Five Biggest Sports Stories for the Week Beginning July 9th

Chicago’s All-Stars
Chicago is sending six players to the All-Star Game in Kansas City on Tuesday. The White Sox originally landed the triumvirate of Paul Konerko, Chris Sale and Adam Dunn. They easily could have had more. Many feel that A.J. Pierzynski was snubbed. The White Sox announced during the eighth inning on Sunday that Jake Peavy has been added to the roster as an injury replacement for Anaheim’s C.J. Wilson.

Despite having the Majors second worst record, the Cubs surprisingly landed two players on the All-Star team. Starlin Castro and Brian LaHair were both named to the National League Roster.

Konerko is off to one of the best starts in his career. His .335 batting average would eclipse his career high by 21 points. His power numbers are down slightly with 14 home runs and 42 rbis in 75 games. He is the only backup first baseman listed for the American League. Dunn and four other players are capable of playing first. The amount of at-bats and time that Konerko and Dunn get should be interesting.

Sale is a potential starter in the All-Star Game.He currently ranks in the top three in the American League in Wins, Opponents Batting Average Against and WHIP. He sat out his scheduled start on Sunday, so he should pitch at least one inning.

Peavy has had a season in which his record belies his true value. Peavy is 7-5 with a 2.85 ERA. In 120 innings, Peavy has allowed 93 hits and 26 walks with a .213 batting average against. He also has 108 strikeouts. The oft injured plagued former Cy Young winner is on pace for his best season since 2008. He finished 10-11 with a 2.85 ERA in his last season with San Diego. Barring another injury, he should accumulate his highest victory total since 2007.

In just his third season, Starlin Castro has established himself as one of the best shortstops in baseball. He has made the All-Star team in each of his full seasons. Castro and Washington Nationals Shortstop Ian Desmond.

Lehair is the National League’s only backup First Baseman. After short stints with Seattle in 2008 and the Cubs last season, Lehair is in his first full major league season at age 29. He was a surprise selection to the All-Star team. The way the National League Roster is configured, his playing time sets up nicely.

Omer Asik Signing Deadline

Asik can sign the offer sheet he has reportedly agreed to verbally on Wednesday. The Bulls would have three days to match the $24.2 Million three year contract. Per NBA rules the deal is back loaded. He would be paid about $5 Million each of the first two years and then nearly $15 million in the final year of the contract. If the Bulls retain Asik, they cannot move him. K.C. Johnson of the Tribune reports “they cannot trade him without his consent for one year and cannot trade him at all to the team that signed him to an offer sheet. They also can't trade the player in a sign-and-trade transaction (to another team)."

The Bulls originally said they that re-signing Asik was their biggest offseason priority. With the contact with Houston on the table, Gar Forman and John Paxson have been quiet about their intentions.

Dempster’s Return
Before he went on the disabled list on June 15, Ryan Dempster had a 22 inning scoreless streak. Pitching for the first time in nearly a month, Dempster extended that streak to 27. He pitched five innings of four hit ball with four strikeouts and no walks. The streak matches Ken Holtzman’s streak in 1971 for the second longest in Cubs history. Holtzman also had a 33 inning scoreless streak in 1969.

Despite a 2.59 ERA, Dempster did not get his first win of the season until June 5. The streak has allowed him to lower his ERA to 1.99 since then.

Dempster’s return after three weeks on the DL comes three weeks before the trading deadline. He is scheduled to start the Cubs second half opener on Friday against the Diamondbacks at home. When asked about Dempster, Cubs Manager Dale Sveum said on MLB.Com “That's part of the game with not having the best record in the world and other teams trying to add on to their chances by putting one more piece of their puzzle together to get them in the playoffs." Dempster and Matt Garza are the Cubs most likely to be dealt by the July 31st deadline.

NBA Free Agency
Whatever happens with Asik will greatly determine what the Bulls do in free agency. The Bulls appear to have reached a $6 Million, two year agreement with Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich will return to the Bulls two years after they dealt him to Washington just before the NBA Draft.

Hinrich gives the Bulls the combo guard they need. The Bulls first round pick in the 2003 draft will become the Bulls starting point guard until Derrick Rose returns. He will either start at the two or backup both Rose and Richard Hamilton at both guard spots when Rose comes back.

The Bulls will have some big decisions going forward. They will likely not re-sign C.J. Watson now that Hinrich appears to be returning to Chicago. Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver are also free agents this summer.

The Bulls are close to the $70 million luxury tax. Teams that pass that threshold have to pay dollar for dollar for exceeding it. The Bulls lack of activity has confounded the Bulls beat writers across the board. Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.Com, Aggrey Sam of CSNChicago.Com and K.C. Johnson of the Tribune have all written articles this week about the Bulls lack of activity.

Two players that could be intriguing are 76ers castoffs Elton Brand and Lou Williams. Williams opted out of the final year of his contract at $6.4 Million. Philadelphia used the amnesty clause for Brand.

With limited room under the Salary Cap, the Bulls don’t have a lot of options in free agency.

NHL Free Agency
Reports were that the Blackhawks pushed hard to get Zach Parise and Martin Brodeur to come to Chicago. Brodeur decided to stay with New Jersey and Parise decided to return home to Minnesota from the Devils. Parise will be joined in the Twin Cities by the other top sought NHL Free Agent Defenseman Ryan Suter of Nashville.

Those decisions left many Blackhawk followers disappointed. There has been a lot of discussion on what the Blackhawks need going into the 2012-13 season. Consensus seems to be a second line center and possible upgrades at defense and goalie. Jay Zawaski of the Red Light District on Chicago Now discussed his wish list for the Hawks in Free Agency.

The only Blackhawks move thus far has been the signing of Anaheim Defenseman Sheldon Brookbank. Brookbank is expected to be the sixth or seventh defenseman according to Zawaski. He had his career high in points last season with 14 on three goals and 11 assists.

The Tribune’s Chris Kuc also had a good piece about the Hawks plans this summer. After Parise and Suter announced they were heading to Minnesota for 13 years and $98 Million each, Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman was quick to praise his own players. He made a point of saying that teams can improve in the off-season and that the Hawks would have Daniel Carcillo and Andrew Shaw for a full season.

The Hawks are also high on 2011 second round pick Brandon Saad. Saad had 27 goals and 28 assists in 55 games for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League. Saad will be 20 in October.

Although the Blackhawks have been relatively silent so far, two rumors have continued to persist. Numerous sources continue to report that Niklas Hjalmarsson could be traded. The other big rumor out there is the possibility (although highly unlikely) is of Roberto Luongo coming to Chicago. He was on the Jeff O’Neill show in Vancouver discussing his likely exit out of Vancouver and where he might land. One not as prevalant rumor out there has the Hawks trading Patrick Kane for a goaltender, possibly to Buffalo for Ryan Miller or Montreal for Carey Price.

Despite the All-Star break and no may games to watch until later in the week, it should be an interesting sports week in Chicago. By the end of the week, the Chicago Baseball teams will begin their second half of the season, Bears training camp will be two weeks away and the Bulls and Blackhawks free agency will also be important stories to keep an eye on.

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  • I would love Luongo. Get him!

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