Frankie O's Blog: Now what?

Frankie O's Blog: Now what?

Friday, Feb. 11, 2011
9:02 a.m.

By Frankie O

We often hear about the dog-days in sports. That time when the excitement of the beginning of the season has worn off and the thrill of the end of season playoffs (for some teams!)is still a ways off. For us fans, especially those who live where the weather makes us feel like weve been living in Minsk for the last month, weve officially hit our dog-days. Ice on everything (and I mean everything!), a mailbox still full of holiday bills and worst of more NFL!! Thankfully, theres no Pro Bowl this week to mock us, it was enough of a mockery two weeks ago. This is when a lot fans take a vacation from their issues. The NFL season is a long arduous trek and for many the end is a time to rest-up and get back to doing chores and saying hello to the kids. Well, for some of us anyway. For yours truly, its about, Whats next? For while this is not exactly the best time of year to have a sports affliction, there is never really is a bad time. This is no time to hang it up, theres other sports being played. My glass is always full! (Im a bartender. Get it?) Theres plenty to occupy us right now, and some things in our near future that will help us get through our winter malaise. Thankfully, Jay Cutler has nothing to do with any of it!

The plight of the Hawks and Bulls are the talk of the bar right now. For the Hawks its, Whats the problem? And for the Bulls its, How far do you think they can go?
It speaks to the newness of some fans that I am constantly asked what is wrong with the Hawks. Thinking that they could lose 10 guys from last year and not miss a beat is a little nave to say the least. What they still have is the core that led them to last years Cup. Something that core learned in winning is that the NHL is all about the playoffs. (What a novel concept!) This team still has enough talent to do some damage. The problem is they have to get there. My opinion is that for a lot of the season this team has been on cruise control. Their effort has been questioned by their coach and their captain at different times this year. This group is going to have to figure out their own destiny since a trade does seem imminent either, at least one with major consequence because of the salary cap. The trade of Jack Skille to me is as much a wake-up call, and Dale Tallons interest in a player that he made the 7th overall pick, than the bringing in of a guy that will put them over the top. They know that they are still in position and just need to turn up the volume a little, hopefully, that will be soon.

As for the Bulls, they have a nice buzz going on. Watching Derrick Rose play is must-see TV. He has at least one play a game that everyone is talking about the next day. The anticipation here is waiting for the return of Joakim Noah. That hopefully will be right after the all-star game and would enable the entire line-up to play together for about two months before the start of the playoffs. I know there is talk of trading for a two-guard, but my feeling is that that wont happen until after the season, at least for a guy who would make a big difference. Even so, this team will continue to be fun to watch and is going to be a load for someone to deal with in the post-season.

And I can say for the first time this year, there have been college basketball conversations at the bar. In fact, they started up just after the end of the Super Bowl. As we sat dazed at the bar considering the double-whammy of the end of the season and a Packers championship, the mood had to be lightened, and I asked, only half-jokingly, What do we do now? To my surprise, most of the responses did not include semi-possible physical acts. In fact, a full-out NCAA basketball conversation ensued. And while there was plenty of dismay about the current Illini season, there was plenty of agreement that this years tournament could be better than most. That because there doesnt seem to be a clear-cut number 1, it could be upset mania, at least more so than usual, and who loves blown-up brackets? Thats right, This Guy!!

And dare I mention the thought that dances through the minds of all red-blooded fans? No, its not the swimsuit issue that will soon arrive in our mailboxes. Its the siren song that we will hear next week: Pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training! Can my fantasy baseball guide be far behind?

So while the end of football and the temperature outside are always vivid reminders of the long, cold winter, most of all though, this time of year makes me look to the future. What we are going through now will enable to better enjoy the sports cornucopia that the turn of the calendar to spring will bring. Soon enough we will be enjoying March Madness, The Masters, Opening Day and the start of the hockey and basketball playoffs. Not to mention by then, we might be thawed out

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

The Cubs finished Saturday's loss at the Nationals under protest after Joe Maddon saw what he believed to be an inconsistency in how illegal pitches are being called.

Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle came in to close the game out in the ninth with the Nats up 5-2. After one pitch, Maddon went to the umpires to complain. This dragged on throughout the inning.

Maddon didn't like that Doolittle's delivery involved him pausing and potentially even touching the ground in the middle of his wind up before coming home with the pitch. To Maddon, it was clearly an illegal pitch and he was fired up because that's something Carl Edwards Jr. got called for earlier in the season. By comparison, Edwards' version may be more deliberate, but Maddon thinks it is the same thing.

"That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do," Maddon said postgame in a video posted by ESPN's Jesse Rogers. "There's no judgment. If he taps the ground, it's an illegal pitch, period. There's nothing to judge. You can judge whether he did or not. It's obvious that he did, or if you can't tell that then there's something absolutely wrong."

Maddon and the Cubs protested the game as a result. If they win the protest, the game would be restarted with one out in the ninth, when Maddon notified the umpires of the protest.

Doolittle was less than amused by Maddon's protest.

"I have no qualms against Doolittle," Maddon said. "He's great, but they took it away from our guy so for me to sit in the dugout and permit that to happen while they stripped us of that ability earlier this year with Carl, how could I do that? You can't do that. I got to say something."

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Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals


Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

Jon Lester was on a heck of a run since coming off the IL in late April, but it came to a screeching halt on Saturday.

Lester had by far his worst start of the season at the Nationals in a 5-2 Cubs loss. He labored through his start, giving up five runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Lester gave up 10 hits, which matches the most he has given up since joining the Cubs. He gave up a fair number of hits in his last two starts, but was able to avoid trouble on the scoreboard. Lester gave up nine hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Brewers last time out, but only gave up an unearned run. On May 7, Lester gave up eight hits to the Marlins, but only allowed two unearned runs in six innings of work.

This time, Lester couldn’t stay out of trouble. Brian Dozier got the Nats on the board with a solo shot in the second and then the wheels came off in the third.

To open the third inning Lester gave up six straight hits. The Nats got three runs that inning and then added another in the fifth, when Lester departed the game.

Since Lester came off the IL on April 25, he had allowed just one earned run (four runs in total) in 24 2/3 innings. During that stretch, he had 25 strikeouts against just two walks. His ERA fell to 1.16, which would have led all of baseball if he had enough innings to qualify. It’s at 2.09 after Saturday’s loss.

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