Preps Talk

Rizzo Watch: Brett Jackson becomes next big thing for Cubs


Rizzo Watch: Brett Jackson becomes next big thing for Cubs

Late Monday night, Joe Mather explained why he switched his uniform number from 16 to 21, because he always thought it looked cool in those Roberto Clemente highlights.

Mather talked up Travis Wood after the 25-year-old left-hander threw seven shutout innings against the New York Mets, showing the potential the Cubs saw when they traded Sean Marshall to the Cincinnati Reds last winter.

Mather was also asked about the home run he hit off the great Johan Santana. When the group interview by his locker ended after a 6-1 victory, he joked: No Rizzo questions?

No doubt the business side is hoping for more than the 34,092 fans the Cubs got on Monday at Wrigley Field. Anthony Rizzo will be in uniform on Tuesday night, and that should be a box-office attraction after all the attention hes generated down at Triple-A Iowa.

So the next big thing for Cubs fans and the Chicago media to obsess over will be Brett Jackson, a 2009 first-round pick out of Cal-Berkeley.

Jackson is hitting .256 with 11 homers and 31 RBI in 73 games at Iowa. Hes also struck out 107 times in 281 at-bats, though he still profiles as the kind of all-around outfielder Theo Epstein likes to build around.

Hes been a little streaky, obviously, Epstein said. (Hes) been a productive player despite a pretty high swing-and-miss rate. I think Brett could be a good player even while striking out a lot. If he can find a way to make more contact, especially on fastballs in the zone, the skys the limit for him.

His secondary skills are so good: Hes patient. He has power. He can play defense. He can run the bases. Its really important (in order) to reach his true ceiling to continue to make better contact on fastballs in the zone.

The Cubs showed patience and restraint in waiting to promote Rizzo, and they will almost certainly do the same with Jackson, whos only played 140 games at the Triple-A level.

Yeah, the strikeouts are at an incredible rate, which is a little bit strange, manager Dale Sveum said. Its the pitch selection, as much as anything. (I) think he went through a period there where even the fastball was giving him trouble. But now its just the soft stuff (in the dirt) that he cant seem to lay off either.

Hes got some strange stats for having basically an .850 OPS and striking out over 100 times. Its a very strange statunless youre Adam Dunn.

All the hype reminded Alfonso Soriano of what it was like coming up with the New York Yankees, and how important it was to have people like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams show him the way.

Everybody was talking about me, Soriano recalled, but thank God I had veteran guys around me. They told me: We support you and want you to do well, but dont put pressure on yourself. Just go out there and have fun and see what happens.

Soriano takes a lot of heat, but he sets an example in his own way, by pushing to play through pain every day. Even though the Cubs are 25-48, the clubhouse has remained professional and upbeat and not shown signs of jealousy during the Rizzo Watch.

Guys in the room know the talent that he is, utility man Jeff Baker said. The biggest thing is just going to be not to say this in a bad way helping him with you guys (in the media) and the expectations of this city.

Unfortunately, its going to be a little unfair. To do what hes doing in Triple-A? Shoot, if he comes up here and does it, awesome, theyre going to have an All-Star for years and somebody that can be a superstar. But were going to shower him with love.

Breaking: LW East AJ Henning to Michigan

NBC Sports Chicago

Breaking: LW East AJ Henning to Michigan

Lincoln-Way East 4 star ranked running back AJ Henning (5-foot-10, 183 pounds) today gave the University of Michigan his verbal commitment.

"At the end of the day Michigan was just the best overall for me," Henning said. "Michigan has stuck with me in this process for a long time including when I was injured and never backed off. Michigan also recruited me but also  got to know my family well which really made a strong impression on me."

Henning, who narrowed down his final list of schools to Michigan. Georgia, Notre Dame and Penn State new that Michigan was his school after his recent official visit. 

"When I made my official visit to Michigan is when I knew that I found my school. I was able to just get a great feel for the coaches and the guys on the team on my official visits. I just felt that I will be a great fit at Michigan socially, athletically, academically and that I really fit in well with the guys on the team. After my official visit I knew that Michigan was the place I needed to be."

Henning, who ended up selecting Michigan over scholarship offers from 33 FBS schools  is bit thrilled and relived to have announced his college choice.

"It's definitely a relief, but just being able to be recruited and offered scholarships from 33 different schools is a true blessing. I'm just glad I found a home in Michigan."

The 1995-1998 Bulls belong on the list of 10 greatest lineups in NBA history


The 1995-1998 Bulls belong on the list of 10 greatest lineups in NBA history

Listen, Tom. We like you. A lot. You do incredible work and you give us shoutouts. But we had to read through your latest piece, “Ranking the 10 greatest lineups in NBA history,” a few times before realizing you had a massive omission.

We present the following: The 1995-1998 Chicago Bulls.

PG: Ron Harper
SG: Michael Jordan
SF: Scottie Pippen
PF: Toni Kukoc
C: Dennis Rodman

Total All-Star appearances: 23
MVP Players: 1
DPOY Players: 2
Finals MVP Players: 1
Titles won together: 3

We thank you for mentioning Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in your piece. They were pretty good, we agree. We’ll dig a little deeper on those two to begin our argument. From 1995 to 1998, Jordan averaged 29.6 points on 48% shooting, 6.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.9 steals. He also didn’t miss a game, playing in 304 of a possible 304 games. He was also named league MVP twice and Finals MVP all three years. Pippen wasn’t too shabby a sidekick, averaging 19.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists in that three-year span.

These guys were all-time greats, but you might have forgotten that they weren’t alone.

All Dennis Rodman did in this three-season span was lead the league in rebounding all three years (15.3 per game). He wasn’t the same All-Star talent that he was in his Detroit days – also a two-time Defensive Player of the Year – and his San Antonio stint but he was still critical to the Bulls’ success. The Worm had a little bit of Draymond Green in him, not afraid to take on any defensive assignment to allow the Bulls a little more versatility. He got assignments of Shawn Kemp and Karl Malone in the Finals.

Kukoc is where we bend the rules a bit, but we hope you’ll allow it (mostly because our argument turns to dust if we need to talk about Luc Longley). Kukoc was the 1996 Sixth Man of the Year (hey, you said they could be closing lineups, too) and was a model of consistency in those three seasons. He averaged 13.2 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists and gave the Bulls another ball handler and distributor, as well as versatile defense. He’s at times the forgotten gem of the Jerry Krause era, and he’s more than just a funny story from the Dream Team era.

The Bulls had their Iguodala, too. Ron Harper averaged a modest 7.7 points and 2.7 assists in these three seasons with the Bulls. But he also did it with a 14.9% usage rate. That was lower than Bill Wennington’s usage rate of 17.0% in that same span! Let’s not forget that Harper had averaged 19.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists in eight seasons with the Cavaliers and Clippers before signing with the Jordan-less Bulls. He would have had a much larger and more effective role had Jordan not returned (we’re glad he did). In 1998, Harper also had the pleasure of guarding Gary Payton and John Stockton in the Bulls’ three Finals victories. Have you had enough of the Iggy comparisons yet?

So there it is. Five incredible players to put together three remarkable championship seasons that included the Greatest Team in the History of Basketball (our capitalization intended). Feel free to update your story as needed.