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Frankie O's Blog: A lazy, hazy shade of winter

Frankie O's Blog: A lazy, hazy shade of winter

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com
As I continue to awaken from my tryptophan induced haze, I find that my new-found clarity enables me to see sports, and life, in a different light. The scandal at Penn State has definitely been a burden and has prompted a lot of soul-searching. It makes me wonder about a priority system gone made. While I think I have mine in order, most times, the combination of the scandal, fighting through an illness during a holiday weekend and a fast approaching milestone birthday have wreaked havoc on my mental well-being. That being said, one must fight on and move forward, hoping that eventually what is right will be done. One good thing about getting older though, I think the filter that should exist in all of our heads, is staring to disappear! OMG!

The talk of the bar, obviously, is about the Bears. The Jay Cutler injury has put a huge damper on the Koo-Aid drinking. As far as his coming back, who knows? But the team cant get lost in waiting for him. This is a time when the defense needs to step up. Lost in the furor over the awful tight-end screen call at the end of the first half that led to an interception that completely changed the game was the fact that the defense didnt do their new QB any favors. I know that they had to defend some short fields(2), but they didnt look up to championship caliber at any time. Oakland scored on 7 of 13 possessions. The 10 play 61-yard drive to open the second half continued the lost momentum of the end of the first half and furthered the uphill nature of the game. Then in the fourth quarter, with Oaklands lead cut to 5 and needing a big stop with 7 minutes left, they instead gave up an 8-play 74-yard touchdown drive that effectively put the game away. This team is going to go as far as the defense will take it. Fortunately, their remaining schedule does them some favors. Up next is an offensively anemic Kansas City team that has scored one touchdown in their last 4 games. The defense shouldnt allow this to change even if KC decides to let a QB with a neck-beard lead the charge. Then they go to play Denver, led by Football Bieber and his college offense. Enough said. After which is Seattle at home. Can you name anyone on that team? The defense needs to win these next 3 no matter who the QB is.

As far as Hanie, I think he showed the inexperience that goes along with having attempted 14 regular season passes at the NFL level. Practice doesnt move as fast as an NFL defense on game day. Besides the ill-fated Martz brain-fart, his 2 other picks were awful throws: A ball that should have been thrown out of bounds and an over-throw trying to do too much on a 3rd and 13. He looked much better in a turnover free second half. The old adage is that you show the most improvement from your first to second game. Lets hope so. I personally think the kid will step up. I especially like the fact that he takes advantage of Johnny Knoxs speed by actually throwing to him. Knox is never going to be a guy who fights for the ball in tight spaces and he can make his QB look bad and has, A LOT, but his speed is the real-deal and is a legitimate threat on an offense that needs to exploit any advantage it has.

As one who is suffering due to the NBA lockout, at the bar and on TV, Im glad the NBA is coming back. In fact, much like the NFL benefited from the frenzy following their labor woes, the NBA might find this whole mess works to their advantage. My reasoning here is that less is more. The NBA season is waaaaaay too long. Now, we can avoid the dog-days and needless visits by Sacramento and Minnesota! (I like pounding crap teams as much as the next guy, but there are still plenty to go around: Ladies and gentleman, your 2011-12 Detroit Pistons!) It might also keep Carlos Boozer healthy which would be a huge boost. (Hide the gym bags!) The main question for the Bulls, as always, will be the 2-guard dilemma. I hate to say it but, they might be better off with the status quo as opposed to bringing in someone elses problem. Food for thought: After the leagues last labor stoppage, teams suffered(or should I say fans?) through the worst shooting percentages in 30 years and the Knicks (!) reached the Finals. Give me defense and D-Rose! More food: (And why not more?) The Mavs won last year because they had more guys that could create shots and shoot. You can only prevent so much and the Bulls inability to score was beaten over fans heads like the many bricks they shot at the rim. The Bulls need a perimeter compliment to Rose and the name everyone is talking about is Jason Richardson. He would be the 66 shooting guard weve been talking about here since you-know-who won 6 and was asked not to return. The question is going to have to be answered eventually. Is Richardson the answer? If they do sign him, he better be since they wont be able to afford anything else.

Not a day passes without me being asked about the new Cubs regime, or them having a press conference! But I, like everyone else, am fascinated with what approach they will take and what their signature move of this off-season will be. The signing of David DeJesus brings in a competent, professional hitter. Only a cynic like me would point out that last year he had the lowest OBS and struck out the most times in his career. Moneyball? What Moneyball? More pressing are the fates of Big Z (He HAS to go!) and Matt Garza. Garza was a very expensive, if you like young prospects, addition last year, but he is a very talented (near the) top-of-the-rotation starter. His departure would signal the team is hell-bent on developing their own talent and its going to take a few years for the master-plan to bear fruit. It might be a little tough to sell that to folks that have to pay for season tickets this year, but this group will be measured for what they achieve in the future, not this year. They have a honeymoon period where they cant do wrong, so they better take advantage of it to get their house in order, because we all know honeymoons dont last!! Remember the Summer of Jay? (You thought I was talking about something else?)

So Im pouring drinks at a furious pace during a busy convention week and I happen to glance up at one of the TVs in the bar to see if I can get a score from one of the various Big TenACC Challenge games on a cable network and I saw a commercial that made me stop in my tracks.(Cable TV has the best commercials ever!) And once again Ive been beaten to the punch! Ive always envisioned myself coming up with the next big thing, you know, like a Gates, Jobs or Zuckerberg, but maybe not to the same intellectual level. Being a bartender, I know that you dont have to be that bright to come up with an idea that will make you a ton of cash. I would go through the history, but Im too embarrassed. Embarrassed that I didnt think of it! A pet rock? A chia pet? Zubaz? Cmon!!

Well, just when we thought we saw it all with the snuggie, we now have reached a new low with the Forever Lazy. What is that, you may ask? After being made totally uncomfortable (irony?) by the commercial, I, of course, had to check out the website! Upon entering, I was asked the question: Have you ever wondered why no one makes a good pair of onesie pajamas for adults? Well, since Im an adult, no, I have NEVER wondered that! These guys are brilliant! Since THEY wondered, theyve come up with the one-piece lie around, lounge around, full body lazy wear that covers from head to toe. Well, not exactly, since you have to buy matching footies that theyll give you for free, plus 7.95 P&H. Honestly? And theyve really thought this out, since the Forever Lazy includes zippered hatches, front and back, for great escapes! What?! But really, who has time for that? If Im in full lazy mode, Im not moving for nothing, and I mean nothing! That got me thinking, what these things need is a friend, thats right, a pal: A Stadium Pal! How can you buy one without the other? If youre going to do it, go the distance! Now, if youll excuse me, I have to go. Go call my friends at Forever Lazy. Can you say the holiday gift-pack every fan wants to see under his tree? Bartender approved!!

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

The Wrigley Field basket has played a huge role in this week's Cubs-Reds series.

In Monday night's game, Cincinnati catcher Curt Casali hit a game-tying homer into the basket in the seventh inning of a game the Cubs went on to lose.

But the basket giveth and the basket also taketh away.

Tuesday night, it was Kyle Schwarber and the Cubs who were singing the praises of one of the strangest ballpark quirks in baseball.

Schwarber connected on a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning off Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, hitting a fly ball through the impossibly-humid air and into the basket in left-centerfield for a 4-3 Cubs win.

"Whoever thought about that basket — whenever that occurred — tell them, 'thank you,'" Joe Maddon said. "Although it did work against us [Monday]. When it works for you, it's awesome."

Schwarber has stood under the left-field basket many times with his back against the wall, thinking he might be able to make a play on a high fly ball only to see it settle into the wickets and turn into a chance for a Bleacher Bum to show off their arm. 

But is he a huge fan of the basket now that it worked in his favor?

"I guess so," Schwarber laughed. "Yesterday, it cost us, but today, it helped us out. It's just the factor of Wrigley Field. Happy it worked out today."

It was Schwarber's first career walk off RBI of any kind.

It was the Cubs' fourth walk-off homer of the season, but their first since May 11 when Willson Contreras called "game" on the Milwaukee Brewers. 

The Cubs are now 4-1 since the All-Star Break and hold a 2.5-game lead in the division.

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease picked up a win in his first start, but his second did not go as well.

Cease pitched six innings Tuesday at the Royals and gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits and a walk. He struck out seven, but took the loss in an ugly game for the White Sox.

The game got off to an ominous start with Eloy Jimenez getting injured on the first batter Cease faced. The White Sox defense didn’t help Cease much either with three errors (Cease had one of those on an errant pickoff throw).

After giving up six runs in the first four innings, Cease settled down to retire the final eight batters he faced. He finished with seven strikeouts against just one walk and threw 67 of his 108 pitches for strikes.

Cease struck out six in his first start and is the first pitcher in White Sox history to strike out six or more in each of his first two career appearances.

A deeper look at Cease’s numbers show his swing and miss stuff hasn’t quite caught on as expected so far. Cease got 13 swinging strikes in 101 pitches in his major league debut. He got 12 whiffs on 108 pitches on Tuesday. His slider did get five swinging strikes on 25 pitches against the Royals.

Fastball command remains a key part to Cease’s success. He only threw 26 out of 54 fastballs for strikes in his debut. Cease improved upon that with 31 strikes on 50 fastballs against the Royals.

Most of the Royals’ damage came against Cease’s fastball as well. Six of the Royals’ eight hits off Cease, including all three extra base hits, were off heaters. Cease also gave up four hits with two strikes.

There has been plenty of hype surrounding Cease since he joined the White Sox, but he hasn’t hit the ground running in the majors just yet. Having 13 days between the first two starts of his career due to the all-star break and the White Sox giving him some extra rest also isn’t the ideal scenario for a young pitcher.

Cease’s ERA is now at 5.73, which isn’t going to set the world on fire. Still, there have been enough positives in his first two starts to see where reasonable improvement could lead to Cease becoming the pitcher the White Sox expect him to be.

 

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