White Sox

Bobby Petrino axed as Arkansas head coach

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Bobby Petrino axed as Arkansas head coach

From Comcast SportsNet
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Bobby Petrino believed he could win a national championship at Arkansas. He won't get the chance. Athletic director Jeff Long fired Petrino on Tuesday night and laid out a stunning laundry list of misdeeds against the man he hired away from the Atlanta Falcons four years ago. He scathingly dressed down Petrino for hiring his mistress and intentionally misleading him about the secret relationship that was laid bare following their April 1 motorcycle ride together that ended in an accident. He said Petrino missed multiple chances over the past 10 days to come clean about an affair that had crossed the line from infidelity into workplace favoritism. "He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public on Tuesday, and in doing so negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program," Long said, choking up at one point as he discussed telling players that their coach was gone. "In short, coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletic staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident." The 51-year-old Petrino, a married father of four, maintained an inappropriate relationship with 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell for a "significant" amount of time and at one point gave her 20,000, Long said. Long would not disclose details of the payment, or when the money changed hands, but said both parties confirmed the "gift." Kevin Trainor, a spokesman for Long, said the money came from Petrino, not university funds. Petrino issued a lengthy apology and said he was focused on trying to heal his family. "All I have been able to think about is the number of people I've let down by making selfish decisions," he said. "I chose to engage in an improper relationship. I also made several poor decisions following the end of that relationship and in the aftermath of the accident. I accept full responsibility for what has happened." Dorrell, a former Razorbacks volleyball player, worked for the Razorbacks Foundation before she was hired by Petrino on March 28, four days before their accident on a winding rural road. Long said she was one of three finalists out of 159 applicants and got the job after a time frame he said was shorter than usual. Petrino never disclosed his conflict of interest in hiring Dorrell or the payment and she had an unfair advantage over the other candidates, Long said. "Coach Petrino abused his authority when over the past few weeks he made a staff decision and personal choices that benefited himself and jeopardized the integrity of the football program," Long said. Petrino has built Arkansas into a Southeastern Conference and national power over four seasons, including a 21-5 record the past two years. Long made it clear that Petrino's success on the field was overshadowed by repeated deceptive acts and that no one was more important than the program itself. Petrino was in the middle of a seven-year contract under which his salary averaged 3.53 million per year. A clause gave Long the right to suspend or fire the coach for conduct that "negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the (university's) athletics programs in any way." Long said Petrino was fired "with cause" -- meaning he will not receive the 18 million buyout detailed in the contract -- and there were no discussions about ways to keep Petrino at Arkansas. Long met with Petrino on Tuesday morning to inform him there were grounds for termination and that the coach was "concerned" about that. Long sent Petrino a letter Tuesday afternoon to formally notify him he had been fired. "I chose to do it in writing because that's the terms of his contract," he said. Dorrell was hired as the student-athlete development coordinator for Arkansas football, paid 55,735 annually to organize on-campus recruiting visits for the team and assist with initial eligibility for each incoming player Long declined comment when asked about Dorrell's job status. She was "at one point" engaged to Josh Morgan, the athletic department's director of swimming and diving operations, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the details have not been disclosed. The person said Morgan was still employed at the university. Petrino finishes his tenure at Arkansas with a 34-17 record in four seasons, leading the Razorbacks to a No. 5 final ranking last season and a Cotton Bowl win over Kansas State. With quarterback Tyler Wilson, running back Knile Davis and others coming back, there is talk of Arkansas challenging the two powerhouses in the SEC West, national champion Alabama and national runner-up LSU. And maybe the Hogs will. But they won't do it with Petrino. The beginning of the end came on April 1, which Petrino at first described as a Sunday spent with his wife at an area lake. Instead, he and Dorrell went for an evening ride and skidded off the road in an accident left him with four broken ribs, a cracked vertebra in his neck and numerous abrasions on his face. The avid motorcycle rider said the sun and wind caused him to lose control on the two-lane highway about 20 miles southeast of Fayetteville. What he failed to mention, both at a news conference two days later and to Long for two more days, was the presence of Dorrell other than a vague reference to "a lady" who had flagged down a passing motorist. That changed when the state police released the accident report. Petrino, tipped off by the state trooper who usually provides security for him during the season, informed Long 20 minutes before the report was released, and he admitted to what he called a previous inappropriate relationship with Dorrell. Long placed Petrino on paid leave that night, saying he was disappointed and promising to review the coach's conduct. As the review continued, state police released audio of the 911 call reporting Petrino's accident. It revealed Petrino didn't want to call police following the crash, and a subsequent police report showed he asked if he was required to give the name of the passenger during the accident. Petrino was forthcoming about Dorrell's name and presence with police, but only after misleading both Long and the public during his news conference. The school even released a statement from Petrino's family the day after the accident that said "no other individuals" were involved. That wasn't true and the broken trust, along with questions about Dorrell's hiring to be the school's student-athlete development coordinator, proved to be too much for Petrino to overcome. "Our expectations of character and integrity in our employees can be no less than what we expect of our students," Long said. "No single individual is bigger than the team, the Razorback football program of the University of Arkansas." Petrino took the school to its first BCS bowl game following the 2010 season, losing in the Sugar Bowl to Ohio State, and improved his win total in every year. Arkansas was 5-7 his first season in 2008, 8-5 the second before finishing 10-3 and 11-2 during his last two seasons. The coach's tenure with the Razorbacks began under a cloud of national second-guessing following his abrupt departure from Atlanta 13 games into the 2007 season. Petrino left farewell notes in the lockers of the Atlanta players rather than telling them of his resignation in person. He was introduced later that night as the new coach of the Razorbacks, carrying with him a vagabond image after holding 15 jobs for 11 different programsorganizations in 24 seasons. He infamously met with Auburn officials in 2003 to talk about taking the Tigers' head coaching job while Tommy Tuberville still had it. In his statement, Petrino said he and his staff had left Arkansas in better shape and wished for its success. "As a result of my personal mistakes, we will not get to finish our goal of building a championship program," he said. "My sole focus at this point is trying to repair the damage I've done to my family. They did not ask for any of this and deserve better. I am committed to being a better husband, father and human being as a result of this and will work each and every day to prove that to my family, friends and others. "I love football. I love coaching. I of course hope I can find my way back to the profession I love. In the meantime, I will do everything I can to heal the wounds I have created." Assistant head coach Taver Johnson will continue to lead the program through spring practice, which ends with the school's spring game on April 21. Long said he has asked the rest of the staff, including offensive coordinator and Petrino's brother, Paul Petrino, to remain at least through then.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Tyler Chatwood looked to be turning the corner with his control issues, but alas, he and the Cubs aren't so lucky.

After walking only two batters in a solid start in Atlanta last week, Chatwood had taken a big step in the right direction. It was, after all, only the third time he'd walked fewer than 5 batters in an outing this season.

Those control woes reared their ugly heads once again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in a 10-1 loss to the Indians. Chatwood walked 6 batters and managed to net only 8 outs, getting hammered for 4 runs in the third inning.

"Ugh, it was tough," Maddon said. "The stuff was so good, we just couldn't get a strike."

"It's definitely frustrating," Chatwood said, "because one at-bat, I'll feel really good and the next one, I feel like I'm fighting myself.

"Last time [out], I was able to stay in the rhythm. Tonight, I was kinda battling, rushing rather than staying back, so it's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."

His season ERA is only 3.74, which looks good until you consider his WHIP is 1.62 and he's walked 40 batters in 45.2 innings with only 41 strikeouts in the process. He now leads baseball in walks per 9 innings.

Chatwood said earlier this month in St. Louis that he's figured out what has led to the startling lack of control and while he didn't elaborate on the mechanical issue, he was working hard at correcting the problem in bullpens.

He's also used the term "fighting myself" at least a dozen times this month alone and it's become a common refrain for his explanation of what's going on. 

"He's got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball," Maddon said. "He's kinda busy what he does with his hands. It's not like he can just change it easily because that's how his arm works, how his body works.

"Sometimes, like you see him the other day, everything's on time and how good it can be and when it's out of sorts a bit, then all of the sudden it becomes shotgun. Ah man, you can see the movement [on his pitches] from the side, how good it is. 

"We gotta harness it somehow. I spoke to him briefly on the bench; I reassured him it's gonna be fine, it's gonna be really good by the end of the year. We gotta figure it out and he knows that. But man, that's good stuff. We just gotta get it in the zone."

Chatwood also admitted part of the problem is mental in that he's trying to force pitches rather than trusting his stuff. He's also gotten into the bad habit of drifting down the mound, though he's not sure when or where he picked up that hitch in his delivery.

Chatwood and Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey are working on slowing his delivery down to get his arm in the same spot on a more consistent basis.

When the Cubs signed Chatwood over the winter, it was easy to see why.

He just turned 28 in December, his peripherals and a move from hitter-friendly Coors Field foretold a potential leap in performance and his stuff is nasty. Plus, he signed a three-year deal at a relative bargain of $38 million.

Once the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in spring training, you could make the case that Chatwood could be among the best No. 5 starters in baseball.

Nine starts later, the honeymoon period is well over with Chatwood, as he threw only 30 of his 74 pitches for strikes Tuesday night and sent catcher Willson Contreras sailing all around home plate for pitches way out of the zone.

Still, it's clear to see there is some intriguing talent there and the season there is roughly 70 percent of the season remaining before the Cubs make what they hope is another run at the World Series.

"I have a lot of faith," Maddon said. "I know we're gonna reap the rewards, the benefits as he figures this thing out."