Cubs

Sheer Madness

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Sheer Madness

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Its that time again when something takes over your brain and you start obsessing and doing crazy things. Spring is definitely in the air. Um, I mean summer. Im not one to complain, (I heard that!) but I guess a winter without winter should only mean that were going to be en fuego (Bi-lingual in the fourth sentence. Boo-ya! Tri-lingual?) this summer, so why not just get on with it? Ah, the mysteries of Mother Nature.

The early heat wave is definitely having an effect. I mean that would explain Blago on his doorstep wouldnt it? I could go on for days on that one, but the word I would keep getting back to would be sadness. A Blago line is always good for a laugh at the bar, but right now its an awkward one. Blagos on his way to a new residence, but hell always live on a river in Egypt.

And speaking of denial, theres the Bears signing of Brandon Marshall. What a tangled mess that is, and is going to be. For some reason, in the NFL, if you line up outside the numbers, on either side of the ball, you just seem to be more prone to issues, or at least thats the perception. Especially on the offensive side -- thats where most of the NFL divas reside. It has come to light that in Marshalls case, at least partially, this is due to his having Borderline Personality Disorder. I would never make light of a psychiatric disorder, but I would also argue that he has been coddled and enabled. That happens when you can generate millions of dollars in your profession and become a cash cow for all those around you and your performance on the field is so beneficial, that a blind eye will be cast off it.

According to news reports, while he lived in the Denver area, police were called to his residence 11 times in 2 years. As I glanced at some of the TV sets while I was working on Tuesday evening, SportsNet Central had a list of his transgressions with the law that covered the full screen, to go along with his football highlights. The coverage in the Chicago Tribune on Thursday put them in a nice, neat timeline for us. Some would call these big red flags! But the rest of the coverage is devoted on the gamble that the Bears are taking by acquiring, and thus taking responsibility for, their long needed downfield playmaker.

Is this a case of selling your soul for something you covet? On my own personal rooting level, I watched my Eagles forget about everything they believed in to take their shot with Terrell Owens. You might have heard how that turned out.

Im among those who marvel at Marshalls athletic ability. I just wonder what it says about all of us that we want to see him perform no matter what the cost. For the Bears, lets hope this is not another opportunity to master the art of spin or damage control. While I believe everyone deserves the right to seek proper treatment and lead a productive life, why do I feel like this is not the priority here?

And in another dont believe everything you see case, there is the Bulls win against the Heat on Wednesday night at the United Center. The story of beating the Heat without Derrick Rose is irresistible. Once again, lowered expectations turned into something wonderful -- do you hear me Cubs and White Sox fans? When it was announced that Rose would not play, all of us at the bar were bummed out. The later than usual start had added to our anticipation and enabled some of those in attendance to fully enjoy their pregame activities.

Once the game began, and the short-handed team showed their unyielding will, the enjoyment level was as high as it could be until the taught, frantic end as the indomita-Bulls held on to win. John Lucas III had the game of his life. My comment was, Well I guess we can forget about any additions at the trade deadline," -- and everyone was in agreement. They beat them without Rose, (and Rip Hamilton, but does anyone really believe that he can stay healthy enough to be a factor this year? I dont.)

Why do they need anything else? Weve seen this before -- last year as a matter of fact. The Bulls have had a problem staying healthy all year and with Hamilton and Luol Deng nowhere near 100 percent, do you really believe they have a chance in a seven-game series vs. Miami? My heart wants to tell me yes, but when the Heat are on their game, I dont think there is a team in the NBA this year that can stay with them. I hope we get a chance to find out and for once, Im wrong. (Sorry. Sometimes, it is necessary to make myself laugh while I write these. Sarcasm my friends, gotta love it!) Either way, how can you not love watching what this team brings to the gym every night?

And I would be remiss if I didnt talk about whats going to drive me crazy all weekend. No, not people acting Irish. Thats actually become a little entertaining for me, although Saturday is going to be a looooooong night. The real fun is looking around on Sunday to see who had the most damage inflicted. Oh, to be young again. Of course, what Im really talking about is the fate of my bracket as we head to the Sweet Sixteen. Those of you who know me, or have read here before, know what a tortured process this has become for me. Back in the day, I actually believed that the more I knew, the better off I would be. I actually remember winning some cash. But eventually that process just twisted me into a pretzel as I tried to make a case for each entry. That was a lot of work for not a lot of results.

You have to love when a game is much closer than anyone would imagine, an upset in the making, then the lower seed runs out of steam, loses a close one and those who blindly picked the favorite won, getting no demerits for style points. Deciding to join them, I became Chalk Boy for a while, but whats the fun in that? I love upsets. Besides, theres always that one guy who will out-chalk you and win, or, inexplicably decide to pick all chalk and one surprise that hits, and they win. What the?

So this year, I tried another new tact. Admittedly, due to the lack of college basketball interest around Chicago, I didnt really go overboard with the college hoops. Wasnt all of the buzz about conference realignments? This year was enough to make Newt yawn. He did? Why didnt someone wake him up? (Again with the humor!) So this year I decided to soak in what I could, wait until the last minute, and let er rip. Honestly, how bad could it be? If it doesnt work, next year Ill let my soon-to-be teenage daughter pick them. Yup, Im that close to rock bottom.

Anyway, I ended up with a Final Four of Kentucky, Kansas, Vandy and Mizzou, with the Jayhawks beating the Wildcats for the title. Thats a 1, two 2s and a 5-seed. A mans bracket! A man whos about to lose his entrance fee! Oh well, as long as Kentucky loses. I had them lose at the end because it hurts more. Like they say, its a time for madness. Its out of our hands, right coach Cal?

Remember to designate a driver on St. Pats. Arrive alive!

Cubs refuse to push the panic button on inconsistent offense

Cubs refuse to push the panic button on inconsistent offense

Any time the Cubs offense scuffles, there's always a dichotomy between the fanbase and the clubhouse.

Many fans believe the sky is falling while inside the home clubhouse at Wrigley Field, the Cubs continue to stay the course and try with all their might not to ride the roller coaster of the season.

That's especially true right now, with the wounds from last season's second-half offensive breakdown still fresh. 

It's easy to sweep a slump under the rug after a four-game series against the Dodgers in L.A., but the lineup issues came to a head Tuesday night at Wrigley Field when the Cubs faced the pitcher with the second-worst qualified ERA in baseball (Ivan Nova) and managed just 1 run — on the first pitch of the game, no less. 

Yet the Cubs insisted there was no panic inside the clubhouse about the cold bats and to a man, they talked about simply riding the wave and waiting for things to break their way.

So naturally, the Cubs came out Wednesday night and battered around the American League ERA leader Lucas Giolito thanks to a barrage of homers — including Willson Contreras' first-inning grand slam. Contreras' second homer of the night made him the fifth different Cub to reach 15 dingers this season (no other MLB team had more than three players eclipse the 15-homer threshold).

Still, the Cubs know they need to get the offense on a more consistent trajectory and find ways to score beyond just the longball.

"We have to be able to somehow find enough runs to win a game like [Tuesday]," Joe Maddon said. "That's where the run [of wins] is. We have to win some games where your pitching isn't as good that night and we have to score one more. And then when our pitching is that good, we have to score two or three. We just have to be able to do that in order to get on that run."

Wednesday's Contreras-led offensive explosion marked the first time in a week that the Cubs had scored more than 3 runs, but again, much of that was due to facing the Dodgers, owners of the best pitching staff in the NL.

After Tuesday night's loss, Maddon and the Cubs took solace in the fact that they didn't expand the zone too much or get themselves out. They only struck out 5 times against Nova and the White Sox bullpen.

"It's a long season," said David Bote, who homered Wednesday night after not starting Tuesday's game. "It's hard to not be caught up in a couple game stretch where it's not falling. But a lot of hard hits; we're not chasing out of the zone. 

"[We know we can't] push a panic button and stress. If you do that, then all of a sudden you start spiraling even more. You trust it and if there's nothing crazy wrong with what our approach is or anything like that, you just find a way to get runs in and get on a nice little hot streak and roll with it."

The Cubs began the season firing on all cylinders offensively, but cracks have started to show in the foundation over the last few weeks as their season record fell to 39-33 after Tuesday's loss.

They're not going to the opposite field with enough authority and situational hitting (or "opportunity hitting," as coach Anthony Iapoce calls it) is still a problem area — the Cubs woke up Wednesday morning with the worst batting average with runners in scoring position (.243) in the NL.

Maddon talked at length about the Cubs' situational hitting before Wednesday's game and was blunt in his assessment:

"We gotta start figuring those moments out," he said. "We were good coming out of the shoot, I thought, and then we've gotten away from it. We've just gotta get back to that moment. There's still time to be able to do that. But that also speaks to why our record is as pedestrian as it is."

But why has the offense taken a turn for the worse after such a hot start? Much like the "broken' stretch in the last couple months of 2018, the Cubs can't really put a finger on it.

"I don't have a strong answer to that," Maddon said. "It's guys in the moment in the game situation and we just have to continually remind them to stay [in the middle of the field and not try to pull the ball.] That's it. It's one of those things to remind. Our guys are definitely capable of readjusting back to that. ... We just have to go out there and get 'er done."

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Cubs look to even the Crosstown series with a win

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Cubs look to even the Crosstown series with a win

Ozzie Guillén and Doug Glanville join Leila Rahimi on a special Crosstown edition of Baseball Night in Chicago.

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