Bears

Up Against the Wall

Up Against the Wall

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

In life, we are always seeking ways to get more out of what we have. Being multi-purpose is at the core of how many of the products we use are presented to us. New Shimmer being a floor wax and a desert topping comes to mind.

In sports this concept led to the abomination known as multi-use stadiums that dotted the landscape during the 1970s. As a kid growing up in Philadelphia, Veterans Stadium was all shiny and new. Who knew it would become a house of horrors that would torment me into my adulthood. And in reflection, as all the new football and baseball stadiums have been built around the country, one can now realize how truly awful the experience, regardless of the tragedy being played out on the field, of being at a cookie-cutters was.

Still, you can understand that the owner of a stadium needs to think outside-the-box of ways to keep it full, since as we know, that is the only way they get a return on their investment.

Here in Chicago, and specifically Wrigley Field, this thinking has led to some interesting events.

In its history, Wrigley has hosted a wide variety of events besides baseball. These have included among them: The Norge Ski Jump Competition, (Why does the word Norge conjure up another connotation? Not to mention be my second classic SNL reference in 300 words. Boo-Ya!! I cant stop!) rodeos, the Harlem Globetrotters, a Jake LaMotta boxing match and Bears football.

Recent years have seen such extravaganzas as the Winter Classic and college one-way football.

Seeing something different at Wrigley Field is cool because YOURE SEEING IT AT WRIGLEY FIELD!

Since 2005 this has included big-time concert acts.

I saw my first one there last year when Sir Paul McCartney took the center field stage. My first reaction was, Oh my god, its hotter than Hades! How can it be 95 degrees outside at nine oclock at night? My second was, Im sitting at Wrigley Field watching a freaking Beatle! For a lad from Philly this was pretty heady stuff. I mean, really, when I listened to my first Beatles song over forty years ago, how could I have imagined that this was in my future? Wow!

I took my next visit to the Frankie O Aging Rocker Time Vault last Friday when Roger Waters brought his latest production of his Pink Floyd classic The Wall to The Confines. Once again I was blown away by being able to see a performance of music that was a large part of my formative years, 33 years after its debut. That it was at Wrigley only made the experience over-the-top. That Waters was able to use modern technology to cutting-edge levels to present his opus visually and sound-wise made it one of the best rock shows I have ever witnessed.

Of course, in keeping with my twisted nature, or the fact that the several beverages I consumed enhanced my inner Frankie O, I couldnt help but notice the irony of Waters performance. The Wall tells the story of his feelings of abandonment and personal isolation as he dealt with the struggles of his life. For some reason, this tale of torment reminded me of the Cubs fans who are the usual inhabitants of Wrigley and their parallel fronts.

The entire set list oozed Cub:

In the Flesh? The feeling of the Cub faithful about when they are FINALLY going to be able to see for themselves the myth that is Anthony Rizzo.

The Thin Ice- This describes ownerships position in its dealings with local government officials (read: Da Mayor) in negotiations for public financing of Wrigley renovations.

Another Brick in the Wall, Parts I, II and III Is there anything more iconic in any stadium than the bricks and ivy of Wrigley?
Happiest Days of Our Lives- Im not sure if this is about a very distant, future event , not yet conceivable to the ticket buying faithful, or an homage to the back-to-back championships over a century ago.

Mother- Do I really need to explain this one? Mother do you think the Cubs will bust.

Goodbye Blue Sky- Or an expletive to this effect, uttered by many right fielders wondering where the fly ball hit their way during a day game disappeared to.

Young Lust- Im going to show some unusual restraint here and let you insert your own joke.
One of My Turns- Even for this album, this song is kind of a dark aberration, kind of like taking Chad Kreuters hat, dumping beer on Shane Victorino or getting pummeled on the mound by Randy Meyers.

Dont Leave Me Now- The plea to season ticket holders to keep the faith, and keep forking over the third highest ticket price in the majors, all while watching a team get nuked and be rebuilt from the ground up.

Goodbye Cruel World- Sadly we know this has been among the last thoughts of some Cubs fans that have left us without seeing their beloved team reach their own ultimate destination.

Hey You- A common reprimand heard in the stands from certain ushers that, since the said Kreuter incident, have seemed to lose their sense of humor.

Is There Anybody Out There?- Despite announced attendance numbers, something you can yell in the stadium during the last 2, and inevitably this years, August and September as Chicagoans turn their attention elsewhere, kind of like being at the Cell anytime this year.

Nobody Home- Why, I dont know, this reminds me of the ill-fated Todd Hundley era behind the plate.

Vera- Honestly? Ive got nothing.

Bring the Boys Back Home- For an organization that is now obsessed with the Money Ball way of doing things, this song represents my favorite old-school stat: BARISP. Beguile me with your Retrosheet Win Probability Added, and when my head stops spinning, Ill tell you that if you have a decent BARISP, you are going to score a TON of runs.

Comfortably Numb- Should be the theme song of the bleachers, especially back in the day.

The Show Must Go On- Im reminded of Mike Quade arguing with the umpiring crew for calling a rain delay while it was coming down sideways. Good times.

Run Like Hell- The baseball purist inside of me gets pure joy every time I see Tony Campana on the base paths.
Waiting For the Worms- What Im thinking as I look at the outfield this week after the removal of the stage. Looks like its time for another visit from the Sodfather.

Stop- Obvious enough. Its what fans want from the usual, Cubs Way of doing business. A century plus of not winning (Strange even typing that phrase) is more than enough. Its the main reason that team Theo has been given so much latitude with the fans. Although they might not be going to the ballpark as much, they are paying attention and filled with anticipation, just like my kids the night before Santa comes. Lets hope this regime is as generous with their gifts to the masses as the big fella in the red suit. (Not to be confused with the big fella with the generous pour wearing the red bow tie!)

The Trial- Just as obvious, this is what will happen in about 3 years if the Master Plan is not obvious for all to see.

Outside the Wall- The place where Waters and all Cubs fans are set free. The weight of the past can be is an incredible burden if we let it. The thought of better time will always get us through. At some point, Wait until next year has to come true.

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

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USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

Despite losing 34 of his 48 games as the Bears’ head coach, John Fox’s players generally liked him and were disappointed to see him fired on New Year’s Day. That’s not to say they were blindsided by it — losing leads to people losing their jobs, even if the culture at Halas Hall had changed for the better following the disastrous end of the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery era. 

It was with that backdrop that Matt Nagy was offered and accepted the position of Bears head coach a week after Fox’s firing. Four and a half months later, Nagy has seemingly made a strong first impression on his new team, with one reason standing out among many: He’s genuine in who he is and what he does.

“I would say Nagy can be stern, and he can be playful also,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think when you’re a first-year coach, you want to win (over) your guys, and you want to be firm, and he’s doing that. You can’t really tell he’s a rookie coach or whatever. I feel like he was born for this, and he’s doing a great job.”

Granted, no player is going to publicly blast their new boss — especially not before he’s even coached a game yet. But veteran players also aren’t oblivious to who can and cannot work out as a head coach, and there haven’t been any “damning with faint praise” types of comments that were more common five years ago at the beginning of the Trestman era.

Will this win Nagy any games come September? No. But consider this sort of like team chemistry: It won't win a team anything, but if a team doesn't have it, it can be costly. 

“He’s a cool coach, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan — who played for Fox in both Denver and Chicago — said. “He’s always giving us little details and smiling but we know he’s a hard worker just like we are. He’s up there working just like we are. He’s always putting us in the right position and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. You go out and make plays for those coaches.”

From an observational standpoint, Nagy comes across as genuinely excited not just to be a head coach, but the head coach of the Bears. Players respect that approach — he's not coming in acting like a hired gun, and he's shown through these OTAs and practices that he cares about them, even if they haven't spent much time together yet. And he's also not strutting into Halas Hall every day with an over-inflated ego based on his promotion. That resonates, too. 

“I like the way he came in,” Trevathan said. “He came in humble but he was hungry. He came anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.