White Sox

Blackhawks breakdown:Duncan Keith

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Blackhawks breakdown:Duncan Keith

Over the next five weeks, CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

Duncan Keith played in 74 games in 2011-12, scoring four goals with 36 assists (40 points) and a plus-15 rating. One of his goals and 12 assists came on the power play. In 26 minutes and 54 seconds of ice time per game, Keith had 121 blocked shots and was credited with 45 hits. In the playoffs, Keith had zero goals and one assist with seven blocked shots and finished a plus-1 in the six-game series vs. Phoenix.

Boden's take: He set the bar so high in his magnificent Norris Trophy-winning season that it's almost been a curse the past two years. Rather unfairly, that also puts a greater focus on the 11 years and 61 million remaining on his contract. While Keith's offensive numbers have shrunk since that Olympic Gold and Cup-winning campaign, I feel this year was better overall than 2010-11, especially in his own end where he seemed less prone to turning the puck over than a year ago as the team's ice-time workhorse following that short summer.

Let's also remember as integral a part of the title team as he was, he was also helped by the depth of the cast around him. One offensive issue he's continued to run into is opponents blocking his shooting lanes. As an alternate captain, he's been a good leader by all accounts both in the locker room and facing the media through good times and bad.

Myers' take: If anyone was going to benefit from the long offseason entering 2011-12, it was going to be Keith, right? Well, yes and no.

At times, Keith was showing that strong play that earned him the Norris. But at other times, Keith was still struggling. Be it turnovers or his elbow to Daniel Sedin's head, Keith made his share of costly mistakes. Part of it was Keith, once again, playing a ton along the blue line. The moves made last offseason to add defensive depth didn't work out so well -- Sami Lepisto and Sean O'Donnell were onoff scratches and Steve Montador was hurt for the final two months of the season. But Keith was at his best when he and Brent Seabrook were together again toward the end of the regular season. Hey, familiarity breeds confidence.

2012-13 Expectations

Chris: Keith welcomes the workload. His unique lung capacity allows it, and I wouldn't be surprised if that continues next season. But as he enters his eighth season and turns 29, I'm curious to see if he'd inch closer to the Norris level from two years ago if 2-3 minutes of average ice time were shaved off. More than one long-time NHL observer has told me Keith shouldn't be leaned upon on the power play, in addition to his penalty-killing and top-pair duties.

Maybe the Hawks' offseason priority should be targeting a top-four defenseman with size, who has a cannon from the point for the power play and a nasty streak to help Seabrook clear the doorstep for the second pair and on the kill.

Tracey: Keith's currently at the World Championships in Finland; but after that he'll get another offseason of good rest. Keith could get back to his strong play again next season, but truly adding depth to that blue line would help him. Whenever someone gets hurt or fails to carry their weight, it usually falls on Keith to take up the extra minutes. That can't happen again. Give him a normal workload, and he should be steady again.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out the highlights above for some of Keith's best games of the season.

Up next: Niklas Hjalmarsson

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avisail Garcia returned from his latest disabled-list stint with a bang, smacking a three-run home run in the fourth inning Saturday in Seattle.

The White Sox right fielder hasn't even played in 20 games since late April, when he went on his first DL trip, which lasted two months. A second, also featuring an injury to his hamstring, made it two weeks between games.

But when he has been able to step to the plate this summer, Garcia has been tremendously productive. He came into Saturday night with a .333/.347/.783 slash line and a whopping eight home runs in the 17 games he played in between his two DL stays. Then he added that homer Saturday night off longtime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, giving him nine homers in his last 14 games.

Keeping this up could do an awful lot of things for Garcia: It could make his ice-cold start a distant memory, it could prove that last year's All-Star season might not have been a fluke, and it could keep him entrenched in the conversation about the White Sox outfield of the future, giving the team one of those good problems to have when deciding how he would fit into the puzzle alongside top prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert.

But here's another possibility: Has Garcia swung a hot enough bat in his limited action that he could be a trade candidate before this month runs out?

The White Sox don't figure to have too many players who are going to get contending teams worked up into a lather. James Shields, Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno. Those guys could classify as additions that would bolster teams' depth, but they might not be the attractive upgrades the White Sox were able to trade away last summer.

Garcia, though, could be. He might not slide into the middle of the order for too many contenders, but someone looking for a starting corner outfielder might be enticed by the kind of numbers Garcia has put up in June and July, albeit in a small sample size. Teams would also have to consider his health. He's already been to the disabled list twice this season. Teams would certainly have to be confident he wouldn't return in order to make a deal.

On the White Sox end, Garcia would figure to fetch a far more intriguing return package than the aforementioned pitchers, given that he's still pretty young (27) with one more season of team control after this one.

The White Sox have plenty of options when it comes to Garcia. They could deal him now, deal him later or keep as a part of the rebuild, extending him and making him a featured player on the next contending team on the South Side. But with a lot of significant injuries this year perhaps having an effect on when all those highly rated prospects will finally arrive in the majors — not to mention the disappointing win-loss numbers the big league team has put up this season — perhaps it would make more sense to acquire some rebuild-bolstering pieces.

Of course, it all depends on if there are any deals to be made. Do other teams' front offices like what they've seen from Garcia in this short stretch as much as White Sox fans have? We'll know by the time August rolls around.

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

If baseball wants stars that transcend the game, they need guys like Javy Baez on the field MORE, not less.

That whole debate and baseball's marketing campaign isn't the issue the Cubs took exception with, but it's still a fair point on a nationally-televised Saturday night game between the Cubs and Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Baez was ejected from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when he threw his bat and helmet in frustration at home plate umpire Will Little's call that the Cubs second baseman did NOT check his swing and, in fact, went around. 

Baez was initially upset that Little made the call himself instead of deferring to first base umpire Ted Barrett for a better view. But as things escalated, Baez threw his bat and helmet and was promptly thrown out of the game by Little.

"I don't think I said anything to disrespect anything or anyone," Baez said after the Cubs' 6-3 loss. "It was a pretty close call. I only asked for him to check the umpire at first and he didn't say anything.

"I threw my helmet and he just threw me out from there. I mean, no reason. I guess for my helmet, but that doesn't have anything to do with him."

Baez and the Cubs would've rather Little check with the umpire who had a better view down the line, but that wasn't even the main point of contention. It was how quickly Little escalated to ejection.

"We're all human," Baez said. "One way or the other, it was gonna be the wrong [call] for one of the teams.

"My message? We're not animals. Sometimes we ask where was a pitch or if it was a strike and it's not always offending them. I think we can talk things out. But I don't think there was anything there to be ejected."

Upon seeing his second baseman and cleanup hitter ejected in the middle of a 1-0 game against a division rival, Joe Maddon immediately got fired up and in Little's face in a hurry.

Maddon was later ejected, as well, and admitted after the game he was never going to leave the field unless he was tossed for protecting his guy.

"He had no reason to kick him out," Maddon said. "He didn't say anything to him. I mean, I watched the video. If you throw stuff, that's a fine. That's fineable. Fine him. That's what I said — fine him — but you cannot kick him out right there.

"He did nothing to be kicked out of that game. He did throw his stuff, whatever, but he did not say anything derogatory towards the umpire.

"...You don't kick Javy out. If he gets in your face and is obnoxious or belligerent or whatever, but he did not. He turned his back to him. That needs to be addressed, on both ends."

Maddon and the Cubs really want Major League Baseball to get involved in this situation. 

There are many other layers to the issue, including veteran Ben Zobrist having to come into the game as Baez's replacement. Maddon was not keen on using the 37-year-old Zobrist for 1.5 games during Saturday's doubleheader and now feels like he has to rest the veteran Sunday to lessen the wear and tear of a difficult stretch for the team.

There's also the matter of the groundball basehit in the eighth inning that tied the game — a seeing-eye single that just got past Zobrist as he dove to his left. It tied the game at 3 and the Cardinals took the lead for good the following inning.

Does Baez make that same play if he were out there instead of Zobrist? It's certainly possible.

"The dynamic of our defense was lessened by [the ejection]," Maddon said. "Again, listen, if it's deserved, I'm good. It was not. They don't need me out there, we need Javy out there.

"And it surprised me. I stand by what I'm saying. It was inappropriate. MLB needs to say something to us that it was inappropriate because it was and it could've led to the loss of that game."