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.

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

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USA TODAY

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

WASHINGTON, D.C. — How could someone like Kyle Schwarber play the villain?

The fan favorite who’s always quick with a smile — or an Uncle Sam costume on the Fourth of July — Schwarber doesn’t fit the mold of a loathsome target of boos. But he made quite the heel turn in the minds of Washington Nationals fans Monday night, and of course he knew it was coming.

Schwarber went from getting cheered by the legions in attendance at the Home Run Derby to getting booed when he took on, and eventually lost to, hometown hero Bryce Harper in the final round.

“I was down in the tunnel saying, ‘If we get to the finals, Harp, they’re all going to be against me. I think they’re all going to be against me,’” Schwarber said Monday night. “And then I went out there and got booed after they all got pumped up for me. That’s just the beauty of it, and I was happy for Bryce that he won it in front of the home crowd.”

Harper delivered an incredibly memorable baseball moment Monday night, catching up to Schwarber’s 18 home runs with a ridiculous display of repetitive power to win a Home Run Derby for the ages. The format of this event, revamped a couple years ago, made for a dramatic and hugely entertaining evening. Harper smacked nine homers over the final 47 seconds of the final round to tie Schwarber, then bested him in bonus time. Unsurprisingly, the home crowd was going ballistic for their boy.

But earlier in the night, it was Schwarber getting all the cheers, when he made his own last-second comeback to beat Philadelphia Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins in the second round. Schwarber was pumping up the crowd, pumping his fists and screaming while putting on a show of his own to catch and pass Hoskins' 20 home runs and advance to the finals.

How quickly the locals forgot.

By the finals — during which Schwarber looked understandably exhausted — the crowd had turned on him, trying to get every advantage for Harper.

“As soon as I got done with that round, I told myself that he had it,” Schwarber said. “I knew that he had the home crowd behind him, and I knew that he was a very prolific power hitter with a great swing. For him to come in and do that and started getting down to the wire, all of a sudden he started racking them up one at a time. You kind of just accept your fate there.”

Perhaps the night could’ve ended differently for Schwarber had he listened more closely to the advice of his teammates, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras, who were quick with Gatorade, a towel and words of encouragement on Monday. Baez hit 16 home runs in his own first-round appearance, though Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Max Muncy knocked him out.

“I was just telling him to slow down,” Baez said. “He was kind of rushing a little bit, that’s why he was jumping to the ball.”

“They were actually giving me really good advice that I didn’t take because I was really dumb-headed,” Schwarber said. “‘Make sure you take some pitches and get the pitch that you want.’ At the end, I felt like I was swinging at everything. I was just running out of gas. I felt like I had to put up as many swings just to try to put a couple out.”

Schwarber was totally content with losing out to Harper’s home-field advantage. Though as his homers flew out deep into the right-field seats Monday night, you couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if Schwarber was instead taking aim at Sheffield Avenue and getting his own home-field advantage from Cubs fans.

The North Side hasn’t played host to the All-Star Game since 1990, so perhaps Schwarber will still be slugging the next time the Friendly Confines are the site of the Home Run Derby.

“That’d be really cool one day if the All-Star Game’s at Wrigley,” Schwarber said, “and to participate in the Derby, that’d be fun.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 36th homer in 1998

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AP

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 36th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

 

Sosa went down and golfed a pitch out for his 36th homer on July 17, 1998. He smacked Marlins reliever Kirt Ojala's (who??) pitch just over the wall in center field at Pro Player Stadium for a 2-run shot that closed out the Cubs' scoring in a 6-1 victory.

 

The blast accounted for Sosa's 88th and 89th of the season. By comparison, Javy Baez currently leads the Cubs (and the National League) with 72 RBI on July 17, 2018.

 

Steve Trachsel tossed a complete game for the Cubs in the victory that day and Sosa finished with the only extra-base hits for either team (he also had a double).

 

Fun fact: Former Cub Ryan Dempster started the game for the Marlins, but lasted just 4.1 innings to run his season record to 1-4 with a 6.70 ERA.