Cubs

Whitney Young deserves more respect

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Whitney Young deserves more respect

Whitney Young's schedule is tougher than the Chicago Bulls. They'll go anywhere, anytime to play anyone in sneakers, from Myrtle Beach to Waikiki Beach. They have accumulated more frequent-flyer miles than President Obama. So why are they getting less respect than a hot dog with ketchup?

"We won the state championship in 2009, were second in the state in 2010 and lost in the sectional final last year," coach Tyrone Slaughter said. "This team is as good as any of those teams.

"This team plays a more national schedule. We have lost five games to nationally ranked teams. Wins and losses don't indicate the level of what we have done. I'm not pleased with our record. But I'm pleased about where we are. Look at the history of our teams. We have gotten better as we went along."

Whitney Young is 8-7 after losing to third-ranked Curie 59-47 on Sunday in the finale of the two-day Whitney Young Shootout.

It doesn't get any easier for the Dolphins, who start three sophomores and have lost to the Nos. 1, 5, 11 and 19 teams in the nation. They play at Louisville (Ky.) Ballard on Saturday and have a Feb. 4 date with highly rated Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas in a Nike event in California.

"Our spirits aren't shaken," Slaughter said. "We're looking to cut back on turnovers and seeing our young people continue to develop. Then we will be more successful over the next month and a half. We will continue to get better."

Slaughter's 2009 and 2010 powerhouses featured outstanding guard play with Anthony Johnson, Chris Colvin, Marcus Jordan and Ahmad Starks. He insists his current squad will have as dominant a front court as any team in the state or nation "when all the parts are together."

There is one problem. All of the parts may never be together this season. Tommy Hamilton, a 6-9 junior who is rated one of the leading prospects in his class, underwent surgery for an injured patella last month and it still hasn't been determined if he will return or not. He was scheduled to be sidelined for at least four weeks.

"That's a great setback for us," Slaughter said. "We hope to get him back. If we had Tommy, we would be dramatically better right now. But others have stepped up. That's why this team will be good."

So there is more pressure on Whitney Young's other two front-line standouts to carry the load. Jahlil Okafor, a 6-foot-11, 265-pound sophomore who is rated as the No. 2 player in his class nationally, and Paul White, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, is just beginning to spread his wings.

Okafor averages 21.7 points per game but White averages only 11. He still is recovering from an injury that forced him to sit out for three months in the summer.

"He is just getting back," Slaughter said. "When he is healthy, he will be as good as anyone in the country. I compare him to (former King and Illinois star) Marcus Liberty. He is 70 to 75 percent back now. He will continue to improve."

Hamilton's starting spot has been taken by 6-foot-5 senior Nate Brooks, who scored 33 on his ACT and is going to attend the University of Chicago. An outstanding rebounder, he grabs eight per game.

In the backcourt, Slaughter is counting on the continued development of 6-foot-3 sophomore point guard Miles Reynolds, who is in his first season of varsity competition, and 6-foot-4 Gabriel Snider, who is committed to Illinois-Chicago.

"This is a new role for Reynolds. We have given him the keys to the vehicle and told him to drive it. He is learning to fly. There is a lot of pressure on him," Slaughter said, noting that Reynolds was the starting point guard on last year's sophomore team that won the city title. He was pushed into the starting point guard position when Derrick Randolph left.

The first two players off the bench are 6-foot-4 senior Jordan Smith and 6-foot-4 junior Keith Langston. Smith, who scored 34 on his ACT, also will be attending the University of Chicago.

Slaughter is in his seventh year at Whitney Young. A 1982 graduate of Fenger, he never played basketball in his life. He majored in broadcast journalism at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi.

"I wanted to talk about sports. I didn't know about basketball until college," he said.

He became the student manager of the women's basketball team. "The coach took me under his wing. I enjoyed it. I wanted to be more valuable than just handing out towels and water. When the team won the women's national title, I felt basketball would be something I would enjoy," he said.

Slaughter came back to Chicago and continued to coach neighborhood youth teams during the summer. He managed a Dominick's grocery store, coached an AAU team and was hired at Whitney Young 10 years ago.

"Who woulda thunk it? A manager for Dominick's coaching this basketball team?" said Slaughter, now 47. "It is a natural fit for me. Anyone who coaches the game is in it to help mold and direct young people. I enjoy the competition of sport. I enjoy the fact that we can impact their lives in ways that others wouldn't."

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

The last time Jake Arrieta pitched at Wrigley Field, his night ended with Cubs fans giving him a rousing standing ovation. The former Cubs right hander tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, leading the Cubs to victory in Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS—their only win against the Los Angeles Dodgers that series.

Arrieta returned to Wrigley Field as a visitor on Monday night, making his first start against the Cubs since joining the Philadelphia Phillies last season. Ironically, Arrieta’s counterpart for the night was Yu Darvish, who ultimately replaced Arrieta in the Cubs starting rotation.

Despite now donning Phillies red, Cubs fans once again showed their love for Arrieta, giving him a lengthy standing ovation ahead of his first plate appearance. Darvish even stepped off the mound in respect for the moment.

“I loved it, absolutely loved it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters postgame. “[I’m] very happy that our fans would acknowledge him like that. Yu stepped away from the mound nicely. Jake deserved it.”

Arrieta tipped his helmet in appreciation for the crowd, taking in the moment for more than 30 seconds before stepping into the batter’s box. After the game, he told reporters that moment brought back memories of his time with the Cubs.

“That was something that really brought back great memories of getting that same sort of ovation pretty much on a nightly basis,” Arrieta said. “[I’m] very appreciative of that. I can’t say thank you enough to the city of Chicago, I really can’t.”

Arrieta took fans back to his Cubs tenure on Monday, throwing six innings of one run ball in the Phillies’ 5-4 10-inning win. Although the 33-year-old didn’t pick up the victory, he matched Darvish—who threw six innings of three-run ball—pitch by-pitch.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler noted how well Arrieta handled his emotions throughout the night.

“I thought he handled the emotions really well. I thought he was in control of the game even when we were down,” Kapler said to reporters. “He always maintained his poise and he just got stronger as the outing went on and that’s why we were able to have him take down the sixth inning for us.”

It’s well-documented how Arrieta’s career improved for the better after the Cubs acquired him in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles in July 2013. When the Cubs acquired him, Arrieta held a career 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts). He finished his Cubs career with a 2.73 ERA in 128 regular season starts. He also won five postseason games with the Cubs, including Games 2 and 6 of the 2016 World Series.

Despite moving on in free agency, Arrieta spoke highly of his time with the Cubs, their fans and the city of Chicago.

“Cubs fans all across the country, all across the world, they really respect and appreciate what guys are able to do here for them,” he said. “It means a lot, it really does.

"I’ll never forget this city, the fan base, the organization, everything that they did for me. It was 4 1/2 incredible years of my career.”

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Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish was one pitch away.

Holding onto a 1-0 lead with two outs in the sixth inning, Darvish threw Phillies catcher JT Realmuto a 2-2 cutter. It made sense - Darvish had been spotting that pitch well all night, and the Phillies were averaging a paltry 79.8 mph exit velocity against it.

With one strike standing between Darvish and a 6-inning shutout, Realmuto took Darvish’s cutter and sent it back up the middle for a game-tying RBI single. A 2-RBI triple from César Hernández followed. In the blink of an eye, what was shaping up to be one of Darvish’s finest moments in Chicago was instead reduced to yet another start spent searching for silver linings.

“Really good. He was outstanding tonight,” Joe Maddon said. “He pitched really well.

“He had really good stuff. He had command of his stuff, he had command of himself. I thought he was outstanding - even better than what he looked like in Cincinnati. I thought that was probably his best game for us to date.”

Darvish has continued to lean heavily on his cutter this season, more so than any year prior. After throwing it 13 percent of the time last season, he’s going to that pitch almost 25 percent of the time now. If that holds, it’d beat his previous career-high, set in 2013, by six percentage points.

All things considered, that pitch has actually been good for him this season. It’s his go-to offering when he needs to induce weak contact, and batters are hitting .125 against it so far. He gets batters to chase cutters 29.5 percent of the time, the most of any pitch he throws. While he has admitted in games past that he relies too heavily on his fastball, Maddon sees no issues with the new trend.

“I have no concerns with that whatsoever,” he said. “There’s different ways for pitchers to attack hitters, and if it's successful, I really would not change a whole lot.”

Though the night was dedicated to celebrating one of the franchises most beloved pitchers, it was one of their most maligned that continued to show signs of figuring it out. He’s put together back-to-back starts with three or less walks for the first time this season, and has allowed two or less runs in three of the last five.

The pitcher even stepped off the mound during Arrieta’s first at-bat, in order to let the standing ovation continue on.

“He’s is a legend in Chicago,” Darvish said after the game. “And I pitched against him and pitched pretty good, so it makes me confident.”

The bullpen again struggled on Monday night, as the trio of Mike Montgomery, Brad Brach, and Kyle Ryan allowed two runs on five hits, including the game-winning solo home run from Realmuto in the 10th. For a moment it looked like the Cubs had a win wrapped up when Brach got outfielder Andrew McCutchen to bite on a two-strike slider, but was (probably incorrectly) called a checked swing.  He would eventually draw a walk, leading to Jean Segura’s game-tying single.

“On the field, I thought for sure [that McCutchen swung],” Brach said. “Looking at the first base umpire, I was a little taken aback. That’s why I went off the mound - just to regather myself, because I didn’t want to let the emotion get to me there.

“It’s a 50-50 call, and unfortunately it didn’t go my way.”

 

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