White Sox

American Pharoah’s Triple Crown date with destiny

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American Pharoah’s Triple Crown date with destiny

This Saturday looks to be historic as American Pharoah looks to be the first horse to capture the Triple Crown since Affirmed did so in 1978. The $1.5 million Belmont Stakes goes as Race 11 on Saturday at Belmont Park with a 5:50 PM Central post time and will be carried live by NBC.

The entire weekend at Belmont is full of stakes action with strong cards leading up to the Saturday feature, but the Belmont itself didn’t come up overly strong as a field of eight is set to head to the gate. The weather forecast is for a slight chance of morning rain both Friday and Saturday in Elmont, New York.

Last year the world watched as California Chrome looked to capture the elusive Triple Crown. Following his fourth-place effort while never contending, the focus turned to the post-race comments of one of his owners, Steve Coburn as he wasn’t quite so eloquent in that moment of defeat. Will this year be another upset, or will we see a Triple Crown winner?  My prediction is that history will be made. I expect American Pharoah will add his name to the history books on Saturday.

Looking at the field for Saturday’s Belmont, a couple of things jumped off the page at me. Initially was the size, or lack thereof, of the field with only eight entered in the Belmont. More importantly though is that the Belmont Stakes is completely lacking of pace. Both of these should only benefit American Pharoah in his Triple Crown bid.

American Pharoah has been very solid throughout his entire stakes career, never losing in stakes-company. His Kentucky Derby victory was the closest margin of victory he has had, winning by a length, while every other win has been by three of more lengths. 

Experience can only help American Pharoah’s chances in the Belmont as Victor Espinoza is back in the saddle.  Espinoza has been in this situation twice, with War Emblem and California Chrome.  Each time he came of short, but the third time could be the charm. Espinoza clearly is not afraid of the big stage and his decision making ability aboard American Pharoah has been perfect.

With no pace in the Belmont, I am fully expecting that Espinoza and American Pharoah head straight for the lead and look to slow the pace down early. Materiality appears to be the only horse that may sit close while the remainder of the field likely settles back off the pace. While the mile and a half distance of the Belmont is the most taxing of the Triple Crown races, in this case it may not matter as the opening three quarters could be a walk in the park.

My expectations are that Materiality tosses in the towel in the turn while Espinoza opens the lead into the stretch under a hand ride. With the likes of Mubtaahij, Frosted and Madefromlucky to likely be running on late, they may be in a race for place as 90,000 fans onsite at Belmont cheer home a Triple Crown champ.

American Pharoah will meet his destiny on Saturday at Belmont.

Potential first-ballot guy and Blackout Game hero Jim Thome headlines group of former White Sox on this year's Hall of Fame ballot

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AP

Potential first-ballot guy and Blackout Game hero Jim Thome headlines group of former White Sox on this year's Hall of Fame ballot

White Sox fans have seen a couple of their team's all-time greats go into the Hall of Fame in recent years, with Frank Thomas inducted in 2014 and Tim Raines inducted earlier this year.

Seven former White Sox are on this year's Hall of Fame ballot, even if only a couple of them made a big impact on the South Side.

Jim Thome is on the ballot for the first time. While more famously a member of those great Cleveland Indians teams of the 1990s, Thome spent four seasons in a White Sox uniform, playing in 529 games and belting 134 of his 612 career home runs with the South Siders.

A Peoria native currently working as a member of the organization, Thome was a beloved part of four White Sox teams, including the last one to reach the postseason in 2008. He smacked a solo homer to drive in the lone run in the legendary Blackout Game, a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins that gave the White Sox the American League Central crown in the 163rd game of the 2008 regular season.

Thome ranks second in White Sox history in slugging percentage and OPS, trailing only Thomas in both categories. He's No. 7 on the franchise leaderboard in on-base percentage and No. 13 on the home run list.

Given that he ranks eighth on baseball's all-time home run list, Thome could very well be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Also on this year's ballot is Carlos Lee, a power-hitting outfielder who spent the first six seasons of his major league career with the White Sox. El Caballo hit 152 homers and drove in 552 runs in 880 games with the White Sox, finishing 18th in AL MVP voting in 2003 after he slashed .291/.331/.499 with 31 homers. His numbers were even better in 2004, his final season with the White Sox.

Lee ranks ninth on the team's all-time home run list and 11th on the franchise leaderboard in slugging percentage.

Lee did an awful lot of damage in six seasons with the Houston Astros, as well, and earned three All-Star nods in his post-Sox career.

Five others to play for the White Sox are on this year's ballot. Sammy Sosa, more noteworthy for what he did with the Cubs, spent parts of three seasons on the South Side. Omar Vizquel, another Indians great like Thome, played for the White Sox in 2010 and 2011. Andruw Jones, better known for his defensive highlights with the Atlanta Braves, played 107 games with the White Sox in 2010. Orlando Hudson played in 51 games for the White Sox in 2012. And Manny Ramirez, the legendary Indians and Red Sox slugger, played 24 games with the White Sox in 2010.

In order to qualify for election into the Hall of Fame, a player must appear on 75 of ballots submitted by voters.

After critical missed field goal, Bears waive Connor Barth and sign former Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos

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USA TODAY

After critical missed field goal, Bears waive Connor Barth and sign former Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos

After Connor Barth's critical missed field-goal try in Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions, the Bears moved on to a new option at kicker.

The team announced Monday afternoon that it waived Barth and signed former Kansas City Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos.

Santos, a Tulane product who the Bears met with just last week, spent parts of the past four seasons with the Chiefs, including three games earlier this season. Santos has made 89 of his 105 field-goal attempts in his career and 125 of his 130 extra-point tries.

Santos was waived by the Chiefs earlier this season after being placed on injured reserve with a groin injury. He was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals and a perfect 6-for-6 on extra points in the three games he played with the Chiefs earlier this season.

Barth's accuracy was a problem throughout his season and a half with the Bears, but perhaps no miss was bigger than what happened Sunday. After Mitch Trubisky drove the Bears into position for a game-tying field goal, Barth's 46-yard attempt with eight seconds left was far right, and the Bears lost the game 27-24.

In two seasons with the Bears, Barth missed 10 field-goal tries in 26 games. He was 11-for-16 so far in 2017 after going 18-for-23 in 2016.