Preps Talk

Frankie O's Blog: Hey Bartender!

Frankie O's Blog: Hey Bartender!

Friday, Feb. 18, 2011
9:30 a.m.
By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Being your friendly barkeep requires many different talents, that most of them are hidden is a cross that I must bear. The most obvious attributes of someone who dares to serve alcohol to adults is their appearance and the ability to communicate. Since Im a little challenged in one of those areas, I find the need to over-compensate in the other. (You guess which is which!)

Anyway, being known as the sports guy means that I need to be well versed in the wide world of sports and need to stay current. This enables me to give an opinion when asked, and for some reason, Im asked a lot. Never one to want to disappoint, my Clavinesque knowledge of the days events are a constant cause for concern, at home anyway. Does the word issues ring a bell? Why do I know these things? The ability to share my take though never gets old, and as long as Im the one dispensing the libations, its never WRONG either!

The sudden retirement of Jerry Sloan really resonated with me. It told me how old I am, and maybe how out of touch with todays athletes. For guys like me, Sloan represented the old school approach: Direct, no-nonsense and in your face. What a great way to treat pampered multi-millionaires! Its amazing that he lasted so long, because we know, no players will quit on their coaches faster than NBAers. The one thing that Sloan had besides his unyielding will, was the total support of his owner, Larry Miller, until his passing that is. Short of Phil Jackson, I dont think any NBA coach had more control of his situation. With Miller gone, and the battles with players constant, it looked like he just got worn out. Regardless, I will always look back at him as one of ultimate competitors as a player and coach, in any sport.

The Albert Pujols saga? Speculation is always the most fun game we play, and figuring out where Albert will end up is at the top right now. (Sorry Carmelo Anthony, your story bores me. Wake me when its over.) He is NOT going back to St. Louis. If he is true to his demand to be paid as the games best player, and he is the best player, its not going to happen there. St. Louis believes that he will never be as good as he was during his first ten years, and mathematically, that it probably correct, but he has earned the right to be paid. Add to it that he has been grossly under-paid during the length of his current 7-year deal, and Im convinced that he has been dancing in a towel screaming Show me the money!! at his agent. Who will benefit from this high-stakes game of chicken? Dont look now, but the team that makes the most sense, on so many levels, is your Chicago Cubs. Ill let that thought marinate for a while before I devote about 10,000 words to it in your near future!

Does it get any more fun than Bill Murray winning the pro-am at Pebble Beach? Carl Spackler is an icon to any guy whos ever swung a golf club, in addition to being a big-hitter.long! Im sure there were tears in his eyes as he realized by winning, his playing partner, Cinderella-boy D.A. Points qualified to play at Augusta. Would the par-3 be ready for the two of them? I hear its being played on Briar. Theres a pool and Ikes pond, which is perfect for me! And just because I have to: Its in the hole!! How bout a Fresca?

Interesting move with the Bears Mike Tice. He was as valuable as any person in that organization. Did anyone expect the O-line to play well at all, let alone not get Jay Cutler killed? That being said, I always thought that the etiquette was to let a coach go if he could get an upgrade in responsibility. Keeping him is a smart move. Keeping him and making him happy is even smarter.

Why are people asking me about Tiger spitting? Tiger has never been one for manners on the course, unless that is someone tries to take a picture during his backswing. Glad to see he is trying to act beyond reproach as he tries to fix his image, along with his swing. For the record, I have no problem with spitting on the course, as long as there arent 100 cameras focused on you. And in that case, if you really have to, dont do it on the green. Seems simple enough.

Hey, did you see Peter Forsberg is returning to the NHL? What? He already retired again? Didnt see that coming!! LOL! Kris Versteeg to the Flyers? Nice! GM Paul Holmgren is getting it done, although Im still convinced that my heart is going to get ripped out, AGAIN, but we have plenty of time to talk about that.

Speaking of my heart getting ripped out, those who know me cant wait to mention the Phillies rotation this year. The eternal optimist in me (I heard that!) cant wait for this magical season to start. The realist, (Real Frankie O?) cant wait to see how the lack of right-handed hitting will doom them once again. Im sure the 78 games last year of scoring 3 runs or less was just an aberration. Whatever!

Something that makes me laugh? Mario Lemieuxs indignation at how the NHL handled the fallout of the Penguins-Islander brawl last week. Hey Mario, when you stopped whining, did you stop to consider the irony in your rant due to the fact that you employ one of the top cheap-shot artists in the league in Matt Cooke. Now thats funny, not funny ha-ha, but funny.

Oprah in a sports blog? What? Seems the QB for the Eagles was supposed to appear on her show and has since backed out. I personally think that Michael Vick should talk to her. I just dont think a live audience should be included. Oprah has earned the right to be an inquisitor, most of her audience probably not. In the court of public opinion, I dont think a lot of people believe he has paid enough for his crimes. He should be able to go public, in a forum that crosses over from the comfort of the sports world to do that. It should not include an entire room stacked against him that can interject their opinions without recourse. If he truly wants to walk down the road of redemption, there are more prices to be paid. I think the O would be relentless with her pressure, but would do it with a class that befits someone of her stature. Two more things: I only know how Oprah is because my wife watches her every day and I can hear it in the background. And, I still cant believe I have to become versed in everything Vick, but being an Eagles fan has long since gone beyond normalcy for yours truly.

For something more positive, I could write about the merits of Derrick Rose every day. I hope we all realize how special the metamorphosis we are watching truly is. He will not stop trying to get better. I almost like seeing him have a bad game, because you know he is going to come back with a vengeance. A lot of talk about whether the Spurs game before the break has any additional significance since the San Antonio has the best record in the league. I dont think so, especially since, barring any further injuries, this is not the Bulls team that will have to be reckoned with during the spring. But D-Rose thinks its a big game, so there you go. 42 points, and a 10-point win against the team with the best record in the NBA? I guess it was a statement game and one was made. Gotta love that guy!

Had enough yet? Thought so. Remember, Im always here for you, whether its behind the bar or online. All you have to do is pull up a stool or send me an e-mail at frankieo@harrycarays.com and let er rip. But, you should ALWAYS be careful what you wish for, I have a habit of giving you just a little bit extra!

43 Days to Kickoff: Shepard

43 Days to Kickoff: Shepard

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Shepard

Head coach: John Rone

Assistant coaches: Vincent Holmes, Andy Schindel, Chris Lewis, Justin Harris and Mark Thomas

How they fared in 2018: 8-3 (5-1 South Suburban Red Conference). Shepard made the Class 6A IHSA state football playoff field, defeated Springfield and then lost to Normal West in second round action.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 vs Leyden
Sept. 6 vs St Francis
Sept. 13 @ Reavis
Sept. 20 @ Evergreen Park
Sept. 27 @ Eisenhower
Oct. 4 vs Oak Lawn
Oct. 11 @ Lemont
Oct. 18 vs Richards
Oct. 25 vs Argo

Biggest storyline: Coach Rone’s first season was a success. Can the Astros make another state playoff run in 2019?

Names to watch this season: LB Matthew Hightower (Sr.), WR/DB Jalen Smith (Sr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Astros welcome back six returning starters back on defense, but they will feature nearly an entire starting offense with very limited experience.

EDGY's Early Take: Head coach John Rone was able to get the Astros into the  playoffs in his first season in charge of the Shepard program. It was also the fourth straight playoff appearance for the school. The Astros always have plenty on hand in the skills department. But the defense may need to carry a talented —but younger— offense. If the pieces can gel, they can challenge for another IHSA state playoff appearance.

Kyle Ryan's emergence is coming at exactly the right time for Cubs

kyle_ryan_emerging_as_a_force_slide_photo.jpg
AP

Kyle Ryan's emergence is coming at exactly the right time for Cubs

With the MLB trade deadline two weeks away, bullpen help figures to be on the Cubs' wish list.

But thanks in part to Kyle Ryan's emergence, the Cubs don't absolutely need that reliever to be left-handed (though it would probably be ideal).

The Cubs began the week with three southpaws in their bullpen, but at some point this weekend, Ryan may be the lone lefty remaining. Mike Montgomery was traded to the Royals late Monday night and with Carl Edwards Jr. progressing in his rehab (he threw again Tuesday), he might take Randy Rosario's spot in a couple days. 

The Cubs like Edwards against lefties and they also feel confident in Pedro Strop against either handed hitter when he's on. But Ryan has worked his way into Joe Maddon's Circle of Trust and is currently the only lefty residing there.

That's not to say the Cubs don't need another reliable southpaw in the 'pen, but Ryan looks like he's going to get some big outs for this team down the stretch.

"He's done a great job for us since he's been here," Jon Lester said of Ryan last month. "I don't think he gets enough credit for what he's been able to do."

Ryan impressed the Cubs with his work as a multi-inning reliever in Triple-A last season and turned heads again in camp this spring. Still, Rosario made the Opening Day roster over him, though Ryan got called up on the team's season-opening road trip and made his first appearance on April 6.

Since then, he's been a mainstay while Montgomery battled injury and ineffectiveness, Rosario and Tim Collins have bounced between Triple-A Iowa and Chicago and veteran Xavier Cedeno's time off the injured list was short-lived.

Ryan looked to be finding his way throughout his first month in the bullpen, but after his infamous "freeze" moment against the Marlins, he endured some struggles (7 runs allowed on 12 hits in 7 innings from May 8 through June 1).

He's righted the ship since then, permitting only 1 run over his last 17 appearances (14 innings) and lowering his season ERA to 3.21 to go along with a 1.31 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 33.2 innings.

A big part of that recent success can be tied to Ryan's increased improvement against left-handed hitters. 

Lefties hit .344 with a .405 on-base percentage off Ryan through June 5. But since then, Ryan has surrendered only 3 hits — all singles — and zero walks to the 19 left-handed hitters he's faced (.158 AVG).

He credits part of that turnaround to working on a changeup, which he thinks has helped lock in the "feel" of all his other pitches as well as his mechanics. 

As he works to add a new pitch to his repertoire, Ryan has leaned on Cubs bullpen coach Lester Strode and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy for assistance, while also picking the brains of veterans like Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Brad Brach who have all thrown changeups for quite a while.

But even with all that work, he still hasn't resorted to using the changeup much in games. The pitch is so foreign that it's still being picked up as a sinker, including on the Wrigley Field video board Sunday when he threw one in his inning of work.

"Eventually, I'm gonna find the changeup and it's gonna be a comfortable, confident pitch," Ryan said. "But I do think it's gotten me behind all the rest of my pitches and it's maybe a little bit better feel for everything. It's gonna stay where it is for a while. I'm gonna keep trying."

Ryan said one of the things he likes about the changeup is that it can eventually be a nice weapon because it "goes in the opposite direction" of all his other pitches.

We'll see if the new pitch can ever become a factor for the 27-year-old. But if it's helped lock in his other pitches, that's great news for the Cubs, especially as they look to fortify their bullpen this month.