Taking care of business

Taking care of business

Friday, July 30, 2010
12:27 AM

By Frankie O

As the summer progresses, with its mind numbing heat and insanely intense thunderstorms, which I seem to be dealing with daily, no matter which part of the country Im in, my focus is squarely on baseball. There are four teams I follow with keen interest, and not necessarily in this order: The Phillies, Sox, Cubs and my roto league team. Each have had an interesting season to this point and for the most part lived up to my pre-season expectations. Theyve all managed to do this while taking wildly different paths than I expected. The Phils starting out strong, then having half the team go on the DL, stumble, then get hot and as I type this, acquire Roy Oswalt for the stretch run. Theyre in the mix. The Sox stumble badly out of the gate, not able to pitch or hit, (dont get me started on the DH by committee again!) then their starting pitching took over and theyve been hot for six weeks playing the type of baseball we expected and taking the central division lead, setting up another duel with the Twinkies for a post-season berth. Theyre in the mix.

My roto team, while not especially dominant in one area, is well balanced and if I can ever get Chase Utley of the DL and Kung-Foo Panda to hit again will be a force to be reckoned with. Im in the mix! Then there are the Cubs. Being a bartender at Harry Carays means that you must be well versed in everything Cub. Im asked about them everyday. Talk about bringing the mood of the room down, theyre a buzz-kill! (And I spend a lot of time trying to create a buzz in the room!) I cant say that where the Cubs stand right now (46-56, 10 games behind, 4th place in the central division, 12th best team in a 16 team league) is a surprise, to anyone who is realistic, but it is their path that has gotten them there that is particularly maddening. Ive often compared this years Cubs team to one from the NBA. You know, saddled in mediocrity because of ginormous contracts to underperforming players that they cant unload. That being said, this season has presented every opportunity for the Cubs to do something with it if they just wanted to. My emphasis on: wanted to. I know the old adage: Baseball is a grind, its a long season, cant get too up for games since there are so many of them and on and on..

And I understand that to a point. You need to go out and grind. Play 5 games, you need to win 3. Go 3-2 and thats good. Do it 32 times and youre 96-64 and that is championship caliber. Dont win today? Youll win tomorrow. O.K.! I get it. But I say that some game are more equal than others and are the ones that will make or break you. Its also part of the three things that drive me crazy in baseball. Number one is 2-0 pop-ups. Honestly! You have the pitcher right where you want him and youre not sure of the pitch youre swinging at? Number two is blowing three run leads in the ninth. The game is o-vah! Wait, no its not. Nothing hurts worse than blowing a lead in the ninth, especially one where the inning has to blow up in your face! And number three is constantly losing to teams you should beat. To win a division should be the focus of every team in every sport. The easiest way to do that is to beat the teams in your division. It is very rare in baseball that a team wins its division without having a good record against it. (The Sox this year are a prime example. They are not going to stay in first if they dont start beating their division rivals.)

Mostly because you play so many games against your division, you need to take advantage of them or youre going to be swimming up hill. In the majors teams will play division opponents anywhere from 16 to 20 games. The Cubs will play 79 games in their division this year. In the last 3 years their record against the central, in order was: 45-34, 48-33 and 47-32. Not coincidentally they won two division titles and had a winning record each year. In your division, I think there are gifts being offered and you must take advantage. Ill use last years National League Champions as an example. The Phillies had the opportunity to play the Nationals and the Mets 36 times last year. Those were 2 awful teams. The Phillies were 27-9 in those games. 18 game over .500! Do you think that made winning their division easier? They were only 6 games over against everyone else. They had an opportunity against inferior opponents and jumped on it. Thats what a good team does. Then we have this years Cubs. In what I would consider an average division they have a 19-30 record. What?! But then it gets worse. As I mentioned before, they have a better record than only 4 other NL teams. Against the team with the worst record, Arizona, they are 6-1. Thats good. That is what you should do to a team that is a doormat. But against the other 3 below them? They are 8-19. Included in that is a combined record of 7-17 against the Pirates and Astros. Those are 2 god-awful baseball teams. How could you have a .500 record against everyone else in baseball and repeatedly get pounded by those two teams? That to me is inexcusable of a team that was being sold as having a chance. What it says to me is that this is a team, while we can argue about level of talent, has no heart or killer instinct.

To win you have to expect that you are going to do so. Think the Sox or Phillies feel that way right now? You do not get repeatedly beat by teams that you are supposedly better than and expect to achieve anything. For the fans, who I listen to everyday, getting beat over and over by these two team especially, has become a sore spot that has been met with a lot of biting, sarcastic humor. (Ironically, thats right up my alley! Im nothing if not versatile.) A baseball season does have a lot of ups and downs. Its the longest season in pro sports. But the beauty of that is that it will eventually expose you for who you are. If youre good, well know that. And if youre bad, or dont show up to play everyday, well well know that too. We just have to look at your record. It tells us all we need to know.

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Former first-round pick Kevin White hasn't caught a break -- or a touchdown -- through the first three years of his career. He has more season-ending injuries than 100-yard games and after an offseason focused on upgrades at wide receiver, White's future in Chicago beyond 2018 is very much in doubt.

Ryan Pace declined the fifth-year option in White's rookie contract, making this a prove-it year for the pass-catcher who once resembled a blend of Larry Fitzgerald and Dez Bryant during his time at West Virginia.

He's getting a fresh start by new coach Matt Nagy.

"He is healthy and he's really doing well," Nagy told Danny Kanell and Steve Torre Friday on SiriusXM's Dog Days Sports. "We're trying to keep him at one position right now so he can focus in on that."

White can't take all the blame for his 21 catches, 193 yards and zero scores through 48 possible games. He's only suited up for five. Whether it's bad luck or bad bone density, White hasn't had a legitimate chance to prove, on the field, that he belongs.

Nagy's looking forward, not backward, when it comes to 2015's seventh pick overall.

"That's gone, that's in the past," Nagy said of White's first three years. "This kid has a new future with us."

White won't be handed a job, however.

"He's gotta work for it, he's gotta put in the time and effort to do it," Nagy said. "But he will do that, he's been doing it. He's a great weapon, he's worked really hard. He has great size, good speed. We just want him to play football and not worry about anything else."

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

The Bears concluded their second round of OTAs on Thursday with the third and final set of voluntary sessions scheduled for May 29-June 1. Coach Matt Nagy is bringing a new and complicated system to Chicago, so the time spent on the practice field with the offense and quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been invaluable.

"We’ve thrown a lot at Mitch in the last 2 ½ months,” Nagy told Dog Days Sports’ Danny Kanell and Steve Torre on Friday. “He’s digested it really well.”

Nagy’s implementing the same system he operated with the Chiefs, an offense that brought the best out of Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. The former first-overall pick went from potential draft bust to MVP candidate under Andy Reid and Nagy’s watch.

Nagy admitted he and his staff may have been a little too aggressive with the amount of information thrust upon Trubisky so far.  It took five years to master the offense in Kansas City, he said, but the first-year head coach sees a lot of similarities between his current and past quarterbacks.

"These guys are just wired differently,” Nagy said when comparing Trubisky to Smith. “With Mitch, the one thing that you notice each and every day is this kid is so hungry. He wants to be the best. And he’s going to do whatever he needs to do. He’s so focused.”

Smith had the best year of his career in 2017 and much of the credit belongs to Nagy, who served as Smith’s position coach in each season of his tenure in Kansas City. He threw for eight touchdowns and only two interceptions during the five regular season games that Nagy took over play-calling duties last year.

Nagy said Trubisky has a similar attention to detail that Smith brought to the Chiefs’ quarterback room.

"Each and every detail that we give him means something. It’s not just something he writes down in a book. He wants to know the why,” Nagy said of Trubisky. “He’s a good person that is in this for the right reason. His teammates absolutely love him. It was the same thing with Alex [Smith] in Kansas City.”

A locker room that believes in its quarterback is a critically important variable for success, one that Nagy already sees exists in Chicago.

"When you have that as a coach and when you have that as being a quarterback, not everybody has that, and when you have that you’re in a good spot.”