routine?
Having said all that, the White Sox should move A.J. Pierzynski up in the batting order, and drop Adam Dunn down in it, at least for the time being. Simply put, A.J.'s hot bat is being underutilized, and it's worth the risk to mix up the lineup.
Eight losses in a row doesn't matter. Being outscored by 86 runs on the season is irrelevant. Having the third worst record in baseball makes no difference. (You thought I was going to say 'priceless,' didn't you?)
To the Cubs front office, it's all part of the plan. Bottoming out is the only true way to rebuild. It's painful - and the only way to get through it is to convince yourself that it's all for the greater good.
Chicago has turned into Iowa East. Only 13 current players began the season on the Cubs active roster. Trades have gutted the team to a level this city hasn't seen since MJ left town for good in the summer of 1998.
Everyone knows about Starlin Castro (he's still just 22, folks), Anthony Rizzo, and the two-headed catching monster of Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger, but a couple more highly touted prospects will be put under the microscope by Cubs brass during the final 53 games.
Hugs were abound in the Cubs dugout as Reed Johnson, Geovany Soto, and Paul Maholm said their final goodbyes to teammates as they were traded mid-game and pulled to avoid injury.
Maholm's brilliance over his last six starts, in which he's given up one run or less in each of them, has drastically increased his value to teams in need of a cheap starter, and the Atlanta Braves were finally able to pull off a deal with the North Siders (after a failed attempt at acquiring Ryan Dempster last week). Johnson will also be heading to the Braves to add right-handed bench depth the team has been searching for.
In exchange, the Cubs will receive a pair of minor league pitchers from the Braves, with Arodys Vizcaino being the main prize for Epstein and Hoyer, along with Jaye Chapman. A former Yankees prospect who was traded with Melky Cabrera for Javier Vazquez, Vizcaino entered the season as a Top 3 prospect in Atlanta's system (and Top 75 in baseball). Unfortunately, he suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, with a return date of early 2013 being likely.
It looks like the White Sox got the starter they wanted. The team traded for Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano on Saturday night, and Liriano could make his debut on Wednesday against his former team at his former ballpark. Funny how things work out.
The trade, quite simply, was a win for the White Sox. A good get. It's a good deal considering what Chicago got - a 3rd or 4th starter who fills out the rotation, which they desperately needed - and what they gave up. Eduardo Escobar is a decent utility player and good clubhouse guy, but nothing too special, and pitcher Pedro Hernandez had one of the worst outings of the 2012 season for the Sox. Also, while Escobar was considered a marginal prospect, Hernandez was a little lower on the futures list.
Although I believe adding Liriano was the right move, his season as a whole has been subpar. He has an ERA of 5.31, and an ERA+ of 77 (100 is the average). He also had been dropped from the rotation by the Twins this season. He's not exactly Josh Johnson or Ryan Dempster here.
But for Liriano, we have to look at his last 11 starts. Since May 30, when he was reinstated in the Twins' rotation, Liriano has been very good. Not counting his most recent outing, where he allowed seven runs in 2.2 innings to the White Sox, he has only given up four runs three times, while allowing two or less six times.
I was only 8 years old when Paul Konerko was traded to the White Sox.
He hadn't played many games for the Dodgers and Reds, but the Sox considered him a good first base prospect. I remember hearing about him joining the team, but the trade that brought him over for Mike Cameron after the 1998 season was in no way monumental.
Years later, I can't imagine this team without him.
There's a reason Konerko stands with Derek Jeter as the only official team captains in the game. He led the Sox to a World Series title; trails only Frank Thomas among their career home run leaders; and last week he became one of three men to play 2,000 games for the franchise. He's on pace to pass Nellie Fox for second place next season.
Yet, Konerko remains underrated. He has gained a lot of respect over the years, but the way he has hit consistently since 2010 and played first base should be garnering way more attention nationally.
But that's the great thing about Paul Konerko: He doesn't care if he gets the attention or not. And I don't mean that in an "A.J. Pierzysnki doesn't care" kind of way.
Over just seven days, the White Sox dream season has come crashing down. After Sunday's 6-4 loss to the Tigers, which finished off a Detroit sweep and a 1-6 mark over the past week, Chicago now stands 50-45. The Tigers, who disappointed the entire first half, are now in first place, one and a half games better than the Sox.
This means I was wrong in my column a week ago. The Sox will probably not cruise to a divisional title. But I was right on one thing: a 7-0 or 6-1 swing would be huge. Of course, the opponents went 6-1.
What happened? First, the bats went ice cold. Paul Konerko led the team in batting average over the last week, and he only hit .273. Kevin Youkilis has struck out eight times in the same time span. In their losses, the Sox only scored ten runs total. Three of those runs came as solo scores in the first inning.
The recent offensive ineptitude is understandable, though. It's a long season, and there will be hot streaks (like the stretch before the all-star break) and cold spells. We know that the Sox have a talented offense, so they will rebound soon enough.
The second reason why the Sox had a hell week - the big innings - is a greater cause for concern.
If you would've told me the Cubs would go 14-5 over any stretch this season, I would've found you a nearby stay in a comfy padded room. For a team destined to finish far below .500, a record like that (which is best in the league since June 25th), even over a small sample size, is something to be excited about.
The big thanks goes unquestionably to the starting staff, who have given up three or more runs in just five games during the successful run. And the timing couldn't be more perfect in terms of trade value. The hot performances not only help the current Cubs (if, for nothing else, to please the fans in attendance), but the future teams in the form of prospects.
Ryan Dempster's return from the DL was a continuation of his early season dominance. He's currently rolling with a 33-inning scoreless streak, and decided to celebrate his possible last days at Wrigley Field with a pizza party on the mound with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis.
Rumors are already floating around that Dempster may not make his scheduled start in St. Louis tomorrow because a trade may be in the works. The Cubs are taking extra precautions by trading for Boston's Justin Germano, and scratching Casey Coleman from his start in Iowa last night so he's ready to go on Friday if needed.
Pedro Hernandez took the mound for the White Sox Wednesday night at Fenway Park, making his major league debut. In a never-seen-that-before move, A.J. Pierzynski tossed aside the young lefty's first pitch, a called strike to Jacoby Ellsbury, giving Hernandez a memento to treasure forever. The ball will serve as a confirmation that, yes, Pedro Hernandez is a member of the very small percentage of humans who have pitched in the major leagues.
Ellsbury then hit the second pitch of the night for a double off of the Green Monster.
It was a sign of more things to come on the evening. Nothing went right for the South Siders, and they picked up a 10-1 loss. With Detroit's victory, Chicago now only leads the Tigers by 2.5 games in the AL Central.
Though Hernandez, who came to Chicago in the Carlos Quentin trade, showed some fight over the first two innings, the wheels started to come off after Cody Ross's first (yes, first) three-run homer of the game.
Okay, not really. We still have over two months remaining, and we are barely halfway through the season. This week's trips to Boston and Detroit are undoubtedly important for the White Sox, but they are not do-or-die.
That is, unless we see some sweeps.
If the Sox go 7-0 or 0-7 (or even 6-1 or 1-6), well, that's what you call a game changer. The Sox' hot run of late can be legitimized, or their entire streak of success could go for naught. While this week's slate of games -- four games in Boston, starting tonight, followed by a weekend series in Detroit -- is not "critical," the stretch can potentially make or break the Sox, if sweeps happen.
I've always been fascinated by the concept of "house money." Basically, it means that people are willing to take more risks with money (or intangible items like "success") that was unexpectedly obtained.
The question is, are the White Sox playing with house money for the rest of the season? You bet.
The White Sox are in first place right now, and they have been playing their best ball of 2012 over the last week. Kevin Youkilis, Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy have been rejuvenated, numerous young players are stepping up, and the team has strengths in every aspect of the game (hitting, pitching and fielding).
None of this was expected. The over/under for Sox wins this year was 74. Sports Illustrated had them finishing last in the AL Central. ESPN's Jayson Stark pegged the Sox as a team with no chance of playing in October.
How about that Jose Quintana? Far from being a ballyhooed prospect for the Sox (who, as we all know, have the worst farm system in MLB), Quintana has been a major player for the Sox recently. He's the main reason we haven't thought of a catchy "Peavy, Sale, then pray for rain" line, akin to the Yankees' old "Sabathia and Hughes, and the we lose" tag.
After a few spot starts, Quintana was recalled and put in the rotation when John Danks was put on the DL in May. After getting settled, Quintana has only given up more than two runs once (still getting a 14-7 victory over the Yankees) over his last six starts. He had back-to-back eight inning shutout performances against the Dodgers and Brewers. He even has good command, with five walks total in his last 45.2 innings pitched.
Thursday's game against Texas was his finest game so far. He went eight dominating innings while allowing one fluke run for a sweep of the Rangers. The only run came when Adrian Beltre hit a screaming liner back at Quintana, and the ball ricocheted off his left thigh and into shallow right field. Ian Kinsler scored from second on the play. Even then, it showed how tough Quintana is -- he immediately waved off the trainers, finished off the inning and went for four more.
Six months ago, Cubs fans hadn't a clue who Anthony Rizzo was. And why should they have? He wasn't even a part of the organization at that point.
In the first major move of the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime, the Cubs traded Andrew Cashner to the Padres for a player that Hoyer knew well. He drafted Rizzo in the 6th round in 2007 as Epstein's assistant in Boston, traded slugger Adrian Gonzalez for him while the GM in San Diego, and acquired his services for a third time this winter after reuniting with Theo in Chicago.
And now, the time has come for that unyielding commitment to be repaid. Rizzo, the team's top prospect, will make his Cubs debut on Tuesday at Wrigley Field against the Mets.
Immediately after news broke Sunday that the White Sox had traded pitcher Zach Stewart and utility player Brent Lillibridge to Boston for third baseman Kevin Youkilis, two things confirmed that the move was a good one:
1) Moments after Twitter lit up with reports of the completed deal, Orlando Hudson stepped to the plate in that afternoon's game against Milwaukee. It was the bottom of the ninth inning, no score, and the bases were loaded with two outs. Chicago had all the momentum, and looked ready to take the game. Hudson has been holding it down at third base for the White Sox over the last month, though he is only hitting .167 since joining the club.
Not surprisingly, the nine-hitter weakly popped out to short on the third pitch to end the inning.
2) A little after that, but still before the trade was 100% official, ESPN baseball writer Buster Olney tweeted, "White Sox 3bmen came into today with a .466 ops...worst in the majors, by 102 points."
My expert opinion says that Chicago upgraded its offense by bringing Youkilis to the South Side.
Gapers Block is going to the ball game, and you're all invited! Join us to watch the White Sox take on the Detroit Tigers on Thursday, Sept. 13. As a special deal for GB readers, tickets are half-price if you purchase them through this page, by mail using the order form below, or by mentioning the promo code "BLOCK" when you order by phone.* And you're not going to be stuck all in one section -- you've got access to every available section, wherever you can find a spot. Lower deck box seats are just $20, and the nose bleed seats in Upper Reserved are just $7!
Did you know Bill Murray owns a baseball team? Not only that, but the Charleston RiverDogs co-owner and "director of fun" was inducted into the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame on Tuesday. Here's his totally winged acceptance speech, in which he describes his earliest memories of visiting Wrigley Field, and competing with his brothers to see who could spot the flagpole first while riding the El to the game.
"So when I got into Wrigley Field and I went through the turnstile, just before I hit the stairs that would take me up to the field level, my brother Brian said, 'Billy, wait.' And he covered my eyes, and he walked me up the steps. And then he took my hands away, and I saw the most beautiful building I'd ever seen in my life. A field of green and a wall of green and a scoreboard of green and fans of all colors -- and my heart just leaped, and I thought, 'Ah, this is where I'm supposed to be, this feels like one of my homes."
Marilyn Monroe "practicing batting" with Joe Dobson (standing) and Gus Zernial (catching).
Monroe's connection to baseball is well known -- she was married to hall of famer Joe DiMaggio for less than a year in 1954. What's somewhat less known is that a photo spread shot at White Sox training camp in Pasadena, CA in March of 1951 is how she caught Joltin' Joe's eye. The photos show Monroe with Gus Zernial, Joe Dobson and Hank Majeski in a couple different poses -- including the one above in which pitcher Dobson stands behind Monroe as she pretends to bat, with Zernial playing catcher. The photos stuck with DiMaggio, who waited until after he retired to contact the press agent who organized the shoot, David March, to arrange a date. The rest, as they say, is history.
What I wrote yesterday? Disregard that for this series.
With the White Sox in St. Petersburg for a three-game set versus the Rays, pitching will have to be the South Siders' focus - because the Rays have such a good rotation and bullpen, the Sox' pitching has to keep the Rays offense in check to keep games close.
Chris Sale did just that Monday, pitching an absolute gem of a game in a Sox 2-1 victory. I was thoroughly impressed by what the 6'6" lefty did today; 8.1 innings pitched, one run allowed and 15 strikeouts. Fifteen!
The White Sox went to Wrigley and swept the Cubs fairly easily this weekend, outscoring their North Side counterparts 16-6 while smashing eight home runs. The season's first interleague series was exactly what the Sox needed as they improved to .500 before a six game homestretch against Minnesota and Cleveland.
Too caught up in the NATO protests to watch baseball? Here were some of the highlights and lowlights of the three game set.
Just in time for the start of the Crosstown Classic, Craig Robinson and Nick Offerman return in New Era's "Chicago vs. Chicago" commercial series. This round, Robinson asks Offerman how far he'd go to see the Cubs win the World Series. As you'd expect, it's pretty far.
Even though the Sox lost their rubber match against Detroit on Sunday, Adam Dunn hit a home run.
We are slowly getting to the point where that is not a surprise anymore.
Dunn connected off the Tigers' Rick Porcello, driving a low and outside changeup just over the fence in right field. Dunn hit the pitch about as well as any hitter could; the hit was the one bright spot the Sox offense had against Porcello (only one run on four hits allowed) all afternoon.
The big 1B/DH has been swinging the bat well over the last few weeks, specifically the last 18 games. For the first few weeks, Dunn looked like he was continuing last season - he had one home run (way back on Opening Day), and was batting .179 with a .256 OBP. He had four extra-base hits, and two of them came in one game against Detroit.
Jake Peavy has had a peculiar career. Really, you can divide it into two: There was the pre-2009 Peavy (a.k.a, San Diego Jake), a stud pitcher who always kept his ERA under 3.00.
Then, there is the Peavy of the past two seasons. This version not only has had injury problems (pitching only 44 games since mid-2009) but has also suffered a statistical decline. His ERA ballooned to the high 4s, his K/9 ratio dipped to the 7s, and his ERA+ was nowhere near his high of 171 in 2004.
And yes, it is the latter version we've seen here with the White Sox.
But the first month of 2012 has been a pleasant surprise.
If the Cubs fall behind by more than three or more runs at any point during a game, you get the feeling it's all over at that point. With a team that's currently constructed around starting pitching, any multi-run outburst by the opposition seems nearly insurmountable. Saturday and Monday's games were prime examples of that.
After mowing through the first three innings on Saturday at Philadelphia, fill-in starter Randy Wells couldn't get out of the fourth after issuing three walks and three hits while surrendering four runs to put the Cubs in a 4-1 hole, and an eventual 5-2 loss. With a team built to score one run at a time (mostly from the top of the lineup), recovering from a three-run deficit is just not feasible on a consistent basis.
Monday night was more of the same. Chris Volstad allowed Philly four runs in the first inning, and despite pitching extremely well over the next five innings and getting a game-tying homer in the eighth, the bullpen couldn't keep the Phillies off the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning en route to a 6-4 loss.
If you're having a good day, don't look at the Cubs' season statistics. Sure, you'll see numbers for the standouts like Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair that will make you smile, but on the whole it's not a pretty picture.
To sanely make it through a 162-game schedule in which your favorite team is a bottom feeder, you need to celebrate the small successes that come along sparingly (and enjoy alliteration at its finest!). Prime example: the three-game set vs. the hated St. Louis Cardinals earlier this week. The Cubs were able to sneak away with apair of come-from-behind victories, but failed to record the sweep after another dominating pitching performance against what looks to be a new thorn in the division.
LaHair was certainly the star of the series. Despite people clamoring for top prospect Anthony Rizzo to get the call after his hot start (hint: it's not coming soon), LaHair has been doing some major damage himself with his plate discipline and the lumber.
On a sunny Saturday in Seattle, with two outs in the bottom of ninth, Philip Humber went to the slider to finish off his perfect game.
It was the biggest pitch of Humber's life, and it worked. Pinch hitter Brendan Ryan struck out on a check swing, the ball briefly escaping A.J. Pierzynski, and after a throw down to first to clinch the out, Humber dropped to his knees and his White Sox teammates mobbed him.
When the 29-year-old right-hander left the field a few moments later, the Seattle crowd gave him a warm standing ovation. It was quite a moment.
Humber's 4-0 masterpiece was a prime example of why baseball is so great. Who would guess that a mid-April game between two near-.500 teams' starting No. 5 pitchers in a half-full stadium would be deemed anything close to memorable?
Your opinion of Thursday's White Sox game is shaped by how you think of the strikeout. If you think, "Eh, it's just another way to make an out," then the 5-3 loss to Baltimore to close the four-game series wasn't a big deal.
On the other hand, if you think the strikeout is the worst way to make an out, then the loss was a tough one to swallow. There were strikeouts galore at The Cell on the overcast afternoon. Of course, the K's were only coming for one side.
The White Sox struck out 16 times -- 10 times against starter Jason Hammel, then twice each against Baltimore relievers Matt Lindstrom, Pedro Stropp and Jim Johnson. Brent Lillibridge, Alex Rios and Dayan Viciedo each struck out three times (Viciedo looking all three times), with Alejandro De Aza, Adam Dunn and Tyler Flowers each chipping in with two K's apiece.
Knock on some wood and cross your fingers - the White Sox have been playing some good baseball lately.
The White Sox barely missed stealing a sweep from the powerful Detroit Tigers Sunday afternoon at the Cell. Trailing by four runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Sox got a rally going and were able to get the tying run to the plate. Perhaps it wasn't meant to be - Tigers closer Jose Valverde buckled down and got Kosuke Fukudome to ground out, then Valverde K'd Dayan Viciedo to end the game. Viciedo, who hit a home run in the eighth, took some impressive hacks but couldn't connect. Detroit won their only game of the weekend series, 5-2.
But other than Sunday's game, the Sox have been playing well since their opening series in Texas. They beat the Indians twice, then took the first two games of the Tigers' series.
My favorite moment of the White Sox opening weekend, where they lost two of three to the defending AL champion Texas Rangers, was a play from Friday's opener that probably was forgotten soon after the game.
With the Sox trailing by a run in the sixth, and with Alex Rios on first, Alexei Ramirez hit a single to right-center with two outs. Normally, the ball would move a runner a base or two, but Rios, who was running on the pitch, was waved home. Rios hustled hard, gritting his teeth while rounding third. He scored standing up as the throw was off-line, tying the game.
It was a nice effort play, and the Sox were rewarded for being bold. Even though they lost the game, 3-2, they can overachieve this season if they keep playing tough and aggressively.
It's the only word that can fully describe Thursday's 2-1 opening loss to the Washington Nationals. Even when plays went the Cubs' way (see Starlin Castro's pop fly single that could've easily been bunted farther), seasoned fans sensed a one-run lead wasn't going to last.
After 7 2/3 innings of near-brilliance from Ryan Dempster, manager Dale Sveum walked to the mound and seemingly asked the wind-whipped starter if he had another hitter left in him. But after 108 pitches, the safe play on the first day of a long season is to let the bullpen mop up. Three walks, a run, and a Carlos Marmol ninth inning later, you can drive home safely without a rendition of "Go Cubs Go."
The game did, however, give us a glimpse at the changes Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Sveum were aiming to make for this year and the long term. A team built on the back of starting pitching, heads-up base running, and hitting with a plan.
The White Sox begin their 2012 season on Friday, with a 1:05 game in Texas. City-wide excitement would be higher if the Bulls and Blackhawks weren't title contenders and if the Sox didn't project to be below average.
The South Siders do have some things going for them, however. A few things I'm looking forward to this season:
Chris Sale, stud starter. I watched two of the former reliever's starts in spring training, and he looked really good. Against the Dodgers in Glendale, AZ, Sale struck out seven in six innings (including three on Matt Kemp) with no walks. Tuesday, in Houston, Sale struck out six in four innings. Sale had 28 strikeouts to only four walks in 28 innings this spring. Granted, it's a small sample size (in exhibition games, no less), but the 6'6" lefty has pitched well in the games leading up to the season.
Despite the Cubs lineup being void of anything more than mediocre talent, good baseball can be seen at Wrigley Field via the variety of opponents that come to town. The organization has even acknowledged that fact as recently as last year by promoting opposing players on billboards around the city.
In homage to that marketing effort, I've made it a habit to wait on getting tickets to Cubs games until a few days before the game in an attempt to snipe starting pitchers that are intriguing in some way. But depending on the person, the word intriguing can have a wide variety of definitions.
To help you decide which opposing hurler is best for you to go see, I've compiled a list of TV shows and compared them to a starting pitcher the Cubs might face on the North Side this year (along with the dates the opponent is in town).
Earlier this week, Cubs manager Dale Sveum told reporters, "I've probably lost more sleep over our batting order than anything as far as camp's gone."
If he's lost more than 18 seconds of slumber over it, then he really needs to see a doctor about a serious case of insomnia.
For a team that's struggling to put major-league caliber players at many positions on the field, a batting order shouldn't be a primary worry for Sveum. And if it is, what's going to happen when the team is talented enough to amass expectations of a playoff berth or a division title?
David DeJesus has already been penciled into the leadoff spot for the Cubs, and Alfonso Soriano will likely man the three, four, or five hole in the lineup. Other than that, Sveum claims, "Nothing's etched in stone."
To save him the $10 co-pay for a visit to the doctor, here's the order the Cubs should roll with on Opening Day (with notes).
Every year, Baseball America ranks the 30 major-league franchises on how much overall talent they have in their farm systems. In the 2012 rankings released last week, the White Sox were 30th.
Buddy Bell, the team's vice president of player development and special assignments, could not care less about that ranking.
"I'm not really sure about what the rankings are or what they do," Bell said Friday on a conference call with Sox bloggers. "I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it."
Bell told us he would put the Sox's record "for candidates for our major league club" up against just about any other team and that "we all feel good about where we're at in terms of development and things like that."
No player likes to begin the season in the minors, but it's part of the game. Sometimes a player is overmatched and needs another year or two watching professional breaking balls, or in other cases it's a specific defensive skill that needs to be honed before they get the call.
When the Cubs met with Brett Jackson last week, the message was probably was as simple as, "Keep working hard and have your cell phone close."
It's unusual for a player like Jackson, a guy the team views as the future of the franchise, to get sent to the minors on a team that could maybe win 80 games if everything broke right. But those are the cards that former GM Jim Hendry dealt the team.
Jackson can handle any of the outfield positions defensively (including his natural centerfield), and while showing a patient eye in the box, his strikeout rate (138 K's in 512 plate appearances) leaves something to be desired. Those however, aren't skills that normally hold a player back from getting an everyday spot in the big leagues.
Instead, Jackson received the red tag in his locker because Hendry made a couple of players unnecessarily rich.
While most of the mediaattention is focused on the final two spots in the Cubs starting rotation, another question remains: Will Ryan Dempster make a repeat appearance as the Opening Day starter?
Prior to him receiving the honor from former manager Mike Quade last year, it was a question asked only for a confirmation quote. If someone dared to challenge Carlos Zambrano's reign, they risked a fate similar to that of a certain Gatorade jug.
It would've been a legitimate inquiry before last season, though, considering Zambrano struggled miserably during his six years in the role with a 1-2 record and 6.98 ERA to go along with a wild 26/20 K/BB ratio.
With Zambrano completely (and thankfully) out of the picture, Dempster has the inside track at claiming the job again this year, especially after surrendering just two runs in his six innings of work on Tuesday while lowering his spring ERA to a solid 3.68.
The prototypical leadoff hitter for a Major League team has a pretty standard definition. He gets on-base at a reasonable clip, takes plenty of pitches, and steals a few bases while receiving a modest salary. Yet somehow, the Cubs have been in search of such a player for nearly as long as the Bears searched for a quarterback before Jay Cutler.
Henry Burris is to Neifi Perez as Craig Krenzel is to Corey Patterson. Ugh. Let's not go there.
In the past ten years, the Cubs have had exactly one guy reach 600 plate appearances in a single season while batting leadoff (Juan Pierre in 2006). Other than Pierre, who was averse to taking a pitch and was brutal defensively, the first name written on the lineup card during that period was either a plodder (Mark Bellhorn and Todd Walker), a hacker (Patterson and Perez), or grossly overpaid (Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano).
With manager Dale Sveum announcing offseason acquisition David DeJesus will take the reins at leadoff, one can only hope the newcomer can outperform the recent array of table-setters.
White Sox fans braced themselves for a potential fire sale this winter, with Mark Buehrle leaving as a free agent and veterans such as John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Carlos Quentin and Matt Thornton rumored to be available via trade.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed as spring training gets underway. (Part of a series.)
Goodbye: Mike Quade
Hello: Dale Sveum
The Cubs fired manager Mike Quade soon after Theo Epstein was named president of the team. Quade finished 95-104 in parts of two seasons on the North Side, including 71-91 last year, after replacing Lou Piniella.
Then, the Cubs hired former Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum as their new skipper. The Cubs appear to have gotten their guy from the start, a man who is universally thought of as being a good fit for the team.
How Will the Cubs Miss Quade?
Not to sound too harsh, but they probably won't miss Quade. It's very unlikely that anyone associated with the Cubs -- players, management, fans -- will be pining for the non-glory days of 2011. Managers get fired all the time, especially after sub-par seasons (whether the manager was to blame or not).
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed as spring training gets underway. (Part of a series.)
Goodbye: Mark Buehrle
Last season: 13-9, 3.59 ERA, 1.295 WHIP, 117 ERA+
Hello: Chris Sale
Last season: 2-2, 2.79 ERA, 1.113 WHIP, 152 ERA+
After starting for 11 years, winning 161 games, posting an ERA under 4.00, earning three Gold Gloves and four all-star appearances, throwing a no-hitter and a perfect game, and bringing Chicago a world championship, Mark Buehrle signed with Miami this winter.
The Marlins had a few special advantages to lure Buehrle over. Number one was money, as Miami shelled out $58 million over four years for the left-hander.
Theo Epstein's move to Chicago was as much about leaving the Red Sox as it was about the Cubs stealing him away, but his new team still wound up having to compensate his former team for its loss.
After nearly four months of negotiations, the clubs announced Tuesday they have decided which player not named Matt Garza is heading to Boston. The lucky man is right-hander Chris Carpenter, along with a swap of players to be named later (most likely non-prospects).
The 26-year old Carpenter is a two-pitch flamethrower who is regarded by many as being just outside the Cubs' top 10 prospects, primarily because of his age, injury history, and lack of a reliable third pitch. In a relief role, the kid can bring it with a high-90s heater and mid-80s slider. But with that titanic fastball comes Titanic-like rudder control (I'm allowed a centennial anniversary joke when talking about the Cubs, right?) to the tune of a 5.7 BB/9 rate in the minors last season.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed before spring training arrives. (Part of a series.)
Hello: Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain
Thornton last season: 3 saves, 3.32 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 3.00 K/BB
Crain last season: 1 save, 2.62 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 2.26 K/BB
In a move that kicked off the White Sox rebuilding effort, Chicago traded closer Sergio Santos to Toronto for pitching prospect Nestor Molina.
"It is the start of a rebuilding," Sox general manager Ken Williams told reporters after the trade. "And you guys know I have not used that word in 12 years. But it is the start of a rebuilding. Now, is it the start of falling-domino rebuilding? No. Absolutely not." Williams went on to say that he planned to keep most of the pitching staff intact, and that they hoped to add a piece to make a run in 2013 or 2014. For the most part he was right, but Mark Buehrle signed with Miami, and the White Sox traded Jason Frasor back to Toronto.
Because the Sox did not either trade or sign a closer after the Santos deal, reports have holdovers Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton competing for the closer spot in spring training.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed before spring training arrives. (Part of a series.)
Goodbye: Carlos Quentin
Last season: .254 BA, 24 HR, 77 RBI, .838 OPS (.340 OBP, .499 SLG)
Flashback to 2008. Quentin finished with a breakout career year - 36 home runs (second in the American League), 100 RBI, and a .965 OPS. Plus, he only turned 26 during the season. The sky looked to be the limit for him.
Since then? Not as wonderful. That's not to say he's been bad, not by any means. But he has only averaged 24 home runs, 73 RBI and a .815 OPS from 2009 to 2011. While's he had a 4.6 WAR for 2008 (placing him in near-elite status), he suffered from plantar fasciitis and had a wasted 2009 and a decent 2010 (conventional stats say he was good, Sabermetric stats said he was below average), but regained form and was an all-star for 2011.
Obviously, Chicago will miss a player who was good for at least 20 home runs, 20 doubles and 80 RBI. But the Sox found themselves at the crossroads with Quentin for four reasons.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed before spring training arrives. (Part of a series.)
Goodbye: Tyler Colvin
Last season: .150 BA, 6 HR, 20 RBI, .509 OPS (.204 OBP, .306 SLG) in 80 games
Hello: David DeJesus
Last season: .240 BA, 10 HR, 46 RBI, .698 OPS (.323 OBP, .376 SLG)
Tyler Colvin took over in right field last season after the Cubs traded Kosuke Fukudome to the Indians at the deadline, but he was himself traded in December by the new regime, going to Colorado with DJ LeMahieu for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers.
A short time earlier, the Cubs inked David DeJesus to a pretty fair deal - $4.25 million for 2012 and 2013, and a $6.5 million team option for 2014 with a $1.5 million buyout. The team has early plans to play him in right field, and GM Jed Hoyer said of the signing "We're very excited to sign David. He's a player who does a lot of things very well, including running the bases and getting on base. And he doesn't strike out very much. These are all areas we wanted to improve on going into next year."
You can take that quote as saying either "David fits our system really well and we need a guy like him," or "As stop-gap solutions go, David will do for now."
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed before spring training arrives. (Part of a series.)
Goodbye: Juan Pierre
Last season: .279 BA, 2 HR, 50 RBI, .657 OPS (.329 OBP, .327 SLG)
HelloAlejandro de Aza
Last season: .329 BA, 4 HR, 23 RBI, .920 OPS (.400 OBP, .520 SLG) in 54 games
Juan Pierre, the starting left fielder for the White Sox for the last two years, became a free agent and signed a minor league deal with Philadelphia in late January. With the Phillies, Pierre may get the chance to platoon in their outfield somewhere. Meanwhile, Chicago didn't really add anyone; it appears that they will be moving forward in 2012 with Alejandro de Aza, Alex Rios and Dayan Viciedo in their outfield in some configuration.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed before spring training arrives. (Part of a series.)
Hello: Ian Stewart
Last season: .156 BA, 0 HR, 6 RBI, .464 OPS (.243 OBP, .221 SLG)
Triple-A last season: .275 BA, 14 HR, 42 RBI, .950 OPS (.359 OBP, .591 SLG)
After nine seasons on the North Side, Aramis Ramirez's contract was up. Ramirez was seeking a multi-year deal, and the Cubs seemingly didn't want to offer more years than that. Ramirez turned down arbitration and signed with Milwaukee. The 33-year old third baseman landed a three-year, $36 million deal with the Brewers, including a mutual option for the fourth year. Aramis' departure gave Chicago a compensation draft pick between the first and second round of the 2012 draft.
To replace Ramirez, the Cubs traded Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu to Colorado for relief prospect Casey Weathers and third baseman Ian Stewart. Stewart figures to have the inside track of starting the season at third.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed before spring training arrives. (Part of a series.)
Goodbye: Ozzie Guillen
78-82 (.488) last season; .524 win percentage in eight seasons, 1 World Series title
Hello: Robin Ventura
After eight increasingly exhausting seasons, it just became time to end the Ozzie Guillen era. The squabbling with Kenny Williams, constantly the focus of a Chicago press corps, subsumed a 2011 season appropriately promoted as an "all in" year for the Sox. It was bust, not boom, and after 21 years as a Sox player and manager, Ozzie, Kenny and Jerry Reinsdorf agreed he should get an early start on his new job managing the newly renamed Miami Marlins. He left the team in Don Cooper's hands for the final two games last fall.
How Will the Sox Miss Ozzie?
Well, he did win a World Series title, so you definitely could do worse. All of Guillen's weaknesses, especially his refusal to make tough choices about struggling veterans, were laid bare in his final season here, but ...
You know what? That's enough about Ozzie Guillen. It was time for a change. Let's just be done with him until the 25-year reunion in 2030.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed before spring training arrives. (Part of a series.)
Goodbye: Carlos Pena
Last season: .225 BA, 28 HR, 80 RBI, .819 OPS (.357 OBP, .462 SLG)
Hello: Anthony Rizzo
Last season: .141 BA, 1 HR, 9 RBI, .523 OPS (.281 OBP, .242 SLG) in 153 PA
Triple-A last season: .331 BA, 26 HR, 101 RBI, 1.056 OPS
Carlos Pena signed a one year, $10 million deal with the Cubs for last season. After the season ended, the Cubs offered Pena arbitration but Pena rejected it. The lefty slugger hung around free agency for a while, finally rejoining the Tampa Bay Rays two weeks ago on a one-year deal worth $7.25 million.
Meanwhile, Chicago traded pitcher Andrew Cashner to San Diego for first baseman Anthony Rizzo in early January. Rizzo became available when the Padres acquired another first base prospect, Yonder Alonso, from the Reds. Just a year ago, Rizzo was a centerpiece of the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed before spring training arrives. (First in a series.)
Goodbye Carlos Zambrano: 9-7, 4.82 ERA (81 ERA+), 101 K, 1.442 WHIP in 145.2 IP last year
Hello (above, clockwise from top left) Paul Maholm: 6-14, 3.66 ERA (105 ERA+), 97 K, 1.294 WHIP in 162.1 IP last year Andy Sonnanstine: 0-2, 5.55 ERA (68 ERA+), 12 K, 1.458 WHIP in 35.2 IP last year Travis Wood: 6-6, 4.84 ERA (81 ERA+), 76 K, 1.491 WHIP in 106 IP last year Chris Volstad: 5-13, 4.89 ERA (80 ERA+), 117 K, 1.425 WHIP in 165.2 IP last year
The Carlos Zambrano Era is over in Chicago. With his act getting old over the last three years, the Cubs shipped him to Miami for starter Chris Volstad. This was an obvious instance of addition by subtraction; although the 25-year old righthander has a little bit of upside, Volstad's impact will be that he is not the volatile, fiery Zambrano. It will no doubt be a more peaceful and serene year in the Cubs clubhouse. When the trade was announced, the dugout's Gatorade jug sighed in relief.
We've had months to absorb the reality of a White Sox rebuilding project, what with the departures of Mark Buehrle, Carlos Quentin, Sergio Santos and Juan Pierre, but Tuesday's big MLB news put another nail in the coffin.
After losing Victor Martinez to a potentially season-ending ACL tear, the Tigers filled their cleanup spot behind Miguel Cabrera by agreeing with Prince Fielder on a contract reportedly worth $214,000,000 over nine years.
The good news for Sox fans? See the financial evidence below -- and the corpulent evidence above, from 20 years ago.
The #Tigers have now guaranteed $338 million for the upcoming years to three 1B/DH types in Fielder, Cabrera and Martinez. #MLB
I've grown accustomed to a wave of low-grade nausea whenever Tom Ricketts and his cronies talk about milking Cubs fans for more money, but this weekend's announcement made me throw up all over the dog:
The Cubs announced the addition of a patio in the right-field bleacher section at Wrigley Field, which will be ready for the 2012 season and create a rooftop-like atmosphere.
The Budweiser Patio will include a 75-foot LED sign installed above the right-field wall with the capability to display game information, such as pitch count, photos of players and statistics. It will not have video replay because of the size.
The new right-field configuration can handle a group of 150 people, or three groups of 50 each, or may be sold on an individual basis.
I don't much care if the Cubs want to violate their ballpark with corporate advertising, but I absolutely can't believe team president Crane Kenney can say stuff like this with a straight face:
"What we're finding both for our suites as well as other parts of the ballpark is that people want to be able to circulate -- you see it on the rooftops. ... [It will be] a place where you can bring clients, move around in the space and not just be fixed. If I'm in seat [No. 1] and my clients are in seats two through eight, I don't get to talk to the person in seat [No. 8]. It's a chance to circulate."
Yes, truly, because money, not egregious personnel decisions, has been the Cubs' problem. Please, let's adjust the ballpark to make sure everyone has a chance to "circulate" with all their clients.
Well, he's not Terry Francona. And he's not Mike Maddux. Or Sandy Alomar Jr.
Regardless, Dale Sveum is the new Cubs manager.
Sveum, 48, coached in a couple different roles in Milwaukee. He was an interim manager for a brief time in the 2008 season -- after Ned Yost was fired in September, Sveum led the team into the postseason.
This is Sveum's first managerial job. Just who is this guy?
• He's the second straight bald manager for the Cubs
• He was the third base coach for the Red Sox in 2004 and 2005, and was the bench coach, third base coach and hitting coach for the Brewers from 2006 to 2011.
• He played from 1986 to 1999 for the Brewers, Phillies, White Sox, Athletics, Mariners, Pirates and Yankees, playing a lot of shortstop, third base and first base.
• He finished his career with 69 home runs and a .236 batting average.
• His finest season was 1987 for Milwaukee, where he hit .252 with 25 home runs and 95 RBIs, while playing 153 games at short and second.
• He won two World Series rings, with the Yankees as a player in 1998 and with the Red Sox as a coach in 2004.
• He is the 52nd manager in Cubs history.
Since Sveum has very little experience managing, we have no statistical precedence to make a prediction on. But plenty of folks have weighed in with their early opinions.
One could argue that Aramis Ramirez has been one of the most underrated players in baseball since he became a Cub in 2003. He's been a talented hitter, perhaps the best offensive third baseman in the National League over the past decade.
That doesn't mean the Cubs should re-sign him.
Yes, Ramirez has surpassed 25 home runs every season in Chicago, except during his injury-plagued 2009. Sure, he's hit over .300 five times. And no, you can't forget that he has garnered MVP votes in four different seasons, and made two all-star teams.
But as Theo Epstein said in his introductory press conference, the idea is to "pay for future performance, not past performance." This is the first test of that mantra.
Ramirez is already in his early 30s, had a down year in 2010, and seems in the decline phase of his career. Was his performance this season (26 home runs, 93 RBIs, .306 average) an aberration? A textbook case of a contract year?
The axe has fallen, and the Quade Era in Chicago ends after a little more than one year. He finished 95-104, and in his one complete season, the Cubs finished a disappointing 71-91.
Although this change was inevitable, one has to feel a little bad for Quade. He seemed like a likeable guy, known for his high energy, tough demeanor and workmanlike attitude. He even took the Red Line to work early in the season.
And it's not as if Quade made the roster moves to construct this fifth-place team.
Yet it was still the right move for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to cut ties with him. Fans should expect sweeping changes across the organization, and this is one of them.
The firing went about as smoothly as any firing could be. Epstein had nice things to say about Quade; Quade had nice things to say about Epstein, Hoyer, and the Cubs. Of course, the now ex-manager wasn't happy about the situation ("You're disappointed, you're bitter, you're mad -- a million things," Quade said), but each side handled things professionally.
Reports say the Cubs are looking for a manager with big league experience, who could help the team long-term (again, "sustained success"). Chicago wants a clean slate. That's why Ryne Sandberg was ruled out.
Now the question is, who will the Cubs get to replace Quade? Names include Brewers bench coach Dale Sveum, Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux, Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr., and not surprisingly, recently relieved Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
With the changes made, Theo in place, a big market and a worthy curse-reversing challenge ahead, the Cubs will probably get whoever they want for manager. Things are looking up for the North Siders.
As for Quade? He's knows baseball, and he's a hard worker who has a chip on his shoulder now. (Cubs.com said Quade laughed and said he would do whatever he could to beat the Cubs). He should be able to latch onto a team and contribute to the coaching staff, if he's not signed as a manager.
Either way, ever since Epstein offered a non-answer on the manager spot at the podium the day of his opening press conference, the Quade firing was a given. Now begins yet another search for a franchise building block.
With the White Sox betting on younger talent, free agent Juan Pierre's future with the team is looking less and less realistic. After losing a step in his speed and his defender Ozzie Guillen out of the picture, re-signing seems like a long shot.
The left fielder received criticism early on for his inconsistent batting and below-average base stealing. After a solid July and August, Pierre's batting average dropped to .257 and in September, he managed just four steals in eight attempts. By the end of the season, Pierre's stolen bases were an alarming 41 fewer what they were in 2010 while his caught stealing number was the same.
As a Type B free agent, the White Sox could offer Pierre arbitration, which means if he rejects their offer and signs with a different team, the Sox would receive a compensatory draft pick between the second and third rounds of the 2012 entry draft. Since there isn't a strong outside interest in Pierre, offering him arbitration means risking his acceptance and signing a one-year deal worth a minimum of 80 percent of his 2010 salary of $8.5 million. That said, it's likely the two parties will cut ties instead since the White Sox don't have money to throw around and do have younger talent to put in place of Pierre.
Of course, nothing too groundbreaking was said. Epstein thanked everyone who needed to be thanked (upper management with the Cubs, key figures with the Red Sox), promised "sustained success" in Chicago, vowed to build a strong farm system and to do things "the Cubs way." The organization will use both statistical and scouting evaluation methods.
Epstein stressed a complete team effort, that no one person will win games. He also said the Cubs would "grind it out" to be the best, and that the Cubs will need to be more prepared than their opponents.
The hour-long show didn't reveal much about what the Cubs will look like in the immediate future. Mike Quade's job is still in limbo -- Epstein said he would meet with the incumbent manager in the next week to discuss philosophies and determine his status. Also, Epstein wouldn't comment on the player payroll for next year, although he did say the franchise has "more than enough resources here to win."
But from listening to Epstein speak, Cubs fans can expect long-haul, structural roster changes, rather than quick fixes. Epstein repeatedly stressed that the Cubs are planning for "sustained success," meaning transactions that will make the team competitive for several years, rather than desperate grabs for immediate gratification.
What does that mean for this offseason? The Cubs have holes, well, everywhere.
Will they splurge? If Tuesday is any indication, maybe not. Sure, they might make a signing or two if the opportunity arises, but don't expect a Yankees-like (or in recent years, Red Sox-like) spree. If, or when, the Cubs win the World Series under Epstein, expect most of the core to be homegrown players acquired through the draft or international scouting.
When a team hasn't won a World Series in 103 years, any upper management change is a good change.
And after such a directionless and disappointing 2011 season, the Cubs really do have nowhere to go but up.
The pursuit and signing of Boston Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, with an official announcement expected as early as Friday's World Series off day, was a great move in and of itself. Epstein is a great judge of talent and a proven winner, leading the Red Sox to two World Series championships in the past seven years. Certainly, he will be better than his predecessor, Jim Hendry.
What Moves Will He Make?
Perhaps Epstein's Boston past can provide an insight into his Chicago future. He molded the Red Sox with an array of transactions, and his biggest move was signing David Ortiz in 2003 after the Twins famously cut him loose. Not much significance was given to the signing; after all, Ortiz had only played more than 100 games only twice in his six years in Minnesota, never hitting more than 20 home runs in season.
We all know what a central role Ortiz played in Boston's 2004 and 2007 titles, hitting a peak as high as nearly any slugger in baseball history - and he wasn't Epstein's only big acquisition.
Others included Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, Mike Lowell, Orlando Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, Coco Crisp, Dave Roberts and Adrian Gonzalez, who this season was one of the most productive hitters in baseball. Epstein's tenure also saw the drafting and development of Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonathan Papelbon, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Daniel Bard.
With an eye like that, he could make similar moves in Chicago.
After making headlines for hiring rookie manager Robin Ventura, the next big move for the White Sox is free agency. While some players on the market appear to be getting older and replaceable, the Sox should think long and hard before letting free agent Mark Buehrle go.
Any other year, the White Sox and Buehrle would re-up without issues. This offseason is different because of the less than impressive free agency selection of starting pitchers, especially left-handers. MLBTradeRumors.com has him ranked as a Type B free agent, essentially meaning that any team that signs him wouldn't lose a high draft pick. Buehrle is getting a lot of attention and the White Sox don't have time to wait around until December to resign him like they did last offseason with Paul Konerko.
Buehrle might not wait that long. After pitching his last game of the season, Buehrle told reporters that "if the right deal is there and the right team is there, I don't think I'm going to wait around to see what everyone else gets."
So just how valuable is Mark Buehrle? After 12 seasons in Chicago, the lefty has an impressive list of accomplishments including a no-hitter, a perfect game, and a World Series championship. He is the only major league pitcher to pitch at least 200 innings every season for the past 11 seasons. In those 11 seasons he also consecutively had at least 30 starts and 10 wins. If that isn't enough, he's been an All-Star four times and won two Gold Gloves.
That's just some of his accomplishments on the field. His value skyrockets even more when you consider the leadership Buehrle has consistently provided for the White Sox off the field over the years.
When Kenny Williams spoke to the press about new White Sox manager Robin Ventura, he stressed the team would be in a "holding pattern." Had that statement come from someone other than Kenny Williams, it might be less worrying. The general manager, known for his gambling moves, has been off with his recent endeavors (Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy, Alex Rios).
But Williams took "out with the old and in with new" to the extreme after hiring Robin Ventura. The departure of Ozzie Guillen also means the departure of the team's "All In" mentality. While the team will be stuck with some veterans, Williams has hinted that the 2012 season will be a shift after telling reporters he expects Ventura to "hit the ground running and be the guy he's going to be two or three years from now."
It would be naive to assume that hiring Ozzie Guillen's opposite will solve all the team's problems. So putting the focus on younger players and bringing in a manager with no previous managerial experience means the desperate "All In" approach is being put aside for now. Though anyone knowledgeable about Williams' past knows this team retooling won't be conventional. Just like Ventura's future, the 2012 season is unpredictable.
I can't tell you how Ozzie is feeling about Kenny Williams these days or how Kenny is feeling about Ozzie or how Papa Jerry Reinsdorf is feeling about the two men, these surrogate sons of his. It's always made for a rip-roaring psychodrama, but the backstage stories told publicly have been so many, so varied and often so conflicting as to render impossible any clear sense of the interpersonal dynamics at play.
What I can say is it was time for a change.
Not because Ozzie Guillen is a bad manager; he's one of the top 10 or 12 guys out there, despite his flaws. But eight years was enough. In the struggle to repeat the glories of 2005, Ozzie and Kenny had become a headline that would not go away. It became exhausting for everyone - thanks, Chicago media! - and especially so once this disastrous "all in" season was revealed as a snake-river bluff that came up empty and left the franchise with few good cards for the next round.
Heck, I'm so wiped out I'm starting to sound like Hawk Harrelson. (Snake-river bluff?)
So Ozzie goes south to Miami, proving yet again that sometimes the rumor mill is running on more than pure speculation, and we look to a very interesting off-season, not only for the GM-less Cubs, but now for the head-less White Sox.
Like their North Side brethren, the Sox are locked into a bunch of bad contracts and have not nearly as many personnel options as you'd like after a losing season. When Paul Konerko and Mark Buehrle, your oldest everyday player and your oldest starting pitcher, are your most productive everyday player and starting pitcher (and among precious few who were even above-average this year), you've got work to do.
The comedy minds at Schadenfreude have developed one of their sketches, the drunk and stumbling Cubs fan Colleen Henneman and her white-hatted boyfriend Todd Voorhies, into a full web series. "The New Bleacher Bums" follows their escapades in and around Wrigleyville.
Here Justin Kaufmann introduces the mockumentary in the style and tradition of "This American Life's" Ira Glass.
The list of potential candidates for the Cubs GM vacancy is a long one. Since the announcement of Jim Hendry's departure last month, the rumor mill has been running rampant. Local and national baseball writers speculate who Tom Ricketts should and might choose.
To list everyone that has been discussed as candidate for the position would be incredibly time-consuming and could take longer than the search itself. So rather than mention those who have no shot whatsoever, let's look at one man I consider the most intriguing option: Theo Epstein.
As the Cubs continue to play out the stretch they wrap another losing road trip. Although they went 2-4 they did continue to play spoiler. Unfortunately it started a little too late. After being swept in Milwaukee over the weekend by the division leading Brewers they ventured on to San Francisco to play the defending world champion Giants.
An 0-6 road trip was a definite possibility. However, as this bizarre Cubs season drudges on they continue to prove that they are the Cubs and anything is possible, good or bad.
The firing of Jim Hendry became a matter of not if, but when. Friday morning Hendry informed the local media that he had been relieved of his position. Whether it is baseball or any other line of work, producing positive results is the nature of the business. Hendry was one of the most successful GMs in Cubs history. However, he ultimately failed to achieve the final goal of ending the Cubs' World Series drought.
While he'll be judged mainly on wins and losses, his tenure on the North Side produced a mixed bag of results. As GM he maintained a winning record of 749-748. He is the only Cubs GM to win three division championships (2003, 2007 and 2008). (He also had the benefit of running the team during the wild card era, with six divisions to win.)
On the flip side of things no one is perfect and Hendry has a number of blemishes on his record. Citing a need to get more left-handed after being swept from the playoffs in 2008 for the second year in a row, Hendry brought in Milton Bradley to shake up the team. For all the good Hendry has done in his tenure signing Bradley was the absolute worst idea he had ever conceived. It was clearly a more-harm-than-good situation from the get-go.
Many Cubs fans have been clamoring for someone to take the fall for the past few lackluster seasons and Hendry became the fall guy. Some of the blame belongs to players as they are the ones playing the game, not Hendry. By the same token the blame goes back to Hendry as he assembled the team.
Everybody seems to like Jim Hendry, and I have no reason to question that characterization. But as teams throughout Major League Baseball get smarter every year, it had become clear that Hendry was doing a comparatively poor job as Cubs general manager.
Thus today's announcement of Hendry's firing was far overdue -- directly, because apparently Tom Ricketts actually fired him a month ago, and more generally, because the Cubs were rarely an especially good team. It doesn't take a super-team to win in the National League -- some of Hendry's own playoff teams were proof of that -- but the last few years have seen a parade of overpaid veterans and never-panned-out rookies come through Wrigley Field.
But good on the Cubs for spending big on amateur prospects this month, and kudos to Hendry for staying on to shepherd that process. The only part I can't figure is why the Cubs not only went through deadline trading season with a (secretly) lame-duck GM, but one who had specifically decided he wasn't going to make any trades, instead leaving his successor to make roster decisions.
So why, aside from the amateur signings, did the Cubs keep Hendry around for the extra month? Trading free-agent-to-be Carlos Pena wouldn't have changed anything for the new GM.
If nothing else, it gives the Chicago sports media something to squawk about in the dog days besides Adam Dunn and Bears third-stringers. Thank you, Mr. Ricketts, for that.
UPDATE: Though you'd like to think, with a month's notice, that the Cubs could have proofread the spelling on the email announcement they sent to fans today.
In yet another chapter of the Carlos Zambrano Chronicles, Big Z all but wrote his own ending Friday night in Atlanta. One that neither he nor Cubs fans saw coming. Zambrano had another hissy fit and this time it might have cost him his job with the Cubs. By now most of you know what went down, so rather than rehash old news, let's look forward to where the franchise and Zambrano go from here.
Zambrano spoke publicly Monday for the first time since his Friday meltdown, telling David Kaplan he wants to return to the team and finish his career on the North Side.
But after this latest incident there can't be any way that he pitches for the Chicago Cubs again.
The Cubs have now won three consecutive series for the first time all year. A feat that seemed almost impossible a few weeks ago as it took 100 games before they won three in a row. They beat the Nationals 4-3 in a makeup game Thursday for their ninth win in 11 games. Ryan Dempster has turned around his season after starting off the year 1-3 with an ERA of 9.58.
The Cubs offense continued its power surge as the two-headed monster of Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena hit back-to-back home runs to secure the Cubs victory. It'll be interesting to see if these two factor into the Cubs' plans next season. It'd be foolish not to at least consider them as options.
Santo was the very heart and soul of this franchise for 13 seasons on the field as well as 20 years in the broadcast booth doing Cubs radio. If there was ever a former Cub deserving of a statue, it was Santo. He loved the Cubs and was without a doubt the biggest Cubs fan.
Last night we saw these guys play those guys in the sport of baseball. I consider myself a pretty big fan of these guys. I mean, these guys are the guys I want to see win. Those guys can choke on a breaking ball for all I care.
Those guys kept it close, but the outcome was never really in doubt. These guys repeatedly boomed the homers at just the right time. Especially this guy. This guy is the guy that makes everyone love these guys.
We all did the classic cheers, like "Here we go, these guys, here we go (clap, clap)" and "Na na na na...na na na na...hey, hey , hey...these guys" and these guys must have heard us and gotten so pumped up because they boomed so many homers.
The bizarro Cubs continued their winning streak in Pittsburgh Thursday night with a 7-6 victory. At the end of this series it has me asking the question, "who are these guys and what have they done with the Cubs?" If you were living under a rock for the first four months and only saw these four games you would've gotten the impression that the Cubs were an above average club.
When in reality they are 18 games under .500 and 15 games out of first place. This four game series in a nutshell is how the Cubs should've played all year long. The "what if" question has been done to death, but when the Cubs play as well as they did in this four game series it makes you wonder. Granted it is the Pirates, but they're no slouch. At least they haven't been this season.
But it's those scamps at SB Nation who have the best take on the Cubs' bizarre refusal to deal more than one of their overpaid, going-nowhere veterans. Otherwise known as every player on the roster except Starlin Castro.
After playing some of the worst baseball I've ever seen in St. Louis, the Cubs took care of business in Pittsburgh on Monday night. They beat the surprising Pirates 5-3.
The Cubs resembled a winning ball club with everything going their way. They took advantage of opportunities with runners in scoring position, played solid defense and had good pitching from start to end. It almost makes you wonder where they would be if they had played like this all year.
Honestly if you didn't watch a single game all year and watched this game you would get the impression that the Cubs are good, when in reality it couldn't be farther from the truth. Sure, they show moments of brilliance, but in actuality the Cubs are who they thought they were. Where is Dennis Green when you need him?
They are a bad defensive team with an offense that may or may not be suffering from a personality disorder. Nothing really gets me scratching my head when I read that Jim Hendry thinks that this team is a few good moves away from being a contender next year.
Has Hendry not watched a single game this year? This team is laced with problems and a "few moves" isn't going to fix this team overnight.
I hate to say, but this team is a few years away from being good again and at the rate Cubs management is going it maybe even longer than that. For Cubs fans the end of the season can come fast enough. It'll be back to the drawing board as they complete 103 years without a championship. If the drought is ever going to end, drastic moves need to be made by the Ricketts family or else it may be another century of futility.
There's a new attraction at U.S. Cellular Field, and it's a big one.
Frank Thomas, the best hitter in White Sox history, was honored before Sunday's game with a statue on the left field concourse.
The statue depicts the Big Hurt in his MVP prime: swinging for the fences, left arm extended in his classic, one-handed follow-through as he watches the flight of another home run blast. It is one of seven statues honoring eight Sox legends.
Thomas played 19 major-league seasons, the first 16 in Chicago, and finished with a .301 batting average, 521 home runs, 1,704 RBIs and 1,494 runs scored. He posted a career .419 on-base percentage and .555 slugging percentage, numbers which stood out even in a huge offensive era.
With an adjusted OPS of 156 -- adjusted, that is, for the era, league and ballpark he played in -- Thomas is tied with fellow former Sox MVP Dick Allen for 19th all-time. He won two American League MVP awards and finished in the top 10 seven other times.
It's July, which means Kenny Williams is trading guys. And for once, he seems to be looking at the price tags.
Sure, there's some baseball logic to the Wednesday trade that sent Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen to Toronto for reliever Jason Frasor and minor-league arm Zach Stewart. As that thinking goes, the White Sox have six solid-to-good starting pitchers, so why not trade one of them for more bullpen depth?
The fly in that ointment is that while bullpen depth is all well and good, the Sox do have Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain and Chris Sale and Matt Thornton. Their offense, on the other hand, is in the bottom third in scoring runs. You know, those points that help you win games? Preventing them is awesome, but scoring them is equally important.
Thus do we come to the crux of the matter: The White Sox couldn't trade Edwin Jackson directly for Colby Rasmus, the promising young outfielder Toronto immediately acquired from St. Louis for Jackson, because the whole point of the deal was getting rid of Mark Teahen's contract. Chicago couldn't get St. Louis to take Teahen, so they had to settle for the Blue Jays' moderate offer.
As this abysmal Cubs season drudges on, Kosuke Fukudome became the first casualty. It seemed almost inevitable as the Cubs continue to slide further into the cellar. Fukudome never really lived up to the hype that surrounded him upon his arrival to the Northside in 2008. Thursday the Cubs dealt him to the Cleveland Indians for pair of prospects.
This appears to be the first of what should be several moves by the Cubs as they begin to cut big money contracts from their payroll. There is speculation that Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez will be dealt at some point. If and when it happens we'll discuss, but for the mean time lets take a look at what the Cubs gave up and got in return for Fukudome.
There is little doubt that as the trade deadline approaches the Cubs will be sellers. There are a number of questions surrounding this club as they move forward. A number of big money contracts will be coming off the books this offseason, led by Kosuke Fukudome, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena.
Freeing up money will be a huge plus for this team moving forward as they are hampered by a handful of contracts. The only question remaining is who will be here after the trade deadline and who won't?
Interest in Cubs players have grown over the past weeks as the Cubs have sunk deeper under .500. Here are a few names I think it is safe to say will be here after the trade deadline.
If the Cubs are consistently good at anything, it's being bad.
They continued that trend Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley with a 9-1 loss to the Phillies. The game was virtually over in the first inning after Starlin Castro lost a ball in the sun which resulted in a 2-0 Phillies lead. That would be all they needed.
Philadelphia rookie starter Vance Worley did his best Cy Young impersonation against a beleaguered Cubs offense. Worley went eight strong, allowing one run on four hits with seven strikeouts to send the second-worst team in baseball to its fifth loss in seven games since the all-star break.
As the second half begins in earnest, let's take stock of the Cubs. At 38-58, they're 20 games under .500 and fifth in the NL Central, 13 games behind first-place Milwaukee. The only major-league team with a worse record is the Houston Astros.
To be fair, the Cubs have been plagued by injuries since the season began. However, that is no excuse by any means because other teams have survived injuries as well. Case in point, the Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright in spring training, but they've taken care of business anyway, which has them neck-and-neck with the Brewers and the surprising Pirates.
This is where the sympathy for the Cubs stops and the criticism begins.
The White Sox offense showed signs of life in Detroit this weekend, getting a huge effort from Edwin Jackson and posting 13 runs in wins Friday and Saturday before the Tigers salvaged Sunday's rubber game.
A sweep of the AL Central co-leaders would have been huge, but the Sox did at least stay in the Tigers' and Indians' rearview mirrors. They're four games back, and the mathematicians at Baseball Prospectus give them a 21 percent chance of winning what will almost certainly be the division's only playoff berth.
That's not great, but it could be worse. For all the talk of the great second-half races we're supposed to have, six of the eight playoff berths appear all but settled, thanks largely to the wild card, which renders irrelevant the competitions between the Red Sox & Yankees and Phillies & Braves.
The Cubs, of course, are not anywhere close to playoff position, and the trend continued with three losses in four games against the visiting, semi-hapless Marlins over the weekend. But few teams do hapless like the Cubs. They're among seven teams with zero chance of making the postseason, according to Baseball Prospectus.
Although Kenny Williams has become famous for trading prospects and young talent to help the big club and the White Sox farm system is ranked a dismal 27th by Baseball America, the well hasn't totally run dry.
Recently, Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza in particular have drawn a great deal of attention because of their great seasons in Triple-A Charlotte and a general panic about the turgid White Sox offense. With constant speculation about who can be moved, waived, etc., to clear roster room, White Sox fans are suddenly paying keen attention to the Knights, with every strikeout by Adam Dunn or bungled play by Alex Rios bringing cries for this power duo.
In light of this, and the recent amateur draft, it was very kind of Doug Laumann, the club's director of amateur scouting, to take time Thursday to join Sox bloggers on a conference call and discuss the recent draft and the direction of the Sox farm system.
The Cubs and White Sox are back at it Thursday after a quiet All-Star Game in which their primary contributions were Paul Konerko's 13-pitch walk and Starlin Castro's two steals as a pinch runner.
But unless things change in a quick hurry, most likely on the South Side, we're looking at another year without playoff baseball.
One huge reason is two inconsistent offenses loaded with hitters who will swing at just about anything. Watch Alfonso Soriano or Gordon Beckham for a weekend and you'll know what I mean, but the proof is in the numbers.
Cubs hitters walk in only 6.4 percent of plate appearances, worst in baseball. The Sox are fourth-worst at 7.5 percent.
Plate discipline is important, as evidenced by the patient, potent Red Sox, Yankees, Reds and Cardinals. All are in the top five in runs per game and the top eight in walk rate.
But here's a bubble graph of the Cubs this season, plotting walk rate vs. percentage of pitches outside the strike zone taken. Basically, the top right corner is where you want to be, and the larger the circle, the more plate appearances (i.e., more impact) a player has had. The red circle represents the 2010 major-league average.
It's no secret the Chicago Cubs have been flat out awful in 2011. Odds are they won't make the playoffs, though nothing is officially settled yet. But Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times is talking as if they are already eliminated. Upon reading this I became perplexed.
Did I sleep until September? Perhaps Wittenmyer meant to save this for September when the Cubs are really out of it, but somehow it got published ahead of schedule.
Kidding aside, the Cubs' chances are very remote at this point. They're 36-53 even after squeezing past Washington in the ninth inning Thursday (to avoid a four-game sweep), and no team in baseball history has ever made the playoffs after falling more than 16 games under .500.
Also selected as an all-star during his mammoth 2008 season, Quentin is having the best season of any Sox hitter not named Paul Konerko. Despite a .253 batting average, he has 17 home runs, 49 RBIs, a .516 slugging percentage and a .353 on-base percentage (thanks largely to 28 walks and a league-high 17 HBPs.) Among AL leaders, Quentin is tied for third in extra-base hits (40), tied for fourth in doubles (23) and tied for seventh in home runs.
But he wasn't the only Southsider who deserved consideration. Here's a look at those who missed out:
1B Paul Konerko
Before the all-stars were announced, I started to outline an article on the ballot. Without hesitating I put Konerko on the "Who Made It" side because if anyone on the team deserved it, he did. Konerko was the strongest Sox candidate and one of the most underrated hitters in baseball. He not only leads the White Sox in home runs, batting average, RBIs and OPS , but among the league leaders, he's fifth with a .317 average, fourth with 21 home runs and tied for third with 62 RBIs. He's playing as well as he did last season, when he finished fifth in AL MVP voting.
Moreover, Konerko has been around long enough to establish his name and be snubbed on previous occasions (2004 and 2010). The silver lining to it all is that he can still make the team and most likely will, based on his season so far (and the relative size of the Chicago fan base). While you have to scratch your head at Paulie not getting in already, fans can still vote him in as the final man on the roster.
At 21, Starlin Castro has not only captured the attention of Cubs fans, but also Bruce Bochy, the manager of the 2011 National League All-Stars. Castro nabbed his first all-star honor, becoming the youngest in franchise history. His .312 batting average, along with a .341 on-base percentage and 110 hits earned him the first of what could be many all-star appearances.
If the Cubs were in contention this year the argument could've been made that Castro might have been elected to start, but the Mets' Jose Reyes has been in MVP form this season. However, that's not saying that in the future he won't be a starter in the All-Star Game at some point in his career. He's too good not to be one eventually. If he can clean up his defense and hit for a little bit more power he'd be a shoo-in for the starting spot at some point down the road.
Of course, not everyone can go to the All-Star Game on July 12, which begs the question who else on the Cubs may have been worthy of a reserve spot. To be completely honest, no one really. Sure a few guys have come on strong in the last few weeks, but no one on this Cubs team other than Castro has had an all-star year.
Aramis Ramirez has been on fire since the weather has heated up. In his past 11 games he is hitting .400 with seven home runs and 11 RBIs. However, his lack of offensive production in April and May really squashed any chances of him becoming an all-star again.
But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the back half of our crosstown baseball rivalry, as the White Sox won the six-game season series by taking two of three games at Wrigley Field this weekend. They won 6-4 on Friday and 1-0 on Saturday before the Cubs recovered to take Sunday's finale, 3-1.
If you missed it:
-- Yay, the White Sox are at .500! OK, not anymore, not after Sunday's loss, but it was a glorious moment there, wasn't it? That 42-43 record looks a lot better next to the Cubs' 35-50 mark. Thank heaven for the continuing mediocrity of the AL Central.
-- Juan Pierre, hitting .355 (11-for-31) with seven RBIs in his past seven games, drove in the winning runs in both Sox victories, so it was a great time for Ozzie Guillen to face the full complement of local media. I mean, heck, if his "I told you so" routine holds out, if Pierre comes up big in the second half, Ozzie will look like a genius for sticking with the aging slap hitter. But it's hard to see that happening.
-- Last time the White Sox saw Aramis Ramirez, he was hitting .277 with a .727 OPS. Since then, he's hitting .400 (16-for-40) with seven homers and 11 RBIs. It's 11 games, but get him while he's hot.
-- It didn't look like a banner weekend for starting pitching: Edwin Jackson, Phil Humber and Gavin Floyd vs. Randy Wells, Matt Garza and Rodrigo Lopez. But that was before you remembered neither of these offenses can really hit. Garza, Humber and the immortal Lopez combined to allow one run on 11 hits in 23 innings.
And of course, there were only 11 walks the entire weekend. Because hardly anyone in this town knows how to draw a walk. It's a problem. More on that later in the week.
It seemed like one of those days for the Cubs when Carlos Zambrano left in the second inning with lower back pain. This meant it would be up to the bullpen to keep the Cubs in this game. They passed the test with flying colors.
It started with Marco Mateo coming in to throw five shutout innings which gave way to everyone with a pulse in the Cubs bullpen except Chris Carpenter. The bullpen threw 9 2/3 no-hit innings, which would lead to a 5-2 Cubs win.
In the final at-bat the Cubs came to life. They got it off Giants closer Brian Wilson -- that's major-league saves leader Brian Wilson. Aramis Ramirez launched his 10th home run into the left field bleachers to send the game into extra innings.
The Cubs bullpen continued their brilliance until the 13th when the Giants retook the lead when Pablo Sandoval blasted a solo homer to give the Giants a 2-1 lead. The Cubs offense stormed right back. Twice down to their final strike, Jeff Baker struck a double into deep left-center field and Darwin Barney singled to drive him in.
Thankfully Giants left fielder Cody Ross' errant throw sailed passed the catcher allowing Baker to score. A good throw would've ended the game, but it wasn't in the cards.
They intentionally walked Starlin Castro to get to Geovany Soto, but Soto blasted a three-run homer to left to give the Cubs their second walk-off win in as many days.
Having a manager who stands behind his players is usually a good thing. Lately, though, Ozzie Guillen's fierce loyalty seems to be hurting the White Sox more than helping. He has remained stubborn with his feet firmly planted in the ground, and in third place, while his team sinks to 38-42.
With every strikeout Dunn seems to be sinking deeper and reacting a lot slower. His batting average has now hit .173, and a dismal .126 at home. Most alarming, the strikeouts, which are par for the course with him, have not been accompanied by his customary 40-home run power. He's got seven homers now as we near the all-star break.
So while Ozzie is correct in saying Dunn is paid too much to sit and the Sox have to keep putting him out there, the same doesn't have to be said about other players.
But let's talk about one of the bright spots: Fourth outfielder Reed Johnson has been stellar since returning to the North Side after a year with the Dodgers.
Starting 20 of Chicago's 80 games this season, the nine-year veteran has a .337 average with a .382 on-base percentage, four home runs and 22 RBIs.
It would be interesting to see if Johnson was able to keep up this pace if he was playing every day. (He has 110 plate appearances; the team's healthiest regulars have 300 or more.) The opportunity for more playing time presented itself after Marlon Byrd got hit in the face with a pitch five weeks ago, but Johnson also has been banged up this season.
Johnson's per-game production, combined with his hard-nosed defense, might be all-star worthy if he played every day, but it's his attitude and work ethic that really stand out. Numbers aside, he plays the game the right way and gives it 100 percent every time out there.
This was one of those games Cubs fans will point to when they bemoan their team's lack of clutchness, clutchosity and clutchitude.
In the sixth, the Cubs scored twice to get within one run of the White Sox but left the bases loaded.
In the eighth, they got pinch runner Tony Campana into scoring position with no outs, but Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton held the dike, inducing a ground out and two strikeouts.
That set the stage again for Sergio Santos, who dazzled the North Side visitors for the second night in a row. He threw 11 pitches, nine of them strikes, to retire the side in order for a 4-3 win and his 14th save, befuddling Starlin Castro, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena.
If you missed it:
-- Jake Peavy got the win in his return from the disabled list, pitching 5 1/3 decent innings before stumbling in the sixth as the Cubs scored their second and third runs. He didn't have much -- will he ever again? -- but he's a pro.
-- Another home run for Pena, his fifth in seven games, and this one showed a bit of opposite-field power, going out to left-center. A very good sign for the Cubs.
-- Another successful squeeze bunt by the Sox, this time with Brent Lillibridge scoring A.J. Pierzynski, who had tripled(!) in a pair of runs, to push the lead to 3-0 after four.
-- Let it not be said the Cubs are incapable of getting a hit when they need it: In the top of the fifth, Castro followed Kosuke Fukudome's two-out double with an RBI single to center field.
-- Briefly, on that subject: The Cubs have less of a problem getting Big Hits in Clutch Situations than they do simply getting hits in any situation. Most great lineups aren't magically "clutch" but generally just create so many scoring chances that enough of them pay off.
A rain delay of 1 hour, 44 minutes washed out a good portion of the crowd last night at U.S. Cellular Field, but those who stayed late on a school night saw the White Sox push past the Cubs for a 3-2 win.
If you missed it:
-- Paul Konerko and Carlos Pena traded home runs again, continuing Pena's power surge (four homers in his past six games) and Konerko's even hotter streak. The Sox captain has 11 homers in his past 18 games, along with a .446 batting average, .512 on-base percentage and .986 slugging percentage.
-- The Sox bullpen was called into action in the sixth inning after the rain delay knocked out Mark Buehrle, and it delivered, protecting first a 2-2 tie and then a 3-2 lead after Brent Morel's seventh-inning sacrifice fly. Jesse Crain was very good, Matt Thornton got two outs and Sergio Santos was at his filthy best, earning his 13th save.
Santos retired all four hitters he faced. He struck out three of them, including Aramis Ramirez with two on and two out in the eighth. He threw 15 pitches. Fourteen were strikes. Thirteen were sliders. He's developing into a pretty great closer.
-- Starlin Castro showed why Cubs observers are so high on his defensive potential, making two great plays on slow rollers that required a barehanded scoop and sidearm throw in one motion.
-- Juan Pierre did something useful for once, giving the Sox a 2-0 lead in the third with an RBI squeeze bunt with no outs. Alex Rios scored easily from third and Morel moved over to second.
Here's how our partisan critics saw it:
Brian Livingston on the Cubs:
The rain delay helped the Cubs by getting rid of Buehrle, but it also might have broken the momentum they were building during that sixth inning threat. Also, don't pitch to Konerko anymore. He's torched them twice now. It appears they didn't learn anything from pitching to Albert Pujols and getting burned.
Jenny Zelle on the Sox:
Offense + lights out bullpen performance = What we should have been seeing from the White Sox all year. Buehrle did his job, as always, but Crain and Santos were just plain nasty with all-star-worthy performances. The Sox offense still under-performed, based on what they could and should be doing, but they were lively enough to get the W. Hopefully, this one serves as a confidence-builder going into Wednesday's finale.
Mr. Comiskey would not approve / Gapers Block file photo
Our own Jenny Zelle was in her usual seat at U.S. Cellular Field last night, rooting on the White Sox as they hosted the first of three games against the Cubs. Last year she attended about 50 Sox games, and she's been to 20 already this season.
But what she saw at the park last night was different: a highly unusual level of drunken "madness" in many fans that was at best embarrassing and at worst dangerous for fans just trying to watch a baseball game in peace.
She emailed us this story:
We entered the park right after the gates opened and things were pretty mellow until the game started, when all the already immensely drunk people poured in.
Our section (along the 1st base line, right field) does not have a lot of [season-ticket holders], so we often get out-of-town fans -- we had a lot, and they were all either wasted when they came in, or were hammered by the 7th.
There was exactly one sober Cubs fan in our section and he was horrified at the behavior of his fellow fans. Of course, he was in from Pittsburgh and had brought two friends with him, they were all stunned at the level of intoxication from the start of the game. [My husband] Jeff and I spent a lot of time assuring them the park was never like it was tonight.
There was a large group of Cubs fans sitting across the aisle from us that were dangerously drunk when they came in. A number of beer vendors refused to serve them, but they kept getting beers.
Three of the guys were running up and down the stairs, chasing women and vendors. At least 10 people (that I saw or spoke with) texted or went to security to report them, including a couple of Cubs fans, but they weren't tossed until late in the game as they kept changing seats.
I went to have a cigarette and saw a group of male Cubs fans repeatedly surround women and "woof" and make sexual noises at them as they tried to make their way up the ramp. I ran and got security, I'm not sure what happened to them, I didn't stick around to see it.
I also saw security toss two Cubs fans out of the bullpen bar. I asked them how it was going and they said "It's been like this all night."
Two sets of parents in our section removed themselves and their children by the 7th as the atmosphere felt "unsafe" and "uncomfortable" to them.
There were a lot of Sox fans that were annoying (getting up with the ball in play, grrr), but not one, not a single Sox fan responded to any of the Cubs fans taunts. I was pretty proud of them, everyone kept their cool in a carnival-gone-wrong atmosphere. Sox security was also pretty calm, as were the guest services people.
I think the park handled it well, but I don't know the extent of what went on. In Ozzie's press conference, he said it felt like another game to him but that he'd heard about a bunch of fights and that security probably would not agree with him.
Just icky. Hoping Wednesday is better, the park felt wrong last night.
I followed up today with a few questions:
Q: This vaguely predatory drunkenness you describe does not sound fun. Did it seem outright sinister or was it just playfully dumb antics?
Jenny: That scared the shit out of me. I ran for security. I am tiny, so to me, it seemed menacing, but I wasn't being surrounded. I have *never* seen anything like that before. I just couldn't believe I was seeing that at Comiskey. I don't personally know any Cubs fans even remotely that vile. The guys chasing vendors sucked too.
Q: Were they young men in their 20s and 30s?
Jenny: Mid- to late-20s. And by the way, a friend in Section 534 just told me some drunken Cubs fans got hauled out of the upper deck too. ... There was tons of stuff being thrown off the upper deck, which we normally don't see. ... This really was the roughest crosstown crowd I have seen yet. Maybe Cubs fans know nothing is happening this season and took out their frustration? Sox staff clearly worked hard to keep things under control. It was just soooo drunk. I was so embarrassed by what I saw.
Nice win for the Cubs last night at U.S. Cellular Field, as they stiffened after the White Sox scored three in the first inning and rallied for a 6-3 win in the first of six games between the crosstown rivals over the next two weeks.
If you missed it:
-- Three of the first four Sox hitters scored, but Carlos Zambrano recovered after allowing a two-run homer by Paul Konerko and shut them down the rest of the way, going eight strong innings. Great news for a Chicago media corps that had already pre-written their sidebars and columns looking back at his tirade during last year's series.
-- Big nights for Starlin Castro, who tied the game with a two-run, two-out single in the third and a solo homer to lead off the sixth; and Carlos Pena, who put the Cubs in front with a three-run homer that capped a four-run sixth and chased fading Sox starter Gavin Floyd.
-- Ozzie got himself thrown out screaming and hollering about a call the umpire actually got right. Alexei Ramirez hit a ball nearly straight down, a few inches in front of the plate, and Geovany Soto picked it up before it rolled foul, then tagged Ramirez out. Ozzie took this as a personal affront, bursting from the home dugout in righteous fury, and umpire James Hoye quickly gave him the heave. Ah, the joys of Ozzie's mood swings when he's managing a losing team ...
Here's how our partisan critics saw it:
Brian Livingston on the Cubs:
It was a quality outing from Zambrano. He really settled in nicely after giving up that home run to Konerko. On a night when the bullpen could use a day of rest, Z took care of business and his offense battled and got the job done.
Jenny Zelle on the Sox:
This was their game to lose, and the Sox did. It felt like the offense made an effort, but again, they left too many runners in scoring position, runners that would have made a difference.
That being said, I have to look at Ozzie for this loss. Floyd's self-admitted biggest problem is losing his focus, and he was clearly losing it this time. He had a rough start, which really showed in the fourth, but he managed to fight back and make it through the fifth.
Ozzie's mistake in the game was leaving Floyd in after the home run from Castro to start the sixth. Floyd was nearing 100 pitches at that point and clearly was no longer effective, but Ozzie left him in and minutes later, he gave up a single, then walked a batter before giving up a three-run bomb to Pena.
Editor's note: With the crosstown rivalry resuming tonight at U.S. Cellular Field, we asked Cubs fan Brian Livingston and Sox fan Jenny Zelle to account for their passions. Here's what Jenny had to say:
I was raised a White Sox fan in hostile territory among Cubs and Cardinals fans, so I'm what you might call "devoted," bordering on "obsessed." Historically, Sox fans have been born into it, but I'm seeing more and more Cubs fans crossing over to "Sox Town."
Why would they do it? Well, there's a lot to love about the Sox.
1. I like to watch baseball games. Yes, at U.S. Cellular Field. I pay attention to what is happening on the field. That is my primary objective when I head to a game and at a Sox game, I am typically surrounded by like-minded people. The game is the reason for being there, not the party.
Some fans say U.S. Cellular Field is "soulless," but the White Sox have spent a lot of money improving the fan experience since it first opened and it's a terrific place to watch a game. This year alone, there's a new restaurant across from the park, an expanded food selection (check out the Flautas stand at Sec. 122) and a hugely improved choice of beers. Personally, I like having clean and plentiful bathrooms to use and the fact that the Sox don't have a rat infestation in their dugouts, but maybe that's just me?
2. I like winning. Sure, the White Sox had a long dry spell, but they typically intend to win and make an earnest effort to do so, with the Sox spending about $126 million this year to try and make it happen.
I realize it's a business and all, but the White Sox care about winning and they care about the fans. Jerry Reinsdorf responds to letters from fans, as I learned this off-season when I sent him a note. I received a very gracious response and it let me know that my thoughts meant something.
Editor's note: With the crosstown rivalry resuming tonight at U.S. Cellular Field, we asked Cubs fan Brian Livingston and Sox fan Jenny Zelle to account for their passions. Here's what Brian had to say:
For me, the Cubs represent family. My grandfather was a Cubs fan, which made my mom a Cubs fan, which eventually made me a Cubs fan. There is little doubt in my mind when I have kids they will be Cubs fans too.
I love the Cubs because of the history and tradition that surrounds them. Guys like Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Andre Dawson and Kerry Wood are why I love the Cubs. They are what Cubs baseball is all about.
Sometimes it is hard loving something that doesn't always love you back, but regardless, I will never stop being a Cubs fan. I've been a fan since day one and I will continue to be a fan of this team, win or lose, until my time is up.
I might as well be a junkie because I'm addicted to the Cubs. Simply put, they are my bliss.
On the other side of town ... well, I don't really hate the White Sox. They play each other six times in a 162-game schedule and aren't even in the same division. If anything I'd say I hate the St. Louis Cardinals most, followed by the Marlins, Padres, Mets and Yankees. The Sox aren't even in my top five.
But that doesn't mean there aren't some Sox things that aggravate me, starting with their fans.
I'm sure Sox fans feel the same way about the Cubs, but what I can't stand are the ones who go out of their way to hate on my team. I can understand if we were playing each other all the time, but most fans seem to care more about hating the Cubs than loving the Sox. I like to call it Little Brother Syndrome. Sad, really, considering they won a World Series six years ago but their focus remains on the Cubs.
Alfonso Soriano and Reed Johnson search for A-Rod's ninth-inning double / Tribune photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo
Before we plunge headlong into the first of three Cubs-Sox games this week, let's not let last night's events at Wrigley Field go without comment.
While the White Sox were righting the ship with a second straight win in Arizona -- this after a Friday loss that stripped bare all the drawbacks of stewardship by a 75-year-old owner who consistently trades two marshmallows tomorrow for one marshmallow today -- the Cubs were busy falling apart on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.
Oh, of course, the Cubs officially committed zero errors. It was the kind of performance that drives home the singular uselessness of that subjective statistic. But what the standard box score obscured was nakedly visible to anyone who watched the game, including ESPN's sterling broadcast trio of Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine: This is an awful defense.
More precisely, that was an awful defense last night. We'll cut the Cubs an inch of slack because they had a few backups in there, what with Mike Quade panicking at the sight of Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia and benching all of his left-handed hitters.
But most of the problems came from the regular starters. They are the reason the Cubs have the fifth-worst defense in baseball, according to the Ultimate Zone Rating calculations at Fangraphs.com.
They, primarily, are the reason we saw the following cavalcade of mistakes last night:
As the College World Series begins this weekend in Omaha, the eight teams still alive include six players picked by the White Sox and Cubs in last week's First-Year Player Draft.
The White Sox drafted a trio of Cal stars -- pitcher Erik Johnson, shortstop Marcus Semien and catcher Chadd Krist -- as well as Texas A&M pitcher Brandon Parrent and Virginia pitcher Cody Winiarski. The Cubs will have only one draftee in the College World Series: Texas pitcher Andrew McKirahan.
RHP Erik Johnson, Cal Bio - Stats - Drafted in the 2nd round by the Sox
Cal's pitching has been the team's biggest strength and Johnson (7-4) is the poster child. He has a 2.91 ERA, 100 strikeouts and 54 walks in 102 innings this season. He made notable contributions in his last appearance in the Super Regionals, pitching six solid innings and allowing two runs on three hits. Look for his power pitching and consistency in Sunday's opener against a tough Virginia offense.
SS Marcus Semien, Cal Bio - Stats - Drafted in the 6th round by the Sox
Semien had a slow start this season, though the Pac-10's pitching talent could have contributed to his struggle. He is known more for his defensive capabilities but has his average at .277 heading into the weekend after hitting .328 last year. He helped win Game 1 of the Super Regionals last weekend with a three-run home run.
It must be that time of year, because everyone is piling on Wrigley Field.
Surprisingly it didn't start with Ozzie Guillen or any member of the 25-man White Sox roster. This time it was MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons, during an appearance last week on WSCR-AM 670:
"The problem that [owner Tom Ricketts] has, and the Ricketts family has a serious issue, is they're going to have to understand it's not only rebuilding personnel. They got to make that ballpark livable. It's a dump, Wrigley Field. They're going to have to spend $200-and-something million on re-renovating Wrigley Field, do what the Boston owners did with Fenway Park. And the investment is far greater than, I think, maybe they realize. The amount of work that Wrigley Field needs ... there's a ton of money that has to go into rebuilding that place."
I respect Gammons as a writer, but he's off touch on this issue.
I think what people forget is that Wrigley isn't meant to be flashy, with all the bells and whistles that all the modern parks have. Wrigley is an antique. That's what makes Wrigley Wrigley.
But the Twins' current 11-2 surge isn't the biggest of Chicago's problems. If the White Sox want to make a serious run in the AL Central, they'll need to fix some key issues.
It's no secret that the White Sox are struggling when it comes to producing runs with guys in scoring position. In Thursday's 1-0 loss, they left 12 men on base. They had a chance to score early in the second inning with Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski on first and third and only one out. They failed to score, and in the next inning Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer hit a solo home run, the only run of the game.
This seems to be a concerning trend. Not only do the White Sox have to worry about leaving men on base, they have to consider the confidence the other team gets from Chicago not scoring.
It's hard to place the blame on one person for their offensive struggles. Looking at the heart of the order, though, is the most obvious conclusion. Players like Konerko, Pierzynski and Carlos Quentin have been hitting well and getting on base, but Alex Rios and new import Adam Dunn haven't been getting runs in.
While Dunn has been playing better, the two have not produced nearly as much as they should. Dunn still is hitting .185, which is bad even by his low-average standards. Rios is 5 for his last 34 after Thursday's 0-for-4 performance. And Gordon Beckham hasn't been the answer, either.
The weather during the Minnesota series didn't help, with the Sox unable to get on the field for batting practice four straight days.
The team looks mentally beat down and frustrated even when they get hits. If players like Rios and Dunn don't step up more consistently and find their groove, the Sox will be stuck in an offensive rut for a while.
Eleven games under .500 less than six weeks ago, the White Sox suddenly stand at 33-35, four games out of first place in the AL Central, as they head to Minnesota for a three-game midweek series with their closest rivals.
The Twins have been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball, with a 26-39 record that's worse than everyone except Houston. Yet they are one of the hottest teams right now, riding an 8-2 streak by sweeping Kansas City and winning series against Cleveland and Texas.
The White Sox are looking for revenge after losing both games in an odd two-game series against the Twins in early May. One of those losses resulted from a no-hitter by Francisco Liriano against a struggling White Sox offense. This time around, the offense won't be desperate for a spark.
The White Sox have homered in a season-high 10 straight games. Paul Konerko is batting .457 with six doubles, six homers and 14 RBIs in a 12-game hitting streak. Carlos Quentin is hitting .320 with nine homers and 24 RBIs in his past 21 games. Adam Dunn, who has taken heat for his lackluster performance this season, broke his 0-for-12 streak with runners in scoring position in Sunday's win against Oakland.
On the other side, Twins left fielder Delmon Young has eight runs, six RBIs and a .314 batting average in his past 10 games. June has also been a strong month for the Minnesota bullpen, which has allowed only three earned runs since the beginning of the month.
After losing nine of their past 11 games, including a 2-8 road swing through St. Louis, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, the Cubs are back at Wrigley this week to host the red-hot, first-place Brewers and the 27-time world champion Yankees.
But they got the homestand off on the right foot Monday night, riding Ryan Dempster to a 1-0 win.
Dempster, who was brilliant last time out against Cincinnati, picked up where he left off with seven shutout innings, striking out seven and surrendering four hits.
But Milwaukee's Randy Wolf matched him pitch for pitch, and it was up to the bullpens after seven.
Finally, the Cubs got on the board in the bottom of the eighth when Darwin Barney scored from third on Aramis Ramirez's grounder to second. Mike Quade sent Barney on contact with one out, and the rookie slid headfirst past the tag of Jonathan Lucroy.
(Recent videos from MLB.com are not embeddable, but you can view the play at their site.)
The Cubs salvaged the last of three games in Cincinnati on Wednesday afternoon, winning 4-1. If ever they needed a quality outing from Ryan Dempster, it was now. And it almost didn't happen because the right-hander was experiencing hip pain during his warmups.
Dempster gutted it out and pitched his tail off. He went six strong innings with one earned run and struck out eight. Things were dicey in the first inning when the Reds loaded the bases, but he came out of it unscathed.
As usual, it then fell to the offense to back up their starter. Carlos Pena got the Cubs on the board with a two-run homer in the fourth after a crucial Reds error allowed the inning to continue. Aramis Ramirez followed that with a solo homer to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead. They would later add another run in the seventh after Reds reliever Jose Arredondo balked with runners on first and third.
The bleeding has been stopped, but there are still many problems that surround this team. Sure, the win was nice and it shifts the focus for at least 24 hours, but the road trip now heads to Philadelphia for four games before the Brewers and Yankees come to Wrigley next week. At 24-36, the Cubs' issues aren't going to be solved overnight.
The Cubs started off their road trip on a sour note by being swept by the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend. This prompted Carlos Zambrano to go off on his teammates Sunday after Carlos Marmol blew the save en route to a second straight extra-inning loss.
"We should know better than this. We play like a Triple-A team," Zambrano told reporters in the clubhouse. "This is embarrassing. Embarrassing for the team and the owners. Embarrassing for the fans. Embarrassed -- that's the word for this team."
Zambrano specifically blamed Marmol for throwing Ryan Theriot a fastball slider the former Cub turned into a game-tying double: "We should know that Ryan Theriot is not a good fastball hitter."
The Cubs opened this nine-game homestand by winning two of three against the struggling New York Mets. They scored 24 runs in those games. In the six games since, they have scored 16 runs. Aside from lack of run production, the injury bug has begun taking its toll on the Cubs.
They currently have six of their starters on the disabled list. Alfonso Soriano is the latest victim. He strained his quad running out a grounder to first on Monday afternoon.
The Cubs started off Wednesday's game favorably against Houston's Brett Myers, who for all intents and purposes should be on the all-time Cubs killers list. Kosuke Fukudome hit a solo home run to give his team the 1-0 advantage.
It would be short-lived as the Astros would answer back in the top of the second with a solo home run by Jason Michaels. Houston scored two more in the seventh to take a 3-1 lead and secure a sweep of the Northsiders.
The conditions suggested it would be a pitchers' duel, but it was anything but that. Just as in Tuesday's 11-1 win, the Cubs put on their hitting shoes. Carlos Pena put them in front for good in the fourth with a two-run homer, and Alfonso Soriano added to the lead with a two-run double in the fifth.
Carlos Zambrano earned his fifth win of the season with six strong innings, only allowing one earned run on six hits. Z has been the most consistent starter on this Cubs staff. Perhaps he has finally turned the corner.
The Cubs (22-26) have shown signs of breaking out of their hitting woes and these two wins -- sandwiched around a 7-4 loss Wednesday -- are prime examples of how good they can be when they hit.
Also, facing a sub.-500 Mets team riddled with injuries doesn't hurt. If they are going to turn this thing around, winning a homestand against the Mets, Pirates and Astros is imperative -- mainly because after that, they head out on the road to face the powerful Cardinals, Reds and Phillies.
The view from our seats in the right field bleachers / Photo: Brian Livingston
BOSTON -- It took 93 years for the Cubs to return to Fenway Park. Unfortunately for those of us Cubs fans who made the pilgrimage to Boston, the results this weekend were similar to the 1918 World Series.
Even worse for me, I missed Saturday's win and attended the twogames the Cubs lost. My track record for watching them in American League venues is now 1-9, with the lone victory coming eight years ago on the South Side.
But results aside, it was a great trip.
Like Wrigley, Fenway is one of the most iconic ballparks in baseball. Having never been to Fenway prior to this trip, the excitement had been building before Friday night's game. When I arrived on Lansdowne Street I was overtaken by the atmosphere, the tradition and the history that entrench the park.
Upon entering the park, the ticket taker jokingly said, "Welcome to Wrigley." I sat in the right field bleachers for Friday night's contest. When I emerged from the concourse and took in Fenway Park for the first time it was as if I were a child on Christmas morning. My eyes opened real wide. Goosebumps covered my arms. Unless you were behind a pole -- of which Fenway has many -- there isn't a bad seat in the house.
Aside from the two losses, the overall experience at Fenway was awesome, other than a few drunken idiots who heckled me with chants of "1918." (Shouldn't it have been "1908," since that was the last time the Cubs won a World Series?) This baffled me because up until 2004, the Red Sox and their fans were in the exact same boat.
Otherwise, there was no real animosity between the two fan bases. I found Red Sox fans to be very friendly and welcoming. Salt of the earth, if you will. As I told the fans I spoke with during this weekend, if I weren't a Cubs fan I'd be a Red Sox fan. Banter between fans was friendly and rarely were there any heated arguments.
I, like many others, dream of a Cubs-Red Sox World Series. The weather this weekend felt like October and while the outcome wasn't what Cubs Nation had hoped for, the experience is something I won't soon forget.
BOSTON -- After 93 years the Chicago Cubs make their return to historic Fenway Park to take on the Boston Red Sox this weekend.
To say it has been a while would be an understatement. The last time the Cubs were in town was the 1918 World Series, which they lost in six games. Before 2004, of course, that was the last time the Red Sox had won a championship.
These two teams have always had a similar line. Both allegedly "cursed," one by a goat the other by Babe Ruth. Their fan bases share a similar level of passion and loyalty.
I'm in Boston for the weekend, and if the plane ride here was any indication the Cubs will be well represented this weekend in Beantown.
This meeting will be their second since interleague play started. The Red Sox came to Wrigley in 2005, with the Cubs taking two out of three.
I don't doubt Fenway will be rocking all weekend long. The calendar says May, but it is going to feel like October for the next three days.
Puttering along through what looks like another unremarkable season, the Cubs at least have more wins than the White Sox. But Sun-Times columnist Joe Cowley hasn't abandoned his vision of a Chicago united under the Sox banner.
Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, Edwin Jackson, John Danks, Jake Peavy, Phil Humber
Phil Humber's start last Friday signaled the beginning of an experiment for manager Ozzie Guillen and the Chicago White Sox.
While Guillen is anything but conventional at the helm of the White Sox, his decision to go with a six-man rotation for 20 days seems especially unusual. But with no off days until June 2, it works for him.
With Jake Peavy's successful comeback start on Wednesday, his first since undergoing surgery to repair a detached lat muscle near his throwing shoulder last July, the White Sox are blessed/cursed with too many pitchers Guillen wants in his starting rotation.
"I hope all those guys throw the ball good, so we keep it there," Guillen said. "The only reason we change it is if somebody struggles or we need more help in bullpen or that thing don't work. But we have a pretty tough stretch of 20 days. The way the starters throw right now, it's a perfect time to do it. We'll see after that how that works. We have a Plan A and Plan B if everything don't work. We'll figure out what to do."
But some would argue that the decision to have a six-man rotation, even for a limited time, is a bad one.
With the six-man rotation, half of the rotation will have one fewer start, which equates to (on average) seven fewer innings pitched this month. Over the length of the entire season, it would be around 56 innings of lost pitching. But is limiting fatigue for a major-league pitcher a good thing?
"The more an athlete rests, the weaker he becomes," Marshall told us. "The body does not get stronger by sitting around doing nothing. You lose bone density, you lose muscle fitness. ... It's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. ... The research is clear in swimming and track, where they do meaningful research, that rest is the worst thing you can do for the body if you're trying to be a high-quality, high-intensity athlete."
With the six-man rotation set up, a setup these starters have never faced, there's a possibility that they fall out of routine and struggle more during their starts. And more rest doesn't necessarily equal better health -- there's no real correlation between more rest (beyond 4 days) between starts and injury prevention.
With the six-man experiment, the White Sox ignore their biggest issues: the instability of the bullpen and their spotty offensive performance.
Of the 40-man roster, 12 of those are pitchers. Of those 12, six are now starting pitchers, removing the possibility of an extra bullpen arm or an extra bat that could help with run support.
Though the White Sox finally have a closer in Sergio Santos, who is 6-for-6 in save chances and hasn't allowed a run in 20 innings this season, most of the bullpen remains in distress. Matt Thornton, Will Ohman and Tony Pena all have ERAs over 6.00 and Chris Sale isn't much better.
But with a struggling bullpen, and a plethora of starters, wouldn't it make more sense to convert one of the six starters to a long-relief position? But then the question becomes, which pitcher should make the transition?
Hopefully after this 20-day experiment, the answer becomes clearer, but with Ozzie you never know.
Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd and John Danks will keep their slots in the rotation, unless they are injured. The $8 million dollar man Edwin Jackson will also remain as a starter. That leaves Humber and Peavy vying for the last rotation spot.
Humber's early-season success comes as a big surprise as he moved to 3-3 with a 3.18 ERA after a solid six-inning win against the A's on Friday. His success this season was what prompted the six-man rotation in the first place, and it seems as long as he's being productive, he'll remain in the rotation as well.
Then there's Peavy. His White Sox career has been plagued by injury ('09 ankle injury, '10 shoulder injury), but he would make a lot of sense as a long-reliever in the bullpen.
A lighter workload could keep his lethal arsenal of pitches refined and effective -- and having a pitcher who can work pitches and get strikeouts like Peavy would be a strong asset to the sinking bullpen.
So for now, it's a six-man rotation where the best pitchers start less, the worst pitchers don't move to the bullpen, and the starters learn to make adjustments to a new routine for this 20-day experiment.
But if the six-man rotation turns out to be effective, what does Guillen do?
His unconventional management style makes it likely that could continues the experiment longer, as the White Sox try to make up a 10-game deficit in the AL Central.
All was not right in Cubdom last night. After blowing a 4-0 lead Monday and losing 7-4 to the first-place Reds, the Cubs self-destructed again Tuesday, taking a 7-5 loss.
Monday's loss prompted a closed-door meeting, but that didn't immediately fix the problems last night in Cincinnati. Things started out promising for the visitors as Carlos Pena blasted his fifth home run of the year to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead, but if we've learned anything this season, it is that no lead is safe.
Poor fundamentals and once again a lack of timely hitting are to blame in this one. It all began to unravel in the bottom of the fourth. With two on and two out, the Cubs opted to walk catcher Ramon Hernandez to face pitcher Edison Volquez -- a smart decision considering Volquez doesn't have a hit this season.
But Volquez hit a ball to Pena at first that took an eccentric hop and got past him. Smartly backing up the play was second baseman Darwin Barney, but his throw to Matt Garza covering the bag was late. Garza then threw wildly toward the plate, trying to prevent the runner on second from scoring, and the ball went into the dugout, bringing Hernandez all the way around from first.
This thing the Cubs are doing -- it's not easy to do.
It's not easy to have the National League's third-best on-base percentage and fourth-best slugging percentage and still rank 11th in the league in runs per game.
OK, yes. Right. We didn't say this thing they're doing is a good thing to do.
But as we've touched on before, the Cubs (17-21) are beginning to develop something of a reputation as they approach the quarter pole:
They don't hit for power (28 home runs, 13th in the NL) and they don't draw walks (6.8% walk rate, last). But they hit line drives (20.6% line-drive rate, second) and they don't strike out (19.5% strikeout rate, third).
They put the ball in play, and so far the results are working out ... to a point. Their .327 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is the best in the league. But that statistic includes a huge dose of luck. It's not likely all those singles will keep falling in.
Where do I begin? This has gotten real old, real fast.
If I've said it once, I've said half a dozen times: If you don't hit with runners in scoring position you aren't going to win very many ball games. The Cubs dropped Thursday's rubber match against St. Louis, 9-1. If they continue this way, it is going to be a very long season on the North Side.
The most puzzling thing about it is this team is better than last year's. What's worse is the conditions Thursday favored the hitters too. It never ceases to amaze me how the visiting team seems to take advantage of said conditions and the Cubs don't. Of course some credit has to be given to Cardinals starting pitcher Jamie Garcia.
Peavy started strong, fanning Erick Aybar on three pitches and getting Bobby Abreu to fly out. Then the clouds gathered and the Sox showed the former Cy Young winner the kind of fun they've been having in his absence. Maicer Izturis -- inexplicably, hitting third for the punchless Angels -- singled, stole second and scored when Juan Pierre dropped a deep fly ball by Torii Hunter.
Welcome to the 2011 White Sox, Jake.
Peavy had a moderately successful start, with definite room for improvement. He pitched six innings and allowed seven hits and four runs. He only struck out four, but his fastball had batters hacking at the air all night. He didn't allow a single walk and looked strong after 87 pitches.
In all, this was about as good as we could have hoped for in his first game back.
The offense did their part to familiarize Peavy with their 2011 brand of maddening frustration as well. The Sox hitters left men in scoring position in every inning until the sixth, when they went 1-2-3. Aside from Adam Dunn's solo homer in the third, the offense was dead for most the game.
Alexei Ramirez stopped a double steal and a rally in the eighth by interfering with a pitchout. It looked like that would have been the ballgame. There was a lot to be mad at from the Sox fan's perspective.
In the end, when trying to pitch around Paul Konerko in the 10th, Walden threw a high, wild pitch and Ramirez crossed the plate. Brent Lillibridge followed with a single to center to score an earth-quaking Dunn, giving the Sox a 6-4 lead. That would be all they needed, thanks by back-to-back cracker jack defensive plays by a shockingly limber Paul Konerko in the bottom of the 10th.
This homestand could help sort out whether or not the Cubs (14-16) have a chance. The Reds, last year's NL Central champions, are scuffling along at 16-15, but they are expected to contend again for the division title. Sooner or later they're going to get it rolling; let's hope for the Cubs' sake it's not this weekend. The Cubs didn't fair well against the Red Legs last season, going 4-12 against them. If they expect to contend that number will undoubtedly have to change.
Geovany Soto came through in the ninth inning last night, but for the most part, clutch hits have been hard to come by for the Cubs this season. A month into the season, they are hitting a putrid .216 with a .616 OPS with runners in scoring position, well below their overall averages of .270 (fifth-best in baseball) and .723.
Hitting hasn't been the problem as much as hitting when it matters most.
The middle of the order has been the main problem. With runners in scoring position, Marlon Byrd is 5-for-32 (.156), Aramis Ramirez is 6-for-28 (.214) and Carlos Pena is 3-for-22 (.136). They have two combined home runs, though it was definitely nice to see Pena finally get his first as a Cub last night in Los Angeles.
Alfonso Soriano leads the majors with 11 home runs, but nine of those homers have been of the solo variety. And his 5-for-29 (.172) effort with runners in scoring position hasn't been great either.
If the Nos. 3, 4, and 5 hitters can get going this team should be able to turn it around.
But if the big guys can get going, the Cubs (13-16) could start to turn things around in the tightly packed NL Central. Soriano, Starlin Castro, Jeff Baker, Darwin Barney and Kosuke Fukudome are hitting, but rarely with runners on base.
This team is much better than last year's and while it is still early in some respects they need to get going before it is too late. The division very much up for grabs and if they can get any kind clutch hitting they will be right there at the end.
At 11-20, after the worst April in franchise history, they're in last place, 10 1/2 games behind the first-place upstarts from Cleveland, and the vultures are closing in for the kill. Phil Rogers is flailing about for a solution -- "do something," he implores, calling for the head of Juan Pierre -- while Joe Cowley sensibly figures there's little the Sox can do with this "$125 million pile of dung."
Now the sobering part of an ''All In'' campaign-turned-bad joke: There is no help coming.
Not now, not any time soon.
That's a statement you're just going to have to wrap your arms around and embrace.
While it's generally accepted among White Sox fans that the team is prone to slow starts, did anyone expect another one this bad? After five straight losses and 15 in 18 games, the past three to perennially hapless Baltimore, they sit at 10-19, a full 10 games behind the surprising, first-place Indians.
So bad, in fact, that the Sox are actually worse than they were this time last year.
Everyone remembers last season right? Do we all remember the 24-33 start that made winning 26 of 31 games not just a thrill but a necessity?
Well get ready, because if the Chicago White Sox are going to play any October ball at all they'll have to dig themselves out of a grave like Beatrix Kiddo, and right now this team is lacking any punch.
Everything is wrong and little is working. At no point in any of the Sox losses over the past three weeks did anyone expect them to pull through. While the rotation has been mostly adequate, posting a 4.44 ERA, the lineup ranks 11th in the AL with 3.9 runs per game -- and even when they can scrape together enough runs to take a lead, there's little hope the bullpen can hold it.
Just look at the eighth-inning calamity between A.J. Pierzynski and Matt Thornton in Saturday's 6-2 loss. If you only needed to watch one inning to sum up how this April went, this was it.
Eighteen games into this young baseball season the Cubs are 9-9 and a half-game out of first place. Despite suffering a major blow to their starting rotation the Cubs have made the best of their situation by treading at or around .500. One of the biggest reasons they've managed to hold their heads above water is the play of shortstop Starlin Castro.
Less than a month past his 21st birthday, he's currently sporting a . 375 average with a .398 on-base percentage and is tied for the league lead in hits with 30. He already has six three-hit games this season.
It's early, but I am thoroughly convinced Castro is a superstar in the making.
The 2011 "All In" White Sox dropped their seventh straight game last night. It has been so much of the same mediocrity for the past week that all the games are beginning to blend into one. So much so that my after-work routine has become the same thing every night: get home, strap it down, watch three hours of baseball, shuffle over to my fridge, scrawl an "L" on my Sox calendar, go to bed and repeat. It's like Groundhog Day but with a sad sack offense in place of Bill Murray.
Last night, Ozzie felt so bad for putting us in this rut that he dropped Dunn to the fifth spot in the lineup just to spice up our relationship. It didn't work.
Where are the bats from the first two weeks of the season? Before the bullpen and defense started melting down regularly, the offense was white hot, averaging 6.9 runs and 11.4 hits in the first nine games.
When I was a child, I hated cleaning my room. More than anything.
My family relocated often and my rooms never felt like my own. My parents didn't let me hang posters on my wall. I had a couple of generic framed pictures (one of tulips and a young girl running through a field) that added a touch of color to white walls, but were tasteful and generic for staging purposes for the next buyer.
"Do you know how difficult it is to patch holes in all of the rooms when we sell the house? We have to think about resale value!" my parents would scream every time I begged to get a baseball pennant at a game we'd attended.
Pennant-less and uncomfortable from my childhood in flux -- Parents, moving can be traumatic on children -- I did not care if my room was clean. I didn't want to make the bed. I didn't care if my Teddy Ruxpin was placed back on the shelf near the Jetsons lunch box that contained his cassette tapes.
The chaos was my solitude.
The little Lite-Brite pegs on my carpet were the land mines that kept everyone out of my fortress. (I couldn't have a moat because it would hurt the resale value.)
After many attempts to get me to clean my room -- stubbornness is one of my most endearing qualities -- my folks turned to bribery. If my room was cleaner than my sister's, I would get a prize.
In the previous two seasons, Zambrano pitched as many as eight innings just three times. But there he was against the Padres, striking out the side in the seventh and cruising through the top of the eighth. He worked fast, threw strikes and even though he wasn't overpowering he struck out 10. In that seventh inning, he didn't dial up a fastball more than 90 mph until the final two pitches against Ryan Ludwick, instead relying on good movement, a nice front-door slider to catch Nick Hundley looking and a couple of 70-something curveballs. It was one of the best starts of his career -- just the ninth time he's recorded a Game Score of 85 or better.
Is Big Z back? I wouldn't say that. The hitters were hacking away in the cold (the 10-inning game lasted just 2:26, proving major leaguers can play quickly if they want to), so I wouldn't read too much into the effort, especially after three mediocre starts to begin the season. But for one night it was nice to see something resembling the old Z racking up the strikeouts.
Chicago-based blogger Christina Kahrl examined the White Sox closer situation last week, advancing a headline-grabbing solution for a bullpen that has gotten an 8.84 ERA and five blown saves from Matt Thornton, Chris Sale and new addition Will Ohman:
The answer has to come from outside the organization, and it'll be [Kenny] Williams' crew who can find him. If it's a matter of taking a chance on a pitcher struggling with staying healthy, here again, the Sox can afford a bit of risk where other teams might shrink from it, because they have the benefit of Herm Schneider's matchless training staff.
The question is whether Williams can acquire someone this early in the season, when salary dumps generally aren't the order of the day, so it's likely to cost talent -- something Chicago's system isn't rich in. Making the call this early comes across as desperate, because it is. Even so, perhaps the best fit will involve the Sox living up to their season motto -- "All In" -- and making a deal for a short-time veteran who could use the change of scenery.
So the time is now for Williams to call Sandy Alderson, start talking about Francisco Rodriguez, and see how much money the Sox can get the Mets to eat while making it happen. K-Rod may not appear to be the same pitcher he was in his Angels' heyday, but his strikeout rate last season (28.4 percent) was his best since 2007. As much as "closer mystique" is overrated, the Sox probably can't afford to keep experimenting on into May.
On a cold, blustery Monday night at Wrigley Field, Carlos Zambrano dominated the San Diego Padres. On a night when offense was hard to come by, Zambrano did his best to limit the Padres hitters. Z pitched seven shutout innings, striking out 10. But would the Cubs get any runs?
In regulation, no; Zambrano settled for a no-decision. The Cubs offense went nine innings without an extra-base hit until Tyler Colvin gave Chicago a 1-0 win with an RBI double in the 10th.
As the Cubs and White Sox struggle to advance much past the .500 mark -- that Sox collapse Wednesday afternoon was a bullpen horror show -- I finally got the chance to cozy up with ESPN The Magazine's baseball preview issue.
Few surprises on the prediction front: Sox in first, Cubs in fourth, Adam Dunn should be a beast. But the hidden treasure was the players' responses when ESPN asked them about road trips in their divisions.
Chicago got mentioned twice by rival players. Indians middle infielder Orlando Cabrera, a 15-year veteran who spent a brief, generally unimpressive year with the Sox in 2008, said we have the most aggressive autograph hounds in the AL Central. "They're outside the hotel, and when they want it, man, they want it! I've had guys follow me three blocks down Michigan Avenue."
Journeyman pitcher Nelson Figueroa, now with the Astros, said Chicago is the city where he is recognized least often. Apparently drunk Cubs fans can't see straight. "When you leave Wrigley, fans have already been drinking for hours and they're well on their way to having a good time."
To be fair, Nelson, not even your home fans have any idea who you are.
ESPN also talked with two Chicago pitchers. Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs said the best team hotel in the NL Central is in St. Louis. "We stay in a casino, and I don't mind the tables so much."
Matt Thornton of the Sox picked Detroit as the trip with the worst commute to the park. "We stay in Birmingham: Great city, great hotel, but it's 35 to 40 minutes to the stadium. More with traffic. It's a hike."
It's still early in the season, but the Cubs really needed Monday's 5-4 win in Houston after losing Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee. The offense got rolling early against nemesis Nelson Figueroa. With Kosuke Fukudome nursing a tight hamstring, Starlin Castro took over the leadoff duties. He filled in admirably, going 3-for-5 with hits in his first three at-bats. He scored all three times on-base. Between him and the No. 2 hitter Darwin Barney they were a combined 5-for-5 with five runs. Barney had an RBI triple.
They had Figueroa on the ropes in the first and almost came away empty-handed, but Alfonso Soriano stepped up with a two-run double to give them the early lead. They scored again in the second and fourth. Not only did the offense need to redeem itself, but Cubs starter Ryan Dempster need to right the ship after dropping his first two decisions.
The Cubs missed out on a chance to take two out of three in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon. Leaving nine runners on base, some in consecutive innings, isn't going to win you many ball games.
The game started off favorably for the Cubbies as they took an early 2-0 lead on an Aramis Ramirez two-run double. The game went back and forth all afternoon. The Cubs would take the lead and then the Brewers would tie it.
With Randy Wells on the disabled list with a right forearm strain, the Cubs called on Casey Coleman to fill in. Coleman went five innings giving up nine hits, which resulted in four earned runs. For the most part he kept his team in the ball game and gave them a chance to win; however, the offense failed to come through several times.
They took the lead late on a bases-loaded fielder's choice by Tyler Colvin. That lead would be short-lived as the Cubs bullpen gave it away in the bottom of the eighth. Kerry Wood served up a go-ahead two-run homer to ex-Cub Casey McGehee, resulting in a 6-5 loss.
There is a lot of online angst regarding the first week of the White Sox season. Sure, Jake Peavy is out for the time being and, in what appears to be a trend this year, Adam Dunn had an emergency appendectomy Tuesday night in Kansas City. Maybe the Sox lost some games that seemed like gimmes, but they're off to a great start with a 4-2 record against two divisional rivals. Let's not lose our collective mind yet, Sox fans. They haven't even played a home game yet! The season begins in earnest with today's home opener at U.S. Cellular Field.
Down three runs with two outs in the ninth, the White Sox rallied Wednesday against notorious Sox killer Joakim Soria, winning 10-7 in 12 innings to capture the second of two games in Kansas City. Even with four errors, the Sox were ultimately victorious, and that means a lot in the AL Central where the Sox have had a less-than-stellar record.
Although Dunn was initially expected to be out for five games, he isn't going to let something as trivial as the surgical removal of an organ deter him. Dunn was at the park Wednesday and offered to pinch-hit, telling Ozzie that he was ready for the home opener. Although Ozzie called that "crazy," it was another sign of how determined this team is.
Peavy is on a steady path to recovery and should be back soon, despite the recent setback in his recovery from a potential career-ending injury. (Maybe he and Dunn should be wearing capes instead of jerseys?) Carlos Quentin's unbelievable start was commemorated with his second AL Player of the Week award. Fans have a lot to look forward to at the start of this season, with an electric offense and a potentially strong pitching staff.
Blips in the bullpen? Sure, but this team has heart, determination and true grit. Now is the time to be patient while the White Sox work out the kinks. Edwin Jackson is up today against the struggling Rays and there's a lot of baseball left to be played.
In my Inbox this morning was a Tribune Co. press release trumpeting the TV ratings this weekend on WGN: Ratings for Opening Day on Friday "were 40% higher in Households than the first telecast of the 2010 season" and Sunday's game "generated a 7.7 Household rating; the highest since April 7, 2009."
That's all well and good, even if I know just enough about the television ratings system to be suspicious of selectively chosen figures. But on my TV screen and in my Twitter feed yesterday was plenty of evidence that Cubs fans greeted the first Monday afternoon game of the season with historical apathy.
After seeing sell-out crowds at Wrigley year after year, it was quite the shock to behold the sea of empty seats yesterday. The official attendance report was 26,292, making yesterday's crowd the smallest to see a game at Wrigley since 2002. But even that figure elicited snorts of amusement from those at the game. Witnesses put the crowd somewhere around 10,000 fans at the high end.
If you've witnessed the breakneck speed at which Wrigley games have sold out since 2003, yesterday's attendance is a staggering surprise, but perhaps one that we should have seen coming. The 2011 Cubs Convention failed to sell out, while in the past tickets have been snapped up in less than 15 minutes. Then rumor had it that only six, SIX, Cubs games sold out this year (Opening Day, three Yankees Games, one White Sox Game , and one Cardinals game). Yesterday, ChicagoNow pointed out that tickets to dozens of Cubs games were available online for less than $1.00.
It appears that the proverbial chickens (seagulls?) have finally come home to roost.
Is Julie right that Cubs fans "pay the highest ticket prices to watch the worst baseball"? Is resident contrarian Joe Cowley right that Chicago is becoming a White Sox town? We'll wait for more than four games to reach a verdict, but the latest evidence isn't looking good.
Starlin Castro scores in the first inning / Tribune photo: William DeShazer
Nothing spoils the festive mood of Opening Day like losing. The Cubs did just that as they lost to the Pirates, 6-3. The game started off favorably for the Cubs. They jumped out to a 2-0 advantage thanks to a couple of miscues by the Pirates defense. That lead became short-lived.
It was almost eerily similar to Game One of the 2008 NLDS as starter Ryan Dempster walked the bases loaded in the fifth inning and then served up a grand slam to Neil Walker. Dempster went 6 2/3 innings. He gave up six hits, six earned runs and struck out seven.
The White Sox gave us thrills early and chills late on Opening Day, scoring the game's first 14 runs before hanging on for dear life and a 15-10 win in Cleveland. The Indians put up 10 runs against the Sox in the last three innings. It was, to say the least, a memorable game.
Chicago's fuel-injected offense produced even better than expected. Adam Dunn appeared to be more than comfortably settled into his new DH role with a home run, four RBIs and two runs. Paul Konerko showed he still had his Opening Day magic, bringing Juan Pierre home for the first run of the game with an RBI single. Carlos Quentin singled, doubled and homered, driving in five runs before giving way to Mark Teahen when Ozzie brought on four backups in the late innings.
Fifteen runs? Eighteen hits, including eight extra-base hits? If the White Sox can keep this up, it's going to be one heck of a season.
The bullpen was clearly off its game today, needing four additional relievers to hang on to the 14-4 lead Mark Buehrle handed over after six innings. Will Ohman, after a promising performance in spring training, was particularly disappointing, allowing three runs on two homers in two-thirds of an inning. Tony Pena, Chris Sale and Jesse Crain finished it off, eking the White Sox through. On a day when the Indians celebrated the late Bob Feller, neither pitching staff honored the Hall of Famer's legacy.
Instead of "All In," the slogan today was a callback to 1983: "Winning Ugly." It's hard to complain about an Opening Day win -- ahem, Northsiders -- but when you nearly blow a 14-0 lead, it leaves a tinge of bitterness. Still, a win is a win, and the Sox will take them where they can get them. It's a long road from here.
Opening Day. Two of the most beautiful words in the English language to a baseball fan. For Cubs fans it's the beginning of a new season. Hope springs eternal. I consider Opening Day at Wrigley to be a religious holiday. Which is exactly what I told my employer when I requested the day off. Today is the reason I put up with the cold and snow during the winter.
The optimism couldn't be any higher than it is today. Everything is wiped clean from last year and everyone is starting out in first. We can dream of the World Series and the party that will surely follow. On Opening Day all things are possible, even if my team hasn't won a championship in over 100 years. Cubs fans can dream and dream we shall because next year is here.
It's spring in Cleveland, but it doesn't quite feel like it. While U.S. Cellular Field is ready to go, Progressive Field groundskeepers have spent the past 24 hours clearing 3-4 inches of snow.
Could this be the baseball gods' way of frowning on the Indians' winter Snow Days events? Something tells me that The Sodfather wouldn't give over his verdant domain to ice skating and snow tubing.
So, technically it's spring, but when the White Sox are making snow angels and having snowball fights on the field the afternoon before Opening Day, it feels a bit surreal. So much so that even Ozzie chimed in on the subject, in his usual inimitable way. Who knows, maybe this is just the sort of thing the White Sox need to get over their traditional slow April starts.
So let it snow. Paulie, A.J., Ozzie and the White Sox are ready and so are their fans. Let's face it, there's a lot to be excited about today as Mark Buehrle makes his ninth consecutive Opening Day start; the incredible Omar Vizquel begins his 22nd season; and Adam Dunn makes his official Sox debut. Who says they aren't a cold weather team?
Disappointing move by the White Sox, who've made a major downgrade to their road jersey's sleeve patch. On the plus side, team execs have said the road grays will be worn more often this season, instead of the black alternate that increasingly [has] become the club's standard road look. Meanwhile, the "Sox" logo has also been added to the team's stirrups, although Juan Pierre and manager Ozzie Guillen may be the only ones wearing them.
My annual spring training trips began by accident.
Five years ago, I took a spring break trip to south Florida to decompress after midterms. A family friend offered a spare ticket for a Minnesota Twins game and off I went to a baseball game in February, which seemed unnatural. The ice and snow were still thick up north, but I was sitting in a stadium chair with the warm sun beating on my face.
Baseball in spring was wonderful.
Every year since, while my peers saved up to seek trouble and skirt the law at spring break hot spots, I saved for a plane ticket to spring training. My accidental baseball vacation became a rite of passage that this year blossomed into a full month at Grapefruit League spring training.
You might not understand my love for spring training unless you've experienced it yourself. It's hard to explain; it's definitely different than regular season baseball.
With Opening Day in Cleveland a week away, here's a refresher course for any White Sox fans still getting up to speed:
Despite a slow start to the hot stove season, leading many fans to suspect that the team was going the money-saving rebuilding route after another second-place finish, things began to heat up in early December with the signing of Adam Dunn and the re-signing of A.J. Pierzynski, followed by the return of The King, team captain Paul Konerko. Paulie himself wasn't sure he'd be back for 2011, but the combined efforts of the front office along with Reinsdorf's legendary loyalty and willingness to open up the checkbook brought Paulie back to the South Side. The White Sox were "All In."
Christmas on the South Side continued with the signings of relievers Jesse Crain and Will Ohman, the former a notorious White Sox killer as a Twin -- a move that sapped pitching strength from the Twins while shoring up the back end of the Sox bullpen -- and the contract extensions of Alexei Ramirez and Matt Thornton. All the gory details of the White Sox off-season moves are available here, but it's safe to say that the White Sox front office had a very productive winter.
Cubs outfielder Fernando Perezwrites poetry and has been published in Poetry and the Southern Review, tweets and maintains a blog, but he's having trouble maintaining his batting average. He's currently hitting .161 in the preseason, well below his career .234, and may not make it to the big game if things don't improve. At least he has a backup plan:
Starlin Castro made his major-league debut last May against the Cincinnati Reds. The past few years Cubs fans had been hearing about this kid shortstop and were wondering just what all the fuss was about. Well, Castro showed everyone what the Cubs brass already knew. In his first at-bat he hit a three-run homer and he added a three-run triple a few innings later. Not too shabby for a 19-year-old.
So where does he go from here?
Like many rookies coming off stellar first years, Castro is looking to avoid the proverbial sophomore slump, but what about next year and the year after that? As someone who watches this team on a daily basis, I think it is hard to envision the young Dominican's stock going anywhere but up.
Marlon Byrd was fantastic last season after coming over from the Texas Rangers and he has picked up where he left off. In 11 games this spring, he is hitting 15-for-30 with four doubles, a home run and four RBIs.
The former Phillies and Nationals outfielder fared well in his return to the senior circuit last season, batting .293 with 12 home runs, 66 RBIs and a .775 OPS. The numbers aren't eye-popping, but they are right in line with his career numbers. His first-half numbers were good enough to earn him his first trip to the All-Star Game, where he played a huge role in securing the National League's first win since 1996.
We here at Tailgate have a general policy of ignoring the details of whatever's going on at spring training -- unless your Cy Young candidate blows out his elbow or breaks a rib -- but it's undeniably encouraging to see Jake Peavy throwing well for the White Sox.
With less than three weeks left in Arizona, Peavy is on track to open the season as Ozzie Guillen's No. 5 starter -- and if you're trying to wrap your brain around the magnitude of that achievement, ESPN.com and MLB.com both had lengthy pieces this week on his uncommon injury and arduous recovery. Highly recommended.
Rob Neyer had some good things to say about the Cubs when he previewed them two weeks ago for his new site, SBNation.com, but the longtime ESPN.com columnist went a step further when he stopped by Jonah Keri's podcast recently, picking them as his biggest surprise of 2011.
Now, that doesn't mean Neyer is ready to go out on a limb and predict the Northsiders will surge past the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers in the NL Central, but "if you're looking for a real surprise team," he said, "you could probably do a lot worse than the Cubs."
I think that the Cubs have a chance to be a lot better than people expect. ... On paper, they're still the fourth-best team in the NL Central. I get that, and that's right. But I think that if you're looking for a real surprise team, you could probably do a lot worse than the Cubs. ...
I think they have five or six positions where they could be much better this year than they were last year -- and that doesn't include the pitching, which probably should be at least as good. I would say they're going to be better at first base, third base, marginally left field, probably second base -- I'm forgetting one of them -- oh, shortstop, probably. [Starlin] Castro will go up maybe a notch. There's just a lot of room for improvement on that team. I can see them going 85-77 rather than 75-87, which is what they did last year.
As a general principle, I'm all for Ozzie Guillen saying whatever he wants. Most of the so-called controversies that surround the outspoken White Sox manager are the product of our oversensitivity and a media culture that rewards every non-politic utterance with disproportionate attention.
On the other hand, this public feud Ozzie has been having with Bobby Jenks since the big man left for Boston is simply ridiculous.
Jenks has a hallowed place in White Sox history, and this is no way for him to go out. More important, would you want to play for a manager who (or whose family) publicly trashes a player after he's gone and spills his personal problems to the media?
Cubs' spring training has been underway for more than a few weeks and a few noteworthy tidbits have come up. The most important news of it all was that manager Mike Quade named his Opening Day starter. After starting the past six Opening Days, Carlos Zambrano will not be starting at Wrigley on April 1. Ryan Dempster will be taking the mound instead.
Zambrano is his own worst enemy, especially on Opening Day. He gets too amped up for his own good and ultimately ends up putting the team in position to lose more often than not. He'll start the second game of the season when all the hoopla of the first game of the year has subsided. Newly acquired Cub Matt Garza will start the third game of the year.
Dempster starting is the right choice. He's earned it. Since becoming a starter again in 2008 he's won 43 games. While he's not the same type of pitcher as Zambrano, he has definitely earned this honor by the way he carries himself on the field and in the clubhouse.
We wrote a bunch of Cubs and White Sox preview pieces. You might have read them. Or maybe not. How do I know? Either way, here they are again, neatly compiled in one handsome, leather-bound edition. Because what else are you going to do for five more weeks of spring training?
When Derrek Lee was traded to Atlanta in the middle of the season it was clear that replacing him wasn't going to be easy. Lee had been a staple at first base ever since Cubs GM Jim Hendry acquired him after the 2003 season, a month after he and the Marlins dashed Chicago's World Series hopes.
Replacing Lee's bat and his Gold Glove defense was imperative, but Hendry was limited by how much he could spend in free agency. He had to get creative and he did just that. Enter Carlos Pena for one year, $10 million. Normally a guy of Pena's caliber would command a multi-year, multi-million-dollar commitment, but his sub-par 2010 severely limited his ability to cash in.
With that in mind, the question here is can Carlos Pena return his batting average to a respectable level or will he be the 21st century Dave Kingman? Pena batted just .196 in Tampa Bay last season, but to his credit he played through plantar fasciitis during the season. The injury can limit mobility and certainly make it difficult to play at a high level.
Last season, no one understood that more than Gordon Beckham.
Beckham's 2009 season was one of a star on the rise, less than a year after the Sox drafted him eighth overall out of the University of Georgia. He was voted AL Rookie Of the Year by his peers. After hitting .270/.347/.460 with 14 home runs and seven stolen bases in his first season, the foundation for a strong second season had been laid.
Then came the struggle.
Beckham was supposed to build on his successful 2009 season. In 2010 he was supposed to be the ideal No. 2 hitter as someone who could get on base often. He was supposed to be that versatile infielder who could play any position. But for the first half of the season, Beckham showed little promise.
But the Cubbie faithful hope that has changed with the arrival of the 2008 ALCS MVP. Matt Garza pitched in the toughest division in baseball, the AL East, for three seasons as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. His electric stuff should translate very favorably to the National League, which annually features less potent lineups than the American League.
I find myself checking out the CubWorld webcam often this winter to see snow piled high on the corner of Clark and Addison. Sometimes people walk by; sometimes there's a bus. Other times, it's a quiet corner where I find myself gazing longing at the iconic marquee. Waiting for some glimpse of the season's start.
I'm ready for baseball.
I've spent the off-season an anxious mess, watching the trades and the hot stove rumors. I've tweeted, I've blogged, I've bored non-baseball fans to tears over the fates of my favorite players. I've had conversations with strangers on trains just because they were wearing ball caps. (Note: Some strangers are not as friendly as they appear.)
The other day I got incredibly excited to see Wrigley Field -- which rarely happens. Living in Chicago, I've been desensitized to the great ballpark in my backyard. Perhaps it's the binge-drinking college crowd the neighborhood attracts. Maybe it's lack of the designated hitter or the panic that sets in when I realize my commute home will be twice as long on game day.
It wasn't always this way. I know Wrigley Field is a spectacle of unique and timeless baseball history.
Quentin took a lot of heat last season from fans and media frustrated he wasn't hitting like 2008, his MVP-caliber first season on the South Side, but the maniacally intense right fielder actually had a pretty good season. Sure, he batted .243, but his .342 on-base percentage and .479 slugging percentage (.821 OPS) made for a strong middle-of-the-order hitter.
Spring training hasn't even started yet and Joe Cowley is already stirring up trouble in the Cubs-Sox rivalry. His Sun-Times column today advances the idea that Chicago is now "a Sox town." It begins:
It was a nice little run for the North Side.
There was drama, Sammy Sosa's hop and then flop, a sold-out ballpark/museum on a daily basis, a fall guy named Bartman and even a few wins and division titles thrown in along the way.
But it's over.
It's a Cubs town no more.
Beginning next week and playing out all summer long, the only relevant baseball team in New Gotham is at 35th and Shields. Yes, for the first time in decades, this town belongs to the White Sox.
Cowley is known for making waves. In 2006, he bucked convention by voting Derek Jeter sixth in an AL MVP race where Jeter finished second. Last year, he compared Toronto to a third-world country and urged MLB to relocate the Blue Jays. And he mocks players, teams and other media members on Twitter all the time.
So there's no surprise he'd be the one to rile up Chicago baseball fans.
That said, there is some validity to his column. Cowley's measurement for the Sox taking over the city is predicated on their success this season, which is warranted and likely accurate.
Good Z or Bad Z? Which one will show up this year? Will it be the one who went 8-0 with 1.58 ERA after returning from last year's mid-summer suspension or will be the one who snaps at the first sign of trouble? This remains the biggest question for the Cubs heading into the 2011 season.
There is no doubt he has the ability to be one of the most dominant pitchers in the National League if not both leagues. He showed a glimpse of just how dominating he can be after coming back from his suspension last July 31.
When Mike Quade replaced Lou Piniella as Cubs manager last summer, he ended a 25-year minor-league quest by becoming a big league manager. Before shedding his interim tag and officially becoming the 57th manager in franchise history, he had to prove himself. He did just that by winning 24 of the team's final 37 games.
That might not seem like much, but it helped the Cubs brass choose him over Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg. Some fans wanted Sandberg, some wanted Quade. The only thing that absolutely matters at this point is winning. And the question in this discussion: Is Quade good enough?
While we look ahead to spring training with multi-part previews on the Cubs and White Sox, ESPN.com analyst Keith Law is looking way ahead with a package of stories on the top prospects and top farm systems in baseball.
After the 2006 season Cubs general manager Jim Hendry went on a spending spree the likes of which Cubs fans have never seen before. Contracts were handed out like candy on Halloween, thus putting a financial choke hold on any future acquisitions. The good news is that a good majority of those bad contracts will be off the book at the end of the 2011 season. Until then the Cubs have to make the best of it.
Third base is the biggest question mark in the White Sox lineup this season. The two main contenders for the job are the young hopeful Brent Morel, who came up at the end of last season with a competent glove and a potentially potent bat, and the lithe, ageless Methuselah, future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel. And of course, Mark Teahen is still around and the Sox have to pay him $4.75 million this year, so they might as well try and find something for him to do.
When the Cubs acquired Aramis Ramirez from the Pirates in 2003 he stopped what had been a revolving door at third base since Ron Santo crossed town in 1974. When Cubs offense is clicking on all cylinders Ramirez is somewhere in the middle of it. When he's cold or injured the Cubs offense suffers accordingly.
Never was that more evident than when Ramirez missed two months because of a shoulder injury in 2009. When healthy, he hit well: a .317 average with a .389 on-base percentage and a .905 OPS.
Then last year, Ramirez played through nagging injuries and had perhaps the worst season of his career. Though he managed to hit 25 home runs in 124 games, he batted .241 with a hideous .294 on-base percentage.
That's why he is one of the biggest questions for the Cubs in 2011.
The calendar says January, but for Cubs fans at the Chicago Hilton on Friday night, thoughts of spring and summer filled the air. A sea of blue filled the grand ballroom as Cubs radio broadcaster Pat Hughes emceed the opening ceremonies for the 2011 Cubs Convention. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts addressed the crowd with a sense of optimism for 2011.
"Unfortunately 2010 wasn't so great on the field," Ricketts said. "Last year we saw the emergence of several very talented young players and by the end of last season we were playing baseball as well as anyone in the league.
"As we look forward to 2011 we look forward to bringing that momentum from the end of last season into next season," he said. "In addition to that we've added key players that are going to play significant roles on our team next year."
It's the new year and that means it is time to start counting down the days until spring training. (Thirty-four until White Sox pitchers and catchers report. Set your watches accordingly.) While the White Sox get ready to show us just how all in they are in their "We're All In" campaign, their rotations and lineups seem to be fairly set. With exception of Adam Dunn and probably Brent Morel, the batting order will most likely look familiar to anyone who paid attention in 2010. The same goes for their rotation, which only has the question of when Jake Peavy will be rejoining its ranks.
That is not to say that everything is set in stone for Opening Day, of course. There is still the bullpen to sort out as well as who will take the honors batting between lead off man Juan Pierre and new masher Dunn, and a lot can happen in spring training. So as we inch closer and closer to Feb. 17, I will be examining what we should all be looking forward to once the Sox descend on the Cactus League ready to show off their minor-league talent and play meaningless baseball games with disproportionately high scores.
In part one of this series, we will turn our attention to the man who went from easily remembered draft pick to hilariously bejeweled Major League bullpen savior in just a matter of weeks, the rail thin Chris Sale.
Three years ago it was Brian Roberts. Two years ago, Jake Peavy. The Cubs under Jim Hendry have made the near-trade an offseason specialty. But it looks like the rumors are true this time: Multipleoutletsarereporting the Cubs have agreed with the Tampa Bay Rays on a deal that would send 27-year-old right-hander Matt Garza and a prospect to Chicago for five prospects, including two standouts in shortstop Hak-Ju Lee and pitcher Chris Archer.
Garza, who was 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 204.2 innings last season, gives the Cubs another front-of-the-rotation starter to go with Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano. He helped the Rays win the American League in 2008 and the AL East last season, when he also threw the first no-hitter in franchise history.
Adding Garza doesn't make the Cubs instant pennant contenders, but it puts them in a good position.
Christmas has come early for Cubs fans. Two weeks after the death of franchise icon Ron Santo, they welcome back another beloved figure in Kerry Wood. (And in fact, Santo's passing had more than a little to do with Wood rediscovering his North Side roots.)
After two seasons in Cleveland and a brief stint with the Yankees, Kid K signed a one-year, $1.5-million deal, leaving potentially more lucrative deals on the table to return to the organization that drafted him in 1995. Wood will work with Sean Marshall setting up closer Carlos Marmol.
The Sox are replacing last year's "It's Black & White" ads with the very apropos "We're All In" campaign. While the new slogan clearly refers to the money spent on retaining Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski and acquiring Adam Dunn rather than blowing the doors off their competition a la the Red Sox and Phillies, it is hard to take the assessment lightly.
Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams began the offseason with the possibility of saying goodbye to some key players, and they came back from Florida with a mighty lineup chock full of fanfavorites and a shiny new lefty slugger. If White Sox hustle was black and white in 2010, White Sox power offense will be clear as day in 2011.
Assuming everyone else stays put, the lineup for next year is starting to become clearer. Williams has stated publicly that he isn't looking to move anyone else, not even Carlos Quentin whose name was being tossed around as possible trade fodder just weeks ago. Should that remain true, here is what the Opening Day lineup looks like right now.
It has been an interesting past few days in the Cubs rumor department. A handful of reports put the Cubs in a trade with the Texas Rangers for first baseman Chris Davis and relief pitcher Darren O'Day and other reports suggested the Cubs were interested in Adam LaRoche. After all the rumors were sorted out, a truth emerged: Jim Hendry signed power-hitting first baseman Carlos Pena to a one-year, $10-million deal. Pena, a 32-year-old who is coming off a down season, will fill a huge hole left by last year's trade of Derrek Lee.
Santo made his love for the Chicago Cubs well known through his broadcasting. He was without question the biggest Cubs fan. He embodied every fan through the highs and the lows. He was a nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glover in 14 seasons for the Chicago Cubs.
It has been slow these last few weeks news wise as it usually is this time of year, but with the winter meetings taking place a week from today expect things to pick up. There are several positions that the Cubs need to address before Opening Day 2011. Let's take a look at a key spot on the diamond, first base.
The Cubs poor season forced them to trade their long time first baseman Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves. The move created a huge hole not only defensively, but offensively as well. Replacing Lee's ability to save would-be throwing errors from his fellow infielders is going to be difficult. There are several first basemen available this offseason.
In somewhat shocking news Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild has left the team to become the pitching coach for the New York Yankees. Cubs GM Jim Hendry made the announcement this afternoon. Rothschild has stated the move was for "personal and family-based reasons". In addition to looking for a first baseman, starting and relief pitcher this off season a new pitching coach will be added to the list.
Rothschild seemed to draw a lot of criticism from Cubs fans over the years. Most notably his handling of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Take this into consideration Rothschild had been with the Cubs since 2002 and managed to survive three managerial changes. He must've been doing something right in the minds of the Cubs brass if they kept him around as long as they did.
It never ceases to amaze me how many times I've heard non-Cubs fans say Wrigley Field needs to go. Of course to outsiders something that is 96-years-old is too old and needs to go. My natural response is, "Let's see how you look when you're that age." As a baseball enthusiast, I've had the good fortune of visiting several stadiums across the country. From San Diego to Milwaukee, all brand new and modern. While they are nice, these modern facilities all lack several things. Charm being one of them, history being another. Now, most Cubs fans would like to erase some of the history that has occurred at Clark and Addison over the years, but that is what makes Wrigley, Wrigley.
None of these modern stadiums had that at home feel to them like Wrigley does. It is easy to get swept up in the mystique and allure of modern technology, but truth be told I'd take the allure of Wrigley over any modern convenience. Bricks, ivy and sunshine suit me just fine. Say what you like, but for my money it doesn't get any better than that.
Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts announced a proposal to the Illinois Sports Facility Association that would help aid in the renovation of Wrigley Field. The proposed deal would provide up to $300 million in bonds from amusement taxes, which are taken from ticket sales. If this deal is approved it would aid in the much needed upgrade of the 96-year-old ballpark.
The idea on paper looks good, but what looks good on paper doesn't always translate into success. See 2004 Chicago Cubs. While improving Wrigley Field would be in the best interest of the State of Illinois seeing as how it is Illinois' third largest attraction. It would only make sense on the part of the state that the Cubs continue to stay where they are at and that would mean keeping Wrigley Field in top shape for years to come.
Other candidates for the job included current Yankees skipper and Chicago native Joe Girardi as well as Hall of Famer and former Cub great Ryne Sandberg. A press conference is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field. The press conference be seen on Comcast Sportsnet and heard on WGN Radio 720 AM.
Ryan Dempster took the mound looking for his 16th victory of the year. The Astros would have other plans on Sunday afternoon. Dempster worked six innings allowing three earned runs and striking out seven. Not one of his better outings of the year and his defense didnt do him any favors. He gave up a pair of second inning runs, including one on a topper in front of the plate that Koyie Hill bobbled and hit the runner in the back with the ball.
This one got off to an auspicious start. Almost similar to yesterdays game as the Cardinals jumped out to an early 3-0 lead until the Cubs struck back in the bottom of the third. They would score four runs in the inning one coming off a botched run down by the Cardinals catcher Brian Anderson. Cubs center fielder Sam Fuld would put them ahead for good with a two-run single.
Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano threw six innings of shut out baseball, but had zero offensive support to back him up. His command was solid as he struck out eight and only walked five. However, a high pitch count would cut short his night. Zambrano would not suffer the loss in this one.
It was 10:19 back home in Chicago when the White Sox absorbed the first blow. As Mark Buehrle pitched the bottom of the fifth inning in Oakland, the Minnesota Twins closed out a comeback win against Cleveland, moving to the brink of another AL Central title.
Little more than an hour later, team MVP Paul Konerko grounded out to end a 7-2 loss, the eighth in a row and 12th in 14 games for the Sox. Their postseason hopes were pronounced dead at 11:37 by Hawk Harrelson, as he graciously congratulated the Twins, the first team to clinch a playoff berth, on their sixth division title in nine years.
From the "Don't See That Every Day" department: Tyler Colvin- outfielder, rookie, vampire? was impaled by the shattered (maple) bat of Wellington Castillo. Colvin suffered a partially collapsed lung and a rather deep stab wound as a result of the wooden shrapnel in one of the more surreal moments baseball fans would ever see at the ball park. Of course, the game was in Miami so literally dozens of fans actually witnessed the gruesome incident.
At least the White Sox were considerate enough to slip out of playoff contention before football season really got going. It's time to turn over our lives to the Bears and the Big Ten, and the Sox (and of course the Cubs) have ensured we don't really need to worry much about fall baseball around these parts.
The Cubs continued to play out the stretch this afternoon against a familiar foe in the New York Mets. Today's 5-3 victory earned them their second series win in a row and gives them an opportunity to go for the sweep tomorrow. They improve Interim Manager Mike Quade's record to 8-3 since taking over for Lou Piniella almost two weeks ago.
Carlos Zambrano continued his string of successful outings this afternoon.Zambrano pitched seven strong innings which included four hits, two earned runs and eight strikeouts. Since returning to the rotation Aug. 9, he is 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA (eight earned runs, 36 1/3 innings) in his past six starts. This may increase his trade value if they are looking to move him during the offseason.
After previously announcing that 2010 would be his final year as a Major League baseball manager, and subsequently his last year on the Cubs, Lou Piniella decided to take a well deserved early exit from the crumbling confines of Wrigley Field to take care of his mother. It was not a surprising move, nor was it a decision that had much consequence on the 2010 Chicago Cubs. Their season ended in the visitor's bullpen at U.S. Cellular Field on June 11th when Carlos Zambrano smashed his way through his team and some Gatorade coolers because Derrek Lee gave up that home run. The look on Lou's face during that incident said it all: "Please god, I am but an old, tired but accomplished man. Please get me the hell away from this train-wreck. I'll even go back to Tampa. What? They're good now? Well, sh*t!"
And so the Cubs' Piniella era came to an end. He was the first manager to bring the Northsiders to two consecutive playoff appearances since 1908, the last time they did that other thing. He brought the promise of intensity in a post-Dusty town. He was the Lovable Losers' lovable old codger. After a Cubs win, he was snappy and affable, drawing laughs from the media. After a Cubs loss, he was surly and quick to anger. He was the most memorable manager the Cubs had in ages and he is now gone, off to the Florida sunset so he can take care of his family and meander around his house in his old Reds jersey.
It's all Manny most of the time here at Tailgate, and I've still got time to follow up Rick's incisive post before he plays his first game in a White Sox uniform. Tuesday in Cleveland, Ramirez was held out of the starting lineup (because getting up early is hard) and made it only as far as the on-deck circle before a three-run homer by A.J. Pierzynski eliminated the need for his pinch-hitting services in the top of the ninth.
The blast gave the Sox a three-run lead and they hung on for a 4-3 win, but they're still 4 games behind first-place Minnesota in the AL Central. Even with the arrival of one of the best hitters in baseball history, they're going to have seriously pick it up if they're going to close that gap in the season's final 5 weeks. Manny Ramirez probably is worth only about one extra win by himself.
But heck, no one wants to hear about that. Let's all bathe in the warm, glowing light of one of the most fascinating and polarizing athletes in sports.
Boy, I pick some of the least representative games to write about.
For most of the month, there's been all kinds of weeping and gnashing of teeth about the sinking fortunes of the Chicago White Sox. Sure, there were four losses in six games against AL Central rival Minnesota, but that was only part of a string of five straight series losses to such limp foes as Detroit, Baltimore and Kansas City.
Yet every time I pop up here in Tailgate, the Sox are celebrating some absolute romp of a win. Last week it was an 11-0 win in the finale at Minnesota, a rare moment of sunshine in that frustrating series. And now the Sox are breathing a sigh of relief after Edwin Jackson and the bats rolled over the visiting Orioles, winning 8-0 on Thursday to capture their first series victory in three weeks.
After an emotional Lou Piniella stepped after yesterdays game against the Braves a new era was set to unfold in our Nation's Capital Monday night. Cubs third base coach Mike Quade took over as interim-manager for the remaining 37 games of what has been a disappointing 2010 season. The Cubs took on a lowly Nationals team, who like the Cubs, have been out of contention for quite some time. They were opposed by an old nemesis in the form of Livan Hernandez. The same Hernandez who mystified the Cubs in Game three of National League Division Series in 2007.
The Cubs offense began their scoring in the third inning. Blake DeWitt lead-off the inning with a solo-homer. Alfonso Soriano would hit a bloop triple that would score two. A triple that for all intents and purposes should've been an inside the park home run. The triple came to be after Nationals right fielder Willie Harris dove for the ball and proceeded to lay on the ground as the ball scooted down the right field line.
See, this is why I don't opine about each individual White Sox game. If I had popped off after Tuesday and Wednesday's one-run, stomach-punch losses in Minnesota -- critical losses with the AL Central threatening to slip away -- I might have sounded like Steve Rosenbloom, the Tribune's reliably Napoleonic armchair general.
That would have been silly. The Sox headed north trailing the first-place Twins by three games. They were by far most likely to exit the three-game series with a 2-1 or 1-2 split -- and a two- or four-game deficit. Fan and media fantasies that this brief meeting, 1/54 of the season, was going to decide a playoff spot were always a bit overblown.
Serious bragging rights will be on the line this weekend when baseball teams from the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Fire Department face off in their annual game at US Cellular Field.
The two teams have played every year since 2000 to raise money for charities that honor their fallen co-workers. But, CPD player-manager Eric Diaz said that once they hit the field the players are far from charitable.
"We have a mutual respect for each other, but between the lines we definitely get after it," Diaz siad.
Sgt. Diaz plays second base for the police squad and has been a part of the team since they first started playing. He played high school ball at perennial South Side power Brother Rice. He said most of the players on both teams played in high school, college or the minor leagues.
Really, I haven't been a fan of Juan Pierre. Nothing personal, but I was about ready to puncture my own ear drums if I had to keep listening to Ozzie Guillen extol the virtues of a leadoff hitter who was years past his prime.
It's not as bad as the White Sox conventional wisdom on Andruw Jones' defensive abilities -- the 10-time Gold Glove winner hasn't been an even average outfielder in three years since leaving Atlanta -- but the Pierre hype has been more than puzzling. To hear Ozzie and others tell it, the 11-year veteran hasn't lost a step since he was taking over games for the Florida Marlins in 2003 and 2004.
Well, that wasn't at all how the White Sox wanted to end a crucial series against their biggest rival.
Thursday's 6-1 loss to Minnesota wasn't the end of the world; though it gave the Twins a one-game AL Central lead after the teams split the first two games, they'll meet again next week at Target Field. Yet this must rank with Chicago's more frustrating losses of the season, with a handful of critical mistakes, a bunch of runners left on base and a fateful managerial decision that helped the visitors deal the clinching blow.
Ah yes, this is why the wizened men in the White Sox front office pushed to acquire a starting pitcher at the trading deadline. They wondered how rookie Daniel Hudson would hold up in a pennant race, but they also questioned whether 12-year veteran Freddy Garcia could continue to come through as the fourth starter.
Tuesday night, Garcia gave the men upstairs more cause for concern, exiting after 2.1 abysmal innings as the Sox began the final 50 games of the season with a 12-6 loss to visiting Minnesota. Tied with Chicago at the start of this three-game series -- the first of six games between the two teams in 10 days -- the Twins edged into a one-game lead atop the AL Central Division.
The Minnesota Twins are on the horizon and the White Sox are nursing their wounds after dropping three of four in Baltimore, a fate sealed when the Orioles won Monday night for the sixth time in seven games under Buck Showalter, walking off with a 3-2 win when Brian Roberts homered off J.J. Putz in the 10th inning.
But before the AL Central co-leaders -- both with 63-49 records -- meet Tuesday for the first of six games in 10 days, let's finish off the back half of the everyone's favorite White Sox quasi-reality show, the six-part MLB Network miniseries "The Club."
You'll recall that recapping the firstthreeepisodes in detail nearly sucked the life force bodily from me, so let's just hit the highlights this time. There actually were a few.
This is one of those days when Ozzie Guillen looks like a genius.
Not 24 hours ago, the White Sox manager vociferously defended Mark Kotsay against media jackals who questioned why an aging journeyman with a .215 batting average and a .636 OPS was still starting at designated hitter instead of baby bull Dayan Viciedo.
Vindication came Thursday afternoon in Detroit, as the first-place Sox prevailed in 11 innings, 6-4, despite another ninth-inning collapse by Bobby Jenks. Kotsay went 3-for-5, including a two-run homer and a two-run triple in the 11th that helped Chicago take three of four games from the fading Tigers.
The Cubs broke out the big lumber this afternoon as they avoided a potential sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers. Four home runs powered the Cubs to a 15-3 victory over the Brew Crew. They were down 3-1 as late as the bottom of the sixth before the offense awoke from its slumber. With two outs and 0-2 count newcomer Blake DeWitt drove in the tying run and Jeff Baker knocked in the go-ahead run.
However, it would be Aramis Ramirez's three-run pinch hit home run that broke it wide open. The Cubs weren't done there. Geovany Soto would hit a three-run homer in the seventh to make it a 10-3 lead. DeWitt would also hit a three-run homer of his own in the bottom of the eighth.
It's Monday and/or Tuesday, which must mean it's time for another installment of that quasi-reality show than literally tens of White Sox fans can't wait to see every week: "The Club," presented by Selig & Reinsdorf's House of Sanitized Promotional Television.
If you missed episodes one and two of The Ozzie & Kenny Show, first of all, congratulations. Also, you can find our lengthy, increasingly shambling recaps hither and yon.
It's been a busy few days for the first-place Chicago White Sox, what with the passing of the non-waiver trading deadline and the conclusion of a wildly successful seven-game homestand against Seattle and Oakland. And of course, Ozzie closed it out with a sermon on race in baseball.
The weekend drama kicked into high gear when the Sox traded young pitchers Dan Hudson and David Holmberg to Arizona for right-hander Edwin Jackson, a 26-year-old veteran of (now) five teams in eight years who pretty much defines "unharnessed potential." He's the guy who no-hit Tampa Bay in June but needed 149 pitches because he also walked eight batters.
But the story behind the story was equally compelling.
After an uneven road trip, with trading deadline speculation in full swing, home has provided all the comforts the White Sox could require as they fight to hold on to first place in the AL Central.
John Danks, Gavin Floyd and a brawny offensive display helped the Sox outscore Seattle 17-1 on Monday and Tuesday in the first of seven straight home games -- and that set the stage Wednesday for a night of high drama.
It's Monday Tuesday(!), which means it's time to take a break from the daily fortunes of the Chicago White Sox and instead hop in the way-back machine for another installment of the MLB Network's oddly timed reality show, "The Club."
Last Sunday, the first episode of this four-week miniseries took us from spring training through mid-May, and it is there that we pick up this week with a White Sox team struggling to beat even the perennially hapless Kansas City Royals.
The aforementioned Castro had a big day at the plate. He went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer, his first at Wrigley and was a triple away from cycle. The Cubs were also helped out by more sloppy defense from St. Louis. Cardinals starter Blake Hawksworth uncorked a wild pitch in the bottom of the fifth that allowed Castro to score from third.
It's an off day on the South Side of Chicago and the first-place White Sox are coming off a near-sweep in Seattle, denied perfection only by Bobby Jenks' second collapse in four days. So while half the Sox cognoscenti work themselves into a lather debating which of the team's four capable relievers should get the ball in the ninth inning, the other half has plenty of time to indulge in trading deadline fantasies.
Most trade scenarios seem concocted primarily from rumor and speculation -- see if you find any substantive facts in theserecentarticles about Prince Fielder -- but the majority are built on one premise: The White Sox need to add a left-handed bat to their lineup.
One notable evening was during one of their last home games during this stretch, Friday, July 9th to be exact. Everything that could have gone right did. Aside from Mark Buehrle getting smacked on the hand by a line drive from former Sox lead-off man, the turbo charged Scott Podsednek, it was a perfect evening. Buehrle soon recovered from the incident and refused to allow anyone to cross the plate for six strong innings. A.J. Pierzynski went out of his way to prove why he is still a fan favorite and clobbered two home runs. The Friday night post game fireworks show supplemented A.J.'s dingers as Sox fans throughout The Cell relaxed and reflected on what a great ride our team was taking us on. It was a perfect evening and an exceptional game. Nobody there could have possibly asked for more.
Ramirez began his offensive onslaught in the fourth inning with a solo homer off Astros starter Wesley Wright. He would hit a three-run homer in the fifth and he wasn't done there. That brought the Cubs with one run of the lead. Geovany Soto would hit a solo home run to tie it seven all.
If you missed Sunday night's opening hour of the new White Sox behind-the-scenes miniseries, "The Club," you didn't miss too much. It's an MLB production, so it's highly sanitized, and it's geared toward a national audience, so it focuses laboriously on the soap opera trio of Ozzie Guillen, Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf.
But we recapped it anyway, so come along, Sox completists, and maybe you'll pick up an anecdotal nugget or two.
After dropping two of three close games against the Twins, the White Sox were three outs away from victory Sunday afternoon. With Bobby Jenks on to protect a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, the Sox seemed poised to escape Minnesota with a four-game split, salvaging some of the magic of their recent season-changing surge.
But Jenks had nothing, and Sergio Santos couldn't save him, either. Three walks, three singles and a climactic throwing error by center fielder Alex Rios [video] gave the Twins four ninth-inning runs and a stunning, 7-6 win.
The Cubs scoring began with a bases loaded walk to Ted Lilly in the bottom of the fifth. The Phillies would retake the lead in the sixth, but the Cubs would come right back in their half of the sixth after none other than Aramis Ramirez delivered a two-out double. All-Star hero Marlon would smack a two-run homer on the first pitch to tie the game at 3-3.
Saves are sometimes the most overrated stat in baseball, but not tonight.
Not after the White Sox rallied to overcome Minnesota's six-run second inning and John Danks handed a two-run lead to the bullpen for the final nine outs. Not after Sergio Santos stumbled in the eighth, loading the bases with two outs.
With the 81st All-Star game in the bag it is time to grade the Cubs performance for the first half. The 2009 Cubs were disastrous and the 2010 Cubs were supposed to rebound after last years abysmal season. The 2009 version has seemingly spread to the 2010 version. Minus Milton Bradley the Cubs were supposed to compete, however they've done everything except that. Carlos Zambrano has taken the place of Bradley with just as much drama and not a lot to show for in the production department.
Lets start with the offense or lack of offense. The Cubs are 12th in league with runners in scoring position, 14th in runs scored, and they are 13th with RISP with two outs. Those numbers aren't going to cut. Its amazing how much this team has fallen from 2008. They were first in the league that year with RISP, eighth with two outs and RISP and they also lead the league in scoring with bases loaded.
With all real baseball fans paying at best cursory attention to the monstrosity known as the modern Home Run Derby, let's rewind to Sunday afternoon and examine Daniel Hudson's first attempt at filling the void left in the White Sox rotation by Jake Peavy's season-ending injury.
Overall, it wasn't great. The 23-year-old right-hander threw 74 pitches and left after failing to retire a batter in the fifth inning. Staked to an 8-1 lead after Chicago's seven-run third inning, Hudson couldn't hang around long enough to get the victory.
It seemed likely, when the season was at its lowest ebb, that the White Sox weren't quite as bad as they'd looked so far. Even with a fair number of veterans on the down slope of their careers, the idea of regression to the mean suggested they wouldn't be this bad all summer.
But no one expected 25 wins in 30 games, a brilliant run that concluded triumphantly with a 15-5 win Sunday against Kansas City to finish off a perfect seven-game homestand and send the Sox into the All-Star break in playoff pole position. They now lead second-place Detroit by one-half game in the AL Central and Minnesota by three and a half.
Sunday's winning formula, moreover, was fueled by five Chicago home runs -- four in the third inning -- which fit nicely with one of the more puzzling memes we've seen from Sox observers in recent weeks. Are there really smart people out there who are surprised to see these guys hitting home runs by the bunches?
The dreaded West Coast road trip is currently upon the Cubs. This trip has been known to make or break any given Cubs team in years past. After sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks, something no Cubs team has ever done before, they moved onto Los Angeles to taken on a familiar foe in the Dodgers. The all-time series between these two clubs is pretty close L.A. leads it 1,020-1,018. After losing the first two of this four games series the Cubs rebounded Saturday afternoon to not only guarantee themselves a winning road trip, but a possible split with the Dodgers.
The offense has come to life on this trip scoring 39 runs in their last six games combined. The run scoring has been due in large part to Geovany Soto and Aramis Ramirez, both would have contributions in todays game. The scoring began in the second inning after rookie Starlin Castro got things going with an RBI single.
If you worried that Jake Peavy's season-ending injury would end the winning vibe the White Sox have been riding for the past month, perhaps you weren't paying attention to the recent work submitted by the rest of the starting rotation.
While Peavy is arguably the biggest name of the group, he has plenty of help. That came through loud and clear Thursday and Friday as the Sox closed out a sweep of the Los Angeles Angels and won the first of three games with Kansas City, giving them six straight wins and 23 in the past 28 games.
We knew the news would not be good, not the way Jake Peavy was hopping around last night after injuring himself on a second-inning pitch. But a detached latissimus dorsi muscle? Yeouch.
"This isn't good news, having something completely detached from the bone," Peavy told reporters before the White Sox beat the visiting Angels 5-2 on Wednesday for their 21st win in 26 games.
No sir. No it is not. Now the question is just what this bad news means for Chicago's playoff chances. What happens in the likely event that Peavy, one of their top starters, can't pitch again until 2011?
The Cubs have entered the month of July still trying to turn it around after June was another disappointing month. They currently find themselves tied for third place with a 37-47 record. You begin to wonder if they will be buyers or sellers as the trade deadline rapidly approaches. If they continue play the way they have they will most certainly be sellers.
They haven't shown any signs of turning it around. Sure, they will win a couple here and there, but by then they will turn around and lose four or five. This team has been so hard to watch this season. You want to root for these guys, but they sure do make it hard on themselves sometimes.
With the Chicago Cubs out of town the Peoria Chiefs took up residency at Wrigley Field Wednesday night for the third annual Road to Wrigley game. The Chiefs took on the Kane County Cougars. The Cougars took an early lead in the third on an RBI single by Tyreace House. The Chiefs would answer right back in their half of third with an RBI single from Mario Mercedes.
Peoria would break the 1-1 tie on a Jae-Hoon Ha three-run homer (3) in the fourth. Kane County would score in the sixth on an RBI double by Mike Gilmartin. The Chiefs would add one more on an RBI single by DJ Fitzgerald in the eighth and that would be all they needed to secure a victory. Their win tonight ended a four-game losing streak which made for a happy manager afterwards.
White Sox players, coaches and fans have been talking up Paul Konerko for weeks now: He's our best hitter, our leader, our heart and soul. He's the reason we saved our season over the past month. He clearly deserves to play in the All-Star Game.
They're right on all of that except the last part. That depends how you define "deserves."
Kosuke Fukudome launched his seventh homer of the season to deep center field. This appeared to loosen up the rest of the lineup as others got in on the act as well. Rookie Starlin Castro hit a two-run triple and would later score on a Geovany Soto double in the same inning.
Chicago's home to lovable losing and understated, classic stadia aesthetics, Wrigley Field is once again hosting the Cubs "Road To Wrigley" night on Wednesday, July 7. The annual game pits the North Siders' farm team, the Peoria Chiefs, against a rival minor league squad -- this year it's the Kane County Cougars. The game has been big hit with Cubs fans since it started three years ago and with the Cubs on a west coast road trip (and mired in fourth place in the NL Central) this season's game promises to be a welcome break. Fans' wallets will receive a break as well, with game tickets starting for a mere five bucks! In addition to the low ticket prices; "Road to Wrigley" night features $2 hot dogs and beer prices sinking to the very un-Wrigley price of $3.50 per brew -- if you're keeping score at home, yes, that's half the price of a regular Old Style.
If the minor league prices aren't enough to "take you out to the ball game," for the families, Levy Restaurants (the catering company at Wrigley) will also be offering kids cooking classes, and all kids will get a chance to run the bases after the game.
As the White Sox return for their final homestand before the all-star break, a playoff berth is undeniably within their grasp. After taking two of three at Texas, with Mark Buehrle helping fuel a 5-3 win in Sunday's rubber game, Chicago stands only 1 game behind AL Central co-leaders Detroit and Minnesota.
After being beaten like the proverbial drum yesterday the Cubs tried something new for a change Saturday afternoon, winning. Despite leaving 17 men on base in this one they managed to put three runs up in support of Cubs starter Randy Wells. Wells has been in a slump since April, but his offense manage to support his stellar pitching performance.
Wells took a no-hitter in the seventh inning, he gave up five hits, one run and struck out five. Today was the first win for Wells since April 30. He pitched one of his better games of the year today. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild tweaked Wells' delivery and it seemed to make a difference.
There's no sharper observer of major-league baseball than Rob Neyer, so I had to laugh when the pioneering ESPN.com columnist posted about Omar Vizquel this afternoon on Twitter, joking that the White Sox surely had no chance to win the AL Central if they continued to start the 43-year-old slap hitter at third base.
I've thought along the same lines myself this summer, wondering how Kenny Williams could hand the hot corner to such luminaries as Vizquel, the since-injured Mark Teahen and the since-released Jayson Nix. Vizquel, one of the finest defensive infielders in baseball history, was a nice luxury to have on the bench, but with a .630 OPS, what was he doing in the starting lineup so often?
I was gone, you see, for the entire 11-game win streak, off getting married and honeymooning with my new bride. I didn't see the Sox sweep the Pirates or the Nationals or the Braves. I didn't see them beat the Cubs on Friday and Saturday -- but I did get back in time to catch Sunday's streak-ending loss.
Monday, it was my sad duty to preside over a 3-1 loss in the first of three games in Kansas City.
Like their first meeting, the Cubs had to win the final game to avoid the embarrassment of being swept. This weekend was no different. Down as early as the first inning, the Cubs diligently fought back. Tyler Colvin got things rolling with a three-run homer in the third inning. They wouldn't look back after taking the lead early in this one. They continued to tack on runs as the game rolled along.
Derrek Lee drove in a pair with a double in the fifth making it 5-2 Cubs; Geovany Soto would add to that with an RBI double in the sixth. Alfonso Soriano put the cap on things in the eighth with a solo home run. The runs were more than enough for Ryan Dempster who pitched seven innings. Giving up three runs and struck out eight and only walked one.
The Cubs lost yet again Friday afternoon to their intercity rivals. Jake Peavy made the Cubs look lost at the plate as the Sox rolled on to their 10th consecutive victory. However, the bigger story coming from this game was not the action on the field, but off it.
Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano surrendered four runs in the bottom of the first. After recording the third out the inning Zambrano stormed into the Cubs dugout and became irate, screaming and making a scene. It would eventually lead to a shouting match between him and Derrek Lee.
With the Cubs on their way to the Pacific Northwest its the perfect time to talk some Cubs baseball. As good as the Cubs looked yesterday they looked as equally bad the two previous days before that. In the first two games against the Angels they committed five errors. In the first game three of those errors resulted in the opposition scoring runs. Had they not made those errors they would've been looking at a walk-off win on Friday.
In the first two games of that series the Angels just flat out embarrassed the Cubs. They did everything right. They fielded the ball, moved runners into scoring position when it was necessary, all the little things that the Cubs should be doing, but are not. I don't understand how a team can be that bad fundamentally.
Less then 24 hours after being shellacked by the Angels 12-0, the Cubs return the favor with a beat-down of their own. Just trying to avoid being swept by the league best Angels the Cubs offense finally came to life. The last time the Cubs had won with 10 runs or more you have to go back to May 7, when Starlin Castro and company beat the Cincinnati Reds 14-7. To say they were due for a blowout victory is an understatement.
They started scoring right off the bat in the bottom of the first. An errant throw by Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick resulted in an infield single by Alfonso Soriano. Two scored as result of the defensive miscue. The Cubs continued to pour it on scoring again in the second and third innings respectively.
With Wells pitching well all he would need is some offense. It came early in today's game in the form of Jeff Baker. He launched a solo home run of A's starter Dallas Braden. They have an opportunity to break the game wide open in their half of the first, but failed to score more then one despite having the bases loaded with only one out.
If ever you're rooting for a baseball team and you think they have hit rock bottom, hope they get to play a team or two from the National League Central Division -- otherwise known as the collection of teams where has-beens mingle with minor league players. The Chicago White Sox, a team struggling so hard in 2010 their general manager Kenny Williams has had his itchy trigger finger hovering above the FIRE SALE! button, just won their third series in a row. The confounding variable in the question of whether or not the Sox have begun to finally turn things around of course, is the fact that they have been playing some pretty substandard teams this past week.
Just a couple of days after the Sox had answered the question of who the worst team in town is (answer: The Cubs), they traveled to Pittsburgh to play a relaxing, breezy set against the Pirates. The Bucs are doing so poorly this season, all MLB memorabilia for this team should come with rebate program; the percentage of how much is refunded can be determined by how many losses they have. Anyone who spends money on anything Pirates related should get some incentive. Yesterday was the tenth game they have lost in a row and the team currently has three losing streaks this season in which they have lost five or more consecutive games. The Pirates are third in errors (53), have the second highest ERA (5.24) and are dead last in runs scored (210) and batting average (.236). In other words, they're not very good at playing baseball.
The Cubs were on the verge of being swept by their neighbors to the South for the first time since 1999. Ted Lilly had other ideas in mind Sunday night as he took on the Sox. Lilly has been victimized by lack of run support this season sporting a 1-5 record before coming into tonight's game. He has pitched better then his record may indicate and tonight was the prime example of that.
Inning after inning, Ted Lilly and Gavin Floyd matched each other pitch for pitch and out for out. Neither had given up a hit, and neither seemed inclined to falter any time soon. With the Stanley Cup in the house, the Cubs and White Sox were validating the national spotlight of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.
Big game at Wrigley on Saturday afternoon, with Mark Buehrle and Carlos Silva treating a national (or at least regional) FOX audience to a sharp pitchers' duel that ended with Bobby Jenks and the White Sox hanging on for a 2-1 win.
Addled by patriotism/nationalism/jingoism and memories of one of the ugliest goals in World Cup history, I'm hard pressed to fashion anything more coherent than a hail of bullets. And heck, there's just too much to dissect as the Sox celebrate a season-best four-game win streak and the Cubs absorb three straight losses.
Friday was busy sports day in Chicago, with a certain hockey team celebrating its first Stanley Cup title in 49 years and soccer fans celebrating the start of the world's biggest quadrennial sporting event. But the matinee at Wrigley, the first meeting of the summer between the Cubs and White Sox, deserved a little attention as well.
Tomorrow begins the annual Crosstown Classic. While many of you have had your attention focused on Chi-town's newest Champions and rightfully so the Cubs and Sox have been playing less than stellar ball up to this point, however, that doesn't mean the hype won't be there.
For those of you who don't know where my loyalties I will tell you. I am a Cubs fan. Always have been, always will be. That doesn't mean I hate the White Sox. If there is any hatred for any given baseball team its the St. Louis Cardinals. I have nothing against the White Sox as a team,however,I do have a problem with some of their fans. I will be the first to admit that there are Cub fans that can be just as ignorant as Sox fans. Both teams have ignorant fans. Unfortunately this series tends to bring out the worst in the fans.
It's hard to ascribe much importance to individual White Sox wins and losses these days, what with their general manager talking openly about the possibility of dealing away any number of high-priced veterans. But if 2011 is fast overtaking 2010, there are plenty of questions that need answering in the coming months -- and chief among them is what the franchise can realistically expect going forward from potential building blocks such as John Danks, Gordon Beckham and Gavin Floyd.
That why Thursday afternoon was such a delight. Danks, after starting the season strong, had been awful his pasttwo outings, but he bounced back in a big way in the last of three games with Detroit. The fourth-year left-hander isn't really built to dominate hitters, but he hit his spots and kept the Tigers off balance with his changeup, leading Chicago to a 3-0 win and a rare series win heading into this weekend's matchup with the Cubs.
It was a beautiful night for baseball, and though most of Chicago turned their focus elsewhere, the White Sox enjoyed every minute of it. They took control with seven runs in the fourth inning and finished off the Detroit Tigers with another seven in the eighth, winning 15-3 at U.S. Cellular Field.
The White Sox spent the night honoring longtime broadcaster Ken Harrelson, but the best present they could have given the Hawk, a victory, was ripped cruelly from their grasp after stalwart reliever Matt Thornton fell apart in the seventh inning. Detroit scored six runs and went on to a 7-2 win in the first of three games at U.S. Cellular Field.
When the Cubs acquired Carlos Silva from the Seattle Mariners many hoped he would do just enough to anchor the back end of the rotation. To say Silva has met those expectations is the biggest understatement of the season. Silva came into Monday's make-up game with the Pirates with a chance to go 8-0. A feat not seen since Cubs rookie Kenny Holtzman started 8-0 in 1967.
If ever the Cubs needed a win against Pittsburgh Silva was the man to do it. He pitched seven strong innings limiting the Buc's to one run over four hits. The offense,which has been sluggish this entire season got the job done.
To see the difficulty major-league scouts and draft analysts had projecting left-handed pitcher Chris Sale, you needed only to check ESPN analyst Keith Law's final mock draft. He slotted Sale at No. 10 and wondered if he might go as early as fourth or fifth. Several teams liked the kid a lot.
But when Law, a former front office assistant with the Toronto Blue Jays, assigned the players his own rankings, he pegged Sale 47th. Too much can go wrong with a 6-6, 175-pound beanpole to be confident about his major-league future.
This weekend, the Cubs and White Sox will begin their annual showdown. Despite the fact that either team has yet to display anything resembling professional baseball in 2010, fans in this city will still treat this with the importance of the World Series times the Super Bowl times the second coming of Babe Ruth. No matter how bad the Cubs and Sox are performing, you can always count on interleague play being over-inflated with importance due to both sides of town having equally crippling Second City Complexes. Will the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup this week? It doesn't matter June 11th through 13th (and again June 25th through 27th), as baseball fans from both sides of the city come together to drink, yell and fight in the contest over whether the American League or the National League Central Division has the slightly better under-performing major market team.
This year also marks the inaugural Crosstown Cup series. In addition to giving their fans a weekend distraction from how poorly they're doing in the standings, the Sox and Cubs will now be battling for a cheap piece of PR from the company that just took a two month crap all over the Gulf of Mexico and the proprietors of suburbia's favorite feedbag, British Petroleum. The series is still sadly being sponsored by the oil conglomerate, though it is now "scaled back," which hopefully means less AM/PM commercials. Having the crosstown classic sponsored by a company responsible for such an immense disaster showcases just how sad the rivalry in this town really is. If either Cubs or Sox had anything to be proud of this season, fighting over a trophy might actually mean something. Both teams are sub .500 and in third place, and both are lucky to be there. Both the Cubs and the Sox played the worst teams in their divisions this last weekend and both dropped two out of three games. Top off this mediocrity with a trophy presented by the company responsible for murdering countless wildlife and deluging nearly 20,000 gallons of crude oil a day for the last 50 days, and you have what stands to be the most depressing contest in the history of baseball.
Let's take a look at how each team has been doing so far.
It won't solve all their problems, not sitting closer to last place than first in the AL Central, but Sunday's comeback win helped the White Sox stave off a sweep by rebuilding Cleveland and forestall an immediate referendum on the hold-or-fold decisions awaiting Kenny Williams as baseball's trading season heats up.
Or you could forget all that big-picture stuff and just enjoy the moment. Celebrate the perseverance of a Sox team that kept fighting after falling behind 6-2 in the third inning; the performance of long man Tony Pena and the Chicago bullpen; and the excitement of an all-hands-on-deck rally that tied the game with three runs in the sixth and peaked when Carlos Quentin drove in the go-ahead runs with a two-RBI single in the seventh.
At times, it can be hard to discern whether the frequent futility of the White Sox offense stems from a lack of skill or a lack of luck. There is evidence to support both conclusions -- and the answer probably encompasses both.
But mired as they are in the bottom third of MLB teams in total runs, it can be painful to watch these 2010 Sox struggle to score. Saturday they squandered a fine effort by mercurial would-be ace Jake Peavy, falling for the second straight night to visiting Cleveland, 3-1.
The White Sox were looking good through five innings Friday night. John Danks was pitching like the frontline starter he'd been all season, keeping the last-place Indians off balance while the Sox lineup got into the Cleveland bullpen. But that didn't last.
One-third of the way through a torpid season, the White Sox turned back the clock. For the first time in a while, they got a strong effort from their starter, three home runs and a shutdown performance from the bullpen. It felt like the good old days. For one night, at least, it was 2005.
Father's Day is right around the corner. I hope to use this holiest of days to back my father a little bit since I broke his heart by rooting for his sworn enemies. It has been over two months since I have declared myself a Sox fan, and the poor man, clearly deserving of a better son, is still having a hard time dealing with it. The best way to get back in his good graces, of course, is to show him I still hope the Cubs make him happy somehow, some way. I would like to buy him a gift, or a few gifts, that would demonstrate my appreciation for the fact that he is still a Cubs fan.
There is however quite a lot of sports memorabilia out there. While I have found some nice gift possibilities, there is a great deal of useless crap to sort through. Obviously, the more popular the team, the more ostentatious and outlandish the wares will be. So given that the Cubs not only have a massive, nationwide fan base, but also a patently naive one, the amount of Cubs swap meet material no human should ever purchase under any circumstances is pretty staggering. But sort through them I did. Here is a list of items so terrible, I imagine they would only make my father hate me even more.
It took until the bottom of eighth for the Cubs to get their only run of the game. It came after Mike Fontenot lead off the inning with a triple. Tyler Colvin would later drive Fontenot in after doubling down the right field line. The lack off offense was no problem for Cubs starter Ted Lilly.
Just the other day, I made a post about how refreshing it is to root for a manager who most likely mentally ill. Sure his behavior is not always becoming of a professional baseball manager, but the man loves a good fight when it comes to his team. I am going to be honest, I had some qualms about making that post. It didn't seem right to encourage all off Ozzie Guillen's outbursts just because Cub's managers make me sleepy.
Not even a day had passed, and Ozzie justified the decision. As I am sure everyone with at least half an ear towards sports radio has heard, Mark Buehrle was ejected after some very questionable balks yesterday in Cleveland. The situation was further agitated by the fact that the source of the calls was the ego-maniacal Joe West, who has been causing trouble elsewhere in the MLB this season. If there was anyone in the league that was going to take West to task, let's be glad it was our ball of rage on the Southside.
Chicago is fortunate in that we have not only two baseball teams, but also that each team has a manager that does a great job embodying the spirit of their respective teams. This is important to Chicagoans. We like to identify with our teams. The Cubs have Lou Piniella: the sleepy old codger, with not quite enough pep to make it to the finish line these days. The White Sox have Ozzie Guillen: the feisty ball of anger, full of scorn for the media, his players and the North Side. Despite all the trouble both teams are currently having, we should at least take solace in that fact. As someone who spent a few decades on the Cubs managerial merry-go-round, with its Trebelborns and its Rigglemans, I can appreciate the Piniella's and Guillen's of the world.
I was excited when the Cubs hired Lou. Like all Cubs fans on the smarter side of Addison, I really wanted Joe Girardi to replace Dusty Baker when the Cubs finally wised up and showed the toothpick-noshing whiskey lover the door (I am well aware he is having a good year, get off my back), but the Cubs got Lou and Girardi fell into obscurity. Lou was a good second prize for the Cubs at the time. He had won a World Series; but more importantly, he had intensity. Sports fans, like the American public when electing a new president, tend to want a leader who is the opposite of the guy who failed last. The bookish, hyper-educated, smooth talking Barack Obama was an easy pick to contrast the seemingly dimwitted, speech and grammar pillaging George W. Bush. Similarly, the brash, base-throwing, ump-hating Lou was easily embraced by the Cubs fans tired of the sleepy dog, rotation-mismanaging, mediocrity-begetting Dusty Baker. With Lou came the promise of fire and brimstone for all that stood in the Cubs way. No longer would the talent on the Cubs slack off and let the team slide into third place behind the Cardinals and Astros. Lou was going to set things right.
After trading Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva this offseason many thought Silva didn't stand a chance of lasting in the rotation based on his lackluster seasons in Seattle. However, you wouldn't know it by the way he has pitched this season. Silva was 4-0 going into Tuesday nights game against the Rockies.
When it was all said and done he would be 5-0. Silva pitched six innings and only allowing two runs on six hits. The two runs came on a home run by Todd Helton. The offense would back up their starter to the tune of six runs. The Cubs Ryan Theriot and Starlin Castro combined for four RBI.
That wouldn't be all from him this evening though. Koyie Hill drove in the second run in the fourth with an RBI single to left. Cubs starter Randy Wells pitched six and two-thirds innings giving up one run on seven hits and only one walk. Wells pitched well enough to win this game, but was a victim of a shaky bullpen. Cubs reliever John Grabow issued a pair of walks in the eighth inning which resulted in the game being tied.
I have to admit that I have been playing to stereotypes a little in this column. Normally I would feel guilty about that sort of thing, but we're dealing with baseball fans -- namely, the hard drinking party-guy Cubs fan, less interested in the number of runs on the old, green scoreboard than the number of pink Cubs hats in the bleachers and the bitter but noble, baseball -savvy Sox fan, hunched over his score card ready to boo the hell out of under-performing players -- not the United Nations. It is more in the interest of fun than any attempt to be mean spirited. I would much rather share some laughs than pick a fight. I do this partly because it makes my job easier, but also because sometimes these stereotypes have a few thousand grains of truth to them. But, to be honest, when it really comes down to it, the disparity between the North and South sides of our city are probably not that great. I am sure there are plenty of frat boys at U.S. Cellular and I am also sure if I really spent all weekend with a team of super detectives at my disposal, I could round up a few Cubs fans capable of explaining the Infield Fly Rule. Probably.
There is however one aspect of Sox fandom I have yet to touch on, and that's because it is a more sensitive element in the gamut of Chicago baseball sociology. It is an especially delicate facet for me to talk about, since I am new to this particular side of town, figuratively speaking. It would seem unwise to take an entire subculture to task while simultaneously asking them for acceptance. In the interest of maintaining honesty though, it is probably something I should address since I have already made my case for the silliness of Cubs fans. So since I am a fair guy, always willing to look at all sides of a pointless issue, I am now forced to deal with the specter of whether or not Sox fans are A-Holes.
It became apparent after being swept the hapless Pirates that the Cubs offense needed a spark. That spark came in the form of 20-year-old rookie shortstop Starlin Castro and he didn't waste any time making his presence felt. In his first major league at-bat Castro hit a three-run homer. His home run appeared awaken the slumbering offense. Castro would also have a three-run triple in his third at-bat. He set an RBI record with 6 total runs batted in, which is now the most by any one in their first major league game.
Marlon Byrd contributed with a two-run homer and Mike Fontenot would put the game out of reach in the eighth with a pinch-hit grand slam. Carlos Silva did his best to keep the Reds off the board. He was hit hard, however, of those 10 hits only four produced runs. He lasted only five innings, but it was good enough for a win.
What has been an unsettling trend for the 2010 Cubs continued Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. A lack of clutch hitting or any kind of offense for that matter has continued to plague this team. While the left a minimal amount of runners on base, four to be exact. That can happen to any team, however, it is the fact that couldn't get anything going against Pirates starter Charlie Morton.
Morton came into Wednesday nights game 0-5 with an ERA of 12 plus. That is the worst part about this loss. The entire Pirates pitching staff's combined ERA is above six. The Cubs should've been all over Morton instead they managed to score two runs. They had Morton on the ropes in the fourth, but failed to deliver that one big blow.
Hey guys, how's it going? I'm fine, thank you. I hope your trip home went well, given that most of your time away from Chicago looked to be pretty aggravating. How was the weather in Texas? Did you have fun in New York (when you weren't getting trampled by the current World Series champs, I mean)? I heard Alex Rios had a kid while you were on the road. Good for him. At least one of you guys is scoring, am I right? I'm kidding; I'm kidding. But actually, that brings me to the point of this letter.
Now I know we haven't known each other very long. I mean, I've known you guys my whole life, but up until now I haven't really cared about your success. Well, that's not true either. I cared a lot in 2005, but not the way you would have wanted me to. I pretty much did everything short of sacrificing a child to Old Testament God to stop you guys from winning that World Series. It's not that I disliked you at the time; I think you're all real swell. It's just that I am lifelong friends with some pretty relentless Sox fans, and I didn't want them to have the bragging rights to end all bragging rights. I was a Cubs fan until recently, and these same friends dressed up as the Florida Marlins for Halloween in 2003. So you can see why your success made me a little uneasy back then.
After an 11-5 beat down of the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday the Cubs played spoilers again this afternoon at Wrigley. With the wind blowing out as it has been since the start of this series on Thursday it appeared to be another high-scoring, slugfest. Usually when the television and radio announcers predict these kinds of games it turns out to be a low-scoring snooze-fest, however, that would not be the case.
Down 5-3 as late as the seventh inning Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano played heroes in this one. Many words have been used to describe Soriano since he came to the Cubs in 2007. Some good and some bad. However, when Soriano is right he can carry a team for days even weeks in some instances. His hot September was the reason the Cubs reached the playoffs in '07. In the last two days he has been hitting like a mad man.
The White Sox and Cubs held a press conference this morning to announce the "BP Crosstown Cup," which will be awarded to the winner of the inter-league series, annually. In the case of a tie, the trophy goes to the winner of game 6.
The crosstown trophy concept has been done elsewhere, but I personally don't see this adding much to the rivalry. Fans in this town are already pretty passionate about their respective teams, and tend to be pretty vicious towards one another when they are visited by their respective crosstown rival. I think our Second City Complexes will overshadow any trophy a petroleum company presents, especially since the White Sox already won the one trophy that matters. But who knows, maybe this will add fuel to the fire.
During the summer of 1969, that fateful summer the Chicago Cubs had arguably the best team in their history yet still failed to make it to or succeed in the World Series, my father was 12 years old. He was fortunate enough to attend many of the Cubs home games that season. Back then, Wrigley had not yet established itself as the overcrowded den of inequity in high demand it is today. A neighborhood kid, such as my father, could get into Cubs games easily -- go to a game, help sweep the aisles afterwards and get free tickets to the next one. In doing this, he was not only able to obtain a first hand account of a monumental season in the history of his favorite ball club, but also establish himself, in my mind, as one of the greatest sports fans any team could be lucky enough to have. He has always been a true fan, honest and dedicated, regardless of how poorly his team performed or how difficult it was to root for them. He has always been there, as much a part of their history as they were his. More then anyone else, he deserves to see them win.
Growing up with this man as my example of what a Wrigleyvillian embodied, it was a long time before I could ever fathom the idea of someone not liking Cubs fans. All the man wanted in exchange for his fanaticism was to see his team win. He isn't a bleacher bum and he isn't frat boy, he is just a great guy rooting for the wrong team. Based on the wrongful assumption that all who attend Cubs games are a lot like him, it only made sense that A) people who don't like Cubs fans are in small number and B) those who do not are dismissible crazies. Well, it might come as a surprise to some of you, but a lot of peoplejustdon'tlikeCubsfans.
Tyler Colvin got the Cubs on the board in the first inning with a two-run double. Fukudome, who hits well in Miller Park, hit his second home run of the series in the second. A two-run shot. The Cubs would also get home runs from Derrek Lee, Tyler Colvin and Geovany Soto. Both Colvin and Fukudome were a triple shy of the cycle. The offense would end the day with eighteen hits,a season-high.
Starting pitching for the Cubs first 16 games of the year has been above par. Ryan Dempster has made four quality starts this season. If he had some more offensive support and a bullpen capable of holding leads late he could be 4-0, instead he is 2-0. Which isn't terrible, but he has pitched well enough to earn a four wins. Last night Dempster pitched seven and two-thirds, surrendering seven hits and only allowing one run.
So far the acquisition of Carlos Silva has been paying dividends. In just his third start of the year Silva has a 2-0 record with an ERA under one at 0.95. As he did in his first two outings Silva has kept his team in the game and put them in position to win. Tonight was no different. Silva pitched six innings allowing only one run which came on a home run off the bat of Mets catcher Rod Barajas. While he was doing his job a certain $136 million outfielder was a double short in hitting for the cycle.
It would be easy to say that the problem with the Sox right now is simply hitting or pitching, or Gavin Floyd or Mark Kotsay, or maybe bad coaching. But it's not. The South Siders have good days and they have off days, like any other team. And yes, they do have problems, like any other team, it's just not one that's easy to boil down.
No player in particular is weighing the team down so let's not hate on Jake Peavy shall we? He pitched a pretty good game last time --not Cy Young-caliber-- but still much improved from earlier outings this season. If you didn't watch last Saturday's game or got so discouraged that you decided to turn it off prematurely (as I was inclined to do), Peavy pitched seven innings and let in two runs and four hits over 109 pitches. That's not great but it's not horrible and it's an improvement from Peavy's previous games this season. Keep in mind also that this was against a Cleveland Indians that are much better than in previous years. I say that this was an off day for Peavy and his two previous outings were flukes. Again, everyone has a bad day or two but you don't see any sensible baseball fan calling for Gavin Floyd's retirement do you?
Next, let's look at hitting. For a little while now I've been saying that Gordon Beckham is the same player the Sox have had for years: the promising young buck who never ends up being anything (read: Brian Anderson). Yet Beckham has the best On-Base Percentage of any of the current White Sox hitters and he has 12 home runs under his belt, more than famous sluggers like Konerko or Pierzynski this year.
Beckham isn't alone. In a piece on Juan Pierre, MLB.com Reporter Scott Merkin wrote "Pierre has begun a steady climb back toward excellence. He already feels better in the season's second week than he did during his first week as an American Leaguer." Indeed, Pierre has made it a habit of bucking up Sox fans during a particularly rough couple of innings with a base hit or a homerun.
So far I've been describing the glass half-full for the Sox. Make no mistake, there's plenty of room for improvement. Even though the Sox have earned a good number of runs in each game so far they've mainly come from homeruns. That's all well and good; a good baseball team needs to be able to get the fireworks going, but they can't depend on it and that's exactly what the South Siders have been doing. Add that to inconsistent pitching and lack of a definitive closer (is it Thornton or Jenks?) and no wonder the Sox are one of the worst teams in baseball right now.
Nevertheless, I have faith. The Sox have never been a fast team. In my Sox-watching lifetime I can remember far more games won in the later innings or off of players who are by no means fast runners than anything else. This is a team that takes its time to dominate.
Sports, like politics, religion and pop culture, attracts fanaticism of a very vicious nature. When there are rivalries involved, the typical sports fan can regress from jovial enthusiast to belligerent maniac. Anyone who has been a Gapers Block reader long enough to remember the comments from Ramsin Canon's "Hate, Hate, Hate the White Sox" column (comments now rendered even more hilarious since the Sox did eventually go on to win it all) will note that not even the classy denizens of this website can abstain from ad hominem attacks and personal insults regarding the other side's sexuality, socio-economic status and level of education when defending their team. Even though Chicago is easily the greatest city in the world and stuffed to the condos with admirable people, we tend to turn pretty barbaric when the Packers come to Soldier Field, the Red Wings visit the United Center and, most of all, when the Cubs and White Sox are compared in any capacity what-so-ever.
So it is with that in mind, that I leave you with the following warnings: if you are a Northsider with a perpetual dislike of Sox fans, you will come to loathe me. If the thought of someone scribing preference of the White Sox and The Cell over that of the Cubs and Wrigley Field is a notion that angers your blood, then you will most likely curse my name to your grandchildren. None of this is my intention of course, I am not picking a fight. I am merely examining the facts of this city and my own life. For you see, I used to be one of you, but my taste in baseball has since matured. I used to be a Cubs fan but I now root for the White Sox. I am a turncoat.
The Cubs opened the week at home on Monday against the Brewers. They won their home opener 9-5. Game two would belong to them as they beat the Brew Crew 7-6. The victory would be their first series win of the season. They would miss the chance to sweep their rivals to the North as the Brewers salvaged game three 8-6.
Friday the Cubs took on the last place Houston Astros who came in with a record of 1-8. The Cubbies took game one 7-2. They trailed 2-1 early, but a six run seventh inning put the Cubs in the win column. Derrek Lee's three-run homer would put the game out of reach. Cubs starter Carlos Silva pitched seven strong innings.
The Cubs returned home Monday to the Wrigley faithful after a woeful 2-4 road trip. Ryan Dempster had the honor of pitching the first game in front of the home crowd. While he wasn't as sharp as he was last Wednesday in Atlanta he did have one thing working for him in the home opener. Run support and plenty of it.
Dempster pitched six and a third innings and gave up seven hits, five earned runs and he struck out five. He threw a season high 114 pitches. Unlike his first start in Atlanta Dempster was a victim of lack of run support. That wouldn't be the case in his second outing. The Cubs offense came to life against Brewers starter and Cub-nemesis, Doug Davis.
The White Sox needed to stop the bleeding before it got any worse. Mark Buehrle did just that. He pitched eight strong innings and limited the Twins offense to four runs. It didn't look good for the Sox earlier on as the Twins scored two runs in the first inning, but Buehrle would battle back and limit the damage. He looked to be in mid-season form in just his second start of the season.
While he kept the Twins to just four runs he would need a little help from his offense too. He got just that. The Sox offense tied the game back up in the bottom of the first on the strength of a Paul Konerko two-run homer, his third of the year. Mark Kotsay and Gordon Beckham also hit their first home runs of the season.
After Carlos Zambrano's atrocious start on Opening Day against the Atlanta Braves it left many fans with a sinking feeling of, 'oh no, here we go again'. Flash forward to Saturday afternoon in Cincinnati Zambrano was looking to bounce back. While it looked like it would be a repeat of Monday after Big Z spotted the Reds three runs early, however, he would finish strong and his offense would come to the rescue.
El Toro pitched seven strong innings, gave up six hits, three runs, two walks and struck out nine. Almost like night and day for Z. The offense was home run happy Saturday afternoon. Of course being at the Great American Ballpark didn't hurt either. Kosuke Fukudome got the Cubs on the board with a two-run homer, his first of the season.
Sox starter Gavin Floyd pitched well enough to keep his team in the game only giving up two runs in just six innings of work. He struck out seven as well. He left before his team re-took the lead in the bottom of the seventh on a Carlos Quentin two-run homer, his first of the season. It would be a short lived lead as Sox reliever Matt Thornton would give right back in the top of the eighth.
His efforts would be supported by rookie outfielder Tyler Colvin who launched his first major league home run in the second inning off Braves starter Tommy Hanson. The Cubs would add to that lead in the fourth when center fielder Marlon Byrd hit his second home run of the season. That would be all the offense the Cubs would put forth on Thursday night.
It wasn't the way Jake Peavy wanted his first start of 2010 to go. Peavy was less than stellar in his first outing in front of the home crowd Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. The Sox offense spotted Peavy with three runs early. Two of those runs came off the bat of Paul Konerko who hit his second home run of the season in the bottom of the third inning. The offense went cold after that. They were not able to take advantage of the six walks issued by Indians starter Fausto Carmona.
Unfortunately, Peavy would give-up the 3-0 lead in the fourth inning surrendering three runs of his own. He threw 106 pitches in just five innings of work. Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was forced to go to his bullpen early after the departure of Peavy in the fifth. The bullpen wouldn't be much help though as they allowed the Indians to score two runs in final four innings.
The Cubs offense was non-existent Wednesday evening as they only managed to scrap out two runs against Braves starter Jair Jurrjens. One of the two runs came as a result of botched inning-ending double play by Braves first baseman Troy Glaus. Their second run came on a Ryan Theriot sac fly.
Things didn't start off on such a bad note, however, as the Cubs offense showed some patience at the plate against Braves starter Derek Lowe. New comer Marlon Byrd got the Cubs going in the top of the first with a three-run homer. Unfortunately it wouldn't be enough as Big Z would serve up six runs in the bottom of the first.
Spring has returned to the Midwest and with its return so, too, has America's Pastime awakened from a long winter's nap. Baseball is back! Outside of the day after the Super Bowl, MLB Opening Day may be the most "called in sick" (cough, cough) day of the calendar and with the mercury pushing into the mid-70s this afternoon, Tailgate wholly endorses you take a long lunch, catch the Red Line heading towards 35th and grab a cheap seat at the Cell for a matinee between The Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox. Mark Buehrle gets the start for the Sox and the game is being televised nationally on ESPN, the game starts at 1:05 Central Standard Time.
For fans of the North Siders the Cubs open the 2010 season in Atlanta and the usual suspects of Old Style slinging, Wrigleyville haunts are where you can catch the first pitch right around 3:10 this afternoon. Beloved and occasionally dominant Cubs pitcher, Carlos Zambrano gets the start in the ATL. Stuck in your office all day? Try catching the games on MLB's streaming video channels at MLB.com.
After a lackluster 2009 campaign the Chicago Cubs are looking to rebound in 2010. Despite being the favorites to win the National League Central last season the Cubs finished 83-78. That earned them a second place finish behind the St. Louis Cardinals. This year the Cubs come in as not the clear cut favorites to win the NL Central.
There weren't too many wholesale changes to this ball club from last season. The pieces are there and this team should be right there in September if they can remain healthy. That was biggest downfall of this club last year. After the end of the 2009 season the goal became getting rid of the clubhouse cancer known as Milton Bradley.
WGN Radio has decided to drop its nightly sports talk show. Sports Central will cease to be on April 12. Host David Kaplan will remain on-air and continue doing sports. Kaplan will now work on the expanded "10th inning" show after Cubs games.
Upon first hearing this news I was taken aback. How do you honestly cancel a show about sports in one of the greatest sports towns in America? Whoever made this decision needs to have their head examined. If it wasn't for Cubs baseball on WGN I really wouldn't have a reason to tune in.
Editor's Note: This article was submitted by freelance sportswriter John Niederkorn.
There are two seasons in Chicago: winter and baseball season -- and baseball season is right around the corner... No, really, it is! And when those pitchers and catchers report to spring training in just a few days it will mark the symbolic end of winter.
Although it may be impossible to visualize a three-run-homer racing towards a sea of shirtless, sunburned Bleacher Bums, while over a foot of leftover blizzard snow still sits on the ground... Soon the snow will be replaced with gleaming white chalk lines, emerald green grass and childlike dreams of championships.
If You List Them, They Will Watch...
February in Chicago can prove to be a little difficult as far as the weather is concerned. In order to survive the rest of the winter and get excited about the upcoming baseball season I have complied a list of quintessential baseball movies below that everyone should watch (or watch again) to chase your winter blues away and boost your morale for opening day.
This compilation represents all film genres, ranging form cornball comedies to dramatic thrillers. The versatility of baseball, as a film trope, and the power behind its storytelling capabilities is evident in each movie.
The movies are listed in order of overall relevancy, represented by each film's aesthetic presentation of the game and how baseball influences American culture. The spirit and passion found in the game is present in each of these films, making it clear why baseball will always remain this country's "national pastime."
9 (Mostly) Non-Baseball Movies Filmed at Wrigley Field:
• Ferris Bueller's Day Off
• The Blues Brothers
• The Babe
• Mr. 3000
• Kissing a Fool
• Damn Yankees!
• The Express
• Sleepless in Seattle
• The Break-Up
If there is a film you think should be on either list, or if you have any comments or questions, please address them below.
The Big Hurt announced his retirement today. Thomas spent 16 years on the south side of Chicago with the Sox. He finishes with a .301 career batting average, 521 home runs and a .419 OBP. He spent almost his entire career, however he also spent time with Toronto and Oakland from 2006-2008.
He also won back-to-back MVP awards in 1993 and 1994. There is no doubt that Thomas put up hall-of-fame worthy numbers, but the one thing thats preventing his hall-of-fame candidacy from being a shoe is he was a DH for a good majority of his career. If he does get the call for the hall it may open the door for other DH's whose numbers hall worthy.
Millar, 38, is no spring chicken by any stretch of the imagination, however he will be quality clubhouse presences if he makes the club. Millar is best known for his ability to keep things loose in the locker room.
This will end any chance of Reed Johnson being resigned. He will be most remembered for his spectacular diving catch against the Nationals in 2008. Nady played in only seven games last season with the Yankees before going on the disabled list. His season would end after he would under go the second Tommy John surgery of his career.
When Mark McGwire made his quasi-confession to using steroids, it seemed as if that admission would open the door for another home-run slugging former baseball star to take a load off his chest and 'fess up as well that his prodigious HR totals came with a little help from his friends.
A lot of people, including Tailgate, thought Sosa should use the opportunity of McGwire's statements and admit to juicing (not that we know it for a fact that he did, but...c'mon). Heck, McGwire might even have greased the skids, making forgiveness of Sosa's indiscretion a bit easier to extend.
So add Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks to that chorus of voices asking Sammy to come clean. Banks thinks Sosa would do himself a world of good by admitting to...something. "I'm not saying he did no steroids," Banks said. "I don't know about any of that. All I know is I like him and he's a wonderful player....Come out and be honest with it."
Banks even thinks Sosa might win back Cubs fans who feel betrayed, envisioning him throwing out the first pitch and maybe singing during the seventh-inning stretch. Not sure about all of that. Let's just stick with the confession for now.
There was speculation as to whether or not the Cubs would remain in Mesa after officials from Naples Florida came calling with an offer that Mesa wasn't offering at the time. However, in the end the Cubs will remain right where they have been for more than 50 years.
Now that Mark McGwire has "come clean" (and by come clean we mean admit he used steroids but claim it never affected his play), is it now former Cub Sammy Sosa's turn to 'fess up?
The Sosa And McGwire Traveling Home Run Show excited baseball, even if McGwire did tire of Sosa's scene-stealing ways. But while few people spoke the words out loud, the whispers of "steroids" were there. McGwire flat out denied it while Sosa, when not answering questions about corked bats, claimed his prowess was due to Flintstones Vitamins. Very potent, hormone-filled Flintstones Vitamins.
McGwire's dubious admission (and former manager and now fellow St. Louis Cardinal coaching staff member Tony LaRussa's claims of "I had no idea") now opens the door for Sosa to admit his usage. But don't hold your breath waiting for that. Not only did he suddenly lose the ability to speak English when he appeared before Congress, but to this day he's still claiming he did nothing wrong all while harboring the delusion that he's still attractive to major league baseball clubs.
A tip for Sammy: Confess. You'll make a lot more money with whatever book deal/magazine interview/television appearance you can wrangle than any possible future baseball contracts.
Greg Maddux is back with the Chicago Cubs...no he didn't come out of retirement he has been named the assistant General Manager to Jim Hendry. He will assist the coaching staffs at the major and minor league levels.
This is a brilliant move by the Ricketts family. Bringing in Maddux is going to do wonders for this organization. He is a great baseball mind and his ability to break down the game with ultimately help this team in the long run. That has been one thing this organization has always lacked is someone who knows the game of baseball inside and out. There is no better person to hire than Greg Maddux.
The ninth time was the charm for former Cub Andre Dawson Wednesday when he was elected to Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame. Dawson received 77.9 percent of the vote, which was well over the necessary 75 percent. He was the lone candidate this year. Bert Blyleven fell four votes short and Roberto Alomar was eight votes short.
During his 20-year career, Dawson batted .279, hit 438 home runs, was Rookie of the Year in 1976, won eight gold glove awards, was an eight-time All-Star, and was the 1987 National League MVP on a last place Cubs team. He began his professional career in 1976 with the now disbanded Montreal Expos. Dawson would come to the Cubs as a free agent after the 1986 season.
The Cubs have signed Marlon Byrd to play center field for the 2010 season. The deal is estimated at three-years, $15 million according to Bruce Levine of ESPN-Chicago. Byrd was with the Texas Rangers last season and will be reunited with his hitting coach from last season, Rudy Jaramillo.
The Cubs missed out on Curtis Granderson while trying to deal away clubhouse cancer Milton Bradley. General Manager Jim Hendry was also looking at Scott Podsednik, Rick Ankiel and a few others as well to fill the center field vacancy.
The numbers haven't been announced as far as how much of Bradley's contract the Cubs will have to eat, but it now frees up money for Jim Hendry to finish his off season shopping. The Cubs are still in the market for a center fielder. There have been reports of them going after free agent center fielder Marlon Byrd, formally of the Texas Rangers.
Yeah, we know, a cheap and easy joke (just like we like 'em). But the White Sox did, in fact bolster their bullpen by signing J.J. Putz to a $3 mil deal. Putz last pitched for the New York Mets and went 1-4 with a 5.22 ERA in 29 games - not exactly numbers to write home about. And he's coming off surgery, which is always nice. He's reportedly being looked at as a setup man or (gasp) a replacement for closer Bobby Jenks.
The Cubs have traded utility infielder Aaron Miles, first baseman Jake Fox and cash considerations to the Oakland Athletics for relief pitchers Jeff Gray and Ronny Morla and infielder Matt Spencer.
Miles was acquired via free agency last winter to replace Mark DeRosa who had been traded to the Cleveland Indians. Miles had an absolutely god-awful season batting just .185. He was coming off his second best season in 2008 with the St. Louis Cardinals where he batted .317. He was in the second year of his two year contract. To his credit though Miles spent more time on the disabled list than the field.
...and Kevin Gregg and Rich Hardin and Octavio Dotel and possibly Scott Podsednik as the White Sox and Cubs declined to offer arbitration to a total of seven free agents. In addition to Jermaine Dye, Dotel and Podsednik of the Sox, the team gave a pass to catcher Henry Blanco. Besides Gregg and Hardin, the Cubs said "meh" to Reed Johnson.
Add former Atlanta Braves star Andruw Jones to the list off one-year deals the White Sox are compiling for next season.
A few days after inking Omar Vizquel to a one-year pact, the Sox brought Jones into the fold for 2010. Jones will get half a million, with a chance to raise it to $1 million iin incentives. Jones was with the Texas Rangers in 2009 where he hit .217 with 17 home runs and 43 runs batted in.
Reportedly next on the Sox radar is potential leadoff hitter Coco Crisp, whom the team will presumably sign to a deal longer than one year if they get the chance.
The White Sox signing of veteran shortstop Omar Vizquel, which we wrote about earlier, reportedly has become official with Vizquel agreeing to a one year, $1.3 million contract. Vizequel, 43, will serve as a mentor tot he relatively young infield duo of Alexi Ramirez and Gordon Beckham, who is making the transition from third to second next season.
Should the White Sox go through with their plans to sign the, well, let's say "mature" shortstop Omar Vizquel, it will be like looking in a mirror for manager Ozzie Guillen. For better or worse.
Both Vizquel, who turned 43(!) in April, and Guillen (a mere three years older) grew up only a few miles from each other in Caracas, Venezuela, played shortstop against each other for more than a decade in the AL and both wear number 13 in honor of their countryman and hero, Dave Concepcion. Which means if the deal goes through, someone is going to have to switch uniform numbers next year. (There's no player on the roster with No. 31, so there's that.)
If the deal goes through, don't look for Vizquel to see a lot of playing time, but rather serve as a mentor to erratic shortstop Alexi Ramirez.
There have been more than enough rumors involving the Cubs dealing irrascible outfielder Milton Bradley to someone...anyone, so why not throw one more long on the fire.
A Tribune "breaking news" report has the Cubs sending Bradley to Texas in a three-team deal that would also see Rangers pitcher Kevin Milwood going to the New York Mets and the Mets' second baseman Castillo here.
The Cubs have agreed in principle a two-year deal with lefty reliever John Grabow. Grabow was acquired from the Pirates on July 30 along with Evergreen Park native Tom Gorzelanny. The deal is expected to be $7.5 million over two years.
We all know that "Cubs" and "omens" go together like "Wrigleyville" and "drunken frat boy", but is there something oddly fortuitous about the family name of the new Cubs owners? The blog Bleed Cubbie Blue takes a look...
Now, reports of Scott Podsednik and Ramon Castro filing for free agency are correct. And rumors that the Texas Rangers are throwing out feelers for Jermaine Dye have some validity. But that KC/Sox deal? Let's just wait and see.
UPDATE: Ok, NOW it's official: The Teahen-Getz-Fields deal has finally been approved by all parties. Geez, was the Red Sox-to-Yankees trade of Babe Ruth this complicated?
Ted Lilly under went arthroscopic shoulder surgery this afternoon. Depending on how the rehab goes for him he may or may not miss the start of the season next April.
Another Cubs pitcher with a surgically repaired shoulder. Stop me if you've heard this one before. Hopefully for the Cubs sake this won't be a season long issue. They can't afford to lose a pitcher of Lilly's caliber.
If you knowleged of Negro League baseball pretty much begins and ends with Satchel Paige, there's a new way to learn more about the game without having open a book.
An article by the Sun-Times Dave Hoekstra has a great profile of Carol Stream resident Scott Simkus who's created a Strat-o-Matic version of Negro League All-Stars (You GOTTA remember Strat-o-Matic baseballdoncha?). The board game is the result of 10 years of years of research by Simkus and includes stats for 103 Negro League players. Included in the game info are such "statistical" gems as the fact that Chicago American Giants pitcher Dave "Lefty" Brown spent 13 years avoiding the authorities after killing a man in New York City.
The season may have been a wash for the White Sox postseason-wise, but at least one player has something to smile about after cleaning out his locker. Third baseman Gordon Beckham has been named Rookie of the Year by the Sporting News.
The award, voted on by a panel of 338 other players, went to the Atlanta native for a standout inaugural season in which the 22-year-old batted.270 with 28 doubles, 14 home runs and 63 RBIs in 103 games. He's the ninth rookie in team history to be tabbed by TSN and the first since current manager Ozzie Guillen was awarded the prize 1985. Here's the modest Beckham speaking on his hopes for a decent season and perhaps a "couple of good games".
Chicago Public Radio's Justin Kaufmann notes that the entire Illinois congressional delegation submitted a bill on July 31 honoring White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle for his perfect game -- but it never made it out of committee. Seriously? We paid them for this? I'm all for honoring Buehrle for his achievement -- in fact, I was at the game when he was honored by the Sox -- but wasting time on this sort of thing is exactly the sort of thing that gives government a bad name.
The Little Friends of Printmaking have created a great new Cubs t-shirt -- but not one many Cubs fans are likely to be find very flattering. And since the Little Friends are based in Milwaukee, I have a feeling I know why.
The White Sox chances of making the playoffs at this point are pretty much a moot point as they are one game away from being eliminated from the American League Central Division. However, that doesn't mean they can't play the role of spoiler. And that is just what they did as they beat the Tigers 2-0.
The Sox may may play a role in whether or not the Tigers make the playoffs. Jake Peavy took the mound for the Southsiders tonight and his offense gave him just enough for the win. Peavy went seven innings and struck out eight. Gordon Beckham helped out his pitcher out with a two run homer in bottom of the sixth.
So with baseball season in Chicago officially over (OK, OK, ALMOST over, Mr. Sticker), the question now turns to who'll be standing on the field when the Cubs and White Sox start play in 2010. Free agency, arbitration, trades...you name it. Bottom line, there'll be some faces missing from the team picture on both sides of town next year.
Today we got word that White Sox reliever Bobby Jenks is shutting it down for the rest of the year due to an injured right calf muscle, which has given rise to talk of whether we've seen the last of the portly closer on the mound for the Sox for good. He's up for arbitration next year and the Sox aren't known for fighting hard to keep guys in that situation, so it could be the end of his career with the team.
If there was any chance of the White Sox making the playoffs it may have just rode off into the sunset especially after two very costly losses to teams they shouldn't even be losing to in the first place. Their woes on the West Coast continued as they went 2-4 on their latest trip and it included another 14 inning loss to the Seattle.
There have been whispers about whether or not Bobby Jenks still has it or not. He may have answered some of those questions after blowing his second save in less than a week. Jenks blew a 3-1 lead in Anaheim, which they eventually won in extras. However, it was not the case in Seattle. Jenks gave up two home runs in the bottom of the 9th, with two outs no less. It was a first for him as he had never given up back to back home runs.
You can debate the wisdom of the White Sox trying to work in a start for pitcher Jake Peavy before the season is out, but you can't debate that it's now actually going to happen.
After a rehab stint to work out kinks in his surgically repaired ankle and, later, his elbow after it was hit by a batted ball during the minor league tune-up, Peavy has been given the green light to make his White Sox debut when he takes the mound Saturday against the Kansas City Royals. at U.S. Cellular.
Ever wanted to see butt-kickin' roller babes (plus one movie star playing a roller babe) sing at Wrigley Field? Here's your chance: It's been announced that Drew Barrymore, one of the stars of the upcoming roller derby movie Whip It, will be singing the seventh-inning stretch at the Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers game on Tuesday, Sept. 15. Accompanying her will be two players from Chicago's own Windy City Rollers, Athena DeCrime and Val Capone (who also works as a vendor at Wrigley).
Back in the 1980s when the Cubs REALLY were stinking up the joint (as opposed to their current performance of dropped fly balls and lackadasical managers), the team did whatever it could to get fans into the ballpark on a consistent basis. It was the era when they sold fans on the idea of the bleachers-as-bar (Thank you, Harry Caray). And it was the era of Marla Collins.
If the name doesn't immediately conjure up an image in your mind, you probably weren't a hetrosexual male during that time. Collins was the Cubs "ballgirl", a term created during that less label-conscious time. But she wasn't merely a female version of a ballboy, dressed up in an ill-fitting full uniform. Collins had curves and the Cubs weren't afraid to use them. In her case, she was given Daisy Dukeish shorts and a tighter-than-it-probably-had-to-be jersey, all done up in Cubs pinstripes. Her hair was Farah Fawcett-perfect and guys would stand up when she sprinted to pick up foul balls or deliver a new set of baseballs to the umpire. Since the Cubs weren't really hitting them out of the park during that time, there were people wishing they would at least foul one to the backstop just to see her in, um, action. Here profile was furthen enhanced when Harry started waxing poetic about her from up in the booth, and when WGN producer Arne Harris began giving orders to his camera men to follow her motion every now and then instead of Ryne Sandberg's.
But the Collins era came to an end when she posed for Playboy and offended the Cubs' "family friendly" sensibilities (which were apparently fine when they dressed her in the shortest shorts and tightest top and positioned her nearly in the middle of the field).
The Daily News Journal of Kankakee catches up with Collins and talks about her two daughters (!) and her, let's say social interaction with some of the top ballplayers of that era. She may not have done much to help the Cubs get closer to a World Series, but she made the waiting a little less painful.
After years of anguish and many, many, many headaches in Minnesota, the White Sox played their last game in the Metrodome and came away with a rare victory. Just mention the word Metrodome to any Sox fan, player, manager, broadcaster, front office personnel, general manager or owner and their response would start with a groan and end with several expletives.
However, after years of torment in that building, the Sox left there smiling for once. Their record there indicates how miserable it has been for them, more so the last few years. They went 84-114 since 1982, losing 19 of their final 24 games there. They finished 1-8 in the Metrodome last year and finished 2-7 this year.
At any other point in the season, a Cubs/White Sox game would be a hype-lover's dream. But with the two teams at 10 1/2 and 7 games out, respectively, any fan claiming bragging rights after tomorrow's game would seem to be grabbing at straws. Yeah, sure, Ozzie Guillen is sounding like Bluto Blutarsky these days telling everyone that nothing is over until HE says it's over, ever after the team dumped two relative stars in Jim Thome and Jose Contreras And the Cubs fans, ever the optimists, will probably be encouraged to hear that the team has decided to fight it out until the end (as if they could simply walk away). But, truth be told, if there is any real venom swapped by the fans of the two teams tomorrow, as there has been in the past, it'll only be done by the clueless. Look, if you have tickets to the game, by all means go. Have a beer. Cheer for your team and congratulate the winner. But if you're expecting it to mean anything more than that, you're just as out of it as the White Sox and Cubs.
The White Sox continued their slide in Minnesota Monday night dropping their fourth straight and sixth overall on the trip. They lose 4-1 in the opener with the Twins, but the bigger news came off the field as they traded a pair of big names to contending teams.
DH Jim Thome was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers who are currently leading the National League's Western Division. The other big name dealt was Jose Contreras. He was sent to the team right behind the Dodgers, the Colorado Rockies, who are currently tied with the San Fransisco Giants for the National League Wild Card lead.
Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman have been reportedly claimed off waivers on Friday. The Cubs have 72 hours to negotiate with the teams that claimed the players before anything is definitive. The move is a sign that the Cub's front office is just as aware as their fans that the 2009 season is done for the Cubs. Harden will become a free agent during the off season, so the team will undoubtedly want players or prospects in return for the pitcher as releasing him now will result in no salary dump. Heilman has one year before free agency on his contract and would only be a small salary dump by the Cubs, who are probably looking for players in return as well for the releif pitcher.
The Cubs' Milton Bradley is not happy. So what else is new? Besides, he's now the Ricketts family's problem.
The White Sox have lost four in a row and five of their last six. The Bleacher Reporter ask if they're heading in the wrong direction. Hmmm...let me think about that one.
Don't let Jay Cutler's cool demeanor fool you. According to ESPN he's a little jittery about returning to Denver as a member of the Bears this Sunday. Elsewhere on the Bear beat, Matt Forte is looking for balance and Dusty Dvoracek is looking at a doctor this Friday.
As if running a triathlon (like the Chicago Triathlon this weekend) wasn't difficult, try throwing cold, rainy weather into the mix. Here at some tips for coping with that.
While the state debates video poker, the real thing is going on in a tournament in Arlington Heights tonight. Wanna play? Ante up here.
The Chicago Sky host a benefit this Friday to promote breast cancer awareness.
Chicago Public Radio's Justin Kaufmann talks with legendary Steve Stone about his Wikipedia entry, and gets lots of stories about Stone's time with both the Cubs and Sox -- and his 1983 Playgirl spread.
Playgirl?! Oh yes. The pictorial is online here if you're interested. I wouldn't call it safe for work, but there's no "Little Stoney" visible if that's what you're worried about. You can let Stone know what you think -- or blot it from your mind and just ask him about baseball -- on Twitter at @BaseballStone.
Yeah, we know there's still plenty of time left in the baseball season, but it's getting late, they're eight games out of first and, well... it appears that even the logo on Derrick Lee's helmet is calling it quits (via Deadspin). If that's not depressing enough, Yahoo! Sports paints a pretty dismal picture of the way the rest of their season is unfolding.
Kenny Williams shocked the world by making a last minute deal to acquire Padres ace and Cy-Young award winner Jake Peavy at the trading deadline. While it sounds all well and good it came with a catch. Peavy has been on the disabled list June after injuring his ankle while running the bases.
Peavy has had two rehab outings since he joined the Southsiders. In his first outing he was brilliant and in his second not so much. That is where the problem comes in. By all accounts his ankle has healed nicely, but due to the fact he wasn't able to do any kind of baseball activities for a good two months it has delayed his return.
It is being reported that the long awaited sale of the Cubs is finally complete. The Ricketts family, who have been front runners since negotiations began, are spending $845 Million for the team and related assets. They will have a 95% control of the team (the other 5% will be retained by the Tribune Compnay), ownership of Wrigley Field and a 25% stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
If you are wondering what this, and other Cubs stories, would sound like in a haiku, visit The Cubs in Haiku on Twitter.
On a night where runs were hard to come by, in a park notorious for keeping balls inside the park, Kevin Gregg made offense look easy. Prior to the eight inning of Monday night's game in San Diego, the Cubs and the Padres had complied a scant four hits and zero runs each. Ted Lilly made his return from the DL and pitched six strong innings - allowing four hits, no runs and keeping his pitch count to 70. The Cubs made Padres' starter Kevin Correia work a little harder to finish his six innings but ultimately scored no runs either. After seven scoreless innings, it looked like the Cubs grabbed the reigns and put themselves in position to squeak out a low scoring victory in the top of the eight inning. Derrek Lee led off the inning with a triple and Aramis Ramirez's single in the next at bat drove in Lee to score the game's first run. John Grabow and Carlos Marmol combined for a perfect second half of the eight and set the table for the closer, Gregg, to end the game.
Hernandez struck out 10 Sox batters over seven innings. Alex Rios went 1-for-6 last night in his Sox debut last night. He struck out twice as well. Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye both sat this one out. Both are healthy and were just receiving a day off. They could've used their bats in the line-up however. It was a familiar face that came back to bite the Sox in the 14th.
It might be safely said that when it comes to the gameday activities that surround Wrigley Field, most of the denizens of Wrigleyville fall into two categories: those who love living close to the buzz, the excitement, the commotion and those who would rather have hot knitting needles jammed into a body orifice than have to deal with mass of humanity that descend on the area when the Cubs are in town.
For the latter, have we got a website for you.
"Is There A Cubs Game Today?" might sound like a must-stop destination on the information superhighway for fans seeing details on that day's contest, but it's anything but a plethora of information and helpful tips. Well, scratch that second part. It IS full of helpful tips, if by "helpful tips" you mean ways to avoid the area completely.
After back-to-back 11-5 losses, the Cubs return home to Wrigley Field on Tuesday following a 4-6 road trip. The trip started with initially high hopes: the Cubs had come out strong after the All Star break and had won eight of their last seven games going into Florida. But the road trip, particularly the Colorado series, has left a bad taste in the mouth of any one who watched what took place on the field over the weekend.
The one good thing about the four game series against the Rockies over the weekend is that they managed not to get swept. Beyond the one win, it was one of the ugliest series of the year for the Cubs. It started on the wrong foot before the first pitch was even thrown as Carlos Zambrano was sent to the 15 Day DL prior to his scheduled start on Friday. Sean Marshall learned shortly before the game started that he would be the replacement starting pitcher and did not fare well on the short notice, only lasting two innings. Saturday gave the Cubs their only win of the series but even it brought bad news as Aramis Ramirez re-injured the left shoulder that kept him out of the majority of the first half of the season.
The last two games of the series were a disastrous combination of poor starting pitching, bad relief pitching and shaky defense. Tom Gorzelanny's second start with the Cubs could not have looked more different from his first. With six runs allowed in 1.1 innings pitched, the start nearly doubled Gorzelanny's ERA. Meanwhile, while the Cubs were struggling to keep the Rockies inside of Coors, the Cardinals have been playing hot and are now three games up on the Cubs. If the Cubs want to redeem themselves from this weekend, winning some games at home with Philadelphia in town would help. Since the All Star break, the Cubs are 3-7 against teams that currently have a winning record and 12-2 against losing teams. Beating the teams their supposed to beat is nice but if they want to make the playoffs they have to be able to beat other contenders as well.
The Chicago White Sox have solved the million dollar mystery. They were the ones who claimed the Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Alex Rios off waivers over the weekend. Rios was claimed on Friday afternoon, but no team had come forward until today.
Rios signed a very hefty contract last April, a seven-year $60 MM contract to be exact. This comes in addition to the large Jake Peavy contract. However, at the of the end of the season there will be some money available with Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye's contracts expiring. Rios is expected to join the club in Seattle on Tuesday.
The Southsiders take on the Mariners tonight at 9:10 p.m. CT. Gavin Floyd (9-2) will take on Luke French (2-2).
What a difference a week makes. Just last week the Sox were finishing up an abysmal 1-6 road trip that included them being swept in Minnesota. That would all be forgotten after they returned home to take on the best the American League had to offer. They took three out of four from the first place New York Yankees over the weekend then set their sites on the team with the best record in the A.L., the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The Chi Sox snapped the Halos' eight-game winning streak last night with a wild walk-off 5-4 victory. That was in spite of Jose Contreras' erratic pitching performance. Gavin Floyd, however, would fair much better tonight. Floyd went eight innings and only surrendered one run and struck out six.
In many ways, the Cubs' 2009 could be considered far from lucky. From injuries, to the bats falling asleep for nearly two months, to a shaky bullpen, it has not necessarily been a dream season. But the Cubs can consider themselves extremely lucky as far as substitute starting pitching has gone. Sean Marshall originally started the year as the fifth starter, but when Carlos Zambrano went to the DL early in the season, Randy Wells proved to be more than a suitable fill in and too good to send back to the minors once Zambrano returned. The move even worked well for Marshall, who has gone on to post the lowest ERA of any left handed reliever in the National League since being moved out of the starting rotation to make room for Wells.
The 2009 trade deadline has come and gone and a lot of big names were moved. It was a very active deadline with trades a plenty taking place. The Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers both made deals to improve their respective clubs. The Twins acquired Orlando Cabrera from Oakland and the Tigers picking up Jarrod Washburn from Seattle. It appeared that the White Sox and Kenny Williams were going to stand pat with what they have.
Well if you think that is the case with Kenny Williams, think again. While everyone was looking at Roy Halladay to be the big name moved during the deadline Williams pulled off a shocker by bringing the 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy to the South side of Chicago.
The on again/off again Jake Peavy-to -White Sox deal is apparently really on this time, as reports are coming out that the Sox and the Padres have agreed to terms on a deal that would send the sought-after righthander to the South Side in exchange for four minor league pitchers: Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Dexter Carter and Adam Russell. The announcement of the deal came minutes after the trading deadline had officially passed.
In May, Peavy exercised his no-trade clause and rejected a deal that had been hammered out by the Sox' Kenny Williams and the Padres. But a strained right ankle tendon sidelined him soon after that and his stock took a dip as would-be suitors lost interest. That injury may have had something to do with his new-found willingness to accept a move to the AL, where he won't have to step to the plate or run the bases.
Peavy is 6-6 this season with a 3.95 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 81 innings. He will earn $11 million in 2009, $15 million in 2010, $16 million in 2011, $17 million in 2012 and a $22 million option for 2013 with a $4 million buyout.
While Kevin Hart was on the mound Thursday pitching, a deal trading him to the Pittsburgh Pirates was being finalized somewhere in the Cubs' front office. According to ESPN, Hart, along with relief pitcher Jose Ascanio and minor league player Josh Harrison are part of a deal to recieve left handed pitching from Pittsburgh. The Pirates, who have been in full fire sale mode for most of the year, will send John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny to the Cubs. It is a move that will add much needed left handed pitchers to the Cubs bullpen. Ever since Neal Cotts was optioned to Triple A Iowa , Sean Marshall has been the only lefty available for the Cubs in relief. Marshall has been so good as a relief pitcher, sporting a 1.31 ERA, that to use him only as a left handed specialist would be a waste at this point. Grabow and Gorzlanny are now options to go to when the Cubs need a big out against a left handed batter. With Hart gone, there is no word yet who will fill the last spot in the rotation while Ted Lilly is injured.
Outside of his few starts this season, Hart is probably best remembered by Cubs fans for his work as a call up reliever during the end of the 2007 season. In the midst of a tight divisional race with Milwaukee, Hart posted a 0.82 ERA over the last few weeks of the season to help The Cubs reach the playoffs. His last start with the Cubs was a win, 12-3 over the Houston Astros as the Cubs took three out of the four games in the series. The Cubs will start a 10 game road trip Fridayversus the Florida Marlins. Rich Harden will start while the Marlins starter is Chris Volstad.
The Chicago Huddle, a weekly Bears preview and recap show, is looking for a spokesperson to open each program. Looking at the photo on the front of the video, I can't for the life of me figure out what they're looking for.
The Chicago Women In Baseball League and the Chicago Gems baseball club will take their skills to a bigger audience when they conduct and exhibition prior to the start of a Schaumburg Flyers game during Women In Baseball Day
It was looking like Buehrle would pull off the unthinkable and pitch back to back perfect games. However, it was not to be. He lost the perfect game in the sixth after walking Alexi Casilla. That is where things began to unfold for Mr. Perfect.
Perfect game been "berry berry" good to him: Fresh off his appearance on David Letterman, the White Sox Mr. Perfect Mark Buehrle gets the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated. Will Buehrle, who pitches tonight against Minnesota, fall victim to the alleged SI cover jinx or the struggling reliever Jenks? (And yes, we know that it's really pronounced Bobby JANKS.)
Turns out pitching a perfect game is a great career move. It's earned White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle a spot on David Letterman's "Top Ten List". Buehrle will shoot a clip for the Letterman's show's signature segment today in Minnesota prior to the team's game with the Twins. Joining him in high-profile spot will be outfielder Dewayne Wise, he of the game-saving catch, and third baseman Josh Fields, whose grand slam helped the cause.
Sunday was a good day for the Cubs. An afternoon 5-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds completed the three game series sweep while losses by the Cardinals, Astros and Brewers helped the Cubs sneak into a half game lead in the NL Central, the first on top the division since April 21st. Rich Harden pitched another strong outing, allowing one hit and one run in six innings while striking out eight. After posting a 5.47 ERA in fourteen starts before the All Star break, Harden has a 0.95 ERA in the three games since and is showing the dominant fastball/change up combination that the Cubs expected to see after trading for him mid season last year.
Harden has not been the only Cub showing signs of improvement recently. Since he was moved to the front of the line up, a formerly struggling Kosuke Fukudome is batting .333 with a .404 OBP in the lead off spot. Alfonso Soriano is hitting .429 since the Break, having a hit in all nine games he has played in. Even Milton Bradley is showing signs of improvement. He is still hitting for a lower than expected average but his .448 OBP in July is nothing to scoff at. Any player who gets on base as often as Bradley has recently is worth value. Not coincidentally, the Cubs have won 10 of their last 13, the first impressive streak in months.
In order to stay in first place, the Cubs will need more improvement and steady play from the offense. They also need to do a better job staying healthy. With the Cardinals acquiring Matt Holliday last week, making the post season became an even more difficult goal to reach. Not many rumors are surrounding the Cubs during the last week before the trade deadline. They may try to pick up a lefty reliever, and possibly an extra bat, but no big names are expected as of now. On Monday, the Cubs start a four game series in Chicago with the Astros, who are currently two games behind them in the standings.
Powered by a Josh Fields grand slam in the fourth inning that would be all Buehrle needed to complete his masterpiece. With his gem he becomes the second pitcher in Sox's history to pitch a perfect game. Charles Robertson was the first to pitch a perfect game on April 30, 1922 for the Southsiders. Buehrle's effort was almost all for nothing if not for a game-saving catch by defensive replacement DeWayne Wise.
If only the Cubs could have played the rest of the season in Washington DC. After their all too short, four game sweep over what is essentially a quadruple A baseball team in the Nationals, the Cubs had a rude awakening of what competitive baseball is like on Monday night. The world champion Philadelphia Phillies routed the Cubs 10-1 in one of the most lopsided losses of the year. The Phillies had been riding an eight game win streak coming into the series and the difference between playing them and the Nationals, who sit 27 games behind the Phillies in the NL East, was clear to the Cubs on Monday night. Raul Ibanez hit a three run home run in the first inning; during the second inning, Carlos Ruiz hit a two run home run to make a 5-0 lead as the game entered laughable territory early. Ted Lilly, coming back from a missed start due to a sore knee, gave up a season nine runs, seven of them earned, in just four innings pitched. On Tuesday, the second game of the series starts at 6:05 CT with Rich Harden (6-6) facing off against Joe Blanton (6-4).
For sure, there have been some strange moments in White Sox history, and not just the whole Black Sox Scandal thing. No, more like just...weird. The Disco Demolition riot, the anniversary of which has just passed. Former Bears all-arm-no-aim quarterback Bobby Douglass getting a brief tryout with the team in the 1970s. Hawk Harrelson coming down from the booth in 1986, making a mess as GM and then retreating back to said booth. An unpaid clown roaming the stands for decades until he was told not to show up anymore. And almostanything Bill Veeck did.
But in recent years the strangest occurance involving the South Siders had to be the night in 2002 when the Ligues showed up. You remember the Ligues...father and son duo? Shirtless? Leaping over the box seat wall to pummel 54-year-old Kansas City first base coach Tom Gamboa? If the South Side fans had a reputation for being brain-dead thuggish oafs, well, the actions of William Ligue, Jr and his then-15-year-old son did nothing to dispel that myth (Note: I, myself am a White Sox fan, regularly wear a shirt and have only occasionally laid into a coach of any base. And none in the last 12 years.)
The ol' reliable Deadspin sports website recently updated the saga of the Ligues by locating the younger Ligue's MySpace page, and you'll be happy to know that he appears to be just as...socially aggressive, let's say, as he and his dad were that day. According to Deadspin, he doesn't appear to regret his actions that day and, in fact, seem to be quite proud of it. And he allegedly is expecting the birth of his own child, offering the world the promise of a third generation of Ligueish behaviour at the ol' ballpark.
Buehrle was down early after surrendering his lone run of the game, but Jermaine Dye bailed him out with a two-run homer (21). The Sox are now 7-0 at home on Saturdays and 12-0 when they play on Saturday afternoon.
Alfonso Soriano and Ted Lilly have become the latest Cubs to be sidelined with injuries during an injury plagued 2009 campaign. Soriano, who had never been put on the disabled list before joining the Cubs, is starting to expect that all his injuries as a Cub may be more than just coincidence. Lilly is out sore knee and can be considered day to day for now. He had started 34 games in his two previous years with the Cubs and could be considered the workhorse of the staff. Frankly, it's a little scary that injuries have gotten so bad for the Cubs that even Lilly, a player known for his extreme durability through out his career, is now missing starts. Randy Wells will fill in Lilly's place for Saturday's game against the Nationals.
The Smithsonian Institution, Baseball Hall of Fame and the Chicago History Museum apparently each have one of the signs in their archives. Hopefully the Hall of Fame gets around to adding Dunston himself one of these years.
On a beautiful Sunday in Chicago, the type of day baseball was made for, the Cubs hosted a double header with the St. Louis Cardinals and completed the four game series heading into the All-Star break. Carlos Zambrano got his first win in six starts during the day game, allowing three runs over six innings. Zambrano helped his own cause by hitting his third home run of the season. Micah Hoffpauir also hit a three run home run in the first inning off Cardinals' starter Kyle Lohse. The Cubs managed to drive in three more runs in the seventh inning off a series of errors by the Cardinals defense, culminating in a 7-3 Cubs win.
Give credit to the Sox offense for making a game out of it. Down 9-2 by the third inning the Sox offense drew closer by putting up a four spot in the bottom of the third inning. The closest they would get would be one run. They wrapped up this short home stand by going 2-1 and they are now headed to Minnesota to take on the Twins.
The Bartolo Colon mystery is over. The rather robust starting pitcher for the White Sox has resurfaced Moby Dick-like after going AWOL from his scheduled rehab stint with the Charlotte Knights,the Triple-A affiliate of the Sox. Well, to be truthful, he's not actually IN Charlotte yet. The Knights expect him to start tonight, but have pitcher Carlos Torres penciled in just in case.
Colon was supposed to report to Charlotte Tuesday to prepare for tonight's start, but failed to do so, leading to the APB that extended all the way to his home in the Dominican Republic. So why did he pull the disappearing act? Well, according to Ozzie Guillen, it might have something to do with Michael Jackson. Seriously.
For only the second time during the 2009 season, the Cubs were able to start their original projected lineup. That's right, with Aramis Ramirez's return on July 7, the Cubs were able to to start Geovany Soto, Derrick Lee, Mike Fontenot, Ryan Theriot, Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Milton Bradley together for only the second time this year. The only other time this season the Cubs were able to start all nine players together? Opening Day, making it a 78-game stretch in which they could not field their original lineup. Certainly this team has struggled on the field at times during those 78 games, as we have struggled to watch the, at times, painful performances of a should-be talented team. But if you need reason to hope, think of of it this way: with yesterday's 4-2 win, the Cubs are undefeated with their full lineup. Two games over .500 is not very good but only two games out of first in the division is not very bad either. They've won six out their last eight games, Aramis is back, Soriano is finally out of the leadoff spot and it looks like the sale of the team may finally go through so they may be able to make some mid-season moves. Who knows, maybe in a week they will be back to struggling on offense and consistently losing games 3-1 all over again, but maybe things are coming together. Maybe, for the first time in a long time, they've put together a streak of good fortune.
Two. That is the grand total of All-Stars representing Chi Town in Major League Baseball's 80th Midsummer Classic. Mark Buehrle will make his fourth All-Star team after starting the year off 6-0 for the Southsiders. He is 8-2 with a 3.09 ERA. He was the starter for American League in the 2005 All-Star game in Detroit. He would be the winning pitcher in that one as well.
One could make the argument that Scott Podsednik is deserving of a trip to St. Louis. Since rejoining the Southsiders on April 14 he has hit .312, .368, and .407. Not too shabby considering most of the experts in baseball believed his better days were behind him. This is no doubt a snub of Podsednik especially since he is not one of five candidates vying for the final American League roster spot.
Fresh on the heels of the mildly interesting revelation that Geovany Soto tested positive for marijuana while playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball classic this season, comes this mind-blowing follow-up: Lou Piniella admits he partook of the weed once himself.
Really? Grandpa Lou? Old Grumpy Pants? Yup, that was Brother Louie admitting that just before the start of today's White Sox/Cubs game at U.S. Cellular. He said he only did it once and it didn't do a thing for him. Why isn't that hard to believe?
Maybe it's time for the rest of the Cubs to come clean on whether reefer madness is running rampant in the clubhouse. Because, seriously, Milton Bradley has got to be on SOMETHING. I mean, forgetting how many outs there are in an inning? Classic pothead move.
Michael Phelps, you can breath easier (well, as easy as you can while inhaling and holding it). Another athlete has been busted by the pot police. This time, it's Cubs catcher Geovany Soto, who tested positive for marijuana while playing for Puerto Rico in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. There reportedly won't be any penalty imposed on Soto, who called it an "isolated incident", by MLB or the Cubs. At the very least, the news might provide a possible reason for the drop-off from his Rookie-of-the-Year numbers last season for Cubs fans.
The Chicago chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America is meeting tomorrow to figure out once and for all how they should regard players of the Steroid Era in their future Hall of Fame voting. One Delaware sports writer is urging them to "do the right thing."
When the dust clears after tonight's NBA draft, will Kirk Hinrich end up wearing a new uniform?
There may have been fireworks going off during the late innings of Wednesday's night game in Detroit but there would be no late game dramatics for the Cubs. With the tying run on first base and a full count, Kosuke Fukudome struck out looking at a borderline pitch to end the game 5-3. The final inning of offense was thematic of the Cubs' play at the plate during the whole game: the first two batters reached base safely but no one could drive them in. In total, the Cubs had 18 base runners during the game but could only score three runs. In six of the innings they had the leadoff man reach a base and only brought two of them around to home. Here is a break down of their struggles with RISP:
2nd inning: 2 on, no outs - 0 runs scored
3rd inning: lead of double - 0 runs scored
4th inning - 2 on, no outs - 0 runs scored
5th inning - bases loaded, two outs - 0 runs scored
6th inning - bases loaded, no outs - 1 run scored
7th inning: 2 on, no out; bases loaded, 1 out - 1 run scored
9th inning: 2 on, no out - 0 runs scored
The opportunities were there for the Cubs to win, they just could not get the hits when it mattered. Despite the three game losing streak they are currently in, the offense has been more effective than it had been. They are finally getting more hits and men on base; the new struggle has been to drive in runs during RBI situations. The defense and relief pitching can still use improvements, too. Geovany Soto's error in the fifth inning ended up helping the Tigers score a crucial go ahead run while Jose Ascanio and Carlos Marmol struggles in relief appearances during the eight gave the Tigers an insurance run to their lead. With the loss, the Cubs are back at .500 with a 34-34 record - 3.5 games behind St. Louis in the NL Central.
This series was important because on Saturday they would play the first ever regular season Civil Rights game. The Sox won a barn burner 10-8. Mark Buehrle pitched on Sunday and earned his first victory since May 19. He improves to 7-2 on the year. They were 5-3 on the trip and they return home to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Just under a week ago, the Chicago Cubs had hit one of their lowest points of the season, losing to the Chicago White Sox 4-1, the loss put the Cubs at 9-17 of their last 26 games. However, since then, the Cubs have won four straight games, their longest of the season, including a sweep of the AL Cleveland Indians.
Derrek Lee and Geovany Soto returned to familiar form both hitting over two home runs in the 4-game win stretch.
The Cubs face Atlanta to make up a rain out from their May series tomorrow, followed by a three-game series against the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers, a re-match of the 1945 World Series.
The Cubs completed a three game sweep of the Cleveland Indians with a 6-2 win on Sunday, marking their fourth win in a row. Randy Wells pitched 6.2 innings and gave up two runs, improving his record to 1-3. Despite Wells' 2.57 ERA in his eight starts this season, it was not until Sunday that he notched his first career victory. Unlike the previous three Cubs wins, this game had no need for late game dramatics. Geovany Soto hit a solo home run in the second inning and the Cubs held the lead for the rest of the game. Derrek Lee was able to extend his hitting streak to 18 games and Milton Bradley had two hits to put his streak at 10 games.
Starting with a make up game tomorrow in Atlanta, the Cubs will spend the next ten days on the road as they continue the five week stretch before the All Star break in which they only have one day off. If their offense continues to play like it has over the last four games, this tiring stretch of games will most definitely be easier to endue. Over the last week, Ryan Theriot is hitting .304, Bradley .333, Soto .357, and Lee has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball during June. Is this a lucky stretch or should we actually expect some improvement coming from the offense? Certainly this ten game road trip will be a test.
Now that Part I of Cubs vs. White Sox, 2009 is in the books, Chicago baseball fans get a brief respite before the madness kicks back into gear again when the two teams meet at The Cell for the rematch next weekend. Brian Livingston takes a look at the abbrebviated series and offers an intriguing way to make up for that washed-out game that was supposed to start the series.
The series seemed to lose some intensity after the rain out on Tuesday, but don't tell that to White Sox fans who were smiling from ear to ear after their team beat their North Side counterparts 4-1. This series took place during the middle of the week, which seemed to take away the atmosphere that normally surrounds this series which usually takes place on the weekend. It is unfortunate that Tuesday night's game got rained out, because it would've been nice to see a night game during the week being played between these two at Wrigley Field.
This match up is meant for the weekend because it generally makes for a better atmosphere before, during and after the games. A thought crossed my mind as to how to schedule the rained-out game. Originally it occurred to me that they could do what they did in New York. A game between the Mets and Yankees was rained out at Shea Stadium last season. They re-scheduled the game for the following weekend when they were playing the Yankees at their place. They played an afternoon game at Shea and then a night game at Yankee Stadium.
The Cubs and Sox play next weekend at U.S. Cellular; why not play an afternoon game at Wrigley then take the Red Line down to U.S. Cellular? How cool would that be to have the players ride an express train down to 35th Street after playing an afternoon game at Wrigley? It would really give new meaning to the "Subway Series". Of course both clubs would have to agree to it, and more than likely it isn't going to happen. There is an off-day in September that the two teams share, and the game will most likely be played on September 3.
It appeared that both games were going to go to the White Sox. The Sox were 4-1 winners in game one, but the Cubs would play spoiler in game two. Just like the overall series itself, the numbers between these two they were pretty evenly matched during the two game set. On the downside they'll have to wait for September to conclude this series. The all-time series is once again tied 34-34 and the Sox season record stands at 31-35, four games out of first place. The Sox head out to Cincinnati to take on the Reds this weekend, featuring the Civil Rights game on Saturday.
For the Cubs, this years' Cross Town Classic comes at an odd set of crossroads. Statistically speaking, the six games that make up the Cubs/White Sox rivalry each year are actually the most meaningless six games of the season. Games against NL Central opponents carry a larger weight in deciding which team will win the division. Inter-division games have more significance when it comes to deciding which team will win the wild card. Inter-league play has almost no meaning outside of pure wins and losses. Despite the hype and perceived significance of these games, losing in them is only a single blade sword. When a team loses within in their respected division or league, it not only gives them the loss but also gives a win to a team in their direct competition; it creates a one game swing in the standings. In the six games of the Cross Town Classic, each game is only half as important. Neither a win nor loss carry much clout, each only represents a half game swing in the standings.
They would look for Mark Buerhle to bring them to victory in game three. He would do his best bring his team a win, including hitting his first career home run. He went six innings surrendered seven hits, four earned runs and struck out five. Unfortunately he would not stick around to get the win. Buerhle gave up a season high three home runs,but the Sox would go on to win 5-4 despite his less then stellar pitching performance.
For the second straight game, Geoff Blum delivered the game winning hit for the Houston Astros against the Cubs. With two outs in the bottom of the 13th inning, Blum hit a sharp ball down the first base line, driving in Hunter Pence from second. Also, for the second straight game, the Chicago Cubs had only one solo home run to their offensive credit. Despite the Cubs' starters giving up only two runs in the 21.2 innings they pitched in the three game series, the Cubs will leave Houston with only one more win than they came in with.
Ryan Dempster delivered another strong effort by Cubs pitching, allowing one run over seven innings. In his last three starts, Dempster has pitched 20 innings and allowed only earned run, a sac fly in the first inning of today's game. His ERA has fallen by a full point during the three game span and it looks like he may be returning to last year's form.
But as enjoyable as it has been to watch the Cubs' pitching post a team ERA of 1.55 during the month of June - the best in all of baseball - it has been just as painful to watch the rest of the team hit. To put it in perspective just how bad the Cubs' offense is compared to their pitching, think about this: If the Cubs scored exactly four runs in every one of their previous 27 games, their record over that period would be 19-4 - plus four games being inconclusive as they would have resulted in a 4-4 tie. Let's say, for fun, that they split those four extra inning games and went 21-6 since May 9th. Their new record would be 37-20; good enough for the second best record in baseball and first place in the NL Central by at least four games. Instead, they have gone 13-14 during that period.
If four runs a game seems like an unreasonable number to expect, remember that they averaged 5.3 runs a game last year. We know that eventuality the pitching will cool down, no team can maintain a 1.55 ERA for too long, but will the bats ever start heating up? So far Derrek Lee seems to be the only one up to the task but it will be a long season if no one else follows suit.
As the Big Hurt pressed the flesh with Ozzie Guillen (and no, the flesh being pressed wasn't his hands and Ozzie's neck), fans in the stands couldn't be blamed if they wondered if Thomas were making a return trip to the South Side. After all, the Sox' bats have been in a state of slumber lately. And the post-game news about Paul Konerko's thumb might warrant musing on the possible return of the Big Hurt.
But, nope, Thomas wasn't there for that, though he hasn't officially retired yet and he and Sox GM Kenny Williams have reportedly been chipping away at that block of ice that was formed when Thomas made negative comments about the team while playing for the Oakland A's. (The White Sox website says the two talked Wednesday and described the meeting as "cordial".) Williams allegedly wants Thomas to retire (and, one assumes, enter the Hall of Fame) as a White Sox and making nice would seem to be part of that deal.
No, Thomas, instead, was roaming foul territory Wednesday with a mike in his hand as a member of the Comcast Sports Net reporting team, conducting pre-interviews for the upcoming White Sox-Cubs interleague series where he'll serve as an on-field reporter. And yes, the irony is pretty thick: the recalcitrant, media-shunning Thomas on the other side of the camera shoving microphones in the faces of ballplayers and asking the questions.
Finally, meet the man who motivated Michael Jordan to greatness (by beating him out for the last spot on their high school basketball team): Leroy Smith. (If he looks a little like Charlie Murphy, that's purely coincidental, we're sure.)
Despite dropping the afternoon game to the Tigers 5-4 and seeing just a small sample size of their manager Ozzie Guillen on the verge of a blowup the White Sox rebounded in the night cap. Their victory was fueled behind the arm of Jose Contreras who had made his return to big league action after being sent down to Triple-A Charlotte after starting off the year 0-5. He went 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA in five starts for Charlotte.
Contreras looks to have figured it out after a dismal start this season. He went eight innings and only surrendering one hit back in the first inning and that was all. His ERA drops from 8.19 to 6.45 after his impressive outing. His offense helped him out in a big way as Alexei Ramirez, Scott Podsednik and Jim Thome all hit home runs in Monday nights 6-1 win over the Tigers.
Then came the Cleveland Indians who hold the second worst record in the American League. Yet they some how managed to take two out of three from the Sox. Today Bartolo Colon was the culprit behind the 8-4 loss to the Tribe. He surrendered four home runs to Cleveland hitters. Alexei Ramirez tried to bring the Sox back with a three run-homer in the bottom of the fifth, but the damage had already been done.
It seems as if every Carlos Zambrano start has become some sort of sight to see. Will he blow up? Will he get injured? Will he go on a seven minute tirade that climaxes with beating a Gatorade machine to death and a six game suspension? 2009 has been anything but low key for Zambrano. Friday night, the story line was already in place as Zambrano went for his 100th career win - a somewhat significant milestone in a pitcher's career. In the history of baseball, well over 500 pitchers have recorded 100 or more wins. So while it is a noteworthy achievement, it doesn't put a pitcher in any sort of elite group. But no moment is mundane with Zambrano on the mound and he won his 100th game with a flair that few pitchers have achieved before him.
So when Tony Dungy said signing Jay Cutler was risky for the Bears, did he stop to consider who the previous three or four Bears quarterbacks were?
Author Sarah Paretsky takes time off from documenting the exploits to private investigator V.I. Warshawski to discuss another dark subject: the Cubs. She compared Cubs fans to "tired women living with alcoholic men." Ouch.
Starter Clayton Richard would give it right back in the top of the second inning. After three solid starts Richard had one of his poorer performances since joining the rotation. He gave up seven hits, four walks and five earned runs in five and one third innings. Three home runs by the A's were the undoing of Richard.
Ryan Dempster may have been the first to come with blows but it was Carlos Zambrano who put the fatal wounds on the Cubs' new Gatorade dispenser, according to the Chicago Tribune. Zambrano, during his outburst of crazy on May 27th, brushed aside pitching coach Larry Rothschild in the dug out and unleashed his full rage on the dispenser over a disputed call at home plate that later replays showed was correct. Ever since, the Gatorade machine has been dying a slow death of leaks and a broken shell casing. When the Cubs return to Wrigley from their current road trip, they will be greeted by an old fashioned bucket and tap style dispenser, ones that have shown over time their durability to be resistant against the onslaught of angry pitchers. In some ways, this may be a good omen for a Cubs team that is struggling to stay afloat. If, someday, the Cubs ever win it all, what could they do with a Gatorade dispenser? The customary act of dumping the Gatorade bucket over the coach's or manager's head would become impossible. They would have to drag Lou Piniella to the machine, stick his head under the fountains and press the soda tabs to give him his proper Gatorade bath; that's just no good. In order to be a champion, you must be prepared for it and now another small piece of the puzzle is in place. The Gatorade dispenser was two months old.
Continuing the Cubs recent streak of strong pitching performances, Ryan Dempster went seven innings against the Dodgers, allowing no runs and only three hits. The offense lent their support to their starter, scoring in five of the eight innings they took to the plate for a clean 7-0 win. It is the fifth game in a row for the Cubs in which they have held the opposing team to two runs or less. The strong outing was Dempsters best performance so far this year and came on the heels of his worst, a four inning, six run stint against the Pirates on Monday. Since that lost to the Pirates, the Cubs have allowed only five runs in five games; the Gatorade dispenser couldn't be happier. On Friday, the pitching allowed the Cubs to perform a feat that has eluded them all season: win with less than four runs scored. Prior to Fridays game, the Cubs had scored three or less runs in nineteen games and had lost every one of them. Thanks to yesterday's game, they are now a much more impressive 1-19 with less than four runs scored.
Tomorrow, Sean Marshall (3-3) will go for the series win against Eric Milton (1-0) on ESPN as their featured Sunday Night baseball game. Marshall started this stretch of strong pitching when the rain gods interrupted his last outing for a rare five inning victory.
Sox starter Clayton Richard pitched seven strong innings giving up six hits and striking out seven. He earned his second win since joining the Sox rotation on May 18. His streak of not allowing an earned came to an end after 16 2/3 innings as the Royals Billy Butler would tag him with a solo home run in the sixth. They are going to be with out their All-Star left fielder Carlos Quentin as he has been placed on the 15-day disabled list.The move has been made retroactive to May 26.
Wipe your tears, Hawks fans. According to USA Today, the young team's gotta wear shades ('80s music reference).
Not only are Derrick Rose's academic endeavors at Memphis under scrutiny, but it looks like the grade hanky-panky extends back to high school.
So does this SAT probe mean anything for the next batch of NBA hopefuls, many of whom will be here in Chicago for the annual pre-draft camp?
Answering the cries of many Cubs fans, GM Jim Hendry says the trading of Mark De Rosa isn't the problem. Meanwhile, The Bleacher Reports thinks moving Alfonso Soriano to second is one of the answers. And if the sale of the team to the Ricketts family doesn't go through, Sam Zell says "don't worry".
So who's the most important Bear on the team right now? If you think the answer is obvious, think again.
Even with deep dish pizza and Italian beef sandwiches all over the place, Chicago is pretty average when it comes to fitness. We're 25th out of 50.
After taking the first game of this series in convincing fashion the White Sox rolled onto victory in game two. They weren't able to pull off that elusive sweep,however. They have now won their last three series in a row, however, they always seem drop the last game of said series. Last night the Sox ran into a buzz saw in Jered Weaver.
Gavin Floyd matched Weaver all night long. Weaver was just that much better,however. He allowed only one run in eight innings of work. Floyd would pitch eight innings and surrendered three runs and that was all the Angels needed to beat the Southsiders. They were 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position and left six men on base.
And the beat(ing) goes on... With their 10-8 loss to the Pirates yesterday, the Cubs losing streak hit eight, matching their longest losing streak in the last SEVEN seasons. "It certainly can't get any worse," said catcher Geovany Soto, who apparently never heard of the numbers nine, ten or eleven, etc. Although their hitting has been taking a downward slide lately (they're batting .244 as a team, third worst in the majors), the bats woke up yesterday and pounded out 10 hits. But pitching is still a hit-or-miss proposition (no pun intended). Yesterday, starter Ryan Dempster lasted only four innings and gave up six runs, two on back-to-back bases-loaded walks. The bullpen, of course, wasn't much better with Neal Cotts dishing up a two-run homer to let Pittsburgh take the lead.
So what's the solution? Well, a lot of people, including Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, thinks the team needs an eruption from Mount St. Lou (Pinella) to fire up the troops. At least Milton Bradley and Ted Lilly seem to think raised voices are the answer as both have had verbal run-ins with the umps lately, with Lilly being tossed from the bench during Monday's game. But if you need a dirt-kicking tantrum from Pinella to beat someone like today's Pirate starter Ian Snell (1-5, 4.88 ERA), then they've got bigger problems than anyone ever thought.
The good news is that Cubs' scored more runs on Sunday than they had in any of their previous five games; the bad news is that they only scored two. On the heels of another lackluster offensive effort, the Cubs dropped their seventh straight game and completed their winless, six game road trip in San Diego. A week ago, I wrote about how this team was managing to create wins amid a storm of injures, underperforming players and shaky relief pitching. Fittingly, the team has lost every game since then, scoring only five runs in the last six games. Have all the short comings of this team caught up to them or has this week merely been a bad stretch? If anything positive can be taken out of the last seven games, it is that the losses can be pinpointed to one single part of their team: the offense. For the most part, both the starting pitching and bullpen have done well to keep the games respectable. If the pitching can remain steady and if the bats can produce, there is a formula in place that can produce wins in the future.
While the season is still young, at some point soon this team needs prove that they can contend, if they plan on having a successful season. I've already heard the grumblings amongst fans who worry about the proverbial window closing on this batch of Cubs' players. The Cubs are a team that was built to win now. Made up of mostly veteran players, even their "young" guys are not all that young. Micah Hoffpauir and Mike Fontenot turn 29 this year, Geovany Soto is 26, every other position player is in their 30's. The starting rotation particularly is made up of veteran players. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being a veteran team; you just don't want to be an old team. But the difference between "veteran" and "old" is not distinguished by age, the only difference is that veteran teams win and old teams lose. The Cubs are hoping to be a veteran team but it won't be long before they turn old. They have a lot of money tied into the big contracts of players who are past their peak production years. Their farm system is one of the worst in baseball, only two of their players are listed in Baseball Prospectus' Top 100 Prospects : Josh Vitters and Jeff Samardzija, numbers #34 and #85, respectively. If baseball has taught us anything since the end of the Yankees' dynasty, it is that teams cannot buy a World Series title, successful teams start in the farm system. If the 2009 Cubs cannot compete, there is not much reason to believe that the 2010 team will be much better. The time for the Cubs to win is now, or maybe it was last year, this is not a team built to be competitive in three or four years. So while it may only be May, the Cubs need to break out of their slump and give the fans reason to hope for the rest of the year before it is too late. And then hope that new ownership can figure out the aging problem in the years to come.
After suffering their worst loss in team history Thursday afternoon to the Twins the Sox righted the ship by beating the Pirates Friday night 2-0 and 4-0 tonight. They rode the bat of Alexei Ramirez to victory as he would hit is second home run in two nights.
Ramirez was batting number two after it proved successful in Fridays game. He was placed there by Joey Cora who is filling in for Ozzie Guillen, who is tending to his ailing father-in-law in Venezuela. He hit a home run in the two hole Friday night, so it would only make sense to keep him there. Perhaps Ramirez relaxed a little bit with his skipper out of town.
Despite winning their first series this month the White Sox fall back on bad times losing to the Twins 20-1. Bartolo Colon was god awful lasting only two innings but only surrendering one earned run. It was his defense that failed him. Wilson Betemit who was replacing Josh Fields, the newest member of Ozzie Guillen's doghouse, committed an error that opened the flood gates in the second.
A throwing error allowed the inning to continue which allowed the Twins to have a seven run inning. The game became out of reach at this point and it only got worse from there. The bullpen didn't do any better either. The Twins scored in all but three innings. Sox relievers gave up a six spot in the sixth and a four spot in the seventh.
Ozzie Guillen returned for series finale in Toronto Monday only to see his team get swept by the red hot Blue Jays. The Sox were down 2-0 early, but came back on a two-run homer by Jim Thome in the top of the eighth. The bullpen would give the lead right back in the bottom half of the inning.
Sox reliever Octavio Dotel surrendered an RBI triple the to the Jays Alex Rios They lose 3-2 and drop their fifth straight. Ozzie Guillen has yet to go off, but if they continue down this path a Guillen rant will be soon to follow.
By the time this week's three game series with the Cardinals is over, the Cubs will be just about a quarter done with the 2009 season. And while I cannot predict what will happen during the next three games, it's safe to say that the first 40 games of the year have not gone to script. If you had talked with a Cubs fan before the season started and informed them that after six weeks of play Aaron Miles, Micah Hoffpauir and Bobby Scales will become everyday players; the team's number one starting pitcher and biggest RBI producer will both go on the DL; Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto and Mike Fontenot will be fighting to stay above the Mendoza line and the bullpen will post the second worst ERA in all of the NL, you probably would have been greeted with predictions of a season full of doom and gloom. But somehow, this Cubs team has not fallen into the dark; they have found a way to win games and stay competitive in a surprisingly strong NL Central division. Despite the injuries, the slow starts and unreliability in the bullpen, the 2009 Cubs have managed to post the same record through 36 games as the 2008 team did a year ago.
On Tuesday, the team starts a short, six game road trip in St. Louis. For the Cardinals, these games have higher stakes involved than the average mid-May series. Losers of 9 out of their last 13 games, St. Louis will once again put their frequently injured, Cy Young winning pitcher Chris Carpenter on the mound for the first time since he went to the DL on April 14th. If he can pitch to form, the Cubs' hitters will have their hands full with Carpenter on Wednesday and Adam Wainwright pitching on Thursday. It may be the boost the Cardinals need to break out of their current slump. While the Cardinals are looking for a strong return from their number one starter, the Cubs are hoping to pull out a few more wins while waiting for the return of their staff ace. Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to start in San Diego on Friday after a rehab outing over the weekend. Despite a rocky 3.2 innings pitched at High-A Daytona, Zambrano says he feels ready to go and only needs to work on correcting his release point before Friday's game.
Meanwhile, Chicago's other pro soccer team, the Red Stars have a budding star with the free-spirited midfielder Megan Rapinoe. Elsewhere, ESPN shows the Red Stars some by singing out goaltender Caroline Jonsson as one of the standouts in the Women's Professional Soccer League's inaugural season.
Vancouver is still trying to hold its collective heads up high after being bounced by the Blackhawks. But at least they don't welch on a bet.
If you had a brand-new boat (and really, in this economy, who doesn't?), the Chicago Park District has given you two new harbors.
Yahoo! Sports has the Bears finishing 11-5 this season. Hmmm...what changed?
As long as the Arena Football League is gathering mothballs, former Rush coach Mike Hohensee figures he's better earn a buck somewhere else.
Tired of movie dates, candlelit dinners and walks along the beach? Try antigravity yoga (among other alternative and physical date ideas).
New video game upstart retail outlet Play N Trade opens a new store in the Chicago area.
Seeking to assert their masculine superiority, the baseball-playing Schaumburg Flyers will take on the Chicago Bandits, the 2008 National Pro Fastpitch champions, in a fastpitch softball game. Why am I temped to bet the house on the Bandits?
And that was all she wrote. Buehrle pitched seven strong innings and struck out six despite surrendering a pair of home runs he fell victim to a lack offense. The Sox had no answer for Cy-young Award winner Cliff Lee as they were 2-for-4 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base. They failed to score twice with the bases loaded.
Buehrle went eight innings,giving up one hit and striking out five. He may have jinxed himself after returning to the dugout in the middle of sixth by acknowledging that he had a no-no going. After surrendering that lead-off double in the seventh he got into trouble by walking two to load the bases but would retire the side as Tiger catcher Gerald Laird would fly out to center.
If we spoke a week ago, I would've told you to start counting to 102 years. The Cubs had slipped to a 3-7 slump, including a four game slide to Cincinnati and St. Louis. However since April shifted to May, the Cubs are starting to catch fire, and currently sit three games behind St. Louis.
A major contributor to the Cubs 6-1 streak, filling in for the injured Aramis Ramirez, third basemen Mike Fontonot sits 2nd on the Cubs with the most home runs (5) behind slugger Alfonso Soriano (7). However, shortstop Ryan Theriot has strutted his stuff hitting .305 with 3 home runs, all three of them within the past two weeks.
Although the Cubs aren't putting up the monster numbers they did this time last year, they're sitting quite pretty in the early part of the season heading into the early summer.
The White Sox have now lost four in a row dating back to their series with the Texas Rangers. They lost 8-7 to the Kansas City Royals in extra innings last night. This is the second series in a row they've lost. They were without Jermaine Dye and Josh Fields since the weekend, both have been nursing bumps and bruises they've suffered over the against Texas. They did make their return to the lineup last evening and provided a much needed lift, however, it becomes a moot point in a loss.
Suspect starting pitching has been their undoing in this four game skid. Since Saturday Sox starters haven't gone longer than six innings. As a result the bullpen has been overworked. Just last night five relievers were used and on top of that they went into extras. There are going to be some tired arms in that pen if this trend continues.
After taking 2 out of 3 from the Seattle Mariners the Chicago White Sox enjoy their off day in Arlington before they open up a three game series against the Texas Rangers.
In a move to spark production from their lead-off position the White Sox have sent down the struggling Jerry Owens and have recalled '05 World Series hero Scott Podsednik. The Sox currently sit at 11-10 and they are a half game behind the first place Kansas City Royals.
Mark Buehrle (3-0) will take the mound Friday night in Texas and will be opposed by Rangers right-hander Scott Feldman (1-0).
The (semi) satirical sports website Deadspin takes a look at the incident from yesterday's Cubs-Cincinnati Reds game at Wrigley Field, namely the feline that scurried onto the field and the curse-related implications of the intrusion (i.e., not making the World Series AGAIN). Nevermind the cat; isn't having Dusty Baker back in the ballpark a harbinger of bad tidings in itself?
In case you've forgotten that in between the Bulls and Blackhawks playoff runs, there's still baseball in Chicago, and Aramis Ramirez reminded us just how exciting baseball can be.
Tied 5-5 in the 11th inning on Saturday, A-Ram spanked a huge two-run shot to win the game for the big blue train, pushing the Cubs to a 7-5 record, and an NL Central Division lead cushion of a game. This was Aramis' third homer of the season, but first in the late innings (6th inning or later), A-Ram hit six go-ahead runs in the late innings last season.
The Cubs open a series today with the Reds that lasts until Thursday evening, they are then embarking on a road trip which takes them through St. Louis and Arizona before looping back to Wrigley to play the Marlins.
The White Sox got a small amount of pay back after taking three of four from the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend. The South Siders took care of business after a couple close games on Thursday and Friday night. The weekend would be a different story, however, they would man handle the Rays to the tune of 8-3 on Saturday and 12-2 on Sunday.
Strong performances from Carlos Quentin and Gavin Floyd helped fuel the Sox's victory Sunday. Quentin has picked up where he left off from last season. He hit is league leading seventh home run. Floyd pitched seven strong innings with seven strike outs and improved to 2-0 on the year. They improve to 7-5 overall and they are in a three way tie for first with the Tigers and Royals.
The White Sox took their off day to visit their biggest fan, Barack Obama. Paul Konernko, Jermaine Dye and A.J. Pierzynski among others stopped by Pennsylvania Avenue to visit the first fan.
The White Sox are in town for a three game series to face the Baltimore Orioles. Jose Contreras (0-2) will take on the Brad Bergesen (0-0). Game time is 6:05pm CT.
In a rematch of the 2009 American League Division Series the White Sox took on the Tampa Bay Rays Thursday night. It was the first meeting between the two since the Rays bounced the Sox from the playoffs last October. John Danks, whose scheduled start was skipped due to a rain out in Detroit pitched six innings, surrendered two hits and struck out eight.
The Sox took the lead early in the game and they never looked back. Jermaine Dye hit a two run homer in the second and that was all they needed. They would score an insurance run in the top of the ninth. The Sox go on to win 3-2. Credit Bobby Jenks with his third save of the season.
The White Sox are now 5-4. Bartolo Colon will pitch tomorrow against James Shields. Game time is 6:38 p.m. CT.
The White Sox took on the Detroit Tigers in their first meeting of the season at Comerica Park this afternoon. It was a slug fest between the two as the Sox came out on top 10-6.
Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko hit back-to-back home runs in the second inning. They made history as each home run was the 300th of their respective careers. They became the first teammates ever to hit century milestone home runs of at least 300 in the same game. Carlos Quentin also hit a pair of homers (3,4) as well.
The White Sox bats came alive this weekend to take the series against their rivals the Twins and win their first series of the season. However the series didn't start off favorable for the Southsiders. Former fan favorite Joe Crede made his return to the South Side. Like Most athletes who leave and come back with another team they usually give management a reminder of what they let go. Crede did just that.
He would take the third pitch he saw from Jose Contreras into the Sox bullpen in left field. They would go on to lose 12-5. Saturday and Sunday were a completely different story. The Sox would roll to an 8-0 victory on Saturday.
The White Sox wrapped up their series against the Kansas City Royals yesterday. After an impressive opening day start the White Sox dropped the next two. Royals starting pitching stymied the Sox bats only allowing one earned run through out the series. The White Sox lost 2-1 yesterday afternoon after Sox closer Bobby Jenks surrendered a two-run homer to Coco Crisp in the top of the ninth.
John Danks pitched six strong innings only giving up three hits while striking out five, but it was not enough as Danks would earn a no decision. Lack of run support from the Sox offense negated a quality start by Danks.
The Chicago Force kick off their 2009 season this Saturday, April 11, in Iowa vs. the Crush, before returing to North Park University for their home opener April 18 against the Wisconsin Warriors. You can hear head coach John Konecki discuss the upcoming season this Friday on AM 1240 (11 a.m.) and on WJJG-AM 1530 at 4:15 p.m.
With the dawn of a new season comes new hopes, new dreams, and new goals. For the Chicago Cubs one of the goals include winning their first World Series in 100 years. In what will likely pan out to be one of the rockiest Cubs seasons in recent memory, the Chicago Cubs will be World Series Champions in 2009.
April 6: In the Cubs opener against the Astros, Carlos Zambrano throws six shutout innings before giving up a three run homer, costing the Cubs the game as they lose their 3rd straight opening day 4-3.
April 13: After going 3-3 to start the season, Ted Lilly pitches a solid 1-run game sending the Cubs to 4-3 after defeating the Rockies to open the season in Wrigley Field.
April 23: Milton Bradley sees first stint on the disabled list as he strains his quadricep diving for an outfield ball with two outs, landing himself on the 15-day disabled list. The Cubs would win the game against Cincinnati upgrading to a 10-5 record.
April 30: After batting .203 over the first month, Kosuke Fukudome losing the center field job to Micah Hoffpauir, who goes 3 for 4 with a HR against the Marlins in his MLB debut.
May 8: Bradley returns to the Cubs lineup, goes 2 for 4 with a game-winning hit to defeat the Brewers 9-8, putting the Cubs up 3 games in the division.
The Southsiders took on a familiar face in the form of Jon Garland on Saturday at Chase Field in Arizona. They would finished the Cactus League on a positive note beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-0. White Sox starters Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon pitched a combined shutout. Contreras pitched the first four innings only giving up one hit. While Colon pitched the final five innings and earned a save for his efforts.
Carlos Quentin came back to the desert and bit the hand that once fed him. He hit a one out double in the third and would eventually score on an Alexi Ramirez single. The White Sox finished with a spring record of 16-20. While spring records are irrelevant the regular season begins Monday.
It might have been the least thrilling position battle in Chicago baseball: the fight for the starting centerfielder's job for the White Sox. While the job was expected to belong to minor league hopeful Jerry Owens, contenders Brian Anderson and Dewayne Wise hung around long enough to make it a three-horse race until the very end.
Much to the shock of Cub-dome, Kevin Gregg has been named the Cubs closer, not Carlos Marmol, says ESPN.com. Marmol, the heavy favorite going into Spring Training may have lost the job due to his dismantling in the World Baseball Classic as he gave up a game winning home run in the Dominican Republic's elimination game.
Gregg, the former Marlins set-up man went 7-8 last season with a 3.41 ERA before being traded to the Cubs. Gregg had an astounding Spring Training by not allowing a single run all month.
Marmol, meanwhile, will share the set-up job with Jeff Samardzija, a place Marmol is very familiar with, as it was his job last season.
The White Sox took on the Cubs in their final meeting of the Cactus League and it was over before it even got started. White Sox starter Clayton Richard only lasted one-third of an inning giving up seven-runs as 11 Cub batters came to the plate in the first inning. The White Sox lose 9-4.
The White Sox did make it respectable,however, as Josh Fields hit a two-run double in the fourth. Carlos Quentin had a pair of singles and Brian Anderson hit a solo home run (4) in the seventh. They drop to 12-16-1 this spring. The Cubs took the spring series 3-2.
In perhaps the largest Spring Training victory in Cubs history, the North Siders demolished the helpless Oakland A's 20-5 on Monday to win their fifth straight game against western teams.
Some of the games notable hero's were Micah Hoffpauir, Derrek Lee who slugged his first spring training homer, and Ryan Dempster who saw his first action since he squirmed out of a one run lead in the late innings earlier in the week against Seattle.
Check in next time for the Spring Training Wrap-Up!
The White Sox and Cubs hooked up in Cactus League action today. This is the fourth of five meetings between these two this spring. The Cubs took the first game with a decisive 13-0 victory, the White Sox would take the next two games 7-6 and 4-3 respectively. Victory number four would belong to the Cubs 13-2.
The White Sox ace Mark Buehrle was on the hill for the Southsiders today while the Cubs had newly named fifth starter Sean Marshall going for them. Buehrle didn't have his best stuff today. He surrendered eight earned runs on seven hits, which included a pair of home runs. He would only last 3 2/3 innings before hitting the showers.
There may not be a casino in Chicago (yet), but there is definitely some gambling going on. The city is now on the hook for $500 million to host the Olympics, part of the state's $750 million guarantee.
The Cubs want a new spring training facility in Mesa, or else they're walking. And Cubs fans want to end 100 years of misery or...they'll be back next year.
They may have been so-so as a team last season, but as humanitarians, the Bears might belong in the Super Bowl.
Two coaches from the Chicago Force are probably glad the temperatures are going to be a bit warmer this weekend. They're getting their heads shaved for charity tomorrow. Meanwhile, the women'd pro full contact football team released their 2009 schedule.
The Windy City Rollers' home teams throw elbows in their next match this Saturday night at the UIC Pavillion.
Meanwhile, if you're up for a road trip, Chicago's other roller derby queens, The Outfit, have a bout-on-wheels near Grand Rapid, MIchigan.
The White Sox were home run happy today against the San Diego Padres. Paul Konerko hit his third of the spring and went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. While Brian Anderson and Dewayne Wise hit their first home runs in the Cactus League this spring.The White Sox sent 11 batters to the plate in a six run fourth inning. They went onto destroy the Padres 15 - 4.
Gavin Floyd went four innings and gave up two hits,struck out four and surrendered two runs. With the win the White Sox climbed back to .500 this spring with a record of 8-8. They also made a few roster moves this week.
The South Siders will take on the Texas Rangers this Saturday at 3:05 p.m. CT at Camelback Ranch.
Carlos Zambrano will throw the first pitch at Wrigley Field for the 2009 season, according to the AP. In his previous four opening day starts, Zambrano has gone 0-1 with three no decisions. The Cubs, however are 2-2 on Opening Day when Big Z is on the mound.
In Spring Training news, the Cubbies are 2-4 in their past six games, including a 3-2 loss to defending World Baseball Classic Champions Japan on Thursday. Chicago sends out a split ball club to play the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners in today's double header.
I've heard of June woes, and October heartbreak, but I've never heard of spring training angst. The Cubs dropped their fifth straight game after losing to Milwaukee 2-0 on Saturday. Carlos Zambrano saw his second start in Spring Training, but allowed both Brewers' scores. Despite Zambrano striking out five of the Brew Crew's hitters, the Cubs lineup couldn't get anything going.
The big blue train plays Texas and Kansas City at home before embarking on a road trip that includes a visit to Seattle's camp, the Dodgers, and even an exhibition game against a World Baseball Classic team.
Speaking of Bears quarterbacks, a Sporting News blog says that Rex Grossman's eminent departure is bad news for Chicago. And while he is visiting Cincinnati, Dallas seems more than eager to welcome him there.
Sure Blackhawks defenseman James Wisniewski was as fan favorite, but Daily Herald sports blogger Tim Sassone says give his replacement, Sami Pahlsson, a chance.
You would think a team that easily won their division last year would be charging full steam ahead with their fans right behind them. Then again baseball is that unique team sport that relies heavily on individual performance. The Cubs have a great looking team but will that turn into a great season?
Cubs fans have a lot of specific questions as Spring training gets underway. Namely will Derrek Lee return to form? Can Milton Bradley stay healthy and positive? With Harden's health always a question how deep is our rotation really? Peavy rubbed our faces in it this weekend. Is there still a possibility he'll wear Cubby blue? And so it goes. We'll just have to wait and see. For now I'm happy to know that it feels like Spring somewhere and the boys of summer are getting warmed up.
The Cubs defeated cross-town rivals White Sox 13-0 on Saturday afternoon, pushing their Spring Training record to 4-0 -- their best start in a decade. After spending several seasons in Double A and bouncing around the majors, Brad Snyder got the call to play outfield today -- and provided a huge boost to the Cubs' offense when he slugged a grand slam in the game.
For those of you keeping track at home, the Cubs are now 1-0 in the 2009 series against our cross-town foes, and hopefully the win percentage stays that way.
By now, even kids realize there really is no such thing as "loyalty" (in the classic sense) in baseball. Gone are the days when a guy played his whole career with one team (OK, most of the time he was bound by leg-shackling contracts that ended with the whole Curt Flood saga, but you get my drift). These days, there are so many players criss-crossing the country that the contrails from the jets are beginning to look like dollar signs.
You can't blame them, of course. If some dot.com mogul wants to shell out millions for a guy who somehow managed to have that one good season last year, hey, who can blame him for not pouncing on that like a hungry lion on a wounded gazelle.
Still, there's something weird about seeing this. Joe Crede on another team? And the Minnesota Twins at that, the closest thing the White Sox have to an arch rival? ANYBODY but them, Joe.
Lisle may have lost the Bandits, but they've gained the Red Eleven (who used to be the Gales and are not to be confused with the Red Stars, even though the two are connected. Got all that?).
The local mixed martial arts center expands its range. Now there's something for everyone...who likes to punch other people in the face.
A new book examines the "holy" (or unholy, depending on where you stand) trinity of men, sports and beer.
He might have flew a bit under the radar on the local sports scene, but they'll no doubt be a tip of the cap in the press boxes to the one-of-a-kind Larry Gross, who is mourned here in Chicago and in his native New Jersey.
As Cubs spring training opened up on Tuesday, manager Lou Piniella told Cubs.com that he's "unsure who'll be leading off come opening day." Alfonso Soriano says he's willing to give up his lead-off position in exchange for a nice middle-of-the-order position. Last season Piniella experimented with the lineup quite a bit throughout the season, but all in all, the North Siders went 69-36 with Soriano as the lead-off man.
If championships are won in October, then someone forgot to tell the Cubs. Despite being one of the National League's top tier regular season teams in 2007 and 2008, they were swept each year in the first round of the playoffs. But in 2009, the Cubs will attempt something they've never done: win three straight NL Central Division Titles.
Recognizing the enormous task ahead, the Cubs went out and had one of the most active off-seasons in recent memory. After releasing relief pitcher Kerry Wood, center fielder Jim Edmonds, and trading away second baseman Mark DeRosa for three minor league pitchers, the off-season looked gloomy. But as January faded into February, things began to pick up.
HBO premiers a new half-hour sports comedy on Feb. 15 called "Eastbound & Down." It stars Danny McBride (Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express, The Foot Fist Way) as an arrogant, burned-out, former major-league pitcher named Kenny Powers, who is forced to return home to North Carolina to teach Phys Ed at the middle school he once attended. While there he plots his return to the big leagues, hits on his high-school sweetheart (who's engaged to the school principal) and does his best to impress his students. Shot in North Carolina, the series is produced by Will Ferrell (who guest stars in two episodes), Adam McKay, Chris Henchy, Jody Hill, Danny McBride and Ben Best.
HBO is showing a preview screening event this Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison, from 7pm to 10pm. There'll be free drinks and food, DJ Timbuk2 and obviously an episode or two of the show. It's free, but you have to RSVP. Space is limited, so get there early. Sorry kids, it's 21 and over.
But wait! Tailgate has 10 pairs of VIP tickets to give away! You'll be guaranteed entry, and get some sweet shwag like middle finger foam hands and drink cozies. Just email contests @ gapersblock.com with the subject line "Eastbound" and include your full name for the guest list. We'll choose 10 entries at random to attend. UPDATE: We've got our 10 winners. Congrats, everybody!
First, there was Barack Obama in the White House. Now there's Pat Quinn in the State House. Politically speaking, White Sox Nation just keeps getting bigger.
Speaking of the Sox, as SoxFest kicks off this weekend, Ozzie Guillen says the team will try "small ball"... again. And will Joe Crede join former Sox teammate Juan Uribe in Frisco? His potential replacement, Josh Fields, is wasting no time just in case he does.
But don't forget to show some love to the city's other roller derby queens, The Outfit, as they host a benefit party tonight.
You'd think getting punched in the face and crotch, sometimes at the same time, would be high on the pain scale for a UFC star. But for one Hammond, Ind., there's something more painful: being a Cubs fan.
You own the coins, the plates and even the lava lamp. Now let Barack Obama sit on your head. Well, not actually. But the White Sox are making it sort of easy with plans to unveil a new Obama commemorative cap, to salute their No. 1 and clearly most powerful fan. The team has created two designs and both have been approved by Major League Baseball. Now they only have to get The O Man himself to give it his thumbs up. No word on when the "golden" Blagojevich Cubs hat will be unveiled.
Much has been made of the role sports has played in Four-Days-From-Being-President Barack Obama's life, most notably the sport of basketball. From his days as a prep player in Hawaii, to his love of pick-up games around the country, to his penchant for picking cabinet members with a hoops background, Obama is becoming synonymous with basketball.
But in his New York Times column, writer George Vecsey makes a case for baseball as a defining factor in Obama's ascention to the White House. No, not Obama as baseball player or even avid fan, but Obama as benefitting from the social gains established by baseball before becoming a regular part of the larger society.
No surprise that Vecsey points to the Brooklyn Dodgers as the team that deserves the most credit in the sport for helping to pave the way for Obama. Yeah, it smacks of typical New York City bias, but he makes a good case for the Dodger influence on history, citing Roy Campanella, Don Newcomb and, of course, Jackie Robinson as part of the reason why the Obamas were able to make the journey from Chicago to Washington, D.C.
Basketball may be his game, but for Barack Obama, baseball's influence on his life may go far beyond his well-worn White Sox cap.
The Sporting News' reaction to the Wrigley Field hockey spectacular: meh.
Meanwhile, the Hawks' Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are first and sixth, respectively, among forwards in NHL All-Star Western Conference balloting. Brian "Soup" Campbell is third in balloting for defensemen.
President-elect Barack Obama wears his White Sox loyalty on his sleeve, as most people probably know by now. Not only has he thrown out the first pitch at a White Sox game (and may do it again), but he couldn't help but tweak Cubs fans with his assessment of their interest in their team and the game. This week, he took it another step when he (or someone who works for him) thought it would be funny/cute/clever to split the press corps seating assignments into a "Cubs" section and a "White Sox" section, although from this account it seems White Sox-friendly reporters got the short end of the stick. If nothing else, at least the rest of the world is learning how deep ths Cubs-vs-White Sox thing goes.
During Wednesday's 2nd of 4 nights in town, Smashing Pumpkins leader and well-known Cubs fan took time out from rocking out and rankling fans to weigh in on the return of Ditka and his role in bringing about a Bears Super Bowl win and Armageddon, his belief he can write a better song to replace Steve Goodman's "Go Cubs Go," and Eddie Vedder's role in the demise of the 2008 Cubs season. He also acknowledges the Sox team's recent superiority in the inevitable cross-town comparison, and Bobby Jenks' ever ballooning waist size before launching into "Disarm."
Note there's a handful of NSFW language, so use headphones in the office.
And the Cubs post-season post-mortem examination continues, with Lou Pinella blaming that old standby, the media, while Ryan Dempster says the team flatout wasn't ready. Hey guys, sorry, no do-overs.
Meanwhile, the White Sox, who seems to have come to grips with their playoff loss, work on keeping Bobby Jenks around. But did Nick Swisher phone it in for much of the season?
Four area college soccer teams have made it to the NCAA tournament.
It was bound to happen after that embarrassing loss to the Packers: The "Fire Lovie" talks are heating up. Here is one blogs' 10 reasons why he deserves the ax. Meanwhile, Fanhouse questions Lovie's assessment that the Bears receivers are "pretty good".
The Bulls' Derrick Rose sits atop most Sports Illustrated NBA writers' list of early top rookies. Naturally.
It's not the major draw it used to be, but prep football is still a big deal in Chicago. The Catholic League is gearing up for its title game, pitting Loyola Academy against De La Salle.
A disabled cyclist bikes 1,064 miles from Jacksonville, Fla. to Chicago. His final destination? Where else: Oprah.
The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation gets a new name.
The Chicago Outfit wants YOU... well, that is, if you're a female and don't mind getting knocked around a little. There's a recruitment Q&A tonight at 9:30
The Minnesota Vikings' Bernard Berrianexpects boos when he returns to this old stomping grounds at Soldier Field this Sunday. C'mon Bears fans, don't let him down.
If his contract doesn't discourage the White Sox from resigning him, Ken Griffey Jr.'s recent knee surgery might.
Evanston remembers one of his favorite sons, former MLB pitcher Kevin Foster.
Speaking of favorite sons, new Wolves head coach Don Granato is happy to be back home as he prepared for the team's home opener Saturday night.
Remember the Cubs' "fan" who tried to auction off his loyalty on eBay? He may have found a buyer and a kindred spirit in the Boston Red Sox.
In the battle of sports radio on Chicago (well, it's actually just a two-horse race), WSCR-AM has taken the lead.
De La Salle's Mike Shaw is being touted by ESPN as the "next big thing" in Chicago high school basketball.
Even if you're not entered in this weekend Urbanathlon, you can still go down and enjoy the party.
The Windy City Rollers are holding tryouts. If you think you have what it takes (and can come up with a clever alias like "Val Capone" or "Lucy Furr"), come to a scrimmage preview on Monday. Incidentially, the WCR All-Stars made it to the national finals in Portland, Oregon.
It doesn't help that the economy is currently in or headed directly for the proverbial crapper, but the price of tickets to sporting events show no sign of coming down to meet the slightly thinner pockets of the buying public, according to an article on "Medill Reports".
Currently, the average ticket to a Cubs' game rose to $42.49 in 2008, according to the report, a 42 percent increase from 2004. And that two-parents-two-kids-at-the-game measuring stick they're always using in the yearly reports on how much a day at the ballgame will cost (officially known as the Fan Cost Index)? This season it was $251.96 for a Cubs game. And it doesn't appear likely to come down even with the "occurances" of this past season.
The Bears were the most expensive ticket in town at an average price of $88.33. The White Sox were a better baseball bargain with an average ticket price of $30.28 and an FCI of $214.61. The Blackhawks were the city's best professional sports value at $34.88, although that could change next year if the team makes the progress everyone expects.
In a weekend of extreme highs (the Bears, doing what they were supposed to do and crushing the Detroit Lions) and extreme lows (Say, did you hear what happened to the Cubs?), the accomplishments of the White Sox fall somewhere in the middle.
Yes, they managed to stay alive in their best-of-five ALDS series against the Tampa Bay Rays and need to pull another three-game winning streak out of their... hat to keep progressing in the playoffs. But they also remain one game away from forcing Juan Uribe to let his beard go back to his natural color.
Game Four kicks off today at 4:07 p.m. at The Cell with Tampa's Andy Sonnanstine (13-9, 4.38 ERA) going against the White Sox' Gavin Floyd (17-8, 3.84), who is pitching the latest "game of his life". His first was the 8-2 victory over Detroit in the make-up game that sent the Sox into the tiebreaker against the Minnesota Twins. Not bad for a guy who was considered a question mark coming into the season.
Win today and the Sox head back to Tampa Bay for the series finale on Wednesday. Lose, and well, Cubs fans won't be the only ones moaning into their beers.
Cubs and Sox fans, we are all hurting. These series aren't over, but by now every baseball fan in Chicago knows the only team to come back from losing two on the road in a best-of-five is (say it with me now) the 2001 Yankees. The Cubs have the best regular season record in the National League, the Sox put together a 3-game miracle run. How can these teams be on the verge of elimination almost before the fun's started? Well I just might have the answer. The five game series format is to blame. There isn't a major league manager or player that will defend it. If things don't turn around for our teams, there might be a whole lot of Chicagoans that join in that chorus.
This time, no talk of curses, OK? No dusky felines or horned farm animals or bespectacled young men sitting several rows back or haunted magazine covers. No hoodoo or voodoo or hexes or incantations or spells involving animal bodyparts and plants mashed into a poultice.
Oh, the media will try to goad you into talking about those things as if they were actual factors. They'll stick cameras in your face and a tape recorder under your nose and will get you to try to say that every Cubs' pitcher's ball four and every Derek Lee strikeout is part of some cosmic plan to keep the Cubs from winning the World Series. They'll do these things because people expect them and it saves them from doing any real work ("OK, people, story ideas for the Cubs series." "The curse?" "Great, good job, let's break for lunch."). They'll write books about and get famous celebrity Cub fans to talk about it. There'll be bad songs written about it by hack songwriters trying to capitalize on it. People will burn things or bury things or wear things or bless things. Nuns will be employed at some point, I believe.
If you're sick of looking at the Minnesota Twins, no one can really blame you, especially the White Sox. The three-game debacle in the Metrodome last week is still a fresh memory, so seeing them one more time is like running into that guy you knew in high school who you didn't like anyway... again.
But this time you have to acknowledge him because this time he's standing between you and a date with the Prom Queen (or King). At 6:30 this evening, the American League Central will FINALLY decide on a champion when the Sox and Twins face off to see which one gets to go to the dance, er, the first round of the playoffs.
Yeah, sure, it shouldn't have even come down to this, the 163rd game of the season, and probaby wouldn't have had the Sox won one of those three games in Minnesota. So thank that skinny kid from Cuba for coming through with arguably the biggest hit of the season and keeping the team alive.
The White Sox will go with John Danks, who's 1-1 against Minnesota this season (in four starts) with a whopping 7.91 ERA. Not the most confidence-inducing stat line you've probably ever read. The Twins counter with Nick Blackburn (2-2 against the Sox with a 5.67 ERA) who beat the Sox 3-2 on September 24 for his 11th win of the season. BUT, Blackburn is 3-6 outdoors and has a 6.75 ERA in the month of September. Hey, you crunch your numbers when you can...
The Sox are asking all fans attending the game to wear all black in a show of solidarity, creating possibly the first all-goth fanbase for a major league baseball team. Hopefully, it won't turn into a funeral for the 2008 season.
They couldn't do this the easy way, could they? Pretty much handed the AL Central title by the Minnesota Twins who uncharacteristically lost two games at home to the lowly Kansas City Royals, the White Sox only had to win ONE game to move ahead in the division race. It was a chance they promptly muffed by losing two games in their own final three-game series to the Cleveland Indians.
So now they stand at the intersection of Postseason and Long Winter needing two wins to extend their season, today's make-up game against the Detroit Tigers and a possible tie-breaking game against the Twins at U.S. Cellular on Tuesday.
Whether we see the slick-fielding, timely-hitting White Sox we saw yesterday in a 5-1 win over the Indians (four double plays, a Paul Konerko homer and two RBI by Jermaine Dye) or the tensed-up White Sox we saw in their sweep in Minneapolis last week is anyone guess. But they have two games to determine who they really are.
So now, Sox fans, we must dwell in the Land of Hope and Luck. Hope Minnesota stumbles against the Kansas City Royals at the Metrodome in the final three games of the regular season (not bloody likely). Pray the Sox get lucky and sweep the Cleveland Indians in their three-game finale at U.S. Cellular ("luck" being a more viable commodity for the Sox than skill, as the past three games in Minneapolis proved).
In hindsight, the prospect of winning at least one game against the Twins seemed like reasonable expectation. After all, the Sox had a 1-5 record in the Dome coming into the series, meaning they at least had the capacity to win there, if not the tenacity.
These might be tickets to a game that will never happen, but for most Cubs fans, they're still dream tickets. If you're not a season ticket holder, your only chance to hold one of these puppies may by sucking up to your alderman.
Well unless you live in a sensory deprivation chamber you know the Cubs have clinched their division and are busy setting up the team they will take into the playoffs. Players like Micah Hoffpauir and Kevin Hart are still fighting for spots but successfully battling two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana was enough for Sean Marshall to earn a spot in the October bullpen.
With two more games against the Mets and the last three at Milwaukee, the Boys in Blue still have a lot to say about what happens in the NL. Carlos Zambrano goes tonight. Hopefully, for all of us looking toward the post-season, we'll get the no-hitter Z, and not the inning-and-two-thirds Z that showed up last start.
Did I mention I hate the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome? Hate it, hate it, hate it. Hate its bloated name, its Michelin-Man-Taking-A-Nap appearance. Hate its garbage bag outfield wall, its plastic grass and plastic fans. Hate its non-descript, sterile, but oppressive interior. Hated their players, all of whom seemd to be 5-10, 180-pound slap-hitters. I hated that ballpark. Hate it, hate it, hate it.
When you looked at the White Sox schedule in April, didn't you know it would come down to this?
It's probably no stretch of the imagination to say that 90 percent of Sox fans were anticipating these three days in September as a showdown of sorts, a confrontation that would have season implications for the White Sox or the Twins. Or both.
It didn't matter than the Sox were supposed to be road kill this season, or that the Tigers were supposed to have clinched the AL Central a month or so ago. You knew.
This is the stuff that feeds conspiracy theories, that conjures up thoughts of rigged games and phantom calls. I mean, c'mon: slating a White Sox-Twins series so late in the season and - gasp - you mean it actually matters? Scheduling a showdown between two of the most heated rivals in the division with little more than a week to go? Who would have (ahem) thought that?
Of course it's not rigged (it isn't, right?) but you have to admit it's a perfect scenario. In the last few weeks they've both been playing hot potato with first place, with the Sox managing to hold on the longest. Even now, as Game 1 gets set to kick off, the White Sox' 2 ½ game lead is just enough to make every game a matter of (baseball) life and death.
So with that stage set, as Ozzie Guillen commands starter Javier Vasquez to "kick some butt", as we wonder why Ken Griffey Jr. is starting in centerfield instead of Dewayne Wise, as we ponder what this series would be like with Carlos Quentin in the lineup, just remember, as random as the baseball gods are, you knew it would come down to this.
As previously mentioned in Merge, bars in Wrigleyville and US Cellularburg (US Cellstonia?) are being asked to voluntarily stop serving alcohol after the 7th inning of home playoff games wherein the Cubs or Sox could clinch a series. This is some hilarious quasi-fast pitch (pun intended) being called by Hizzoner and what should bars really do? Games get out at what? 11pm, CST? So, yeah, stop serving three hours early for the sake of what, families? children? Excuse me, but last time I checked, former frat boys, duuuuuuudes, and vapid women lived in Wrigleyville. Meanwhile, on the Southside, I'm pretty sure they have vastly more important things to worry about than curbing the amount of consumption and need to be vastly more aware of the clientele and actually exacting some sort of responsibility on the employees and customers of said speakeasy.
Back to the lecture at hand, what Daley is proposing is ludicrous and would amount to a much less safe and far less controlled environment wherein people would be, indeed, "gettin' their drank on!" The only comparable notion I can I think of is the current straits that many universities find themselves flummoxed by when confronted with the problem with under-agers drinking far too much in uncontrolled circumstances at off-campus house parties.
However, instead of realizing that people like to get drunk, down, fete, dirty, krunked, what-have-you, Daley, is of the belief that people are having too much in bars -- which, in many cases, I am sure they are. Yet, attempting to curb drinking through a 7th inning cut-off would merely exacerbate the drunken throngs by tempting them to raid their own pre-purchased stockades of liquor and beer that they (the drunken crowds) already are fantasizing about while drinking until the end of the games, bar time, whatever. Within the realms of a bar at least there exists the implied notion of control, versus the unchecked beer-swilling of a person in their own (or a friend's) home.
Now here's a truly useful thing to have handy while you shop for Cubs playoff tickets: a list of seats with obstructed views. It even notes whether you can easily see one of the TV monitors from the seat.
Yes, he led the White Sox to a World Series and may return them to the playoffs this season. But when it comes to national recognition, it seems manager Ozzie Guillen is better known for other, ahem, talents, as this skit from Mad TV this past Saturday demonstrates.
It was an ironic move that wasn't lost on White Sox fans.
When ESPN made the necessary switch from the White Sox/Detroit Tigers waterlogged game Sunday (Game 2 of a doubleheader) to the dramatic conclusion of the Cubs/Houston Astros neutral-site game in Milwaukee, it was a microcosm of the 2008 baseball season in Chicago.
There were the White Sox, sloshing and slogging their way through a hastily arranged doubleheader on a dreary, grey, overcast slit-your-wrists kind of evening. Still, despite that depressing scenario and in front of a crowd only slightly larger than most high school graduating classes, the Sox had managed to stake a 7-0 lead, giving a national audience at least a glimpse of the kind of run-scoring ability they possess (Good thing they weren't around for their catnap against the Toronto Blue Jays earlier in the week). And when the lead was cut slightly to 7-2, there was some concern but nothing to cause one to throw their giant White Sox foam finger at the television in anger.
The Cubs should play all their games in Milwaukee. Congratulations to Carlos Zambrano for pitching the Cubs first no hitter since Milt Pappas just missed a perfect game in 1972. Milt told ESPN after the game he had mixed feelings but was ultimately happy for Carlos. The game was already destined for the books since it was being played on "neutral" ground due to Hurricane Ike making baseball in Houston impossible. Still, Big Z stole the show by coming back from injury with his most dominating performance of the year. The win put the Cubbies 7.5 games over the Brewers with only 14 to play; cautious optimism is starting to turn into giddiness.
This weekend ESPN will begin airing an Outside the Lines detailing the Cubs history and woes. The website we linked to on the GB homepage has a good preview. I imagine they began planning the show when the Cubbies were winning series like nobody's business. The last thing I want to hear about while the team is tanking is the last 100 years of misery. Still they did eek out two close games to take the series in St Louis. Yesterday's win came despite Wood's insistence on putting a couple guys on in the ninth just to make things exciting and shoot Ron Santo's blood pressure through the roof. With the next two days of Cubs baseball being canceled on account of hurricane, you can get your fix with some of the other features OTL put together. I like the 102 facts about Chicago baseball and the board they set up to let fans air their grievances. I love it when Chicago baseball fans get together so Cubs fans can talk about the game and history and Sox fans can talk about Cubs fans.
No, we didn't expect the Bears to beat the Colts last Sunday night either. But if they're going to build on that, there are three things they must do to beat the Carolina Panthers this Sunday.
Even if they don't win the game, the Bears are still scoring touchdowns at the bank.
Arguing over who gets the last drumstick is one thing. But a Cubs-White Sox World Series could drive one family nuts.
REALLY old school White Sox fans will mourn the death of former manager Don Gutteridge.
Current White Sox star Carlos Quentin hopes to be healthy by the playoffs. Question is: will he be playing or watching?
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Towes, the Blackhawks' Teen Titans (OK, they're not really teens but it's not far off) get some more (inter)national publicity.
From Kansas City to Chicago on a bike: Are gas prices THAT high?
The marathon gold-medalist from this year's Olympics, Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania has joined the field (pdf) of runners for the 2008 Chicago marathon. Hopefully, we'll have better weather this year.
The Sky take on the New York Liberty in their next-to-last game of their WNBA regular season.
Chicago teams finished third, fourth and fifth in the 2008 North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association Gay Softball World Series.
You're in Lisle. You're riding your bike. You have a hankering to see a play. What are you going to do?
Amidst the heart-pounding stories of untimely injuries (like that of Carlos Quintin), panic-inducing losing streaks (five and counting for the Cubs?) and too-close-for-comfort pennant races, there is a bigger question that looms for Chicago baseball fans: whom to vote for.
No, we're not talking about next year's All-Star game. That's a little too "wait'll next year" even for baseball fans. We're talking about THE election, the big one, the biggest "sporting event" in the country. The race for president.
Surprised that hardcore baseball fans in Chicago, who are engaged in nail-biting division races on both sides of town, would have time to contemplate things like budget deficits and tax gains? Well, if a presidential candidate can find time to discuss baseball, then it's only fair that a die-hard White Sox fan places the race for the White House in baseball terms.
Thanks to all of the ups and downs, as well as the unpredictable twists of the current Chicago baseball season, well, it's enough to drive one to drink. A popular vodka company apparently knows that and will unveil new billboards to at least give fans an idea of WHAT to drink.
Effen Vodka is set to unveil new billboards on the south and north sides of the city to capitalize on the continuing (fingers crossed) good fortune of both the Cubs and White Sox. The Cubs-themed billboard will make reference to the supposed team curse, while the one located near U.S. Cellular field will simply bolster the South Side pride.
But when it comes to aligning themselves with a local sports team, the Bears would seem to be a natural fit for the Holland-based vodka company. After all, I can't count how many times I've heard someone yell, "Effen Rex Grossman" in the last couple of years.
Stories That Will Not Die 1: Mariotti says he's not going to Boston, which leaves only five bazillion other cities for him to tell us where he's not going. Also, the Sun-Times takes a parting shot at their one-time star columnist.
Stories That Will Not Die 2: The Wall Street Journal says Barack Obama isn't the only one down on the Wrigley Field Experience. And Sports Illustrated jumps on the pile, too. But another website turns the other cheek and tries to link White Sox-lovin' Obama with the Cubs.
Stories That Will Not Die 3: Another week, another standing: Now, Chicago is supposedly the front runner for the 2016 Olympics.
The City of Chicago has a plan to make use the most bike-friendly place in the world.
Professional squash fever: Catch it! An international pro squash tournament is headed here.
A lesson in how not to write a press release, this one involving the Bears. My favorite sentence: "The Chicago Bears tickets have many sources of power that let the team to be so."
Among upcoming events at Soldier Field: the Chicago High School Kick Off Classic this weekend.
It may not make it to the side of a milk carton, but the Chicago Fire fan club Section 8 is missing their banner.
Some people might have an opinion about who they are, but a new book of photos entitled "We Are Cubs Fans" seeks to define the loyalists visually. The obligatory Ronnie Woo Woo photo is included.
Speaking of the Cubs, Sports Illustrated joins the rest of the country in being amazed that they AND the White Sox are both in first place and may make the playoffs in the same season for the first time since 1906.
And speaking of the Sox, Fox Sports calls the acquisition of Carlos Quinten the steal of the century. OK, they call it the steal of the season. It just LOOKS like the steal of the century.
Tickets for the National Pro Fastpitch softball championships go on sale this Saturday at Judson Sports Complex in Elgin, home of the Chicago Bandits. The Bandits are one of the four teams who will be participating.
Now that the Blackhawks are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, new fans might want to read about one of the team's legends featured in a story from the Sports Illustrated vaults.
Probably no other series brings out the baseball tradition of Wrigley Field like a Cubs-St. Louis weekend clash (one of which was just concluded Sunday with a 6-2 Cubs victory). The sea of Cubby blue competing with the tsunami of Cardinal red. Cheers of support for both teams that wash over in equal waves. And Budweiser everywhere (it may be St. Louis' beer, but Harry Carey made it Wrigley's own). It's enough to make one forget the deteriorating condition of much of the ballpark.
Well, almost everyone. A student writer for the UCLA Bruin gives his thoughts on Wrigley Field and Cubs baseball. But don't let the first sentence fool you. He liked the place, he really likes it.
It's another weekend of crucial baseball in Chicago (but then aren't they all these days?), and it's one that might cause at least a little worry for the teams' respective fans.
The Cubs' cushy six-game lead over St. Louis (and their five-game lead over Milwaukee) could take a hit if they do the seemingly impossible and tank their three-game series against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. (Update: The Cubs defeated the Cardinals 3-2 in 11 innings Friday) We say "seemingly impossible" because the Cubs are a ridiculous 43-16 at home and the Cardinals are a very human 31-25 on the road. No need to do the math because it's right there. It's the Cardinals' first visit to Wrigley this season. The Brewers, meanwhile, will be taking on the Washington Nationals, who are currently stinking up the joint in the National League East
The White Sox, meanwhile, are teasing their fans more than Gypsy Rose Lee with their tenuous hold on first place (now they're in, now they're out) and a four-game series with Boston isn't helping matters any. Their half-game AL Central lead over Minnesota could crumble like a churro if the Red Sox repeat last season's dominance over the White Sox, when they outscored the South Siders 46-7 in a four-game series. Yeah, there's no Manny Ramirez to face this year, so that might figure in the White Sox favor. It's one of the few breaks they'll receive this weekend, thanks to Minnesota having to contend with lowly Kansas City.
Well the Cubs (and Cubs fans) have had a crazy time the last week or so. Frustration, elation, angry princes and rogue lightning are just a few of the things we've witnessed recently. First of all, congrats to the team for sweeping their division rivals the Brewers. If you watch any sports TV at all you don't need me to tell you that the series was trumped up as October in July. We'll see. In any case, it was immensely satisfying after being so frustrated by the bullpen and lack of timely hitting since the All-Star break. I swear I'm trying not to smile when I see Prince Fielder annihilate his bat after a pop up and get tossed for yelling horse[poop] over and over, Gagne not being able to bean Edmonds in four tries and then hearing that the Brew Crew is brawling in their dugout. The bottom line is they are a good team, the Cubbies had a good series, but there is a lot of baseball still to go.
That point became painfully obvious as the team dropped the first game of each series to the Pirates and Astros. At some point the Cubs are going to have to figure out how to hit young call-ups. They did come on to win the last two games, clinching the rubber match thanks to what Reed Johnson described as his favorite moment on a baseball field. The Astros series remains to be decided, but already it's given us one of the best highlight videos of the season. Watch as Derrek Lee, um...exclaims and the guys laugh in the dugout as Lance Berkman tosses his metal chain and scurries off the field.
A few tidbits: if you haven't done so yet, check out the new West Side Rooters. You can't go wrong with Ronny Woo Woo as your Sergeant at Arms...OOF WAH!... Woody could be back tonight; maybe Mark O'Neal found the neosporin. Lastly, on a sad note, Skip Caray, son of Harry, father of Chip, passed away over the weekend. He was 69, and although he limited himself to home games, was still broadcasting this season.
The question is, of course, where he'd fit in the lineup. Mark Gonzales predicts he'll play center -- which he hasn't done for the Reds in a couple years -- to leave Germaine Dye in right. Jim Thome would stay DH, and Nick Swisher and Paul Konerko would share first base, with Swisher occasionally pulling OF duty.
First it was two alleged Cubs fans pummeling an alleged White Sox fan over his chosen team affiliation to the point of his losing an eye. Now comes word of more alleged Cubs fans being involved in another physical altercation, this time reportedly pouncing on a Milwaukee Brewers fan following Tuesday night's game at Miller Park.
The Cubs currently hold a three game lead over the Brewers in the National League Central. If this is the price of success, perhaps we should keep an ambulence handy at 1060 W. Addison.
As Chicago's two baseball teams continue their improbable dual climb to the top of the baseball food chain, they both meet the two biggest challenges to their dreams in the next four days.
The Cubs and White Sox, atop the NL Central and AL Central respectively, confront the two biggest threats to their first-place status when the Cubs facing the surging Milwaukee Brewers in Bratsville while the Sox travel to Minnesota to face the pesky Twins in the Hump Dome. Both series are four games each with the Cubs and Brewers kicking it off tonight at 7:05 p.m., while the Sox and Twins kick off their series five minutes later.
The White Sox hold a 2 1/2 game lead over the Twins while the Cubs have a narrow one game lead over the Brew Crew. A stumble by one or both teams in these very important series could push them into second place where there's a good chance they could stay there for the remainder of the series. Even if you loath the team on the other side of town, the chance to see them sink in the standings makes both games must-see TV.
Start exercising your remote control fingers. There stands to be a lot of channel surfing in the next few days.
The Cubs' Peoria farm team, the Chiefs, got in a brawl with the Dayton Dragons Thursday evening — in the first inning! Both managers and 15 players were ejected from the game, and a spectator was taken to the hospital after getting hit by a baseball thrown at the Dragons' dugout by pitcher Julio Castillo (as Chicagoist said, guess we know why Castillo's still in the minors.) It was Castillo who instigated the fight, in fact, by retaliating for a hit batter by hitting not one but two batters, and threatening a third. That brought Dragons manager Donnie Scott down to talk with the umps, Chiefs manager Carmelo Martinez down to defend — and the rest is history. Here's some video:
The ejections were reversed by the league commissioner to avoid forcing the teams to use their bullpens to fill in the outfield.
You'll be able to catch the Chiefs in action -- well, playing baseball, at least -- next Tuesday when they play the Kane County Cougars at Wrigley. Tickets are still available.
Cook County Commissioner Mike Quinn got a lot of Detroit Red Wings fans ticked off when he managed to skewer the team in his resolution celebrating the outdoor game against the Blackhawks at Wrigley Field...
...But here’s guessing he’ll have an easier time getting tickets to the game than you do.
A half-game lead (as of Thursday afternoon)? Are the Cubs done for? One writer seems to think so (though he admits he’s a Sox fan but insists that has nothing to do with it… right.)...
...But never fear Cubs fans, there are enough pro-Cubby blogs to ease the pain. In fact, there’s a whole army.
On the one hand, you kinda want everyone to leave the poor guy alone. I mean, it was five years ago. And he wasn't the only guy reaching for that infamous foul ball, just the only one who actually touched it. And it's clear that the subsequent on-field incidents (a wild pitch, an error and flatout lousy pitching) had a lot more to do with the Cubs loss in the 2003 NL playoffs.
That's what one sports collectible show is offering Bartman to sign one autograph, reportedly the most ever offered for a single signature, at their upcoming Rosemont memorabilia convention on July 31. Should he break his voluntary semi-seclusion, Bartman will be given a briefcase containing $25,000 (upon proof of identity) and the signed photograph will be auctioned to the highest bidder. The proceeds will be donated to a local charity.
You assume he's somewhere at least thinking about this. I mean, unless he enters the convention wearing a Cubs cap, Walkman and blue team sweatshirt, he should be able to walk into the place fairly safely. Heck, grow a beard and shave it off right there to assure up-to-the-minute anonymity.
We're talking 25 G's. You can buy a lot of Walkmen with that kind of money.
If the prospect of getting swept by the Arizona Diamond backs and losing their grip on first place in the NL Central weren't enough, the Cubs are now a half a mil lighter in the wallet thanks to a fine by Major League Baseball regarding their actions following the June draft. According to Sports Illustrated, the Cubs failed to report a signing to MLB offices and put a player on the field without MLB approval, earning them the $500,000 fine.
Jerome Holtzman, the Hall of Fame baseball writer who is credited with created the "save" statistic, passed away over the weekend. Holtzman spent more than 40 years writing about the Cubs and White Sox, which some might say qualifies him for sainthood. In 1999, he was named baseball's official historial by Bud Selig. More on Holtzman here.
If he didn't occasionaly move, you'd probably forget he was in the lockerroom. To say Harold Baines was quiet and soft-spoken is like saying Cecil Fielder was a little overweight. Clubhouse interviews with Baines might have consisted of 30 words, tops. Reporters and sportscasters were forced to avoid questions that could result in one-word answers at all costs, because that's what Baines would give you.
But Harold didn't really have to say anything. Like most baseball players worth their salt, he let his bat do the talking. His final career numbers: 2,866 hits, 384 homers, a .289 batting average, 1,628 RBIs (981 with the White Sox, the rest with the Baltimore Orioles), 384 homers (221 with the Sox), a six-time All-Star
From 1980-1989, Baines patrolled the outfield (mainly right) and was seranade with a soon-to-be signature call of "Har-old, Har-old", a few years before a guy with a similar first name and the last name of Washington made it big in this town. And you have to marvel a bit at the fact that Baines share a locker room for much of that time with the 190-degree personality of Ozzie Guillen.
On Sunday, the White Sox will unveil a statue honoring Baines in the center field concourse, taking its place alongside similar statues of Charles Comiskey, Minnie Minoso, Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox, Carlton Fisk and Billy Pierce.
At least we think it will be a statue of Baines. Harold, help us out; say a few words.
The Chicago Bandits have a chance to move into first place in the NPF when they continued their four-game series against the league-leading Philadelphia Force tonight. The Bandits beat the Force 3-1 in the series opener on Wednesday.
The 2008 Aberdeen Street Dodgeball Ninjas will host their summer tournament this Saturday at Sheridan Park. If nothing else, it should provide some interesting photos.
The Chicago Cycling Club hosts a "Baseball Nostalgia Tour", which includes stops at 10 present and former ballparks and lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern.
And speaking of baseball, an all-Cubs channel? I thought we already had that...and referred to it as the local news (said the White Sox fan with the inferiority complex).
Not to dismiss the first half of the 2008 baseball season, but for me, my battle cry has always been, “Talk to me AFTER the All-Star break.”
Countless frantic fans on both sides of town, giddy with early-season promise have, through the years, approached me with manic glee in their eyes, fully convinced that this was The Year due to the fact that either the Cubs or White Sox are in first place at the break, a sign that supersedes anything a billy goat or Shoeless Joe could conjure up.
I’ve seen it so many times I’ve lost count. Take this season, for instance, which finds the White Sox AND the Cubs in first place in their respective divisions. Or rather take 1977, the year to which this year has most often been compared. For it was 1977 which marked the last time both teams were in first place at the same time.
Here's a fun way to go to the game: On July 19, Reggies, the rock club/music complex at 2105 S. State, is throwing a Sox Tailgate Party. For $50, you get hotwings in the club, Hamms, hot dogs and whiffle ball in the parking lot, and then a ride to the game and a seat in the bleachers; it's just $20 if you've already got your ticket. If that wasn't enough, it just happens to be Mullet Night at the game, with fireworks afterward. Call 312-949-0125 for more info or to reserve your spot.
The Chicago Gems Women's Baseball Club had decidely mixed results in the recent Can-Am tournament in South Bend, Indiana, with one of two competing teams reaching the championship game.
Gems I compiled a 3-1 record in the tourney and won the right to face the Aussie Hearts (who they defeated earlier in a come-from-behind victory) in the title game. But the suffered a narrow 2-0 loss to the Hearts in the finale to finish the international competition in second place.
The Gems II squad had it a bit rougher, losing all four of their games but managing to become more competative as the tourney went on. Photo highlights of the tournament can be found here. In addition to the U.S., the field featured teams from Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Guatemala and Russia.
All members of the Gems teams return to Chicago Women's Baseball League action this Saturday as the Comets meet the Riveters at 9 a.m. while the Turtle Rocks take on the Skyline at noon. All games are played in Bedford Park.
Steve Stone joining Hawk Harrelson in the White Sox TV booth? According to the Tribune, it could happen, though the dominos have to fall in just the right way.
ESPN’s Scoop Jackson says the Bulls’ drafting of former Simeon High School star Derrick Rose evokes the memory another Simeon hoopster tabbed for greatness, Ben Wilson, whose murder 24 years ago stunned the city.
Deposed WSCR morning man Mike North says he has four deals on the table. No word on whether any of them involve dishing out extra relish.
A new online marketplace offers fans the chance to put in a bid for playoff and World Series tickets for the Cubs (provided they make it) from season ticket owners looking to dump them. Presumably the website will offer the same deal for (ahem) the White Sox.
The Chicago Rush take on the Grand Rapids Rampage (don’t you love those Arena Footbal League names?) in an AFL Divisional Round playoff game this Sunday, 2 p.m., at Allstate Arena. In other Rush news, wide receiver Donovan Morgan was named AFL Rookie of the Year
The Sky’s Sylvia Fowles is getting a bit antsy since being sidelined with a knee injury, as she reports on her WNBA blog.
White Sox catcher A.J. Piersynzki needs your help in selecting his at-bat music. Though the website lists suggestions (“Panama” by Van Halen?) , I’m sure there are more appropriate songs...right?
Also, the White Sox host the first Double Duty Classic, featuring the top high school baseball players from across the Midwest, on Monday, July 7, 2:30 p.m. The game will honor the legacy of the Negro Leagues and is named for legend Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe.
If you're a fan of Chicago baseball, you might take special pride in seeing your Boys of Summer represented in the Midseason Classic, set for July 15 at Yankee Stadium in New York City. If so, get cracking: All-Star voting ends tonight at midnight.
As it stands, one Chicago team should be well represented in the game while the other will be woefully absent, despite having both teams in first place in their divisions. As of Wednesday, the Cubs have a strong possibility of having three starters in the game. Geovany Soto leads all catchers in voting, while Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome (yes, Fukudome, he of the .292 batting average and six HRs) are Nos. 1 and 3 in balloting for the starting outfield. Derek Lee is third among first basemen, Mark DeRosa is second among second basemen in votes and Ryan Theriot is third among shortstops.
He may not have had the national attention and accolades of the current Cubs, who have argueably usurped the title "America's Team" from the Dallas Cowboys, but for "Sweet Swinging" Billy Williams, his connection with the team has been no less exciting.
If you don't know many of the details of Williams' life as a Cub (and if you're a die-hard Cubs fan, you should), you can brush up on All Things Billy by picking up a copy of his book and having Williams autograph it for you at a special signing for his new biography, Billy Williams: My Sweet-Swinging Lifetime with the Cubs, July 8, 4:30-6pm at Harry Carey's Tavern, 3551 N. Sheffield, just a long foul ball from Wrigley Field. The book was written with longtime Tribune sportswriter Fred Mitchell.
Williams, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987, suffered the same unfortunate fate of his longtime teammate Ernie Banks, which is to have never made it to a World Series despite an exemplary career. But that apparently hasn't diminished his love for the game in general and his love for the Cubs in particular. Williams is still connected to the team as an executive advisor.
The book tells of Williams' early childhood, growing up in the same home state as Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey and Satchel Paige (what the heck were they putting in the water?), his days in the Negro League and his five decades in the big league. It's a must-read for any true Cubs fans. Or even a White Sox fan.
Championship football in Chicago? In June? Yup, when the Chicago Force take on the Detroit Demolition in an Independent Women’s Football League playoff game this Saturday, 3 p.m., at North Park University’s Holmgren Athletic Complex, 3225 W. Foster Ave. Incidentially, two members of the Force also compete in the Chicago Gems Women’s Baseball League…
…who are also involved in a playoff of sorts of its own, as they compete in the Can-Am Spirit of Sportsmanship Tournament in South Bend, Indiana, this Friday-Sunday. In addition to the Gems, women’s baseball teams from Canada and Australia, as well as elsewhere in the U.S., will compete. Meanwhile, action in the CWBL’s own league is on hold and will resume in Bedford Park, Ill. on July 12.
And speaking of Canada, the Chicago Bandits women’s fastpitch softball team (5-7) fell to the Great White North, posting a 1-3 record in their recent four-game series. The Bandits will try to do better against a southern foe, the Venezuelan National Team, in a similar four-game set beginning today (Thurday) at Bandits Stadium at Judson University in Elgin. Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano is slated to throw out the first pitch in today’s matchup and all games begin at 7:05 p.m.
Oil up those skates. The Windy City Rollers will hold tryouts this Saturday and Sunday, July 13. You need only attend one tryout. For exact time and location, contact the WCR. Also, the league will host their next All-Star Match-up on July 12 at The Stadium, 1909 S. Laramie in Cicero. This time, they take on the Tuscon Saddle Tramps.
Finally, North Avenue Beach Sports will host a one-day Dodgeball Tournament on July 12 at (where else?) North Avenue Beach. Go out and pound someone in the face with a.. I mean, go out and enjoy some fun, healthy competition. Contact NABS for details.
So the first half of the Great Chicago Baseball Orgy is over and the Cubs have emerged not only with early bragging rights but a firmer grip on National League Central, thanks to their three-game sweep of the White Sox. The Sox, meanwhile, saw their lead in the AL Central get cut to 1 1/2 games over the always-bothersome Minnesota Twins.
So what have we learned from this, other than Ozzie Guillen and a few other guys on the White Sox should probably zip it until after the series is over? Well, we learned that:
The Cubs will never lose another game in Wrigley Field.
The Cubs can get by just fine without Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano, but the White Sox are pretty lost without a healthy Paul Konerko and an effective Jim Thome.
There are two Jose Contreras: Good Jose and Bad Jose. Bad Jose was in the ballpark on Saturday.
Carlos Marmol is not the best closer-who's-not-a-closer as some would have you believe.
He may be the better rapper, but Guillen might not be the better manager in town.
Big rats and the smell of urine are far less scarier than Aramis Ramirez' bat.
Sox fans get a chance to exact some revenge against their pain-in-the-neck Cub fan cousins next weekend when the White Sox host the Cubs at U.S. Cellular (which USA Today says will take place on the "less pristine South Side"). Nothing less than a sweep will do for the White Sox in the three-game series and while the team does have a few home series sweeps under their belt this year, the Cubs' current play is on another planet. You've been forewarned, Sox fans: it might be another long weekend.
I suppose it makes sense that the actual participants in the annual local baseball orgy known (among other names) as the Crosstown Classic are a little blasé about the whole thing. Listen to sports talk radio or read the papers and you get the idea that baseball Armageddon is on the horizon and nothing less than the fate of the free world hangs in the balance.
But read the quotes from the likes of players like Paul Konerko, Derek Lee, Joe Crede or even Kerry Wood and you get the idea that they’re as excited by the contests as someone having a hangnail removed.
Their opinions usually run along the lines of “: “It’s just another game.” “It means more to the fans than us.” “It’ll be a lot of fun, but…” The Cubs’ Mark De Rosa said as much last week when in an interview he stated, “(I)t has to be viewed as [just] another series. I know it's not. I know it will be hyped up, and rightfully so. It's fun, it's a hot topic to talk about, and they're playing well and we're playing well. But I think it ends there. Six games hopefully won't affect the outcome of either team's division standing.”
A Major League Baseball story on the Cubs' days as a WEST Side ballclub includes some interesting bits of information, including the time in 1908 when a woman gave birth in the bleachers. Contrast that with today when...nah, too easy.
Belmont Harbor will be the launching site of a major international boating event when 84 boats from around the world compete in the 2008 Etchells World Championships. The weeklong event kicks off this Friday.
Another bout has been added to the boxing card at the Aragon Ballroom this Friday, which we told you about yesterday.
After a surprising and promising 2008 season for the Blackhawks, this weekend's NHL draft will be as important for the Hawks as the NBA draft will be for the Bulls. A hockey prospects resource site gives the lowdown.
He may not be in the Hall of Fame, but South Carolina residents are not forgetting their native son, White Sox legend Shoeless Joe Jackson and are building a museum in his honor. The organizers are hoping that the tribute helps the HOF committee forget about Jackson's role (or non-role) in the whole Black Sox scandal.
On any other team it would seem like the end of the world, or at least the end of a season.
Your marquee player, the one who leads the team in home runs and is fourth in RBI goes down with a broken hand for at least six weeks, a span in which your team faces an AL Division leading team, two of the hottest teams in baseball who are both in the thick of their own division race, and two feisty opponents from your own division, both poised to cut into your slim division lead.
But the way the Cubs have been playing lately, this may be nothing more than a blip on the radar.
When outfielder Alfonso Soriano was plunked on the hand by Atlanta pitcher Jeff Bennett at Wrigley Field Wednesday night, breaking a bone (a minimally displaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal, for the doctors in the crowd), you could hear the groans and cries of “Here we go again” all the way to Irving Park. The team has been cruising along with a 7-3 record in their last 10 games, a 28-8 record at home and a 2 ½ game lead in the NL Central. So something had to go wrong…. Right?
The Skyline suffered a 16-0 loss to the Turtle Rocks on June 8, while the Riveters/Comets game was rained out after a half-inning of play.
On June 15, the Skyline will face the Comets at 9 a.m. while the Turtle Rocks take on the Riveters at noon. All games take place at Bedford Park in Bedford Park, Illinois. Check out the CWBL website for more details.
Even though we have two long-standing, nationally-recognized newspapers in Chicago (a rarity these days),the presence of a good ol’ fashioned newspaper war is virtually non existent. Despite the competitive nature of the local mainstream press, there hasn’t really been the makings of a good newspaper war in this town since… I dunno, the local papers battled for the best Al Capone headline?
Oh, there have been skirmishes, such as in 1984 when Rupert Murdoch bought the Sun-Times, causing legendary columnist Mike Royko to flee to the Tribune and lob verbal hand grenades on an almost-daily basis. And every now and then the Sun-Times tries to tweak the Trib on new owner Sam Zell’s threats to change the name of Wrigley Field, but the Tribune response is basically to ignore the taunts. Heck, the Trib even scored points by having one of their own win the Sun-Times’ anti-Sam Zell song contest.
But other than the recent Red Eye vs. (now defunct) Red Streak battle, it’s been pretty quiet. I mean, the battle for control of the self-absorbed hipster market isn’t that compelling.
Could they possibly be the worst first-place team in baseball right now?
The White Sox certainly have the worst record of all the first-place teams at 30-26, with a one-game lead over Minnesota in the AL Central, previously known as the Toughest Division in Baseball. They’ve only won 13 games at home this season, worst among the first place teams; they have the worst team batting average among the front-runners at .247 and are dead last in the league in batting with runners in scoring position and two outs (.177).
It would take a bit more number crunching to determine if they are, indeed, the absolute worst, analyzing the strength of opponents (are the Cubs playing Pittsburgh again any time soon?), etc. But the White Sox are making a convincing argument.
Ozzie Guillen seems to think so. How many first-place managers have you heard reach the breaking point so… um… colorfully as Guillen did after Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays which concluded with another walk-off home run? How many first place managers would call out their general manager in public about the state of the team, effectively putting the blame on their recent sub-par performance on his shoulders?
With the Cubs’ Kosuke Fukudome the latest Japanese baseball star to try to show his stuff in the West, the status of Japan’s own professional league is in shaky condition, according to a Bloomberg report. No less than former MLB manager Bobby Valentine says, “MLB is trying to kill the sport.”
The Sporting News reports on the “surprising” White Sox (surprising to them, right?) and says one of the main reasons for the unexpected surge is – who else? – Carlos Quentin.
The website Black Athlete Sports Network shows another side of Cap Anson, the legendary baseball figure who was captain-manager of the Chicago White Stockings (who later became the Cubs). Generally regarded as less-than-enlightened when it came to race, Anson was reportedly one of the first major leaguers to compete against an all-black team that was led by future Negro League founder Rube Foster.
The players have been drafted, the gloves are broken in and the hot dogs are on the grill. The Chicago Women’s Baseball League is set to kick off their inaugural season with a double header this Sunday, 10:30 a.m., at Bedford Park, 6700 S. 78th St. in Bedford Park, Ill.
Opening ceremonies will begin at 10:30 a.m., followed by the Riveters vs. the Skyline at 11 a.m. The second game will feature the Comets taking on the Turtle Rocks at 2 p.m. The league is sponsored by the Chicago Gems Women's Baseball Club.
In between the games, the CWBL will host a free barbeque for fans in attendance. More info is available on this PDF.
If all of that sounds exciting to you, stop kicking yourself for trying out for any of the teams. CWBL officials say it’s not too late to participate. Teams are still looking for players to round out their rosters, so if you’re interested, drop them a line at email@example.com. Practices are held every Saturday (weather permitting) at Winnemac Park, Foster and Damen Aves.
The Cubs AND White Sox both in first place? OK, that's GOTTA be one of the Modern Signs of the Apocalypse, right after Howard Cosell rising from the grave. But that's where we find ourselves this morning after the Cubs wrapped up an 8-2 homestand with a win over the Pittsburgh Pirates and the White Sox completed a sweep of the San Francisco Giants with a 13-8 victory for their fifth straight win.
Their frenzied weekends left the Sox 1 1/2 games up in the AL Central while the Cubs hold a two-game lead over St. Louis.
Enjoy it while it lasts, Chicago. Bartender, bragging rights for everyone...
When Frank Thomas was unceremoniously dumped by the Toronto Blue Jays this past Saturday, it was a roster move that created ripples all the way back to Chicago. Despite the fact that it's been almost three seasons since he last wore the silver and black of the White Sox, Thomas carved out a niche in the hearts of Sox fans. Yes, he could be petulant at times, seemingly in an everlasting cycle of signing a contract and then asking the team to tear it up and offer another the following season. But hitting 448 home runs for the White Sox gave "The Big Hurt" a permanent place in White Sox lore.
But don't expect him back at U.S. Cellular in anything other than a fan capacity anytime soon. His war of words with General Manager Kenny Williams assures he won't be offered a deal other than as a beer vendor. Supposedly the Oakland A's, the team he joined after leaving the White Sox, might be interested, but they've got a surplus of young guys who need playing time.
So whether goest thou, Frank Thomas? How about Joliet?
Deny it as we might, Chicagoans do have a little chip on their shoulder about playing second fiddle to New York City in just about everything, a fact that a New Yorker will waste no time in telling you. “Sure, you have the Sears Tower, but the Empire State Building is the quintessential skyscraper. Sure you have a thriving theater scene, but everyone knows a play isn’t REALLY a hit until it makes it on Broadway. And sure your entire city burned to the ground about 137 years ago, but you’re trying to compare it to OUR great tragedy of only seven years ago?...”
Which is why the baseball events of the next few days are our rare opportunity to exact a modicum of revenge in a short amount of time. In a quirky bit of scheduling, both Chicago baseball teams will take on both New York City baseball teams in their respective leagues. The Cubs (12-6) open a short two-game series today against the Mets (10-7) while the White Sox (11-7) square off against the Yankees (10-10) in a three-game series beginning Tuesday night. Speaking of Tuesday, it will offer the rare chance for a Chicago-New York unofficial split doubleheader as the Cubs and Mets battle at 1:20 at Wrigley Field, while the White Sox and Yankees clash at 7:11 at U.S. Cellular Field.
While reading MLB Slaps Thome, I recognized an overlooked benefit of following the White Sox instead of the Cubs...drama! Since my life as a web denizen prevents watching reality TV, I typically rely on the White Sox for my dose of turmoil and tragedy. Let's examine a classic episode of The Real World: US Cellular aptly entitled "Who Is On Second?"
The White Sox began the 2007 season hoping second baseman Tadahito Iguchi would return to his 2005 performance level. Remember the go-ahead shot in game 2 of the Red Sox series? GM Kenny Williams remembered and counted on a repeat performance from the first Japanese athlete to play in a World Series. Iguchi's time with the White Sox, however, ended with a mid-season trade to the Phillies that reunited him with center fielder Aaron Rowand. For some fans, the Iguchi trade signaled the end of the 2007 season but others trusted Manager Ozzie Guillen's middle infield expertise.
The next few games will be a test for both teams, as the Sox face the A's, a perennial rival, and the Cubs take on Dusty Baker's Reds. A middling Cincinnati team shouldn't be much of a challenge, but facing their former skipper may turn a few Cubbies toward point-proving, which rarely goes well. We'll see.
I always thought waiting in line was a universally despised experience. However, I realized the fault in my belief at this Saturday's Cubs v. Astros game (Yes, a White Sox fan attended Wrigley. I explain the treason later. Promise!) On the first beautiful day of spring, I joined over 40,000 sport fans to watch professional athletes wait in elaborate lines for a piece of unpredictable, sporadic action. I understand this is not the preferred Oxford definition of baseball, but please continue reading.
As always, the game commenced with batting practice. Batting practice consists of waiting in line for a chance to wait for the perfect pitch to refine your stroke for a productive game. After batting and fielding practice, back to the end of the line for more waiting. Imagine you are Kosuke Fukudome (YouTube welcome video) and have to wait behind four other batters or Houston's (former White Sox) Carlos Lee waiting to make an error in left field. Either way, there is a whole lotta standing, sitting, and gum chewing required in baseball.
A wise man once said there is no crying in baseball (or was it a fictional character? I forget). But even without that sage advice, I doubt if you’re going to see any crying when the Chicago Gems hold open tryouts this Saturday, 9-11 a.m., for their new team that will participate in an all-women baseball league. The tryouts will be held at the BASH Sports Academy, 2617 W. Fletcher St. and focus on hitting and fielding (naturally). If you miss the tryout this Saturday there’s another one on April 20, with the league draft to follow. In addition to the Gems there are four other teams: the Comets, the Riveters, the Skyline and the intriguingly named Turtle Rocks. All games will be played in Bedford Park.
A little background: The Gems were formed by three women who lived near each other in the Lakeview neighborhood and shared a passion for baseball… playing, not just watching. After lending their talents to other area women’s baseball teams they managed to field a full Gems squad in 2005 and played their first game as a team on June 5 of that year at Loyola Park.
When looking at only the salaries of players presently on the roster, the Sox ($109M) and Cubs ($100M) rate 4th and 8th respectively in the league. The White Sox and Cubs each have 11 players making more than the league average.