White Sox

Howard to Lakers in four-team deal

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Howard to Lakers in four-team deal

The Dwight Howard saga, more properly dubbed the "Dwightmare" by some, is finally over.
The NBA processed a four-team trade Friday that sent Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets, Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers, and a handful of players to the Orlando Magic.
Here is a complete rundown of the blockbuster deal:
Los Angeles receives: Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, Chris DuhonOrlando receives: Arron Afflalo, Al Harringon, Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, three protected first-round draft picksDenver receives: Andre IguodalaPhiladelphia receives: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson
The big winner here is Los Angeles, as they bring in Howard, a five-time All-NBA First Team member and three-time Defensive Player of the Year. The 26-year-old Howard is in the prime of his career and, despite his off-court antics this offseason, is a career 18-point, 13-rebound per game center and is one of the best defenders in the league.
Chris Duhon and Earl Clark are added bonuses to the deal, but the biggest part of the transaction may be that Pau Gasol was not part of it, as earlier reports had suggested. The Bynum-Gasol front court was the NBAs best, and Los Angeles only gets better adding Howard. If he stays beyond this season, when he is an unrestricted free agent, the deal sweetens even further.
Denver also pulls in a positive grade, adding Iguodala and his 14.9 million salary for 2012-2013 in exchange for Al Harrington and Arron Afflalo, set to make roughly 14.25 million this year. The Nuggets get younger and more talented with Iguodala, and also save the 13 million trade exception they acquired when they traded Nene Hilario to the Wizards last year. Iguodala has a player option worth nearly 16 million in 2013, but the Nuggets now have the financial flexibility to sign Iguodala long-term after shedding Harrington's contract, worth more than 21 million the next three seasons.
As it stands for the Bulls and how this trade affects the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia may all of a sudden be a contender in the East.
The 76ers finally get the franchise player in Bynum they hoped Iguodala would one day become. Iguodala seemed to have maxed his potential in Philadelphia, something Bynum, 24, has plenty of. The 7-footer comes with baggage, being known for lackadaisical and uninterested play at times, but a change of scenery and stepping out of Kobe Bryant's and Pau Gasol's shadows could do him some good. He is an unrestricted free agent after this season, but if he re-signs in Philadelphia, the 76ers have a long-term piece to their puzzle.
More importantly, losing Iguodala opens up room for Chicago native Evan Turner in the starting lineup. They lost Lou Williams to free agency (Atlanta) but added Nick Young and Dorell Wright, leaving few weaknesses in their starting lineup. It wouldn't be a shock to see the 76ers make a Pacers-like jump in 2012 into the top four of the Eastern Conference standings.
They lose 2012 first round draft pick Maurice Harkless and project big Nikola Vucevic, but the prospect of obtaining Bynum was too much to pass up.
The Magic, ironically, seem to be the only real losers in the trade. The four players (Harrington, Afflalo, Harkless, Vucevic) should all be contributors, but remember the Magic turned down a Howard deal from Brooklyn that would have netted them Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and four first-round draft picks. Certainly the package they did receive has less value than the proposed deal from Brooklyn.
And while a Howard trade was inevitable, the Magic all of a sudden go from a playoff contender to a team that will struggle to make the second season. Whether that has an effect on the Bulls, who may or may not be in a similar position without Derrick Rose, remains to be seen.

Buckle up, White Sox, here come the best two teams in baseball

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USA TODAY

Buckle up, White Sox, here come the best two teams in baseball

Things are about to get tougher for the White Sox. Much tougher.

The upcoming road trip features seven straight games against first-place teams, the Houston Astros and the Minnesota Twins. Those two teams are, by their winning percentages as of this writing, the two best teams in baseball.

The much-bemoaned makeup of this season’s American League means seeing top-shelf competition is a rarity for any team playing outside the AL East. The Astros are a mile ahead of the rest of the AL West. The Twins have appeared, so far, as the only team capable of winning an aggressively weak AL Central. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays — three teams the White Sox have already seen one time apiece — will battle it out for the AL East crown all season long, but let’s be honest, they all seem safe bets to make the postseason.

The fact that the five teams likely to make the playoffs have already put themselves ahead of the competition and it’s not even Memorial Day is its own discussion topic as the rebuilding trend sweeps through the Junior Circuit. But for the 2019 edition of the Chicago White Sox, specifically, it just means that this week is not likely to be a good one.

In the 10 games they played against the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox, the White Sox went 3-7. They were pasted by the Rays and Red Sox, who combined to outscore them 58-18 in seven games on the South Side, and they took two of three from the Yankees in The Bronx.

Of course, any expectations can be dashed in a small portion of a 162-game season. Cast your mind back to 2017, when the White Sox swept a three-game series from the soon-to-be world-champion Astros. The South Siders finished with 95 losses that season, but for three games in August, they had the champs’ number.

Will this week go similarly? Maybe. But it doesn’t seem likely.

The Astros are on fire, or at least they were before the Red Sox snapped their 10-game winning streak Sunday. That doesn’t change the fact that the Astros boast a plus-92 run differential that counts as the best in the game. Or their 3.43 team ERA (second in the AL). Or their .279 team batting average and jaw-dropping .353 team on-base percentage, both marks the best in baseball.

The Twins, the division rivals the White Sox will see for the first time in 2019 beginning Friday, aren’t far behind. That offense has been sensational, too, through the season’s first two months, owning baseball’s second best run differential (plus-77) and its second best team batting average (.270). No team in either league has hit more homers than the Twins, who have launched 87 of them in 45 games.

The White Sox, meanwhile, have a fragile, injury-affected starting rotation — after Sunday’s game, manager Rick Renteria did not share who’s starting Monday’s game — and a pitching staff with a 5.09 ERA that’s given up 68 homers this season. Sunday, Reynaldo Lopez made it through six innings of one-run ball, only for the White Sox bullpen to cough up a pair of two-run homers to the Toronto Blue Jays (one of baseball’s worst offenses) in the game’s final two innings. It was the sixth time this season the White Sox bullpen has allowed multiple home runs in a single game.

“Gulp” might be an appropriate reaction to hearing the White Sox have to go up against the Houston and Minnesota offenses seven times in the next seven days.

This isn’t to say the White Sox are merely a punching bag for these two giants of the American League right now. Certainly most of the teams the Astros and Twins have faced have suffered less than desirable fates. But the gaps between the rebuilding White Sox and this pair of contenders are not small.

The White Sox are trying to accomplish the same thing the Astros did, spending several frustrating years being patient during a rebuilding process only to come out the other side a perennial contender and World Series champion. These same Astros who are now bullying the rest of the AL lost a total of 416 games in the four seasons prior to their first playoff season in a decade in 2015. By the end of the 2017 campaign, they were world champions. That’s the template the White Sox are trying to follow.

But the White Sox aren’t to the mountaintop yet, and that might end up being painfully clear by the end of the upcoming road trip. It doesn’t mean their climb won’t get them to that same point, but don’t try to compare the 2019 White Sox to the 2019 Astros this week. That’s not the comparison that counts.

The Twins are a little different, having revamped their lineup over the offseason with free-agent acquisitions who have paid huge dividends. C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Marwin Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz (currently on the IL) have combined for 31 homers in 45 games. But homegrown guys like Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler are all playing well, too. That quintet has accounted for 43 of the Twins’ 87 homers this season. That’s a strong core of homegrown young hitters, the kind of thing the White Sox hope to have real soon, the kind of thing that’s taking shape with Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson off to good starts and Eloy Jimenez at the major league level (and likely to come off the injured list Monday).

The White Sox have obviously had their positives this season, and they’re clearly in a better place now than they were at this point last year (a 21-24 record after Sunday’s game compared to 14-31 through the first 45 games of 2018). But their rebuilding process hasn’t yet reached the point where they’re going to be trading blows with the two best teams in baseball.

There could be some surprises on this road trip. But they don’t figure to be easy to come by. Buckle up, here come the two best teams in baseball.

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Carlos Zambrano gets four clean outs in Chicago Dogs debut

Carlos Zambrano gets four clean outs in Chicago Dogs debut

Carlos Zambrano hasn't pitched in the majors since 2012 (and the minors since 2013), but he is back pitching in Chicagoland.

The former Cubs ace made his debut with the Chicago Dogs of the American Association on Saturday. Zambrano didn't register any strikeouts, but retired all four batters he faced.

The 37-year-old got three groundouts and a flyout in 13 pitches.

The Dogs play at Impact Field in Rosemont and the day before Zambrano's debut they set a world record for the most wieners in one location. So this is a bit different than the major leagues.