Thursday, April 30, 2009

A-Roid truth is better than his fiction

While working out on the elliptical trainer at the health club, I was watching a SportsCenter report on A-Roid's comeback from injury.

According to the closed-captioning account of what the ESPNer said, A-Roid was taking part in an "Intra Fraud Game."

I couldn't make that stuff up.

In a related note, there are reports aplenty that A-Roid used performance-enhancing drugs when he was in high school.

Oh, and it gets worse: 

My crack staff of investigators has uncovered rock-solid proof that the formula in his baby bottle and the balm for his diaper rash actually were The Clear and The Cream.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ozzie Being Ozzie

The List

Top five printable Ozzie Guillen quotes from Wednesday:

5. "This kid, he do what he supposed to do, he will make 12 to 15 million dollars in this game. But if he do what he's doing right now, he might land in Korea playing." - On mistake-prone White Sox utility player Brent Lillibridge.

4. "He pitched good for us. He helped us to make a couple of good trades, too." - On Texas right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who will pitch against his former team for the first time Friday. The White Sox traded McCarthy - not a Guillen favorite - to the Rangers for John Danks.

3. "DeRo was good there. He started playing every day. When he was in Atlanta, you gotta remember: DeRo was my backup. And I was the backup." - On Mark DeRosa becoming a good hitter with the Rangers after leaving the Braves and before joining the Cubs.

2. "If Coop is so good, how come he couldn't fix Mike MacDougal?" - On White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. MacDougal was waived Wednesday, when the team opted to eat his $2.65 million contract.

1. "Because he's always got good hitters. It's easy to be a hitting coach with that team. They have talent. I want to send him Karkovice and Biancalana and Ozzie Guillen to see how good he is." - On Texas' Rudy Jaramillo, whom Guillen had just called "one of the best hitting coaches in the game."

Wow. And you should have heard what Ozzie was saying off the record!

Put it this way: If I tried to write any of it, I'd probably break my computer's "F" key due to overuse.

Yankee Doodle Handouts

The Bald Truth

Unable to sell out Homers R Plenty Stadium, the Yankees begrudgingly lowered premium ticket prices from $2,500 to $1,250 ... and you know what that means:

Time for the Steinbrenner & Sons to hit up New York taxpayers for another half billion or so.

Hey, it worked last time.

The Choice

Brad Miller badly missing the first of two free throws with 2 seconds left and the Bulls trailing the Celtics by 2 points?

Or ...

Brad Miller coming nowhere near the rim while intentionally trying to miss the second attempt?

Or ...

The refs not having the cajones to assess a flagrant foul on Rajon Rondo for practically beheading Brad Miller on the play leading to the above free-throw scenarios?

The Balder Truth

If it's not the swine flu, the flying NASCAR debris will kill us all.

As Roseann Roseannadanna used to say: It's always something!

Bank On This

The New York Times is reporting that workers at Wall Street's largest financial firms are on track to earn as much money this year as they did before they greased the skids for the financial mess that wiped out the rest of us.

Thank goodness! I mean, how bad would it have been for the economy if sales of Bimmers, cocaine and $2,000 "escorts" plummeted?


Hey Look ...

It's Paul Pierce, actually acting like a superstar and carrying the Celtics to a wild overtime win in Game 5.

Why, if Mr. Invisible finally has decided to show up, his old, beat-up, bench-less Celtics just might have a chance to lose in Round 2.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Gordon soon will fire his last Bulls bullet

Beyond Ben Gordon's balky hamstring - and beyond this season - the Bulls have a serious problem regarding their shoot-first-ask-questions-later guard.

As anybody who watched the Bulls beat the Celtics in Game 4 saw, Gordon is the only Chicago player capable of hitting under-pressure jumpers with the game on the line. That's pretty much been the case ever since he was drafted five years ago.

Well, Gordon will be a free agent after this season. He already has turned down two lucrative offers from the Bulls. He wants more money than they're willing to spend ... and he'll probably get it. 

Despite his defensive, ballhandling and passing deficiencies, the man can score and make plays - and such players aren't easy to find. As long as knuckleheaded teams like the Clippers and Knicks are still in the NBA, somebody will throw a ridiculous sum of money at Gordon.

Even if Bulls GM John Paxson liked Gordon enough to give him a maximum contract - and he doesn't - Jerry Reinsdorf never would agree to it. And I don't blame him.

Why should Reinsdorf agree to surpass the luxury tax threshold? The only reason an owner should agree to such silliness is if he has a championship-caliber team, and with Gordon, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng making the major money, the Bulls wouldn't even be close.

And if the Bulls pay Gordon, they can forget about taking a stab at Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudemire or one of the other Class of 2010 free agent studs.

Thanks to Pax's generosity with Reinsdorf's money, Hinrich and Deng have so much guaranteed dough coming that they are all but untradeable. Even if Pax could trade them, he'd have to take similar contracts back in return, meaning the Bulls still would surpass the luxury tax threshold if they keep Gordon.

Reinsdorf wasn't willing to go there with Michael, Scottie and Dennis. He sure as hell isn't gonna go there with Kirk, Luol and Ben.

So Gordon is as good as gone after this season.

I've never been a big fan. He's too selfish, too one-dimensional, too hot-and-cold, too undependable.

Having said that, the Bulls will miss him terribly, at least until a replacement can be drafted, bought or developed.

Somebody has to be willing and able to take the big shots. Derrick Rose can't do it all by himself.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What a nut (or two) Bulls' Gordon is

The Bald Truth

Sunday's Bulls-Celtics game was so much fun, it's almost not worth mentioning that Ben Gordon grabbed his crotch on national TV to celebrate his 3-pointer that sent the game into a second OT.


C'mon, man. There are kids watching! I mean, who do you think you are? Roseanne?

The Quote

"Do that four times and it's an intentional walk." - Cubs TV analyst Bob Brenly after the umpire called a ball on Cardinals reliever Blaine Boyer for licking his fingers while standing on the mound.

Brenly was just musing, but think about it: No more risking wild pitches while issuing an intentional walk - something that happened just the other day to help the Astros beat the Dodgers.

The Balder Truth

One of the best free-throw shooters in NBA history, Ray Allen, missed an important foul shot down the stretch in Boston's Game 4 loss to the Bulls. All-Star Paul Pierce, whose missed free throw gave the Bulls a Game 1 win, also bricked one late in Game 4. 

And it wasn't only a Celtics problem. Gordon and Kirk Hinrich, both excellent free-throw shooters, misfired from the line, too.

Oh well ... you can't really expect four guys whose combined salaries are about 86 Zillion Dollars to actually make clutch free throws, right?

Remember, It's Still April

Hey kids, look who the Cubs' best player has been all season: Kosuke Fukudome.

Were I a Cubbie fan, I'd be waiting to see how the $48 Million Japanese Import does in a month not named April before I'd get too excited.

Then again, were I a Cubbie fan, I'd have committed hara-kiri back when Harry Caray was still Holy Cow!-ing for the Cardinals.


Well, I just couldn't do it.

Determined to save money, I let my Chicago Tribune subscription expire a couple of weeks ago. But when they called to offer me a great deal on Sunday-Friday-Wednesday delivery, I relented and signed back up. 

Then the cash-strapped Tribune canned several of my sportswriting friends and I almost canceling again in protest. But I realized that would hurt my many good friends who still are writing for the paper.

Plus, I like reading the paper - not sitting at a computer - while I eat breakfast, especially on Sundays.

Frankly, I can't believe how many people don't ever read a newspaper, even on Sundays. And I worry not only for the industry but for the nation as a whole.

Last I looked, Craigslist, Twitter and Google weren't investigating corrupt politicians.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chatting with Dusty ... and avoiding the NFL draft

The Bald Truth

I had a real nice conversation with Dusty Baker in the visiting manager's office at Wrigley Field the other day. 

Although this isn't an acceptable thing to say in the Greater Cubbieland Metro Area - where Dusty is reviled because he "only" led the team within five outs of the World Series - I've always liked the guy. 

My dad told me long ago that we only can treat people the way people treat us, and Dusty always was decent to me. He was decent to the city of Chicago, too.

He certainly made his share of mistakes during his four years managing the Cubs - chief among them, letting the inmates run the asylum in 2004 - but Baker ended up getting a pretty raw deal from the team and its fans.

I'm not the only one who felt that way. Here's what Aramis Ramirez said a few days ago when Baker's Reds were in town to take two out of three from Lou Piniella's Cubbies:

"It wasn't his fault. Nobody could manage that team in '06. We had guys coming from Double-A. We just had a bad team. If you gave Dusty this team, I guarantee we'd be in the playoffs, too."

True enough.

Hey, I'm a Sweet Lou fan, but it didn't take a great manager to guide the Cubs to the playoffs last year. In 2003, Baker had to convince the Cubs that it was OK for them to win. They did, and a new Cubbie Era was born. 

The bar was raised - not just a little, but a lot - creating the kind of expectations that drive Lou nuts today. Dusty can empathize.

"There's more competition for news here in Chicago than in most other places," Baker told me. "They've got more sports talk radio, more newspapers, more media - period. In Cincinnati, we've got three beat guys, and one of them is with

"Also, I'd never been a place where it's been that long between pennants, a place where you're constantly reminded of that. I was like, 'Hey, man, I've only been here four years. I'm not responsible for the other 96!'

"I've had a great life, not many regrets. But one of the few regrets I do have in my life was not bringing a championship to Chicago. 

"It's too late. That's up to somebody else now."

The Cubs fans who couldn't wait to see Baker fired and Piniella hired are still waiting for Lou's big-money ballclub to win a championship.

Heck, they're still waiting for Lou's crew to win a single postseason game.

The Quote

"Of course the Cubs should be favored to win. They won the division the last couple of years, didn't they? And they just keep buying more players. Man, their payroll is almost twice ours." - Dusty Baker.

The Balder Truth

Baker wanted to set the record straight on something he called a "misconception": that he doesn't like managing young players. The Reds have become a young team and Baker said he loves it.

"I've always wanted this. My daughter told me in spring training: 'Dad, I haven't heard this much excitement in your voice in a couple of years.' It's fun to build something. You're gonna see some mistakes, but that's part of the process of teaching. I've always wanted a younger team that I could teach how to play winning baseball versus getting guys from other places that might have had different values on how to play team baseball."

But what about his reputation to the contrary?

"Hey man, you can't help reputation," Baker said. "Whoever's talking about my reputation are people who never took the time to know me. They just assumed whatever. I don't know where that came from because I didn't have that in San Francisco. I didn't get that until I came to Chicago. You just get tired of defending yourself about the same thing over and over again."

As usual, there's a lot of gray in this situation. Baker had several young players who flourished under his watch in Chicago, including Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Theriot, Mark Prior, even Matt Murton. But yes, he preferred experienced hands when the going got tough - which makes him similar to most managers.

I never did figure out his odd reliance on Neifi Perez, though.

The Admission

Just so I don't get accused of revisionist history ... 

During Baker's final season, I wrote that it was time for the Cubs to change managers. I was pretty much the last Chicago columnist to say so, but I did say it.

My reason had more to do with the Cubs not deserving Baker than anything else. Tribune Co. had built a severely flawed team that made it impossible for him (or any manager) to win in Chicago. And the fans were convinced that Piniella (or anybody other than Dusty) was the answer.

So Dusty Baker was the scapegoat for everything that went wrong. He had to go.

Thank goodness! The string of championships the hundred-million-dollar-plus Cubs have put together since that bum was fired is truly impressive, no?


There are few good things about being an ex-columnist, but here's one of them:

I no longer have to pretend that I know whom the Bears (or any other NFL team) should draft.

Nobody knows. Everybody guesses. The ESPN draftniks talk a lot - hours and hours and hours leading up to the draft, more hours and hours and hours during it. And for what?

I still remember Mel Kiper Jr. insisting that if the Colts didn't draft Heath Shuler, they'd be the biggest fools in NFL history. The team ended up taking Trev Alberts.

Well, Shuler was a bust. And so was Alberts. The ESPN expert was wrong. So were the Colts' honchos.

Talk about the perfect illustration of everything that is idiotic about this two-day We-have-no-clue-a-thon

Every year, like all the other Chicago columnists, I would go to Halas Hall, sit around for six hours, wait for the Bears to make their selection and then write my "expert" opinion. Why? Because that's what the job called upon me to do. 

But if GMs all over the league can't pick the right offensive lineman or cornerback or tailback, how the heck are the rest of us supposed to? If after studying film and talking to scouts and analyzing "measurables," ESPN's experts think that Trent Dilfer is going to be a superstar, what chance do us regular folks have?

I call it The Worst Weekend In Sports, and - run for the hills! - it's upon us again.

This year, my weekend will be spent with family and friends, not with Jerry Angelo, Mel Kiper Jr. and a roomful of fellow scribes. I guarantee that I won't watch even one second of the We-have-no-clue-a-thon.

Sure, I'd rather be employed. But avoiding The Worst Weekend In Sports is a pretty decent consolation prize.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lots of Bull. Also: Milton Bradley isn't game

The Bald Truth

Despite their 8,000-point home loss to the Celtics in Game 3, it wasn't all bad for the Bulls.

At least this time, Vinny Del Negro didn't leave his team with no time-outs for the crucial closing seconds.

The Quote & The List

"The Celtics have gotten all of the breaks." - Comcast Sports Net's Kendall Gill, before Thursday night's game.

Oh, absolutely! 

And now let's count those breaks the Celtics have gotten in this series:

5. How fortunate for Boston that Kevin Garnett has a bum knee and can't play. Had that talentless loser been in the lineup, Big Baby Davis never would have had a chance to repeatedly humiliate whatever that is the Bulls call defense.

4. That missed free throw by Paul Pierce at the end of regulation in Game 1 was a huge break for the Celtics. Sure, they lost instead of winning, but they also got to play overtime, which obviously got them ready for Games 2 and 3.

3. The sprained ankle Rajon Rondo suffered during Game 2 was perfect for the Celtics because he was starting to get a little bored going around Derrick Rose and the rest of the Bulls' alleged defense.

2. The season-ending injury to backup forward Leon Powe made it possible for the great Brian Scalabrine to get playing time. I mean, it was hard to imagine the Celtics having a chance without any headband-wearing, red-headed geeks.

1. The Celtics losing Game 1 and nearly losing Game 2 clearly made the Bulls overconfident. Which is perfectly understandable given that Boston is the defending NBA champion and the Bulls had to scramble just to make the playoffs.

The Balder Truth

At least Rose always will have Game 1.

Before canonizing the kid, everybody forgot he is, in fact, a kid.

When he says he has to improve a lot, believe him. Or just watch the tape of his Game 3 turnover-a-thon.

The Quote II

"It was like one team was in the playoffs and one team was in the preseason." - Bulls captain Kirk Hinrich.

No list, embellishment or further comment necessary.


Three weeks into the Cubs' season, and Milton Bradley has had the exact same number of hits as ejections, suspensions and media feuds.

For those scoring at home, that's one of each.

This guy is going to be a piece of work all season, as illustrated by Thursday's goings-on at Wrigley Field. Here's a link to the story I wrote for AP: 

Unlike my beat-writer colleagues, I really don't care if Cousin Miltie ever talks to me or not. And I don't think most Cubbie fans care if he engages the media, either. They just want him to get healthy, stay out of trouble and hit. And I just want him to opt against picking me up and throwing me into a dumpster.

One thing for sure: Lou Piniella already is getting a little impatient with the $30 Million Head Case. Like the rest of us, the skipper must be wondering why Bradley won't accept MLB's two-game suspension (for umpire abuse) while he's hurt instead of waiting until he's healthy.

Assuming Bradley ever gets healthy, that is. 

My favorite part of the day was listening to the Cincinnati baseball writers who covered Piniella back in his wild-and-crazy Reds heyday speculating on how long it will be before Sweet Lou goes all Rob Dibble on Cousin Miltie.

Hey kids ... more than five months of fun to go!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bad newspaper news - the only kind these days

The Bald Truth

Another bleeping sad day in my bleeping former business.

The Chicago Tribune on Wednesday whacked dozens upon dozens of newsroom staffers, including sportswriters Melissa Isaacson, John Mullin, Bob Sakamoto and Terry Bannon. Also given the boot was a great sports photographer, Chuck Cherney.

Meanwhile, the douchebags there are trying to pay some $13 million in bonuses to managers, directors and other honchos. Un-bleeping-real.

I'd laugh if it wasn't so freakin' sickening.

Every once in awhile, I get a call from a relative or friend asking if I considered writing for this newspaper or that magazine. These folks are well-meaning, but they don't understand that the jobs simply aren't there. Online jobs that pay anything at all aren't there, either.

Sam Zell bought a news empire he couldn't come close to affording. He has destroyed pretty much everything he has touched at Tribune Co. And he has gutted one of the best newspapers in the land.

He's kind of like the clueless people who run my former company, GateHouse - only more evil.

The Balder Truth

That's one nasty tattoo first-year Cubbie Micah Hoffpauir has on his back, just beneath his right shoulder blade.

It looks like a combination of a baseball and a squid, with long tentacles streaming away from the ball.

"It was supposed to be a baseball with flames coming out of it, but it's horrible," Hoffpauir told me. "It's gotta be the lamest tattoo ever. I'm glad it's on my back so I don't ever have to see it when I look in the mirror!"

There's nothing to love about his tat, but there's a lot to like about his 'tude. Hoffpauir's statement that he has to "pay my dues" while waiting to become an everyday big-league ballplayer showed a maturity and perspective unusual among today's athletes. 

While Hoffpauir and his .375 average returned to the bench for Wednesday's 3-0 loss to the Reds, Milton ".043" Bradley was back in the Cubs' lineup Wednesday.

He went 0-for-4. Again.

Bradley has as many ejections (and suspensions) this season as he does hits. The $30 Million Man was booed repeatedly - and lustily - by Cubbieland denizens. 

This could get real ugly real fast, folks.

And I'm not talking about a flaming baseball tattoo.

Sorry, Celtics ...

... But after this one reference, I will never again call it the TD Banknorth Garden.


In the biggest no-brainer of the NBA awards season, Derrick Rose was named Rookie of the Year. He then admitted that he had been lying every time he said he hadn't even thought about winning top rookie honors.

"When I first came into the season, my big thing was to get this award," he now says. "I told you all that I didn't care, but when you're coming in, you really do want this."

It's tough to get mad at the kid for fibbing, especially now that he's being honest about the fib. It was about as innocent a fib as one can make, too.

John Paxson has done many good things as the Bulls' GM (and plenty of questionable things), but the best thing he ever did was get lucky as hell in the 2008 Draft Lottery.

Without Rose landing in their laps, the Bulls would be a team with a murky future and an even worse present.

With him, they've got a better than 50-50 chance to knock off the defending champs.

As I like to say after making one of my rare birdies: Luck is better than skill - always.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

No pussy-footing around Lovable Loser history

The Bald Truth

Folks at Wrigley Field had a fun fourth inning Tuesday night. Not only did a cat run onto the field, but a fan sitting in the vicinity of the Bartman seat reached out and caught a foul ball that left fielder Alfonso Soriano was (kind of) pursuing.

When Jay Bruce followed the Bartman-like play with a single that pulled Cincinnati into a tie, fans booed the Bartman-like perpetrator.

Yes, what fun ... if only any of it had anything to do with actual Cubs history.

First, the cat in question was mostly white, with brown and black markings. In other words, it looked about as much like the Santo-spooking black cat of '69 as I look like Brad Pitt.

As for the Bartman-ish play ...

1. The fan caught the ball, which Bartman didn't on that infamous October 2003 night. And Tuesday's fan wasn't wearing glasses and headphones.

2. Soriano had zero chance to catch the ball. That's right: even less of a chance than Moises Alou had to catch the Bartman ball.

3. The Reds scored one run that inning, not eight.

4. The Cubs went on to win Tuesday's game rather than choke away another pennant.

5. Dusty Baker was in the visiting dugout.

6. This was an April game that, in the big picture, meant squat.

Still, let's not let facts stand in the way of people equating anything and everything with the Ghosts of Cubbies Past.

The only thing Cubbieland enjoys more than the Lovable Losers is constantly revisiting all of the horrors those Losers have endured for eons upon eons.

The Balder Truth

In addition to Kevin Garnett being out, one of his backups, Leon Powe, now has been lost for the rest of the playoffs. And Rajon Rondo, the point guard the Bulls can't stop, is hobbled with an ankle injury.

Suddenly, the Celtics are thinner than Calista Flockhart at the end of a month-long fast.

At this point, frankly, the Bulls are a better team than the Celtics. And they have homecourt advantage, too.

If they don't win this series now, it will reflect pretty poorly on the Chicago players and their time-out-squandering coach, Vinny Del Negro.


It couldn't have been a coincidence that Fisher sponsored the Carlos Zambrano commemorative no-hitter figurine that was given to fans Tuesday.

A nut company sponsoring a Cra-Z souvenir. Beautiful.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gotta love that (bleeping) KG!

The Bald Truth

Whether happy or sad, anguished or encouraged, excited or outraged, Kevin Garnett sure loves his f-bombs.

And even more, it seems, his m-f-bombs.

The guy's a 7-foot, black, athletic, male Patti Blagojevich, for (bleep's) sake!

Genteel lip-readers couldn't have been pleased Monday that TNT cameras kept zooming in on KG every time the injured Celtic screamed the f-word in any and all of its various forms.

Adjectives. Nouns. Verbs. Hyphenated qualifiers. 

KG had his whole vocabulary on display. And TNT captured it all for viewers big and small.

Something for everyone ... which, I guess, is what the NBA Cares campaign is all about.

The Balder Truth

Just when I thought it would be impossible to top Game 1, the Bulls-Celtics series got even more exciting in Game 2. 

Watching Ray Allen and Ben Gordon trading incredible clutch shots was like watching two in-their-prime middleweights trading haymakers.

As it turns out, Allen got in the last shot and was the last man standing.

In Game 1, a new Chicago sports legend officially was born, with Derrick Rose outdueling Rajon Rondo. It's just been great stuff, every bit as intense and entertaining as any basketball anywhere.

The Celtics are one missed Paul Pierce free throw from holding a 2-0 series lead. And the Bulls are one made Allen jumper from holding a 2-0 series lead. 

Appropriately, then, it's all tied at 1 ... and I'm already looking forward to Act Three at the United Center.


Taking a detour during their off-day in Baltimore, the White Sox visited the White House and met Barack Obama

The president shook hands and traded small talk with the players on his favorite team - and even granted reliever Octavio Dotel's request for a hug.

"Look at that!" screamed Sean Hannity. "As if it isn't bad enough that Obama is a militant Muslim socialist! There's all the proof you need that he's a gay militant Muslim socialist! We're all doomed! Doomed, I tell you!!!"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

MLB's early surprises (and non-surprises)

Well, we've reached the two-week mark on the new baseball season and here's what's going on ...


I'm not especially surprised that the Marlins, Mariners and Blue Jays lead their divisions. I predicted great improvement for the first two and the Jays have a lot of talent (as well as the misfortune of being in a stacked division). But the Padres? They made no secret that they were unloading salaries and playing for tomorrow. And yet here they are at 9-4. If they keep this up, they might be stuck keeping Jake Peavy, which would be a bummer for all the teams that want to get him at a bargain. Methinks they won't keep this up for too long, though.


There are plenty of candidates here, including the Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, Angels and Diamondbacks. Those teams, however, aren't the defending champions. The Phils even have struggled to beat the Nationals and Padres. Jimmy Rollins is batting .152, Brad Lidge has a 9.45 ERA and Cole Hamels can't get anybody out.


He's among AL leaders in batting, homers, RBIs and hits. And given that I had to look up what his first name was when I saw all of those stats, that's pretty surprising.

BADDEST SURPRISE (PLAYER): Geovany Soto, Cubs and Alexei Ramirez, White Sox.

One was the runaway winner of the NL Rookie of the Year; the other was the runner-up for AL rookie honors. And now look at them. One is batting .105 and has been outplayed by his backup; the other is hitting .125 - considerably below his weight, which isn't an easy accomplishment for a human stick figure.


If you thought this club - lacking a closer, lousy in the field and ravaged by the departures of two All-Star pitchers - could contend, you must have eaten hallucinogenic cheese curds. They're 4-8 for a reason.

BIGGEST NO-DUH! (PLAYER): Milton Bradley, Cubs.

Hey! Look who's hurt! Hey! Look who's getting in trouble with umpires! Hey! Look who's been suspended! What a shocker.

TWO-WEEK MVP (AL): Miguel Cabrera, Tigers.

When you get a hit every other at-bat and carry a mediocre team to a 7-5 record, you must be pretty valuable.

TWO-WEEK MVP (NL): Ryan Ludwick, Cardinals.

It isn't easy to upstage Albert Pujols - and he's doing it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rose rises ... and where's Jesus?

The List

Five observations from the Bulls series-opening OT win over the Celtics:

5. If Paul Pierce keeps playing just OK and if Ray Allen keeps forgetting that he's Jesus Shuttlesworth, the Bulls will do to these defending champs the same thing they did to the Heat back in the '07 playoffs: Sweeparoo, and enjoy your lovely parting gifts.

4. All right ... who stole Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah and replaced them with Carlos Boozer and Amare Stoudamire?

3. I went to college with Doc Rivers (or Glenn, as we called him back then). I really like the man and was happy for him when he won the title last season. But did he really set up the final shot for Ray "1-for-11" Allen? Wait - make that Ray "1-for-12" Allen.

2. As I was saying a few days ago ... very clever of the Bulls to throw their final regular-season game so they got to play the KG-less Celtics instead of the Magic.

1. You know, I'm starting to think this Derrick Rose kid just might have a future in this game I like to call basketball.

Cubbie catalysts, Ben's big day and NBA predictions

The Bald Truth

Alfonso Soriano ... Carlos Marmol ... Carlos Zambrano.

Does any one baseball team have three players who can look like horsespit one second and like Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed the next?

It's only the second week of the season, so I don't want to overstate things, but the Cubs' comeback win over the Cards on Friday was the most important outcome in the history of sports.

Not buying it? Oh sure. Go get all practical on me, why don't ya?

The List

My 21-year-old son, Ben, had quite a day Thursday, going to the Cubs-Cardinals game in the afternoon and the Blackhawks-Flames playoff game that night. Here in his own words is ...

The 5 coolest things I saw Thursday:

5. Blackhawk fans. Who said Chicago isn’t a hockey town? The United Center definitely had the playoff feel, with a sellout crowd screaming the whole game. But what kept cracking me up were the various outfits some fans were wearing. From a whole crew of people wearing full Native American headgear (which I imagine didn’t sit too well with the people that sat behind them), to a large number of dudes (from what appeared to be an 8-year-old kid to an old man) sporting their “playoff beards,” this just showed me that Chicagoans are extra-enthusiastic about the Hawks. And they should be.

4. Kosuke Fukudome. Now, I have been pretty down on Fukudome since his performance last year, but he has been hitting well and playing good defense this year. With a 3-run homer and a diving catch, he looked like the Fukudome from the first month of last season. But I won’t be too quick to jump on his bandwagon this year. Maybe the All-Star break will be a good time to judge him.

3. The National Anthem. At Blackhawk games, everyone cheers throughout the entire anthem. Dressed in a tuxedo, the opera singer dramtically belted it out, and it might have been the loudest I've ever heard the United Center. It was powerful and must have pumped up the players.

2. Nikolai Khabibulin. The Blackhawks came out of the gate in the first period looking terrible and the goalie saved the day. We fans often chanted "Khabi! Khabi!” - especially when he made a ridiculous diving save in the second period. Khabibulin seems to be the key to how far the Hawks can go in the postseason.

1. Martin Havlat. Perhaps the most consistent Blackhawks player this year, Havlat came through when the Hawks needed him most, tying the game late in regulation and winning it 12 seconds into OT. If you blinked, you would have missed his winner - but not the celebration!

Overall, it was a fun day - even though we couldn’t raise the “W” flag twice.

(Normally, I don't do The List in inverse order, but this was Ben's deal, so what the heck. It works, so maybe I need to reconsider!)

The Letter

From loyal reader Rod Hughes of Springfield, Ill.: 

Well, the genius Cardinals did it again, standing pat in the offseason and putting all of their hopes on Chris Carpenter staying healthy. Surprise! he's injured again. He's a great pitcher who can't stay healthy. When will they learn?

Did you get a new job yet?

As for your first point, at least Carpenter will be well-rested for the playoffs. Or two years for now.

To answer your second question ... nope. There are no journalism jobs out there for a man of my ilk. Not a one. But in addition to TBT, I am doing some freelance work for the AP, including the first two Cardinals-Cubs games.

Here's my story from Friday's thrill in Wrigleyville: 

I'm just glad I survived my personal AP Second Coming.


The only logical prediction for the NBA Finals is Lakers vs. Cavs. So logical that I desperately wanted to be contrary and go in a different direction. 

But the Spurs are the only team I'd have chosen to topple the Lakers, and Manu Ginobili is out. And the Celtics would have been my pick to beat the Cavs, and Kevin Garnett is questionable for the whole postseason.

So Lakers-Cavs it will be. 

Interesting side note: I think I read somewhere that each team has a pretty good player.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Still not Bullish

The Bald Truth

No KG? Maybe the Bulls do have a chance. 

Especially if the Somali pirates take Paul Pierce and Ray Allen hostage.

The Balder Truth

No John Madden? Boom! We're saved.


Well ... I sat, I wrote, I was conquered.

All I can say after covering Thursday's Cubs-Cards clash at Wrigley - my first game for the AP in more than 11 years - is I have a lot of improving to do if I want to be taken seriously.

Kind of like the Cubs, you know?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bulls get what they deserve: date with Celtics

The Bald Truth

Because I have so many better things to do than watch Bulls games on television - spend time with my family, send e-mails to friends, clip my toenails, pretty much anything qualifies - I only watched snippets of the Bulls' ridiculous and costly Wednesday night loss to the Raptors.

And in practically every snippet I watched, the Raptors were scoring on dunks and layups and wide-open 15-footers. 

The Bulls' loss (to a team that has been out of the playoff picture since November), combined with the 76ers' victory over a Cavs club that was resting everybody (including LeBron), means the Bulls will have to face Boston instead of Orlando in the first round of the playoffs.

Not that the Bulls were going to beat the Magic - I mean, if Patrick O'Bryant had his way with them, how badly would Dwight Howard have folded, spindled and mutilated them? - but they have no chance against the defending champion Celtics.

Yeah, but what if Kevin Garnett can't play or is limited in what he can do? Hello! Was KG on the court for Toronto? Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and the rest of Boston's finest will be far more than the Bulls can handle. 

For the zillionth time, it's fair to wonder about Vinny Del Negro

The coach can't motivate his team to get up for an important home game against the Raptors? He can't do something - anything - to keep the Bulls from falling behind big in almost every game, a trend that will bury them in the playoffs? He can't get his lads to play even a lick of defense?

I'm not pinning this all on Vinny. It's not as if John Paxson has given Del Negro a great team. But an outstanding coach might be able to steal a playoff series with the Bulls' roster, and nobody will will mistake Del Negro for that. 

The Quote

"From the jump ball, we got outworked. They had better energy, moved the ball better. We couldn't get stops and didn't move the ball. They outhustled us on the glass. We were lackadaisical. I'm disappointed with our effort and our urgency ... " - Vinny Del Negro

As I was saying ...

The Prediction

Celtics in 5. Only because KG isn't 100 percent. And because I'm feeling generous.

The Balder Truth

It was Jason Marquis vs. Rich Harden - the pitcher the Cubs had to get because they couldn't trust Jason Marquis.

What a mismatch!

For the Rockies.

They got seven strong innings - and a two-run single - from Marquis in smacking Harden and the Cubbies all over Wrigley Field.

Those baseball gods have one heck of a sense of humor. 

On a different note, good stuff from Colorado manager Clint Hurdle. After Huston Street opened the ninth inning by allowing a homer, a walk and a single, Hurdle yanked his closer and went with Jason Grilli, who promptly earned the save.

Too often, managers let their closers go down in flames. Why? "Because he's my closer." Well, unless your closer is Mariano Rivera or a select few others, get somebody ready in the bullpen just in case. 

If your closer is too sensitive to handle that, he's not tough enough to be your closer anyway.


So Chris Carpenter works like crazy to return from arm problems that would have ended a lot of pitchers' careers. He comes back, pitches great and gets Redbird rooters all excited about their heroes' chances. And then he strains the left side of his rib cage while swinging a bat?

I know I shouldn't feel sorry for the guy because he's got more money than the rest of us combined, but jeesh!

Oh, and speaking of the Cardinals, I'll be at Thursday's Cubs-Cards game making my glorious return as an AP scribe (although this time only as a freelancer). After all I've covered these last 27 years this probably sounds silly, but I actually am a little nervous.

Here's hoping it's the "good nerves" athletes are always talking about.

Isiah's legacy, Oscar's future and my puck reawakening

The Bald Truth

Are sports yakkers actually debating Isiah Thomas' legacy now that he's taken a college coaching job at some nondescript Sun Belt school? What is there to debate?

One of the great point guards ever.

A mediocre coach when his team had good talent and a bad coach when his team had mediocre talent.

As bad an executive as anyone who hasn't run the Clippers.

There. That's Isiah's legacy.

The Balder Truth

Boxer Oscar De La Hoya has retired because he has pretty much done it all.

Except come out of retirement to win a title.

Translation: His unretirement press conference will take place in eight months. Ten tops.


Once upon a time, I watched hockey. Lots of hockey.

For most of a decade, as the de facto national hockey writer for The Associated Press, I witnessed every big event the sport staged - Stanley Cup Finals, Olympics, All-Star Games, NCAA Frozen Fours, Minnesota prep puck tourneys, strikes, lockouts. You name it, I covered it.

Then I came to Chicago in the mid-'90s, when the Bulls were the big story and the Blackhawks were a punch line. The NHL started sticking teams in every city that had a population larger than that of the LaSalle-Peru Greater Metro Area and started scheduling work stoppages just for funsies.

As a result, I completely lost my puck mojo.

It's a little too early to say that it's completely back, but now I at least can watch a game all the way through - especially on HDTV. I'm starting to enjoy the entertaining sport again and to re-educate myself about the NHL's top players and best teams.

I'm not going to pretend I know enough about today's NHL to predict which team will win the Stanley Cup, but I do know enough to say this:

Expect playoff upsets. 

Why? Two reasons:

1. The luck factor. In the NBA, the ball doesn't go off somebody's backside and into the hoop. In baseball, nobody hits a home run while diving through the air, his body parallel to the ground. But in hockey, the Cup-winning goal can be scored in overtime on a shot that deflects off of eight people.

2. The goalie factor. Baseball comes close, because one pitcher can dominate the opponent and lift an ordinary team (see: 1988 Dodgers), but that's pretty rare because said pitcher only can work three World Series games max. The NHL goaltender is in the net for every second of every game ... and if he's hot, he's hot. Almost every year, one goalie makes the folks in Canada say: "He's really standing on his head, eh?"

While it's impossible to predict who will be lucky, it's a little easier to forecast which teams might benefit from otherworldly goaltending. 

Watch out for the Canucks and the marvelous Roberto Luongo. It's possible that the neophyte Blue Jackets could steal at least a couple of games from the heavily favored Red Wings thanks to remarkable rookie Steve Mason. There is no better gamer in net than the Devils' Martin Brodeur. The Bruins' Tim Thomas led the league in save percentage and goals-against average.

Or maybe some decent goalie will catch fire at just the right time - a la Jon Casey with the '91 North Stars - and carry a sub-par team all the way to the Finals.

I guarantee that the North Stars won't pull off a repeat. Otherwise, it would be folly for me to try to predict the team that will be drinking from Lord Stanley's Cup. 

I'd have a better chance to score a date with Anna Kournikova while standing on my head, eh?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chicago: City of Big Winners (for now, anyway)

Interesting times for those following Chicago's sports scene ...


In a shocking development that not a single soul could have foreseen, Milton Bradley is out with an injury. Doesn't matter. The Cubs are doing just what they're supposed to be doing during this 162-game preseason of theirs.

They are winning far more than they are losing and setting themselves up for what is sure to be a typically satisfying playoff run.

It hasn't been boring in Cubbieland. It never is.

Lou Piniella has had to threaten several relievers with bodily harm for failing to throw strikes, Kosuke Fukudome is squeezing some hits in between his spin-o-ram misses, Derrek Lee has morphed into Mark Grace II and Geovany Soto's sore shoulder has made an every-inning catcher out of Koyie Hill.

Oh, and Alfonso Soriano is on quite the lead-off-the-game-with-bombs tear. If I were the opposing manager and my starter threw the first pitch within a foot of the strike zone, I would immediately pull the starter from the game, fine him a million bucks and option him to Dezhnevo of the Sarah Palin Backyard League. 

As expected, aside from the Cubs and the resilient Cardinals, the NL Central is mostly garbage. It remains almost impossible to fathom the Cubs losing.

Until October, of course.


I flipped on Monday's game just in time to see Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko hit back-to-back jacks - remarkably, the 300th career home run for each. Congrats to two classy guys.

And Carlos Quentin also smacked two homers in beating the Tigers. For all the talk about how this team now can play small-ball ... please. If the Sox hit home runs, they have a chance to win. If they don't, they usually lose. Fortunately for them, they hit lots of homers.

Though the White Sox have plenty of flaws, I've seen little to convince me they aren't the least-flawed team in a greatly flawed division.

And Bartolo Colon will eat anybody who disagrees.


They looked like a lost cause a couple of months ago but now have a great chance to finish with a winning record, the No. 6 seed in the East and a first-round playoff matchup against the Orlando Magic. 

That's huge. Of the East's "big three," Orlando is the least big - even though the Magic have the NBA's best big man in Dwight Howard.

That only seems confusing, so you'll have to trust me. No team wants the Cavs or Celtics in the first round. Orlando is a good team but its forwards are hurting and it is very beatable if the 3-pointers aren't falling.

I've been tough on John Paxson and Vinny Del Negro - for good reason - but Pax especially responded to all the criticism by doing something before the trade deadline. His acquisition of Brad Miller and John Salmons gave the Bulls life.

As a result, Derrick Rose has more teammates he can trust and Ben Gordon doesn't feel compelled to take every shot (only most of them).

I'm still not convinced that the team isn't winning despite Del Negro. I also am not convinced Vinny's team knows what defense is. The playoffs will be a nice test.


They not only are returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, but they also have home-ice advantage in the first round.

Calgary is the opening opponent and I'm proud to say I can name one Flames player without looking in their media guide. Thanks for sticking around through my personal five-year hockey strike, Jarome Iginla!

The Hawks' fine young players sure are fun to watch. Nevertheless, I wonder if they are big enough, tough enough and mature enough to make any serious playoff noise. 

I also have doubts that Nikolai Khabibulin is anywhere near the same "Bulin Wall" who carried Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup a couple years ago - and goaltending is everything come springtime in the NHL. 


Cutlermania has only just begun. Bear Country denizens haven't been this excited about their quarterback since ... Caleb Hanie last preseason!

It would be easier to buy in to the bullishness on the Bears if they had a couple of worthwhile receivers and if the defense wasn't as big a problem as the offense ever since Super Bowl XLI.

Still, the Bears at least have a chance to be good now, and that's more than I would have said a few weeks ago.

So bravo, boys, enjoy the accolades you're getting now before you actually have to start playing football again.

The Quote

Talking about infielders getting intimidated by dirty, hard-sliding baserunners, Bob Brenly offered this nugget during Monday's Cubs telecast: 

"A lot of times, guys get a little light in their loafers around the bag."

Uh, sure ... not that there's anything wrong with that.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cabrera masters the art of hackery better than you and I do

The Bald Truth

One of the many reasons I love golf: Although I'm a complete hack - or, as some of my golf buddies might argue, an incomplete hack - I could beat even the world's best golfer on any given hole.

Take Angel Cabrera. On one hole, he shanked a shot sideways. On another, he skulled a simple pitch across the green. On the first playoff hole, he hit his drive into the woods and then slammed his next shot off a tree.

And he's the guy who won the Masters, beating Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the rest of a star-studded field.

Cabrera did hit a bunch of 300-yard-plus bombs, make some amazing recoveries to get himself out of serious jams and sink some incredible pressure putts. I might have a round in which I did one of those things one time - as I said, I'm a hack - so I never could beat Cabrera or any pro over even a short stretch.

But one hole? Sure. For example, I might have been able to avoid dunking my ball in the drink, as Mickelson did on No. 12, and thus might have beaten Phil's double bogey.

Could I ever hit Tim Lincecum's best fastball (or even his worst)? Could I ever score a basket against LeBron James if he didn't want me to? Would I have any chance to put the puck past Martin Brodeur? Would I ever be able to run away from Ray Lewis to score a touchdown?

Of course not.

And yet, even if Tiger Woods was trying to do his very, very best on a hole, I could beat him - and it wouldn't necessarily be miraculous, either. 

OK, it would be at least a little miraculous ... but you get my drift.

For all the talk of golf being the ultimate rich man's game, it really is a common man's game.

Once you get past green's fees, equipment costs and the price of Pro-V1s, that is.

The Balder Truth

Kenny Perry has a reputation of being a great guy, and he seems nice every time he's interviewed. 

It sure was easy to root for the 48-year-old to become the oldest man ever to win a major ... and it sure was easy to feel sorry for him as he choked down the stretch.

And no, it probably wasn't any consolation to him that Tiger and Phil also gagged.

Nerves can get the best of anybody - yes, even Tiger - which is one more thing these guys have in common with hacks like us.


Thank goodness, the Obamas got their dog. Now we can pay attention to Jay Cutler, American Idol, CC Sabathia, the new Star Trek movie, the Cubs, anything involving Lindsay and Britney, Shaq's Twitters and various other overhyped stuff.

I must admit, though, that I am a little disappointed with the choice of pup's name.

Bo? Really?

"Deficit" would have been both original and fitting.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

One-hit MLB wonders and all-time HBO hits

The List

I like and respect ESPN's Tim Kurkjian, but like all of us professional analysts, he sometimes says silly things. Just the other day, he told viewers that the Tampa Bay Rays can't possibly be one-hit wonders because teams rarely go from pennant winners one year to also-rans the next. 

Now, I'm not saying the Rays will be one-hit wonders, but you don't have to employ a team of investigative reporters to unearth recent Series-to-suckers examples.

Just to jog Mr. Kurkjian's memory, here are five one-hit wonders in the last decade alone:

1. 2007-to-08 Rockies. They never should have started putting baseballs in a humidor.

2. 2006-to-07 Tigers. See what happens when you sign every free agent the Yankees don't want.

3. 2005-to-06 Astros. Apparently, it's impossible to recover after losing a World Series to a Chicago team.

4. 2003-to-04 Marlins. While the Cubs are in their 101st year of championship-free baseball, the Marlins have built, destroyed, built and destroyed two Series winners in the last dozen years.

5. 1998-to-99 Padres. But on the plus side, Tony Gwynn batted his weight.

The List (Non-Sports Version)

Top 5 dramas in HBO history:

1. The Wire. I just finished watching Season 2 On Demand and am eagerly awaiting the start of Season 3 ... and then No. 4, which is as good as any season of any show ever aired on any network. I had watched The Wire's five-season run when it was on originally and loved it then, but watching it again, with the perspective of knowing the show's arc, makes it even more enjoyable. Superbly acted and realistically written, The Wire is centered around the Baltimore Police Department's mostly hopeless fight against crime. But it's the many side stories - involving drug lords, corrupt politicians, public education woes, etc. - that make the show really special. If you've never seen The Wire, start renting it now. And that's an order.

2. Six Feet Under. Just about every character on this show, which is based in a funeral home, is outstanding. Especially noteworthy are angst-filled teenager Claire, her recently decloseted gay brother David and their deceased father (who regularly appears in dream sequences). I won't give the series finale away, but I will say the episode is as satisfying a conclusion as any I've seen.

3. Deadwood. I feel totally ripped off that this marvelous series lasted only three seasons. Early on, the media fixated on the vulgar language spoken by these 1876 pioneers. Soon enough, though, anybody who really took the time to watch this deliciously gritty show realized it was more than curse words. Ian McShane's evil entrepreneur Al Swearengen is one of the great villains in TV history.

4. The Sopranos. Many would rank this iconic show first, and I'd have no quibbles. That it could rank fourth on my list speaks well of the quality television HBO has produced over the years. If you're one of the few who doesn't already know about Tony Soprano and his fellow Mafia men, you owe it to yourself to enjoy this series. But rent or buy the DVDs; the sanitized syndicated version on A&E just isn't the same.

5. (tie) True Blood and In Treatment. After quite a few swings and misses - yes, I actually (and regrettably) watched the entire season of John From Cincinnati waiting for something to happen - the quality of these current series gives me hope that HBO will continue to offer up great television. True Blood is a smart, sexy, occasionally creepy show about vampires being assimilated into Louisiana society (and the women who love them). In Treatment follows a shrink (portrayed perfectly by Gabriel Byrne) who deals with his patients' demons - and his own.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Old golfers, oversold Cubbies and cold Sox

The Bald Truth

Now that the bizarre infatuation with Greg Norman is over - a 50-something, billionaire choker as an underdog? - the youngsters can get on to being the story at the Masters.

You're up, Kenny Perry!

Gotta love a guy who's two months older than me being tied for the 36-hole lead. And unlike codger/curiosity Norman, who barely is a part-time golfer any more these days, Perry actually has a chance to win the thing.

There's A Carpenter In The House

What? We're supposed to be impressed that once (and future?) Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter earned his first win in eons with a one-hitter?

Let us know when he throws a no-hitter!

Besides, it's not as if he really matters. I mean, he doesn't pitch for the Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs, right?

The Balder Truth

Nice ninth inning for the Cubs in Milwaukee.

New closer Kevin Gregg got himself in trouble by walking famed and feared Chris Duffy with one out. Then he gave up Rickie Weeks' hard, deep liner that a good left fielder would have caught but Alfonso Soriano let get over his head for a game-tying double.

Gregg then threw a wild pitch that catcher-by-default Koyie Hill couldn't corral, letting Weeks get to third. And after Corey Hart walked, shortstop Ryan Theriot fielded Ryan Braun's grounder into the hole but threw home weakly and in the dirt. Weeks scored as Hill grabbed Theriot's bouncer but couldn't block home plate.

So, to recap:

Bad pitching by Kerry Wood's successor ... bad fielding by a guy who plays left field like the awful second baseman he was ... bad throw by a shortstop better suited to play second base ... bad plays by a catcher forced into action because Geovany Soto is hurt and the Cubs failed to keep reliable backup Henry Blanco.

These are the NL Central favorites, aren't they?

The Quote

"We want you back!" - a White Sox fan after new Twin Joe Crede took Jose Contreras deep in his first swing against his former team.

(I understand the sentiment, but Crede's replacement, Josh Fields, has been the team's best player this season.)


Yes, Crede homered to hurt the Sox ... and then things really went downhill for the cold, surly fans who turned out to watch their heroes get humiliated by the Twinkies.

Just about the only thing the fans had to cheer about was a moron being tackled by security after running onto the field. (Hey, at least he didn't mug the first-base coach.) Oh, they also cheered (perhaps a little derisively) when Ozzie Guillen yanked Mike MacDougal after the scatter-armed reliever walked two batters on eight pitches during Minnesota's seven-run seventh inning.

Methinks I've underestimated Ron Gardenhire's Twins for the umpteenth straight season. And, in the process, maybe overestimated the South Siders.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tragedy times three

Do you know the name Henry Nigel Pearson? How about Courtney Frances Stewart?

Well, they were the "two others" in the AP story that began: "Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two others were killed by a suspected drunk driver Thursday, a shocking end to the life of a rookie who had overcome major elbow surgery to realize his big league dreams."

Not until the 14th paragraph were Pearson and Stewart mentioned by name.

This is not meant as a condemnation of the AP, a company I proudly served for nearly 16 years. Nor is it meant as a condemnation of our hero-worshipping, fame-obsessed society. Had I still been working for AP, I would have written the story the same way.

This simply is a reminder that the tragedy wasn't limited to one victim, even if one victim was all anybody talked about all day.

I feel terrible for the family of Nick Adenhart, by all accounts a fine 22-year-old man. I have a 22-year-old child myself and I only can imagine the unspeakable sorrow felt by Nick's loved ones and the profound sadness experienced by Nick's teammates.

Henry Nigel Pearson and Courtney Frances Stewart also had families and dear friends. The deaths of these young people were no less horrible, no less tragic, no less a waste. 

Maybe Henry and Courtney didn't have the same kind of big league dreams their friend Nick had, but they surely had dreams of what they could become someday.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Enough booing, Wise guys

The Bald Truth

It's not DeWayne Wise's fault that he's DeWayne Wise.

So I sure hope that all those White Sox fans booing every time the leadoff-man-by-default made an out in Wednesday's shutout loss to the Royals were booing Sox GM Kenny Williams for not finding a better player and manager Ozzie Guillen for insisting upon batting Wise at the top of the order.

Wise is a low-average, low-on-base-percentage guy. Period. That's what he's been as he's bounced around the majors and minors (mostly the minors) for a dozen years.

If he's the best a contender can do for a leadoff hitter, maybe the contender isn't really a contender.

Hey, Cubbieland ...

Bet you didn't expect Kosuke Fukudome to be batting .444 and Milton Bradley .000, did you?

Gotta love those first-week-of-the-season stats!

The Question

How many f-bombs did Bobby Cox launch while he helplessly watched three Atlanta relievers walk four Philly batters with the bases loaded as the Braves blew a 7-run, 7th-inning lead?

The Balder Truth

Here's the headline and subhead on page 59 of this week's Sports Illustrated:

STAR ATTRACTION: At 54, Chris Evert and Greg Norman make each other feel like high school sweethearts, but can wedded bliss rejuvenate him enough to conquer Augusta National, the course that has haunted him?

Well, maybe ... if by "conquer" SI means Norman might scramble well enough to make the cut.

I mean, come on! They might as well be asking if Chrissy is rejuvenated enough to conquer Wimbledon.

The Quote

"'Just make me look really cool.' And I think she pulled it off." - Mark Teahen, Royals second baseman, on what he told a Magnificent Mile stylist before she gave him a "fauxhawk."

Yeah, I know this is where I'm supposed to post a picture of Teahen's haircut. Sorry, but they frown on using cellphone cameras in big-league clubhouses, and I don't really want to get kicked out for life.

Besides, I'm more partial to the traditional mohawk. Mostly bald, you know.


Was slumping Sox slugger Carlos Quentin really thinking about charging the mound after he got plunked by Zack Greinke? Pathetic.

Quentin practically stands on top of the plate. Then, just for emphasis, he leans over the plate, too. No wonder he was hit by pitches 20 times last season - third-most in the majors - even though he missed the last month. No wonder he led three minor leagues in the stat early in his career.

"Everybody that gets hit gets upset, especially when you’re ... not swinging the bat well," Guillen said. "Carlos is gonna get hit a lot because he stands up on top of the plate. I don’t think it was intentional."

Good point. Maybe if Quentin weren't 0-for-the-season, he wouldn't have thought about starting a fight when he got plunked Wednesday.

Grow up and face facts, dude. You lean over the plate at your own peril.

Tell you what: If he did that against Bob Gibson, he'd already be 6 feet under.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

If getting '16 Olympics means fixing potholes, bring on The Games!

The Bald Truth

I was having a great day Tuesday: Got my taxes paid, had a fantastic workout at the gym, saw an entertaining finish to the White Sox opener on TV (with all-time good guy Jim Thome hitting the winning 3-run homer) and enjoyed dinner with my good Marquette buddy John Lamich.

Then, driving home after dinner, I hit one of Chicago's 8,449,066 potholes. Flat bleeping tire! 

By all means, Mayor Daley, show those Olympic honchos how wonderful you're taking care of "The City That Works."


The Balder Truth

First Comcast Sports Net complaint of the young baseball season: 

They were able to show the mph on the 80-something slop Mark Buehrle was slinging, but when Kyle Farnsworth was throwing heat later on ... nothing.

I wanted to see the speed of Farnsie's strikeout pitch to Carlos Quentin - as well as the speed of the Farnsie fastball that Thome launched into orbit.

Good Point

While everybody was gushing over Thome's homer - and justifiably so - Ozzie Guillen went out of his way to praise an excellent defensive play by new third baseman Josh Fields and a pretty piece of hit-and-run hitting by new second baseman Chris Getz.


Back in spring training 2005, Nomar Garciaparra, ready to start his first full season with the Cubs, batted something like .900 with a jillion home runs. (Not quite, but you get the drift.)

Many prognosticators - though not this one, thankfully - were picking the Cubbie Savior for NL MVP and his team for the pennant.

The No. 5 jersey was all the rage at Wrigley, and Cubbie Love was at a fever pitch.

Unfortunately for Nomar and his believers, the season started.

Garciaparra wasn't just bad, he was brutal. And a few weeks in, after batting .157 with only one extra-base hit, he tore his groin to smithereens. He was done. So were the Cubs.

Flash forward to 2009. New Cubbie Savior Milton Bradley had a monster spring training. Yes, he was The Answer to the believers' prayers.

Then the season started.

Through two games, he's 0-for-7 and hasn't gotten the ball out of the infield. He has hit four grounders, including one for a DP, popped out twice, struck out once, walked and botched a flyball in right.

One big difference between 2009 and 2005 is that Bradley has a lot better players around him than Garciaparra did. Another big difference is that the division is not as strong.

So please, I'm not predicting that Bradley will bat .157, get hurt and take the Cubs down with him.

I really do expect him to hit. Then again, I expected Nomar to hit, too.