Cubs

Ask Aggrey: Was Rose's injury inevitable?

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Ask Aggrey: Was Rose's injury inevitable?

It was all good just a week ago. Maybe not all good, but last Monday, I was confident enough to attempt to talk Bulls fans off the ledge after Derrick suffered his devastating, season-ending knee injury.

But now, after Jo's severely sprained ankle and the Bulls facing a 3-1 deficit against the Sixers, things look pretty grim. All of a sudden, it seems like nothing can go right for the Bulls, on or off the court. On the brink of being eliminated from the postseason heading into Tuesday's Game 5, it's do or die for the Bulls and as remarkable as the regular season was -- don't forget, even in the shortened, injury-plagued season, they again finished with the league's best record -- it almost seems all for naught now, as the expected rematch with Miami in the conference finals seems unlikely occur and even if it did, without Derrick, even if Jo was back on the court by then, that would appear to be too tall of a task with all of the ailments this M.A.S.H. unit of a team has been through.

Regardless, what fans need to remember is that the core of the team is still relatively young and the championship window, if postponed, remains open for the future, no matter what happens Tuesday at the UC. On to this week's mailbag:

Do you think Rose's injury was almost inevitable? He went up without much contact, and apparently in the push off it just happened. Does that likely mean it was probably going to happen soon anyway that the ligament was somehow compromised, too tight, too weak, etc? i.e. if he were not in the game, then maybe it would have happened in the next game or soon afterward anyway? -- Ron S.

Ron, I definitely wouldn't say it was "inevitable," as first-time ACL injuries are unpredictable. I might buy the fact that Derrick was more susceptible to injuries because of what he's dealt with all season and going back to his explosive style of play without proper recovery time -- though it's unlikely that anyone would have been able to keep him off the court or "shut him down" for the playoffs -- but I believe it was truly a freak accident. It's also possible that he could have built upon what was a stellar game until that point and had a dominant postseason. We'll never know.

I believe Steve Nash would be a nice fit in a Bulls jersey next season, what do you think? -- Robert U.

Robert, I think Nash would be a good fit virtually anywhere, but I don't see him landing in Chicago for a variety of reasons. One, while some have suggested he could play a backup role, after playing at a high level and nearly leading an overachieving Phoenix team to the playoffs, I don't think he'd be willing to go to the bench, even if he would be able to start until Derrick returns. Also, while his playmaking in Derrick's absence and outside shooting fill needs for the Bulls, his up-tempo style and inferior defense don't necessarily mesh with the team's current personnel and style of play. Furthermore, if Nash does leave Phoenix, he's likely to sign with a contender and a Bulls team without Derrick, not to mention Luol Deng, probably isn't an upper-echelon squad entering next season. Lastly, while Nash might not be a max free agent, the Bulls are unlikely to have the financial flexibility to add a player who commands that type of salary and if they were willing to spend, Nash is unlikely to be a priority. Remember: Derrick will be back eventually.

Looking towards the draft, who do you think would be a good fit for the Bulls? -- Kyle R.
Kyle, by virtue of their regular-season record, the Bulls will again pick at the bottom of the first round and if somehow, athletic Mississippi State big man Arnett Moultrie, Syracuse scorer Dion Waiters or Washington shooter Terrence Ross fell in their lap, any of those players -- Moultrie gives them another frontcourt athlete with length, Waiters can play either guard spot and be a scoring sixth man and Ross has nice size and bounce on the wing to go with his shooting range -- would be ideal, but it's unlikely to happen. More realistically, I think Ross' Washington teammate, Tony Wroten, might not be a bad fit with his size, playmaking ability and defensive prowess -- he could potentially play with Derrick in an explosive backcourt on occasion, but would most likely be a backup -- but if he slips that far, it's probably because of concerns about his character and shaky jumper.

Kentucky's Marquis Teague is also intriguing, but his floor generalship still needs work, despite winning a national title, while Iona's Scott Machado was one of the nation's most underrated point guards, but his size and lack of competition raise questions. Shooters like Vanderbilt's John Jenkins, Ohio State's William Buford, Georgetown's Hollis Thompson and the Kentucky duo of Doron Lamb and Darius Miller could also make sense. Skilled big man Kevin Jones of West Virginia might deserve a look, as could Tennessee Tech scoring wing Kevin Murphy, versatile Memphis swingman Will Barton and a trio of somewhat raw big men in Norfolk State's Kyle O'Quinn, Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli and Syracuse's Fab Melo. The Bulls have the luxury of not needing a rookie to come in and be a star right away, but management could have a different approach with Derrick and potentially Lu missing significant time at the beginning of next season. Right now, the biggest potential needs are a shooter, a shot-creating playmaker, size if Omer leaves via free agency (as many expect) and depending on the thought process about Ronnie and Kyle, another swingman.
Is it reasonable to think Derrick as a 2 guard makes the most sense upon his return to the Bulls next season? -- Kristoffer K.

Kristoffer, I don't think so. While Derrick's mobility might not be the same initially, he still needs the ball in his hands to be most successful and contrary to popular belief, he is a point guard. I can see why some people might think, because of his scoring ability and size, he could slide over to the two, as he'd be defending less mobile players, but even if he doesn't have his full explosiveness immediately upon returning to the court, there's a good chance that he's still quicker than most players in the league. All that said, he is a point guard and that's the position he should play when he returns, unless the Bulls either acquire or develop an All-Star caliber player at the position or Rip isn't with the team anymore, since that's their starting shooting guard.
Keep the questions -- whether theyre about the Bulls, the rest of the NBA, other levels of basketball or life in general -- coming. Youll get a much better explanation, though not as instant, than you would via Twitter with only 140 characters. You can submit a question by commenting on this article below or by clicking here.

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

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USA Today

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

Joe Maddon needed Mike Montgomery to get through at least six innings given the circumstances presenting the Cubs' manager before Game 2 of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Not only were the Cubs short a man in the bullpen (thanks to Brandon Morrow’s pants-related back injury), but Maddon had to use four relievers — including Pedro Strop for two innings — after Tyler Chatwood managed only five innings in Game 1 earlier in the afternoon. 

So when Montgomery — who had only thrown over 100 pitches once in the last two and a half seasons before Tuesday — saw his pitch count sit at 40 after two innings, and then 63 after three, he knew he needed to regroup to avoid creating a mess for the Cubs’ bullpen. 

What followed was a start that, statistically, wasn’t the most impressive of the five Montgomery’s made since re-joining the Cubs’ rotation earlier this year. But it was an important start in that the 28-year-old left-hander didn’t have his best stuff, yet didn’t give in to a good Dodgers lineup. And holding that bunch to one run over six innings was exactly what the Cubs needed in what turned out to be a 2-1 extra-inning win. 

“Especially when you don’t have have your best stuff, you always gotta — that’s when you really learn how to pitch,” Montgomery said. 

It’s also the kind of start that could be a major point in Montgomery’s favor when Maddon is presented with a decision to make on his starting rotation whenever Yu Darvish comes off the disabled list. Knowing that Montgomery can grind his way through six innings when his team needs it the most without his best stuff only can add to the confidence the Cubs have in him. 

Montgomery didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday, issuing more walks (four) than he had in his previous four starts (three). He threw 48 pitches between the second and third innings, and only 25 of those pitches were strikes. Of the nine times the Dodgers reached base against Montgomery, six were the result of fastballs either leading to a walk or a hit. 

Even though the Dodgers were able to bother Montgomery a bit on his fastball, Maddon said that’s the pitch of his that’s impressed him the most over the last few weeks. 

“He never got rushed,” Maddon said. “In the past he would seem to get rushed when things weren’t going well, when he spot-started. Overall, fastball command is better — even though he was off a little bit tonight, the fastball command still exceeds what I’ve seen in the past couple of years on a more consistent basis. The changeup, really, good pitch. He got out of some jams but I think the fact that he knows where his fastball is going now is the difference-maker for him.”

Darvish will throw a simulated game on Wednesday after throwing two bullpen sessions last week. Maddon still doesn’t have a timetable for the $126 million right-hander’s return, and said he’s not entertaining what to do with his rotation until Darvish comes off the disabled list. But Maddon did mention Montgomery’s relative lack of an innings load — the most he’s thrown in a season in 130 2/3, which he did in 2017 — as a reason to perhaps not rush him into a permanent starting role the rest of the season. Going to a six-man rotation is a possibility, too, Maddon said. 

But the over-arching point is this: Montgomery will remain in the Cubs’ rotation as long as he keeps earning it. That can be the product of strong outings in which he has good stuff, or games like Tuesday in which he shows the Cubs the kind of resiliency most starters need to get through a full season. 

“I pitch well, good things happen,” Montgomery said. “I’ve always thought that. Opportunities, you just gotta make the most of them.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

For the second time in 1998, Sosa went back-to-back games with multiple home runs. After going yard twice on June 19 of that season, Slammin' Sammy again sent two balls into the bleachers on June 20.

He singlehandedly beat the Phillies that night, driving in 5 runs in a 9-4 Cubs victory.

But that wasn't the most impressive feat of the day from Sosa. His second homer was actually measured at a whopping 500 feet! It was the longest of the season, but not the longest of his career. On June 24, 2003, Sosa hit a homer at Wrigley measured at 511 feet.

The back-to-back big games raised Sosa's season OPS to 1.083 with a ridiculous .685 slugging percentage. He began June 1998 with a .608 slugging percentage.

Fun fact: Kerry Wood struck out 11 batters in 7.1 innings on June 20, 1998 to pick up his 7th big-league victory. As Wood marched to the National League Rookie of the Year that season, he finished with a 13-6 record and 233 strikeouts in only 166.2 innings for a career-high 12.6 K/9 rate.