Cubs

Frankie O's Blog: I choose... none of the above!

Frankie O's Blog: I choose... none of the above!

Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011
2:53 p.m.

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

In between Jay Cutler conversations at the bar, (Note: This story will NEVER die. EVER! Cutler has built up so much ill will with the masses that they wont let his misfortune slide. Add to it knucklehead media types and BLOGGERS who are still talking about it, and the story has taken a life of its own. The bottom line is every time there is a question about where the Bears are headed, the first one will always be about whether their QB can take them there. Ill give you one guess as to what the prevailing opinion will be. The Bears arent doing their boy any favors. If you dont take a proactive approach towards getting the REAL story out there, you leave yourself open to rampant speculation.) the OTHER topic is about the last pro football game of the year.

(Note 2: I wrote last year that I agreed with the moving of the Pro Bowl to the week before the Super Bowl, that it would whet the appetite of us football fans and help build the buzz for the big game. I dont know how the game that was on TV last Sunday could help promote anything. That was the most awful exhibition of football that I have ever seen. If Roger Goodell wants to help the image of his sport he needs to do something about this exhibition. I would say blow it up, but the TV ratings were the best in over 10 years. I know the fact that we all watched says something about us fans, but Im not sure I want to go there. At least I was working while it was on and didnt receive its full effect. The football conversation at the bar was a little dumbed-down after it was over. Coincidence?! I think not!)

The Super Bowl is the football game of the year and the day should be declared a national holiday, but for some reason I do not feel very Super about this Sunday.

As always, since my team is almost never in the game, its about my rooting interest. To be honest, I could make a case for either team, if say, I was interested in which one will win by a certain amount of points. A 2 point spread indicates the closeness of the teams. If one was to make a wager, I would want to really feel good about which direction the outcome will be. At this point, I would say flip a coin. (Ill give you my pick at the end.) This is something that I usually root for, because its good for business, the bar business. Two evenly matched teams lead to a lot of animated conversations and tons of requests for a pick from yours truly. This is what I live for when Im behind the bar. But this year, something is missing. For me it gets down to the two teams and finding one that I can root for, or defend in an argument.

If I pick the Packers, like I did against the Bears, I spend my time behind the bar espousing the virtues of the most hated rival of everyone who lives in this city. In the week leading up to the Bears-Packers game this was a lot of work. Although most of my Bear brethren, in their heads agreed with me, in their hearts they could not agree, nor want to hear it, even if I was right, whichI was! As much as I like being right, why have a sports debate if youre not, I didnt feel good about it since just about every person I knew was disappointed in the outcome, none the least of which were my employers of the bar that I work in. Bears losses are not good for sales! So I dont know if I want to hop in those waters again and become known as Packer Boy.

If I pick the Steelers, I hop into murkier waters. My disdain for the team from the other side of the state that I was raised is well known. Can you blame me? My team has ZERO Super Bowl titles, while Pittsburgh has SIX. SIX! Honestly, is that fair, or right?! Add to it that I have to hear about it all the time! when I meet someone from there and you can understand why I have issues. But there is another, unavoidable, reason why I cannot root for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger. He is a hot-button topic in the bar, and takes me down a tricky path in discussing him. I have always marveled at his abilities as a quarterback. His skill and performance, unlike some others we know (wink-wink), are beyond reproach. Off the field, unfortunately, its a completely different story. As one who roots for the Eagles, and now has Mike Vick as a QB, I can fully understand the conflict that occurs when, not to any of your doing, you are FORCED to cheer for, and in many ways, defend, someone who may have done unspeakable things.

For a fan, who roots for sports as a diversion, this puts you in an uncomfortable place. Sports are supposed to take you away from reality, not put you knee-deep in it. But that is not the life we now lead, so for whatever reasons, choices have to be made, and I have made mine. I dont know how you can talk about the Steelers and not discuss what he is alleged to have done. Again, I deal in a court of public opinion, where convictions dont need the approval of our real court system. The talk of Big Bens redemption is enough to make me barf. As much as I love sports, its quick to forgive nature for those who win and scorn for those whose only offense was that they did not win a game, is a little scary at times. And this is coming from a person who serves alcohol to people for a living. I do not scare easily!

So if you want to know my opinion of the game: The Packers resilience in the face of so many injuries borders on amazing. They have a will that wont let them quit. I love the stat that they have not trailed in ANY game this year by more than 7 points. This team fights, and will not go away. Their quarterback is playing his position at about as high a level as I have seen. But he has been dinged, and after the Julius Peppers hit to the head, he was not effective at all against the Bears. Pittsburgh, and their D-coordinator Dick LeBeau, know how to get to the quarterback and deliver punishing blows. Im sure James Harrison would not mind one more fine this year, if it meant the opportunity to knock the Packers QB out of the game. The Steelers are the most physical team in the league. They dont always win pretty, but they find a way to win. I think the Steelers rush against Aaron Rogers will be the key. In the end, I think the inability of the Packers to run the ball, allowing the Steelers to focus on hitting Rogers, will allow the Steelers to win 24-17.

But more than the result of the game, will be what results from it. If the Packers win, Bears fans will hear no end of it, and I will feel that pain. If the Steelers win, we will be treated to the sight of Ben Roethlisberger hoisting the Lombardi trophy and all the talk of his redemption.

On a mistake-filled afternoon, Javier Baez does what he does best and saves the Cubs

7-20javybaez.jpg
USA Today

On a mistake-filled afternoon, Javier Baez does what he does best and saves the Cubs

Consider the Cubs’ starting middle infield in Saturday’s 6-5 win over the San Diego Padres to be comprised of two extremes. 

On one end of the spectrum was Addison Russell, who started at second base. Russell was doubled off second base on an Albert Almora line drive in the second inning — a ball hit hard enough where, had it fell in for a hit, he wouldn’t have scored. There was no spinning Russell drifting far enough off second base to be doubled up; it was simply bad baserunning. 

Russell, too, was thrown out at home on an Almora ground ball in the fourth inning. He appeared to lose a pop fly in the sun, too, which fell in for a double in the third inning. 

Manager Joe Maddon was willing to excuse the pop-up double — “The sun ball, there’s nothing you could do about that,” he said — but sounded frustrated with Russell’s far-too-frequent baserunning gaffes. 

“He’s gotta straighten some things out,” Maddon said. “He has to. There’s no question. I’m not going to stand here — he’s got to, we’ve talked about his baserunning in the past. 

“… The baserunning, there’s some things there — we’re making too many outs on the bases and we’re missing things on the bases that we can’t to be an elite team.”

Russell’s mistakes were part of a larger sloppy showing by both teams. As Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler put it: “No lead was safe. It was really just who was going to survive and not make so many mistakes.”

Javier Baez ensured the Cubs would survive by not merely avoiding mistakes, but by coming up with two massive plays. 

Baez’s three-run home run in the fourth inning gave the Cubs’ the lead for good, and he fell a triple short of the cycle. He’s homered in consecutive games, and Maddon senses the 26-year-old is emerging from a slump that dropped his OPS to .853 after Wednesday’s game, his lowest mark since the small-sample-size landscape of mid-April. 

But it was Baez’s masterful tag in the bottom of the ninth inning that captured most of the attention around Wrigley Field, reminding everyone in the dugouts and stands just how incredible “El Mago” can be. 

Craig Kimbrel walked Wil Myers to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning, and after budding superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. inexplicably bunted (he popped out), Myers took off to steal second base. Kimbrel sailed a fastball high and inside, and Victor Caratini’s throw was well to the left of second base. Myers appeared to have the base stolen until Baez gloved the ball and rapidly snapped a tag onto Myers’ left leg:

”We needed a play made, and he made it,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “It’s what he does.”

Baez’s home run increased the Cubs’ win expectancy by 35.7 percent; his tag on Myers upped it that mark from 83.3 percent to 96.5 percent. This is why the Cubs’ mantra, even when Baez is in a lull, is to let Javy be Javy. 

One player can’t carry a team forever — Baez had his best season as a pro in 2018, only to see the Cubs crash out of the Wild Card game, of course. But it’s hard to not think about the kind of plays Baez can conjure up when the Cubs need them the most in 2019’s playoff race. 

After all, stuff like that tag on Myers — the Cubs have come to expect that from Baez. 

“You saw a lot of plays today, they weren’t baseball plays,” Maddon said. “The game is clamoring for baseball players who know how to play this game, and he’s one. He is one. He’s got the biggest hard drive, the most RAM, he’s got everything going on every day. 

“He sees things, he’s got great vision. Technically, he’s a tremendous baseball player. He’s going to make some mistakes, like everyone else does, but what he sees and sees in advance — it’s like the best running back, it’s the best point guard you’ve ever seen. It’s all of that. As a shortstop, that’s what he is.

“… We needed him to be that guy today and he was. And again, it’s not overtly surprising.” 

41 Days to Kickoff: Wilmington

41 Days to Kickoff: Wilmington

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: Wilmington

Head coach: Jeff Reents

Assistant coaches: Barry Southall, Rob Murphy, Chad Farrell, Robert Bolser, Drew Tyler, Mark Langusch, Mike Bushnell, Andy Peterson and Mike Lenton

How they fared in 2018: 6-4 (2-2 Interstate Eight ‘Small’ Conference). Wilmington made the Class 3A IHSA state football playoff field and lost to Monmouth-Roseville in opening round action. 

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 vs Evergreen Park
Sept. 6 vs. Oak Lawn
Sept. 13 @ Streator
Sept. 20 vs Manteno
Sept. 27 @ Lisle
Oct. 4 vs Herscher
Oct. 11 vs Reed-Custer
Oct. 18 @ Coal City
Oct. 25 vs Peotone

Biggest storyline: The Wildcats have made the playoffs 23 seasons in a row. Can they keep up their winning ways in a new conference (Illinois Central Eight) in 2019?

Names to watch this season: OL Hunter Doherty (Sr.) and RB/LB Jake Rodawold (Sr).

Biggest holes to fill: The Wildcats bring back a ton of experience with 14 returning starters but the overall numbers and depth can always be improved upon this summer. 

EDGY's Early Take: The Wildcats and head coach Jeff Reents had a rare early exit from the state playoffs in 2018. Look for this year’s team to rely on a more experienced lineup on both sides of the football. The new Illinois Central Eight conference home is a very familiar collection of teams that Wilmington has competed with for several years, so expect them to fare just fine here.