Samardzija searching for answers after Mets rock Cubs


Samardzija searching for answers after Mets rock Cubs

Theres so much to like about Jeff Samardzijas potential, from his power arm to his NFL body to the guts and swagger it took to play big-time football at Notre Dame.

Theo Epsteins front office gave Samardzija another chance and believes he has the tools to become a frontline starter. But its becoming harder and harder to ignore the trend line.

Samardzija stood there alone on the mound on Wednesday at Wrigley Field, watching the 91 mph cutter he threw Daniel Murphy disappear into the right-field bleachers. The ball was thrown right back, and Samardzija swatted it toward the Cubs dugout in frustration.

You could feel the heat as the New York Mets exploded for four homers in a 17-1 victory that avoided the sweep in front of 35,837 fans. The Cubs (26-49) havent won a game Samardzija started in almost a month.

Yeah, Id be lying if I (said) I wasnt concerned a little bit, manager Dale Sveum said afterward. It could be (hitting a wall). It could just be confidence. It could be mechanical. It could be all of the above.

Samardzija gave up nine runs on six hits and four walks and couldnt finish the fifth inning. Whether or not fatigue is a factor, hes now thrown 87 13 innings this year. He accounted for 88 innings out of the bullpen during his breakthrough 2011 season.

Its more mental right now than physical, Samardzija said. My body feels great. Thats not the issue.

Samardzija has allowed 25 runs in his last four starts, a span of 18 13 innings, which translates to a 12.27 ERA. This followed the month of May, when he posted a 2.48 ERA in six starts and notched 40 strikeouts against only 11 walks.

Its definitely a learning process for me right now, Samardzija said. I came (into) the season feeling great and had a great first quarter there and these things happen throughout the season where you hit these speed bumps.

The great guys make those adjustments quickly. They have one bad outing and they come back the next day and they bounce back. Ive had a few here that havent been up to par for me and I need to make those adjustments on (and) off the field, in between starts, to get me ready to go for the next (one).

No doubt about it, all this stuff is being logged away and remembered for the future. Well look back on this and understand what happened now and make those adjustments in the future. It just needs to happen quicker. Thats all.

Everyone knew there would be a learning curve for Samardzija, whos only 27 years old but seems even younger than that in baseball development time.

Samardzija felt like his sinker wasnt really sinking, running off the plate when he wanted a strike and hanging over the plate when he needed it to drop. Sveum saw someone who was leaving the ball up and having trouble putting guys away with two strikes. At the moment, the Cubs arent inclined to skip Samardzijas next start or give him extra time to work on the side.

You could do a lot of things, Sveum said. But we have a plan and when things go awry for a few starts, you just dont jump the gun.

Whatever adjustments Samardzija makes and there are reasons to believe that he will figure it out the Cubs will have to make some hard decisions with their rotation.

Ryan Dempster should get healthy sometime around the All-Star break and Matt Garza will try to block out the rumors around the July 31 trade deadline.

The New York Yankees were suddenly looking at huge holes in their rotation after Wednesdays news that CC Sabathia (groin strain) and Andy Pettitte (ankle fracture) are heading to the disabled list. Think Epsteins cell phone will be ringing?

Samardzija is now 5-7 with a with a 5.05 ERA through 15 starts. The second half of this experiment will be telling in terms of how exactly he fits into those plans.

Im really concerned about it I want to win, Samardzija said. (But) Im not concerned as a whole. Im just upset as a competitor and as a teammate for my guys who have been playing their butts off these last few days.

Coming in and letting them down isnt what Im about. It doesnt sit well with me at all. (But) you got to look at the big picture. Theres things you need to learn, and theres only one way to learn sometimes: Its to get kicked in the rear a little bit.

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears


Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.


That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night


Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

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