Monday, August 31, 2009

Cutler to Broncos: Take that!

The List

Five observations out of the Bears' make-believe victory over the Broncos:

5. Mark Anderson got a sack. Devin Hester had a game-changing punt return. Brian Urlacher and the first-string defense never let the Broncos near the end zone. You know, if Rex Grossman had shown up and thrown five interceptions, I'd have thought it was 2006 all over again.

4. When you refer to former All-Pro left tackle Orlando Pace, make sure you accentuate the former. Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil made Pace look like a statue. Repeatedly.

3. With jilted Denverites expressing their hatred for Jay Cutler, it was an unusually fun make-believe game. For a half, anyway. As soon as Lovie Smith pulled Cutler, it was time to watch True Blood. So I'll have to take your word for it if you tell me Caleb Hanie is the next Dan Marino.

2. Before leaving with a boo-boo, Kyle Orton didn't look half bad. He should grow back the beard, though.

1. Even though he temporarily cost the Bears a TD by throwing the ball late and behind his receiver on his one deep pass, and even though he risked interceptions by trying to force a few he shouldn't have, Cutler was impressive. He handled the pressure of his return to Denver well, eventually silencing the fans who were taunting him. The 2-minute drill he led was a thing of beauty. He was nimble both in and out of the pocket. And he spread the ball around nicely. Perhaps equally important for the Bears: When Dumervil delivered a late (but not damaging) hit on Cutler, the QB's teammates had his back.

The Bald Truth

Cutler and most other players worth watching probably won't play more than one series in Thursday's final make-believe game. So the Bears, of course, plan to refund every ticket-holder's money.

Of course.

The Quote

"You saw Jay Cutler and Greg Olsen hooking up ... and these two guys are buddies. Greg Olsen just recently married, and it's a threesome ..." - Cris Collinsworth

With four months to go, folks, this is the leader in the clubhouse as quote of the year.


Like pretty much everybody else with an IQ higher than a stapler, I knew Collinsworth would be better than John Madden. I just didn't realize how much better until I heard him in action with Al Michaels.

You know, I actually might be able to watch some Sunday Night Football this season.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Here's Milton Bradley's excuse for being so rank

The Bald Truth

Well, it took until the end of August, but Milton Bradley finally pulled out the Oldie-But-Goodie Excuse for why it took him months to start hitting even a little bit:

"Strange as it may seem, people don't understand, you play baseball your whole life for teams that play mostly night games. You're getting up at 2 in the afternoon. Here, you've got to get up at 8 o'clock in the morning, come here and get ready. It's an adjustment for your body to get revved up. That's the only thing I can attribute it to because I've done everything else the same."

Never mind that Bradley actually is batting .303 in 44 day games vs. .232 in 63 night games and that he has higher slugging and on-base averages under the sun, too.

And that he is batting .317 with 8 HR and 25 RBI in 50 games at Wrigley Field - where he has to constantly adjust from day to night and back again - vs. .208, 3 and 10 on the road.

And that Jake Fox also is in his first year with the Cubs and has only one fewer RBI than Bradley's 35 in far fewer than half as many plate appearances - and for far less financial compensation.

Sooner or later, every North Sider who fails eventually trots out the "Cubs play too many day games" excuse.

So, at least in that respect, Bradley isn't a disappointment.


It's especially amazing that, five months into the season, a $30 million (alleged) run-producer has a grand total of 35 RBI.

That ranks Bradley tied for 207th in Major League Baseball.

He's behind slap-hitting leadoff guys, strikeout-prone sluggers, players who have missed half the year with injuries, way-past-their-prime former stars, first-year kids who didn't get called up until well after the season began, each sibling in brother duos, sons of ex-ballplayers, two dudes named Ian (and another named Iannetta, which I believe is Italian for Little Ian), Jewish ballplayers, and, well, a bunch of guys I didn't even know existed until I did the research.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, here are the 206 players with more RBI through Friday's games than Milton "Everybody's Picking On Me" Bradley:

Prince Fielder ... Ryan Howard ... Albert Pujols ... Mark Teixeira ... Justin Morneau ... Ryan Braun ... Carlos Pena ... Jason Bay ... Adam Dunn ... Evan Longoria ... Ryan Zimmerman ... Andre Ethier ... Derrek Lee ... Mark Reynolds ... Nick Markakis ... Victor Martinez ... Kendry Morales ... Hanley Ramirez ... Bobby Abreu ... Miguel Cabrera ...

Also ...

Aaron Hill ... Chase Utley ... Carlos Lee ... Matt Kemp ... Adam Lind ... Raul Ibanez ... Ryan Ludwick ... Jayson Werth ... Jose Lopez ... Joe Mauer ... David Ortiz ... Brandon Phillips ... Adrian Gonzalez ... Russell Branyan ... Paul Konerko ... Brad Hawpe ... Kevin Kouzmanoff ... James Loney ... Jim Thome ... Kevin Youkilis ...

Also ...

Aubrey Huff ... Ian Kinsler ... Pablo Sandoval ... Jason Kubel ... Brian McCann ... Juan Rivera ... Jorge Cantu ... Jermaine Dye ... Hideki Matsui ... Casey Blake ... Shin-Soo Choo ... Torii Hunter ... Adam Jones ... Troy Tulowitzki ... Todd Helton ... Cody Ross ... Miguel Tejada ... Ben Zobrist ... Johnny Damon ... Alex Rodriguez ...

Also ...

Clint Barmes ... Billy Butler ... Brandon Inge ... Bengie Molina ... Jhonny Peralta ... Nick Swisher ... Dan Uggla ... Justin Upton ... Marlon Byrd ... Michael Young ... Robinson Cano ... Mike Lowell ... Alex Rios ... Joey Votto ... Michael Cuddyer ... Pedro Feliz ... Jorge Posada ... Yunel Escobar... Grady Sizemore ... Lance Berkman ...

Also ...

David DeJesus ... John Francoeur ... Nelson Cruz ... Brian Roberts ... Jimmy Rollins ... Luke Scott ... Carl Crawford ... Derek Jeter ... Ian Stewart ... Kurt Suzuki ... Jason Bartlett ... Adam LaRoche ... Hank Blalock ... Jack Cust ... Curtis Granderson ... Orlando Hudson ... Hunter Pence ... Alexei Ramirez ... Josh Willingham ... Mike Cameron ...

Also ...

Nate McLouth ... Dustin Pedroia ... Asdrubal Cabrera ... Chipper Jones ... Placido Polanco ... Marco Scutaro ... Shane Victorino ... David Wright ... Orlando Cabrera ... Scott Drew ... Matt Holliday ... Rod Barajas ... Franklin Gutierrez ... Aaron Rowand ... J.D. Drew ... Maicer Izturis... Alfonso Soriano ... Denard Span ... Vernon Wells ... Elijah Dukes ...

Also ...

Lyle Overbay ... Pat Burrell ... Mark DeRosa ... Nick Johnson ... Erick Aybar ... Chris Iannetta... Melky Cabrera ... Joe Crede ... Mike Jacobs ... Howie Kendrick ... Mike Napoli ... Gerardo Parra ... Ryan Theriot ... Garrett Anderson ... Gordon Beckham ... Alberto Callaspo ... Kosuke Fukudome ... Jeremy Hermida ... Adam Kennedy ... Jason Varitek ...

Also ...

Cristian Guzman ... Chase Headley ... Miguel Olivo ... Manny Ramirez ... Randy Winn ... Geoff Blum ... Jacoby Ellsbury ... Chone Figgins ... J.J. Hardy ... Miguel Montero ... Daniel Murphy ... Ryan Spilborghs ... Mark Ellis ... Andy LaRoche ... Felipe Lopez ... Ken Griffey Jr. ... Josh Hamilton ... Yadier Molina ... Aramis Ramirez ... Scott Rolen ...

Also ...

Gary Sheffield ... Mark Teahen ... Edgar Renteria ... Delmon Young ... Jay Bruce ... Matt Diaz ... David Eckstein ... Andruw Jones ... Casey Kotchman ... Colby Rasmus ... Carlos Beltran ... Jason Giambi ... Jose Guillen ... Corey Hart ... Gary Matthews Jr. ... Scott Podsednik ... B.J. Upton ... Garrett Atkins ... John Baker ... Ryan Church ...

Also ...

Ryan Garko ... Andrew McCutchen ... Casey McGehee ... Nyjer Morgan ... Nolan Reimold ... Freddy Sanchez ... Jonny Gomes ... Travis Hafner ... Russell Martin ... Magglio Ordonez ... A.J. Pierzynski ... Martin Prado ... Yuniesky Betancourt ... Mike Fontenot ... David Murphy ... Laynce Nix ... Delwyn Young ... Chris Coghlan ... Chris Davis ... Rafael Furcal ... Ramon Hernandez ... Seth Smith ... Ichiro Suzuki ... Fernando Tatis ... Adam Everett.



And if you haven't done so already, please check out my Bradley-centric SportsFanLive edition of The Baldest Truth by clicking HERE.

Friday, August 28, 2009

On Bradley, racism at Wrigley and the skipper

Wild time at Wrigley on Thursday.

Lou Piniella went on and on about him being willing to take the blame for the Cubs' mess. Of course, if you check out his comments in the story I wrote for AP, you'll see that he's really not all too interested in taking any blame.

Meanwhile, Milton Bradley was doing his thing again: Going oh-fer at the plate in another inexplicable loss to the Nats and yakking it up afterward on how difficult it is to be him. I think he took another shot at Cubs fans, but with Milton talking in circles, one never can be too sure.

You certainly don't want to miss my exclusive SportsFanLive post on the subject: click here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What? No bacin?

Honest to goodness, here's what it said on a sign my wife and I saw at a Hardees the other day while driving through Bowling Green, Ky.:


Which do you like more, their spelling skills or their culinary imagination?

I'd have taken a photo with my cell camera for proof, but we were moving along briskly on the highway so you're just going to have to take my word for it. And really, could anyone make up stuff like that?

Gotta go now and enjoy my late-night snack:

Maccaronee, cheze and fried rabit.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cubs won't get swept in playoffs this year

The Bald Truth

Very nice of the Cubbies to save their fans so much autumn angst.

The Balder Truth

In a shocking development, Lou Holtz looked into the ESPN cameras the other day and predicted Notre Dame would play in the BCS Make-Believe Title Game.

Next on the Worldwide Leader: Digger Phelps goes out on a limb in forecasting a Big East hoops championship for the Fighting Irish.


Word is, some Vikings prefer Tarvaris Jackson to Brett Favre.

Um ... have these Vikings actually watched Tarvaris Jackson play?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

No worries for White Sox

The White Sox are about to join their North Side neighbors as Chicago baseball afterthoughts. But, hey, let's turn those South Side frowns upside down with 5 positive thoughts about a mediocre ballclub:

5. Even if Jake Peavy never throws a pitch for the White Sox this season - his latest malady: a sore elbow after getting struck by a batted ball during Monday's rehab outing - the trade for him will have been worth it because at least the Sox were able to keep him away from the Cubs' DL.

4. The White Sox have launched a special "rookies" page on their Web site to promote Gordon Beckham, Chris Getz and Jayson Nix. Sports Marketing 101: When the team sucks, hype individuals.

3. Jermaine Dye going into the tank has put a major hurtin' on the team's chances for the division title. Cool. J.D. should be easy to sign at a discount rate this offseason.

2. Sure, Jose Contreras failed after one whole good start in a row. But because his own error opened the door for Boston's six-run third inning in Monday's 12-8 loss to the Red Sox, only one of the seven runs he allowed was earned. So yes, Jose embarrassed himself as usual, but his ERA went all the way down to 5.09!

1. Who even cares if Mark Buehrle wins again this season? He'll always have his perfect game, and nothing else really matters. (See No. 4.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jay Cutler: all potential, no proof (so far)

Jay Cutler was good in Pretend Game 2 for the Bears. One week earlier, he was bad. And here's what both mean:


Patience, people.

Even a month into the real season, it will be too early to rate Cutler's play. For that matter, Dec. 1 also will be too early.

Right now, here's what we know for sure about Jay Cutler:

He has a great arm. He is an excellent athlete. He can be a selfish jerk at times. He can be a decent teammate at times. He went to Vanderbilt, which seems to be the Bears' favorite developmental team. He wears No. 6. He is rich and is bound to get richer.

Oh, and one more thing: He has proven precious little as an NFL QB.

Last Oct. 5, the Broncos were 4-1 and Cutler had ratings of 93.3 or better in four of the team's five games. He had 10 TDs and only 4 INTs. He undoubtedly was one of the league's top QBs.

From that point on, Denver went 4-7. Cutler had only four games with ratings higher than 78. His 15 TDs were offset by 14 INTs.

Needing to win only one of their final three games to make the playoffs, the Broncos lost all three - by a combined score of 112-54. In the process, Cutler whizzed himself: 2 TDs, 4 INTs, 0 playoffs.

Then, during the offseason, he overreacted to the Broncos’ failed pursuit of Matt Cassel, finally pouting and whining his way from Denver to Chicago.

The expectations and hopes and dreams of Bears fans? Those tell us nothing about the latest Bears Savior.

All we know for certain is that the one time Jay Cutler had a chance to carry his team, he failed. Then he bailed.

Best Bears QB since Sid Luckman? Ask me again in February, OK?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Must-Miss TV: A Rocky ride

It was on cable a few weeks ago, so I DVRed it. My son and I watched it yesterday.

I might be scarred for life and I want to save you from that fate.

Rocky Balboa, a 2006 release that was the sixth (and, God willing, last) in the series, was so cover-your-eyes stupid and schmaltzy that "bad" isn't a good enough adjective to describe it.

What statement was Sly Stallone making by naming it that instead of calling it Rocky VI? Maybe, like Balboa, he's too over-the-hill to count to six?

This film was all about Stallone desperately trying to prove his relevance. Sorry, Sly. Oh, and the toupee looked ridiculous, too.

There have been many great boxing movies. To name a few: Raging Bull ... When We Were Kings ... The Harder They Fall ... Million Dollar Baby ... and, yes, Rocky.

Rocky Balboa falls just a little short of great the same way Sly Stallone falls just a little short of Tom Hanks.

Amazingly, back in '06, many reviewers actually liked this thing. I know, because I did some Googling to check out what they wrote. For example, Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper called it "a fitting and triumphant final chapter." Then-Tribune critic Michael Wilmington wrote: "The movie itself, defying all odds, comes close to a knockout." Some dude named Mark Bell for some site called Film Threat, said: "The acting in the film is grade-A."

I'm wondering: Had these "experts" inadvertently reviewed the original Rocky? Or even Rocky III, with the glorious Mr. T stealing the show with his own unique brand of grade-A acting?

Thankfully, confirming that I'm not totally insane, plenty of rational critics agreed with me. Said the Boston Globe's Ty Burr: "It's so wrapped up in its maker's personal mythology and psychic needs that it becomes a hall of mirrors to which we're given a slack-jawed ringside seat." Said Kenneth Turan of the L.A. Times: "This is a film for gluttons for punishment. Everyone else, please leave the building."

The premise of Rocky Balboa is idiotic enough: a 50-something has-been who hasn't stepped in the ring in years decides his life won't be complete unless he goes toe-to-toe with the undefeated, in-his-prime champion.

Boxing fans who prefer realism to fantasy chuckled at all of the Rocky movies - even the superior first edition. Specifically, why wouldn't the ref have stopped the fight the first half-dozen times Apollo knocked Rocky into la-la-land? OK, it's a fairy tale. We get it.

This time, though, you have an old man getting the crap beaten out of him in the opening minutes of a so-called "exhibition." The second time he was knocked down, Rocky actually needed to use the ropes to pull himself up at the count of nine.

And yet ... the ref let the fight go on. That's not a fairy tale, it's sanctioned abuse of the elderly.

Some might say it's so bad it's funny. No. It's simply so bad. One absurd/terrible/unwatchable scene after another. On a few occasions, the writing and acting were so awful, I had to fast-forward it just to get on with the story.

OK, so why am I going on and on about a three-year-old movie? What's next? My review of Klute?

Well, I'm doing this because I love boxing movies and I hate bad boxing movies. And because Rocky Balboa is out there in cable-land, just waiting to reel in the next sucker. And because you might see that it's on, see the three stars next to the title in the cable guide and say to yourself, "You know, I never saw this one. I think I'll check it out."


Spend those 102 minutes doing something productive ... like staring blankly into space.

You're welcome.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blame aplenty for Memphis Mess

OK, kids, it's time for this week's edition of THE BLAME GAME!

Who is most to blame for the Memphis mess, which has led to the university's 2007-08 basketball team being stripped of its NCAA-record 38 victories?

--John Calipari, then-Memphis coach.

--High-ranking university officials.

--Derrick Rose, then-star point guard.

--Rose's family.

--The NCAA.

--David Stern, NBA commissioner.

Here is the supporting evidence regarding each candidate ...


He wasn't named in the NCAA report but he's a control freak who had to know what was going on. He certainly knew Rose's brother had accompanied the team on charter flights against NCAA rules and he likely knew Rose had used a substitute to take the SAT. This is the second time one of Calipari's Final Four teams (UMass '96 being the other) has had an entire season's worth of wins vacated because of major infractions. Although Calipari wasn't formally accused in the UMass case, either, this is one heck of a coincidence, no? Congratulations, Kentucky, you've hired the best kind of cheater - one who gets away with it.


They hired Calipari even though he had a suspicious past and they provided little oversight to prevent scandal in his program. Then, after the decision was announced Thursday, they expressed their outrage and said they'd appeal. They really don't care about the lost victories, they care about the lost money; they now have to return the dough they got for the team's march to the Final Four. Hey, there's a reason "lack of institutional control" is cited in almost every one of these cases. It is the institution's responsibility to oversee its athletic program. Period.


He knew he was cheating and he did it anyway. His only defense is that he didn't really want to go to college but the system "forced" him to do so because the NBA no longer allowed high-schoolers to turn pro. Sorry, but that's no better than the defense Rose played for the Bulls in April, when Rajon Rondo burned him repeatedly. Say what you want about the kids who opt to go overseas instead of to college; at least they and their families play by the rules.


Derrick's other excuse: He was a kid. The adults around him should have known better. Of course, they probably truly believed that the right thing was having Derrick get into school by any means possible. The NBA wasn't an option and given that he failed the ACT three times, hiring an SAT stand-in must have seemed the only choice. Heck of a life lesson for young Derrick: Honesty is the best policy ... unless cheating works better.


Where was the oversight to prevent Rose from using a substitute test-taker? It makes you wonder how many times this has happened over the years. Methinks plenty. The others simply haven't been caught.


Selfishly, most of us like the NBA rule that denies the future Kobes, KGs and LeBrons the opportunity to go from preps to pros. We like that our favorite NBA teams don't have to take chances on 18-year-olds and we like our college teams to get these studs. But really, how can a rule that makes universities act like minor-league teams be good? How can a rule that turns teenagers into unpaid (or at least low-paid) mercenaries be prudent? Why should a young man who clearly is good enough to make a living in his chosen profession - and one whose family might desperately need the money - be forced to wait (or to leave the country)? It would have been like telling Chris Evert or Mozart or, yes, LeBron: "Sorry, kid ... no pro for you!"

OK, given all the evidence, have you ranked your culprits? I have, and here's how I'm dividing the blame:

NCAA ... 5 percent.

STERN ... 10 percent.

MEMPHIS ... 15 percent.

CALIPARI ... 20 percent.

ROSE'S FAMILY ... 20 percent.

ROSE ... 30 percent.

I'm a big believer in personal responsibility and in each of us being held accountable for our actions.

Though Rose's family (and probably his coach) let him cheat (and probably encouraged it), it ultimately was Derrick's call. He was old enough to know right from wrong. He chose wrong, and he brought his school shame because of it.

I like to think that Rose's free-throw-line choke job, which helped deliver the '08 title to Kansas, was the karmic result.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It is Favre's life, isn't it?

The Bald Truth

Nobody likes a waffler, a flip-flopper, a dude who can't make up his stinkin' mind. But enough about Barack Obama and his health plan.

Seriously, why all the hate for Brett Favre?

Obviously, most folks in Minnesota are loving their newest Viking hero. And most people in Green Bay don't appreciate Favre now throwing for the enemy. And, of course, most Chicagoans would spit on Favre no matter his team (unless it was da Bears, my friend).

Otherwise, what's the big deal? Why are so many people so upset that Favre can't bring himself to walk away from the game he loves?

Michael Jordan felt some of the same hate way back when. So did Sugar Ray Leonard. It made no sense.

Once upon a time, we hated quitters. Now, apparently, we hate guys who won't quit.

If Favre ends up stinking up the Humptydome, that's his problem (and the Vikings' massive problem). He's the one taking the risk (though perhaps not as big a risk as Minny's taking).

Some would argue that he's just being selfish. Well ... duh! If you can name one pro athlete who isn't at least a little selfish - and three who aren't a lot selfish - I'll be very impressed.

Bottom line: If you retired from your job but almost immediately had misgivings, and then a different employer in the same field offered you big money, killer benefits and ideal working conditions ... I'm guessing you'd make a comeback, too.

And I, for one, wouldn't hate you because you waffled.

The Balder Truth

Viking fans haven't been this giddy since 1989, when an already good team brought in Herschel Walker as the final piece of its championship puzzle.

That turned out pretty well, no?


And speaking of old jocks who keep on keeping on ...

Nice move by the Cardinals to pick up John Smoltz - and for a heck of a lot less money than the Vikings are paying Favre.

If Smoltz works out as the No. 5 starter, he could be the difference in the pennant race.

If he fails, he likely will not have been hit any harder than the other bottom-of-the-rotation noodle-arms the Cards have been trotting out there. In other words, the team probably will have been no worse off.

Besides, this is starting to feel like one of those stretches in which just about everything the Redbirds touch turns to gold.

So figure Smoltz for a few wins - no doubt backed by Matt Holliday homers, Mark DeRosa RBIs and Julio Lugo fielding plays.

Why, Tony La Russa will be so happy, he actually might think about smiling for a second.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

To save the world, read this

For my latest post at SportsFanLive, click here.

While you're there, don't forget to check out some of the site's other writers and fan-interaction stuff.

And sorry about that "save the world" headline. I get so carried away sometimes.


The Bald Truth

Unless Adrian Gonzalez is doing the hitting, it's almost impossible to hit a homer at Petco Park. And yet Kevin Gregg found a way to make it happen, serving up a fat pitch to some dude named Kyle Blanks.

I guess the extra "g" in the Cubbie closer's name stands for "gag."


And how 'bout Lou Piniella? The graying skipper started walking out to yank Gregg, who already had let the tying run to score, only to realize before getting to the mound that he didn't have anybody warming up in the bullpen.

By the time Lou's crew gets home from this West Coast trip, its season could be more over than Joe the Plumber, 401(k) matches and the newspaper industry.

Check Back, Please

I expect to have a fresh TBT on later Tuesday. I'll give a heads-up here when it's posted.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bad for Tiger, good for golf

The Bald Truth

Obviously, it's not good for Tiger Woods, Elin Nordegren and Eldrick's legion of worshippers that Tiger gagged down the stretch at the PGA Championship. Perhaps a little less obvious: It definitely is better for the sport of golf that his failure helped Y.E. Yang become the first Asian-born man to win a major tournament.

Tiger will win plenty more majors before he is through. He will eclipse Jack Nicklaus' record with room to spare. His legacy is assured. Golf needs Woods to excel and to be in the hunt so TV viewers tune in to the sport's main events. But golf doesn't need Tiger to win.

On the other hand, a South Korean man - or any other man from any other place (including the United States) - beating the world's No. 1 golfer head-to-head in a marquee event helps the sport grow.

No doubt, tens of thousands of Korean kids are going to start playing golf this year simply because Y.E. took down Eldrick.

The Quote

"I did everything I needed to do - except for getting the ball in the hole." - Tiger Woods

Welcome to the club, dude.

The Balder Truth

I love the majors. I love when Tiger contends in majors. But I really don't care if he wins or loses because, either way, the theater is great.

Either Tiger wins spectacularly and builds upon his legend ... or he loses, which means an underdog has overcome enormous odds.

Sunday's round was great sports theater. For that, I thank The Legend and, especially, The Underdog.

OK, So I'm Not Carnac

My Steve Stricker prediction fell just a little short - he didn't even make the cut. But I don't feel too bad.

A lot more people predicted Tiger Woods would win the British Open ... and he was sent to his room for the weekend.


I've often wondered why South Koreans win so many women's majors but the country's men barely create a ripple in the PGA sea.

Maybe Yang's victory was the start of something big for South Korean male golfers. Or maybe it was just a fluke that will never be repeated.

Regardless, I'm guessing that a lot of good South Korean men who have been laboring in anonymity feel at least a little better about their chances today than they did yesterday.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wait! I think the Pirates just gave up 6 more runs!

The Bald Truth

This is how the season's going for Aramis Ramirez and Milton Bradley:

Ramirez got sick and Bradley pulled up lame so they were scratched from Friday's game against the Pirates and missed The Stat-Padding Opportunity of a Lifetime.

I covered the Cubs' 17-2 win for AP (read my story HERE) and, hours later, I'm still exhausted from having to keep score, let alone from documenting all the "most runs since ... " stats.

Good news for those who track these things: The last time the Cubs had 14 runs in the first two innings of a game - 1906 - they were about to launch a dynasty.

Now if they could just bring back Tinker, Evers, Chance, Three-Finger and Orval Overall, they'd be set!

The Mailbag

From loyal reader Drew Stout of Cary, Ill:

Dear Santa,

All we want for Christmas is to play the Pirates for the rest of the regular season and playoffs.


The Chicago Cubs

Well, Drew, obviously the Cubs have to play teams other than the Pirates for the rest of the season. But the playoffs? Never fear. The Pirates are shoo-ins!

We are talking the New York-Penn League playoffs, right?

The Balder Truth

The Cubs weren't the only ones getting busy scoring runs Friday.

The Orioles put up 16 against the Angels (who, believe it or not, actually are slightly better than the Pirates).

And get this: Felix Pie hit for the cycle.

Jeesh. When he was with the Cubbies, he rarely even hit for the unicycle.

The Quote

"In the big leagues, I don't think you can have that emotion because you play for keeps." - Koyie Hill, when asked if he felt sorry for the Pirates.

The Pirates? Hell with that. The only people to feel sorry for are Pirates fans.


The Cubbieland Beer Thrower turned himself in!

Repeat: The Cubbieland Beer Thrower turned himself in!

Yes, our national nightmare is over!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Stallworth, like Vick, can show he deserves second chance

The Bald Truth

The Browns won't commit to bringing Donte' Stallworth back next season. Fair enough. He has to earn their trust.

I applaud NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for doing what the courts were afraid to do: punish Stallworth harshly for getting drunk, getting behind the wheel of a car and killing an innocent man. The one-year suspension without pay won't bring the victim back to life, but at least it's something real - as opposed to the 24-day jail sentence Stallworth served.

I also applaud Stallworth. He could have reacted any number of ways after the suspension was handed down Thursday. He could have been irate. He could have acted as if he were the victim. He could have made noise about appealing, either through the union or the courts.

Instead, he issued this statement:

"Regardless of the length of my suspension, I will carry the burden of (the victim's) death for the rest of my life. I urge NFL fans not to judge NFL players or me based on my tragic lapse in judgment. I am a good person who did a bad thing. I will use the period of my suspension to reflect, fulfill my obligations, and use this experience to make a positive impact on the lives of those who look up to NFL players."

Maybe he took that tone just to save his career, but at least he took it.

If he comes out of this a better person, he will deserve a chance to do what he does best - if not for Cleveland, than for another team.

The Quote

"He gave Lou exactly what he needed - a deep outing." - Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenly as Ryan Dempster neared the end of a seven-inning, six-run, two-HR, eight-hit outing in Thursday's 6-1 loss to the Phillies.


Hey, I'm a big Bob Brenly fan because he tells it like it is more often than just about any team announcer in the bigs ... but really?

A $52 million pitcher gives up six runs to fall to 6-6 with a 4.23 ERA for a team that is crashing and burning, and he gets a big thumbs-up just because he labored through seven innings in yet another lopsided defeat for Lou Piniella's losers?

I understand that the Cubs scored only once and that the result was hardly Dempster's fault, but does he really deserve praise for pitching seven innings of batting practice?

How in the name of Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver and Sandy Koufax did actual performances on the mound become secondary to eating innings?


Even if Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was motivated at least in part by his desire to steal some thunder from the Phillies, his signing of convicted dog torturer Michael Vick showed guts and compassion.

My longtime readers know I'm a big believer in second chances. Vick committed a heinous crime and served a long sentence. He has been apologetic and humble.

The ultimate goal of incarceration is to rehabilitate criminals, to make them valuable contributors to society.

Lurie obviously knows PETA will be out in full force, picketing Eagles games to draw attention to their cause. Well, if the PETA folks would look at the big picture, they would realize that having Vick campaign publicly against inhumane treatment of animals - as he says he will - is far more valuable than having him manage a Waffle House in Podunk.

As for the football side of it, I'm a little surprised Vick landed in Philly, where Donovan McNabb just got a lucrative contract extension and where coach Andy Reid benched McNabb at one point last season in favor of supposed QB of the future Kevin Kolb.

So either Reid is no longer very high on Kolb or the coach is intrigued by the many roles Vick can play in the offense (or maybe a little of both).

Whatever the reason, I'm glad to see our legal system working properly.

Now, here's hoping that a Falcon turned Eagle truly will spread his wings and take flight.

Become a solid citizen, Mr. Vick, and prove you deserve the tremendous second chance you have received.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pitino? A slimeball? Who woulda thunk it?

The Bald Truth

Good for Louisville, standing by their man.

Yes, Rick Pitino is a hypocrite, a devout Catholic who more than coveted his neighbor's ass. Yes, he's a scuzball and a weasel and a liar - traits he shares with most big-time college coaches ... and, sadly, with most members of the human male population.

Believe me, I'm not excusing his behavior. All I'm asking is: What is Louisville supposed to do? Fire him?


Pitino is a basketball coach, and a damn good one. Louisville is not a religious institution, it's a basketball factory.

Pitino didn't get caught cheating to get a kid into school who didn't belong there (notice I said "didn't get caught"). He got caught cheating on his wife.

I wouldn't blame her for firing him. It would be silly and disingenuous for Louisville to do likewise.

The Numbers

35-18 ... Amount the Cubs have been outscored since Lou Piniella got the heave-ho for arguing with the umps Sunday in Colorado. (And most of the Cubs' runs were of the meaningless, end-of-blowout variety.)

0-4 ... Cubs' record since Lou got tossed.

3 ... Games the Cubs dropped to St. Louis in the standings since Lou got ejected.

Jeesh. Imagine what would have happened had the manager not fired up his troops!

The Balder Truth

Going out on the limb to say that the Cardinals will be mighty tough to beat if Matt Holliday, batting behind Albert Pujols, keeps hitting .486.

That, kiddies, is what's called an impact trade.

Game Improvement

The first time I played Beverly Country Club was in 1999. That was so long ago, my playing partner at the media event was Skip Bayless, who has gone on to do a few other notable things since he bolted from the Chicago Tribune.

The thing I remember most about that round: I played so poorly that, on the way home, I called the golf pro I know and told him I needed a lesson immediately.

I wouldn't say I was scarred for life, but if anyone asked me to name the toughest course I ever played, I answered "Beverly Country Club" without hesitation. (Bayless, a much better player than me, had a brutal time of it, too.)

Score? Please. I stopped writing it down after two holes. To be kind, I'll call it 140. I lost the dozen balls I brought with me, the sleeve of balls I was given for the event and several more golf balls I had found during the day while hunting for those I had lost.

My standard line: "There are something like 8,000 trees there, and I was behind every one of them."

Well, I'm pleased to say that they've cut down a lot of those trees to make the course more beautiful and more playable for their members. Those who compete in the USGA Senior Amateur there next month will find a stern but fair test of golf.

I got to revisit Beverly on Wednesday. This time, I shot a 101. As usual, I rarely strung two consecutive good shots together. I Watsoned an 8-foot birdie putt on my next-to-last hole and then, needing only a bogey on the last for a 99, I choked my way to a triple.

For the most part, though, my game at least vaguely resembled golf.

Oh, and I played the entire round with the same ball, which sometimes doesn't happen even when I'm mini-golfing.

So I can't wait to return to Beverly in 10 years. If my math is correct, I'm pretty much guaranteed to shoot 62.


And speaking of golf ...

Yes, Tiger Woods has won two straight tournaments and seems to be rounding into championship form. I'll still take the field in this weekend's PGA Championship at Hazeltine.

OK, if I have to pick a name other than Eldrick, I'll go with ...

Steve Stricker to drop off the short list of greatest players never to have won a major.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New venture - just a click away!

For my latest post, click here to check out my brand new page at SportsFanLive.

While you're there, do go to their home page and read some of their other talented contributors.

About once a week, I'll be writing exclusively for SportsFanLive. When I do, I'll always give you a heads-up here at TBT. Hey, I like to keep you on your toes ... but you shouldn't have to work too hard to find my stuff!

Does any GM try harder to win than White Sox GM?

The Bald Truth

So many GMs in all sports try to avoid embarrassment. They try to avoid "losing" a trade. They try their hardest not to lose instead of to win.

And then there's Kenny Williams.

The White Sox and their fans are very lucky that their guy will do pretty much anything legal to win. Victory - ultimate victory, like the team experienced in 2005 - is the only thing that matters to Williams.

Hey, I'm not sure if Alex Rios is a great player waiting to bust out, a very good player who already has peaked, a good player who never will be great, or an OK player who is vastly overpaid.

What I am sure of is that claiming him on waivers from the salary-dumping Blue Jays was worth a shot.

The arrival of Rios and his $61 million contract through 2014 - along with last month's stunning deal for big-money ace Jake Peavy - almost surely means that Jermaine Dye and/or Jim Thome won't be back next season. So be it.

Where Rios will play is another matter. Ozzie Guillen, a manager who often doesn't get the credit he deserves for his ability as a strategist, will find creative ways to fit five players - Rios, Dye, Thome, Carlos Quentin and Scott Podsednik - into four slots.

Besides, given the injury histories of Dye, Thome, Quentin and Podsednik, the acquisition of Rios could end of being the difference in the AL Central race. If the White Sox don't win, it won't be because they had too many outfielders and DHs.

Bottom line: If Kenny Williams believes so much in Alex Rios, I'm willing to give the player the benefit of the doubt.

Williams is right a hell of a lot more often than he is wrong. And even when he's wrong, he's wrong in a good way because all he cares about is winning.

The Quote

"There was a dispute over the fee and it just kind of escalated from there. It was not really a robbery. That is probably a large distortion of what happened. I think we should be able to work things out." - Andrew LoTempio, the lawyer for the Buffalo cabbie who allegedly was assaulted by Blackhawks star Patrick "20 Cent" Kane over chump change.

Those were a lot of words to say what one word would have covered: Ka-ching!

A large distortion? Yeah, by the lawyer's obviously beat-up client - who repeatedly told TV stations, radio outlets and newspaper reporters what a thug Kane was.

Now this client suddenly seems willing to, um, negotiate with Kane concerning the level of punishment that actually was doled out by the hockey player.

What a country.

The Balder Truth

Well, Lou Piniella argued. He got ejected. His Cubbies got thumped in Denver. And then they got thumped again.

So much for the dopey theory that if Lou goes ballistic, the Cubs will break out of their slumps.

If baseball worked like that, don't you think more managers would get the heave-ho more often?

So please give it a rest, dopey theorists.


Finally got to see The Hangover on Monday. Verdict: I hadn't laughed so hard at a movie since Borat.

And if you think that's just because I'm a guy who is into stupid, sick-humor buddy movies, Mrs. N also laughed her keister off.

No, it's not for the kiddies. And yes, it is quite stupid. But there were very few 45-second stretches in which everybody in the theater wasn't downright delirious.

Roger Ebert gave it 3 1/2 stars ... and who am I to disagree?

3 1/2 bald heads for The Hangover.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Was Kane really able to do such a thing?

The Bald Truth

The first time I read the Patrick Kane story, I couldn't believe it. So I surfed the 'Net and found more versions of it. And it still seems too absurd to be true.

For those unfamiliar with the whole shebang: The 20-year-old Blackhawks star - the carefully marketed, baby-faced face of the franchise - supposedly beat the crap out of a Buffalo cabbie over 20 cents.

The CliffsNotes version: He and his cousin, James Kane, allegedly handed the cabbie $15 cash for a $13.80 fare after a night of partying. After the driver gave the Kanes a dollar back but said he didn't have 20 cents in coins, according to the police report, one of the Kanes tore money from the driver's hand and both punched the driver in the face and head.

"They broke my glasses. They ripped my clothes off. All over 20 cents," the cabbie told the Chicago Tribune.

As I said earlier: Un-freakin'-believable.

But is it? Is it really?

Is there anything that pro athletes - so full of wealth, testosterone, feelings of invincibility and senses of entitlement - are above doing?

Even sweet-looking kids like Patrick Kane, the new EA Sports NHL '10 video game coverboy and a prospective U.S. Olympian?

Hey, I'm not here to convict Patrick Kane. I don't know all the facts. The only people who really know what happened in that cab are the Kanes and the cabbie. Over time, hopefully everything will come to light.

All I know is that the most unbelievable actions involving jocks turn out to be all-too-believable anymore.

I'm determined to keep an open mind. A skeptical and cynical mind, yes, but an open one.

If these charges prove false, I hope Patrick Kane can have some semblance of a normal life and NHL career. If they prove true, however, I hope he rots in jail until he's ready for hockey's Senior Circuit.

The Balder Truth

I'm not supposed to joke about such a serious subject, but ...

I'm so, so, SO tempted to give Patrick Kane a new nickname that's sure to give him street cred:

"20 Cent," of course!


Every time there's a story about a one-time multimillionaire athlete or rock star or actor going broke, the natural reaction is:

How? I couldn't spend all that money even if I tried!

Well, actually, you could. And these rich and famous people do. All the time.

A three-paragraph item tucked deep inside Sunday's Tribune tells of the real-estate transactions of one Rex Grossman, the QB Chicago fans learned to loathe until he was handed a one-way ticket out of Bear Country.

Seems that Grossman - who already was trying to sell his three-bedroom suburban townhome for $899,000 - now is trying to unload his 3,437-square-foot condo in the new Trump International Hotel & Tower downtown at a substantial loss from the $2.68 million he paid for it less than a year ago.

OK, I understand why Grossman bought the expensive home in the 'burbs. That's where the Bears train and the former No. 1 draft pick figured he'd be the team's starting quarterback for a decade. Plus, he bought it before the market went to crap.

But the Trump place? Really? He thought $2.68 million was a bargain for a condo in a declining market? And he thought buying a second place in Bear Country was a good idea even though the team had lost all faith in him and practically was holding the exit door open for him?

Either he got bad advice, he's really stupid or a little of both.

Maybe Rex has made dozens of great investments and that was just a bad one. Maybe he's got more money than God and would laugh at his name even being mentioned in this blog post.

Still, such silliness is just one of hundreds of examples I can give you illustrating how a millionaire can become a bankrupt ex-millionaire faster than a mediocre QB can get picked off for a TD.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Triple digits, zero worries

The swing that launched a thousand "Yikes!"

If you love golf but you've never walked a course while a caddie carries your bag, go ahead and treat yourself at least one time to playing the way the pros do.

I recently got to play in an Evans Scholar Foundation benefit event at Flossmoor Country Club. (Evans Scholars are young men and women who earn college scholarships through their academic achievements, their character and their work as caddies.)

My caddie at Flossmoor was Matt Banks, an engineering major at Illinois who is in his eighth year working at the course. He was a big part of one of the most enjoyable rounds of golf I've ever played.

I almost always walk when I golf but I use a pull cart, so I have a full-sized bag. Had I known I was going to employ a caddie at Flossmoor, I would have switched to something lighter.

Poor Matt. Not only did he have to watch me take lots and lots (and lots) of, um, unique swings ...

Well, at least my
practice-swing followthrough
wasn't (terribly) ugly.

... but he also had to lug around my heavy bag. Not talking Judge Smails heavy here, but heavy nonetheless.

Matt did so with a smile on his face for four-plus hours. His advice on the course, especially reading the greens, was most helpful. And he was a pleasure to get to know - polite and intelligent, with a good sense of humor. His parents should be proud.

Combine all that with ideal weather (80, sunny, light breeze), great playing partners (Tribune sportswriter Teddy Greenstein and club member Jimmy Lund) and the real star of the show (an exquisite renovation, performed by architect Ray Hearn and his crew, of an already pristine, esteemed course) ... and no wonder I had a sensational experience from beginning to end.

In fact, I challenge any other semi-avid golfer to have more fun shooting 103 than I did.

Jimmy and Teddy joined
Yours Baldly at The 19th Hole.
Pretty sure we solved
all the world's problems!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

This Jason is slashing victim (at last)

The Bald Truth

If this is the end of the line for Jason Giambi - and if there is a baseball god, it is - what will you miss most?

A. His heartfelt non-apologies for turning his rump into a syringe-cushion.

B. His tats and porn-star 'stache.

C. His slick fielding prowess at first base.

D. His juice-fueled theft of the 2000 AL MVP award.

The Balder Truth

Yankees? No problem.

Angels? No problem.

Indians? BIG PROBLEM, even with Mr. Perfect on the mound to oppose them.

If anybody out there has figured out the White Sox, please let me know the deal.


I knew it wouldn't take long for Kyle Orton to hit his stride with the Broncos: Training camp has barely begun and Denver fans already are booing him.

What I really didn't expect, though, was for them to start chanting: "We want Rex!"

Friday, August 7, 2009

Remembering John Hughes, John Smoltz and Steven Tyler

The List

My five favorite films written, directed and/or produced by John Hughes, who died Thursday after suffering a heart attack at age 59:

5. Home Alone. Just because Macaulay Culkin has become the butt of jokes, it doesn't mean this flick wasn't a blast. Sadly, this 1990 film was the last really good one Hughes made.

4. The Breakfast Club. From the script to the cast to the message, this was the best of the '80s Molly Ringwald trilogy. (Although I admit it: I laughed more at Sixteen Candles.)

3. Ferris Bueller's Day Off. In addition to giving a generation of teenagers fresh ideas on how to play hooky, this turned Matthew Broderick into a major star. Of course, it also turned him into Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago.

2. National Lampoon's Vacation. Hughes wrote the perfect screenplay for Chevy Chase, whose Clark Griswold is one of the funniest screen dads ever. Watch this again and, as Clark would say, "You'll be whistling Zip-a-dee-doo-dah out your a--holes!"

1. Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Often overlooked on those "greatest comedy ever" lists that come out every year or two, this John Candy-Steve Martin buddy farce produced more laughs per minute than just about anything out there. I especially loved that Martin, who by 1987 pretty much had stopped being funny, was cast as the straight man for Candy, who was never funnier. As a result, Martin actually was funny again. Just because Hughes was known for his many coming-of-age flicks, it doesn't mean this film about and for grown-ups (OK, very immature grown-ups like me) wasn't numero uno. Three words sum it all up, folks: "Those aren't pillows!"

The Bald Truth

If John Smoltz is supposed to be the answer for the Red Sox, the question must be:

What future Hall of Famer with an 8.33 ERA should retire already?

The Balder Truth

I'm not sure the best plan is to put more money into the Cash For Clunkers program.

But really, enough about Milton Bradley and Barry Zito ...


Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler got hurt falling from a stage during a concert in South Dakota.

Jeesh. As if falling so far that one has to play a concert in South Dakota isn't painful enough.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stop the press! Urlacher tells truth about himself

The Bald Truth

Last year, anybody who dared say that Brian Urlacher was playing poorly got an earful from the Bears' proud middle linebacker.

Also, from Lovie Smith, Jerry Angelo, Bob Babich (Lovie's defensive coordinator wannabe), Lance Briggs, Peanut Tillman and from pretty much everybody who had anything to do with the team - including Staley, Mrs. McCaskey and the Galloping Ghost's ghost.

How dare we look at Brian The Great and view him as Brian The OK?

So I found it most interesting that, in a one-on-one interview with Tribune football writer Dan Pompei, Urlacher admitted he "got pushed around at times" last season.

"I wasn't happy with last year, put it that way. It wasn't one of those years I'll look back on and remember as a good year."

What? Didn't Brian get the memo that he could do no wrong?

Now 31, he has pronounced himself healthy, happy and rarin' to go. That must sound good to the intelligent Bear fans who know it was the defense - not the much-maligned offense - that most often condemned the team to defeat last season.

Because I'm an objective skeptic and not a fan, I think I'll wait until October or so to see if Urlacher had the right to declare, "I'm back" ... or if Michael Jordan should sue him for plagiarism.

The Quote

"Well, we've had a lot of injuries this year, Tony. We don't use that as an excuse, but ... " - Lou Piniella on Wednesday's "Pardon the Interruption."

Oh no, the Cubbie skipper never uses injuries as an excuse.

Except pretty much every day.

The Balder Truth

There's a reason Kyle Lohse has an 82-87 career record with a 4.67 ERA.

So if the Cardinals are waiting for the guy who went 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA last year, they might have a long wait.

For all the good work GM John Mozeliak did leading up to the trading deadline, the Cards still might find themselves an arm or two short at summer's end.

Archie's Boy/Peyton's Bro

Six years, $97 million? Good for you, Eli Manning!

That's a pretty nice haul for a guy who isn't even one of the top two QBs in his own family.


Twenty-six years ago, a sweet, young Chicago woman named Roberta Palenica took a chance on a slightly overweight, extremely hairy, cocky, loud, East Coast knucklehead named Mike Nadel.

I'm glad she didn't think about it too much back on Aug. 6, 1983. Because if she had, she might have said: "I don't."

In the 26 years since, I've gotten a little thinner, a lot balder and, yes, even a little quieter (but only a little). My Robbie? She's more gorgeous now than ever. Really.

Here we are just a couple months ago at a Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers concert. What ever happened to the theory that men age more gracefully than women?

Anyway, I just want to wish my beautiful bride a Happy Anniversary and thank her for thinking I was an acceptable catch instead of throwing me back!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

All Buehrle, all the time

The Bald Truth

A week after Illinois politicians celebrated Mark Buehrle Day, the White Sox opened a three-game set against the Angels on Tuesday night with the opening act of what they are calling Mark Buehrle Appreciation Series.

And here's the best news:

It's less than five months until the start of Mark Buehrle Appreciation Decade!

The Quote

"In B.P., I'm Reggie Jackson. In a game, I might be Janet Jackson." - Torii Hunter, injured Angels center fielder, when asked how he did in batting practice before Tuesday's game.

The Balder Truth

Not that I don't like hyperbole as much as the next guy, but I almost choked on my free press-box snack mix Tuesday when Jerry Reinsdorf told Dewayne Wise and White Sox fans everywhere that the center fielder's perfect-game-saving grab "might have been the most important catch in the history of baseball."

Oh, absolutely. I believe it won several World Series, integrated the sport and solved the steroid problem. What a catch!

The Quote II

"Game-winners are always nice. But most importantly, we bounced back from the defeat on Sunday against the Mets." - Scott Podsednik

After being the hero for the White Sox yet again, Pods can be forgiven for being a little confused.

I believe those were the Yankees who beat the Sox on Sunday. You know, New York's other team.


The first-place Tigers send new star pitcher Jarrod Washburn to the mound at home against the going-nowhere Orioles. Baltimore counters with Brian Matusz, who is making his MLB debut against the feared Detroit lineup.

Orioles 8, Tigers 2. Of course.

We may think we know but we don't ... and that's Reason No. 1 why sports is the only Reality TV worth watching.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Not that there's anything wrong with that

The Bald Truth

Pretty much everybody except Greg Louganis and Billie Jean King has gone ballistic ever since Hawaii football coach Greg McMackin used a disparaging term for "gay" to describe a goofy dance-and-chant number that Notre Dame players performed before last year's Hawaii Bowl.

The university suspended McMackin for 30 days.

The Western Athletic Conference reprimanded him.

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said he was personally offended by McMackin's remark.

And Jay Mariotti immediately called for the White Sox to fire Ozzie Guillen.

The Balder Truth

I'm trying to decide which is more incredible:

That Randy Wells is the Cubs' best pitcher.

Or that it isn't even particularly close.


Interesting responses to the poll question: "Are you for or against Michelle Wie being chosen for the U.S. Solheim Cup team?"

++ 5 percent: "For."

++ 4 percent: "Against."

++ 91 percent: "What's the Solheim Cup?"

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mark Prior: From perfect to unemployable, just like that

The Bald Truth

Before he ever threw a big-league pitch, Mark Prior was heralded as a once-in-a-generation talent. He had the size, the demeanor, the poise, the mound presence, the intelligence, the command and the maturity of legend. And oh, did he ever have the stuff.

His mechanics? Perfect. One expert after another said that with his mechanics, he'd never get hurt.

When the Twins passed on him to draft their hometown boy, Joe Mauer, they were ridiculed for being stupid, cheap or both. (I guess now is as good a time as any to say their decision has turned out OK.)

The Cubs gave Prior such a huge signing bonus after they selected him in 2001 - $10.5 million - that it's still a record today.

Think about that. Think about how salaries in sports - baseball especially - have escalated. And yet this guy's bonus of eight years ago remains the gold standard.

The first time Mark Prior pitched for the Cubs, it was obvious he had "it" - that special something separating the superstars from everybody else.

Fans had such high expectations for him that I took to calling him Messiah Mark. Some ripped me for "making fun" of Prior, but the more observant readers realized I was poking fun at the worshippers, not the faux deity. (Besides, I liked how Messiah Mark Prior sounded. Kinda rolls off the tongue, no?)

He went 18-6 in 2003, his first full year in the majors. In the second half of that season, he was 10-1 with a 1.52 ERA. He was simply the best pitcher in the world, A SURE THING.

Prior continued to shine in the postseason and was only five outs away from a shutout victory that would have vaulted the Cubs into their first World Series in six decades. Though he, like his teammates and manager, choked away that game, his potential obviously was limitless.

More than a few surveys of GMs, managers, scouts and sportswriters concluded that, after old-timers Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine reached the 300-win plateau, it wouldn't happen again until Prior got to 300 some 15 or so years down the line.

Then came the injuries. One after another after another.

As the injuries piled up, experts began blaming flaws in his pitching mechanics for his plight. Some were the same experts who just a few years earlier had said his mechanics were perfect.

Many fans who once worshipped Messiah Mark suddenly were all over him. Baseball people, including some in the Cubs organization, were calling him a wimp.

He didn't know the difference between soreness and injury, they said. He had a low pain threshold. He was too selfish, too worried about his next contract, to man up.

What a wuss!

I wasn't Prior's friend or fan - that's not my job - but I did feel sorry for him, and I said so in several columns back then.

I didn't feel that way because of his ailments. After all, injuries are part of sports. And certainly not because the money train had stopped pulling into his depot. With the millions he made, he should be set for life.

No, I felt sorry for him because total strangers were questioning his integrity, passion, manhood and will to compete. These idiots somehow felt qualified to look into his brain and his heart. It wasn't until the surgeries began that people finally acknowledged: "Hey, you know what? This guy actually might be hurt."

As it turns out, he threw his final big-league pitch in 2006. The Cubs let him go a year later. The Padres signed him. More surgery followed. Last week, Prior was cut loose.

He is a 28-year-old has-been.

Although it has anything but a happy ending, his is among the most interesting stories of recent times. The cautionary tale to end all cautionary tales.

Whenever some young gun is compared to the all-time greats, I always think of Mark Prior.

And whenever a team drafts the next Can't Miss Kid, I say: "Hey, if Messiah Mark can miss, anybody can."

The Balder Truth

Pirates rookie Andrew McCutchen was so incredible Saturday - 4 hits, 4 runs, 3 HRs, 6 RBI - that he was honored as Future Red Sox Or Future Cub Of The Day.


I promise. I'll never capitalize the "w" in Dewayne again.

The White Sox media guide lists the now-famous Perfect Game Preserver as DeWayne Wise. So do the lineup sheets and press notes that the team publishes on game days. But Wise says he wants the "w" lower-cased.

His wish is my command: Dewayne Wise, it is.

By the way, I really would have been impressed had Wise preserved a perfect game for Mark Buehrle on Sunday against the Yankees. Considering that Buehrle allowed seven runs on 12 hits in 4 1/3 innings, the Sox would have needed about 14 Dewaynes on the field (and maybe a couple on the other side of the outfield wall).

You know, there's only one word to describe this latest Buehrle performance: aWful.