Bulls

LaHair giving Cubs the power surge theyre missing

744208.png

LaHair giving Cubs the power surge theyre missing

The Cubs believed Bryan LaHair would produce in the big leagues if given a chance. The first baseman rewarded their faith by putting together a monster April, hitting .390 with five home runs and 14 RBI.

Four of LaHairs five homers have either tied a game or given the Cubs a lead, and that sense of calm when everyones watching could be a preview for how he will handle success.

I live for those moments, LaHair said. I just stay consistent with each at-bat. I dont let any at-bat overwhelm me. Pitch to pitch, all I do is try to get good balls to hit and hit them hard every at-bat.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. As long as Im consistent doing that, Ill be all right.

Dale Sveums relationship with Prince Fielder didnt matter that much in the end, and Theo Epsteins meeting with the agent for Albert Pujols during the winter meetings was mostly about Rodrigo Lopez.

The Cubs werent prepared to do a megadeal.

Sveum, a former Brewers hitting coach, broke down LaHairs mechanics and saw the potential to do some damage.

Heres the scouting report the Cubs manager gave just before the games were about to begin in spring training:

I knew he had power, obviously, because of his numbers, but hes got tremendous leverage through the strike zone, Sveum said. I think hes the kind of guy that can run into 10 home runs a year just because of the leverage.

What I mean by that is he can hit home runs when hes not perfect, when hes off-balance, whether its a changeup or a breaking ball down.

The bat stays through the strike zone and the back side works correctly to where you can get a lot of home runs when it doesnt look like a prototypically perfect swing.

One reason why the Cubs are 8-15 is the power outage throughout the lineup. The last time they hit just nine homers in a month was August of 1981.

The last Cub to account for more than half of the teams home runs in a month was Sammy Sosa in August of 2001, when he hit 17 of 32.

Power usually comes later in the year, LaHair said. You never know with power. (It) comes and goes. We got guys on this team that have power and Im sure theyre going to hit for power.

I dont really read into that kind of stuff.

People should question whether LaHair will really keep this up, and the sample sizes are way too small at the major-league level.

Top prospect Anthony Rizzo is coming fast to play first base at Wrigley Field, though the Cubs have to be curious what it would be like to have both left-handed hitters in the same lineup.

There is also the possibility that the Pacific Coast League MVP who hit 38 homers last season and crushed the ball over the winter in Venezuela is starting to figure it out.

By 29, youve had a lot of at-bats and youve learned a lot of things about hitting, Sveum said. Thats about when most guys are coming into their own anyway.

Bulls Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with former Bull Jamal Crawford

generic_bulls_with_bug.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with former Bull Jamal Crawford

Filling in for host Jason Goff, KC Johnson has a very interesting and deep conversation with former Bull Jamal Crawford. They discuss how hard the state of Washington was hit by COVID-19, Jamal's close relationship with Michael Jordan, his memories of Kobe Bryant, and his start and memories of his tenure with the Bulls.

(1:10) - How Jamal and his family have been coping with being sheltered in

(6:00) - Jamal's social media activity with throwback NBA players

(7:45) - How he became connected with Michael Jordan

(10:10) - Memories of Kobe Bryant.

(13:45) - Jamal discusses Zach Lavine's play this season

(16:30) - Disappointed that a team didn't sign him

(18:56) - Memories of the "Baby Bulls" of the early 2000s

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Remember That Guy: Mike Caruso

Remember That Guy: Mike Caruso

Mike Caruso was the White Sox starting shortstop the year he turned 21, but didn’t play a game beyond age 25.

It all happened so fast. Remember that guy?

Caruso was born May 27, 1977, in Queens, New York. He shares a birthday with both Frank Thomas (1968) and Yoan Moncada (1995). He was drafted in 1996 by the Giants in the 2nd round (42nd overall); Jimmy Rollins was taken 46th and Josh Paul 47th. Caruso, like Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, attended Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which later in 2018 was the scene of a tragic shooting that shook the nation.

Caruso made his pro debut in 1996 with Bellingham (Low-A Northwest League), and hit .292 with 24 stolen bases in 73 games. He started out well in High-A San Jose in 1997, hitting .333 with 11 triples and 11 stolen bases (despite 16 times caught stealing) in 108 games before a trade sent him to Chicago.

On July 31, 1997, Caruso along with outfielder Brian Manning and pitchers Keith Foulke, Bob Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo & Ken Vining were sent to the White Sox in exchange for pitchers Wilson Álvarez, Danny Darwin and Roberto Hernández in what is referred to in Chicago as the “White Flag” trade. Through games on July 31, the White Sox were 53-53, seemingly in striking distance in third place, a half-game back of the second-place Brewers and three games back of the first-place Indians. With a new superstar outfielder in Albert Belle, there were high expectations for the 1997 Sox. South Side fans were frustrated.

Caruso slumped through the end of 1997, but ended up making the big league roster for opening day 1998. Caruso debuted for the White Sox on March 31, 1998 as the opening day shortstop at age 20, replacing Ozzie Guillen who signed with the Orioles. He went 1 for 5 with a single off the Rangers’ Bobby Witt. The first home run came April 15 in Baltimore off former Cy Young winner Doug Drabek, but power wasn’t his game. Regardless, he had a very solid rookie year, hitting .306/.331/.390 with 5 home runs, 55 RBI and 22 stolen bases. Caruso’s .306 average was the highest by a White Sox rookie (minimum 500 at-bats) since Minnie Miñoso in 1951 and remains one of only seven White Sox rookie seasons of .300 and 500 at-bats. José Abreu is the only one to do it since. Caruso celebrated his 21st birthday with a 4-hit game on May 27 – he’s the only White Sox player to collect four hits on his birthday since Mike Kreevich on June 10, 1937. It was the first of his four 4-hit games in 1998.

In addition to that, the young shortstop led the AL in at-bats per strikeout (13.8). Caruso posted a 14-game hitting streak in May-June, and hit a scorching .365 in June. Caruso also topped the American League in 1998 with 20 bunt hits, though he also led the Majors with 35 errors in the field. Despite the miscues in the field, he still placed third in the AL in Rookie of the Year voting, behind winner Ben Grieve & Rays hurler Rolando Arrojo and ahead of El Duque Hernández & Magglio Ordóñez.

In 1999, Caruso hit an underwhelming .250/.280/.297 with 12 stolen bases (but 14 times caught). Again he was the toughest qualified batter to strike out (14.7 AB/K) but when he wasn’t striking out he wasn’t doing much, collecting only 17 extra-base hits in 529 at-bats, and walking only 20 times. Caruso slashed his errors from 35 to 24 but his performance was still far from ideal. Caruso’s biggest moment of the season was June 13 at Wrigley Field, where he hit a 2-run homer off the Cubs’ Rick Aguilera in the top of the 8th inning to give the White Sox a 6-4 lead which they held.

In January 2000, the White Sox acquired José Valentín from the Brewers, and the White Sox at first attempted to give Caruso some reps at second base to stick in the big leagues. The thought at the time was that Caruso was still young (he was, still not yet 23), and could figure things out, but he ended up spending the season at Charlotte (AAA). And he never did figure it out, hitting .246/.301/.314 with no home runs at triple-A in 2000. Caruso was claimed off waivers by the Mariners in December, but failed his physical due to a bad back and was ordered back to the White Sox, who released him.

Caruso signed with Devil Rays in February 2001 and hit .292/.340/.364 for Durham (AAA), but still couldn’t make it back to the Majors for a 62-100 Tampa Bay team. In December, Caruso signed with the Reds and was selected off waivers by the Royals at the end of April. Mike played what would end up his final 12 Major League games for the Royals in 2002, going 2 for 20 at the dish.

Caruso popped up in 2004 for the Long Island Ducks (independent Atlantic League), and again in 2007 through 2009 for a few other independent teams, including a 25-game stint for the Joliet Jackhammers in 2008.

Mike Caruso’s Major League career lasted all of 281 games for the White Sox and Royals. He hit .274 with 294 hits, 7 home runs, 90 RBI and 34 stolen bases. He replaced a White Sox legend at a key position and for a minute looked like he’d be a star. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. But 1998 was a fun ride.

You remember Mike Caruso.