Cubs

Frankie O's Blog: The True Meaning

Frankie O's Blog: The True Meaning

Friday, Jan. 7, 2011
11:46 AM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

You hear that a lot during the holidays. The true meaning is at the core of it all. The true meaning of Christmas is love for one and all. I try telling that to my 4-year old, but shes still more interested in that jolly old fat guy who slides into her house leaving presents. No, not her father! He leaves a trail! Then there is the New Year, which brings hope of a better future and new beginning for mankind. That is, if that future includes using a shake-weight for the next month and eating low-carb sandwiches at Subway with Jared. The true meaning of the New Year is doing all those things we put off from last year, isnt it?

Then there is the BCS. Im still trying figure out its true meaning. 35 bowl games?! Honestly?! Without a playoff?! With the 70 team field littered with 6-6 records? I wont get into the farce that was the Sugar Bowl. With the allowance of the New Fab-Five for Ohio State (Why should Michigan have the only Fab-Five in the Big Ten that will live in infamy? These schools compete at every level!) to play in the game, it became apparent to all that the true meaning of B.C.S. is Big Cash Soiree. And were all invited as long as we pay, but please make that check out to the university and not the kids we want to watch play. (A triple rhyme? 2011 must be Frankie o time!)

But the true meaning that I get asked about constantly at the bar is about the 2010 NFL regular season. What did it mean? Well judging from my confidence picks, Im probably the last person to ask. (I won week 1, then did not get another sniff until week 16, when all I needed was a Tuesday night win by my Eagles to win the pot. I hate Tuesday NFL games!) But of course that doesnt stop me from having an opinion, whether Im right or not well have to wait until this weekend to see.

These next two weekends are the best the NFL has to offer, in my mind. Two games on Saturday, followed by two games on Sunday with all of the losers going home, there is always enough drama to keep the bar hopping. (By that I mean: Thirsty!)

This Saturday starts with an absolute dog of a game at Quest Field, or does it. The Seahawks are the first team in NFL history to reach the postseason with a losing record in a non-strike season. They are also a 10.5 point underdog at home. As much as I want to say they can make a game of it, in this the year of the upset that doesnt make sense, I just cant pull the trigger. The fact that the Saints are down to Mo Morris and an injury-slowed Reggie Bush at running back would scare me against any other playoff team. I think the lack of the running game has helped force Drew Brees into a un-Brees like 22 interceptions. Couple that with the fact that their defense is not the turnover machine it was all of last year and that they will not play a postseason game in the Superdome and I do not think that they are long for this playoff world. But I still like them on the road against a team that gave up 47 touchdowns this year and was outscored during the season by almost 100 points! This matchup reminds me not of an NFL playoff game, but the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The NFL was smart to get it out of the way first so its stench will be gone by the end of the weekend. Im having a problem finding a true meaning of this game besides it being a scrimmage for the defending champs.

Saturday night will be the Bluster Bowl. Well one sided bluster at least. Rex Ryan has not stopped talking since before this season started. And he and the Jets are responsible for two of the most disturbing video images of the year. First there was Antonio Cromarties attempt at reciting his childrens names and ages without stopping to think about it in Hard Knocks and then there were Rexs home movies on YouTube. Yikes! ( Some would say Ryan is the new Rex Gross-man! Wheres my rim-shot?!) Anyway, any great theatre always a good-guy and a bad-guy, Ryan loves to be bad and the NFLs hero, Peyton Manning, will always wear the white hat. As far as the actual on-field match-up goes, neither of these teams really lived up to their pre-season hype.

The Colts due to a slew of injuries and the Jets not being who we thought they were. (LOL) I still dont understand with a team that wants to pound the ball, why they got rid of Thomas Jones. I thought he fit their system perfectly and enabled the Jets to use complimentary backs around him. He and L.T. would have been a scary, albeit elderly, backfield. As it was the Jets, I believe, used Tomlinson too much and it showed during the seasons second half. And was there a bigger disappointment than Shonn Greene this year? And while I think the addition of Santonio Holmes as a wideout can make the Jets attack lethal, the fact that he has Mark Sanchez throwing to him sometimes negates that. I think once Holmes joined the team, they fell in love with the long-ball instead of what they were being given and it lead to inconsistent offensive results. As far as the Colts, it seemed that every guy on the team besides Manning and Reggie Wayne got hurt. Still they are in the playoffs for the 9th straight time and most of that can be attributed to the NFL best pitchman. With everyone going down around him, he still threw for 4700 yards and 33 tuddies and willed his team to ANOTHER division title. And Rex, did you ever notice that when we usually hear Peyton speak, hes getting paid a large sum of cash?! The true meaning of this game is that if you cant walk the walk, you cant talk the talk! I like the Colts.

Sundays early game should treat us to a slugfest. The question is if its going to be a one-sided slugfest. The Ravens are as physical as any team in the NFL and it all starts with Ray Lewis. The Sunday Night Game against the Steelers was brutal. The Ravens ended up losing, but Pittsburgh knew they got away with one as they were leaving town. The Chiefs have two of the most dynamic players in the league in Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe and I was a fan of the steady play of QB Matt Cassel, but as a team as a whole I think that they got to this dance a year early. Being man-handed (Yes, I meant that spelling. Its an homage to one of the funniest Seinfeld show bits ever!) by the Raiders and Chargers during December proved that point. In fact, look at their wins and who have they beaten? Theyre definitely a schedule darling. Well that ends, and rather abruptly, now. The Ravens have balance and play-makers and playoff veterans at every turn. They are a tough, tough team. In fact, I think they have the best shot at beating the team that plays to their north and looms over this weekend and the entire playoffs, but thats another story for another blog. The true meaning of this game is that you shouldnt bring a knife to a gunfight. The Chiefs have been fun to watch this year, but that fun will end when the more proven Harbaughs squad comes to town.

Then in the marquee game of the weekend, the game everyone, including THIS GUY, is waiting for, its the team that will break my heart EVERY TIME, versus the most despised rival of where I live. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in! A famous movie quote? Nope. Its the description of the season that Ive had with the football team that has tormented me for my lifetime. After getting spanked by Dallas on consecutive weekends last year to gag a division title and then get booted out of the playoffs to get that over-rated Tony Romo (Honestly?!) his first postseason win, I did not have much expectation for my Eagles in this year 1 A.D. (After Donavan.) A lot of young talent, but to win you need a defense and I didnt see one. So what happened? They gave up 46 touchdowns! That is not a typo. 6-10 then, right? (Or 7-9 and a division title in the NFC West? Boo-Ya!) Well to the surprise of everyone, the offense of Mike Vick, no, not that offense, the Eagles offense of Mike Vick took the NFL by storm, (At least until an aforementioned Tuesday!) and scored an NFC high 49 touchdowns and team record and NFC high 439 points. Eagles game? Take the over! So this high-powered offense will end my suffering right? Not so fast. Wait, it will be fast. The Eagles have the fastest offense Ive ever seen, but in a cruel twist of fate, they are going to play a defense that can play just as fast, especially at linebacker. I think the Packer defense learned enough in his cameo against them, and in the subsequent tape of the Viking and Bears games, to provide that cagy old vet, defensive coordinator Dom Capers, with the formula to defuse the TNT that is the Vick offense. (Eagles offense!) On the other side, even without a run game, Aaron Rogers has lit up the league. Now, he gets to go against a unit that has given up 31 touchdowns and almost 250 yds. a game, through the AIR! I see points, a lot of points, so many in fact that I dont know if Vick can keep up. So the true meaning of this game, for me, AGAIN, is that you cant always get what you want.

So there you have it, I like 3 road teams to win this weekend, and the team that started the year with the most hype, and my AFC preseason Super Bowl nod, to take a seat. In my usual ironic twist, my preseason pick for the NFC side of SB XLV, will knock out the team I root for most. Nice! And remember, these picks are straight up, for as I learned during 2010, the true meaning of insanity, is trying to bet this years games against the spread. MERRY NEW YEAR!

'The better team won': Cubs had plenty of problems, but Dodgers' championship formula should look familiar to Cubs fans

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USA TODAY

'The better team won': Cubs had plenty of problems, but Dodgers' championship formula should look familiar to Cubs fans

For the second year in a row, the National League champs celebrated a pennant at Wrigley Field.

A dominating, 100-win club that had the championship formula of elite starting pitching, a lights-out closer and a fearsome lineup lifted a trophy Thursday night on the North Side and look destined to lift another before this postseason is over.

Sound familiar, Cubs fans?

The Cubs’ quest to repeat as World Series champs ended Thursday, and instead the Los Angeles Dodgers got to party, getting their revenge after the Cubs eliminated them here last October.

The next few months’ worth of conversation in Wrigleyville will center — and not inappropriately so — on the Cubs’ shortcomings this postseason. They couldn’t hit. The bullpen was woefully unreliable. And the starting pitching, particularly Jose Quintana in a two-inning, seven-run outing in Game 5, was not what it was last fall.

But if you hear that laundry list of offenses over the course of the next few days, weeks and months, remember to give some credit where credit is due, because these Dodgers look a lot like last year’s Cubs.

“The better team won over the course of these five games,” Joe Maddon said after his team’s season came to a close. “They played really well. They kind of out-pitched us and everything else. So give them credit.

“You know what it feels like coming off of last year, we were celebrating versus them in this exact same spot. So they've had themselves a spectacular year.”

The Dodgers have the elite starting pitching, as evidenced throughout this series and most specifically in two of the three games here on the North Side, where Yu Darvish (Game 3) and Clayton Kershaw (Game 5) showed why they’re two of the top pitchers in the game.

Thursday night, Kershaw did what he couldn’t do to the Cubs last October, stifling that slumping lineup with six innings of one-run ball, the only run surrendered (and just one of the three hits surrendered) a meaningless Kris Bryant home run with the Cubs down 9-0.

Altogether, Dodger pitching posted a jaw-dropping 1.64 ERA in this series. Starting pitchers were the only ones to give up runs, and they gave up just eight of them in 27 innings. The four starters’ ERA was a fantastic 2.67.

And so there’s another part of the Dodgers’ championship combination: that stellar bullpen. The Cubs got just two hits and no runs against the relief corps in the entire five-game series. In 17 shutout innings, the Dodger bullpen was pretty much unhittable.

No one shone more than Kenley Jansen, who faced 13 batters and recorded 13 outs. Cubs fans will remember how big a weapon Aroldis Chapman was out of last year’s bullpen. Well Jansen is just as incredible — and just as meaningful to this postseason run.

Now obviously the Cubs’ hitting woes weren’t exclusively the result of facing Dodger pitching. They carried over from the NLDS — another series featuring some sensational pitching from the opposition — and without the mega-slumps of Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Javy Baez, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist and practically everyone else to swing a bat for the Cubs, things would have been incredibly different. But there’s something to shutting down a lineup with superior pitching, and that’s what the Dodgers did.

And then there’s the Dodgers’ offense, which has its own Bryzzo in Chris Taylor and Justin Turner, who were named the NLCS co-MVPs after combining to go 12-for-37 with four homers, 10 RBIs and eight runs scored in five games. Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig are mighty good hitters. And then there’s what Enrique Hernandez did Thursday night: three homers and seven RBIs in the 11-1 mauling.

That’s a fearsome lineup, and while Quintana should’ve gone longer than two-plus innings, you can’t entirely blame Cubs pitching for not being able to quiet these guys over the past four games. Moments like John Lackey giving up that walk-off homer to Turner in Game 2 will live in infamy in the collective memory of Cubs fans, but the guy’s an MVP candidate. Seeing him do something like that isn’t unexpected.

“Sometimes in our game,” Maddon said before Game 5, “there is more of an attempt to vilify as opposed to glorify. In other words, when Turner hits a home run, it's because Turner is good, not because the pitcher is bad or wrong. So I think it's been shifting in a sense that people want to blame somebody as opposed to giving somebody credit. I see a lot of that.”

So yes, there’s no doubting that the Cubs had their problems — big ones — during the 10 postseason games they played this month. And those problems will have huge effects on the offseason and how Theo Epstein & Co. construct the 2018 edition of this team.

But sometimes, as Cubs fans well know from last season’s championship run, there’s one of those teams that has that magic formula. The Cubs were that team in 2016. The Dodgers seem to fit that bill now.

In other words, the better team won.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to Oilers: Connor McDavid adds to highlight reel

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to Oilers: Connor McDavid adds to highlight reel

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night:
 
1. Shake-up on power play doesn't work.

Joel Quenneville spruced up his power play units before Wednesday's game in an effort to snap a dry spell, but the Blackhawks had no luck in that department in the second of a back-to-back.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-5 on the man advantage against an Oilers team that was ranked dead last in penalty kill percentage going into the contest, and failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 opportunity for 56 seconds in the opening minutes of the season period.

They're getting off a fair amount of shots, but the quality of them isn't there.

2. Ryan Hartman fine after brief exit due to illegal hit.

It was a physical game between the Blackhawks-Oilers, but a line was crossed at the 4:59 mark into the second period when Zack Kassian delivered a huge hit on Hartman, who went face-first into the boards.

Kassian was given a two-minute minor penalty for boarding, a call that didn't sit well with the sold-out United Center crowd of 21,444. Hartman went to the locker room to be checked out after the hit despite getting up quickly and showing no visible signs of distress, but he fortunately returned a few shifts later.

It was a dangerous hit by Kassian, and an avoidable one too. 

Quenneville admitted Hartman getting up quickly perhaps may have "helped" keep it a minor penalty and not a five-minute major, but the Blackhawks coach wasn't focused on that after seeing the result unfold.

"I saw how hard it looked," Quenneville said. "But Hartzy getting up right away, that helped. You don't even measure it anymore after that. That's the one thing you're hopeful for right off the bat."
 
3. Connor McDavid adds another play to highlight reel.

We're only two weeks into the season, but the 20-year-old reigning Hart Trophy winner submitted an early entry for Assist of the Year.

Late in the first period, McDavid flew from his own end into the offensive zone, made a spin-o-rama move on two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith and backhanded a perfect pass to Patrick Maroon, who tapped in a goal at the doorstep.

It looks impossible to defend from anyone watching, and Keith pretty much felt the same way.

"When he gets the speed in the other end there and he's able to skate all the way down, it's tough to stop a guy especially when he's that fast," Keith said. "He's just flying through the middle. I'm just a sitting duck there at the other end of the ice waiting for him to come full speed. It's a hard play to defend against."
 
4. Anton Forsberg sharp again.

It's a small sample size, but the Blackhawks' backup goaltender has looked really sharp in practically every start he's had in a Chicago uniform, including preseason.

He deserved a better fate in his regular season debut last week in Toronto when he stopped 39 of 43 shots in an overtime loss, and the same applied here.

Forsberg tied a career-high with 40 saves, and seemingly got better as the game went on.

"I for sure felt more comfortable, felt like I was more used to the speed," Forsberg said. "It's tough again to lose in overtime, obviously I wanted a win and that's kind of frustrating."

"Excellent games, both games," Quenneville said of his goaltender. "Would've been nice to get him a win tonight."
 
5. Jordan Oesterle keeps it simple in debut.

The Blackhawks' crowded blue line has made it difficult for Quenneville to give all eight defensemen a fair amount of playing time, but Oesterle took advantage of his season debut.

He logged 15:01 of ice time, registered three shot attempts (two on goal), and blocked two shots.

"I liked him," Quenneville said. "Moves the puck."

Said Keith: "I thought he was good. Tough situation for him, he hasn't played all year in a game but I thought he played good. He's got good poise, he's smart back there."