Cubs

Frankie O's Blog: Tax Break

Frankie O's Blog: Tax Break

Friday, April 15, 2011
Posted: 9:58 a.m.

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Its always fun to take a break from doing your taxes. As usual, I keep asking myself why I ALWAYS wait to the last minute. Why? Because there is so much going on and Im easily distracted either at home or work. At home I worked my daughters track meet as a volunteer timer Thursday. (Like I had a choice!) Standing outside for two hours on a nice Chicago April day, I start to daydream about somewhere with slightly warmer temperatures, like in Minsk! Honestly! Wind chills in April? I dont know how they did it, but those little tax deductions gave it their all as they braved a head-wind that was bending trees. Its always great to be around the youngsters though, in any weather, as you can see what competing means to them. Since I spend most of my waking hours talking about, and contemplating the effects of, professional athletes and their endeavors, on and off the field of play, its always great to re-connect to the reason I care so much.

The top story at the bar, obviously, is the 1 seed of the NBA playoffs, the shocking Chicago Bulls. Its not that what they are doing right now is surprising us. But who saw THIS coming? D-Rose is awesome, we all knew. But who is this new coach? Is Boozer going to be more than a consolation prize? Two straight years of 41-41 and a quick playoff exit told us there was some talent here, but in the NBA where ascension seems to take forever, most had modest hopes. Of course now many will tell you that they saw this coming and all I can say is, really? Really?!(Thought so! Wheres Troy Polamalu?)

Beating out the Celtics, Heatles, Lakers and Spurs for the leagues best record is mind boggling. But everybody in the bar is drinking the kool-aid (not to mention the Titos!) and keep asking me how far they can go. As much as I want to say that we should hold on, who wants to doubt this team? Not me. But remember, they now have a target, not to mention a Sports Illustrated cover jinx to deal with, and its all up hill from here to go 4 rounds to get to the promised land. I have a feeling that this is going to be a fun ride and I think this is the time that Derrick Rose will catapult himself to the next level. Well all be watching, and thankfully, well be watching him enter the national consciousness on the court, not answering questions from Jim Gray.

The NHL playoffs are one of my favorite passions. This still even after the amount of pain that I had to deal with last year. The best part about them is that they are unpredictable. Sure, every now and then the favorite will win it all, but usually its a wild ride with outcomes that no one could see coming. Thats why I was amused by the Tribune Newspapers hockey experts picks for the 1st round of the playoffs. Eight series and she went with the chalk in all of them. What? Not one upset? In a sport that is annually full of them? And her headline is More drama on way? What drama? You picked all of the favorites! Way to go out on a limb and give us some insight.

I look at this year and its like throwing darts at a board. As usual, there are some great matchups from the start. I think the Blackhawks can play with the Canucks and better yet, can get in Roberto Luongos head. Although with the stuff he has going on up there, is that really hard to do? Theres no crying in hockey! Why not? Ill take the Hawks! Ill also take Pekka Rinne and the Preds to beat the Ducks. Things get really interesting in the Eastern Conference. I think every series will go seven games, so flip a coin on any one of them. And if I was going to make a wager, I would take the dog in all four. So that means that Johnny Vegas, thank you, would only take the favorite in 2 series. I cant wait to see whos right!

For something else that makes me scratch my head, theres the Barry Bonds trial. What I do not understand is: If you dont have the guy who injected him willing to cooperate, how are you going to prove perjury beyond a reasonable doubt, when he will not talk about his usage issues. If you ask anyone in the bar, or Jeff Brantley, they will tell you that of course he was on roids. Duh! But, proving it in court? When he uses the deny, deny, deny defense and knowing there had to be at least one star-struck juror, how did the feds expect to win when their entire case was he said-he said? Whether his obstruction of justice conviction sticks or not, which it probably wont, does not matter to fans. We all know what he did. Its written on the billboard that is his forehead.

And for something else that I dont understand, there is Josh Hamilton. His battle with addictions and magical Home Run Derby in 2008, have made him a feel-good story. His undeniable talent made him last years AL MVP. What I dont think any of us saw coming was his petulant tirade towards a coach after he got injured playing baseball. If you are on 3rd base, and the batter hits a pop-up, that the catcher and 3rd baseman chase after, the only thought in your head is whether you can score. Thats how Pete Rose played. Thats how Chase Utley plays. Gamers. When you see an out-of-shape pitcher standing oblivious on the mound, not even considering covering home, do you really need a base-coach to tell you to RUN? I know I would have been yelling for him to go and thats what his 3rd base coach, Dave Anderson, told him to do. That he was out in a bang-bang play is not the point. The point is that you let your opponent know that you are there to play old-fashioned hard ball, all day long! The 3rd baseman and catcher had to make a perfect play to barely tag him out at the plate. That he decided to slide head first, was that his coaches fault? I know guys fall in love with that slide, but wouldnt a feet-first hook slide have been more appropriate? The fact that he was injured did not make it a stupid play, it made it an unfortunate one. When players make it known that bustin it on every play is not how they want to play, I find that stupid.

And that brings me back to the frigid youngsters. Not to be too over the top, but it really was cool (no pun!) to be that close to kids just giving it there all, because they could. I know that they are just games, but they tell us everything we need to know about someone else and ourselves. As we enjoy the playoff season there will be plenty emotion and effort for us all to marvel at, hopefully the lesson hits home.

And just because:

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE

The legendary eatery named after the famed former Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray, a must-visit spot for all endlessly tortured Cubbies fans to revel or drown their sorrows, is now selling their premium draft pints for 6.66.

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

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USA TODAY

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

“Sometimes, you got to lay your marbles out there,” Jon Lester said Sunday night inside Dodger Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, before the Cubs flew home from Los Angeles down 0-2 in the National League Championship Series. “And you get beat.”

It will be extremely difficult for the Cubs to win four of the next five games against the Dodgers, starting Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs had the, uh, marbles to win last year’s World Series and have developed the muscle memory from winning six playoff rounds and playing in 33 postseason games since October 2015.

There is a cross section left of the 2015 team that beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and silenced PNC Park’s blackout crowd in a sudden-death wild-card game. While 2016 is seen in hindsight as a year of destiny, those Cubs still had to kill the myths about the even-year San Francisco Giants, survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Dodgers and win Games 5, 6, 7 against the Cleveland Indians under enormous stress.

There is at least a baseline of experience to draw from and the sense that the Cubs won’t panic and beat themselves, the way the Washington Nationals broke down in the NL Division Series.

· Remember the Cubs pointed to how their rotation set up as soon as Cleveland took a 3-1 lead in last year’s World Series: Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks would each give them a chance to win that night. The Dodgers will now have to deal with last year’s major-league ERA leader (Hendricks) in Game 3 and a Cy Young Award winner (Arrieta) on Wednesday night in Game 4.

“Obviously, we know we need to get wins at this point,” Hendricks said. “But approaching it as a must-win is a little extreme. We've just got to go out there and play our brand of baseball.

“Since we accomplished that, we know we just have to take it game by game. Even being down 3-1 (in the World Series), we worry about the next game. In that situation, we didn’t think we had to win three in a row or anything like that. We just came to the ballpark the next day and worried about what we had to do that day.”

· The history lessons only go so far when the Dodgers can line up Yu Darvish as their Game 3 starter instead of, say, Josh Tomlin. There is also a huge difference between facing a worn-down Cleveland staff in late October/early November and a rested Dodger team that clinched a division title on Sept. 22 and swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round. Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez aren’t walking through that bullpen door, either.

“We’ve done it before. We’ve been there before,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “But this year’s a new year. That’s a different ballclub. We’re definitely going to have to bring it.”

· Outside of Kenley Jansen, can you name anyone else in the Los Angeles bullpen off the top of your head? No doubt, the Dodger relievers have been awesome in Games 1 and 2 combined: Eight scoreless innings, zero hits, zero walks and Anthony Rizzo the only one out of 25 batters to reach base when Jansen hit him with a 93.7-mph pitch.

But the Dodgers are going to make mistakes, and the Cubs will have to capitalize. Unless this is the same kind of synthesis from the 2015 NLCS, when the New York Mets used exhaustive scouting reports, power pitching and pinpoint execution to sweep a Cubs team that had already hit the wall.

“Their bullpen is a lot stronger than it was last year,” Kris Bryant said. “They’re really good at throwing high fastballs in the zone. A lot of other teams try to, and they might hit it one out of every four. But this team, it seems like they really can hammer the top of the zone. And they have guys that throw in the upper 90s, so when you mix those two, it’s tough to catch up.”

· Bryant is not having a good October (5-for-28 with 13 strikeouts) and both Lester and Jose Quintana have more hits (one each) than Javier Baez (0-for-19 with eight strikeouts) during the playoffs. But we are still talking about the reigning NL MVP and last year’s NLCS co-MVP.

Ben Zobrist is clearly diminished and no longer the switch-hitting force who became last year’s World Series MVP. Kyle Schwarber doesn’t have the same intimidation factor or playoff aura right now. But one well-timed bunt from Zobrist or a “Schwarbomb” onto the video board could change the entire direction of this series and put the pressure on a Dodger team that knows this year is World Series or bust.

“We need to hit a couple balls hard consecutively,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Once we’re able to do that, we’ll gain our offensive mojo back. That's all that’s going on.

“I inherited something from my dad, and that was patience. So you’ve got to be patient right now. You’ve got to keep putting the boys back out there. You keep believing in them, and eventually it comes back to you.”

· Maddon is a 63-year-old man who opened Monday’s stadium club press conference at Wrigley Field by talking about dry-humping, clearly annoyed by all the second-guessers on Twitter and know-it-all sports writers who couldn’t believe All-Star closer Wade Davis got stranded in the bullpen, watching the ninth inning of Sunday’s 1-1 game turn into a 4-1 walk-off loss.

By the time a potential save situation develops on Tuesday night, roughly 120 hours will have passed since Davis threw his 44th and final pitch at Nationals Park, striking out Bryce Harper to end an instant classic. Just guessing that Maddon will be in the mood to unleash Davis.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?