Bears

Frankie O's Blog: Tears

Frankie O's Blog: Tears

Friday, March 11, 2011
9:00 a.m.

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Of course Miami Heat coach Eric Spoelstras comments caught the attention of everyone at the bar this week and added greatly to the derisive nature of ALL Heat conversations that I listen to at work. As far as villains go, this Heat team has got to be an all-timer. People HATE them. So while, in-over-his-head Spoelstra tried to convey how much his team cares by sharing the fact that his team was in the locker room CRYING after their heart-breaking loss to the Bulls on Sunday, his words had no such affect. In fact it was the total opposite, much like his comments the next day when he tried to spinlie his way out of it by saying he was misunderstood. No. We understand. You were making stuff up, and when you went back in the locker room and were confronted by Two and a Half Men, you understood that what you had done was very wrong. Well, for your players any way. Where I make my living, it was a great reason for additional Heat-bashing, which is just good, clean fun! Can you imagine what Kevin Garnett is going to have to say about this the next time he faces them?

Lost in all that foolishness nationally, was another stellar effort by Derrick Rose, willing his team to victory once again. After what happened in Atlanta last week, there was a lot of consternation over the fact that the Bulls were just one game over .500 on the road. As he has done after bad efforts time and again this season, he came back possessed and led the Bulls to the impressive road-double of beating both Florida teams in consecutive games on the road and giving the Bulls a 4-1 road-trip. The mind boggles in thinking how good this kid is now and where he is headed. While Ive been trying to temper my expectations on how far they can go this year, with D-Rose leading the way, who knows? Were all learning not to bet against him.

My favorite story of the week has to do with the mess at Ohio State. (The? Seems to me youre not better than anyone else!) To say that there is an air of condescension from the university or its fans is as big an under-statement that I can make. I could go on and on (I heard that!) but Ill stay for the most part in the present. First there was the Little sisters of the poor comments from university president E. Gordon Gee, when discussing the merits of non-B.C.S. schools in B.C.S. bowls. Whatever! Im sure hes a real hoot at his endowment fundraisers, but he seems a little out of touch. Or is he? He seems to realize the win-at-all-cost method of building a big-time football program that produces big-time money and helps him greatly in those endowment cocktail parties. His choice of a football coach, Jim Tressel, was a proven winner at the 1-A level, even if there were a lot of concerns over certain boosters that were on HIS sidelines. One booster was later convicted for his financial relationship with one of Tressels best players. Tressel denied any complicity and who wouldnt believe him? (LMAO!) Upon coaching at The University he won a national title in his second season. If my math is correct that would mean that he won with a lot of John Coopers players. Since then, hes been blown-out in two national title games, won 6 Big Ten Titles and compiled an 85-17 record in the last 8 seasons. Ill admit that I dont know a lot, but I would think, at that school, with that kind of record, there must be a lot of pressure to win another title and validate that the first one wasnt a fluke due to a late interference flag in over-time. As you know here, I was shocked at the audacity of the school to let 5 players who were found to be guilty of violating NCAA rules, to play in last years Rose Bowl.

Then again, it seemed to be par for the course for CheatyPants McSweaterVest. He promised that the players would pay for their mistakes buy agreeing to return to The University for next season and sitting out the first five games, when they traditionally play Mr. Gees favorite teams. He was aghast at what they had done, since he had just learned of it. Turns out that was a con-job since e-mails have been found that proved that he knew about this last April. Of course he is going to make amends by sitting out the firsttwo games of next season. This penalty is university imposed and its possible that the NCAA could impose a tougher sanction, but I wont hold my breath, Jim Calhoun and Bruce Pearl have taught us, that mis-remembering what they or their players have done, is no big deal. Say what you want, but it turns out that the coach who enjoys going by the nick-name The Senator must now realize we can use that name in its not so flattering connotation. Just one question: Dont you think that the man in charge of young men, for leading them, should face more punishment for covering-up their infractions when he knew better? Why does he only get two games? Nice message. I guess The Ohio State University really is an institution of higher learning, meaning that the higher you are, the less of what you learn, you have to share, or pay the price for.

Something Ive been asked a lot this week is my opinion on the dismissal of B.Y.U. forward Brandon Davies from the basketball team for violating their honor-code. Much to their surprise, I dont have one problem with it. Davies is a Mormon. He knew what was expected of him when he signed to play at the school. I think this is the point. Too often, see above, players and coaches are allowed to do whatever they want in the name of winning. I think its refreshing that in this, probably, its best season in basketball, EVER, that the university would stand by its ideals, even if it could cost them the opportunity to play for a national title. I guess they can take the The in front of Ohio State and put it in front of their name, Ohio State wont be needing it for a while. And let me make this clear: I could have never gone to school there! Did you see that honor code? But it is what it is, dont go if you cant abide. Makes you wonder though: How in the name of Mitt Romney, did Jim McMahon actually go to school there for four years?!!

Have you seen the video of Tom Brady dancing in Brazil? I dont know where to start. I found myself laughing and feeling very uncomfortable at the same time. I guess when Charlie Sheens out there, you can do anything you want, if you have the cash.

Finally, theres one story from this past week that I cant get out of my head, the story of Wes Leonard and Fennville (Mi) High. By now, most of you have heard the story: Wes hits game-winning shot, in over-time, to win the game and cap a perfect regular season, 20-0. Then tragedy struck. In the post-game euphoria, as the players were being gathered for a team photo, Wes was felled by an enlarged heart and is with us no more. As a parent, I cannot explain my heartache. I cry every time I read a story about it. But, were way past whats fair in this life. My only hope is that his family and friends can find a way to move on, while always remembering the gift that they were given in Wes. Needless to say, Ive been following the team as they progress through the Michigan high school state playoffs and in the wake of Wess death they have won two games and play in the District Championship game tonight. So tonight, instead of following up on the rantings of Americas Madman Charlie Sheen, maybe type in Wes Leonard into your Google search bar instead, and start to read. I think his story, and everyones around him, while tragic, are what winning is all about.

Ryan Pace finds silver lining in social distancing at Halas Hall

Ryan Pace finds silver lining in social distancing at Halas Hall

Bears general manager Ryan Pace, like everyone else in the United States right now, is doing his best to do his job in what's become a bizarre new normal of social distancing. Fortunately for him and the rest of the team's staff and players, Halas Hall is well-equipped to handle COVID-19's challenges.

The renovations at Halas Hall couldn't have come at a better time. The more expansive campus provides the Bears with the space needed to keep the players and coaches as safe as possible. For Pace, it offers a greater opportunity to appreciate the little things while catching a meal with Matt Nagy.

“So the last two nights, we discovered how nice it is,” Pace said, via MMQB. “You sit out there, and it forces you to take a different vantage point during the day. Beautiful view, and it’s pretty peaceful.”

As Albert Breer pointed out, Pace and Nagy's view includes four outdoor practice fields and a couple of ponds. Not too shabby.

The most important takeaway isn't the landscape. Instead, it's safety. 

NFL players have until Thursday to decide whether they'll opt-out of the 2020 season, and for teams that are lacking the facilities Chicago has, it's more likely high-risk players or those with families at high-risk will choose to sit out the season.

Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman and safety Jordan Lucas have decided to opt out this year, and there's a chance more will do the same. 

Pace is confident in Chicago's COVID-19 plan. We'll see if the players are too.

For now, Pace is finding comfort in the little things. 

Why Chicago Cubs starters Jon Lester, Alec Mills are two of MLB's best pitchers

Why Chicago Cubs starters Jon Lester, Alec Mills are two of MLB's best pitchers

Usually when GMs, managers and fans get ready for a baseball season, any consistent production from the Nos. 4 and 5 starters is a luxury. In the Cubs’ case, it’s been an embarrassment of riches through two turns of the rotation.

Through 10 games, the Cubs are 8-2, good for the best win percentage in the National League. One huge reason for that has been the team’s incredible starting pitching. Kyle Hendricks set the tone early when he pitched a complete game shutout in the very first game of the season. Now, the Cubs’ starters lead MLB in ERA (1.95), batting average against (.156) and WHIP (0.780). They’ve done all that while also throwing 60 innings, second only to the Indians who have thrown 70 innings.

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At first glance you’d probably think, yeah, that makes sense with Hendricks starting the season the way he did, and Darvish getting back on track with six innings of two-hit ball in his second start. But surprisingly the only two clunkers came in Hendricks and Darvish starts. In fact, the analytics say Jon Lester and Alec Mills, the Cubs’ last two guys in the rotation have been two of the most impressive starters in MLB.

Let’s start by looking at the ERAs of all starters who have at least 8 IP, since the name of the game is keeping runs off the board. If 8 IP seems like an arbitrary cutoff… well, it is. But it seems like a fair number to assess quality pitchers who have made two starts in this shortened season with short leashes on pitchers. Among those pitchers, Lester and Mills each rank in the top-10 with ERAs of 0.82 and 1.38, respectively, according to FanGraphs.

So how are they doing it? Neither is a power pitcher who relies on strikeouts. In fact, Lester’s four punchouts place him tied for fourth-fewest in our split of SPs who have thrown more than 8 IP. Mills’ seven strikeouts (tied for 10th-fewest) aren’t much better. These guys succeed by keeping guys off the base paths, and not allowing hard-hit balls.

Looking at batting average against, Lester and Mills move into MLB’s top-five, according to our FanGraphs split, with each pitcher holding batters under .120. Since we’ve already established that neither guy is a power pitcher, when we filter further to just show BAA on balls put in play it should come as no surprise that Lester and Mills rise to No. 1 and No. 2 in all of baseball with .118 and .139 marks, respectively.

Great defense, like Javy Baez’s tag in Monday’s game, certainly helps the pitchers’ stats. But the starters also make things easier on the defense by inducing poor contact, regardless of whether the ball is hit on the ground or the air. According to FanGraphs, Mills ranks second in MLB by inducing soft contact on 33.3% of all balls put into play. In addition, he’s 11th in MLB with a 54.3 ground ball percentage. Lester ranks ninth by getting hitters to make soft contact 26.5% of the time, although he’s 11th in the league in getting batters to hit fly balls 47.1% of the time.

In the end the result is the same, with Mills and Lester combining to only allow four extra base hits in 24 IP. So although they aren’t typical “dominant” pitchers that teams like to make their aces, Mills and Lester have been two of the most effective starters in the game.


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