Kap's Corner

Chicago Archives

Blizzard 2011

You have most definitely answered the call when I asked you to send in your best photos from this week's snowstorm. Check out the gallery. I'll get back to sports information with my handicapping of Super Bowl 45 this weekend. I hope all of you are staying warm and handled the blizzard in good fashion. Enjoy the pictures!

Gallery sneak peek (36 images):

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The Best of the Blizzard Photos

I asked and you answered. Here are the best photos so far from Blizzard 2011. Keep em coming! Stay warm! Kap

Gallery sneak peek (16 images):

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Another Slice Of History

As the Bears get set to play the Packers in the post season for the first time since 1941, I was given a few pictures you might enjoy.  Below are four newspaper shots from December 14th and 15th, 1941, the day of and the day after the two football rivals met the last time in post season play.  Check these out.  You'll enjoy.   

Gallery sneak peek (4 images):

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Sunday's NFL Picks Against the Spread - December 26, 2010

I hope that you had a great Christmas and are enjoying the holiday season! With this time of year comes some great sports on TV like the Heat at the Lakers which was a star studded match-up on Christmas Day. Also, Saturday night's NFL match-up between Dallas and Arizona may not have had playoff implications but it was a tremendously entertaining game that went down to the wire.

Today's slate of games have some very important battles that can decide playoff fates and home field advantage. The game at Soldier Field in Chicago between the Bears and the Jets is important to both teams so we should see a very intense battle.

I  see several games that I find intriguing so let's get right to it with our picks for today.

**As always these selections are for entertainment purposes only**

Top Plays
Houston -3 over Denver
Tennessee/Kansas City OVER 42
San Diego/Cincinnati UNDER 44
Tampa Bay -6 over Seattle
Indianapolis -3 over Oakland

Best Bet

2 Team Teaser on New England (-8 1/2) and San Diego (-8)

Gallery sneak peek (2 images):

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Sunday's NFL Picks Against the Spread - December 19, 2010

Okay, the Christmas season is here and today many of you will be celebrating with family and friends while you also watch NFL football. The Bears will play on Monday Night Football against the Vikings at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium. There has been much consternation this week about playing the game outdoors but the Bears need to forget all of that distraction and take care of business against a Vikings team that is up the track in the NFC North. When New England beats Green Bay the Bears will have their chance to clinch the division with a win over Minnesota.

Here we go with today's picks....

**As always these selections are for entertainment purposes only**

Top Plays

Dallas -7 over Washington
New Orleans +1.5 over Baltimore
Miami -5.5 over Buffalo

Best Bet

Oakland -7.5 over Denver
Denver at Oakland OVER 42

Cubs Moving Towards to Signing Kerry Wood

The Cubs, who have a major need for a veteran right handed reliever are moving towards finalizing a deal with free agent Kerry Wood. Wood, who spent the first 10 years of his major league career with the Cubs spent 2010 with the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees and compiled impressive numbers down the stretch for New York as the Yankees qualified for the post season.

Acquired by the Yankees at the trading deadline, Wood went 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in 24 games. If he finalizes his deal with the Cubs, Wood should provide tremendous support to Cubs closer Carlos Marmol and along with left hander Sean Marshall will form a very formidable back end of the bullpen.

Wood has made Chicago his permanent home and told me just last week that whatever decision he made about where he would pitch in 2011 had to be a good fit for his family. Being able to stay home and his longtime relationship with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry are huge factors in the Cubs favor.

More to come....

A Slice of History

One of the things we love about baseball is its history.  Baseball dates back to the 19th century and the game was the gateway to America's love for professional sports.  Attached here are some box scores from some of the first baseball games in its storied history. 

These box scores and game stories date back to 1876, and involve the Chicago White Stockings, the first professional team in the Windy City.

Box Score 1

Box Score 2

Box Score 3

Box Score 4

Box Score 5

Box Score 6

Box Score 7

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Box Score 10


Box Score 11


Box Score 12

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Box Score 14

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Box Score 20

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Box Score 26

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Box Score 31

Box Score 32

Box Score 33

Box Score 34

Box Score 35
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Cubs Continue to Evaluate Brandon Webb

Baseball sources confirmed to me tonight that the Cubs continue to evaluate the medical reports on starting pitcher Brandon Webb who has been sidelined for the better part of the last two seasons with a shoulder injury. Webb, a former Cy Yound award winner with the Arizona Diamondbacks has serious interest in the Cubs and should his medicals check out he could find himself competing for a spot in the Cubs rotation next spring.

Also on the Cubs beat are rumors that the club is evaluating the cost of trading for Tampa Bay's Matt Garza. An excellent source in Tampa told me tonight that the Rays have not yet decided if they even want to move Garza who won 15 games in 2010 and appears to be heading into the prime of his career. Should he become available the price in terms of players going back would be large.

Sunday's NFL Picks Against the Spread - December 5th

Okay, after some time off which included a little vacation I am back with my NFL picks against the spread. There are a handful of games that I find intriguing including the Monday night battle that has the NY Jets on the road at New England. The Bears are at Detroit and the line on that game keeps rising. It opened at 3 and now it is at 5 1/2 and headed north. I just don't see how the Bears don't pound the Lions today with Detroit starting career backup Drew Stanton under center.

(**As always these picks are for entertainment purposes only**)

Top Plays

Pittsburgh +3.5 over Baltimore
Miami -4 over Cleveland
Kansas City -8.5 over Denver
Tennessee -3.5 over Jacksonville

Best Bet

Bears -5 over Detroit

A Tribute To Ron Santo: Audio Edition Part II

There really is no way to upload every great moment of radio between Pat Hughes and Ron Santo, but here are some more gems we had in our archive. 

The Yogurt Machine:
Pat - Ron and yogurt.mp3

Ron's Lip:
Pat and Ron - Ron's Lip.mp3

Tom Cruise's Height Argument:
Pat and Ron - Tom Cruise's height.mp3

Shultzy:
Pat and Ron Hilarity 061510.mp3

Ronnie always made fun of himself:
Ron doesn't make sense.mp3

The Coffee Spillage:
Ron Spillage.mp3

The Praying Mantis:
Pat and Ron - Praying Mantis.MP3

And last, at least for this post, but certainly not least, some great Ron Santo highlights:
Ron Montage.mp3

Listening back to these just illustrates how much we'll all miss Ron Santo.  What a man he was.

A Tribute To Ron Santo: Audio Edition

Whether you were a Cubs fan or not, you had to love Ron Santo's passion for baseball.  And that passion shined through each and every day as the radio analyst for the Chicago Cubs.  There were so many hysterical moments each and every year with Ronnie, and the conversations between him and Pat Hughes were great.

Here are some of those great moments to listen back to, and enjoy.

Ron: Flossing and Cake


"They Oughta Shoot Him"


Kumbaya
KUMBAYA FULL.MP3

Ron yells at a fan in San Diego
ronny yells at fans.wav

Ron and Pat discuss his famous hair piece
ron's hairpiece segment.mp3


Ron's reactions were as good as any.  He embodied the Cubs fans' spirit every play.
ron mad reactions.WAV

There are countless other moments that exemplify Ron and the humor and entertainment he brought to the broadcast.  I would love to hear your favorite moments or post a clip if you have it of your favorite Ronnie moment.

Ron Santo Dies at 70

I just finished hosting a 3 1/2 hour tribute show to Ron Santo who died this morning from complications of bladder cancer at the age of 70. I was privileged to call Ron a close friend and a broadcasting colleague at WGN Radio for the past 16 seasons. Ron wore his emotions on his sleeve and he was as real as a person could get.

The toughness that he displayed while dealing with a myriad of health problems over the past decade never dampened his love for life and the sunny disposition with which he chose to live every single day. Ron was a tremendous role model for millions of diabetics and for countless others who looked to him for inspiration as they battled their own serious health problems.

Below are some photos of Ron from both his playing days and from his life at WGN Radio as the analyst on the Chicago Cubs radio network. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten. Ron, we love you.


Gallery sneak peek (21 images):

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Sunday's NFL Picks Against the Spread - November 7th

A very good week picking games last Sunday as I went 4-1 only losing on the Dallas Cowboys who were awful in a loss to Jacksonville. This week is an interesting one as the Bears come off of their bye week and play the 0-7 Buffalo Bills who were beaten in overtime each of the last two weeks on the road by Baltimore and Kansas City.

Here we go for Week 9 in the NFL....

(**As always these picks are for entertainment purposes only**)

New York Giants -7
San Diego Chargers -3
New Orleans Saints -6 1/2
Dallas +8
Baltimore -5

Best Bet
Chicago Bears on the money line (I am not comfortable laying the 3 points)

Sunday's NFL vs the Spread - October 24th

I went 4-3 in college football yesterday with Northwestern costing me a 5-2 day when they blew a 17-0 lead and couldn't finish against Michigan State at Ryan Field in Evanston. Navy should have been our play of the day as they destroyed Notre Dame. Are the natives getting restless already in South Bend considering this is Brian Kelly's first year on the Irish sidelines? I am hearing from impeccable sources close to the program that Kelly's brief honeymoon is over.

Okay, onto the NFL where there are eight games with spreads at 4 or under. A tough week but there are a handful of games that I like. Good luck!

**As always these picks are for entertainment purposes only**

Solid Plays

Washington +3 over Bears
San Francisco/Carolina OVER 35
Arizona +7 over Seattle
Tennessee -3 over Philadelphia

Top Play

Pittsburgh -3 over Miami

Are the Cubs Interested in Signing Adam Dunn?

According to an interview conducted by Clint Evans from Diamond Hoggers, and Mike Rosenbaum from The Golden Sombrero in their podcast called "The Baseball Show", baseball agent Matt Sosnick believes the Chicago Cubs are interested in signing Adam Dunn to a multi-year deal.

"If I was going to guess, I would say [Adam Dunn] is probably going to the Cubs, and he'll probably get, you know, 3 years and 40 million bucks," said Sosnick, of Sosnick and Cobbe Sports.

Listen to Sosnick talk about the Cubs interest in Adam Dunn


Sosnick represents numerous baseball players including the Reds' Jay Bruce and the Giants' Freddy Sanchez.  He argues that while Dunn's defense is poor, he is a consistent slugger who can hit 40 homers and drive in 100 runs year in and year out.  For this reason he is a desirable commodity for any team.  However, he says it's unclear whether the Nationals will attempt to bring him back to Washington.

"Like I said, it's very difficult to see whether the Nationals are trying to build a contending team,"  Sosnick said.  "They signed the GM for five years, they have a pitching staff that, sometime in the next couple years is going to come together where they're going to have a really strong 1, 2 and 3.  But you also have to have hitters."

Whether or not the Cubs truly are interested in Dunn has not been confirmed by the team.  But if nothing else, it could be a window into the plans the team has this off-season as they prepare for 2011.

Read the articles, and listen to the entire podcast here. 


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Hendry Says Sandberg is Welcome Back In Iowa....

I just spoke with Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry and he assured me that Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg is welcome to return to the organization as the manager at Class AAA Iowa. Sandberg, who was bypassed by Hendry for the managerial vacancy in favor of Mike Quade is reportedly "highly disappointed" that he was not given the Cubs job and yesterday indicated that he had been offered nothing by the Cubs going forward.

"He is certainly welcome to return to Iowa. We think he did a great job there. This was a very tough decision and one that I tossed and turned over. However, I love Ryne Sandberg and have tremendous respect for him," Hendry told me this morning.

In an interview with Dave Van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune, he said, "I haven't been offered anything," not long after the phone call came informing him of the decision. Not a coaching job on Quade's staff, not his old post at Triple-A Iowa, where he had just been voted Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year.

Asked if he would return to Iowa, Sandberg said on Tuesday, "I don't know. I'm hoping there's something else out there. I'm hoping to manage or coach at the big-league level.I'm just kind of digesting it right now and I have my agent getting feelers out.

This morning when I reached Sandberg at his home in Phoenix he told me "there was nothing offered to me yesterday. I was unaware that they wanted me back until I heard it from you. I guess it is an option. I'm going to take my time and see what is out there."

Quade Gets The Gig....Will Sandberg Leave the Organization?

The Cubs have removed the interim tag and have named Mike Quade their full time manager giving him a two year deal with a club option for 2013. So how did General Manager Jim Hendry arrive at this decision after interviewing several candidates over the past three months?

According to Ryne Sandberg who just appeared on multiple radio shows and spoke with the Chicago Tribune's Dave Van Dyck, he was informed by team chairman Tom Ricketts on Tuesday morning that the Cubs were going with Quade over him because, according to Sandberg, Ricketts said, "it was a tough decision" choosing Quade over him, but that "it was (general manager) Jim Hendry's call and he was going with his gut feeling."

"I told him I'm disappointed and that I appreciated the process and being involved," Sandberg said by phone. "That was the end of the conversation."

Sandberg was not "offered anything" by Ricketts, including the top job at Triple-A Iowa, where he was just named Pacific Coast League manager of the year. "I'm just kind of digesting it right now and I've got my agent getting feelers out," said Sandberg, who wears a Cubs cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. Asked if he would return to Iowa, Sandberg said, "I don't know. I'm hoping there's something else out there. I'm hoping to manage or coach at the big-league level."

So now the question is why was Sandberg passed over and why wouldn't the Cubs wait to at least talk to Joe Girardi whose contract with the New York Yankees is up whenever the Yanks finish their postseason run? These are questions that will be asked at the press conference this afternoon to introduce Quade. The answers should be very telling.

Quade is a solid baseball man and a terrific guy. He grew up in the Chicago area and he understands the Cubs culture. He was well liked as a member of Lou Piniella's coaching staff and he impressed the current Cubs players when he was named the interim manager for the last six weeks of the 2010 season. However, whether or not he can take the Cubs where they haven't been for 102 years remains to be seen.

This much is for sure. General Manager Jim Hendry has made his final managerial hire for a long time because if this one doesn't work he probably won't be around to hire the next one. He needs to have a solid winter and he must show that the direction of the club is pointed upward because after a rough 2009 and a horrific 2010 he must get things turned around and it must happen relatively quickly. He turned the trick when he was named GM in 2002 and had his first team 5 outs from the World Series in 2003. He turned the trick again in 2007 after a terrible 2006 season winning back to back division titles and crafting a team that won a National League best 97 games in 2008. He had better be able to pull a rabbit out of his hat in 2011 or he may be looking for work. 

The Cubs Managerial Search

The Cubs managerial search is rolling along as GM Jim Hendry continues to his homework on several candidates both in-house and outside the organization. He has interviewed Eric Wedge (just named the manager of the Seattle Mariners), Don Wakamatsu, Bob Melvin, Ryne Sandberg, Mike Quade, and others and he has talked to several baseball types he knows around the game to hear their thoughts and opinions.

Before he makes a hire he had better look himself in the mirror and realize that the last two full time managers of this team were unwilling to hold players accountable despite coming in with reputations as locker room leaders. From the ridiculousness that derailed the 2004 Cubs to the antics of Carlos Zambrano this season no one has ever had the courage to lay down the law and be the tough guy that the Cubs have needed for far too long. That is squarely on the field manager and upper management who did absolutely nothing to control the players who let the broadcasters and the extraneous noise distract them in 2004 to Lou Piniella completely losing his team in 2010 as the season spiraled out of control. Set down a way to play and let no one operate outside the rules. Period, end of story. If a player misses a team flight because of his birthday then he doesn't pitch no matter who he is (think Big Z in 2009). If a player doesn't run hard out of the box then he is removed from the game and he sits. Whether he signed a 136 million dollar contract or is a minimum salaried rookie. Operate that way and you have a chance. Anything less and you will lose the respect of your team very quickly.
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Saturday's College Football Picks

Here we go on a gorgeous football Saturday....

There are several games I like including the rivalry showdown between Michigan State and Michigan in Ann Arbor which will mark the return to coach from MSU coach Mark Dantonio who suffered a heart attack after the Spartans dramatic win over Notre Dame.

**As always these picks are for entertainment purposes only**

Solid Plays

Stanford -9 over USC
Iowa State +6 1/2 over Utah

Best Bets

Michigan -4 over Michigan State
Alabama -7 over South Carolina
Tulane -1 over Army

Also, here are the picks from my friend Mr. BCS (who just finished a book on the joke that is the BCS) and now would like to be known by the name BCS Buster :)

Tennessee +11 1/2 over Georgia
Michigan State + 4 1/2 over Michigan
Notre Dame -6 over Pittsburgh
Florida State +6 over Miami
USC +9 over Stanford 

An Honest Assessment of the Chicago Cubs

With the 2010 regular season now over it is time to turn our attention to 2011 and that means fixing all that is wrong with the Chicago Cubs as they ended the season in 5th place with a record of 75-87 and 16 games behind the division champion Cincinnati Reds.

What Went Right

The signing of Marlon Byrd was a solid decision as he was excellent defensively, was well liked in the clubhouse, and contributed a solid season offensively. Ryan Dempster was solid winning 15 games and throwing over 200 innings as well as providing tremendous leadership in the clubhouse. Carlos Marmol was excellent all season long saving 38 games and dominating like no other reliever in the game. He does have his occasional control problems but he should be an elite closer for many years to come. Sean Marshall settled into the setup role very well and has emerged as one of the better relievers in the National League. His emergence calmed a very shaky bullpen that struggled in April and May. Finally, shortstop Starlin Castro exploded on the scene when he was called up to the big leagues in early May. He was solid at the plate and showed flashes of brilliance defensively despite commiting 27 errors. He should be a fixture in the Cubs infield for many years to come. 


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Forbes on the Cubs: Least Efficient Team in Baseball

Forbes Magazine just released an article that ranks every major league team on what they received for their payroll expenditures. The news is not good for the Chicago Cubs who finished dead last in all of baseball, getting the least production for the obscene amount of money that they spent on player payroll in 2010.

Check it out....

Sunday October 3rd - NFL Picks

Yesterday we came oh so close to a great day in college football as our pick on Boise State going over 60 fell short as they won 59-0. I was surprised to see Notre Dame drill Boston College but give the Irish a a lot of credit as they played very well. Also, Northwestern rallied to win but had several miscues that kept the game closer than it should have been.

Here is today in the NFL against the spread:

**As always these picks are for entertainment purposes only**

Solid Plays

New York Giants -3 1/2 over the Bears
Buffalo +6 over the New York Jets
Tennessee -7 over Denver
San Diego -9 1/2 over Arizona

Best Bet

Houston/Oakland OVER
Bears/New York Giants OVER 44

Sunday - September 26th - NFL Picks vs the Spread

I went 4-3 in college football on Saturday winning with my Best Bet on Stanford who drilled Notre Dame 37-14 in South Bend. I also had solid winners on Northern Illinois, Auburn and West Virginia but I was surprised to lose convincingly on Bowling Green who was destroyed at Michigan as well as losing on Boston College who was shut out at home by Virginia Tech.

Onto Sunday's slate in the NFL where I found several intriguing match-ups including winless San Francisco who is favored at undefeated Kansas City. I'll be back with the Sunday night game later Sunday afternoon as well as a pick Monday afternoon on the MNF battle at Soldier Field between the Bears and the Packers.

**As always, these picks are for entertainment purposes only.**

Solid Plays

Cincinnati -3 over Carolina
Atlanta +4 over New Orleans
Washington/St. Louis OVER 38.5
Baltimore -10.5 over Cleveland
Houston -3 over Dallas
San Francisco -2.5 over Kansas City

Best Bet

San Francisco at Kansas City OVER 37



Sunday NFL vs the Spread

Saturday was a great day in college football with Ohio State dominating Miami and Alabama drilling Penn State as well as a classic game in South Bend that saw Michigan blow a 21-17 lead late in the 4th quarter before roaring back in the final minute to stun the Irish 28-24. I had a strong day going 4-1 winning on Michigan as an outright underdog winner and winning with Alabama and Stanford who both cruised to comfortable wins. Our only loss came on Vanderbilt who struggled offensively in a loss to LSU. That was more than made up for though by a winner with our Best Play which saw Wake Forest beat Duke as a 5 1/2 point underdog.

Here are today's picks in the NFL: (As always these picks are for entertainment purposes only):

San Francisco - 3 at Seattle
Cincinnati +5 at New England
Houston + 2 1/2 vs Indianapolis
Bears vs Lions OVER 45

The Sunday night game will be up this afternoon and the Monday night game will be up tomorrow. The rest of the late games will be added if I find something I like during the early games.

Have Fun!




Undercover Boss Comes to Wrigley Field

The Ricketts family are newcomers to the baseball world and despite the rough season the Cubs are having on the field it has been a learning experience for all involved in the family.  
I have learned that Todd Ricketts just completed nine days of shooting today on an episode of the popular CBS show "Undercover Boss" at Wrigley Field. Ricketts was in complete disguise including a beard and was not recognized by any Cubs employee as he performed a variety of jobs including hot dog vendor and security guard.

The family looked at this as a great way to learn the inner workings of the business from the ground floor up, despite the poor season. We hear that Ricketts really connected with his "fellow employees".

The show is being rushed into production because as one source who works closely with CBS told me: "Todd Ricketts was a natural and he made the show. It may be the best Undercover Boss we have ever done." It could air within a month. More to come.

Girardi To The Cubs? Harold Reynolds Says Yes

MLB Network Analyst Harold Reynolds told Dan Patrick on his radio show Monday he believes Yankees Manager Joe Girardi will be the next skipper of the Chicago Cubs. In the interview, Reynolds said Girardi has too many ties to the Windy City, and feels that will be enough to lure him back to the Friendly Confines.

I have been saying for a long time now that Girardi would be the best choice for the Cubs should he be available for Jim Hendry to bring into the fold.  Have a listen to the interview below.  We'll be discussing all week on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet and on The Cubs 10th Inning Postgame Show on WGN Radio 720.

 

**Breaking News** Cubs Close to Trading Derrek Lee

**Breaking News** The Cubs are close to trading first baseman Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves, I have learned exclusively. The trade was first discussed on Sunday evening when the Braves called Cubs GM Jim Hendry and expressed interest after learning that one of their best offensive players, Chipper Jones was lost for the season with a knee injury.

As a 10-5 man (10 years in the major leagues and the last five with the same team) Lee has the right to reject a trade as he did when the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim tried to acquire him in late July. However, sources close to Lee tell us that he will approve a deal to Atlanta because the Braves are leading their division thus giving him a shot at winning another World Series ring. Lee was a member of the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins who beat the New York Yankees in the Fall Classic.

The deal that would send Lee to the Braves has not yet been finalized but MLB sources characterize the trade as nearly done. One holdup has been Lee's balky back which has kept him sidelined the past couple of days. The trade is not expected to land the Cubs much in the way of talent because of Lee's subpar 2010 season but it will provide some salary relief as Lee makes 13 million dollars and the Braves are expected to assume most if not all of his remaining money.

Stay tuned and I will update as soon as I confirm that the trade has been completed. For all of the breaking news that I cover please follow me on Twitter @thekapman. Kap

A Look at the Trade of Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot

The Cubs started their overhaul of the roster for the 2011 season by trading pitcher Ted Lilly and 2nd baseman Ryan Theriot to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2nd baseman Blake DeWitt and two minor league pitchers.

The two minor leaguers the Cubs received were both drafted reasonably high but only one is projected by minor league talent evaluators as a probable big league arm. Brett Wallach, the son of former major league infielder Tim Wallach is a recent convert from position player and pitcher to full time pitcher and has, according to the scouts I spoke with a solid chance of pitching in the big leagues as a back of the rotation type or as a set up man. Kyle Smit was a touted prospect in 2006 when he was drafted in the 5th round but has not progressed as the Dodgers had hoped. Here are a couple of scouting reports on the two pitchers from the MLB Daily Dish:
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Andre Dawson Says the Cubs Should Go After Girardi

Recently inducted Hall of Famer Andre Dawson said this week that the Cubs should pass on Ryne Sandberg and should instead take a run at New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Here are the comments that Dawson made in an interview on WSCR in Chicago.

Please post your thoughts on the Cubs managerial position in the comments section. Thanks! 

Derrek Lee Says No Thank You to a Trade

The Cubs were approached recently by the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers regarding a potential trade for first baseman Derrek Lee. No names were discussed but the Cubs then went to Lee to see if he would waive his 10 and 5 rights which under Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement allow him to block a trade.

Lee informed Jim Hendry that he will not accept any trade and would like to wait until the season is over to decide on his future. His current Cubs contract expires at the end of this season.
Several reports have criticized Lee for his position but who are we to determine what is best for his future? He has the ability to block a trade and he exercised that right, plain and simple.

The Next Manager is a No Brainer Hire

With Lou Piniella's announcement last week that he is retiring as the manager of the Cubs the speculation has been in high gear as to who will replace him. From Ryne Sandberg to Bob Brenly to Bobby Valentine there has been no shortage of names tossed about.

I have looked at this decision for a while now knowing that Lou would not be returning to the Cubs and there is really only one name that should be on the Chicago Cubs shopping list. New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

Girardi is so obvious that I am stunned to hear some people tout others over him. Girardi is a winner who has multiple World Series rings as a player and has won one as manager of the Yankees. He was also named Manager of the Year when he was with the Florida Marlins and took a team with a 14 million dollar payroll and nearly made the playoffs. He has had small payrolls, large payrolls and has handled both situations very well.


Gallery sneak peek (8 images):

View the gallery...
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Lou Piniella To Retire

Cubs manager Lou Piniella will announce this afternoon that he is retiring at the end of the 2010 baseball season. I just spoke exclusively with Piniella and he did confirm that he is stepping down but he is very upset that the news leaked out before he had a chance to inform his team.

"Yes, it is true that I am retiring. I am 67 years old and it is time for me to move on to the next phase of my life and to spend more time with my family. However, I am very upset that the news leaked out before I had a chance to inform my team," Piniella told me.

Bill Madden of the NY Daily News learned of the impending announcement from Piniella's agent Alan Nero who told him the news in confidence. However, Madden did not keep the news quiet and thus the story broke, angering Piniella and his family.

Piniella will address the media at 4:15 from the interview room at Wrigley Field. I will have full coverage of the announcement both on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet at 5:30 and on the Tenth Inning Show immediately after tonight's Astros/Cubs game on WGN Radio.

What Keeps The Cubs From Winning?

We all know it has been 101 years and counting since the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series in 1908 and it isn't looking like this season will end the longest drought in sports history either. On Saturday I interviewed Cincinnati Reds star Scott Rolen who has played many games in the Friendly Confines and asked him why he thinks the Cubs don't win. What he told me might surprise you but give the man credit. He spoke from the heart and was extremely passionate in his comments.

DK: There is a lot of talk about leadership in a locker room. What is your take on the importance of leadership?

SCOTT ROLEN:
 
That word is thrown around a lot. It was thrown around a lot when I was in Philadelphia. Leadership means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The leadership aspect is a bunch of guys going out together and playing good baseball. When you're playing good baseball your winning baseball games then you have good leadership and you have good personnel. When you're going out and playing sloppy baseball and not winning ball games then we have bad leadership. I don't take it, I appreciate it. I take it as...a high regard and very complimentary. But we're trying to be professionals on and off the field trying to go out and play good baseball and stay on top of things and not let things get out of hand and have little brush fires along the way, just keep a nice clean clubhouse.

DK: We hear all the time about bringing in winning type players because they have won championships and they have "been there before". Do you agree?

SCOTT ROLEN:
 
Well, again I'm kind of a downplay guy, I think it's a little overblown. A winning player is a player that's on a team that won. That maybe didn't get a lot of at bats or get a lot of playing time. Whatever, there's something to it with individual guys, but it's individual personnel, case by case, there are special people in all sports that play the game that are infectious that have a way of putting people where they need to be. In the clubhouse keeping things loose, keeping things going in the right direction without a doubt. I do believe in that, but being a winning team and being a winning player, yeah I don't know.

DK: You have played a lot of games here at Wrigley Field during your career. Why do you think the Cubs haven't been able to win here?

SCOTT ROLEN:
 
I think I don't know is probably the politically correct answer. True answer? The facts or the truth? The facts? The facts as I see it, I think they have their hands full a little bit. I think they're limited in their facilities here, their batting cage, I think it limits their work. A little restricted obviously in the clubhouse and their weight room. A lot of facilities that other teams have. They play a different schedule than everybody in baseball. There's three things in my mind that are facts. I don't know if that's the truth because to me there's a difference between the facts and the truth. Well it's a night game now basically. You sleep in during the day, you play a lot of night games and you struggle with travel days and everyone struggles with day games. They're playing 50, 55, 60 whatever day games a year. It's a different schedule. So I know for us coming here playing four day games, we're beat. That's their season. That's what they're doing. It puts their backs against the wall a little bit. They have good players, they have good personnel, they know how to play baseball. They have a good organization, but you know honestly I think it's difficult for them. Like I said, when we're talking about facilities everyone talks about Wrigley Field. Great atmosphere we love coming here, the fans, batting practice, everything. Fantastic, the ivy the whole works. I'm in. There's a lot in the game today, there's a lot of beautiful facilities. That are geared towards working, towards perfecting you know your skill, towards video, you know a lot of things have changed in the game and I'm not sure what the other side looks like but you know batting cages and stuff, I think are a bit restricted. They have to work pretty hard, they've got their hands full. But great place to play, everyone loves playing here and good personel, good ball club, good players.


Why Hasn't Dwyane Wade Announced He is Staying in Miami Yet?

If, as has been portrayed by the South Florida media for the past few months were true that Dwyane Wade was definitely returning to the Heat wouldn't he be more actively involved in helping to recruit talent to join him in Miami?

Perhaps Wade's meetings with the Bulls were legitimate and he is truly conflicted about where to go. His divorce and custody battle have to be playing a major role in his thought process. As the father of four kids I know I would surely be thinking heavily about moving back home to provide stability in my kids lives.

So, here is what I am wondering. Does Dwyane Wade know he is going to Chicago? And if he does is he taking his time to be respectful of the people in Miami who have been very good to him over the past several years? If his children and winning are his top priorities then the only choice for him to make is to play in Chicago. Imagine a backcourt with Wade and Derrick Rose. Then add in Joakim Noah and another signing from the free agent class of 2010 and you have a team that would be among the favorites to win the NBA title this season. In Miami you have a franchise that is devoid of talent and has only two players currently under contract.

You have to believe that Jerry Reinsdorf and company are too smart to not have a deal with one of the prime time free agents very close to completion. Why else would they have traded Kirk Hinrich and been working extremely hard to move Luol Deng. The Bulls have been extremely professional and noticeably quiet as the process plays itself out.  For those of us in Chicago, a Wade, Bosh, Rose trio is what we dream about. For those in Miami it is their worst nightmare come true.

How to Start Rebuilding the Chicago Cubs

If the Cubs do not show signs of life heading into the all star break I fully believe that we will hear from Chairman Tom Ricketts on his and his family's thoughts about the team and their plans for cleaning up the mess. So with that in mind here is what I would advise them to do to prepare for a very tough meeting with the media and the July 31st trading deadline.

1) Management must let the fan base know how frustrated they are with the on field performance and also let them know that it will not be tolerated and that change is coming to the Cubs in a big way.

2) Identify those pieces that have trade value and can be moved. That means there are no untouchables on the roster. However, it would take a huge deal to pry some of the best youngsters away from the Cubs.

3) Be willing to eat significant dollars to clear out the dead wood on the roster so that a complete overhaul of the team can begin as soon as possible.

4) Show the paying customer how much this season has upset you. They are paying a tremendous amount of money to support your team and they also invest their heart in a team that has broken it more times than they care to remember. They have to know that you are as upset as they are or you could see further declines in attendance and support.

5) Lay out a plan for the future. The Cubs fans will buy a plan if it is spelled out to them in a clear and concise manner. There has never been a definitive plan to rebuild the team. It has always been about trying to upgrade and compete all at the same time. Unless you spend Yankee level money that plan has very little chance of succeeding.

6) Talk about playing with pride and fire. That is much more of an indictment on the players than it is on the manager. However, when you see players like Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez struggle day after day and they continue to remain in the 3-4 hole on the days that they are playing it is no wonder that it appears as if poor play is accepted. Lee and Ramirez have been awful all season long but never have we seen them dropped down to the 6-7-8 spots in the order.

When the White Sox were struggling in early June we heard Kenny Williams say that it would not be tolerated and that changes were coming if things didn't improve. He also said that "I'm tired of looking at this and so are our fans." By doing that he let everyone who buys a White Sox ticket know that he was as frustrated as they are and that it was unacceptable. We have not heard much of that from the North Side and that too is unacceptable.


Cubs Trying to Move Fukudome

Several baseball sources have confirmed to me that the Chicago Cubs have been extremely active in trying to move Kosuke Fukudome to open up regular playing time for rookie Tyler Colvin. Fukudome is owed approximately 8 million dollars for the remainder of this season and an additional 14 million for 2011.

My sources tell me that Cubs GM Jim Hendry has offered to pick up the bulk of the remaining dollars on the 2010 commitment and half of the money in 2011 but so far has found no takers for the under performing right fielder.

I have also been told that upper management is being extremely patient despite the poor performance of the Cubs so far in 2010. They will wait a few more weeks and evaluate the club's position at that time before they determine a course of action in advance of the July 31 trade deadline.

Adam Burish Blasts Chris Pronger

Blackhawks winger Adam Burish popped off in an NBC 5 interview with Paula Faris after the blackhawks beat the flyers in Game 6 to win the Stanley Cup. His comments are not playing well in Philly so I decided to paste this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Interesting reading and it should make next season even more interesting.

Blackhawks' Burish blasts Pronger

By: Frank Seravalli

Standing on the Wachovia Center ice with his teammates hoisting the Stanley Cup in the background, Blackhawks forward Adam Burish couldn't hold back any longer.

Nevermind that he didn't actually play in the Stanley Cup clinching Game 6, having been a healthy scratch for the last three games because he was invisible in the first three. He just put on his equipment and skated around the ice like he did.

In an interview with NBC, Burish couldn't pass up the opportunity to needle Chris Pronger on live television.

"I think Chris Pronger's the biggest idiot in the league," Burish said. "I can't stand him one bit. I hope I never have to see him again. If I see him out there, I might punch him."

Did Burish see the poorly done Chicago Tribune poster that depicted Pronger in a skirt, calling him 'Chrissy Pronger'?

"No, but that's perfect," Burish said. "He should have worn that out here [on the ice]. He was terrible."

Classy winner, right?

Those are some big words for a forward who has never posted more than nine points in an NHL season or positively contributed to a winning team. Pronger's resume includes three Stanley Cup Finals with three different teams, a Hart Trophy, a Norris Trophy and a Stanley Cup ring.

Our advice to Burish when these two teams meet next season: keep your head up. That is, if he's playing.




The Blackhawks are Kings of the Hockey World

What a tremendous moment to see the Stanley Cup handed to Jonathan Toews by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the wild celebration that ensued moments later. In my lifetime I have seen several championships. The 1985 Bears, the 6 titles won by Michael Jordan and the Bulls, the 2005 White Sox who won the World Series, and even the 1982 Chicago Sting who claimed the NASL soccer title.

Now all that is left is for the Cubs to end more than a century of futility and finally win a World Series. That is a topic for another day. Now let's celebrate the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks who are the NHL Champions.



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What Would You Do If You Were Tom Ricketts?

I host the Tenth Inning post game show on WGN Radio after most games and I am inundated with calls from fans who want to blame Lou Piniella for the poor play of many of the Cubs highly paid stars. So it got me to thinking. If you owned the Chicago Cubs what moves would you make? Not just in player personnel but in all aspects of running a major league baseball franchise from the team to the front office to the concessions to the marketing plan.

Put some thought into this and post your ideas in the comments section. I will take the best laid out plans to Tom Ricketts and hand your ideas to him. Be creative, think outside the box, and remember there are a ton of aspects that are included in owning a major league team that you probably haven't even considered. Where would you build the new spring training facility? Who would be your manager next season if Lou doesn't return? How much would your payroll be?

These are all interesting questions and questions that I want you to answer. Be thorough and have fun building a franchise but remember it is not as easy as it looks!

Go get em!

An Honest Assessment of the Cubs

With the Cubs currently sitting at 19-22 and 4 1/2 games off the pace in the NL Central it is time to evaluate the roster, the off season moves, and the decision making through the first 6 weeks of the season.

General Manager Jim Hendry did not have much payroll flexibility this past winter and he had a number of things he wanted to address as he tried to retool his baseball team after a disappointing 2009 season. Hendry needed to land a center fielder, he needed to move Milton Bradley, he needed to upgrade his bullpen, and he needed to help some of his best players return to their previous form after having sub par 09' campaigns.

Let's look at the Cubs moves and decisions since the end of the 2009 season and grade them accordingly:


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Cubs Will Sign Bobby Howry

As I reported earlier tonight on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet the Cubs will sign reliever Bobby Howry to a deal that will be announced sometime in the next 48 hours. Howry was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier this week and after clearing waivers the Cubs will only owe him the pro rated league minimum salary.

Howry spent the 2009 season with San Francisco where he appeared in 63 games with a 2-6 record and a 3.39 ERA. The Cubs are denying the signing but friends of Howry have confirmed that he and his wife have told them that they are indeed returning to Chicago.

Jeff Van Gundy: "I don't think I will be considered"

Jeff Van Gundy joined us on Chicago Tribune Live  tonight on Comcast SportsNet and offered his opinions on the Bulls organization and whether or not he finds the job attractive and would he be interested in the position: "I think it is a great job but when I spoke the truth it got back to me that they didn't think I was fair so I don't think I will be considered and that's okay too. I don't worry about that."

Here is the complete interview from Tuesday's Chicago Tribune Live.

An Open Letter From Tom Ricketts

I received this letter from several Cubs fans today so I decided to post it here on the blog so you could read it and decide to participate if you wanted to.

This is from Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts:


Are you a TRUE Cubs fan?

Date:
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Time:
12:00pm - 3:00pm
Location:
Chicago City Hall - Room 201-A
Street:
121 N. LaSalle St.

Description

If you're a true fan of the Cubbies then come on out and show the team your support.

Dear Friends,

You've probably been hearing about the Toyota sign we've proposed for the back of the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field. As fans and neighbors, we want you to know why this is important to the team and how it can help preserve the Friendly Confines.

As you know, Major League ballparks have historically relied on in-park signage to generate revenue. Legendary Fenway Park, older than Wrigley Field, has added significant signage throughout its outfield - and two World Series championships - in the last six years. Most other MLB teams also receive substantial public subsidies; we do not. In our case, we have asked for one sign in the outfield.

When we became owners, my family and I anticipated the need to spend tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars over the years ahead to preserve Wrigley Field. This past off-season, before we saw a single game as owners, we invested $10 million to shore up the infrastructure of the aging ballpark, renovate and expand its bathrooms, preserve our beloved scoreboard and replace some of the less attractive features of the park, like the concrete panels on the Addison street façade. As long-time Cubs fans, we know Wrigley Field is a special place and our hope is for future generations to share the wonderful experience of visiting the Friendly Confines.

In addition to the dollars invested in the park, we have maintained one of the highest payrolls in baseball and increased our budget for scouting and development - the key to future success. Winning a championship requires significant financial resources and we are currently reinvesting all profits - from the Toyota sign and otherwise - to make this happen.

Beyond the economics, there is an important principle at stake here. Wrigley Field has thrived for years as a privately-owned facility, albeit one where public interest is keen. We believe the park continues to be well-served by this principle which has guided its operation for nearly a century.

We have also been very respectful of the City's landmark designation and the process we have undertaken to win approval has been thorough. We've worked with the City and made adjustments, including modifying the location and design of the sign at the request of preservationists and City zoning officials. We've also worked with the rooftop businesses and in fact chose the proposed location because it least impacts those rooftop partners with whom we have long-term agreements. The landmark designation was never intended to put Wrigley Field in a time capsule. It's intended to allow flexibility and growth, within reason, to help the ballpark stay alive for the decades to come.

Finally, much of the opposition is rooted in commercial interests of one particular building and is designed to protect advertising currently on a rooftop across the street from Wrigley Field. Protecting the interests of one rooftop advertisement does not help preserve Wrigley Field or put together a championship team.

We would welcome your help and support for this sign. If you would like to lend your voice in support, please e-mail us at cubsfanfeedback@cubs.com.

I hope this information is helpful. Efforts like this are important as we continue to invest in our team and our 96-year-old ballpark. Improvements to Wrigley Field and modest changes throughout the years have kept the Friendly Confines alive while other stadiums have come and gone. Working together as we have allows us to remain viable and continue to flourish.

Thank you again for your help. And Go Cubs!

Sincerely,

Tom Ricketts
Chairman

The Latest on the Cubs, Zambrano, etc....

With the Cubs record now back to .500 at 13-13 and a 6 game road trip to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati up this week it's time to take a critical look at the team and some of the issues that they are facing in the fairly near future.

Before I go position by position I feel it necessary to address Phil Rogers "Morning Phil" column on the Chicago Tribune website today. Phil addresses the hot streak that Alfonso Soriano is currently in and says:

1. Forgive us, Alfonso. We should know better, but how quickly we all forget. When Bob Brenly, David Kaplan and seemingly everyone following the Cubs was treating Alfonso Soriano with something between contempt and ridicule for failing to run hard out of the batter's box on a blast to the wall April 20 at Citi Field in New York, they missed the bigger picture: Soriano was showing signs of become a dangerous hitter again.

Well, Phil you are showing an incredible lack of understanding of how the game is supposed to be played. Sure, Soriano is red hot and he is carrying the team but you have once again missed the much bigger picture. There is a right way to play the game and a wrong way to play the game and when Soriano doesn't hustle that is the wrong way to play the game and that my friend is an undeniable fact. You can defend his lack of hustle all you want but if it is no big deal then why was he pulled into Lou Piniella's office after that game in New York and talked to about the play? Are you telling me Phil that when he hustled a double into a triple the next night that it had nothing to do with the tongue lashing he received from his manager less than 24 hours earlier?

C'mon Phil, I know that you are smarter than that. Reading this it sure doesn't show it though.

Now, onto an assessment of the Cubs through the first month or so.

Starting Pitching

With Carlos Zambrano now in the bullpen as a set up man the rotation has stayed surprisingly solid through the first month. Carlos Silva has been solid and Tom Gorzelanny has been very capable in the #5 spot. Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells have been excellent and if not for the failings of the bullpen prior to Zambrano's arrival the Cubs record would be far better than 13-13. Ted Lilly has had one good start and one poor one so it is far too early to pass judgment on his long term prognosis this season. While the back end of the rotation has been a pleasant surprise you still cannot convince me that the rotation is better without Zambrano and I fully expect him to return to his role as a starter at some point this season. Unless of course the Cubs make a major trade that includes Big Z.

Bullpen

With 3 rookies on the opening day roster it is not hard to understand why the Cubs pen struggled so mightily in April. Combine that fact with the struggles of John Grabow and you can see why the record is what it is. Will Zambrano be the steadying influence that bullpen needs to vault the Cubs into contention? He can be if he is willing to commit himself to the role and if the Cubs rotation stays solid. If one of the 5 starters struggles then Zambrano will go back to the rotation and the hole in the set up role will again become a glaring weakness. Look for Jim Hendry to make a trade to shore this area up but with very little trade activity in the industry over the season's first 45-60 days it may be a while before deal gets done unless the Cubs GM is willing to significantly overpay.

Infield

The corner spots have been an issue offensively but Derrek Lee is showing signs of breaking out of his April slump and should be a solid force going forward. Ryan Theriot has been outstanding offensively hitting .348 and while he is not a Gold Glove shortstop he is more than solid at the position. Aramis Ramirez has been awful through the first month but based on his career numbers you have to believe that he will return to form as a very potent offensive threat. If he doesn't then the Cubs have major issues because his production is irreplaceable from the backups currently on the roster. Second base has been a pleasant surprise offensively as Mike Fontenot is hitting over .300 but can that continue for an entire season remains to be seen. The Cubs top prospect Starlin Castro is currently hitting .354 in Class AA but he is 5 for his last 35 at the plate so it appears he is in line for at least another few weeks of seasoning before he could make his major league debut. When he does look for Ryan Theriot to move over to 2nd base on an everyday basis.

Outfield

With all five outfielders on the roster deserving of playing time this is perhaps the toughest part of Lou Piniella's job. Alfonso Soriano. Marlon Byrd, and Kosuke Fukudome have all hit well but Tyler Colvin also is producing and has more than justified Piniella's faith in him when he put him on the opening day roster. Xavier Nady is a professional hitter and is not happy with his lack of playing time but with his surgically repaired elbow still an issue and the outfielders hitting well it has made opportunities for him to play scarce.

Catcher

A position of strength as Geovany Soto has rebounded from an awful 2009 and is a threat again at the plate. He is also throwing well and is a huge upgrade over the production the cubs received behind the plate in 2009. Koyie Hill is a very capable backup and has more than held his own when he gets an opportunity to play.

Summary

So, can the cubs make a run in the NL Central Division? Yes, if their rotation stays solid and the bullpen anchored by Zambrano and Carlos Marmol does its job consistently. Aramis Ramirez has to return to the form that he is capable of because without his bat in the lineup the Cubs have no chance to be solid enough offensively to compete for a playoff spot.

However, this is a station to station baseball team that does not have much team speed so when the wind blows in the Cubs are not very adept at manufacturing runs. They need to string together bunches of hits to score and that is not an easy proposition in the big leagues. I still have major questions about this team and while the past weekend was a solid step in the right direction let's not forget that they were playing the Arizona Diamondback and not the Philadelphia Phillies. Show us some excellent play against some of the better teams in the league and then maybe I'll start to believe.





The Cubs and White Sox Will Play for a Trophy

**Breaking News**

The Cubs and the White Sox have entered into a historic partnership today that will see the teams competing in inter league play, not only wins and losses but a new trophy called the BP Crosstown Cup.

Patterned along the lines of the various trophies that are staked in some of college football greatest rivalries, the Crosstown Cup will go to the team that wins the annual 6 game match-up between the two teams. What happens if each team wins 3 games you ask? Then the winner of the 6th game claims the trophy.

The Cup will be unveiled this season and should become a big part of the rivalry between the two great fan bases. The winning team will be presented the Crosstown Cup at the conclusion of the second series between the two teams, so there is a distinct possibility that a team could be awarded the trophy on the road in the other team's park.

Can you imagine the intensity of the moment if the Cubs were to celebrate with the trophy at US Cellular Field or the White Sox were to jump for joy with the Cup on the field at Wrigley? Those would be amazing moments to watch and will only intensify the already white-hot rivalry that runs generations deep.

In attendance at today's press conference in Millennium Park were Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, Manager Lou Piniella, Chief Marketing Officer Wally Hayward and players Marlon Byrd and Randy Wells. The White Sox were represented by Chief Marketing Officer Brooks Boyer and players A.J. Pierzynski and Gordon Beckham.   

Paxson and Del Negro Have Confrontation

Bulls VP John Paxson and head coach Vinny Del Negro were involved in a very heated physical confrontation after the Bulls lost to the Phoenix Suns according to extremely close sources to the situation. Paxson reportedly confronted Del Negro over the number of minuted that Joakim Noah was playing and as tempers began to rise, words were exchanged and it led to Paxson grabbing Del Negro by the tie and shoving him.

The source also told me that Del Negro kept his cool knowing that he is owed 2 million dollars and not wanting to do anything that could jeopardize his guaranteed money. He also did not want to damage his reputation in the NBA as he wants to continue coaching even if he is fired by the Bulls.

In addition, in a story reported by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune  Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has hired independent lawyers to investigate details of the altercation. The argument casts further doubt on Del Negro's long term future with the team and multiple NBA sources I spoke with tonight all but guaranteed to me that Del Negro will not return for his third season in 2010-11.


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Zambrano Pounded on Opening Day....Can He Rebound?

After a train wreck of an Opening Day for the Cubs in Atlanta on Monday I decided to crunch the numbers for Carlos Zambrano to see if we can come to a conclusion on whether or not he has seen his best days and is in a downward spiral that he cannot reverse.

Zambrano was simply awful Monday as he was pounded by the Atlanta Braves giving up 8 earned runs in less than 2 innings of work. Can he rebound? Certainly. He is only 28 (he turns 29 in June) and he should be entering the prime of his career. However, his trends over the past season and a half are not very impressive.

Here are Carlos Zambrano's pitching numbers since the 2008 All Star Break:

Starts 41
Wins 13
Losses 11
ERA 4.63
BAA .248 (.246 with runners in scoring position)
22 HR Allowed
239 innings (avg of 5.8 per start)
4.3 BB per 9 innings

106 pitchers in Major League Baseball have made 30 or more starts over the same span of time. Here is where Carlos Zambrano ranks among those pitchers:

ERA:  79th
Innings pitched:   60th
BB per 9 innings:  100th
Wins:  65th
 
The good news....Big Z has slugged 7 HR's in that span which ranks him #1 among all of the pitchers on the list.No one else has more than 3.

So is Zambrano a staff ace? At this point in time there is no chance that he deserves to have that label attached to his name. His numbers bear out the argument that he is extremely overrated and grossly overpaid. But, for the Cubs to contend he has to be a major piece of the rotation. That though, may be easier said than done.

Weigh in with your comments because last summer when I was critical of Zambrano many of the comments were definitely supportive of him. I wonder how supportive many of those same people are now. I would think the evidence speaks for itself that the Cubs are not getting anywhere near their money's worth at this point in time. Here's hoping that changes.

Below are the many faces and emotions of Carlos Zambrano....

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The Latest College Basketball Coaching Rumors

DePaul is continuing their search for Jerry Wainwright's replacement and has an extensive list of candidates that they are studying. Contrary to a TV report that ran in Chicago last week, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon was never a serious candidate for the job. He is a good friend of DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto and the two keep in touch but Dixon never was offered the job and he never seriously considered it. UCLA coach Ben Howland did consider the DePaul opening but decided on Tuesday to stay in Westwood where he feels his program is poised for a rebound season after a difficult 2009-10 campaign.

Other names that have surfaced in connection with the job include Kansas State coach Frank Martin, who signed a lucrative extension with K-State a few weeks ago and has a hefty buyout of his contract. Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery has been rumored to be on the DePaul short list but my sources tell me he is not in the upper tier of candidates for the job.

USC's Kevin O'Neill would be a tremendous choice and loves Chicago but he just completed his first season in LA and was named the Pac Ten Conference Coach of the Year by the Sporting News. He is not expected to leave USC. Another name that was on DePaul's list was UTEP's Tony Barbee but he was named the new coach at Auburn on Wednesday.

Iowa is also looking for a new coach after firing Todd Lickliter and appears to be looking for a lower priced alternative after paying big money to Lickliter in his settlement. Sources confirmed to me on Wednesday night that Iowa is talking to Dayton's Brian Gregory, Tulsa's Doug Wojcik, Utah's Jim Boylan, and Wright State's Brad Brownell. Three of the candidates (Gregory, Wojcik, and Boylan) all worked as assistants at Michigan State for Tom Izzo.

Stay tuned because I believe that DePaul will have a new coach named within 10 days but who that will be is still very much up in the air.

Rose's MRI - Negative Listed as Day to Day

The Bulls just received some good news as Derrick Rose's MRI on his injured wrist came back negative. The Bulls star will miss tonight's game at Miami and is listed as day to day.

Here is the official wording from the Chicago Bulls press release:

Derrick Rose Injury Update

 

Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose injured his left wrist yesterday (Thursday, March 11) in the first quarter of Chicago's game at Orlando.  An MRI this morning confirmed a sprain to the left wrist, with no fracture or ligament damage.  He will not play in tonight's game at Miami and his status is listed as day-to-day.

The Latest on the DePaul Job

I am hearing that DePaul is ready to put up the money to land a big name head coach for their men's basketball program. In addition to a multi million dollar contract proposal for a new coach the school is also investigating a handful of locations that could be the right spot to build a new basketball arena near campus.

The Finkl Steel Company is relocating to the south side of Chicago and their current location at Clybourn and Cortland is within walking distance of DePaul's Lincoln Park campus. An 8,000-10,000 seat arena is something that the university higher ups are considering. Real estate experts that I contacted today told me that the Finkl property is intriguing because it may not be suitable for residential use due to In addition, a recent post in a Chicago real estate blog TheChicago77.com discussed the Finkl property as it relates to DePaul University. The site says: The Finkl & Sons site is located on the east bank of The Chicago River at Southport Ave, and Cortland Street within steps of DePaul's main campus and due to its heavy industrial use over the past 100 years the site is believed to be to contaminated for many real estate re adaptations. So it seems the current thinking is that instead of removing all the over-sized foundations so closely positioned by the rivers edge that it might be far simpler and safer to just remove all the top soil, pave over the site and any possible contamination.

"If DePaul builds an arena near campus it is over. They are the biggest sleeping giant in college basketball. A new arena will make that one of the best jobs in the country," said ESPN analyst and former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps.

"That is the only job I ever wanted after I left Notre Dame. I spent 6 hours with DePaul's AD back in 1997 after Joey Meyer left and I had people in the city of Chicago who were ready to help me get the program back on track," Phelps told me. "Imagine an on campus arena packed with 8,000 fans and a great student section wearing DePaul blue shirts with a Demon on them and the pitchfork in bright red. We could call the student section Digger's Demons. I love Chicago and I know that program can be turned around."

Pictured below are the names that I am hearing are on DePaul's current shopping list. Keep in mind that once teams are eliminated from post season play more names could come into play as some coaches leave jobs while others move into new vacancies. This so called "domino effect" could put some big names on the market.

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The Last Words I Hope to Ever Write About Milton Bradley

I had pretty much closed the book on the Cubs' worst signing of the last 20 years, and one of the worst in franchise history after Milton Bradley was traded away last December. However, I feel compelled to address the ridiculous garbage that spewed out of his mouth in an interview with ESPN's Colleen Dominguez at spring training. In the interview he basically blames everyone but himself for his awful 2009 performance, both on and off the field, even going so far as to wonder if Cubs personnel were sending him hate mail.

Let's go through his thoughts here and dissect how deranged this person really is.  Here is Bradley on if Chicago is a tough place to play if you are African-American: "Well, I mean unless you go out there and you're Superman -- you're Andre Dawson, you're Ernie Banks, you're in the Hall of Fame -- then it's going to be tough," Bradley said. "People are just the way they are".

Are you kidding me? Have you ever heard of Derrek Lee? Lee is well liked and respected and loves playing in Chicago. So much so that he stated a couple of weeks back when I interviewed him at spring training that he wants to retire as a Cub. Want a less successful player who is African-American and was well liked and loved playing here? What about Doug Glanville? He was a solid, but unspectacular player who had two tours of duty with the Cubs and now makes his home in the Chicago area.  

Fans want players who play hard, are reasonably successful, and represent the team positively. Milton did none of that. He made no effort to fit in with his teammates, he was distant with the media from day one, and he was a lousy baseball player. He claims that he was told he had to hit 30 home runs, but I can tell you that was never expected from him. The Cubs wanted him to get on base, drive in runs because he he would have opportunities hitting in the middle of the lineup, and they wanted him to play a decent right field. 

Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry met with the media on Wednesday in Mesa, AZ and here is what he had to say about Bradley's latest comments. Hendry has consistently taken the blame for the signing, repeatedly characterizing the acquisition as a complete and total mistake. However, after trading Bradley so he and the Cubs could get a fresh start, Bradley just can't keep his mouth shut. Hendry finally had enough of Bradley firing on the organization and met with the media in Mesa.

"We're all brought up in life to accept responsibility when we fail, and to judge people by how they act and how they carry themselves when things don't go well," Hendry said.

Bradley told ESPN some of the hate mail he received had no postage, suggesting it could've been sent in-house.

"Obviously, that couldn't be further from the truth," Hendry said. "I think maybe it's time Milton looks at himself in the mirror. It is what it is. He just didn't swing the bat. He didn't get the job done. His production, or lack of (production), was the only negative."

As for the hate mail that Bradley claims he received without a postmark, Hendry said people drop off mail at the front desk at Wrigley Field, which could explain why there was no postage on the alleged hate mail. He added that Bradley never mentioned the claim to anyone in the organization, and that the Cubs said the organization "couldn't have bent over backward any more than they did for the entire season, before (the suspension) in St. Louis."

Milton Bradley has no one to blame but himself for his poor performance in 2009. He was given the first multi-year contract of his career and he failed miserably. He was a sullen, moody person to deal with and never did anything, or made any attempt, to fit into the community or the locker room.

Could someone have said something racially motivated to him? Absolutely, however the rantings of a few lunatics were not the reason that Bradley had such a terrible experience in our city. He failed to produce on the field and continues to make excuses for his poor play. Milton Bradley, you need to look at yourself, not everyone else, when you try to figure out why the Cubs were so desperate to rid get rid of you.

Peppers Will Visit Chicago, May Visit Philadelphia

Julius Peppers will visit the Bears on Friday but if he does not reach an agreement on a contract he will head to Philadelphia to meet with the Eagles according to Steve Reed of the Gaston Gazette.

Here is the latest on the happenings in the NFL from Pro Football Talk.

More to come....

Bears About to Strike Gold

The Bears are on the verge of landing three key free agents in DE Julius Peppers, RB Chester Taylor, and TE Brandon Manumaleuna.  All three will visit Halas Hall on Friday. 

Head coach Lovie Smith flew to Charlotte, NC on Thursday evening, and will fly back to Chicago with Peppers and his agent. According to Carl Carey, who represents Peppers, "the deal is the Bears to lose." And sources tell me that there is no way the Bears will fail to get this deal done.

Add in a solid running back in Chester Taylor, and a blocking TE, and you have a tremendous upgrade in talent for the Bears.  Manumaleuna's addition could mean the end of Greg Olsen's time in the Windy City, but perhaps he could bring Anquan Boldin back in trade or a draft pick that could be used on an offensive lineman.

Give Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo credit for their aggressiveness and their plan. Now they have to finish it off. Stay tuned.

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The Latest on The Bears

NFL free agency is about to begin and NFL sources are reporting that safety Antrel Rolle, who was cut by the Arizona Cardinals this afternoon, has turned down a 5 year offer from the Miami Dolphins for less than the $8 million per season for which he's asking.  It appears now that Rolle will visit the New York Giants, and sources tell me tonight that they will meet his asking price. He could agree to a contract tomorrow.

Additionally, it appears that the Bears are going all in on free agent DE Julius Peppers and their contract offer could be the biggest contract in franchise history. Stay tuned!

The Signs of Spring

Here are some of the photos that I captured over the first two days at Cubs camp. The entire squad has reported and went through their first full day of workouts. As the snow falls and the cold weather blankets Chicago check out the blue skies in sunny Arizona. Enjoy! Kap


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Kerry Wood Says Riggleman Did Not Misuse Him

Last week, Nationals manager and former Cubs skipper Jim Riggleman made news when he questioned his own handling of then Cubs rookie Kerry Wood in 1998. Speaking to the Washington Post, Riggleman said, "I think if anything that I learned from it, having to do it over I probably would have pitched Kerry less.  At the time that we had Kerry, my recollection of any criticism I had was 'Why did you take him out of the game?' After the fact it's "Well, you pitched him too much."

I reached Wood (now the closer for the Cleveland Indians) this morning and asked him for his opinion on Riggleman's comments. He was very open and honest telling me that he did not feel that Riggleman overused him.

"Wow, I hadn't heard his comments and I really don't agree with that. Look, I had bad mechanics back then and it was very hard for me to try to correct them when what I was doing was working. I remember many times thinking that I wish Jim would leave me in the game because I still felt strong."

Wood also talked about his mindset as a rookie.

"Back then I was a young pitcher with great stuff and when you are young and talented it is very hard to understand why you should be making changes to what you are doing when you are successful doing it the way you are. So, no I don't blame Jim at all. I definitely do not think I was overused or mishandled."

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Cubs Expect Mesa Deal to Get Done

Cubs president Crane Kenney joined me on Sports Central tonight and had this to say when I asked him about the "Cubs Tax" that has riled up all of the other owners in the Cactus League:

 

Crane Kenney: Yes, we're really confident. I met with the mayor of Mesa today and we talked a little bit about the so-called "Cubs" tax. The state representative who's the sponsor of the bill has got a meeting Friday with all of the teams to talk about the various funding mechanisms and from our perspective that's not our business. The state and the city will figure out how to finance this. We're supportive of any measure that helps us get a facility, a world class one, and we've been led to believe by everyone from John McCain who I had lunch with last week on down that this will get done and we're going to have a few bumps in the road like lots of legislation but we're pretty confident.

The Baseball Season is Back

The Cubs first full squad workout is underway, and everyone on the roster has reported on time.  It appears the club as a whole is in the best shape that we have seen in quite a while. Carlos Zambrano and Geovany Soto, are both much lighter, which has been reported for weeks now, and in the case of Soto he has lost more than 40 lbs.

Derrek Lee met the media this morning and told us that despite Lou Piniella's opinion that team chemistry was bad a year ago, he felt that injuries and poor play were much bigger reasons why the team struggled throughout much of 2009.

"Chemistry is the million dollar question,"  Lee said.  "I think that when you are winning your chemistry always seems to come together and when you are not it is always questioned. It can't hurt to always have a good bunch of guys in the clubhouse and guys having fun but I don't think that was our problem last year. I think we just didn't play good baseball and the injuries mounted up on us."

The Ricketts family has just entered the complex, and they are getting ready to meet with the entire team. Then they will have a session with all of the assembled media. I'll file later today after the first workout is over. Stay in touch with all of the happenings by following me on Twitter. I will be tweeting all week. You can find me @thekapman

Have a great day! Kap 

The Changes That are Coming to Wrigley Field and the Cubs

With the Ricketts family taking over ownership of the Chicago Cubs things are changing throughout the franchise with many of those changes occurring throughout the ball park. The Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan wrote about some of the changes earlier this week but there are many more that are currently underway. Here are some of the changes that are going on at the Friendly Confines:

Did you know that after taking control of the Chicago Cubs, the Ricketts family has doubled the benefits package for Cubs employees including their contribution into the 401K each employee has. In addition, the word employees is no longer used. Instead everyone is referred to as associates. Also, the vendors are receiving a raise in the commissions that they are paid.

The changes going on at Wrigley Field are costing nearly 10 million dollars and are just the start of a major renovation of the park over the next few years. After touring the ball park recently here are the changes that are currently going on at the Friendly Confines: 

1) Major remodeling of the main restrooms for men and women located behind home plate. The number of toilets will greatly increase and the women's restroom is being expanded significantly with one of the ramps that fans use to get to the grandstand being removed.And yes guys, the troughs are staying.

2) The number of TV's in the ball park are being expanded significantly and all of the television sets are being upgraded to flat panel TV's.

3) Sky box suites 1-6 (down the left field line) are being remodeled and turned into a mezzanine club with a naming rights sponsor tied to it (I hear a financial company will be putting their name on it). Seats will be sold on a season ticket basis.

4) The area underneath the right field bleachers will be turned into a party area with one way glass allowing the fans who are renting the area to watch players take batting practice in the existing batting cages.

5) The concrete panels on the outside of the ballpark at the right field entrance are being removed to allow more sunlight into that area of the park and to allow fans going up the ramps a view of downtown Chicago.

6) The food options at the concession stands are being greatly expanded and a "Cubs Hot Dog" is being created ala the famous "Dodger Dog" that is sold in Los Angeles.

7) The players will have a new weight training center that will occupy the area that formerly was the umpires quarters. The umps have been relocated to the first base side of the field. In addition, the Cubs old weight room which is located in the clubhouse is being turned into a players lounge and dining room. The Cubs have also hired a team nutritionist who will be in charge of upgrading the food served in the locker room and monitoring players nutrition both at home and when the team is on the road.

8) The family lounge for players wives and kids is being completely renovated as the old quarters were embarrassingly spartan.

9) The Ricketts family has stressed that they want to make the Cubs experience the best in sports. Much like Disney World being exceptionally clean that is what the Ricketts family is demanding Wrigley Field be kept like.

10) The Cubs will soon announce the hiring of a Chief Hospitality Officer or Director of Game Day Entertainment and that person's job will be to make sure that every aspect of a fan's experience is held to the highest standards of excellence. There will be uniformed "team ambassadors" who will be monitoring every part of the "Cubs Universe" on game day. Whether a fan takes the train, parks their car in a surrounding lot, rides their bicycle, or takes a bus to the area surrounding the stadium there will be Cubs ambassadors monitoring everything that a fan experiences and trouble shooting any problems that are brought to their attention.

11) More availability of autographs for kids who attend games at Wrigley Field. The Cubs are planning a regular, formal program for kids to obtain autographs.

12) Kids will be allowed to run the bases once a month (probably on a Sunday) in a program that is still being finalized.

13) The Ricketts have told their staff that they want Wrigley Field to be the most fan friendly place in all of sports. To that end there have been and will continue to be a series of season ticket holder luncheons designed to allow long time fans a chance to give the Cubs feedback on what needs to be improved off of the playing field.

14) There will be a customized "Wrigley Grass Seed" developed by Scott's that will be available in stores this summer.

More to come.

Tony LaRussa on McGwire, Managing the Cubs, and More....

St. Louis Cardinals Manager, Tony LaRussa, joined me yesterday on Chicago Tribune Live and
talked about the possibility of working for Jerry Reinsdorf again,
whether or not he would ever manage the Cubs, and if we could see Mark
McGwire on the Cardinals roster. The interview is transcribed below.

KAPLAN: Tony looking at your career, you had a good run with the White
Sox then you ended up leaving and going to Oakland. You're still very
very close to Jerry Reinsdorf. Could you see yourself at some point
maybe working for him in the front office when your managerial days are
over and you leave St. Louis?

LARUSSA: Well there's two answers to that. One is that I know that he is
pleased with his management team. I know that he really has a lot of
confidence, and he deserves to have that with Kenny Williams, and the
assistant, and the farm director, and all that stuff. I mean I would
never think about managing. I know he likes Ozzie as well. So I don't
ever think that is going to be an issue, because I think he's got his
team. But the other side to that is if I ever left the field and went
upstairs, which I hope to do sometime maybe soon, you know thirty-one,
thirty-two years is enough and at some point I'd like to work for an
owner that I like and that I respect as much as I do Jerry because I
want to be motivated to make him happy. I worked as a manager for Jerry,
I worked for Walter Haas, now in St. Louis its nice when you like the
people you work for because that helps motivate you.

KAPLAN: If you were a free agent and sitting on the market and the Cubs job
was open, would you say I can't go there because of my relationship with
Jerry, or the rivalry with the Cardinals? Or would you say I would listen because
I"m looking for a gig?

LARUSSA: Well I don't think the Cubs would consider me number one, but
number two you've got a double-headed whammy there. I have a lot of
friends and fans that I'm close to with the White Sox. And you know
the White Sox and Cubs, they don't mix. I've got friends and fans that I'm
close to in St. Louis and the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cubs don't
mix. So I think if there is one place that I don't fit just because of
my past it would be the Chicago Cubs.

KAPLAN: Mark McGwire you've been very very positive about. You said hey
this guy is going to be a very good hitting coach for me. Mark has come
out and addressed his issues. Did you think there would be the backlash
to it when you hired him? Or that didn't surprise you?

LARUSSA: No, I knew it was one of the things we had to face. Let me make
sure I correct one thing. I'm very loyal to our players over the years,
White Sox, A's, and Cardinals. If you give back to the team which you
should, I don't grease the squeaky wheel. I like to take care of the
guys who are really good teammates.  Mark was a great teammate. But when
it comes to putting a coach on the staff it has nothing to do with
loyalty, it has nothing to do with friendship. You know, we have too
much at stake. I think he has the qualities of a great hitting coach,
and that's why he was hired. And you knew at some point, number one he
couldn't just take the job and not be forthcoming about I did do
something or I didn't do something. And I think when he came out we were
really encouraged that he pulled out all the stops and admitted more
than anybody yet that he made mistakes. He apologized sincerely. I think
a great majority of his peers, past and present, a lot of fans and some
media  wanted him to move forward. So I don't think there's a whole lof
left that he hasnt talked about, that he needs to talk about. I just
think at some point now, especially with Mark or anybody else, if you
had a celebrity coach, or you name a great player... Frank Thomas was a
great player and if he became your hitting coach. It's not about the
coaches, its about the players. We keep the distractions to a minimum,
and its about getting the most of our players.

KAPLAN: You said a couple months ago that if you got to the playoffs, you
could see Mark possibly being on the roster. Do you still feel that way
going to spring training?

LARUSSA: That was really a fun remark because when Mark left, he left
with a bad back. One of the things people talk about, you hear people
say that he has really good character and he's a good teammate. But he
had a $30 million signed contract by the Cardinals that he walked away
from. That to me is character and integrity, because he knew his back was
broken and he couldn't play. Seven or eight years later he is in great
shape, and his back is good. So we were kidding that he looks so good. I
was watching him swing in the cage and he's whistling it. I said, "You
could still swing!" He said, "why don't we talk about you activating
me?" We were just messing around and our tongues were so much in our
cheeks that its hard for anybody to understand what we were saying. He's
not going to play, he's going to coach. Hopefully we have a postseason,
but he wont be a part of it.

Kurt Warner Wanted To Be A Bear

I interviewed Kurt Warner on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet on Tuesday and as usual he was nothing but class to deal with. He was available for interviews through the Got Milk promotion that he is in Miami working on.

Here is the transcript of the interview. Read his quotes where he says the Bears told him that he would be the #3 QB going to training camp if he signed with the Bears. Unbelievable to think that a Hall of Fame QB wanted to be here and just wanted a chance to compete for the QB job and the Bears wouldn't allow him to.

Enjoy!

KAP : KURT WARNER JOINS US. WHY WAS THIS THE RIGHT TIME TO CALL IT A CAREER?
 
WELL ITS ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT WHEN YOU PLAY YOU UNDERSTAND WHEN YOU'RE NOT WILLING TO COMMIT TO PLAY AT THE STANDARD YOU'VE SET.. OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS I'VE QUESTIONED HOW MUCH LONGER I'VE WANTED TO MAKE THAT COMMITMENT. LOT OF PRESSURE, LOT OF STRESS, LOTTA EXPECTATIONS WHEN YOU PLAY AT A CERTAIN LEVEL. THE OLDER YOU GET, THE LESS YOU WANNA DO THAT. IT CAME TIME ABOUT THE MIDDLE OF THE SEASON, WHERE I STARTED TO BELIEVE THIS WAS GONNA BE MY LAST SEASON, I WANTED TO COME IN THE REST OF THE SEASON, WANTED TO TRY TO WIN ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP. I WASN'T WILLING TO MOVE FORWARD. I WANTED TO SPEND TIME WITH MY FAMILY. I WANTED TO TAKE PART IN OTHER ENDEAVORS THAT I WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO. SO THE ORGANIZATION WAS IN A GREAT SPOT. I WAS PLAYING AT A HIGH LEVEL.IN A POSITION TO LEAVE AT THE TOP. ALL THOSE THINGS COMBINED I THINK MADE IT THE RIGHT DECISION AT THE RIGHT TIME.
 

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The Blackhawks Lose Their Shirts?

Photos of some Chicago Blackhawks players engaging in a night of partying have surfaced in Vancouver where the Hawks played on Saturday evening, losing to the Canucks 5-1.

The website "The KurtenBlog" posted photos of some Blackhawks partying in a limo with several females. The team is already aware of the pictures and issued this statement that is included in a story on the Chicago Breaking Sports Website run by the Chicago Tribune: "We're aware of (the photos). It's a team-related issue and will be handled like any other situation and that will be internally."

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No Announcement on Spring Training Site Today

Numerous news organizations are reporting today that the Chicago Cubs will announce their future spring training home this afternoon. I have confirmed that they will be making no announcement today as they weigh proposals from both Mesa, AZ and Naples, FL.

Speculation is running rampant that the Cubs have settled on Naples or are close to making that decision but I do not believe that any announcement has been decided upon. Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan had a story that talked about a "bed tax" that would potentially seal the deal for a move to Naples.

I predicted months ago that despite an excellent offer from Naples that the Cubs would get a deal done that would keep them in Arizona and I still believe that will end up being true. Look for an announcement sometime next week.

Cubs Worries....

There may be no more optimistic Cubs fan than me, but I also try my best as an admitted die hard fan to be realistic about the team's chances before each season begins. Now, while I know that the season is still 82 days away, and there is still time to make a few more moves to improve the roster, I have to tell you that I have serious concerns about the 2010 Chicago Cubs chances.

The everyday lineup has big questions in it, starting behind the plate. Geovany Soto is coming off of a brutal 2009 campaign that saw him start the season out of shape, and saw him finish the year batting just .218 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI's. Numbers that were a far cry from his 2008 N.L. Rookie of the Year campaign that saw him hit .285 with 23 HR's and 86 RBI's. Can Soto rebound in 2010? I have my concerns, but his improvement is a huge key to the Cubs' chances in the NL Central.

In the outfield, Alfonso Soriano is coming off of a horrendous season that ended early when he underwent knee surgery. Can Soriano at least return to decent form so that he becomes an offensive threat in the middle of the lineup? Kosuke Fukudome will shift from center field back to his natural position in right, but he also needs to improve offensively to help revive a Cubs' offense that struggled to score runs in 2008. Finally, Marlon Byrd arrives via free agency to play center field, but is he the answer to a position problem that has plagued the Cubs for quite a while?

In the infield, the corners are outstanding with Derrek Lee at first and Aramis Ramirez at third. However, Ramirez missed 80 games a season ago after separating his shoulder, so keeping him on the field consistently is a huge key that is fraught with concern. At shortstop, Ryan Theriot begins what will probably be his final season at the position with minor league phenom Starlin Castro penciled in for the position in 2011. Theriot is then expected to slide over and play second base once Castro arrives and is playing regularly. Second base is a huge question mark with Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker battling for playing time. Is either guy an everyday player on a team with championship aspirations? I'm not so sure.

The starting pitching rotation is my biggest concern about this year's club as it is currently constituted. Carlos Zambrano possesses a world of talent, but is this the season that he harness his ability and his emotions and becomes the leader of the staff and the ace that he is expected to be? Ryan Dempster is working tremendously hard and is in the the best shape of his life, but he has to get back to the form he showed in 2008 when he was the staff leader with 17 wins. Ted Lilly is coming off of shoulder surgery and isn't expected back in the rotation until the beginning of May, so his impact is certainly questionable. Randy Wells had a fine 2009 rookie campaign, but can he continue where he left off, and will he be able to be a season long contributor in a rotation trying to return to the post season? The rest of the group of starters is suspect with Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall, Tom Gorzelanny, and prospect Andrew Cashner all in the mix. However, none of them has ever proven that they can be a regular member of a rotation and be counted on every fifth day.

Finally, the bullpen has some bright spots, led by ultra-talented closer Carlos Marmol, who has tremendous stuff. Yet he spent most of 2009 struggling with his command before finally overtaking the departed Kevin Gregg for the closer's job. Will Marmol be a reliable closer, or will he be a walks machine that can't seal the deal? John Grabow should be a solid set up man, as should Angel Guzman. But beyond them, who can the Cubs count on at this time? Esmailin Caridad, Jeff Gray (who arrived in the Jake Fox and Aaron Miles trade with Oakland), and a yet to be added veteran arm all will be in the mix but the depth in the bullpen has to be a concern.

There are still 82 days before Opening Day. There is still time to add another relief pitcher and a bench bat who can help out in the outfield. Most importantly, the Cubs must add another starter to strengthen the most important part of any team that has post season dreams. Jim Hendry, the ball is in your court.

Attention All Cubs Fans!!
Note: I will be in attendance tomorrow night (Thursday January 14th): at Billy Dec's awesome Rockit Bar and Grill in Wrigleyville which is hosting: 
A new night at Rockit Wrigley, 3700 North Clark, on Thursdays - Cub-aholics Anonymous. Apparently during off-season feelings of listlessness, abandonment and general malaise fill the hearts of Cubs and Wrigley Field fans, so Rockit Wrigley is launching a Cubs Fan support group. Join a lively Cub-friendly social scene to celebrate all things Cubs with sports media, ball players, giveaways and a nice view of Wrigley Field across the street. Hope to see you there! Kap

Mike Ditka gets angry ... in his underwear

I recently spent some time with a good friend who I will call Al. Al is a former police officer who is now retired. Al had one of those very first satellite dishes, you know, the ones that were enormous and you had to have built in your backyard?

Back then if you were watching TV via a satellite dish, you not only got the program you wanted, you also got the off camera interaction while the station you were tuned to was playing commercials.

What you are about to watch is never before seen footage of former CBS anchor Johnny Morris, as he anchors a post game show following a Bears victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The date is October 9, 1988, and the win moved the Bears to 5-1 with a game against the Dallas Cowboys coming up the next week.

Sit back and enjoy, and don't miss the ending, because it's classic! Please forward this on to your friends. They won't believe it when they see it. (Note: there is explicit language.)

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The Best of the Decade in Chicago Sports

As the first decade in the 21st century comes to a close, let's take a moment to reminisce about the best and worst moments and athletes of the past ten years in Chicago Sports.

Best Team: 2005 Chicago White Sox

Only one Chicago team could call itself champions in the first decade of the 2000s, and that team plays at 35th and the Dan Ryan.  The White Sox magical run to a world championship in 2005 erased an 88-year drought of glory on the south side.  Everything went right for Ozzie Guillen's club that year, as his starting staff of Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia each won 14 or more games in the regular season, leading the club to a 99 win campaign.  Playing "Ozzie Ball", the Palehose used speed and timely hitting to scratch across runs with Scott Podsednik changing the team's offensive strategy.  The White Sox stormed through the playoffs, going 11-1 in October, which included a sweep of the then-defending champion Red Sox, and the Astros in the World Series.  Their bullpen was rock solid all year, as Bobby Jenks burst onto the scene as a bona fide closer, and earned the save on October 26, 2005 to earn the Sox a ring.

Worst Team: 2000-2001 Chicago Bulls

After a historic run of six world championships in the previous decade with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, things went very bad and very fast for the Bulls after the nucleus of the team left the Windy City.  The team did have Elton Brand, who averaged 20 points per game, Ron Mercer, who could still contribute, and Ron Artest--who by his own admission--was drinking on the job.  The team went 15-67, bad enough for a miserable .183 winning percentage, and ranked dead last in the NBA in points per game (87.6).  Need any further proof this team was a disaster?  This team only had three players average double-digit scoring, and Ron Artest barely qualified in double-digits with just over 11 points per game.  Also, how about these names that contributed minutes to Tim Floyd's club that year:  Dragan Tarlac, Khalid El-Amin, Dalibor Bagaric, A.J. Guyton, Jake Voskuhl.  Need I say more?

Best Athlete: Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears

Say what you want about Urlacher's attitude, or problematic character at times.  It's no question this city could have embraced him far more than they did over this past decade.  But when it comes to the best athlete in Chicago sports over the last ten years, Urlacher takes the cake.  After being drafted in the first round out of New Mexico in 2000, Urlacher immediately emerged as a standout linebacker for the Bears and quickly vaulted to the top of the NFL.  He had more than 800 tackles in the decade, 37.5 sacks, and 17 interceptions.  He was one of the most feared defensive players in the league for the majority of the decade, and led his team to multiple playoff appearances including a Super Bowl berth in 2006.  Note: Honorable Mention goes to White Sox ace Mark Buehrle, for a consistent and successful decade.

Worst Athlete: Corey Patterson, Chicago Cubs

Corey Patterson had a three good months as a Chicago Cub.  That's it.  Otherwise, his career as a Cub could really only be described as a debacle.  The 3rd overall pick in the 1998 draft figured to solve the Cubs center field problem for the long haul.  All we read and heard about him coming up was that he had great speed, great power, and could be a five-tool superstar type player to anchor the Cubs outfield.  Instead, he was a free-swinging, undisciplined, stubborn liability for the Cubs for parts of five seasons.  Other than the 83 games in 2003 in which he hit .298 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs, he was detracting from the team's success.  (And funnily enough, when Patterson got hurt the Cubs acquired Kenny Lofton, who was a catalyst and a big reason why the Cubs nearly reached the world series that season.)  In 2004, he was a microcosm of the team's shortcomings, and his 2005 season was one of the worst statistical seasons put forth by an everyday player in history.  He's still toiling around baseball, last seen with the Brewers this past season.  The Cubs traded him to Baltimore before the 2006 year, and the Cubs have still not found a long term solution for center field.

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Bulls Take a Beating With Treatment of Vinny

Yahoo Sports has gone public with their take on yesterday's Gar Forman media session in which the Bulls GM did absolutely nothing to support Vinny Del Negro, his embattled head coach.

Here is the latest report from Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski:

Once Forman finally came out of hiding Tuesday night, his coaching staff expected him to honor his private insistences with a public acknowledgment. That was the plan. Vinny Del Negro's boss had a chance to make a most minimal pledge: management supports its coach.

Forman sputtered, danced and deflected. The words wouldn't come out of his mouth. For the first time, two sources with direct lines to the coaching staff said Del Negro finally realized what he refused to believe: Yes, the GM wants him out.

"To say the least," a close associate of Del Negro said, "the staff was disappointed by Gar's failure to step up in an embattled moment."

As far as textbook undermining goes, Forman has delivered a clinical performance. The players were listening on Tuesday night, and the message was unmistakable: Despite the back-to-back wins since Tyrus Thomas' return, the coach is a short-timer.

Forman has sworn to people that he hasn't made one call about a replacement, and multiple sources insist that simply isn't true. Just Tuesday, Forman was on the phone asking about exiled NBA coach Eric Musselman.

He's telling people he needs a long-term solution for the Bulls. He had already called the Nets two weeks ago on Lawrence Frank. Another report linked the Bulls to Doug Collins.

The article goes on to criticize Forman for how he has handled the Del Negro situation, and for painting the picture that the Bulls should be better than they are despite a sub par roster and a number of key injuries.

Is Vinny Del Negro a great coach? No, not at this point in his career. But the man works hard, is prepared, and his team is hanging in there. He hasn't complained one time to the media about how he has been left to twist in the wind. The man just shows up and does his best every day.

Management owes him better treatment than they have given him so far.

Are The Bulls Ready to Fire Vinny Del Negro?

ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard is reporting tonight that the Bulls have already decided to fire coach Vinny Del Negro, but are waiting to make an announcement until they decide who the next coach will be.

Broussard also says that former Bulls coach Doug Collins was contacted to gauge his interest in the job, but reportedly is not interested. So if Collins doesn't want the job, then who is available that would interest the Bulls, and would provide them with a quality name that could help them lure a star from next summer's free agent class? In addition, what "name" coach can the Bulls hire that can help accelerate the development of Derrick Rose, who the franchise is hoping to build around and to use to attract a marquee name next summer?

Jeff Van Gundy, Byron Scott, and Avery Johnson are all currently out of coaching but to land one of them would be very expensive. The Bulls are still paying former coach Scott Skiles, who is now the head man in Milwaukee, and if they fire Del Negro they will be on the hook for the rest of this season and 2010-11. That means they would be paying several million dollars to two coaches who wouldn't be with the organization. Add in the big contract it would take to land one of the big names mentioned above, and you can see why the Bulls would be proceeding with caution before they commit millions more to yet another coach.

What do I see happening? I believe that the Bulls will indeed fire Del Negro and I believe that they will hire a proven name as their head coach. Who that will be remains to be seen, but I don't think that we have heard the last of the Doug Collins speculation. Only time will tell. 

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Tonight on Radio and TV

Tonight at 5:30 on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet we will be joined by White Sox GM Kenny Williams and his newest acquisition, outfielder Juan Pierre who was acquired in a trade this morning from the Los Angeles Dodgers for two minor league pitchers.

Tonight at 7:00 p.m. on Sports Central on WGN Radio we will have an in depth discussion about the Chicago Cubs with three well known bloggers including Andy Dolan of Desipio.com. We will take calls and look at the 2010 season and the remaining free agents that the Cubs might have interest in.

**Please note that new Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly will join me on Sports Central on Thursday evening.

The Cubs Payroll Evolution

In 2003, the Chicago Cubs payroll was $80 million. In 2004, coming off a run to the NLCS, the Cubs payroll escalated to $90 million. 2005 saw the team shave the number to 87 million, and not until 2008 did the player payroll crack the 100 million dollar mark. So how did the Cubs go from spending 99 million dollars in 2007, to roughly 145 million, which is where their payroll is estimated to reach in 2010? 

Several factors played into the scenario that now has the ball club among the top 3 spending teams in baseball. First, 2006 was an abysmal season that saw the Cubs finish 66-96, dead last in the NL Central. Consequently, attendance in the latter stages of the season plummeted, and fans stopped paying attention to the team by September.

Second, the White Sox reached the pinnacle of the sport, winning the 2005 World Series. Their success rekindled interest from their fan base, and saw legions of Chicago area youngsters wearing Sox hats and jerseys. Cubs management took notice of their half empty stadium in September of 2006 and decided that something drastic had to be done.

Drastic meant the firing of Andy MacPhail as team president and firing manager Dusty Baker. The club kept general manager Jim Hendry and gave him a blank check to try to right the ship.  The Cubs knew with the resurgent competition in town and the fact that the franchise would soon be up for sale that they needed to increase the franchise's value to appease both the fan base and drive up the value for a prospective buyer.
  
In November of '06, after reeling in Mark DeRosa on a 3 year 13 million dollar deal, the Cubs signed Alfonso Soriano to an 8-year, $136 million contract, which was unprecedented for the Cubs after years of avoiding the premium free agents. Hendry then went to the Winter Meetings in December of 2006 and signed Ted Lilly to a 4 year 40 million dollar deal. This all came after the Cubs re-signed Aramis Ramirez to a 75 million dollar deal, re-signed Kerry Wood, and added Lou Piniella as their new manager.

And do you really think Hendry, after sitting third on the depth chart behind MacPhail and Baker, was really acting alone?  No chance.  The company had as much to do with the team's free spending as he did. In fact, Hendry was given a mandate by management to spend freely, try to win,  and most importantly to management, to raise the franchise's value to aid the sale process.

That also meant that the contracts that were given out were to be back loaded as much as possible so that the new owner would pay much of the deals. However, the economy tanked, the credit markets dried up and the sale process took for longer than expected which made Hendry's job far tougher as he tried to navigate the deals that he had been asked to extend by his bosses.

Yet while the Cubs spent a tremendous amount to improve their team and improve their value, they added some enormous contracts of which the new owner would inherit the bulk. Consequently, the team has very little wiggle room to add marquee players now, or in the near future, since their payroll is tied up in players like Soriano, Zambrano, and Ramirez.  Had the Cubs had more financial flexibility a year ago, what's to say the team wouldn't have been interested in adding Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay at the trading deadline?

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The Truth About the Granderson Deal

I read Phil Rogers column in the Chicago Tribune yesterday and came away scratching my head at the premise that Phil is using-- that the Cubs should have traded for Curtis Granderson because the Yankees didn't need Granderson as badly as the Cubs. They already have Derek Jeter to be their leader and ambassador.

Phil, Granderson had a lousy 2009 season. He hit .183 against left-handed pitching. He had an on base percentage of .327, and he struck out 141 times. Yes, he is an outstanding defensive player and a wonderful human being. But the Cubs have to get better players in their clubhouse, not just better people.

The Cubs don't have the financial flexibility that the Yankees do, because the Yankees have $60 million more to spend on their payroll. The Cubs were interested in Granderson, yes, but not at the expense of trading a handful of their best prospects to acquire a guy who is a better person than he is a player.

The Yankees are planning on starting Granderson in center everyday, but he will not be their lead off man. The Yankees hitting instructors evaluated his swing by looking at tapes of his at-bats against left handed pitching in 2009, and compared it to his swing in previous seasons when he was much better against left handers. They now believe that they can correct what's wrong with his swing, and the tremendous talent that surrounds him in New York will make his transition to the World Champions that much easier.

He was much better against right handed pitchers in Detroit and in Yankee Stadium as a pull hitter with a short porch to right field he could have a much better season. It wasn't a fit for the Cubs given the price tag the Tigers set.  Phil, you don't trade a lot of your best young talent just to get a leader in your clubhouse. He has to fit as a player as well and the fit is much better in New York than it would have been in Chicago.

Yankees Covet Granderson, Cubs Won't Include Castro

The New York Yankees spent the better part of Monday at the Winter Meetings trying to acquire Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson, who is available because Detroit is looking to cut payroll. The proposed deal was a three team swap that also included the Arizona Diamondbacks. But as of Monday evening, it appears that the Yankees were having reservations about the amount of young talent that they would have to include in the swap to acquire Granderson.

The Cubs are on the fringe of the discussions, hoping to hang around and see if the price falls a bit, so they can take a run at acquiring the outstanding defender and Chicago native. However, the Tigers reportedly are asking for Cubs top prospect SS Starlin Castro and two more good players in exchange for Granderson, and the Cubs are balking at including Castro in just about any deal.

The Cubs are also hot on the heels of CF Mike Cameron, who played for Cubs manager Lou Piniella in Seattle. He's not only a great defender, but he is considered one of the best clubhouse leaders in baseball. Jim Hendry told me last week that he can make moves even if a trade or signing puts him over the payroll limit set by ownership, as long as he meets his budget number by Opening Day. That was not the case in 2005, when Hendry was forced to let Moises Alou leave via free agency, and to pass on several other moves, because he had not yet moved the contract of Sammy Sosa. 

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The Weekend in Sports

It was an interesting past week in the sports world with the Tiger Woods scandal hitting new levels each and every day. Not a day went by that we didn't hear about another woman who was allegedly sleeping with the Tiger. Who knows where this whole sordid mess is headed. Here is the latest information on a deal that Tiger reportedly made to keep a story about an affair from being published.

In addition, the lurid details about his sex life are now surfacing which has turned the intensely private Woods into a late night talk show punch line. And with the count of women coming forward now at six who knows when this story will leave the news and allow Tiger and his wife some time to work on repairing their relationship.

Then you had the Bears who were coming off of an embarrassing blowout loss to the Vikings. Well, on Sunday the beloved Bear finally put a game into the win column by beating the completely inept St. Louis Rams 17-9 at Soldier Field.

The Bulls finally won a game after they beat the Detroit Pistons at the United Center earlier in the week. However, they were drilled both Friday and Saturday by the Cavaliers and Raptors respectively with the latter winning by 30+ at the United Center.

The Blackhawks won 2 of 3 this week with an 11 round shootout deciding a tough win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday evening before the Hawks lost to Nashville on Friday night at the United Center. However, the Hawks bounced back quickly beating the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in OT on Saturday evening.

Baseball now grabs center stage with the Winter Meetings officially underway in Indianapolis. Both the Cubs and the White Sox are expected to be very active participants with the Cubs hoping to move Milton Bradley while the Sox are considering dealing closer Bobby Jenks.

So who makes our week in pictures? Check em' out because we have the stars of the week and the women who are reportedly chasing a Tiger.

Enjoy and get ready for our updates of the Winter Meetings which are in high gear through Thursday and where we have a ton of great sources. Also, please make sure you tune into Chicago Tribune Live at 5:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet and Sports Central on WGN Radio at 7 p.m. Have a great week! Kap

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Vote for the Best in Chicago Sports

There is no better city in America for sports than Chicago and with the end of the year fast approaching it is time to ask for your help to vote for the best in Chicago sports in 2009.

Each year on Chicago Tribune Live we award The Kappy's to honor excellence among Chicago athletes. Click here to vote now! Your help is greatly appreciated!

The Hottest Baseball Wives and Girlfriends - Part Two

Here is Part Two of our post on the hottest baseball wives and girlfriends. There were so many candidates that we had to separate them into two posts because all of the pictures wouldn't fit into one!

Enjoy!

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Cubs Choose Not to Offer Arbitration to Harden

Tonight is the deadline for clubs to offer salary arbitration to their free agents. And for the Cubs, that means they have decisions to make on a handful of players, including starting pitcher Rich Harden and closer Kevin Gregg.

I have learned that the Cubs have informed Harden and Gregg as well as outfielder Reed Johnson that they will not be offered salary arbitration meaning that if those players sign with another club the Cubs will get no draft pick compensation.
Rich Harden.jpg

The Cubs have elected not to offer salary arbitration to starting pitcher Rich Harden whose injury history made it likely he would have accepted it putting the Cubs on the hook for a big salary.


The Cubs had an opportunity to trade both Harden and Gregg to the Minnesota Twins at the end of August but felt that being only 5 games back in the Wild Card race they did not want to wave the white flag of surrender. That was a tactical mistake because now the Cubs will lose both guys for nothing when they could have had a couple of prospects from the Twins.
Their competitiveness to stay in the race was admirable but misguided because the Chicago Cubs had no chance of contending in September of 2009.
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What a Weekend in the Sports World

What a great weekend of intrigue if you are a sports fan, especially a sports fan in the Chicago area. With the Notre Dame job now officially open, the speculation is starting to intensify as to who will replace Charlie Weis.

Then you have our Chicago Bears, who were so completely dominated in every facet of yesterday's 36-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings that it is now painfully obvious that the entire front office of the team has to be cleaned out and overhauled. The same goes for the coaching staff, which has seen a Super Bowl team in 2006 slide into oblivion at astonishing speed.

Finally, the weekend's most bizarre story comes courtesy of Tiger Woods, who was involved in a one car accident as he was leaving his home in Florida. First reports indicated that his wife, Elin, had rescued him from the wreck by taking a golf club and smashing out the windows in Tiger's 2009 Cadillac Escalade. Then, we started to hear that perhaps his facial lacerations were not from the accident, but from the wrath of his wife after she reportedly found out about another woman in his life.

Here is the latest on the Woods story courtesy of the fine folks at TMZ.com. which just seems to keep getting stranger every day.  Tiger reportedly told a friend that he needs a "Kobe Special", which refers to the enormous ring that Kobe Bryant bought his wife Vanessa after his episode in Colorado a few years ago.

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Who Would You Put On A Chicago Sports Mt. Rushmore?

A great topic of debate is who are the best athletes in Chicago Sports history. But how do you ask that question? Is it the best athlete? Or is it the most individually dominant in terms of statistics? Or perhaps you ask is it the guy who has won the most championships?

So here is how I have decided to ask the question. If you had to carve a Mt. Rushmore of Chicago sports who would be the four men who would have their likenesses carved into your tribute to their greatness?

Below I have pictures of the players that I have nominated. Am I missing someone? Please post a comment with your nominees and your thoughts. Soon I will have a competition to crown the winners based on your voting. However, I have to make sure that the ballot is correctly done. And for that I need your help. So please weigh in. Thanks, Kap

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Lovie Smith Must Go

While I am on vacation with my wife, I decided to bring my laptop out to watch the Bears game while catching some sun. Through the awesome invention known as a Slingbox I was able to have my NFL Sunday Ticket right on the beach with me and I sat down hoping to watch the Bears harass Kurt Warner into another turnover filled day like he had a week ago against Carolina.

However, from the Cardinals first possession, it was obvious that the defense had no chance at slowing down Warner and Co. and that was without All-Pro wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who was sidelined with an injury. The Cardinals ground game came into the contest averaging an embarrassing 65 yards per game, and ripped the Bears apart for 182 yards. In fact, the Cardinals set their season high in yards on the ground in the first half.

It was a thorough butt-kicking and one that proved the Bears are a lousy football team. In fact, if Jeff Reed and Olindo Mare make a couple of field goals, the Bears could be sitting here today as a 2-6 team, with their only wins over Detroit and Cleveland. The Bears are nowhere close to being a contending team, and they need to spend the rest of the 2009 season evaluating which players should stay and go as they attempt to build toward the future.

That starts with the head coach, who is so out of touch with reality that it's laughable. I have never been a fan of Lovie Smith, because of his inability to display any sense of honesty in his dealing with the fans and media. When his team plays poorly he refuses to ever call out a player or unit for poor performance. I am not asking him to be Mike Ditka, because he doesn't have that type of personality. But his failure to hold people accountable and his willingness to give out jobs to players before training camp and before they have earned is one of the reasons the Bears are where they are now.

So how do you fix it? You start by firing the head coach and hiring a no-nonsense guy who has a proven reputation as a winner. He must possess an ability to connect with the fan base and the media, and a willingness to roll up his sleeves and contribute years of expertise in personnel matters. Furthermore, he must be able to evaluate personnel well enough to take some of the responsibilities away from current GM Jerry Angelo.  I'm not asking for the new coach to necessarily be the "architect" of this team, but Angelo has done a very poor job during his 8+ seasons in Lake Forest.

Angelo is under contract through 2013, so the thought that the Bears would pay both he and Smith is probably fantasy. So here's what I would do: fire Smith the day the season ends so I could have all available coach options available to me right away. I would also call Jerry Angelo into a meeting where he will be offered the chance to stay as GM, but he will also be asked to relinquish some of his power to the new Head Coach/Football Operations boss. Should he balk then he can quit. However, with a ton of money owed to him for four more seasons, I would be surprised if he walked away.
Bill Cowher Celebrates.jpg

Bill Cowher would be a great choice as the Bears next coach.


Then, I would offer Bill Cowher whatever it took to land him, and I would make it clear that Chicago Bears football is back and is changing its image, effective immediately. Cowher is a proven winner, he would energize the fan base, and he is a tremendous motivator. With the right moves next spring, the Bears could put some of the necessary pieces in place around standout quarterback Jay Cutler. And they could start to rebuild a team that is obviously not responding to Lovie Smith.

More to come as we get the Pittsburgh point of view on Cowher next. Have a great day! Kap 

A Look at Zambrano and Lackey

It's amazing to see the reaction anytime I write about Carlos Zambrano and his performance as the ace of the Cubs rotation. If I point out anything negative about Big Z his supporters come rushing to his defense. If I say something nice about "Z" those who don't like him become very vocal.

Yesterday, I talked about free agent starter John Lackey of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and his credentials which should earn him a huge contract this winter. I immediately heard from the Zambrano fan club who think that if I point out Z's shortcomings I must have a vendetta against him.

Look, I am not a Zambrano fan because he is lazy and he doesn't get the most out of his abilities. However, I agree that he is a tremendously talented guy who should be a staff ace if he could ever learn to control his emotions and would report to spring training in shape and would work hard enough during the season to stay that way.

Let's compare the statistics in a handful of key categories between Zambrano and Lackey since Z signed his 91.5 million dollar extension on August 17, 2007. The rankings are for all starting pitchers who are regular members of a rotation in either league.

                              Zambrano                                                Lackey
Innings pitched          406.1 (47th)                                              402.1 (52nd)       
Strikeouts                 320 (T-38th)                                              322 (T-37th)
Complete Games       2  (T-39th)                                                5 (T-8th)
K/BB Ratio                1.84 (115th)                                              3.35 (23rd)
Baserunners/9 IP        12.49 (85th)                                             11.57 (37th)

So in the categories of innings pitched and strikeouts the two pitchers are just about even but in the all important stats of strikeouts to walks and base runners per 9 innings pitched Lackey is far superior. Does that mean he is worth 12-15 million dollars a year? Probably not, but he will probably sign a deal somewhere in that range. Is he a true #1 starter? Again, probably not but his big game experience and tenacity does intrigue a number of teams and that should create a solid market for his services.

Some Ideas for the Cubs

The Cubs are starting to see the fruits of their labor to improve their farm system, as a handful of top flight prospects are nearly ready to play at the major league level. SS Starlin Castro is probably the closest position player to the big leagues, with 3B Josh Vitters not far behind, especially offensively.

So with Castro on the fast track to the Cubs everyday lineup, incumbent shortstop Ryan Theriot will be moved to 2nd base when Castro arrives. If Castro is being penciled into the starting lineup for Opening Day 2011, or perhaps sooner, why not move Theriot to 2nd base now? Rather than have two middle infielders in new surroundings when the 2011 season begins, why not let Theriot play there in 2010 and sign a veteran shortstop to a one year deal until Castro is ready?

What about a one year contract for Orlando Cabrera, who played very well for the Minnesota Twins down the stretch? The former White Sox has had a solid big league career for the past 12 seasons. He is excellent defensively, hits for average, runs fairly well and would not cost a ton of money to sign. Cabrera plays nearly every day, and brings a ton of postseason experience.

That would allow Theriot to play 2nd base, where he would be a better fit, and it would allow him time to get comfortable with the position before he has to help Castro with his transition to the big leagues in late 2010 or at the start of 2011.

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Ted Lilly Has Shoulder Surgery

The Cubs have announced today that Ted Lilly had shoulder surgery yesterday afternoon and probably will not start the season in the Cubs rotation. Here is the press release that the Cubs issued today:

TED LILLY UNDERGOES LEFT SHOULDER ARTHROSCOPY AND DEBRIDEMENT

CHICAGO - Ted Lilly yesterday afternoon underwent a left shoulder arthroscopy and debridement performed by noted orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles.  During the surgery, Dr. Yocum found no major damage to Lilly's shoulder and the procedure consisted of a washout and clean up of the shoulder.  The procedure took approximately one hour to complete. 

Lilly will immediately begin an aggressive range of motion and strengthening program.  After the first of the year, Lilly will be re-evaluated and the club will establish a timetable for him to begin his throwing program in preparation for the 2010 season.  Typically, recovery time for a procedure such as this would place Lilly's return to the Cubs rotation within the month of April. 

"We are pleased that Ted's surgery was a success and are eager to see him begin his rehabilitation program," said Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry.  "After Ted's re-evaluation following the first of the year, a determination will be made as to when he will begin his throwing program.  At this point in time, it is too early to precisely project Ted's return to the Cubs rotation; most estimates would place that return within the month of April.

"At the conclusion of the 2009 season, Cubs team doctors prescribed a conservative approach to managing Ted's shoulder in preparation for the 2010 season and, following a second opinion, Dr. Yocum agreed," Hendry continued.  "At the end of last week, Ted decided that undergoing a surgical procedure was the course of action he wanted to pursue, a decision the club supported.  We're glad the surgery did not reveal any major damage to Ted's shoulder and look forward to his return to our rotation."

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A Look at the Bears 30-6 Win Over the Browns

Let's start with the Bears, who pounded an awful Cleveland Browns team 30-6 this afternoon at Soldier Field, improving their record to 4-3. First of all, there are no "bad" wins in the NFL. Every win is important. And while today's game didn't go a long way to answering the questions that continue to linger about the offense, it did show that the Bears can find ways to win even when Jay Cutler isn't at his best.

The offensive line continues to look suspect. If the Bears aren't careful, they won't have Cutler as their QB too much longer, because the beating he's taking will eventually lead to serious injury. Today, Cutler was sacked 4 times and hit 7 times with many of those hits being very physical plays. Say what you want about him, but Cutler is showing tremendous toughness as he takes a beating each and every week and keeps on playing hard.

I also loved the exchange between Cutler and Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan that was captured on the broadcast. Both men were screaming at each other, and it is that passion that we have not seen in a long time from a Bears QB. After the game the two men hugged as they walked off of the field and shook hands, and Cutler talked about his respect for Ryan in the post game press conference.

Now, with the Browns out of the way, the Bears will have to step up their performance a notch as the Arizona Cardinals will come to town next Sunday afternoon. While the Cardinals looked awful today against the Panthers, the fact is they have a handful of road wins on their resume and they should be a formidable foe for the Bears.

Did You Know Dept.?

The victory before a Soldier Field crowd of 59,493, ended a two-game losing streak, no insignificant achievement since only one team (1979) in franchise history had lost three straight and reached the postseason.

Post game Grades:

Quarterback
Jay Cutler took another beating but he had only one turnover and that came on a tipped ball and he did throw for 225 yards on a 17-30 performance. His QB rating was mediocre at 66.7 but let's not forget he has a brutal offensive line and a suspect set of skill position players around him.
Grade: B

Running Game

Matt Forte ran for 90 yards on 26 carries and while he only averaged 3.5 yards per carry he did take care of the ball and help the Bears keep the clock moving en route to a time of possession victory of 37:25 to 22:35. He also found the end zone twice.
Grade: B+

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
While nobody caught a TD pass and no one had a 100 yard day they did do some good things to keep drives alive and they contributed by blocking in the running game.
Grade: C+

Defensive Line
Just 1 sack is unacceptable and if that trend continues the Bears have no chance at making the playoffs and doing damage once they get there. In addition to the one sack, there was only 1 tackle for loss. There were only three QB hits, and while that may work against a team like Cleveland, it will not work against any of the good QB's left on the Bears schedule. The D-Line was okay against the run as the Browns ran for 117 total yards.
Grade: C

Linebackers
Solid performance from Nick Roach, Hunter Hillenmeyer and Lance Briggs, who were solid in coverage and against the run. This group is doing all they can with both Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa out for the season.
Grade: B+

Secondary
Picked off 2 passes and forced 2 fumbles. In addition, Tillman took his pick back for a touchdown. They covered well and they gave good support against the run.
Grade: A

Special Teams
Robbie Gould was 3-3 on field goal attempts and Brad Maynard stuck three punts inside the 20 yard line. He did shank one kick but otherwise he had a solid performance. Add in no special teams turnovers and the unit did a pretty fair job.
Grade: B

Coaching
Lovie Smith had his guys ready to play and they were able to put the memory of last week's 45-10 blowout at Cincinnati in their rear view mirrors fairly quickly. However, Rod Marinelli's D-Line has to pick it up as does Harry Hiestand's offensive line. Ron Turner takes a ton of heat for his play calling, but it is hard to take a ton of chances down the field when your offensive line can't give the quarterback much time to throw.
Grade B-

Sunday's NFL Picks Against the Spread

Here are today's picks against the spread....

*As always these selections are for entertainment purposes only*

Best Bet

Dallas -9 1/2

Other Picks

Minnesota +3
Tennessee -2 1/2
San Francisco +13
Bears/Cleveland Under 41 1/2
Oakland +17

It's Official....The Ricketts Take Control

After a 30 month period filled with ups and downs it is finally official. The Ricketts family has taken control of the storied Chicago Cubs franchise, Wrigley Field, and a stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Here is the press release issued by the Ricketts family through their spokesman Dennis Culloton just minutes ago....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 (CHICAGO) -- The Ricketts family says it's official; the family has taken a 95 percent controlling interest in the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field and 25 percent of Comcast Sportsnet after a financial closing today.

The closing on the deal, valued at $845 million, completes a more than two year effort that started when Tribune Company put the team, stadium and broadcast interest up for bid.  Family members Pete, Tom, Laura and Todd Ricketts will now assume control of the team, forming a board of directors. Tribune Company will retain a five percent interest in the enterprise and also have a seat on the board. 

Tom Ricketts, 44, will serve as board chairman and issued the following statement:

"My family and I are thrilled that this day has finally come and we thank Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball owners for approving our ownership.  Now we will go to work building the championship tradition that all Cubs fans so richly deserve. 

It's fitting that this closing takes place during World Series week. Out of respect for the Fall Classic, and at the league's request, we will wait to introduce ourselves to the media and fans until this Friday, a travel day in the series between the Phillies and the Yankees."

The news conference will take place at Wrigley Field at 11 a.m. Friday, October 30th.

More to come later in the day when we discuss this on Chicago Tribune Live at 5:30 on Comcast SportsNet and tonight at 7:00 on Sports Central on WGN Radio.

Chicago Sports Needs Some Personalities

While I consider Rick Morrissey a colleague and a friend, we usually disagree on most of the topics we discuss in the sports world. However, his column this morning in the Chicago Tribune was outstanding. For a world class city with the best sports fans in the world, we sure don't have much in the way of colorful personalities who are compelling enough for even the casual fan to pay attention. How big would Chad Ochocinco be on the national stage if he played in Chicago or New York? He would be a mega star.

Outside of Ozzie Guillen, name me one guy who you think really keeps it interesting, and is engaging not only with the media, but in the way he acts on the playing field. Let's examine the coaches and managers first, then we'll look at the players who call Chicago home.

Managers and Coaches

Ozzie Guillen

He may not be everybody's cup of tea, but I find him so entertaining to watch and to cover that he would probably the guy I'd hire if I owned a baseball team. Ozzie is honest to a fault, and he says what most fans are thinking even if his players don't like his frankness. His personality keeps the White Sox in the headlines even when his team may not be great. Plus, he has a World Series ring on his hand. So those who don't like him can't really argue much, because he accomplished something that no one else has done in this city in a very long time.
 
Lou Piniella

When Lou was hired by the Cubs, many fans and members of the media (myself included) expected a Mike Ditka-like presence in the Cubs dugout based on what we had seen of Sweet Lou during his time as the manager of the Seattle Mariners. However, with rare exception, we have seen a much more mellow Piniella, especially in 2009 when his lack of public anger frustrated many fans. When he shows his emotion, he is a colorful "Chicago type" personality. And that is what he needs to show in 2010.
 
Lovie Smith

While he may know his football, he is one of the most boring personalities we have seen on the Chicago sports scene in a long time. Smith is steady and unspectacular, but his lack of charisma drives fans who remember the days of Mike Ditka crazy, when every news conference and media moment was must-see TV. Smith is true to himself, but I believe that sometimes management forgets that professional sports are entertainment and you need to keep people watching even when you aren't going to the playoffs.

Joel Quenneville


Coach Q is very intense, and will flash a glimpse of his fiery personality from time to time behind the bench. But he does not usually show that side of himself away from game action. His news conferences are calm and informative, but he doesn't do much to garner attention.
 
Vinny Del Negro

Another of the modern day coaches who does not ever say anything to stir the pot. Del Negro is polished and concise in his comments, but like most of his Chicago counterparts he is not must-watch TV when he addresses the media.
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Programming Note....Jim Hendry on Sports Central

Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry will join me tonight on Sports Central at 7:35 for an extended discussion. Hendry has always been very generous with his time and he has agreed to discuss this past season and the upcoming off season.

Please post any questions that you have as a comment  here on the blog. One request, please keep the questions to current issues with the team. Hendry is not allowed by baseball rules to discuss players on other teams. Also, please keep it clean. I know that Cubs fans are frustrated by the 2009 season but please ask solid questions. Inappropriate comments will be removed. 

Also, please note that new Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo will join me at 7:10.

Expect Jaramillo To Be Named Shortly

Expect the Cubs to put the money where their mouth is by making former Texas Rangers coach Rudy Jaramillo the highest paid hitting coach in baseball history sometime in the next couple of days. He is expected to sign a multi-year deal for approximately $800,000 dollars. They reportedly beat out a handful of other clubs who were also offering big money and a multi year deal. However, he sees the Cubs as a golden opportunity to turn around a talented team and help to get them back to the postseason. New owner Tom Ricketts approved the increase in payroll to land the talented teacher as the Cubs try to get back to the level of run production that helped fuel their 97 win team in 2008.

He is widely considered the best hitting coach in baseball but he will have his hands full trying to turn around a group of hitters who struggled in 2009. His first project is expected to be 2008 NL Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto who had a terrible season in 2009 slumping mightily in both batting average and in the power department.

More to come....

Bears Thoughts After Giving Away the Atlanta Game

The Bears did not lose to the Atlanta Falcons tonight. Instead, they gave away the game by self-destructing, especially in the red zone. Jay Cutler threw 2 bad interceptions, and Matt Forte had perhaps the worst game of his short professional career.

Add in a terrible night for the special teams and a rough night for the offensive line, and it spelled defeat in an extremely winnable football game in the Georgia Dome. How does the special teams have 12 men on the field late in the game when the Falcons had just been forced to punt? That cannot happen, but fortunately for the Bears they were bailed out one play later when Matt Ryan threw his 2nd interception of the game.

Still, the Bears could not drive down and tie the game in the final moments, due to their inability to score when they were in the red zone. Cutler threw for 300 yards, but he and the offense generated only 7 points on three trips inside the 15 yard line. That is completely unacceptable, as is Orlando Pace's false start penalty on 4th and 1 with 34 seconds left in the game.
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The Cubs Are Closing in on Rudy Jaramillo

Ask most major league baseball executives who the best hitting coach in the game is and most will tell you the name of Rudy Jaramillo [ha-dah-MEE-yoh], who for the last 15 years has been the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers. Jaramillo turned down a one year contract from the Rangers last week, and he's in hot demand among the rest of baseball because he is highly successful in helping his hitters make dramatic improvement.

So if he is so good, you are probably wondering how Texas could let him get away. Here is the latest on the situation, and after you read it you will understand why he is looking to test free agency and to sign a contract with some solid job security. GM Jim Hendry has been super aggressive since Jaramillo made it known that he would be leaving the Rangers and most baseball executives expect Jaramillo to choose the Cubs. Look for the Cubs to land him and to sign him to a multi-year deal worth at least $750,000 per season, which would make him the highest paid hitting coach in the game.

More Cubs Notes....

The Arizona Fall League has begun, and in talking with several scouts and media types who are there watching the games, the two most impressive hitters so far have been Josh Vitters and Starlin Castro of the Cubs. Vitters timetable for reaching the big leagues could be as
Starlin Castro.jpg

Shortstop Starlin Castro is one of the brightest stars in the Cubs improving farm system.

quick as next September and he will be the Cubs starting third baseman should Aramis Ramirez exercise the opt out clause in his contract after the 2010 season. Castro is just 19 years of age and while he is young for the level he is playing at he could be in the Cubs Opening Day lineup as soon as 2011.




Cubs Bankruptcy is Approved

A Delaware judge has approved the Cubs sale from Tribune Company to the Ricketts family paving the way for the sale to close late next week and for the family to take control of the franchise.

Here are the details  of the announcement on the bankruptcy approval by Judge Kevin Carey who is handling the entire Tribune case. Tune into Chicago Tribune Live at 5:30 on Comcast SportsNet and Sports Central on WGN Radio at 7:00 p.m.for more on the process and when the deal should close and what moves could be made first by the new ownership group.

Orton and Benson Are Stars? What Happened Here?

I have the NFL Sunday Ticket on Direct TV so that I can watch multiple games at once on my setup in the basement. A couple of my boys are big football fans so they decided to spend yesterday with me watching several games because we didn't have to focus on the Bears since it was their bye week.

As the day unfolded we stayed locked on the Bengals/Ravens game which was competitive right down to the final seconds. As the Bengals finished off the Ravens this nugget flashed up on the screen: Cedric Benson is the first player to run for over 100 yards against the Ravens in 39 games, tallying 120 yards and a touchdown on the ground. I paused, looked at my son Brett and then he said some startling words to me: "Dad is that the same Cedric Benson who the Bears had?" When I told him yes he remarked, "why was he so bad here and looked so good for the Bengals?"
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Random Thoughts From the Chicago Sports Scene

Once in a awhile I like to look at some of the happenings in the sports world rather than just concentrating a blog post on just one sport. So here are some thoughts and questions that I have been observing and wondering about for a while.

Did you know that the over/under total of wins for the Bears in Las Vegas when the season began was 8 1/2? You have to think that the large numbers of Chicagoans who travel to Vegas must have put some serious money down on the over. The Bears look pretty solid and with Jay Cutler at the controls it would take a real collapse to not win at least 9 games.

The total bet in Vegas that has the casinos very happy is the number that they posted on the Broncos of 6 1/2 after seeing huge money come in on the under with the total posted at 7 1/2. The casinos adjusted their number out of concern that they could lose a ton on the under. Several "wiseguys" continued to pound the under and the casinos could make a fortune with the Broncos already 4-0.
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Sunday's NFL Picks Against the Spread

I took yesterday off from making picks but I did watch some outstanding college football including Florida's win at LSU which could have been a bigger blowout but definitely established Florida as a far superior team. I also watched Alabama drill Ole Miss on the road and look almost as good as Florida in doing it.

An Alabama/Florida game would be absolutely phenomenal to see because these are, by far the two best teams in the country. It's too bad that they probably won't meet for the national title but whenever they play it should go down as the best game we've seen in years.

Now on to week 5 in the NFL. There is a decent slate of games but it is not one of those jaw dropping cards that is loaded with tremendous match ups. The best game on the board is probably New England at Denver but I am also looking forward to watching Atlanta at San Francisco to find out if Mike Singletary's 49ers are for real. Also, if you would like to read a great handicapping column each week check out Matt Youmans in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Good luck!

**As always, these picks are for entertainment purposes only**

Best Bet #1

Carolina -4 over Washington

The Panthers are in desperation mode and the Redskins are the right opponent to have as their offense is struggling big time. Look for John Fox and Co. to win by 7-10 as Redskins owner Dan Snyder gets ready to fire his coach, Jim Zorn.

Best Bet #2

Kansas City +8 over Dallas

According to VegasInsider.com, road teams that faced 0-4 opponents the past five seasons went 1-5 ATS. According to Playbook.com, Kansas City is 17-2 ATS as a home underdog of four or more points versus an opponent with at least one loss. The Cowboys have been struggling and while the Chiefs are not good they should be tough enough getting 8 points.

Best Bet #3

New England -2 1/2 at Denver

The Broncos projected win total in Las Vegas when the season started was 6 1/2 and they are already 4-0 so the team that many of the experts thought was going to be one of the NFL's worst is obviously much better than we thought. However, they haven't played anyone the caliber of New England so today's game will be a huge barometer of just how good they really are. I don't believe they are as good as the Patriots so I say lay the points and watch what should be a very entertaining football game.

Other Picks

Tennessee +4 over Indianapolis
Tennessee/Indianapolis over 44
Houston/Arizona over 50




Take That Cardinal Fans

So, I am watching the Cardinals/Dodgers NLDS game 2 on Thursday night and with two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the ninth inning I said to my wife and kids that the Cardinals were in great shape heading to St. Louis even in the series at 1-1.

Then James Loney hit a line drive to left and in comes Matt Holliday to boot the ball and give the Dodgers life. Two walk and two hits later the Dodgers were celebrating a most improbable 3-2 win and the Cardinals were leaving the field in complete disbelief. Well, take that Cardinal Nation. You are considered the best fan base in the game and while I respect your passion for your team, your arrogance makes me sick.

I find great irony that Cardinal fans, the same fans that buy Cubs jerseys with Bartman on the back today wake up to the reality that your team is in huge trouble. You have trotted out two Cy Young candidates in Games 1+2 and you lost both games. Then I look at the headline in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch and it says "These Cards are playing like Cubs" and that made me laugh hysterically because they are now dealing with the hell that we have lived with as Cubs fans since the day we acknowledged our fandom.

Here is a replay of the 9th inning from MLB.com  and it includes the Hall of Fame Dodgers announcer Vin Scully on it. What a great moment for Cubs fans to savor because there is no fan base that I would rather see this happen to than the Cardinals, who take great pleasure in seeing the Cubs suffer. They have had tremendous success in St. Louis but that is not enough for them. They wish their city was a world class city like Chicago but that will never happen. Instead, they cling to their pathetic jealousy of the Cubs and their great fans.

Well, welcome to what we Cubs fans have lived with for a long time. Being the butt of everyone's joke. Perhaps you will reget those Bartman jerseys.  My son and I will be wearing our Matt Holliday jerseys. Or should we wear a Ryan Franklin jersey? As your closer proceeded to gag the rest of the 9th inning away despite having multiple chances to get the final out.

Now here's hoping that the Dodgers can finish the job on Saturday.

 

Monday Night Football Prediction

After a 4-2 record on Sunday it's time to take a look at the MNF match up between the Vikings and the Packers in Minneapolis tonight. The environment should be electric as Brett Favre takes on his old team on the national TV stage.

The latest line has the Vikings as 5 point favorites and the total at 46 1/2 and that line concerns me because it was -3 last Monday. Too many people believe this is going to be a blowout and that is when we usually see a fabulous game develop.

I would be careful laying 5 or more and if you can play the money line on Minnesota that is the way to go.

**As always these predictions are for entertainment purposes only**

Monday Night Football Play  

Minnesota Vikings -5 but not a strong play
Minnesota Vikings on the money line
Minnesota Vikings over 46 1/2

Good luck and enjoy what should be a fabulous game to watch!

Let's Clear Up a Few Misconceptions About the 09' Cubs

Now that the 2009 season has come to an end for the Chicago Cubs it is time to take a critical look at the team and dispel a few ideas that some in town seem to believe as gospel. First, as much as the signing of Milton Bradley was a bad idea it was not the reason the 2009 Cubs finished where they did. Repeat after me, Milton Bradley was not the reason this team is not in the playoffs.

Bradley was certainly a problem in the clubhouse and his productivity was not great but there were several other problems that helped derail the season. The fact that the entire starting outfield combined for 43 HR's and 99 RBI's was certainly one reason that the run production was down dramatically from 2008. Add in the fact that Geovany Soto had a brutal year and that Aramis Ramirez only played in 82 games and you have two more huge components of the 2008 offense that did not perform at the same level.
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Sunday's NFL Picks

I had a 2-2 record on Saturday because I decided not to post three other games that I liked. I looked at Michigan State -3 over Michigan (MSU covered -3). I also liked Nevada over in state rival UNLV (Nevada won big 63-28 to easily cover -4) and after broadcasting Idaho's win at NIU last week I really liked Idaho + 4 1/2  at home against Colorado State (Idaho wins outright 31-29). However, I didn't have access to a computer yesterday afternoon as I was doing the play by play on the NIU win over Western Michigan so I couldn't get them to you.

Now, let's turn our attention to the NFL. There are some intriguing match-ups including the awesome defense of the Baltimore Ravens against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The Jets and the Saints will also be a tremendous game to watch as the Jets defense is improving under new head coach Rex Ryan and the Saints offense is the best in the NFL. Plus, our Bears have a date with the Lions at Soldier Field.

**As always these selections are for entertainment purposes only**

Best Bet

New Orleans -6.5 over New York Jets

The Saints have a tremendously explosive offense and at home they are very tough to slow down. They looked great in winning at Philadelphia last week and while the Jets are improved over last year I don't see rookie QB Mark Sanchez being able to engineer enough scoring to keep up with New Orleans in the Crescent City.

Best Bet #2

Lions/Bears over 40 1/2

The Lions defense is banged up and we know all about the Bears LB's who are missing Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa. The Bears could also be without MLB Hunter Hillenmeyer and Lance Briggs was in a walking boot earlier in the week. Look for a Bears win with the game going over the total.

Best Bet #3

New York Giants -9 at Kansas City

The Giants are a solid football team with a legit shot at winning another Super Bowl. On the other side of the line you have the Chiefs who have a new coach, a new philosophy, and an uphill climb to win this football game. A cardinal rule in Las Vegas is to never play a team in its third straight road game. This is just that situation for New York but they are the better team today by a wide margin so I will go against that theory and see if the G-Men can get it done. The Chiefs are getting better and they will have their day but it won't be today.

Other Plays

Dallas -3 at Denver
Houston -9 over Oakland
Tennessee -3 at Jacksonville

I will have a write-up on the Green Bay at Minnesota game on Monday afternoon.

Enjoy your Sunday! Kap 

Was The IOC's Decision A Slap At Chicago or The USOC?

Did the International Olympic Committe say no to the Chicago 2016 bid because they wanted no part of Chicago? Or did they say no because of their displeasure with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC)?

The reasons Chicago lost out will be analyzed for a long time and the finger of blame will be pointed at Mayor Richard Daley, Pat Ryan, and even President Barack Obama. But is that fair and is it accurate? This article highlights the problems the USOC has had recently with the IOC and it shows how that fractured relationship may have derailed any bid that an American city would have put up.

I spoke with one of the best sports business experts in the industry, Rick Horrow, of the Horrow report and here is his take on the IOC's decision to award the games to Rio De Janiero. "What today's IOC selection process proves is that the Olympics are bigger business than ever -- a linchpin in the $750 billion business of sports, and a bellweather of global business developments.  2016 winner Rio de Janeiro has budgeted $14 billion for the Games -- far more than the other finalists.

 
Rio's awarding of the Games is a clear signal that Latin America is an emerging market now mature.  38 percent of the Fortune 500 has supported Rio's bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, and major sponsors looking to add the 160 million people in South America under the age of 18 to their customer base will be racing each other to get on board within the next few months.  The selection is also a confirmation that the hundreds of millions of dollars American pro sports teams have spent courting a Latin American fan and sponsor base is money well spent.
 
One other thing is clear.  While cynics question the extraordinary emotional, political, and economic capital invested in attracting these games, more cities and countries are bidding than ever before.  While Rio celebrates its selection victory, countless other cities plan for their 2020 Summer Olympics selection conquest four years from now.  With Chicago now on the sidelines, other U.S. cities will their places among the candidates -- the American sports business engine will continue to roar."

Do You Support the Olympic Bid for Chicago?

Approximately 24 hours from now the International Olympic Committee will announce their decision on what city will host the 2016 Olympic Games. There has been a great amount of support for Chicago's bid including tremendous star power throwing their weight behind the quest to land arguably the most visible sporting event in the world.

President Barack Obama and his wife, Oprah Winfrey, Mayor Richard Daley, and many others have joined forces to support the bid and to try to land the games for the Windy City. I support the bid and believe that it will be a great thing for our town to be so visible on the world stage. We are a world class city and those in the world who don't know that yet need to see firsthand just how great a place Chicago is.

Do we need the games to be a world class city? No, we already are. However, by exposing the beauty of Chicago to the rest of the world it could reap us billions in future revenue from travel by tourists to our town. A recent study showed that while the Chicago 2016  committee may be overestimating the value of the games to the area, landing the Olympics should have the effect of hosting 12 consecutive Super Bowls. That's a pretty good boost to our region's economy.

Here is the latest on the race to land the games which could have a huge impact on our region in terms of creating jobs, increasing tourism, and driving tens of millions of dollars to our local stores, hotels, and restaurants for years to come.  The latest poll on whether or not Chicagoans want the games seems to indicate widespread support for bringing the games to the Windy City.

Do you agree? Do you want to see the 2016 games here in Chicago? Weigh with your vote on today's poll question.


The Cubs Have to Get it Right (or Left) This Winter

After the Cubs were swept by the Dodgers last winter, management was very open about its need to add another bat to the lineup.  And after listening to Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry, it was obvious that the bat had to be left handed.

Why? Who cares what side of the plate a guy hits from?

It is the same ridiculous logic that we see in baseball today when managers feel that they have to go to the bullpen to have a left handed pitcher face a left handed hitter in a key situation. Never mind that, in many situations, the pitcher may be better against right handed hitters than he is against left handed hitters. Remember Mike Remlinger?  He was brought in as a left handed specialist. But a look at his career numbers shows that he was far better facing right handed hitters than he was against left handed hitters.

Is there any doubt that Neal Cotts was on the Cubs roster as long as he was because he threw from the left side? If he was a right handed pitcher and put up the numbers that he did in a Cubs uniform he would have been released a long time ago. Yet, he was given chance after chance despite struggling mightily.

It is this mentality that is pervasive around baseball and it has to change. It is as foolish as pitch counts being used as a definite when it comes to deciding when to change pitchers. There is a great article in ESPN the Magazine about Nolan Ryan and how he has changed the mentality of the Texas Rangers and their use of pitch counts.
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Weekend Football Picks

As I do every weekend I pick the games that I like against the spread in both college and the NFL. This weekend's games are very intriguing and I found several that I like a lot because of the way the injuries are happening and the fact that a handful of teams have their backs against the wall.

**Enjoy and as always these picks are for entertainment purposes only.**

College

BEST BET

North Carolina at Georgia Tech (-3)

The Yellow Jackets were beaten by the Tar Heels a year ago 28-7 but this was a close game that was broken open in the 4th quarter by three Tech turnovers. North Carolina is a solid team but they are not spectacular and I don't expect them to go into Atlanta and beat Georgia Tech.

Other College Picks

Northwestern +1 over Minnesota
LSU -14 over Mississippi State
Kansas -13.5 over Southern Mississippi

NFL

Tennessee+3 over NY Jets
Houston -3 over Jacksonville
Oakland +1.5 over Denver
Arizona -2.5 over Indianapolis
Minnesota -7 over San Francisco

Best Bet is in Bold

Can Jim Hendry Fix the Cubs?

Yes, I know he had a brutal winter of 2008-09 and I know that the Cubs have had a very disappointing 2009 season. But I still believe that GM Jim Hendry is the man to fix what ails his baseball team heading into 2010. Sources have confirmed to me that Hendry will indeed be retained as the GM after the 2009 season ends and he will be given a fair shot to straighten out what went wrong with his club this season.

Hendry has been down this road before when he needed to do a far bigger overhaul both after the 2002 season when he was first hired as the GM, and again after the 2006 season when he changed managers, added several new players, and built the core of 2008's 97 win team. Add in three division titles in 7 years for a franchise that, until he arrived, hadn't had back to back winning seasons, and he has accomplished more than any other GM in the Cubs recent history.

Last winter Hendry set out to fix what he thought was the main problem with his team and that was a lack of left handed run production to add, as he said at the time, balance to the Cubs right handed dominant starting lineup. By acquiring Milton Bradley, Hendry felt he was adding a switch hitter who was an on-base machine in Texas last season and he envisioned Bradley driving in runs and being a constant presence on the base paths. 
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More On Milton Bradley

After the Cubs suspended Milton Bradley for the remainder of the season several members of the 2009 Chicago Cubs spoke out about how Milton never really fit in with the ball club. Ryan Dempster, who is one of the leaders in the clubhouse, had some very interesting things to say when he was questioned about Bradley's suspension.  "At the end of the day, he was provided a great opportunity to be part of a really great organization with a lot of really good guys," Dempster said. "It just didn't seem to make him happy -- anything. Hopefully this is a little bit of a wake-up call for him, and he'll realize how good of a gig you have.

"It probably became one of those things where you start saying things that you're putting the blame on everybody else. Sometimes you've just got to look in the mirror and realize that maybe the biggest part of the problem is yourself."

Wow, those are some very pointed remarks from one of the best guys on the club and one of the easiest to get along with. Bradley has been a pain to deal with almost from the day he signed with the Cubs last January. He was a guest on the TV show that I host (Chicago Tribune Live) and on Sports Central (the radio show that I host) and he spent the time on the air asking the fans of Chicago to give him a chance to start over and to have a clean slate.
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Milton Bradley Suspended

The Chicago Cubs have suspended outfielder Milton Bradley for the remainder of the season probably ending his disappointing stay on the north side of Chicago. Bradley has been a moody and problematic presence in the Cubs clubhouse all season long but not until he unloaded his feelings in an interview with the Daily Herald yesterday did the Cubs finally take action.
milton-bradley-cubs.jpg

Milton Bradley and Jim Hendry in happier times when he signed with the Cubs. Hendry suspended the outfielder for the remainder of the season today.


It is obvious that Bradley won't be returning to the Cubs next season but by suspending him the Cubs have essentially made it even more difficult to deal him this off season.  This action should not come as a surprise to anyone because Bradley has been a major problem to deal with most of the season for not only the media but the manager, his coaching staff, the front office, and even his teammates.

More to come on this story. Kap


Handicapping Week 2 in the NFL

After an okay day in college football where I went 3-2 and hit the Michigan State/Notre Dame game (but I can't count it since I decided to advise you to stay away) it is time to look at the slate of games in Week 2 of the NFL.

**As always, the following picks are for entertainment purposes only**

Oakland +3 at Kansas City

The Raiders lost a tough game against San Diego on Monday night and now they have to come back on  a short week. However, they have much more firepower than the Chiefs and this is only week 2 when players are still relatively fresh and not banged up. Look for Oakland to stretch the field and to handle the Chiefs relatively easily.

Pittsburgh -3 at Chicago

I would love to pick the Bears here but since I picked them on TV to start the season 0-3 back in August I will stick with what I felt deep down before the season started. This is not a great football team because they have no depth at wide receiver, the defense (before Brian Urlacher went down) was questionable and now it is really suspect. The defensive backfield is mediocre and against Ben Roethlisberger that can be a real problem. The Bears should come out ready to play in their home opener after a tough loss at Green Bay. Lay the points as the Steelers win and cover.

New Orleans -1 at Philadelphia

The Saints can score in a big way and with Donovan McNabb probably out with a rib injury it will be very tough for the Eagles to keep pace if the game turn into a shootout. The key will be if the Philadelphia defense can slow down Drew Brees and limit his effectiveness in the Saints passing game. I don't believe they can so I am pick New Orleans to grab a big road victory.

Buffalo -4 vs Tampa Bay

I know that the Bills literally handed the game last Monday night to the Patriots after Leodis McKelvin fumbled a kickoff that he should have never tried to return late in the fourth quarter. I know that they are on a short week of preparation after playing on Monday night. However, this is a pretty good football team and head coach Dick Jauron usually has his team ready to play. I look for Buffalo to rebound with a win at home.

Long Shot 6 Team Parlay Play

Buffalo
New Orleans
Green Bay
Oakland
Pittsburgh
Dallas on the money line


The Cubs Need to Say Goodbye to Rich Harden

Thumbnail image for Rich Harden.jpg

Rich Harden's inability to pitch deep into games combined with his injury history makes it likely he won't be a Cub in 2010.

With the Cubs looking towards next year and trying to figure how to improve their team without having a big budget increase lets take a look at their salary commitments for 2010 and how their payroll may prevent them from making many major moves.

Here are the Cubs who are already under contract for next year:
Alfonso Soriano  19 million
Carlos Zambrano 18.875 million
Aramis Ramirez  16.75 million
Kosuke Fukudome 14 million
Ryan Dempster  13.5 million
Derrek Lee  13 million
Ted Lilly 13 million
Milton Bradley 10.33
Jeff Samardzija 1.0 million
---------------------------------------------
119.455 million

Add in to this number arbitration eligible players like Ryan Theriot, Carlos Marmol, Aaron Heilman, Angel Guzman, Sean Marshall, Mike Fontenot, and Koyie Hill and you have to figure that the payroll will swell to approximately $130 million or more and that is just for 16 players.

Add in needing to either re-sign or replace Rich Harden, Kevin Gregg, and Reed Johnson and you have a payroll that is close to or more than 140 million BEFORE you attempt to improve the roster.

So those of us who like to play arm chair general manager and have the Cubs taking a run at Chone Figgins or another high priced free agent better understand that the Ricketts family is not going to be adding big money to the payroll in their first year of ownership.

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Let's Talk About Big Z

CarlosZambrano.jpg

Carlos Zambrano has his share of detractors, but should the Cubs consider trading him this off-season?

Paul Sullivan stirred up Cubs Nation over the last 24 hours when he talked about the possibility of the Cubs trading Carlos Zambrano this winter in an attempt to create more payroll flexibility and to add some young prospects to the club.

Since his article hit the Internet last night after the Cubs 2-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, there has been much discussion about whether or not it makes sense to deal the volatile right hander. Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald thinks it would be foolish to deal Zambrano, because he believes Big Z has pitched much better than his record this season indicates.

Zambrano has been heralded as the ace of the Cubs staff for a long time.  And while he is paid like an ace he hasn't pitched like one since inking his 91.5 million dollar extension in August 2007.

But let's not blame him for his salary. He accepted what the market said he was worth and when the Cubs signed him he did what any one of us would have done, he signed the deal. So don't blame him for that.

Now if you want to complain that he is paid like a #1 starter and he isn't a #1 starter, that is an entirely different argument. I have complained that Zambrano doesn't win enough to be an ace. I know that wins are not the best statistic to judge a pitcher on, but the fact that he ranks roughly 30th in baseball in wins since the day he signed his extension is very disconcerting.
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Brian Urlacher Out For The Season

The news is just hitting the street that star linebacker Brian Urlacher is out for the season after suffering a wrist injury in Sunday night's loss to the Green Bay Packers. Urlacher dislocated his right wrist in the first quarter of the game and did not return.

The Chicago Tribune's Vaughn McClure received a text message from Urlacher saying that his season is over. Coach Lovie Smith is expected to confirm Urlacher's status at his Monday afternoon news conference at Halas Hall. His loss, combined with a knee injury suffered by fellow linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa that is expected to sideline him for 2-4 weeks could cripple the Bears defense.

The Bears are considering moving Lance Briggs to Urlacher's middle linebacker spot and signing the best available linebacker on the street. More to come later today. Kap

 

Urlacher Headed for Surgery

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is headed for surgery Monday morning on his dislocated wrist. The injury occurred in the first quarter of the Bears 21-15 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Urlacher injured wrist.jpg

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher with a brace on his injured wrist suffered in the Bears 21-15 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. Urlacher will have surgery on Monday morning in Chicago.


No timetable has been set for Urlacher's return until after the surgery has been performed. I will have more on this story as soon as it becomes available. Kap

Cutler Struggles, Bears Do Some Good Things

I know everyone in Chicago is disappointed in Jay Cutler's inaugural performance as the Bears quarterback, but there were some good things to be taken from Sunday night's 21-15 loss to the arch-rival Packers.

First of all, the defensive line put excellent pressure on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who, according to all of the pregame prognosticators, was supposed to torch the Bears secondary for a huge night. That never happened because guys like Adewale Ogunleye were able to get into the backfield and keep Rodgers from finding his comfort zone.

In addition, the defense kept Packers running back Ryan Grant in check, holding him to just 61 yards on 16 carries.  The entire Green Bay running game totaled just 76 yards on 22 carries, an average of just 3.5 yards per carry. That is more than acceptable.  That stat, combined with the four sacks and the countless hurries that the Bears racked up against Rodgers, should have been enough for a victory.

 


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A Look at the Bears Offense

On Tuesday I explored the Bears defense and now today I want to take a look at what the Chicago Bears will have on the offensive side of the football. Obviously things should be a whole lot better with Jay Cutler replacing Kyle Orton at quarterback.
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The Bears hopes for a Super Bowl season ride in large part on the shoulders of Pro Bowl QB Jay Cutler.



However, even with a Pro Bowl QB there are still a lot of questions that have to be answered with a resounding yes for the Bears offense to play at the level of a team with championship aspirations. Is there a #1 receiver on the offense that you feel comfortable calling on with the game on the line? Sure, Devin Hester has tremendous speed but is he a legitimate every down wideout? The receiving corp of Hester, Aromashadu , Knox, Iglesias, Davis, and Bennett all have some skill level but they have just two guys (Hester and Davis) who have ever caught even one pass in an NFL game.

The tight end position is loaded with Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark both capable of making the big catch and blocking very effectively. Together, this duo should help take a lot of pressure off of Cutler and the unproven wide receiver corps. I fully expect Olsen to lead the team in receptions because of the chemistry that he has developed with Cutler.

The running back spot is capably manned by Matt Forte who should have an even better sophomore season than he had as a rookie when he solidified a questionable Bears running game that had struggled with Cedric Benson for the previous couple of seasons. Garrett Wolfe and Adrian Peterson provide depth but an injury to Forte could be devastating to the Bears chances because neither of the backups appear ready to be an every down back.

Add it all up and you have a team that should be vastly improved on the offensive side of the ball but the big question is will they be improved enough to cover for a very questionable defense. If they are then the Bears could be the best team in a rather mediocre NFC. If they are not then it could be a rough season in the NFC North where the Vikings and Packers appear to be very tough to beat with veteran teams and big time quarterbacks.

The Cubs Need to Sign the #1 Free Agent This Winter

Fresh off of a great weekend in Las Vegas with my wife I am back to working the phones and looking at what the Cubs can or might do this winter to overhaul their very disappointing team. That means every area of the team and the organization is under review with new ownership taking over after the World Series.


There are some solid players available in free agency, but as a whole this year's crop of free agents is not particularly strong. However, there is one bona-fide superstar available, and if you land him you land a second piece of your puzzle as a bonus.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa's contract expires after this season and there is speculation throughout Cardinal Nation that he may walk away from St. Louis and look for a new opportunity. What better move could new Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and his family make than to hire one of the greatest managers in baseball history to inject some life into his struggling baseball team?

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The best first move the Ricketts Family could make would be to hire Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan for the Cubs. Both men will be free agents this off-season


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Hendry Told the Twins He Wouldn't Wave the White Flag

After considering discussing a deal that would have sent pitcher Rich Harden to the Minnesota Twins earlier in the week Cubs GM Jim Hendry told the Twins that he was not ready to wave the white flag of surrender with his team 5 games out in the NL Wild Card race.

The Twins were very interested in acquiring Harden who they looked at as a potential #1 starter in the playoffs and were willing to pay a fair price to land him. However, after seeing Colorado struggle last weekend Hendry decided to go all in and try to make the playoffs rather than dealing one of his best arms. The talks really never got very serious.

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White Sox Trade Thome to Dodgers, Contreras to Rockies

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The Jim Thome era in Chicago officially ended Monday night as he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league infielder Justin Fuller

The White Sox have traded Jim Thome and cash to the Dodgers for minor league infielder Justin Fuller.  They have also sent Jose Contreras and cash to the Rockies for right-hander Brandon Hynick.

The two deals save the White Sox roughly $3 million in payroll for the rest of the of the 2009 season, (depending on how much cash the Sox gave up) but also give both players a chance to be in a pennant race through the month of September.

I'm happy for Jim Thome, as he's one of the good guys in the game today, and handled himself with the utmost class throughout his tenure with the White Sox.  With the move to the National League and no designated hitter, it's uncertain whether Thome will get time at first base.  If nothing else, Thome can provide Dodgers skipper Joe Torre with a potent left handed stick off the bench.

As for Contreras, the White Sox can finally rid themselves of the Cuban right hander, who has had a miserable season, and is a shell of the former dominant pitcher that helped lead the White Sox to the 2005 World Series title.  This season Jose was 5-13 with an ERA of 5.42.

And a funny Ozzie note:  Reporters asked Ozzie Guillen before tonight's game whether Contreras might start Thursday, before rumor of the trade got out.  Guillen scoffed at the question and said there'd be no way he'd start Contreras, adding he'd rather send pitching coach Don Cooper to the mound. 

It's Official....Harden and Heilman Stay With the Cubs

The deadline is about to expire and I have confirmed from sources close to both sides that the Cubs and Twins could not agree on the players that the Cubs would receive in a Rich Harden deal. He is scheduled to make his start tonight at Wrigley Field against the Houston Astros.

Aaron Heilman will also be staying with the Cubs because they own his rights as he is short of service time for free agency.  So having him under their control makes more sense than just giving him away now.

It Appears That Harden and Heilman are Staying Put

With 30 minutes to go before the period to trade both Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman expires it appears that the Twins were unwilling to meet the Cubs asking price of a high level prospect for Harden. The Cubs weighed their chances of making a run in the Wild Card race and having more time to consider all of their options on Harden versus the lower level prospects the Twins were offering and it appears that they are staying put.

With 30 minutes to go could Minnesota GM Bill Smith change his mind and make an offer that Jim Hendry just can't refuse? Sure, he could do that but it does not appear likely. Give Hendry credit because he took a stand and refused to settle for something less than he wanted to make the deal. Will he offer salary arbitration to Harden is the next question he has to answer once the season ends.

The Clock is Ticking on Harden and Heilman

With a noon deadline to complete a trade for both Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman drawing closer, Cubs GM Jim Hendry has been working the phones this morning as he tries to determine the best course of action for his club.

Does he trade Harden and/or Heilman for whatever he can get or does he hang onto both guys in the hopes of re-signing them or in the case of Harden offering him salary arbitration to get draft pick compensation if he signs somewhere else? Most of the baseball people that I have spoken with this morning believe that Harden will be traded but that belief is only if the Cubs have decided privately that they would not offer him arbitration for fear that he would accept it and that they could be stuck with a 10+ million dollar salary which they have no interest in paying to a pitcher with his injury history.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has an interesting post up on the Harden situation. In the story he relates a statistic from the folks at Baseball Prospectus who do a daily playoff odds report. They have computed the odds of the Cubs playing in the postseason at just 2.7% so a decision to keep Harden for the rest of this season really makes no sense if you do not plan on either re-signing him or offering him arbitration to get draft pick compensation.

I will post an update as soon as I hear anything on this situation. Kap


You Have To Trade Rich Harden

The Cubs have until Monday to decide what they want to do with the contracts of Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman who were both claimed on waivers in the past week. Harden was claimed by the Minnesota Twins who are desperate to add starting pitching as they try to catch the Detroit Tigers in the very weak AL Central. Heilman was claimed by the San Francisco Giants who are looking for a relatively inexpensive arm for their bullpen.
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Rich Harden could be on the move to the Minnesota Twins who claimed him on waivers.


Heilman will not bring you much back in return but since he has had such a mediocre season I would try to move him so that you don't have to deal with him going through the arbitration process in the off season. He is not good enough to be a factor in the bullpen of a championship caliber team so why bring him back next season?

Harden has some value on the trade market though because he is currently healthy and he can help the Twins as they try to run down Detroit. The Cubs probably will not bring him back due to his injury history and the price he will probably command on the open market. In addition, media reports that continue to say that the Cubs will get two draft picks if Harden signs somewhere else as a free agent at the end of the season are not entirely accurate.

To receive draft picks for losing one of your own free agents you have to offer that player salary arbitration. If the Cubs were to offer Harden arbitration there is a strong possibility that he would accept it and that would put the Cubs on the hook for potentially a 10-12 million dollar salary award. To have kept him reasonably healthy enough to make somewhere between 25-30 starts this season is nothing short of a miracle. The front office of the Oakland A's can't believe that Harden is still pitching as they were sure he would have blown out shortly after they traded him to the Cubs in July of 2008.

This is one of the things that Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild deserves tremendous credit for because no one in baseball thought that the Cubs could keep Harden healthy. However, why push your luck? Trade him now when you have a team in Minnesota who is desperate to add a talented starter for their playoff push. Don't keep him when you probably won't re-sign him and then get nothing for him. If you want to re-sign him as a free agent you can do that in November. Just trade him now and get some young talent from the outstanding Minnesota system.

How to Start to Fix the Cubs for 2010

With a new ownership group scheduled to assume control shortly after the World Series the
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Jim Hendry has three years left on his contract and he will probably get the chance to build the 2010 Cubs and to correct what went wrong in 2009.

Cubs will not only have a lot of tough decisions to make to improve their team but they will also have a new direction to plan with Tom Ricketts and his family as the architects.

What will the Cubs off season look like? Will Jim Hendry be the man making the decisions? Let's take a stab at answering those questions and trying to figure out what is on the horizon for the 2010 Cubs. First, let's start with who will be in charge of baseball operations. There is considerable angst among Cubs fans over the moves made by General Manager Jim Hendry last winter. Nothing that Hendry tried worked and after seeing a 97 win team go backwards he is certainly hearing complaints from the fan base.






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You Have to Love Ozzie's Honesty

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Ozzie Guillen unloaded on his team after today's 10-0 blowout loss to the Yankees in New York. Most managers and coaches wouldn't be so honest but Sox fans love Ozzie's frankness.

After the White Sox were blown out 10-0 by the Yankees this afternoon, Sox manager Ozzie Guillen unloaded on his team. Guillen ripped his club's offensive woes and defensive shortcomings in a rant we would never see from too many professional coaches and managers.

Whether you like Guillen or not, you have to respect his honesty and the passion he displays while doing his job. He calls it as he sees it and with his team quickly falling from the race in the AL Central and having no shot at the Wild Card, Guillen is making sure his players know just how disappointed in them he is.

Looking at the White Sox long term you see some good things to build on for next year, but you also see some major holes in their club. Their rotation is excellent with Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, and newcomer Jake Peavy all considered solid to above average starters. Who fills the #5 starter's role is still in question, but how many teams in baseball can say they have excellent arms in the 1-4 slots and have all of them either under contract or under team control for the next few years?

The White Sox have a future superstar in Gordon Beckham playing 3B, but should they choose to use Alexei Ramirez in a trade this winter Beckham could slide over to his natural position of SS. The outfield has Carlos Quentin in LF, (and when he is healthy he is among the best in the American League) along with the recently acquired Alex Rios, who is a solid if unspectacular player with excellent athleticism and defensive skills.

One more outfield spot remains to be decided upon with the return of RF Jermaine Dye up in the air, as is the return of the surprising Scott Podsednik, who has been outstanding since GM Kenny Williams plucked him off of the scrap heap early in the season. One of these two is expected back, but not both.

Paul Konerko has one more year left on his deal and he will be back for another season at first base, as will A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate.  At second base the White Sox have Chris Getz penciled in to start next season but if they can find an upgrade they will most certainly consider it.  Defensively, this is not a good team.  The Sox have to make some tough decisions on how they can improve defensively without tinkering too much with the general makeup of their club.

The bullpen is where you will probably see more change than in any other area of the team before next season. I don't believe that closer Bobby Jenks will return because after making $5.6 million in 2009 his salary is expected to jump dramatically which will probably force Kenny Williams to shop him in the off season. Octavio Dotel's contract is up so he will not return, and with Scott Linebrink struggling the Sox will need to find a standout set up man to replace Dotel and to take most of the key appearances away from Linebrink. Matt Thornton is among the best left handed set up men in all of baseball, and will probably get the first shot at the closer's job if Jenks is traded.

All in all, the White Sox seem to be in better position going into this off season than their crosstown rival, the Cubs, who have major questions to answer and very little payroll flexibility with which to answer them. One thing the Sox do have going for them is manager Ozzie Guillen who is sure to keep things interesting and to keep the Sox in the headlines with his honesty and fire.

Bradley Says He Faces Hatred on a Daily Basis

Milton Bradley told the media after last night's game that he faces "hatred" on a daily basis and that he doesn't ever feel comfortable playing at Wrigley Field. "It's hard to be comfortable when you don't get a hit and get booed every time," he said. "When I go home and look in the mirror, I like what I see. My family is there. I have people I can talk to who are very supportive, in spite of everything and all the adversity and the hatred you face on a daily basis. But I'll be alright. I always have."

Milton, you don't face hatred. You face a fan base that is frustrated with your play this season and the fact that you were brought here to be a run producer and you have the grand total of  32 RBI's and are hitting just .259. Cubs fans want production and effort but when they see a guy who isn't producing he becomes a target of their frustrations. Chicago is a tough market to play in because of the intensity of the fan base, the years of losing, and scrutiny that you receive from the media.

If you didn't realize what you were getting yourself into before you signed here then that is your fault and no one else's. Players who succeed here embrace the city, the fans, and give a great effort every time they step on the field. Ask players like Mark DeRosa or Kerry Wood how they miss playing at Wrigley Field. Ask Andre Dawson who had to spend hours in the training room after every game so that he could find a way to play the next day if he loved playing in Chicago. Cubs fans don't demand all star play but they do demand an all star effort and an appreciation for their support.

You have chosen to be moody and reclusive and if you want to live that way that is your choice but then you better do a whole lot better than .259 with 10 HR's and 32 RBI's if you want to feel loved. Cubs fans don't hate you Milton, they just want you to perform at a much higher level than you have shown so far.

Ricketts Plan for Wrigley

Crain's Chicago Business has a story up regarding the Rickett's family's plans for Wrigley Field once they complete their deal to buy the Cubs from Tribune Company. As I reported a week ago the deal is done and will be approved by Major League Baseball shortly after the World Series.

Many fans are speculating that the first thing that Tom Ricketts does as the new owner is to clean house but sources close to the situation tell me that they do not expect immediate changes. Instead, they expect the family to assess every aspect of the team from an inside perspective both on and off the field before they implement the changes that they have been considering since they first decided to submit a bid.


Suggestions for the Ricketts Family

There are several moves both on and off the field that I would suggest to the new owners that would fundamentally change the team and the Wrigley Field experience for fans. Demand that things be done your way or else. You knew how to play that card when you had to during the long negotiations to buy the team.
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The Ricketts family reportedly played hardball toward the end of their negotiations to buy the Cubs. Now they have to play hardball and demand that things be done their way going forward.



Everyone in the media seems to be weighing in with their ideas so I figured I might as well give mine. So here we go:

1) Trade Milton Bradley and eat whatever salary you have to eat to make the deal happen. He had a good season in Texas in 2008, so the Cubs hoped it would translate into great productivity here.  But both on and off the field it is not working. So make the move this winter before it becomes a sideshow for the second consecutive season.

2) Say goodbye to Aaron Miles. The Cubs saw Miles hit .317 in 134 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008 and after making the insanely ridiculous decision to trade Mark DeRosa the Cubs figured Miles could do the same for the North Siders. His .178 average and whopping total of 5 RBI's in 146 at bats has to guarantee a ticket out of town despite the fact that he is owed another 2.7 million dollars in 2010.
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Lou Says He is Playing His Veterans....What The ????

So let's see, you manage a baseball team that has gone from first place to 8 games back in 19 days and you have a couple of highly paid veterans who are having terrible seasons. Do you keep playing them in the hope that they will turn things around or do you play the rookies who are producing in limited action and bring a spark to a team that is desperately in need of just that?

I believe that you reward players that play hard and earn the right to be in the lineup and Jake Fox and Sam Fuld have done just that. They both give maximum effort and they both are producing when called on. Yet, Cubs manager Lou Piniella had some interesting comments after Sunday's 3-1 win over the Dodgers, a game in which Jake Fox went 4-4 and drove in 2 runs and Sam Fuld made two tremendous catches. "I said I was going to play my veteran players. They're going to have to get it done," Piniella said. "I'm going to lean as much as I can on my veteran players to see what they can do and how far we can go."

Huh? Are you kidding me? So you see your team has a spark with the younger guys and you choose to play the guys who aren't getting the job done and haven't for a majority of the season? I believe Piniella knows the game and that he is a talented manager but quotes like that leave me wondering if he really wants to be here next season.

Soriano is hitting .157 in the month of August and looks completely lost at the plate. Unless the Ricketts family is interested in eating a huge portion of the 90 million dollars left on his contract, he will be on the roster next year.  So why not take some of the pressure off of him and allow him to only play sparingly the rest of the way?  Or at least allow Jake Fox to see how would do knowing he is in the lineup for the next several games playing left field?

The Cubs, despite what some out there believe, are not headed for a total overhaul as soon as the Ricketts family takes over. With guaranteed contracts and no trade clauses up and down the roster, the makeup of this team is not going to change dramatically between now and next April unless the Ricketts want to add a a lot of money to the payroll to cover up for under performing veterans on big, long term deals.. So find out what you have in the younger guys. You already know what you have in Soriano and Bradley and it isn't pretty for a number of reasons. Quit playing guys because of what they get paid. Play the guys who have earned the playing time.


**Breaking News** The Cubs Sale is Done!

As we first reported a week ago that it would happen by today, the agreement to sell the Chicago Cubs has been signed between the Tribune Company and the Ricketts family. The deal is for 845 million dollars and will be for a 95% stake in the ballclub, Wrigley Field, and Tribune Company's 25% stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

The Tribune Company will retain a 5% ownership interest but the Ricketts family will have total control of the operation of the baseball team. The next step will be to place the franchise into Chapter 11 so that the bankruptcy court can approve the transaction. After that step is completed then Major League Baseball's other owners will need to approve the transaction. Both of these steps are considered a formality and the Ricketts family is expected to assume control of the franchise sometime after the World Series is completed.

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As we first reported last week, the Tribune Company and the Ricketts family have signed an agreement to sell a controlling interest in the team and Wrigley Field to the Ricketts family. The deal is pending Major League Baseball approval.

 

MLB's next quarterly owners meeting is ironically in Chicago in November but the approval of the sale could be done via teleconference before then so that Tom Ricketts who is leading the family's ownership group could start to make critical decisions about the franchise's direction before free agency begins in early November.

Fans are already speculating on just what the new ownership group's first move will be but sources close to the sale process tell me that Tom Ricketts is not an impulsive person and that he will survey the situation with the ball club before he makes drastic changes to the front office and the team itself.

The sale process has been a difficult one and has dragged on for 28 months since the team was put on the block on Opening Day of the 2007 baseball season but this step is a huge one in the right direction because the club has been without definitive ownership since early 2007 when the Tribune Company was purchased by Sam Zell. From that point on the team has been on the block and speculation about its future has been major news. Now the team will have direction and a fresh approach as they try to win a World Series for the first time since 1908.

As for the radio future of the Cubs here is the latest after the agreement was signed today:

"As part of the sale, WGN Radio will remain as the radio play by play home of the Chicago Cubs, and we look forward to our continued partnership with the club for many years to come," said Tom Langmyer, Vice President and General manager of WGN Radio.

More to come on this story as it develops. Kap

 

What Would You Do If You Were the Cubs GM?

After dropping two of three to the lowly San Diego Padres the Cubs move on to face perhaps the best team in the National League when they open a four game series at Dodger Stadium tonight. Can the Cubs stay alive in both the division race and the wild card chase? A rough weekend could push them so far out of contention that the month of September could be fairly meaningless. However, a surprisingly good series could be the impetus to an excellent home stand that opens on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals.

In today's Sun Times Chris DeLuca wrote an article about Lou Piniella's obsession with getting more left handed bats into the Cubs lineup after last fall's sweep at the hands of the Dodgers in the National League Division Series. In the article DeLuca talks about Lou Piniella pointing out that the Dodgers threw no left handed pitchers at the Cubs in any matchup that they played in 2008.

The Cubs sat down at their organizational meetings in Arizona last fall and everyone seated at the table agreed that the Cubs needed a left handed run producer. Fine, you want to add a big bat to balance the lineup? That premise no one complained about. However, how did adding a left handed run producer turn into 13 different guys on today's 25 man roster from last season's 97 win team?


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Lou Piniella Gets a Warning for Jaywalking In San Diego

Cubs manager Lou Piniella was stopped by San Diego police today when he was warned about jaywalking while talking on his cell phone. Piniella was looking for a place to get a haircut and was warned about crossing on a red light.

He becomes the 2nd Chicago baseball executive to be stopped by police regarding jaywalking in the last 8 days. White Sox GM Kenny Williams was fined $56.00 after receiving a jaywalking citation in Seattle while on his cell phone.

Put This One Squarely on Lou Piniella

Don't blame Cubs closer Kevin Gregg for tonight's brutal loss.  Instead blame Cubs manager Lou Piniella who should never have used him in the 9th inning of a 1-0 game. How many times must someone watch the same movie over and over and see the same ending before they finally wake up and realize that the ending will not change?

Tonight, Kevin Gregg gave up a game tying double with two outs in the 9th that let the Padres tie the game and then after an intentional walk he gave up his 12th home run of the season, blew his 6th save of the season, and cost the Cubs another game in the standings to the St. Louis Cardinals who won in Los Angeles.

Sure, the offense again failed in the clutch time and time again and scored only 1 run against a bad San Diego team. However, they had the lead going into the bottom of the 9th and again the Cubs put a guy on the mound who gives up more home runs than any other reliever in baseball. In a 1-0 game those HR's are fatal and again tonight Kevin Gregg gave one up.

Gregg is not a good closer, he never has been, and he never will be. Why Lou Piniella keeps running him out there is unexplainable and until he decides to make a change the Cubs have no chance of contending. Do you really believe that Kevin Gregg can get the job done with the game on the line against the elite teams in the National League?  I don't.  So why keep running him out there with the season on the line?

Tonight's loss is a tough one and many fans will point their anger at Kevin Gregg for not getting the job done yet again. Don't blame him. He is trying as hard as he can. He just isn't very good. Blame the manager who keeps trying to fit a round peg into a square hole by having Gregg as his closer. This loss is on you Lou and every time Gregg blows a game the rest of the way will also be on you. You know exactly what Gregg is all about as a closer and you refuse to make a change. This loss is on you, Lou Piniella.

Finally, The Sale of the Cubs Should Be Signed This Week!

The long awaited sale of the Chicago Cubs should finally be signed this week between the Tribune Company and the Ricketts family. The process has been ongoing since April of 2007 but now it is finally about to be completed.

Excellent sources have assured me that there are no more hurdles to clear and the paperwork will be signed by Friday. It will then move on to an MLB ownership committee then a stop in front of the bankruptcy judge and finally it will need approval of the other owners in Major League Baseball. All of this should be wrapped up by the World Series or shortly thereafter and it should pave the way for Tom Ricketts and his family to finally have the keys to the Cubs kingdom.

This timetable will allow the Cubs to be active in free agency which doesn't begin until November and should allow the Ricketts to implement the beginning stages of their master plan in time for the 2010 season. What that plan will involve remains to be seen but rest assured Cubs fans, Tom Ricketts and Co. want to win and they have very definite ideas on what they want to do to improve the franchise.

Can the Cubs Make the Postseason?

Can the Chicago Cubs survive a very up and down season and advance to the playoffs after struggling to beat the better teams on their schedule all year long? They certainly can because their remaining schedule sets up very favorably with only 12 games left against teams that currently have a winning record.

A look at the schedule sees three at San Diego this week then four against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The Cubs need to just stay afloat during this next trip because they then come home to play three against the Washington Nationals, three with the New York Mets, three with the Houston Astros, and they complete the 10 game home stand with a makeup game against the White Sox on September 3rd. That home stand should be one of the main determining factors in whether or not the Cubs make a run in September or whether this team goes down as one of the most disappointing in Cubs history.

The Cubs should get back a number of their key players over the next 10 days as Aramis Ramirez is back in the lineup today and Ted Lilly returns to the rotation tomorrow night to open the San Diego series. Carlos Zambrano threw a side session this morning and is scheduled to make a rehab start this Thursday for Class A Peoria. If all goes well Zambrano will pitch the opener of the Washington series next Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. Finally, Reed Johnson is expected to step up his rehab from a broken foot tomorrow when he starts a running program. His return is expected soon as well.

That should give the Cubs a full compliment of players just as they return home for those 10 games against teams they should be expected to beat in Wrigley Field a majority of the time. Can they deliver with the season on the line remains to be seen but they should enter September with a chance at the postseason and as bad as they have looked most of 2009 they are extremely fortunate.
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For the Cubs to return to the postseason for the third consecutive year Carlos Zambrano has to pitch at a higher level than he has since signing a big contract extension in 2007.


Now onto Zambrano who so many readers of this blog have found it necessary to defend since my last column about him. Today he spoke to the media for the first time since he went on the DL with a back injury and admitted that he is lazy. Wow, there is shocking news. Tell us something Carlos that those of us who are around the team regularly didn't already know.

The sad thing about his comments are that his laziness is affecting the rest of the team, the front office who paid him to be a #1 starter, and he has been unfair to the fans that pour their heart, soul, and money into following this club. When I wrote about Zambrano and his failure to be a leader, to pitch like an ace, and to work as hard as he can to succeed many of you thought I was being unfair.


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The Beer Tosser Does his First Interview!

Johnny Macchione, the beer tosser at Wednesday night's Cubs game did his first interview tonight with me on WGN Radio's Sports Central.

Here is the link to the podcast of his interview as well as an interview I did with Dan DeLaPaz who was the man who was first wrongly accused and also was on Sports Central tonight.

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Johnny Macchione, the beer tosser is the man in the white t-shirt with sunglasses hanging from them. He did an exclusive interview on WGN Radio's Sports Central Friday evening.

 

 

Here Are the Facts

The Cubs looked awful Wednesday night and were pounded by the Phillies 12-5 so with 50 games to go lets examine the facts and the questions surrounding the franchise. First of all, the Cardinals now lead the division by four games and after adding Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa they have become a much more formidable opponent than they were when the season began.

Let's look at the roster and discuss the situation the Cubs have put themselves in. First of all, manager Lou Piniella will be entering the final year of his contract in 2010. This season appears to be weighing on him heavily and rightly so. Sweet Lou came here to end a century of futility and as of now the picture for 2010 does not look pretty based on how his club is currently constructed and how they are playing. Will he want to return? Three million dollars is a lot to walk away from but Lou is 66 years old and he should be financially set for the rest of his life so is his happiness worth more than the money that he would earn in 2010? Does he have the energy to go into next season knowing how much work lays ahead of him to turn around his club?

He told me as recently as two weeks ago that he was definitely returning and that the fire burns inside of him to lead the Cubs to the title. However, with the team's ownership still up in the air and a number of big contracts to underperforming stars appearing to be diificult to move will Piniella reconsider his plan to manage the Cubs next season?

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The Cubs braintrust of GM Jim Hendry and manager Lou Piniella will have a lot of tough decisions to make this winter.

 

If he does walk away who would the Cubs hire as their field manager? Joe Girardi who desperately wanted the job and was the choice of many fans when Piniella was hired over him in 2006 is now the manager of the New York Yankees and has a club that may win the World Series this season. He is also under contract for another year so that would appear to rule him out.

Ryne Sandberg is currently managing in the Cubs minor league system but would the Cubs risk hiring a manager who has never done the job at the major league level before? He certainly knows the system and was a Hall of Fame level player but that does not guarantee success as a manager. All in all, if Piniella leaves the decision on who to replace him with will not be an easy one.  

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We've Seen The Same Old Movie

Last night's extra inning loss to the Phillies was a microcosm of how the 2009 season has gone for the Chicago Cubs. A lack of timely hitting limits the offense, the starter pitches a good ball game but makes one mistake and it costs him dearly, and then Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg combine to hand the game to the opponent.

Last night Marmol looked like he was going to have a fairly uneventful 9th inning when bing, bang, boom he walks two and hits a man and the bases are loaded. Another walk forces in the go ahead run before Lou Piniella is forced to remove him. Further scoring was prevented by John Grabow but the damage had already been done.

It was encouraging to watch Milton Bradley play yesterday though. He played an excellent right field showing all of us why GM Jim Hendry thought Bradley could make the move to the National League. He also had two more hits including a clutch, game tying single in the 9th off of Brad Lidge. Despite Bradley's struggles this season you have to give him credit for his improved play as of late. He finally looks comfortable in all aspects of the game and the man does hustle.

So how can the Cubs rescue the remaining 51 games? First of all you cannot keep using Kevin Gregg with the game on the line. Last night he served up his 11th home run of the season which leads all National League relievers. Here is his quote after the ball game: "A 2-1 slider, right at the bottom edge of the zone," Gregg said. "That's where we try to make our living. He just happened to hit it in the basket." Gregg the went on to say that the 11 home runs are more than he has given up in the previous three or four years combined.

Well Kevin, I have a news flash for you. Over the previous 4 years you have given up 28 HR's combined. That is far too many for a closer. Nearly every long ball you give up is fatal because of the magnitude of the situation. You need to be moved to a 7th inning situation with Angel Guzman given the closer's role. He may not be Mariano Rivera but he is far more reliable and less prone to the big home run.

As for Carlos Marmol, his stuff is otherworldly but unfortunately his command is terrible this season. Perhaps a week in the minors to try to shake what ever is causing him to struggle so mightily would do the trick. The Cubs have tried just about everything else with him. Maybe a demotion will be the shock to his system that he needs to straighten his act out. He is too talented to give up on but something must be done to turn him around.


Tip Your Cap to Kenny Williams

The White Sox made a big move today acquiring outfielder Alex Rios on waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays.Rios is considered by scouts to be a five tool player and he projects as a center fielder on the current White Sox club. Should Jermaine Dye not be brought back for the 2010 season then Rios could move to right field.

Rios is a major acquisition but the real story is the tremendous job that the White Sox front office has done in managing their payroll while getting younger and still staying competitive in the AL Central race. General Manager Kenny Williams has a ton of salary scheduled to come off of the books after this season including Jose Contreras, Jermaine Dye (he has a mutual option for 2010), Octavio Dotel, Jim Thome, and Bartolo Colon.

If you are a White Sox fan you have to be very excited at what the future holds for your baseball team. The outfield of Quentin, Rios, and Dye would be one of baseball's best as would the starting rotation of Buehrle, Peavy, Floyd, and Danks. Add in young stars like Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez and you have the makings of a very bright future on the South Side of Chicago.

General Manager Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen have the White Sox positioned for a bright future with several young stars on the rise and room left ion the payroll to add more talent.


The real story though is the great work being done by Kenny Williams who always shoots for the moon when he tries to add a player and for that you have to respect him. He never feels that his team is out of the race and he is always looking long term at how a particular move will set his club up for the future.

In addition, Williams deserves a ton of credit for his hiring of Ozzie Guillen and how he has handled him since he became the manager. Guillen is honest to a fault and he is a tremendously intense guy but at the same time he is also a fun loving type who is beloved by the media and the fan base. Williams allows Guillen the space that he needs to be himself while also understanding that his manager will at times say things that might make upper management uncomfortable.

Guillen is a fabulous manager who keeps his players honest by calling them out when they don't perform up to expectations but also expresses his love for his players publicly, a blend that not too many managers have mastered. All in all the White Sox look like a good choice for success over the next few seasons because they have gotten younger, have financial flexibility, and have a management team that works together very well.

Video Interview with the Cab Driver in Patrick Kane Incident

Thanks to loyal ChicagoNow reader VinMan who e-mailed a link to TSN sports out of Canada with information on the Patrick Kane arrest this morning in Buffalo, NY. Included is footage of Kane being led into the police station and an interview with the cab driver who relates his version of the events that led to Kane's arrest.

Check it out here. The cab driver sure comes off as very credible and as a guy who is still stunned over what transpired.

 

Wow, the Zambrano Defenders are Up In Arms!

Earlier today I posted an article on my thoughts about Carlos Zambrano and my belief that he is very overpaid and overrated. Since then I have received a ton of e-mail from Zambrano fans who are furious at me for questioning Big Z.

Well, let's look at the numbers. E-mailer Shawn Goldman has some interesting numbers to back up his argument. He uses numbers from Baseballreference.com to support his argument. Check out his thoughts on the comments section of my Zambrano article. In addition, another post lists wins from 2003-2008:

2003-2008 MLB Wins
98 Johan Santana
96 Roy Oswalt
94 Roy Halladay
91 Carlos Zambrano
88 Mike Mussina
87 Andy Pettitte
87 C.C. Sabathia
87 Brandon Webb
85 Derek Lowe
84 Jon Garland
83 Mark Buehrle
82 Tim Hudson
82 John Lackey
82 Greg Maddux
82 Jamie Moyer
81 Josh Beckett
81 Ted Lilly
80 Jake Peavy

Let's look at some of the guys on this list. Johan Santana has won the Cy Young Award twice. He has won the pitching version of the Triple Crown (ERA, K's, and wins) and he has never had the emotional issues that Zambrano does.

Roy Oswalt has had back to back 20 win seasons and back to back seasons with a sub 3.00 ERA. He was the NLCS MVP and he is considered a leader in his clubhouse.

Roy Halladay has won the Cy Young, is considered by many active players to be the best starter in baseball, has won 20 games twice, and has 45 complete games in his career. Three times he has had a solid sub 3.00 ERA and his ERA this season is well under 3.00 as well.

Josh Beckett has been a World Series MVP, he has won 2 World Titles, he was the NLCS MVP, and he is considered one of the best big game pitchers currently pitching.

Andy Pettite has won multiple World Series rings, he has multiple 20 win seasons, he is a tremendous big game pitcher, and he was the ALCS MVP. Obviously, he is at the tail end of his career.

I understand that Carlos has exceptional talent but unfortunately he does not get the most out of his abilities. When the Cubs stepped up and paid him 18 million a season on a long term deal the expectation was that he would mature, pitch like a #1 starter should, and lead a Cubs staff. Instead, we hear about him melting down, having some of the craziest injuries in the game from hand cramping from too many Red Bulls, to back spasms from batting practice, to suspension for a run in with an umpire.

There are a ton of pitchers who would be taken ahead of Z if you polled current baseball general managers on who they would like to have. Sadly, very few have Carlos Zambrano's skills but unless he matures and harnesses his incredible physical gifts he will never achieve all that he could have. And that is a real shame.

Hey, Patrick Kane: You are not a normal 20 year old!

The news was stunning to many Blackhawks fans when they woke up on Sunday morning and heard that Patrick Kane had been arrested and charged with multiple counts involving a taxi driver in his hometown of Buffalo, NY.

The story was broken by the Buffalo News who reported that Kane and his cousin were involved in an altercation  around 5 a.m. after leaving Chippewa Street which is known for having some of the city's best bars and restaurants.

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Zambrano May Be the Most Overpaid Player in the Game

I am so sick of hearing that Carlos Zambrano is the "ace" of the Cubs staff and that he is considered one of the best starters in the baseball. That is such a pile of garbage and it is about time people start to call this guy what he really is, a fraud.

Zambrano is not a big game pitcher, he is not an ace, and if the Cubs can, I believe they will look to move him and his bloated contract out of Chicago as soon as possible. What qualities does a #1 starter have? How about piling up wins? Zambrano has averaged 14 wins a season since he became a full time starter in 2003. Does he play the role of leader on the club? Don't make me laugh. He is immature, doesn't work as hard as the Cubs would like, and he is not what one would consider a big game pitcher. Many times Zambrano has had a chance to stop a losing streak or to win a big game and he has failed a majority of those times.
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It's time for the Cubs to find a way to move Carlos Zambrano and his antics out of Chicago and find a #1 starter who actually is an ace.


The facts don't lie. The Cubs are paying for top flight performance from a pitcher who has the skills to be a big winner. However, Zambrano's performance does not warrant such a big contract and his 18 million dollar annual salary is one of the deals that is limiting financial flexibility for the front office. Talk to the scouts that attend every game the Cubs play and they all bemoan his incredible physical talents and lack of productivity for a guy whose reputation  is that of a superstar.

Zambrano has won all of 7 games this season. That's it. He has had incidents with a Gatorade machine, been suspended for his outburst towards a home plate umpire, and  has had two stints on the disabled list. Seven wins for 18 million dollars and enough headaches for management to drive them crazy.

Check out Zambrano's contract terms
and you will see that the Cubs have done their part in paying him to be a star. He has not lived up to his end of the bargain though and he has no one to blame but himself. He cannot control his temper and those who observe his antics on a day to day basis know he is far from the superstar pitcher that some believe he is.
 
Perhaps his back is injured this time. Maybe he truly needs to be on the DL and will be gone for an extended period of time. That may be true but it still does not explain his lack of emotional control and his startlingly poor productivity in big games. In four post season series Zambrano is 0-2 with an ERA of 4.34. He has won 18 games once (18-13 in 2007) and 16 twice. That's it. No 20 win seasons, no Cy Young Awards, a grand total of 8 complete games in 9 total seasons in the big leagues. He may be a #2-3 starter on a good team but to pay him as a #1 is ridiculous.

It is time for the Cubs to find a taker for the antics and the talents of Carlos Zambrano. I know that he has a no trade clause but perhaps Zambrano would also like a fresh start in a new city. He may have a golden arm but we have seen far too many other "qualities" from the man they call "Big Z" to call him an ace or a reliable starter on a team with championship aspirations. Pack your bags Carlos, it's time to take your act to another team. We've tired of you and your immaturity.

The Next 7 Games Will Tell A Lot

While everyone seems to be full of excitement over the Cubs play since the All Star Break we need to temper our enthusiasm until the Boys in Blue show us a bit more. The Cubs record since the break is a very solid 14-6 and they have hit the ball very well in addition to getting excellent pitching from their starters.

However, look beyond the record and there are a ton of questions that need to be answered positively before we can get all giggly as Lou Piniella likes to say. First, can this team win against the better teams in the National League? The 14 wins have come against Washington (4-0), Cincinnati (5 of 6), and Houston (3 of 4). Those are not exactly great teams with Washington and Cincy among the worst in all of baseball.

The two series that the Cubs have played against good teams have been Philadelphia where they lost 2 of 3 and Florida where they also lost 2 of 3. In addition, the bullpen has been less than stellar with closer Kevin Gregg blowing two straight saves in Florida and ace set up man Carlos Marmol continuing to struggle with his command and letting teams back into games when he needs to slam the door.

Milton Bradley continues to struggle from the left side of the plate which is a problem when the majority of starters that the Cubs face are right handed. Geovany Soto has to prove he can return in a big way from a lengthy stint on the DL which is no small feat considering he was hitting .230 when he was injured. Reed Johnson is a big part of the Cubs but will he come back successfully from a broken foot? What about Ted Lilly who is currently on the DL with shoulder tendinitis and just had arthroscopic knee surgery?
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What To Do With The Cubs Roster

With Aaron Miles set to be recalled later today after a rehab stint in the minors GM Jim Hendry will need to make a roster move to make room for Miles. This one seems easy with Sam Fuld expected to be sent back to Iowa.

However, there are a series of other moves and decisions that are right around the corner for the Cubs. First, Geovany Soto is expected to return to the roster on Friday. Who gets sent down to clear a roster spot for him?  Reed Johnson will be ready to return in a couple of weeks so who goes to make room for him? Also, Ted Lilly will be ready to return in a couple of weeks and that will require yet another roster move.

So, barring an injury what will General Manager Jim Hendry do to make space available on the roster? Right now there are 13 pitchers on the club so if one goes that clears a spot for Soto. That leaves two more moves needing to be made to make room for Johnson and Lilly. Does Tom Gorzelanny stay in the rotation after pitching 7 shutout innings last night? Do you send down Jeff Samardizja who has had his ups and downs since returning from the minors? How about Jeff Stevens?
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It's Time to Make Some Changes

Kevin Gregg.jpg

Kevin Gregg had a rough weekend serving up home runs to his former team, the Florida Marlins and costing the Cubs a big win and a return to first place.

Many times when a baseball team struggles you hear the expression, "relax it's early" or "it's a marathon not a sprint" but after the all star break it is no longer early and with just 59 games remaining it is indeed a sprint.

This weekend was a lost one for the Chicago Cubs as they dropped two of three games to the Florida Marlins and could have very easily been swept. They also could have won two of three just as easily if their bullpen didn't put up a couple of horrific performances.

Friday evening the Cubs received a solid start from Rich Harden only to see the bullpen implode in the 8th inning with Carlos Marmol starting the inning off by walking the first two hitters and then hitting a man. He nearly escaped any damage by getting the next two men before giving up a game winning single. Sean Marshall then entered and allowed a double to Wes Helms that plated two more and the Cubs lost 5-2.

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Jim Hendry Worked the Phones but He's Happy With His Roster

Cubs GM Jim Hendry spent all day Friday discussing possible scenarios with other General Managers but in the end the price to add a bench player was too high to part with solid prospects from the Cubs rapidly improving system.

Sam Fuld will be officially recalled from Class AAA in time for tonight's game and will take Reed Johnson's place in the outfield rotation. Tom Gorzelanny is meeting the team in Florida where he will throw for Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild. He is on the Class AAA Iowa roster but should the need arise he could start Tuesday against the Reds in Cincinnati.

Down on the Farm....A major league scout who I have known for several years regularly covers the minor leagues and told me today that he believes that the Cubs system is vastly underrated and he points to the hiring of Tim Wilken as scouting director as one of the most important additions that Jim Hendry has made during his tenure as GM. He specifically mentioned Josh Vitters as the 2nd best hitter he has ever seen come out of the Class A Midwest League (the best being Albert Pujols) and he was raving about SS Starlin Castro who was the MVP of the Florida State League All Star game after going 4-4. He projects Castro as a future major league 2B and puts Hak Ju Lee another shortstop prospect as a future star and a top of the order hitter. Lee is hitting .340 in Boise this summer and is just 18 years old. One other name that he mentioned was pitcher Andrew Cashner who is making the transition from reliever to starter. He says he believes the hard throwing Cashner will be in the big leagues at some point next season.




The Sox Could Have Jake Peavy Pitching This Season

The White Sox may have waited until just before the deadline to make a move but when they did they made sure it was a BIG MOVE as GM Kenny Williams has acquired starting pitcher Jake Peavy from the San Diego Padres. Headed west are pitchers Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell, and Dexter Carter. Peavy, who was traded earlier in the season to the Sox and chose not to waive his no-trade clause at that time has signed off on the deal this time.

Williams has long coveted Peavy and by teaming him with Mark Buehrle the White Sox have a tremendous 1-2 punch going forward from Opening Day 2010 and beyond. Peavy has been sidelined with an ankle injury since June 9th and his availability for the remainder of this season is still up in the air. Had he remained in San Diego he was expected to be shut down for the rest of this season.

Peavy's agent, Barry Axelrod told me just a few minutes ago that Jake is still hoping to pitch this season and that he just received a great report on his injured ankle from his doctor. He will begin throwing off of a mound possibly tomorrow and could be a tremendous stretch run addition should the White Sox stay in the race until he is ready to return which could be by September 1st.

Grabow and Gorzelanny Traded to the Cubs....Kevin Hart in Deal

General manager Jim Hendry has been burning up the phone lines over the past 24 hours and it has paid off for the Cubs pitching staff as John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny have both been traded to the Cubs for starting pitcher Kevin Hart, reliever Jose Ascanio, and minor league infielder Josh Harrison who is at High A Daytona and is hitting .286 through his first 18 games there. He hit very well at Low A Peoria before a recent promotion. Harrison is not considered a "tools guy", but rather a polished baseball player who projects as utility man with a solid bat according to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus.

The deal makes sense for the Cubs because there are many around baseball who feel that Hart has maxed out his performance and that he will never be a big time starter. In addition, Ascanio is a hard throwing bullpen arm who should thrive in the Pirates pen because there isn't much competition down there for the setup role. Harrison is a decent player but is not considered an elite prospect. 

Jim Hendry Gets Busy

The Cubs are trying improve their pitching staff from the left side in a big way today and are trying to finalize a deal to add both setup man John Grabow and starting pitcher Tom Gorzelanny from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here is the latest from the Pirates beat writer who travels with the team and always has excellent information.

The deal is not yet done but GM Jim Hendry has considerable interest in both players to strengthen a pitching staff that has had to deal with an injury to Ted Lilly who is one of the most consistent members of the Cubs rotation. Grabow fits as a situational lefty while Gorzelanny has a solid track record as a starter but is currently pitching in Class AAA for the Pirates.

Gorzelanny won 14 games for the 2007 Pirates and was considered at that time an up and coming star but he has not pitched to that level since then. A look at his numbers
from his best season in 2007 shows a guy who pitched 200+ innings and made 32 starts for a team that was never in the pennant race. He has struggled since then but there are scouts who feel that a change of scenery could be just what he needs to return to form.

Grabow has, according to scouts, a good makeup and would be used in combination with Sean Marshall to mix and match against good left handed hitters. A look at his numbers 
provides a word of caution because this season right handed hitters are hitting just .234 while left handed hitters are at a .275 clip which evokes memories of Mike Remlinger who was much better against righties than he was against lefties during his entire tenure with the Cubs.

Should the deal go through it strengthens the pitching staff because it gives Lou Piniella depth from the left side and if Gorzelanny is included it provides another option as a starter if Lilly has any lingering issues from his DL stay. The deadline is 3 p.m. tomorrow so there is still plenty of time for Hendry to add another left handed bat which Piniella would like to have.

Reed Johnson Goes Down...What's Next for Jim Hendry?

With Reed Johnson going on the DL with a broken foot, the Cubs have to make a move tomorrow to take his spot on the roster. What will GM Jim Hendry do?  And will Johnson's injury change his priorities in advance of Friday's non waiver trade deadline?

I believe that the Cubs will probably add another arm to take some of the heat off of their bullpen for a day or two and that arm will probably be Jeff Stevens who was just optioned to Class AAA Iowa on Wednesday. He was sent out because he had pitched enough over the past few days that he was unavailable if Lou Piniella had needed him on Wednesday. Thus, he went back and Mitch Atkins came up. Normally a player has to stay in the minors for 10 days when he is optioned out, but that rule does not apply if he is recalled because of an injury.

Look for Hendry and Piniella to add another arm for a day or two and then they will add another outfielder to the mix, most probably Sam Fuld who played very well in limited action in two earlier stints this season with the Cubs. The trade deadline is Friday and while Hendry would love to add a Reed Johnson type of player, guys like him don't just grow on trees. Whoever Hendry adds has to be able to play CF.  Fuld can most certainly do that,  but he doesn't hit from the right side.  So if that is a concern for Lou Piniella, Hendry can consider some other options via trade. 

Trade Deadline Info/Ownership Update

The non-waiver trade deadline is 3 p.m. CST on Friday and it has been a fairly quiet week so far devoid of the flurry of activity that some in the industry expected. Both the Cubs and the White Sox are looking to make additions to their teams but only if the cost is not exorbitant in both money and prospects given up.

The White Sox are better positioned to make a major move because of the stability of Jerry Reinsdorf as the owner and the financial flexibility that they have after this season. They have millions of dollars coming off of the books after 2009 and as evidenced by their aggressive pursuit of Jake Peavy, Kenny Williams is willing to move if the deal makes sense long term.

Yesterday's trade for Mark Kotsay of the Boston Red Sox was a minor deal but Williams may not be done. He is kicking the tires on adding a big name starting pitcher but only if Gordon Beckham's name is not part of the deal. He is considered an untouchable by the organization.

The Cubs are looking to add a bullpen arm, preferably from the left side but will not trade one of the top five prospects in their system to add a player who is not a prime time addition. That would seem to take them out of the running for Baltimore closer George Sherrill, who is very tough on left handed hitters and has closing experience.  The veteran will be tough to land though because of the price that Orioles president Andy MacPhail has hung on him.
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Upcoming Schedules in the NL and AL Central

The Cubs have moved into first place in the NL Central by virtue of sweeping the Cincinnati Reds this weekend at Wrigley Field. Their current four game winning streak combined with two straight Cardinals losses to the Phillies have propelled the Cubs to a 1/2 game lead in the NL Central.

Let's take a look at the upcoming schedule for both the Cubs and Cards to see what challenges both clubs will be facing over the next two weeks. St. Louis returns home Monday night to open a four game series with the team with the best record in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers while the Cubs begin a four game set at home against the Houston Astros who are also challenging in the division race.

Next weekend the Cubs will be in Florida to play the Marlins while the Cardinals will continue their home stand against the Astros. Then St. Louis travels to NY to play 2 with the Mets and then 3 at Pittsburgh while the Cubs will play 3 at Cincinnati and four at Colorado.

Meanwhile, over in the AL Central the White Sox are in a brutal part of their schedule with one more game tonight in Detroit and then a trip to Minnesota for three games with the Twins. The White Sox then return home for four games with the Yankees, three with the LA Angels, and three with the Cleveland Indians. A west coast road trip then takes the Sox to Seattle and Oakland for 6 games.

The division leading Tigers have it much easier with three games at both Texas and Cleveland before a seven game home stand with Baltimore (4) and Minnesota (3). The division race was tied last Thursday after Mark Buehrle's perfect game but the White Sox have not won since, losing three straight in the Motor City to the Tigers with one more game to be played tonight.

The trading deadline is this Friday for non-waiver trades but industry experts expect more activity than usual in August for waiver deals because many teams are leery of claiming players to block deals because of the state of the economy. Sponsorship sales are down all over professional sports so teams are trying to cut payroll rather than adding big contracts just to block a competing team from making a trade.

Tune in Wednesday and Thursday evenings on Chicago Tribune Live (Comcast SportsNet) and Sports Central (WGN Radio - 720 AM). We will be covering the trading deadline for not only the Cubs and White Sox but for every team and every deal in baseball.
 

Give Soriano Credit....He is Getting Hot at the Right Time

One good thing that seems to be turning in the Cubs favor is that LF Alfonso Soriano is becoming much more productive at the plate with three more hits today including a home run. After today's game Soriano said that he is feeling much more comfortable at the plate and that he is getting used to the 6 hole in Lou Piniella's lineup. I asked Cubs hitting coach Von Joshua if he had changed anything with Soriano's mechanics. He explained to me that they have shortened his leg raise which allows him to become more balanced and to get his foot back on the ground more quickly so that he can attack the lower part of the strike zone which is his favorite type of pitch to drive.

The month of July has been kind to Soriano who is hitting .323 this month and has an on base percentage of .373 for the the month. In addition, he is hitting .393 since the All Star break and looks more comfortable in his approach than he did in the leadoff spot.

With Soriano and Aramis Ramirez starting to become forces again offensively the Cubs offense should start to pile up the runs and take some of the pressure off of the pitching staff. They are dealing with injuries to Ryan Dempster who will return on Tuesday and now Ted Lilly who is expected to miss at least three weeks.

The Tigers Have No Interest in Bradley

So this afternoon Steve Stone sends out a Tweet on his baseballstone@twitter account saying that the Tigers are interested in Cubs RF Milton Bradley. I hear from a baseball agent who says the same thing and then after Stone's post hits the internet and I put the rumor on my blog all hell breaks loose.

So let's review what I posted this afternoon. The headline of the post says "Can it be? Are the Tigers after Milton Bradley? The post talks about the rumor and ends this way:  I will be working my baseball sources for more on this rumor but if it is indeed true the Cubs need to make that deal ASAP!

So from that post and Stone's Twitter everyone jumps to the conclusion that the deal is imminent. After talking with various people around the Cubs and Tigers we find out that the deal is simply just a rumor and is not going to happen. In fact, Stone even Tweeted from Detroit that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said he wouldn't want Bradley on his team.

So how did a rumor which happens all of the time take off so quickly? Perhaps because people are so desperate to see Bradley in another uniform they ran with a rumor that it turned out had no substance to it. Whatever the reason is it really doesn't matter. The Tigers aren't interested in trading for Milton Bradley and it appears he will be the Cubs RF for the forseeable future.



 

Can it Be? Are the Tigers After Milton Bradley?

Two very solid baseball sources confirmed for me just moments ago that the Detroit Tigers are interested in Cubs RF Milton Bradley. They believe that Bradley would be a much better fit as a DH than as a right fielder and that he would mesh well with Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

Both sources say that the Tigers have scouted Bradley and are interested depending on how much of his contract the Cubs are willing to eat. Here is the remaining money left on Bradley's deal which depending on certain clauses has two more years left on it.
milton-bradley-cubs-suspended-krtphotoslive353744-sports-bbn-card.jpg

Milton Bradley has had a very frustrating season so far in a Cubs uniform. Could he be wearing a Tigers jersey soon?


I believe that Bradley is a much better player than he has shown so far during his brief time in a Cubs uniform but I also believe that the Cubs would be better off trading him and starting over in right field. If he is moved it opens up all sorts of possibilities because then Lou Piniella could put Kosuke Fukudome back in his natural position of RF and platoon Sam Fuld and Reed Johnson in center. The Cubs could also make a run at Nationals outfielder Adam Dunn who is putting up big numbers on a last place team and is on the trading block but one scout who is here at the game today just told me that he would never want Dunn on his team because he does not think he is a winning type of player. He also told me that the Red Sox passed on signing Dunn because they were concerned how he would fit in the high pressure environment of Boston. The scout also said that defensively Dunn would be a horrific fit in right field at Wrigley.

I will be working my baseball sources for more on this rumor but if it is indeed true the Cubs need to make that deal ASAP!


Ted Lilly Will Undergo Knee Surgery on Monday

Yesterday I posted a list of starting pitchers who will be free agents at the end of the 2009 season and with Ted Lilly on the DL the Cubs will have to move quickly to either add a starting pitcher or to add a couple of bullpen arms and move Sean Marshall into the rotation.

Lilly is being disabled because of tendinitis in his throwing shoulder but he will also have arthroscopic knee surgery on Monday to clean up a problem that has caused him discomfort for a while. He is expected to be sidelined for approximately three weeks.
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Ted Lilly's shoulder injury may force the Cubs to add another starter in addition to bullpen help before Friday's non-waiver trade deadline.


Here is a list of relievers who will be free agents at the end of the 2009 season. Some of these names will be of no interest to the Cubs and some will be unavailable for various reasons. However, regardless of how difficult the task might be to accomplish Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry has to find a way to upgrade his bullpen so that he gives Lou Piniella the ability to mix and match down the stretch of tight ball games.

In addition, if Lilly is gone for an extended amount of time that could severely hamstring the starting rotation and force Hendry to have to add another starter. Forget about Roy Halladay because the Cubs don't have the package of players necessary to get him from Toronto plus with the ownership situation so unsettled they cannot take on the type of money that Halladay makes and will make in the future.

Two names on the Arizona roster that could have great appeal to Hendry are reliever Chad Qualls and former White Sox starter Jon Garland who is a former #1 draft pick of the Cubs. Qualls is in high demand from most of the teams in contention but Garland, while not a top of the rotation guy could be serviceable in Lilly's absence. He also has a very manageable contract that is up at the end of this season and contains a mutual option for 2010. Should Hendry choose just to upgrade his bullpen he needs to give Piniella at least one solid lefty that can be used against the elite left handed hitters the Cubs will face the rest of the season.

Three lefty's that can be had without giving up a ton in return are Joe Beimel of the Washington Nationals, John Grabow of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and former Cub Scott Downs who is pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays. Downs is a fairly attractive option but Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi has been telling other general managers that he wants to get the Roy Halladay deal done before he looks at other moves.

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has rearranged the starting rotation to compensate for the loss of Lilly by moving Kevin Hart up to start today's game, Rich Harden goes tomorrow, Carlos Zambrano goes Monday night, and Ryan Dempster returns from the DL on Tuesday evening. Randy Wells will pitch Wednesday and Kevin Hart will conclude the homestand on Thursday afternoon against the Astros.

SIGHT SEEN....Carlos Zambrano and many of the Cubs pitchers took part in their pre game running from foul line to foul line accompanied by Zambrano's new dog, "Little Z" who is a Sharpei that is 10 weeks old. The dog was a big hit in the clubhouse before the game, especially when Zambrano dressed the dog in a t-shirt and hat.




Lilly to the DL....Now what Should Jim Hendry Do?

The 2009 Cubs have dealt with injuries on a much larger scale than those that the 2007 or 2008 division winning clubs did combined. With today's news that All Star starter Ted Lilly is headed to the disabled list with shoulder problems GM Jim Hendry's priorities with the trade deadline just 7 days away may have been dramatically changed.

Without being able to add a big money type of player what can Hendry do to improve his rotation which has dealt with disabling injuries to both Ryan Dempster and now Ted Lilly? Let's take a look at the starting pitchers who will be free agents to be following the 2009 season: 

Starting Pitchers
Brandon Backe HOU
Miguel Batista SEA
Josh Beckett * BOS
Erik Bedard SEA
Daniel Cabrera WAS
Bartolo Colon CWS
Jose Contreras CWS
Doug Davis ARZ
Justin Duchscherer OAK
Adam Eaton BAL
Kelvim Escobar LAA
Jon Garland * ARZ
Tom Glavine ATL
Mike Hampton HOU
Rich Harden CHC
Tim Hudson * ATL
Randy Johnson SF

John Lackey LAA
Cliff Lee * CLE
Braden Looper * MIL
Jason Marquis COL

Kevin Millwood * TEX
Brett Myers PHI
Vicente Padilla * TEX
Carl Pavano CLE
Brad Penny BOS
Odalis Perez WAS
Andy Pettitte NYY
Joel Pineiro STL
Sidney Ponson KC
Jason Schmidt LAD

John Smoltz BOS
Jarrod Washburn SEA
Brandon Webb * ARZ
Todd Wellemeyer STL


This list is courtesy of Cot's baseball contracts and the complete list of free agents can be found here.  

So, what would you buy with limited dollars and needs in the bullpen, on offense, and possibly now in the rotation? I'd love your thoughts for my trade deadline show that will air next week on Sports Central on WGN Radio.

The Weird Similarities of Buehrle's Perfection

A look inside the numbers around Mark Buerhle's perfect game and his 2007 no-hitter are absolutely mind blowing. Did you know:

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Mark Buehrle would love to have Eric Cooper calling balls and strikes whenever he pitches considering he has two no-hitters with "Coop" behind the dish.

The home plate umpire in today's game was Eric Cooper who was also behind the plate for Buerhle's 2007 no-hitter against the Texas Rangers.

Mark Buehrle wears uniform # 56   Eric Cooper wears umpire uniform # 56

The White Sox had 5 runs on 6 hits in today's win.

The time of the game in Buerhle's 2007 no-hitter was 2:03

The time of the game in Buehrle's 2009 perfect game was 2:03

In both games a grand slam was hit by the White Sox. In 2007 Jermaine Dye did the honors and today Josh Fields provided the early run support.

By the way, a tip of the cap to the Tampa Bay Rays and their manager Joe Maddon who stayed in the dugout after the final out to watch the celebration and all tipped their cap to Buehrle on a job well done!

 

Wow....Buehrle Makes History!!!!!!!

Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game today against the Tampa Bay Rays at US Cellular Field. The act of perfection gave Buehrle his second career no-hitter and first of the perfect variety. He joins a list of 22 others who have multiple no-hitters and is the first Chicago baseball player to have a perfect game, a no-hitter, an All Star appearance, and a World Series title.

While Buehrle was amazing today we cannot forget the catch made by Dewayne Wise who robbed Gabe Kapler leading off the ninth inning by scaling the left field wall to take away a home run. Ozzie Guillen inserted Wise for defensive purposes to start the top of the ninth and that decision saved the day for Buehrle's place in history.

Buehrle is one of the truly good guys that we in the media deal with in Chicago baseball and it is great to see him achieve such a rare milestone. He has thrown two no-hitters and helped lead the White Sox to a World Championship and along the way he has proven that the art of pitching is not found in radar gun readings but rather in smarts and determination. Mark Buehrle good for you. It's nice to see a good guy bask in the spotlight.

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Let's Talk About the Cubs and the Trade Deadline

The non waiver trading deadline of July 31st is rapidly approaching and their is much speculation about what the Cubs might do or not do to improve their up and down club. Obviously GM Jim Hendry would like to add a bat to improve a struggling offense but the first question that has to be answered is what bat do you target and where do you play him in the lineup?

In today's Chicago Tribune Cubs manager Lou Piniella talked about his team's need to add a left handed bat. Wasn't that what the Cubs set out to do last winter when they dramatically reshaped their roster to clear enough salary space to add Milton Bradley? Here is the cold reality: White Sox rookie Gordon Beckham who made his major league debut on June 4th has 2 more RBI's than Bradley entering play today. Cubs outfielder Micah Hoffpauir has 5 more RBI's in 53 less at bats than the 10 million dollar man and 2B Mike Fontenot has 8 more RBI's than the left handed run producer the Cubs added last winter.  

Bradley has been nothing short of brutal at the plate but with 21 million dollars left on his contract after this season the Cubs are stuck with him. So if he can't be moved what options does Jim Hendry have to improve his team? The only positions that are open for discussion are either 2B where the available options include Pirates standout Freddy Sanchez who's contract status could be a problem with the ownership situation still unsettled. Sanchez is hitting .307 with 6 HR's and 34 RBI's and he has an OBP of .346. He is an excellent defensive second baseman and at age 31 he has plenty of baseball left in him.

However, Sanchez has an 8 million dollar club option for 2010 and after 2010 he will be a free agent which means that if you give up a lot to get him you need to get him signed to an extension at some point in the not too distant future. The price will be extremely high especially because the Pirates would prefer to trade him outside of the NL Central.

Other options for Hendry could be to improve his bullpen with a situational left-hander but the problem there is that the price is exorbitant for mediocre players. One guy that Hendry would love to bring in is Baltimore Orioles standout George Sherrill who can set up and close and is holding left handed hitters to a .125 batting average. However, former Cubs president Andy MacPhail is a notoriously tough guy to make a deal with as the Cubs can attest to in their failed attempt to land Brian Roberts last season. How much would you pay to land a left-hander who is not the final piece to winning a championship?

The only other spot that the Cubs can add a player is in center field but with 2 more years left on Kosuke Fukudome's deal at 26.5 million dollars the chances of him being moved are non existent unless the Cubs eat most of the salary. He has looked better since moving to the lead off spot but a punch and judy singles hitter for 48 million dollars was not what the Cubs envisioned when they signed the Japanese star.

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You Have to Respect Obama's Loyalty to the Sox

Nearly every politician you come across is a front runner who says what he or she thinks everyone wants to hear when it comes to what team they cheer for. Except for Barack Obama who is absolutely 100% behind his team, the Chicago White Sox.

Obama threw out the first pitch at last Tuesday's All Star Game and despite being asked by executives from Major League Baseball to wear a generic MLB all star jacket he chose to wear his White Sox jacket. MLB officials were reportedly not that pleased that he was showing his favoritism to the Sox on such a grand stage but Obama insisted and for that you have to respect his honesty.

I spent some time with Obama shortly before he announced his candidacy for president when he was at a Northwestern basketball game that I was broadcasting. His brother-in-law Craig Robinson was the head coach at Brown at the time and his team was in to play the Wildcats so Obama sat behind the Brown bench and was wearing a White Sox hat. I sat and talked with him after the game and asked him if he would wear a Cubs hat  if I got him an official  one from the team. He looked me in the eye and said "never, I am a Sox fan and not a Cubs fan." When I pressed him for more on the topic he told me that he made a choice when he came to Chicago and that a real Chicago fan picks one side or the other.

Now, I am not saying who I voted for in the past election and it really doesn't matter but I do have tremendous respect for Obama who chose to be a real fan rather than a phony politician like so many others including a certain former senator from New York who claims to be a Cub fan but has also been chronicled declaring her love for the Yankees, Mets, and who knows how many other teams.
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You have to respect Barack Obama's loyalty to his team, even if some Cubs fans are unhappy with his choice of team.


I have received a ton of e-mails this week from Cubs fans who are unhappy that the president wore a Sox jacket. Get over it and respect the fact that he is a real fan who checks the scores even on his busiest days and knows what is going on with his favorite team.

The White Sox have a fan in the White House and we Cubs fans have Rod Blagojevich who may be headed to the big house. Oh well, at least we have Wrigley Field.

The Untold Story - Hawks Wanted to Change GM's Last December

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This pairing was never going to survive long term so John McDonough pulled the plug on Tallon on Monday.

Solid NHL sources confirmed for me yesterday that had the Blackhawks not gone on a 9 game winning streak last season the firing of Dale Tallon would have been moved up by 6 months.

As team president John McDononough told the media at a press conference on Tuesday he and Tallon had style differences and those differences existed last winter as well.

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The Latest on the Sale and the Bankruptcy Filing

This morning I reported that the long discussed sale of the Chicago Cubs to the Ricketts family is almost complete and needs approval from a bankruptcy judge and a vote of the MLB owners to make it official.

Here is the latest on the deal and what you can expect to see over the next several weeks....The Ricketts family has a verbal agreement that they and their attorneys are very comfortable with and while it technically is not a signed deal it will head off to the bankruptcy court very soon where it is expected to receive approval fairly quickly. The Cubs bankruptcy is related to the Tribune's filing and by going through the process it will give the Ricketts a franchise that has court approval that it is free from any liens or future debt related claims related to the Tribune's ownership period.   

The Cubs filing is called a pre-packaged bankruptcy and should move through the court and the entire process very quickly. The Tribune's bankruptcy filing is far more complex and the sale will need the approval of Judge Kevin Carey who is presiding over the case in Wilmington, DE but that is not considered to be a problem.

Once all of the bankruptcy related proceedings are completed then the deal will be sent to MLB where the owners are expected to approve the deal unanimously. That will complete the transaction and hand control of the team to the Ricketts family sometime before the end of August.    

DID YOU KNOW.... Standing on the corner in front of Wrigley Field on Saturday before the first pitch between the Cubs and Cardinals between the red marquee and the Ernie Banks statue was the future owner of the Cubs waiting for some friends to meet him to go to the game. He looked just like another Cubs fan and no one recognized Tom Ricketts as he stood there knowing that he is just a month or so from taking control of the club.Think he'll be that anonymous if the Cubs don't win on his watch? I think not! 

My Prediction After BP....Soriano Will Have a Big Day

The Cubs are getting ready to play game two of their four game series against the St. Louis Cardinals at 3:05 and they have just completed batting practice at the Friendly Confines. After looking at the numbers, past history and trends I am ready to make a prediction on today's game.

Look for Alfonso Soriano to have a big day as he is starting to square the ball up better and I have a feeling that he will hit very well against Cardinals starter Brad Thompson. I have been very critical of Soriano who is mired in a horrific slump but if this Cubs team is going to turn things around and make a run at another playoff appearance he must hit well. I have Soriano getting three hits and taking one out of the ballpark as the Cubs will win 6-2.

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Can Alfonso Soriano have a strong second half and lead the Cubs back to the playoffs?

Also, if you missed the news Sam Fuld has been recalled to take Geovany Soto's roster spot as he has been placed on the 15 day DL with an oblique strain. GM Jim Hendry is also actively looking to add a backup catcher who is solid defensively. His offensive skills are not as much of a priority but he has to be able to call a game and throw enough to discourage a team from running on him with reckless abandon.

Let's Clear Up Something Regarding the Sale Process in MLB

There have been some people in the media or the blog world who seem to think that if a prospective buyer of the team does not have his bid approved by the other owners that they could turn around and sue Major League Baseball. Well, these media types who think that are sadly uninformed on the process.

When you sign an application to purchase a Major League team you sign away all rights to sue MLB. They reserve the right without fear of legal action to admit who they want to their exclusive club of owners. To receive permission to look at a baseball club's financial books a bidder MUST sign away all rights to file a legal action. The group of baseball owners is a private club and they need no reason for rejecting someone. They choose who they want and it does not matter if they reject someone who offers more money than the person whose bid they do accept.

Dempster's Injury Could Force a Move

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For a Canadian and die hard hockey fan you have to think that Ryan Dempster has jumped over the boards before. What happened here? Check out the young Cubs fan who sure found it funny before he knew Dempster was injured.

Ryan Dempster's injury could cause real problems for the Cubs if he is out as much as 5 weeks which some folks around the Cubs are fearing. Kevin Hart pitched okay in yesterday's loss to the Braves but while Atlanta scored only 1 run in 5 innings off of him and only had 4 hits he did walk 5 which will be unacceptable against the better offensive teams the Cubs still have left on  their schedule.

I know Dempster's injury was a freak thing but he has to be smarter than that knowing how important he is to the club. He was a 17 game winner a year ago and he is one of the leaders of this club off the field and to have him out really hamstrings the pitching staff.

If Hart is not able to adequately fill in then the next option is Sean Marshall which would leave the Cubs with exactly no left handed set up man to use in a key situation in the latter innings of a close ballgame.

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Lou Puts it On the Players!

In today's post game press conference Lou Piniella was asked once again why his club isn't hitting. After covering for his players earlier in the season, today Sweet Lou put the blame right where it belongs....on the shoulders of his woefully under performing offense. "What do you want me to say? Go ask the players why they aren't hitting. Go ask the hitting coach."

You have to believe that an explosion from Piniella is close because he has seen his team look completely inept at the plate most of the season. Perhaps if Mt. Lou erupts it will wake up a team that right now looks awful.

 

Could B.J. Ryan be Worth a Look as a Left Handed Set up Man?

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Could Toronto Blue Jays castoff B.J. Ryan who is a former all star find a spot in the Cubs bullpen?

The Toronto Blue Jays have released one time All Star closer B.J. Ryan this afternoon after he continued to struggle out of their bullpen. His numbers this year are not good but he was at one time one of the best left handed specialists in all of baseball and could be worth at least a flyer because the Blue Jays are on the hook for another 5 million in salary this season and 10 million more for next season.

With the Cubs hamstrung by a lack of financial flexibility perhaps GM Jim Hendry will take a look at Ryan who would cost him nothing and with Ryan Dempster on the DL it could free up Sean Marshall to move into the rotation if necessary.

Ricketts Group Moving Towards a Deal

Baseball sources have confirmed to me this morning that the sale of the Chicago Cubs to the Ricketts family is on track and should be completed as we first reported last Friday by the end of August. In addition, we have confirmed that MLB is not evaluating any proposed deal from the Utay group nor is one expected to be submitted.

Additionally, the bankruptcy court is not going to evaluate and weigh two offers against each other. The way that the process will be handled has only one offer submitted to the court and that will be the Ricketts offer. If the court rejects that offer then a second offer can be submitted. However, the Tribune has worked in good faith with their creditors and the court and has kept them informed throughout every step of the process so the judge's approval is considered a mere formality.
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Tribune boss Sam Zell will be a happy man to have the sale of the Cubs behind him.


Currently the framework of the Ricketts deal is in front of Major League Baseball and they are evaluating the extremely complex transaction. Once their ownership experts give the okay then the deal will be finalized and sent to Judge Kevin Carey who is presiding over the Tribune's bankruptcy. He is based in Wilmington, Delaware where many high profile bankruptcies are heard and his approval is expected to be a formality. The bankruptcy committee has been briefed every step of the way as the Tribune has tried to work with their creditors so nothing in the deal is expected to be a surprise to the court.

Once Judge Carey signs off on the sale then the transaction will go back to Major League Baseball and all of the owners
will vote to approve the sale which will be a slam dunk. Then, and only then will Tom Ricketts take control of the Cubs and end a process that has dragged on for far too long and had many twists and turns.
 

Blackhawks Avert Trouble - Sign Kris Versteeg

The Tribune's Chris Kuc has the scoop on the Blackhawks signing of standout Kris Versteeg who inked a 3 year deal last night. Versteeg was part of a group of Hawks players who received their qualifying offers after a league deadline and could have had an arbitrator rule them all unrestricted free agents.

Instead, GM Dale Tallon has signed all of the affected players which quiets the controversy for now. However, if because of the snafu the Hawks are forced to part ways with a key player down the road because they run out of cap space then this controversy will grab center stage again. Hockey experts that I spoke with believe that the Hawks are headed for salary cap troubles over the next couple of seasons and being forced to overpay these 7 players because of a clerical error will only help exacerbate the situation.

Next up on GM Dale Tallon's shopping list is a veteran, stay at home type defenseman and then beginning contract negotiations with superstars Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith. A quick look at the math shows the Blackhawks dealing with serious cap issues after the 2009-10 season meaning a key player on the current team will not be here after next season.

How Ryan Dempster Broke His Toe....

Excellent sources tell me that Ryan Dempster's toe injury was caused by a nail problem on his right big toe and may have contributed to him tripping on the dugout railing. No matter how it happened the bottom line is he is gone for at least a month and that is a big problem for the Cubs. Kevin Hart will replace him in the rotation for now and he will start tomorrow in the finale of the Braves series. 

Ryan Dempster to the DL

The Cubs have just placed starting pitcher Ryan Dempster on the 15 day DL with a broken big toe on his right foot. The Cubs are hopeful that he can return in 3-4 weeks but my sources tell me that 4-6 weeks is much more likely.

Additionally, I am hearing that the injury is non-baseball related so we'll wait to hear from Ryan on what happened. Carlos Zambrano moves up to start tonight's game against the Atlanta Braves in Dempster's absence. More to come. Kap

More on the Sale....

The Breaking News Center over at the Tribune has a new story up that is fairly accurate regarding the involvement of the Utay group in the sale process of the Cubs. The Utay group has several question marks surrounding their bid however, including the fact that their deal is much more heavily leveraged and they may not be as easily approvable to Major League Baseball as the Ricketts are.

A recent Wall Street Journal story also has some people involved in the process very unhappy because it keeps the Utay group in the process by removing any downside for them with the Tribune assuming all of the risk by offering the Utay group what is called a "kill fee".

The Ricketts family's bid is much farther along in the process and is still expected to be the winner when the smoke clears. In addition, Major League Baseball has final say on all sales so if they determine that they want the Ricketts and not the Utay group then Tribune Company will not have much of a choice. This process is still expected to be completed by the end of August.

 

All of the Misinformation Out There About the Sale of the Cubs

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Who will be sitting in the owners suite when the sale finally goes through?

There is so much misinformation regarding the sale of the Chicago Cubs from Tribune Company that I have to set the record straight and separate fact from fiction.

First, here is the fiction reported in a Reuters story this morning that is loaded with inaccuracies. The story quotes anonymous sources that say the Tribune has reached an agreement on the terms for a sale of the team to a group led by private equity investor Marc Utay.

That is 100% incorrect.

The Tribune has reached no agreement to sell the Cubs with ANYONE and that includes the Ricketts family, the Utay group, or the man on the moon. Tribune VP of Communications Gary Weitman confirmed to me today that no agreement has been reached with anyone.

The story also says that by reaching an agreement with the Utay group that the company now has two offers to submit to the bankruptcy court. This is also wildly inaccurate.

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Wrigley 2014 - An Inside Look

I have had the opportunity to look at the renderings for what a remodeling job to Wrigley Field that is proposed to coincide with the ballpark's 100th anniversary in 2014 would look like. It does not dramatically increase seating capacity but it adds several new amenities that will make the experience of attending the ballpark that much more enjoyable.

The sight lines inside Wrigley will not change but the plans do include upgrading the seats in the reserved grandstand directly behind home plate to create a premium seat with a private club at the top of the grandstand. Additionally, the space currently occupied by the Cubs offices will be vacated to make room for an upscale restaurant and private club that would be along the lines of the Jim Beam Club that is at U.S. Cellular Field.

The space that is currently used by the media for parking and the parcel of land that has the old Yum Yum Donuts Shop on it would be used to construct a triangle shaped building that would house the Cubs offices, an upgraded training facility for the team, plus restaurants, bars and gift shops that would allow the Cubs to maximize revenue streams that currently go to other establishments in Wrigleyville. A parking garage could also be part of the building but that has yet to be worked out in the plans.

The designs also include an overhead walkway and moving sky walk that would allow fans to enter the ballpark from new entrances that would be created during the overhaul. Between the proposed triangle building and the stadium the plans include for an open air area where fans could congregate after a game and have a drink or a sandwich. Wider concourses, greatly improved bathrooms, and upgraded concessions are also part of the plan.

One area that is still under discussion is what to do with the Cubs clubhouse. It could remain where it is but the size would be greatly expanded because the area underneath the stands would be dug out and the current space used for the umpires room, the media dungeon where Lou Piniella does his post game press conference, and some storage areas could all be used to expand the player's locker room. The team would also like to add an indoor batting cage that is available in every other stadium in baseball just off of the dugout of the home team so that Cubs hitters have a chance to get loose in the latter stages of a game before they are called on to pinch hit. Currently the only place that they can go is to stretch out in the cramped locker room.

The plans modernize Wrigley Field greatly and dramatically increase the revenue streams for the team. However, with the sale of the team to the Ricketts family just about done all of this could change as Tom Ricketts and his group start to examine everything about the organization from top to bottom. This much is certain, at some point over the next 5-10 years you will see dramatic changes to the Friendly Confines. Let's just hope that those changes include a new World Series banner flying atop the venerable stadium.    

Are You Kidding Me? Sam Fuld Goes Back to the Minors

Let me get this right, the Cubs bring up a guy who leads off in back to back games and goes 2-3 both nights and plays outstanding defense and they go 2-0. So what do they do? They send him back to the minor leagues because they have no room for him on the roster. Ridiculous!

Here are the roster moves that were just announced: Sam Fuld and Kevin Hart back to Class AAA and reliever David Patton to the 15 day DL with a slight groin strain. A groin strain I am sure that he was just informed about. Because Patton was unaware he had strained his groin it does not appear to be a long term injury.

If Jim Hendry, (whose number one priority was to get a left handed run producer in the off season) had his choice, Milton Bradley have more than 19 RBI's at the halfway point he could have kept Sam Fuld for defense, speed and contact.  Then he could have also sent down Micah Hoffpauir. Instead, they keep Hoffpauir for his bat with Milton and Soriano continuing to struggle mightily.

Cubs Trade Ryan Freel

The Cubs have traded infielder Ryan Freel to the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named later. Freel was designated for assignment on July 2nd when Jeff Baker was acquired from Colorado. In 14 games with the Cubs he batted .143 (4 for 28) with one run scored and one RBI. He was originally acquired from the Baltimore Orioles for outfielder Joey Gathright on May 8.

The Ricketts deal is not done ... yet

I reported on Friday night that the deal to sell the Cubs and a 25% stake in Comcast SportsNet was close to completion and would be done within two weeks. Today, various sources are reporting that the sale is done and is just awaiting league approval.

That is inaccurate as I write this at 12:45 p.m. on Monday afternoon. Excellent sources involved in the negotiations told me that no deal has been finalized. While the deal is expected to be reached soon it is not done despite what is being reported elsewhere. Tom Ricketts is on a plane and nothing can be agreed to until he lands and is involved in dotting the final i's and crossing the final t's.

In addition, minutes ago Tribune Co. Vice President Gary Weitman issued this statement: "We continue an active dialogue with the Ricketts family with an eye toward reaching a definitive agreement.  We don't intend to comment on the specifics of any potential transaction."

Sources on the other side of the bargaining table also insist that no deal is done but both sides do expect it to happen soon. The deal has taken 2 1/2 years to complete because of the complex nature of the transaction and the economic crisis facing the country that has made financing a deal of this magnitude much tougher than it would have been 2 years ago.

While an announcement that states the Ricketts family as the winning bidders clears one hurdle there are still more steps to climb before control of the team is handed over. The bankruptcy committee handling the Tribune's Chapter 11 filing has to give its approval to the deal and then and only then can it be voted on by Major League Baseball's other owners.

That part of the deal is a slam dunk as the Ricketts family has been a preferred ownership group to the MLB hierarchy since the process began in earnest a couple of years ago. It was originally thought that a group of investors led by Chicago businessmen John Canning and Andrew McKenna were the front runners but they elected not pursue the Cubs after making several inquiries early in the process.

Guess Who Was Sitting in the Second Row Tonight?

If you were paying attention to the Brewers/Cubs game at Wrigley Field tonight and watched the TV broadcast you probably saw a gentleman behind the Cubs on deck circle who was eating a hot dog and cheering for his Cubs just like any other fan. However, this fan had his eyes on the action as he imagined what changes he would make if he owned the team.

Well, the man who was sitting in those seats was Tom Ricketts who is working to complete his purchase of the Cubs from Tribune Company. Sources close to the sale tell me that the final hurdles are about to be cleared and that this deal is finally close to completion. Ricketts is a die hard Cubs fan and from watching him at the game you can tell that he is making this purchase because of his passion for the North Siders.

From what I am hearing, the radio/TV rights deals have been a stumbling block but after several discussions it appears that Ricketts and the Tribune Co. have found a common ground. This deal should move quickly through the approval process as soon as the final terms of the sale agreement are completed.

The Texas Rangers Have Serious Financial Troubles

With our nation's economy in turmoil it was just a matter of time before a team went into  serious financial distress. Today, I learned that the Texas Rangers needed to borrow 15 million dollars from Major League Baseball to make their most recent payroll.

Sources tell me that the Rangers will be sold to Nolan Ryan and that MLB is assisting in the process so that it goes as smoothly as possible. Rangers owner Tom Hicks also owns a professional soccer team but had no trouble making payroll there and that has the folks in the MLB offices not very happy that they had to send big money to bail Hicks out while he found the money to support another team that he owns. Stay tuned because unfortunately this won't be the last team we see in this situation.

Jeff Baker is in....Ryan Freel is Out

The Cubs have made a roster move today, acquiring utility infielder Jeff Baker from the Colorado Rockies for a minor league pitcher. In a corresponding roster move the Cubs have designated IF-OF Ryan Freel for assignment. The 28 year old Baker has been on the DL since April 29 with a sprained left hand and was activated off of the 60 day DL today. Freel  has struggled mightily in his time with the Cubs and batted just .143 (4 for 28) with one run scored and one RBI in 14 games with Chicago. 

The Blackhawks Make Another Move

The Blackhawks have signed another player who should be a key cog in their run for Lord Stanley's Cup next season. John Madden has signed a 1 year 2.75 million dollar contract and leaves New Jersey where he was considered a very solid player. The best hockey analyst in the world, Eddie Olczyk just called me and told me that the signing is great move by Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon. Here is Madden's bio. More to come.

Wow, a Leadoff Man Who Gets on Base and is Actually a Threat to Run!

Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know that I am not a huge fan of Alfonso Soriano as a baseball player. He has a very low baseball IQ, he is a terrible defensive outfielder and please quit telling me what a tremendous arm he has. His defensive inadequacies far outweigh the occasional throw he makes to nail a base runner.

Tonight, Soriano was rested and that gave Sam Fuld a start in LF. He led off the game with a double (his first major league hit), had a walk, a single, and made a great throw to cut down a runner at the plate. He has to be given another opportunity in the lineup after tonight's performance. It will be interesting to see what Lou Piniella does with the Brewers coming in for a huge four game series that begins tomorrow night at Wrigley Field.

Ben Gordon is Not Gone Just Yet

Outstanding NBA sources that I just spoke to with direct knowledge of the negotiations tell me that Ben Gordon is still in Detroit as of 3:31 p.m. CST. In addition, he has told friends that he will call John Paxson and Gar Forman to offer the Bulls a chance to match Detroit's offer which I am being told will be for roughly 50 million over 5 years but could creep a little higher if that is what it takes to keep the Bulls from matching. Stay tuned....

Say Goodbye to Nikolai Khabibulin

The Blackhawks are celebrating their signing of superstar scorer Marian Hossa who agreed to a huge deal this morning. However, the Hawks are rolling the dice that the Cristobal Huet is the answer in goal because I have just confirmed through two NHL sources that Nikolai Khabibulin has agreed to a 4 year - 15 million dollar deal with the Edmonton Oilers.

Khabibulin was excellent in the Hawks playoff run to the Western Conference Finals but his age (37) and fragile health plus Huet's big contract that he signed last summer made this decision fairly easy for GM Dale Tallon. Tune in to Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet at 5:30 p.m. for more on the signing from our panel of experts.

Bulls News....

Speaking of eating at the Egg Shell Cafe in Deerfield, I was here yesterday and guess who walked in? Ben Gordon is a regular here as is Coach Vinny Del Negro and Gordon was emphatic in his desire to remain with the Bulls.

However, several NBA sources believe Detroit has already contacted his agent and stated their desire to sign him today. Also, sources tell me that Oklahoma City has told Gordon that they will not be outbid for him and while their team is not very good the lure of a huge contract may be too much to pass up.

The Chicago Tribune's great beat writer K.C. Johnson has the latest goings on with the Bulls in his column today. Will they make a big move early in free agency? Stay tuned.

The Bulls are also expected to monitor the pursuit of Hedo Turkoglu by Detroit because if they land him on a big deal that will kill their interest in Gordon. Here is the latest from the NBA rumor world on the early hours of free agency.

If the Pistons are serious about Turkoglu then that will severely limit Gordon's options and we will find out just how truthful he was when he said that playing on a team that has a chance to win a championship is one of the keys to where he will sign.
 
There isn't much out there at the center position but if the Bulls move Kirk Hinrich and his big contract they will need a big time backup point guard who is also a stellar defender.

Add that along with a shooter to replace Gordon if he leaves and it promises to be a very busy month for new GM Gar Forman and VP John Paxson.

Could There Be Any Truth To This....

In working the Internet this afternoon I came across an interesting article.

Could the Mets seriously have interest in trading for Milton Bradley? If I was an owner and my GM came to me about approving a deal for Bradley I would tell him absolutely not. I would not want a guy like Milton Bradley on my roster at any cost.

However, according to the article, Omar Minaya, the GM of the Mets, wants to add another bat to his team and with the health of Carlos Beltran in question and not much available without parting with their best prospects, Bradley could be on their radar screen.

Cubs Notes....Reliever Jose Ascanio has been sent back to Class AAA Iowa and right hander Jeff Samardzija has been recalled.....Sports Illustrated has come out with a poll of 380 major leaguers who were asked: What manager would you least like to play for? Lou Piniella came in first with 26% , Ozzie Guillen was second with 21%, Tony La Russa was third.

Random Cubs Thoughts From the Breakfast Table

With Aramis Ramirez headed out on a rehab assignment on Thursday and looking to return to the Cubs everyday lineup next Monday it should change GM Jim Hendry's needs as the front office determines what moves they need to make before the July 31st trading deadline.

Do you add a utility type player who can fill in both in the infield and the outfield? Do you look to add a player who could potentially play everyday somewhere? What about improving the pitching staff?

Here is what my panel of experts told me yesterday as we continue our look at the 2009 Cubs:

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A Complete Look at The 2009 Chicago Cubs As of June 29th

With the White Sox series now in the rear view mirror it is time to analyze the 2009 edition of the Chicago Cubs with an eye towards the remaining 90+ games and their chances to save a sinking season. I spoke with my go to baseball sources today who include 2 former GM's, a former manager and several scouts and broadcasters and here is what we have come up with: (I would appreciate your comments and ideas on what you would do if you were put in charge of the Cubs).

Let's begin with the offense which is a far cry from the 2008 model which led the National League in runs scored. There is not one regular who would tell you that he is having a good season. At catcher, Geovany Soto's production is nothing short of awful. He is hitting just.223 with 7 home runs and 24 RBI's. At third base the Cubs are getting very little since Aramis Ramirez went down with a serious shoulder injury. Mike Fontenot has been brutal offensively and his lack of production has shown the spotlight even more brightly on Ramirez' absence. Ryan Theriot is having a solid season offensively but he is an average shortstop defensively. Several scouts concurred with what I wrote earlier that Theriot should be moved to 2nd base and the Cubs should look to acquire a standout shortstop. At first base Derrek Lee has been solid but unspectacular with his power numbers far below what a superstar first baseman should be delivering. Defensively, he remains one of baseball's best.

Moving on to the outfield, the Cubs may have the worst defensive outfield in all of baseball. There wasn't one expert that I spoke with who felt that the Cubs defense was even adequate to win a championship. Alfonso Soriano is hopefully showing signs of coming out of his slump having had 4 multi-hit games in his last five. However, defensively he is awful. He has no feel for the game and is a huge liability for his team. Not a single baseball source I spoke with would want him as the left fielder on their team. The former GM even went as far as to say that he would explore trying to move Soriano even if he had to pay half of his salary. Kosuke Fukudome is a very average center fielder defensively who plays far too deep in center because he is not comfortable going back on the ball. He is below average offensively and is strugg