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Random News: Worst holiday gifts for the sports fan

Random News: Worst holiday gifts for the sports fan

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
9:18 AM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

You might not know this, but you're a pretty good actor. You can play happy person when your natural instincts call for sarcastic humor with a slice of anger and embarrassment. Just flashback to the last time you opened a really lame present.

Take the following scene: you're exchanging gifts at a family party. You select a present. You rip off the wrapping paper and take a look inside. It's a pair of socks.

A Green Bay Packers pair of socks.

You: (pinching your fingers, forcing a smile, twitching slightly, trying to be nice) "Y-y-yeah! It's great! I can put it to good use!"

Your Sarcastic Thoughts: "Yeah...as exhibit A in a restraining order case in the near future."

The Gift-Giver: "Oh yeah! I thought you might like that! I heard you like sports!"

You: (shaking your head incredulously) "That indeed."

Your Sarcastic Thoughts: "That's it. I'm moving in with the Kardashians. I'm out. Every year it's something different with this bunch."

The holiday season brings out the best acting skills in all of us. We gut out conversations with people we see once a year. We compliment the chef whose food may or may not have a hair in it. We try to play the nice guy. We try to not embarrass people. We don't want to hurt anyone in the season of hope, joy and giving. We try to shake off bad Christmas presents. The gift might be a waste, but we don't want burn bridges in case the person actually comes through with a fairly decent one down the line, you know?

But there shouldn't be the need to act in the first place. It's time to take a stand.

It's always better to give than receive this time of year, right? So if we're going to go all-out in giving, we need to start doing it correctly. I have come up with a list of the worst possible gifts you can give to a sports fan. It's a list that's sure to turn one's stomach and serve as a breeding ground for horrible flashbacks to Aunt Shirley's X-Treme X-Mas party back in 2002 (or whatever). But through pain does come pleasure. Take notes. And don't be "that guy" or "that girl" that serves up the following:

A Personalized Jersey: I went to a game at Cubs-Mets game at Shea Stadium a while back and sat a few rows behind a guy that had "Szczepanski" and a 21 on his road Cubs jersey. The Mets fans had a field day with it: "My Sosa...how you've changed!" "Hey Pat...I'd like to buy a vowel!" "I bet you spent more on that jersey than on your flight." "Tell your Mommy to stop sending you out in bad clothing." And so on. Nonstop. For nine innings. But don't blame the long last name or opportunistic Mets fans. Blame the moronic idea of personalized jerseys. They're the equivalent of having your name printed on your lunch box in 3rd grade. They both will leave you hurt mentally (and physically in, say, Oakland).
A Team Logo-ed Tie: This is where having a girlfriend should...should...come in handy. No girl in their right mind would let their guy wear a tie like this in public. And if you're a guy that sneaks out of the house with a tie like that? You know what-- good for you. You have no shame. Nice job with being your own independent self. It's admirable. But take note: if you're closing down a bar at 2:45am, and it's down to you and that guy over there battling to get that girl's phone number, you will eventually need the tie to wipe away your tears. You have no shot.

Cologne Endorsed By An Athlete: I was one of the biggest Michael Jordan fans growing up. I got his shoes, hung up his posters, watched every game and screamed like crazy when he would go for 50 at the old Madhouse on Madison. He is, and will always be, the man. But my Mom and Dad got the idea that, since I was a fan of MJ, I would be a fan of his cologne. Not exactly. No offense Mike, but the Michael Jordan cologne smells like a combination or kerosene, Preferred Stock and a tequila bar in Cabo on New Year's morning.

Bad Sports Movies On DVD: If you're a sports fan, you need to be careful when you talk about your likes and dislikes around others. See, a lot of guys like sports, movies and comedy. But a lot of gift-givers screw up and think that all three of these can be combined into one can't-miss present:

You: "Oh wow! You got me...Caddyshack 2!

Gift Giver: "Yeah! I thought you'd like that! I figured since you love golf and already own the original Caddyshack, it would be perfect!"

Not exactly. Friends don't let friends watch two hours of failure (even most Clippers fans). Other sports movies not to give as presents this holiday season: Rocky V, Angels In The Outfield, The Fan, Any Given Sunday, The Babe, Juwanna Man, Major League: Back To The Minors, Slap Shot 2, Like Mike, Kazaam, Ed and Teen Wolf Too.

An Autographed PhotoBaseball CardBallJersey Of Someone You Don't Cheer For: Here's another rule-- any time you hear a person repeat the kind of gift they're opening, it's usually a sign that you goofed up. For instance if someone says to you, "Oh wow...you got me an autographed picture of Hakim Warrick! Nice!", you're in trouble. Hey-- just because you got a killer deal on eBay doesn't make you a hero on Christmas morning. Do some homework.

Bad sports gift honorable mentions include: socks of rival teams, socks of your favorite team, socks...period, random team-sponsored paraphernalia (plastic lawn ornaments, air fresheners, seat covers, floor mats, orthodontia..etc), tickets for teams you don't cheer for, any sports-themed Christmas ornament, any Jock Jams CD or any sports-themed underwear.

Good ideas for the sports fan in your life? How about high-def television? Or a recliner chair? Tickets to the Super Bowl? OK, OK, let's not get crazy here. But seriously, even something simple like a gift-card to an all-you-can-eat wingsburger joint on football Sunday would do the trick. All it takes is a little research-- without going overboard. Sports fans are simple but we're slightly more fickle than you might think. We love our sports but we won't know what to do with a Macho Man Randy Savage lunch box. And we don't want to waste time regifting or putting things on Craigslist.

And we'd rather keep our acting skills at bay.

(Wait hold on a second...I know people that would like a Macho Man Randy Savage lunch box. A lot of people.)

Or something like that.

The curious ripple effects of the Cubs' trade for Martin Maldonado

The curious ripple effects of the Cubs' trade for Martin Maldonado

While the Cubs put the finishing touches on a lackluster loss to the Reds Monday night at Wrigley Field, the game quickly took a backseat as reports of a trade filtered through Baseball Twitter.

In came a veteran catcher — Martin Maldonado — from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Mike Montgomery, who will live on in Cubs history books forever as the guy who threw the curveball that notched the final out in the 2016 World Series to break a 108-year championship drought.

There are many layers to this move, including the corresponding aspect of Cubs All-Star catcher Willson Contreras hitting the 10-day injured list with a strain in the arch of his right foot. Contreras had an MRI Monday afternoon/evening, which revealed the issue. 

Contreras felt like he could play through it and passionately pleaded his case, but the Cubs want to exercise an abundance of caution with one of their most important players.

"Our medical staff feels like if he were to try to play on it, that he'd be risking exacerbating the injury and turning it into something long-term," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "So we have to get ahead of it, take it out of Willy's hands and take him off his feet. 

"We don't expect it to be longer than 10 days — that's what we hope for, anyways."

But even before the severity of Contreras' injury was known, Epstein said the team was already in talks with the Royals front office.

"We've been having discussions with Kansas City and they had an opening in their rotation after trading [Homer] Bailey and they'd been talking to a couple teams about Maldonado and we knew that," Epstein said. "We'd actually been working on a version of the deal beforehand and it was something we wanted to quickly finalize once it became clear that Willson was gonna miss some time."

That's interesting.

So the Cubs' interest in Maldonado is not solely based on Contreras' injury, which means they value the veteran catcher as more than just a short-term, couple-week insurance policy to pair with Victor Caratini. 

On the one hand, that leaves the Cubs free to trade Caratini over the next couple weeks if a deal developed.

But the move for Maldonado also shores up a major area of depth for the Cubs, which is exactly what Epstein talked about before Monday's game, referencing the change in MLB rules that eliminated the August waiver wire deadline. Now, every team has to make their moves ahead of the July 31 deadline and that's it.

"Teams need to keep depth in mind a little bit more, that you have to anticipate where you might be vulnerable to an injury and try to build that depth up in advance — preemptively, really — knowing that there's no escape valve in August," Epstein said. "So you gotta really do all your work this month as much as possible and really take a hard look at your organizational depth."

Well, despite fantastic seasons from Contreras and Caratini, the Cubs actually have very little in the way of catching depth beyond those two. Taylor Davis is the only other backstop on the 40-man roster and he has almost no big-league experience. When Caratini was on the IL earlier this year with a hand injury, Davis rarely played in the month-plus he was on the roster.

Even if Contreras' injury is as minor as it appears, it underscores the point that the Cubs' depth is very fragile at the most physically demanding position on the field. What would the team do if Contreras or Caratini suffered an injury in August or September?

Now, they can add Maldonado into the mix — a veteran catcher who draves rave remarks for his defense and game-calling. 

The right-handed-hitting catcher is due to turn 33 next month and is in his ninth big-league season. He hasn't done much with the bat in his career (.289 on-base percentage, .351 slugging) and that hasn't changed this year (.647 OPS), but his work behind the plate was enticing to the Cubs and their veteran-laden pitching staff.

"He's an established catcher in the league who does a lot of great things behind the plate," Epstein said. "He can really receive, he can really throw. He's caught playoff games. He's handled some of the best pitchers in the game; he's a favorite for pitchers to throw to.

"He's very calm back there, very prepared, calls a great game, really soft hands, lot of experience, lot of savvy and someone who we think can step in and share the job with Vic and get up to speed really quickly in what we hope is a brief absence from Willson."

The Cubs haven't yet shared a plan for how they plan to manage the roster crunch for all three catchers when Contreras returns from injury in a week or two, but that might be because they don't yet have a plan. That's more of a "cross that bridge when it comes" type of situation.

When everybody is healthy — if everybody is ever healthy all at the same time — the Cubs could carry three catchers and utilize Contreras' ability to play the outfield and Caratini's first/third base versatility. They could also option Caratini to the minors for a couple weeks and bring him back up when rosters expand in September or if another injury strikes.

Either way, the Cubs front office, coaching staff and pitching staff can rest easier knowing they have another experienced backstop on the roster. 

The other aspect to all this, obviously, is in the Cubs bullpen and starting depth. Montgomery is out, which means there is an easy open spot on the roster for Alec Mills, who is making a spot start Tuesday while Cole Hamels continues to rehab his oblique injury.

In the longer term, this could be a good thing for the Cubs bullpen, as Montgomery was miscast and rarely used as a short-inning reliever. The 30-year-old southpaw last threw on July 2 and has only made five appearances in the last month. 

Montgomery was slowed by injury in spring training and then again in the first couple weeks of the season, but he had been building up his workload of late - throwing at least 2.1 innings in each of his last three outings. Still, the Cubs opted to go with Mills Tuesday against the Reds instead of Montgomery and they also had Tyler Chatwood and Adbert Alzolay in the rotation at various points earlier this season.

Montgomery hasn't started once in 2019, but he made 28 starts in a Cubs uniform, including 19 last year while filling in for the injured Yu Darvish.

The Cubs clearly feel good enough with their rotation depth as is (Mills, Chatwood, Alzolay) and Hamels' return looks to be right around the corner, so the writing was on the wall that Montgomery wouldn't get many chances to start in the short or long term in Chicago.

It's also good for Montgomery, a guy who got the last out in the World Series and did everything asked of him in his three-plus years in Chicago, bouncing between the rotation and bullpen. 

Now he gets an opportunity to start, which he's been vocal about wanting to do, and he'll be thrown right into the fire — the Royals have him penciled in to start Friday...in Cleveland.

How's that for full circle?

After short stint in the majors, White Sox send Zack Collins to Triple-A

After short stint in the majors, White Sox send Zack Collins to Triple-A

When general manager Rick Hahn has talked about bringing up key prospects, he says he wants those players to be able to come up to the majors and stay there. That won't be the case with Zack Collins.

The White Sox sent the catcher down to Triple-A Charlotte following Monday's 5-2 loss to the Royals. No corresponding move will be made until Tuesday, but it is expected Welington Castillo will return from his rehab stint and rejoin the White Sox.

Collins was called up on June 18, but only played in nine games with seven starts in his 28 days on the big league roster. Collins drew a pinch-hit walk in his first plate appearance at the Cubs on June 19. He then homered two days later in his first start in Texas.

After that, Collins struggled. He goes back to Charlotte after hitting .077 (2-for-26) with five walks, the one home run and 14 strikeouts in 31 plate appearances.

It's unclear if Collins had a chance to stick on the roster or if the plan was for him to go back to Triple-A once Castillo was ready to return. Collins certainly didn't do himself any favors at the plate, but he also didn't see regular playing time.

Collins, a first-round pick in 2016, was seen working out at first base in fielding practice before games, but he stuck to catcher and DH. He could have played some first base or DH when Castillo returned. However, the White Sox claimed A.J. Reed off waivers and he debuted after the all-star break. Reed has taken the at-bats at DH, leaving Collins without regular at-bats.

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