White Sox

Frankie O's Blog: The end is still part of the beginning

Frankie O's Blog: The end is still part of the beginning

Friday, April 29, 2011
Posted: 9:25 a.m.

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

The dream ended suddenly, disappointing those who were swept up in the emotion of the Blackhawks improbable rise from the mat, only to suffer the last, fatal, knockout blow. Alexandre Burrows overtime goal, after intercepting an ill-fated Chris Campoli clearing attempt, created as big of an emotional about-face as Ive ever witnessed at the bar. True to their nature, the Hawks never quit when they were down 3-0 in the series and their effort in Game 7 was worthy of a defending champion. Captain Jonathan Toews game-tying short-handed goal with just over two minutes left in regulation had everyone at the bar in a frenzy and wondering if we would be hearing Al Michaels famous phrase before the night was over. Alas, the Hawks ran out of miracles, but Im positive this wont be the last we hear of them.

This year has been one of ups and downs for the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions, starting with jettisoning 10 players that had their names engraved on Lord Stanley. You know that had to hurt, the players leaving I mean. The bond that it takes for a team to win the most difficult prize in team sports cant be under estimated. The roster turnover was at the heart of every conversation I had when the topic was: Whats wrong with the Hawks? I always said that it was part of the price of winning. Locking up the core for big-money for the next 5 years meant some guys were going to have to go. (I dont fault the Tallon contracts as much as some others do, the big-guns were going to use up the cap space anyway.) Detroit didnt win the Cup every year, but their core group has enabled them to win 4 of the last 13 and to be considered among the favorites every year, including this one. That core changed some over the years, except for the incomparable Nik Lidstrom, but they always seemed to have more elite skaters than everyone else. Its the Bowman way, and since Scotty is the Blackhawks Senior Adviser of Hockey Operations, that it would happen here should be of no surprise. Besides, can you argue with the results? The Hawks are going to be contenders for the foreseeable future, and thats good.

I cant help but look at the Hawks situation now, and the one that I have been living as a Philadelphia Flyers fan for most of my life, and envisioning where this is heading from a fan standpoint. Trust me, when cornered, I still like to tease Hawk fans that they still have the tag on their Patrick Kane jersey. But the point is, there are a ton of people wearing 88, especially young ones.

In my youth, there were no bigger heroes than those who wore the orange and black. They won back-to-back cups in 1974 and 1975 and ruled hockey with an iron fist. They also started an enduring love-affair with the Philadelphia region that is still burning bright to this day. I can still recite from memory, every player, his number and position, from those two teams. I know Im not the only 40-something (I heard that!) from that area that can do that. The Flyers have owned me since hello. That hello was the journey to those two championships. The voices of Gene Hart and Kate Smith still bring me goose-bumps. When my boys are in the playoffs, my blood-pressure doubles for each game and gets a little higher the further they progress. That they have progressed to the finals SIX times since that last title, and lost each time and Im still here is a marvel of modern medicine. But again, Im not the only one. Thats part of being a Flyers fan and we share a special bond, although Im sure my family here in Chicago would put the word special in quotation marks.

As I personally suffered here as the Blackhawks beat my Flyers last year in the finals, there was something that I knew would become true and its something that I think is very cool. I knew that this city, this Original Six city, would become a hockey hotbed again. Being a hockey fan, and Hawks fan when theyre not playing the Flyers, I know this is a good thing. The amount of hockey interest and conversations that I had at the bar this year might be equal to the amount that I had in all of the years before this combined. (16, if youre counting.) And thats just at the bar that I work in. Hawks pride is everywhere to see. (Although I havent seen hide nor hair of Bouncing Betty!) (Did I just go Dennis Miller on you?) What I love about that is that it reminds me of when I was young and the Flyers were the thing that brought us all together. Whether it was with your family or friends, we all gathered to watch the games. Sure, the winning started it, but the bond has endured. Here, the lost generation of Chicago hockey die-hards have been reborn, theyre the kids in the 88, 19 and 10 jerseys that you see everywhere in Chicago-land. Im envious of the hockey journey that they have begun to share with all of those around them. That, even as devastated as they feel about the end of the Blackhawks season, that they will have many great times ahead. For their sake though, I only hope that it doesnt take their team another 35 years (and counting!!) to win. Thats something that could make you just a little crazy! (And a slight health risk!

P.S. Its CPR night at the bar during Flyers games for the rest of their playoff run. Anyone performing CPR on a horizontal Frankie O, successfully of course, (I heard that, also!) gets a free round!

With Michael Kopech out for the year, should the White Sox try to bring James Shields back for 2019?

With Michael Kopech out for the year, should the White Sox try to bring James Shields back for 2019?

Michael Kopech's recovery from Tommy John surgery put an unanticipated item on this offseason's to-do list for Rick Hahn's front office: The White Sox now need to fill a 2019 rotation spot that was supposed to belong to Kopech.

There are numerous ways to fill that hole in the rotation, though are any more attractive, perhaps, than simply bringing James Shields back for another season on the South Side?

Shields' third year in a White Sox uniform has undoubtedly been his best. After he posted a 5.60 ERA and allowed a combined 67 home runs during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the 13-year major league veteran has done impressive work this season. After six innings of two-run ball Thursday night in Cleveland, Shields has a 4.48 ERA in 2018.

Of course, that's not a number that will have fans picketing Guaranteed Rate Field if the White Sox opt to move on from Shields this winter. But don't let that one figure overshadow how reliable Shields has been during the campaign. Thursday night marked his 19th quality start of the season, and he ranks in the top 10 in baseball in innings pitched.

Detractors have some statistical ammunition, too, however. Shields is one of three White Sox starting pitchers ranking in the top 10 in the game in walks (74 after three on Thursday), and his 33 home runs allowed are the second most in baseball (back-to-back jacks by the Indians accounted for pair of runs he gave up Thursday).

But Shields, it should be noted, has plenty of value independent of the kind of numbers he's posted during his White Sox tenure. He is a veteran mentor to the team's young pitchers. That includes Lucas Giolito, whose locker has been next to Shields' all season — or rather it was until Kopech became Shields' new locker buddy when the organization's No. 1 pitching prospect got his promotion to the big leagues. That placement, by the way, was Shields' request. While Kopech will be in recovery mode during the 2019 season, bringing Shields back would allow him to continue to help Giolito and act as a resource for Kopech.

This team is young and will continue to be young next season. Having a few reliable veterans around to guide the youngsters is a valuable thing.

Plenty, though, might not be sold on the idea, a reasonable reaction as the team moves toward contention mode and might need to free up spots in a rotation that could soon star some of the young arms developing in the minor leagues. But what are the alternatives for plugging Kopech's empty spot in the 2019 rotation? And if Shields doesn't come back, that makes two holes that need filling.

There isn't a wealth of major league ready options within the organization. Dylan Covey has a 5.33 ERA after his 19 starts this season. At the Triple-A level, Spencer Adams and Jordan Guerrero would figure to be the next-best options. Adams had a 3.19 ERA in 15 starts at Charlotte, and Guerrero had a 3.46 ERA in 12 starts. Though it's possible the White Sox could want them to receive some more conditioning in Triple-A. Jordan Stephens' 4.71 ERA in 21 starts and Carson Fulmer, who was moved to the bullpen after getting sent down to Charlotte earlier this season, are less appealing options.

Of course, the White Sox could go outside the organization, and that would seem to be the most likely course of action. But whether that's via free agency or a trade, wouldn't the still-rebuilding White Sox rather do that once than twice? And while there's nothing to say that the White Sox can't spend big this offseason with a loaded free-agent class, is the time right to do so? Does spending big this winter line up with the timeline of this rebuilding effort? In simpler terms: Would signing a pair of free-agent starting pitchers be the kind of win-now moves that Hahn has tried to avoid during this rebuild?

The most attractive free-agent options include the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, Patrick Corbin and Charlie Morton. But those big names could be looking for instant contention or a gigantic contract that could put the White Sox out of the running. Going lower down the wish list, you'll see names like Chris Tillman, Wade Miley, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Anibal Sanchez, Jeremy Hellickson, J.A. Happ, Garrett Richards, Nathan Eovaldi, Tyson Ross and Gio Gonzalez.

It's quite possible that even with Shields brought back, the White Sox will need to sign one of those guys. Here's the question: Are two of those guys — and the contracts they'll command — better than one of them and Shields?

Another thing to think about: With Kopech on the mend until spring 2020, how close could the White Sox get to contention by the time he returns? And if the team has reached the contention stage, could they afford any growing pains that Kopech could have during his first full season in the majors? Remember that Kopech's first start in 2020 will be just his fifth big league start. That could affect the approach the White Sox take this offseason, perhaps hoping to acquire a pitcher who could be around for a while — not just as a bridge to Kopech but as a safety net for him, as well.

So does a Shields return make sense? Given that the White Sox might still be playing the waiting game next season, having a reliable arm to save the bullpen and a veteran presence to help the still-developing young pitchers could be an attractive option this offseason.

Bears have 6 players ranked in Top 5 by Pro Football Focus through 2 games

Bears have 6 players ranked in Top 5 by Pro Football Focus through 2 games

The Bears are off to their best start since 2014, and the team seems to be playing well together through two games of the season.

The offense is finding creative ways to put points on the board early, and the defense has emerged as one of the top units in the league so far. It’s only resulted in one win, but Chicago seems to be on the right track for more success this season.

The analysts over at Pro Football Focus like what they’ve seen, and their grades are high on a number of individual Bears players. Six of them rank in the top five of their respective positions so far this season.

Khalil Mack, Kyle Long and Charles Leno are all the second highest-graded players among their peers, Jordan Howard has the third-highest grade for a running back, Akiem Hicks is tied for fourth among defensive linemen, and Pat O’Donnell is the fifth-ranked punter.

Just missing the cut is Bryce Callahan, who currently ranks sixth among cornerbacks with an 81.8 overall grade. As a whole the Bears have PFF’s highest-graded defense, while the offense ranks 21st.

It’s clear the team has had a lot of individual success on both sides of the ball, and the next step is converting that into team success with more wins on Sundays.