Fire

And Another Thing...

And Another Thing...

Friday, Apr. 16, 2010
9:14 A.M.

Gotta love this time of year. Theres so much going on, locally and nationally, that there are plenty of topics to discuss at the bar, between bites of a U.S.D.A. prime steak that is. (For the customers, not me!) And since you asked..

BIG 5: For me, the most asked question of the last two weeks concerns the trade of Donavan McNabb to the Washington Redskins. What is my opinion? To quote Gordon Gekko: Conflicted. Its like seeing Sir Larry Wildman go over a cliff, .in my new Maserati! Ive always been a McNabb fan. Ive followed him from his days at Mt. Carmel when I first moved here. I think that for the most part hes been exceptional functioning in the cauldron that is Philadelphia. That being said, Im worn out. I have McNabb fatigue. Hes good enough to get you close, but hes been at his worst on his teams biggest stages. Sorry. Its that simple. For a fan of a team that has not won it all in my lifetime, it gets down to: Can you win it all? I have plenty of folks here who think Im nuts. I attribute that to the fact that they have not seen decent quarterback play for so long. In McNabbs case, there comes a time to get of the pot. As Eagles President Joe Banner said, At what time do you stop doing the same thing, expecting a different result? I dont know if Kevin Kolb is the answer, but a lot was invested in him and its time to find out. Judging from the two beat-downs that the Cowboys put on the Birds in the last two games of last season, both HUGE games, I think quarterback play is the least of their concerns. This mess is going to take time to fix, so why not go with the kid. Oh, and for you warm and fuzzy Cub fans that dont understand, whats the tone of this town going to be like towards the Cubs if they dont make the playoffs again this year? Understand my feelings now?

MASTERPHIL: Once again, the Masters tournament did not disappoint. The display of golf was extraordinary. (Mickelsons shot from between the trees, on the pine-straw to four-feet on thirteen during the final round on Sunday was one of the most amazing Ive ever seen. Of course I called it at the bar that he would gag the put. Ugh. But, Phil will be Phil.) It was great theater. I cant think of any other event that looks that good on a high-definition television. But of course there was more than a golf tournament going on and thats what dominated the conversation. The irony of Phil Mickelsons victory was not lost on anyone. Although Tiger still had his fans at the bar, he was the constant butt of jokes and wise-guy comments. All of the sudden, everybodys a late-night comedian. (That wasnt meant as a Tiger-Dave reference, but the ironies are everywhere!) Now, I dont know what kind of guy Mickelson is, so I can only make an assumption, (Insert comment here!) but there is no denying what he and his family are going through right now. Its a situation that has touched many of us. That he has stepped up to take care of his family is what anyone would expect of a person. The shot of him and his wife embracing just off the eighteenth green was an incredibly spontaneous (sort of), heartfelt moment that TV captured for all of us. It also presented to the viewing public the counter-balance of how Tiger took care of his.

UNDER PRESSURE: I have this eerie feeling of dj vu. I have this eerie feeling of dj vu. (Sorry, that makes me laugh every time. Its the simple things!) Im thinking back to 2008, when the Cubs were coming of a disappointing, yet not unexpected, playoff loss. They then plowed through the regular season, had the best record, then headed to the playoffs with a No. 1 seed and the weight of 100 years of frustration around their necks. I dont need to remind anyone how that worked out. Now we have the Blackhawks, the current darlings of the Chicago sports world. The untimely ending of last years playoff run was tempered by the fact that this was the first year that this group was in them and their core was young enough to go back again and again, starting with next year. Well, next year is here and the Hawks arrive with a No. 2 seed and the weight of 49 years of frustration. Not tying to be a buzz-kill here, but winning the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win professional team sports. Losing Brian Campbell and having a rookie in goal possibly could have already set their course and sealed their fate before their journey has begun. But being the eternal optimist that I am, (Im not kidding! Stop laughing!) I see something in this team that I didnt see in that Cub team from a couple of seasons ago, something that will help them overcome any adversity: its the heart of a lion, and his name is Jonathan Toews. While that Cub team looked scared and tight, I know the captain of this Hawks team wont allow it. The experience of this years Olympics will serve him well. There was an incredible amount of pressure on Team Canada to perform, and for my money, Toews was as good as any player on their team for the entire tournament. I look for him to lead this young team, and to, at the very least, get them to the Cup Finals. Its time for the best to step up. No pressure.
MY RUZZIN, FRUZZIN, MUZZIN, COUSIN VINNY: I cant wait to see the Bulls front office when theyre on the Springer Show. Who knew how entertaining everything was behind closed doors? Well obviously not any of us who read the local papers. We had to wait for YAHOO and TNT to let the cat out of the bag. Honestly, I dont see what the big deal is. There are always going to be disagreements running a business and sometimes they get heated, thats true for just about anyone, although in this case it would seem that it was totally avoidable. But my question is how could anyone following the team not know that Vinny didnt care for his bosses, especially by the way they let him twist in the wind last December? And if you were in his shoes, wouldnt you go down swinging? Hes taken nothing but grief in this town since he was hired. Then theres the understanding of EVERYONE that hes going to be fired at the end of the year, while still having one year left on his deal, and having taken the team to the playoffs in his only two seasons. He wants to win games to prove hes right and using Joakim Noah helps him do that. His job is to win games and use anyone on his bench to do so. The job of his boss, John Paxson, is to provide such players, or not. If there is a concern over minutes, while fighting to make the playoffs, should a coach be put in that position? I still believe that Noah should have been shut down, and if using him slightly over his allotment sets off the V.P., maybe someone else feels this way also. Playing someone in a way to avoid injury is a sure way to get him injured. And if the Vinny decision has already been made, why didnt they just let him go in December and let a veteran coach like Bernie Bickerstaff( unintentional pun!) take over? Or will Vinny be back? And whither Noahs feet? The answer to these and many more questions on the next episode of SPRINGER!

BULLS BIT PART II: Amongst all of the dysfunction, the most important thing is to not lose the eye on the prize, Chris Bosh. Hes the free-agent that I would target and he needs to be the primary focus. I love the fact that he called out his Toronto teammates for quitting down the stretch. He wants to go where there is a fire to win. Hi Chris, have you met John Paxson? This summer, a lot of teams are going to be able to offer money, the same money. So to sell your team, youre going to need a little something else. So with two straight playoff appearances, you could sell him that there is no quit in this team. (Unless Scott Skiles is coaching! Sorry, couldnt help myself!) And in light of recent revelations, the front office is willing to fight for its players, literally. How could he resist that? And a max contract.
BASEBALL: As in, get on base, ball. So far that seems to be a problem on both sides of town. I know that its way to early for panic, we have plenty of time for that, but the Sox are hitting .205 as a team as we start OZZIEBALL 2.0 and the Cubs are at the bottom of the NL with Houston and Washington, not exactly the company you want to keep. I believe that you dont make the playoffs by what you do in April, but you could miss them by what you dont. Baseball is such a long grind that it would seem that you wouldnt want to spend the whole season swimming upstream. Theres plenty of time to right both ships, but both teams came in with major questions about where there runs would come from and at this point we still dont have an answer. No worries, for now, since most of the city is distracted by the Hawks, and the Vinny and Pax Show. But at some point those distractions are going to go away and lets hope theres an answer by then. If not, this summers going to get very hot

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?

portillos.jpg
@JTHAZZARD

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?

Portillo's has become a staple in the Chicagoland area due to its popular hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and now, its soccer jerseys.

OK, maybe one of these does not belong with the others. Regardless, Twitter user @JTHazzard created mock-up soccer jerseys mashing MLS teams and restaurants based in that team's city, and the Portillo's jersey is sweet. 

From the Portillo's logo taking center-stage to the picnic blanket pattern to the discrete Chicago Fire logo, this jersey is absolutely brilliant. The only change this writer would make is including the logo below instead.

Valspar is the current sponsor featured on the Fire's uniforms. If the team ever needs a new sponsor, though, Portillo's would be an excellent replacement.

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

Lucas Giolito is having a rough go of things in his second year with the White Sox.

He came into the season with some pretty high expectations after posting a 2.38 ERA in seven starts at the end of the 2017 campaign and then dominating during spring training. But he’s done anything but dominate since this season started, and after one of his worst outings in Thursday’s 9-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, he’s got a 7.53 ERA in 10 starts in 2018.

Giolito stuck around for only four outs Thursday, but he allowed the Orioles to do plenty of damage, giving up seven runs on six hits — two of which were back-to-back home runs to start the second inning — and three walks. He leads the American League with his 37 walks.

“I take what I do very seriously. I work as hard as I can at it,” Giolito said. “So when I experience failure like this, it’s kind of hard to deal with. All I can do is come back tomorrow, keep working on things and hopefully have a better one.”

All of Giolito’s struggles have fans wondering why the White Sox haven’t sent him down to Triple-A to work on his craft.

“I don’t foresee that at this particular time,” Rick Renteria said when asked if Giolito could be sent to Triple-A. “I think he’s just a young man who’s got to continue to minimize the emotional aspect of crossing from preparation into the game and staying focused, relaxed and hammer the zone with strikes. And truthfully it’s just first-pitch strike and get after the next one.”

The White Sox have already sent one young pitcher down in Carson Fulmer, who was having a nightmarish time at the big league level. Fulmer’s results were worse than Giolito’s on a regular basis. He got sent down after posting an 8.07 ERA in nine outings.

But hasn’t Giolito suffered through command issues enough to warrant some time away from the major league limelight? According to his manager, Giolito’s situation is vastly different than Fulmer’s.

“I don’t see them anywhere near each other,” Renteria said. “They’re two different competitors in terms of the outcomes that they’ve had. Lucas has at least had situations in which he might have struggled early and been able to gain some confidence through the middle rounds of his start and continue to propel himself to finish some ballgames, give us six or seven innings at times. So it’s two different guys.

“With Gio, I expect that we would have a nice clean start from the beginning, but when he doesn’t I still feel like if he gets through it he’ll settle down and continue to hammer away at what he needs to do in order to get deeper into a ballgame, and that was a little different with Carson. With Carson it was right from the get-go he was struggling, and he had a difficult time extending his outings after the third or fourth because it just kept getting too deep into his pitch count and not really hammering the strike zone as much.”

Renteria is not wrong. Giolito has had a knack to take a rough beginning to a start and turn it into five or six innings. Notably, he gave up a couple first-inning runs and walked seven hitters and still got the win against the Cubs a week and a half ago. And while his first-inning ERA is 10.80 and his second-inning ERA is 12.54, he’s pitched into at least the sixth inning in seven of his 10 starts.

Renteria’s point is that Giolito is learning how to shake off early damage and achieving the goal, most times out, of eating up innings and keeping his team in the game. Those are a couple valuable qualities to develop for a young pitcher. But are those the lone qualities that determine that Giolito is suited to continue his learning process at the major league level? His command remains a glaring problem, and both he and Renteria admitted that his problems are more mental than physical.

“The one thing everyone has to understand is we have to go beyond the physical and attack a little bit more of the mental and emotional and try to connect and slow that down,” Renteria said. “Those aspects are the ones that ultimately, at times, deal in the derailment of the physical action. So if we can kind of calm that down a little bit.

“He’s very focused. Giolito is high intensity. Nice kid but high-intensity young man when he gets on the mound. You might not believe it. He’s going 100 mph. So I think it goes to more just trusting himself, trusting the process, taking it truthfully one pitch at a time.”

Well, if a demotion to the minors isn’t likely, what about moving Giolito to the bullpen? Carlos Rodon and Chris Sale dipped their toes in bullpen waters before moving to the rotation. Could a reversal of that strategy help Giolito?

Well, the current state of the White Sox starting rotation — Fulmer in the minors, Miguel Gonzalez on the 60-day DL and pitchers like James Shields, Hector Santiago and Dylan Covey, who aren’t exactly long-term pieces, getting a lot of starts — doesn’t really allow for another piece to be removed.

“I know they have done it with Rodon and Sale,” Renteria said. “The difference is we don’t have the makeup of the starting rotation that those clubs had in order to put those guys in the ‘pen. We are in a different situation right now. Moving forward, is that something we can possibly do? Absolutely. It has been done with very good success.

“Right now we are in truly discovery mode and adjustment mode and adapting and trying to do everything we can to get these guys to develop their skill sets to be very usable and effective at the major league level and we are doing it to the best of our ability.”

There could be promise in the fact that Giolito has turned a season around as recently as last year. Before he was impressing on the South Side in August and September, he was struggling at Triple-A Charlotte. Even after he ironed things out, things had gotten off to a rocky enough start that he owned a 4.48 ERA and 10 losses when he was called up to the bigs.

It doesn’t seem Giolito will be going back to Charlotte, unless things continue to go in a dramatically poor direction. Right now, these are just more of the growing pains during this rebuilding process. “The hardest part of the rebuild” doesn’t just means wins and losses. It means watching some players struggle through speed bumps as they continue to develop into what the White Sox hope they’ll be when this team is ready to compete.