Play Ball!

Play Ball!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Being a sports fanatic has its good times and bad, and I for one have probably had more lows than highs, but I dont know if there is any better time than Opening Day in Major League Baseball. Ive often wondered if I would feel the same way if I lived in say, southern California. Part of the allure of the beginning of the baseball season is that it tells us that the long winter is over. Im not sure if the long winter endured by the inhabitants of Los Angeles has them longing for re-birth. That endless string of seventy degree days must be a grind! But in the Midwest, and the east coast where I was born, the beginning of the season has more significance and meaning. Opening Day is a starters gun that signifies that its time to go back outside again. Being cooped up in the house can drive you nuts. (Especially if youve been watching too many Bulls games!) The arrival of the boys of summer means that it cant be too far behind.

People always ask me which sport is my favorite. If theyre asking about the four majors and golf, I dont know if I could say that I care for one a whole lot more than the others. I have an affinity for each one. They all bring up different memories and connections. Baseball though, has probably been around the longest. It for me, as well as just about everyone else, is a memory of childhood. Being as old as I am, I did not grow up (some say still havent) with ipods, Wiis and computers. (Did have the Atari Pong though!) What we did in my neighborhood was play sports outside at the park down the street from the time we got up until we were forced to come in. When we started playing baseball, it meant two things: It was nice out and school was almost over! (Go figure I loved it so much!) As I got older, I was able to play in little league. Getting my first uniform is something I remember to this day. ( No. 3? Dad-Same as Babe Ruth. Me- Whos that?) The parade at the beginning of the season was the social event of the year for any kid under twelve. The league I played in had announcers for every game and a scoreboard that electronically showed balls and strikes. That was known as state-of-the-art for the late sixties. Not to mention the concession stand had the best hot dogs and french fries I ever remember. Mom always loved the mustard stains on the uniform pants. Those times to me were like a Rockwell painting, forging the foundation of my love for the game, on every level.

The thrill of Opening Day has never waned. More than any sport, the beginning of baseball signifies more than a season to be played. Its about the summer to come and the summers that have passed. Its more than games. Its the sounds, the smells and the feel. No matter how many times the team that I love breaks my heart, (sound familiar?) I cant wait to come back for more. To be able to watch on TV, go to a game or to just follow my rotisserie team with a zeal that borders on psychotic, is all I need. Baseball is that friend that will be there everyday, with so many stories to tell, some good, some bad, but all worth knowing. Baseball will be the soundtrack of my summer, the background noise of my life for the next six months and if Im lucky, a little longer than that.

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Everything changed for the Bears after going up 17-3 last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Mitchell Trubisky’s 27-yard touchdown to Dion Sims was immediately followed by Bobby Rainey running a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown, then the offense was bogged down with three fumbles (two lost) on three consecutive possessions. 

But Adrian Amos seemed to seal the game with his 90-yard pick six — that is, until Michael Campanaro ran Pat O’Donnell’s punt back 77 yards for what wound up being a game-tying touchdown after a two-point conversion.

The point is the Bears should’ve cruised to a comfortable win last week; a few critical mistakes didn’t allow that to happen. The Bears haven’t led at the end of the fourth quarter this year, a pretty strong indicator they haven’t played a complete game yet despite having two wins. 

The Carolina Panthers have road wins over the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots this year, and only lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by five points last week (despite Cam Newton throwing three interceptions). The bet here is the Bears keep things close on the backs of a strong defense, but either can’t make enough plays or make too many mistakes to win. 

Prediction: Panthers 20, Bears 16

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio


Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, the team declining a club contract option for next year and making a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.