White Sox

Big Ben takes blame for Steelers' stumble

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Big Ben takes blame for Steelers' stumble

From Comcast SportsNetPITTSBURGH (AP) -- Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looks at his passing statistics, and they're not all that bad.His passer rating is up from his career average, as well as his average passing yards per game.The completion rate is where it has been over the course of an eight-year career.Only once before has Roethlisberger thrown more touchdown passes per game or fewer interceptions per game.But it's been Roethlisberger's play, by his own admission, that's a key factor in Pittsburgh (7-8) failing to make the playoffs for only the fourth time since 2001."A lot of it just has to do with me not playing well enough down the stretch," Roethlisberger said. "Fourth-quarter drives or last-minute throws, I'm just not making it happen, so my best answer would be that I just didn't play well enough."The Steelers controlled their playoff fate until their 13-10 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday eliminated them from the postseason.Just as had happened one week earlier against Dallas, Roethlisberger threw an interception during a tie game that led to the opponent kicking a winning field goal.Those losses joined others earlier this season against Denver, Oakland and Tennessee in which Pittsburgh not only blew fourth-quarter leads, but had the ball in the final minutes with a chance to drive for a potential winning score.The Roethlisberger-led offense failed each time. In the season opener at Denver, he threw an interception to Tracy Porter that was returned 43 yards for the clinching touchdown."In the past, I prided myself and us in fourth-quarter comebacks," Roethlisberger said. "I've always said that you don't want to have them, because that means you haven't done well early in the game, but we've always been good at it. And this year, we just weren't. I don't think there's any rhyme or reason why, (but) it was just a year when I wasn't."Roethlisberger has thrown only eight interceptions this season, but many came at crucial times. Six came in defeats, four in the fourth quarter or overtime. His first interception in the must-win game against the Bengals on Sunday was returned for Cincinnati's only touchdown.This season, Roethlisberger's 84.4 passer rating in the fourth quarter and overtime is by far lower than during any of the other three quarters.That would seem to be in contrast to the clutch reputation Roethlisberger has earned over the course of a career in which he has led 22 fourth-quarter comebacks and 29 game-winning drives during the regular season and also led a memorable comeback in the final minutes of the 2009 Super Bowl."I don't think there's any reason to go panic about it, because I've been pretty good for eight years doing it and had one not-so-good year on it," Roethlisberger said. "I think I played pretty good football, though, other than those situations."To be fair, Roethlisberger was under center for three fourth-quarter comebacks this season. But even coach Mike Tomlin acknowledges his two-time Pro Bowler just wasn't the same in such situations this season."Just not making the critical plays," Tomlin said. "Not a lot has changed in terms of structurally for how we prepare for those moments and how we deal with those moments. They're not coming together for us, and I'm not going to try to make excuses in that regard."Roethlisberger and Tomlin both downplayed the notion that the quarterback's right shoulder and rib injuries sustained in November are affecting his play.Roethlisberger missed three games, and since he's come back, he's thrown six interceptions and four touchdown passes in three games -- all losses."We can talk about that in the offseason, maybe, but I feel good enough to play," Roethlisberger said.There have been times over the past three games that Roethlisberger's arm didn't appear as strong as usual and he was badly off on throws he typically makes. But there also are examples he was the same old Big Ben.Against Dallas, for example, he lofted a ball more than 50 yards in the air to Mike Wallace to set up a tying second-half touchdown. Earlier in that game, he scrambled and avoided multiple sack attempts to find an open Heath Miller for a score just before halftime."The only reason we're in that game is because of his play," safety Ryan Clark said. "The only reason he had an opportunity to throw an interception at the critical moment is because he played so well to keep us close."Still, Roethlisberger has largely built his career not on eye-popping numbers but on clutch play.When asked about why this season has been so much different, Wallace shrugs and maintains that Roethlisberger is the same at practice and in the huddle."You can't be perfect every time," Wallace said. "You can't be a superhero every time."Maybe, but Roethlisberger was far from it late in this season -- and as a result, the Steelers will spend January at home."I not worried about Ben," Miller said. "He's one of the best quarterbacks in the league -- in my mind, he's still there. And I wouldn't want anybody else to be leading this team."Notes: The Steelers placed Miller, CB Ike Taylor and RB Baron Batch on injured reserve Wednesday and signed TE Jamie McCoy, S Damon Cromartie-Smith and LB Marshall McFadden to the active roster. Miller, who tore knee ligaments Sunday, will have surgery Wednesday.

Remember That Guy: Chris Snopek

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USA TODAY

Remember That Guy: Chris Snopek

Chris Snopek was born September 20, 1970 in Cynthiana, KY. He was a multi-sport standout in high school, averaging 18.5 points and 8.0 assists on the hardwood, as well as hitting .576 with 20 HR as a senior on the diamond. He was a standout third baseman/shortstop at Ole Miss, hitting .407/.491/.725 with 13 home runs and 62 RBI (a school-record at the time) in 54 games as a junior. The White Sox made him a 6th round draft pick in 1992.

In 1994, Snopek played for the Double-A Birmingham Barons, where he was one of two players on the team with 50+ RBI and 50+ walks. The other one was Michael Jordan.By 1995, Snopek hit .323/.402/.494 with 12 HR in 113 games for Nashville (AAA); that batting average good for second in the American Association. He made his MLB Debut on July 31, 1995, going 2 for 3 with a run, RBI, walk and stolen base as the starting third baseman. The 6’1” right-handed infielder drew a walk in each of his first five career MLB games; the first White Sox player to do so since Ray Morehart in 1924.

The White Sox had Robin Ventura at third and Ozzie Guillen at short, so Snopek had to settle for a start here and a start there. He was sent back down to the minors but returned in September. On September 20, 1995, Snopek connected for his first career home run; the blast coming off Indians starter Joe Roa. The milestone round tripper came on Snopek’s 25th birthday. He remains the only player in White Sox history whose first career home run came on his birthday. It was his lone homer of 1995, though Snopek did quite well in his first taste of MLB action, hitting .324 (22 for 68), .407 vs lefties (11 for 27) in 22 games.

Entering the 1996 season, he was the #52 overall prospect according to Baseball America (in between Jason Varitek and Dustin Hermanson); topping the White Sox organizational top ten:

White Sox top 10 prospects according to Baseball America entering 1996

  1. Chris Snopek
  2. Jeff Abbott
  3. Scott Ruffcorn
  4. James Baldwin
  5. Jeff Liefer
  6. Mike Cameron
  7. Jimmy Hurst
  8. Luis Andujar
  9. McKay Christensen
  10. Greg Norton

Snopek started the 1996 season in a utility role, making spot starts at third and short as well as pinch hitting. On April 28, 1996, he became the first White Sox shortstop to start and hit cleanup since Ron Hansen in 1967 (Only José Valentín & Alexei Ramírez have done it since). In limited duty, Snopek hit 6 home runs in 1996 – all off lefties.

Snopek got his chance in 1997 when Robin Ventura suffered an ankle injury, getting the nod as the opening day third baseman. He went 0 for 5 that game and never got it going, hitting .218/.263/.319 in 86 games. The following season, after struggling to the tune of .208/.291/.248 in 53 games, Snopek was traded to the Red Sox at the end of August, where he finished the season and as fate would have it, his MLB career, with eight final games. He bounced around the minors the next four seasons.

In 2017, Snopek and a business partner purchased P360 Performance Sports in Jackson, Mississippi, where they offer baseball training facilities and instruction programs. Snopek also serves as the Assistant Varsity Baseball Coach at Madison Ridgeland Academy in Mississippi.

Chris Snopek… remember that guy?

Are the Cubs are still in on Bryce Harper sweepstakes?

Are the Cubs are still in on Bryce Harper sweepstakes?

On Thursday’s edition of the  “At The Yard Podcast”, Philadelphia Insider Jim Salisbury stated that he still feels the Yankees, Cubs and Dodgers are the three teams that are all still in the Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado sweepstakes.

He called all three franchises “very interested bystanders in one or both of these guys.”

Salisbury also mentioned that the St. Louis Cardinals could get in on the Manny Machado free agency if the figures for his alleged contract offer from the White Sox was correct, as reported this week.

This comes just days after Cubs skipper Joe Maddon said “not going to happen” in regards to the North Siders going after Harper. And at the Cubs Convention, Tom Ricketts said “we didn't have the flexibility this year to go sign a huge free agent and I'm not sure we would have anyway, to be honest.”

All signs—coming from the Cubs at least—point to them not being in on Harper with all of their current financial commitments, yet reports continue to pour out stating that the Cubs are still monitoring his situation closely. On time will tell, but it certainly seems foolish to count Chicago out at this point.

According to Salisbury, the Cubs have made it very clear to Harper’s representatives that after he receives all of his final offers from teams, he should make sure to “check back with us [the Cubs].”