White Sox

We are! Collateral damage!

We are! Collateral damage!

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Once again, Im having to deal with my mental and emotional fallout due to the Penn State scandal. The information coming from the Freeh Report confirmed most of my worst fears. Although, unlike a lot of folks I talk to, I feel this situation is going to get worse as more people go to trial and the Feds get involved and we get closer to understanding the full scope of the cover-up of Jerry Sanduskys actions. The denial that many are living with is going to have to be reconciled. For me, Im definitely in the anger stage and want to see heads roll. My current state seems to be similar to the reactions of the NCAA considering the sanctions that they imposed on the university and the football program last week.

Just about everywhere the NCAA was lauded for its swift and punitive actions. I get that. I appreciate that they didnt drag their feet and take years of investigations in their infractions process to determine guilt. Its obvious that this was a university hierarchy out of control and the school needs to pay for those misdeeds.

Its here where I have more conflict. Im trying to understand who really suffers from the punishments rendered. At this point, the three surviving members of the infamous Gang of Four, former President Graham Spanier, former Vice President Gary Shultz and exAthletic Director Tim Curley are not serving lengthy jail terms, yet. This would help in the healing process. They were the ones who knew and decided not to act, I mean besides Mike McQueary. (Just a question, I know he reported what he saw to Joe, but how did he sleep at night knowing nothing was done about it for the next 10 years?)

Actions against all of the above would be very appropriate. While Im at it, actions against the silent Board of Trustees would seem appropriate also. In the Freeh Report he used the word disengaged to describe them. I read that word as complicit. How this board can survive is beyond me. At least long-time Joe supporter Steve Garban finally showed the decency to step down from his post. His admitting his role in what transpired would be nice, but his failure to do so is the point.

Its all about protecting the golden goose. They hope this will all die down and they can move on. It seems to me theyre as delusional as the press releases coming from the Paterno family. (I understand the point of due process and letting all the facts get out, but just about any attorney I know would tell you to keep your mouth shut until that happens. Ever hear of a thing called a civil suit?)

The NCAA sanctions get to the core of this. Debilitating the football program means there is less money coming in, less in revenue and less in donations. This is not a small consideration. Its the language all these people speak, meaning the NCAA and those who run major universities. Its all about the cash. Always has been and always will be. In that, we are offered a valuable life lesson. Its one that the current players and students might pay attention to and heed. If they learn anything while they are at school, it is being played out in front of them: People will do just about anything to make money, then they will do everything in their power to protect it, whether its for themselves personally, or the entity that allows them to be gainfully employed. Im not being cynical, just stating a fact, one that the sooner we learn, the sooner we are able to navigate our way.

For me this lesson occurred at the start of my senior year of high school. For all of us, this is supposed to be a special time, a culmination of a lot of hard work and a last year of bliss before the harsh realities of the real world. This is the time since either its time to go to work, or go to college to amass loads of crippling debt, but I regress.

My senior year was my return to football after a self-imposed two-year exile. I always preferred playing baseball, but for some reason before my senior year, was overcome with the desire to hit things. Go figure! Training camp long and hot and a lot of fun! It was great being part of a team, better yet being part of one that had a chance to be good. The class that had departed the year before did so with the conference crown and expectations for my class were just as high. Personally, it was with a tremendous sense of achievement that I earned the starting safety assignment. Things were going my way.
Then when school was about to start, all the talk in the local newspaper was about the labor impasse our teachers had with the school district. Strike? That couldnt happen to us could it? Thats how we seniors looked at it. This was our time. Well, maybe a couple extra days of summer werent a bad thing.

Then days turned to weeks, and the weeks turned into a month. Things were not pretty. A lot of angry words were exchanged. I remember a lot of us felt let down by our coaches. We worked so hard for them. Why would they let us down?

One day when a bunch of us went to hang around outside the school to watch the strike festivities, one of the major Philadelphia papers had a reporter there. Of course when asked, a bunch of us gave our opinions. One of them, a fellow who someday would become on overweight bartender in the city of Chicago, was actually quoted in a front-page article voicing his displeasure. Go figure, again!!

Mostly it had to do with a sense of helplessness about being punished for something that none of us students had anything to do with. That those who were supposed to be molding us as young adults were not setting a good example by putting themselves above those who it was their job to shepherd.

When the strike finally ended, the classrooms where a chilly place, especially for someone whose opinions where in print. (Some things never change!) And the classroom had nothing on what occurred on the football field. Our coaches refused to come back to lead us. Instead, a few well-meaning, but in-over-their-heads administrators agreed to take over the team. Well, team in its loosest sense. Nothing was the same. There was no heart. There was no bond between player and coach. And we got hammered in every game we played.

Not to mention, the one teacher who was the most militant in support of the strike, and convinced his fellow football coaches to no-show in football, was the head baseball coach, money he agreed to take. How long do you think it took him to cut the aspiring bartender during tryouts? Everybody on the field! You, in the red bow tie, not so fast.
Like any teenager, I had enough other issues to keep my plate full, but I dont think, at the time, this was the best thing that could happen to me or any of my other classmates. The whole year had a sense of negativity to it. A stifling effect. It would take years for me to make sense out of it.

So its with that eye that I look at the Penn State situation. First and foremost, I think about the unspeakable horrors that the victims endured and the fact that people that were supposed to know better, could have prevented.

But in the ripple effect of life, there are more victims, ones whose only crime was to choose the wrong university to attend. I think about how the players must feel right now, how hard have they worked only to see dreams of a team accomplishment shattered.

About how upper-classmen, who go to every game, can figure out whats going on, on the campus around them. This was supposed to be their time.

Now? They all are going to have to learn about the facts of life. That stuff is going to happen beyond their control for the rest of their lives. The sooner this is accepted the better.

I cant help but feel for so many good kids that have been put in a bad situation. As a parent, you want everything to go right for your kids, for all kids. But you also know that isnt a realistic expectation. Bubbles are going to burst.

But things also have to be put in perspective. Things arent always going to work out the way we want. Everyone doesnt get a trophy. We have to learn how to deal with it and move on. Even it happens in a place we least expect it.

The other thing we learn: Its always easier said than done

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

High School Lites is down to the final week of the regular season in local high school hoops as the Class 3A and 4A schools finish up conference play. The boys basketball playoffs have also started as the Class 1A and Class 2A regional championships will be played on Friday night.

The girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals will also be featured. You can catch all of those games on NBC Sports Chicago on Friday beginning at 11 a.m. with the 1A semifinals. High School Lites will air Friday night at 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago

East Aurora at No. 11 West Aurora, 7:00 p.m. -- These two rivals meet for the 225th time. The Blackhawks (20-4, 9-0) won the first matchup by 22 points as they try to finish the season on a 12-game winning streak. 

Jacobs at Dundee-Crown, 7:00 p.m. -- Fox Valley rivals match up as Jacobs tries to go unbeaten in the conference. The Eagles (23-3, 15-0) has been playing very well as they've won 20 of 21 games heading into this one -- including an earlier win against Dundee-Crown. The Chargers (14-11, 10-4) has won seven consecutive games since dropping to the Golden Eagles as they're second in the Fox Valley heading into this one. 

Yorkville at DeKalb, 7:00 p.m. -- The top two teams in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East play in this one. DeKalb (16-11, 11-1) has already clinched a share of the conference title as the team's only league loss has come against Yorkville. The Foxes (17-8, 10-2) knocked off DeKalb at their place on Feb. 3 as they try to win again to get a piece of the division title. 

T.F. North at Lemont, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the better teams in the South Suburban Blue battle on the eve of the playoffs. Lemont (17-8, 9-3) has picked up three straight wins entering this one. T.F. North (11-9, 9-3) is trying to build some momentum after recent close losses to Hillcrest and T.F. South.

Carmel at No. 10 Benet, 7:30 p.m. -- The ESCC closes out its season with this one. Benet (22-4, 7-1) is coming off a nice road win at Marian Catholic earlier this week. Carmel (17-10, 4-4) knocked off Joliet Catholic during the week as they've been a dangerous team in the ESCC. 

Class 2A Boys Basketball Regional Championships

Leo vs. Marshall, 6 p.m. -- The Lions are the favorites but the Commandos are the host of this regional title game. Leo (20-5, 8-0) has a 13-game winning streak as they won the Catholic League White. Marshall (8-17, 4-5) struggled in the win column but they were a competitive 4-5 in a very deep Public League Red-South. 

Uplift vs. Northridge, 7 p.m. -- This should be an interesting battle as Uplift is playing on the road at Northridge. Uplift (17-9, 6-3) has played an extremely competitive schedule that includes a recent close loss to No. 1 Simeon as Kansas commit Markese Jacobs and senior forward Toraze Dobbs are one of the best combinations in the Class 2A field. Northridge (22-5, 12-0) went unbeaten in the Independent School League this season as they're riding a 13-game winning streak.

Class 1A Boys Basketball Regional Championships 

Aurora Christian vs. Harvest Christian, 7 p.m. -- These two teams play for the third time this season in what should be an interesting regional title game. Aurora Christian (23-1, 10-0) is the host as they only lost to Winnebago this season. The Eagles beat Harvest Christian twice in a six-day span in December. Harvest Christian (18-8, 8-2) finished third in the Northeastern Athletic as they played the second game within two points. 

Class 1A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Okaw Valley vs. Stockton, 11 a.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Okaw Valley (29-5) is making its first state appearance after winning its first regional title in school history. Stockton (31-2) finished under .500 last season (13-15) and had an amazing turnaround that includes a current 15-game winning streak. 

Lebanon vs. Schlarman, 12:45 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- These two teams have combined for two losses this season as this should be a good one. Lebanon (31-1) just won its first sectional title in school history as they've now moved on to state. Schlarman (31-1) is led by junior Anaya Peoples, a Notre Dame commit and five-star prospect in the Class of 2019. 

Class 2A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Harlan vs. Eureka, 5:30 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two red-hot teams play in the first semifinal in Class 2A. Harlan (25-6) is riding a 12-game winning streak as this is its first appearance at state for girls basketball. Eureka (28-3) has a 19-game winning streak as they make their first state appearance since 1988.

Marshall vs. Teutopolis, 7:15 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two storied programs in the state match up in this one. Marshall (20-7) will be making its 21st state appearance as head coach Dorothy Gaters is one of the most storied coaches in Illinois. Teutopolis is making its 17th appearance at state as the Lady Shoes (28-6) seek their first title since 1995.