Category Archives: White Sox

Cubs Add Pena…Good or Bad?


It’s a good time to be a first baseman in the city of Chicago.

Jim Hendry (right), along with Scott Boras (left) help to introduce the newest Cub, Carlos Pena.

Both sides of town needed to solidify the position, and both sides of town signed guys who can play the position. The White Sox signed Adam Dunn, who is an average fielder at best, and they also re-signed mainstay Paul Konerko. Konerko will no doubt get the lion’s share of time at first base.

The Cubs, on the other hand, signed free agent Carlos Pena late Tuesday night, in an effort to kill two birds with one stone. They got a first baseman, and they picked up the left-handed power hitter that eluded them for so long.

Pena is coming off a worse season than Aramis Ramirez, if that’s possible.  He hit .196 and had a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .222.  The low BABIP suggests bad luck.  So basically him and Ramirez had nearly identical seasons.  That, of course, means that they’ll both have fantastic rebound seasons….right???

Maybe.

The Cubs signed him to a one year, $10 million deal.  At first, that seemed strange to me, but after taking a closer look, it might not be so strange after all.

Let’s say the Cubs surprise the world and contend for the division this upcoming season.  More than likely, Carlos Pena will have something to do with it.  He hit 28 homers last season.  Far from a career high, but he should relish Wrigley’s small-ish dimensions, not to mention the wind blowing out.  In this case, the signing is totally worth it, and Jim Hendry will have made a good investment.

Let’s say the Cubs, as expected, struggle, but Pena plays well.  July 31st rolls around, and someone is in need of a lefty power hitter.  Pena would most certainly be traded, and the Cubs could demand a high price for his services.  Can we say, all together now, major league ready pitching?

Finally, let’s say the Cubs suck, Pena plays well, but no trade can be worked out at the deadline.  Pena leaves as a free agent, and the Cubs pick up a draft pick in the process.

Maybe, just maybe, this deal can’t go wrong for the Cubs.  Then again, there’s a distinct possibility that it could go horribly wrong.

Pena is a phenomenal fielder as well.  He’s a Gold Glove winner, and he only made six errors at first in 142 games at the position last season.  A good fielder is what they needed, with Ramirez and Starlin Castro on the left side of the infield.  Both of those guys are known to uncork some wild throws from their positions, and someone who can dig balls out of the dirt is an incredible asset.

I think the jury is still out, and will be for some time.  It may even come back a hung jury.  I think, right now, the positives outweigh the negatives for the Cubs.  On one hand, it’s a lot of money to pay for another potential lame duck hitter in the middle of the lineup.  On the other hand, he can’t be much worse than last year at the plate, and he does bring good defense to the table.

Here’s what I want from Pena: .250 average, .375 OBP, 162 or fewer strikeouts, 35 or more homers, and 90 or more RBI.  Give me that, and I’ll give him my stamp of approval (not that it means anything).

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Lovie Had Better Grow Some Hair…


…on his face.

What's wrong with this picture?

The Bears are 3-0, the only NFC team that can say that.  There’s only two other teams in the entire league that can say that.  Say what you want about the Chiefs, but the Steelers certainly are legit, and they don’t even have their quarterback yet.

The key to the Bears’ season, whether they make a deep playoff run or not, has nothing to do with the Tampa 2, Jay Cutler, or Juilus Peppers.

Nope, it has nothing to do with Devin Hester returning punts, Tommie Harris being inactive, or Mike Martz’s 400-page playbook. Continue reading

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Mannywood Comes to Chicago…Should Sox Fans be Worried?


By Brady Stiff

At long last, Manny Ramirez is coming to the South Side.  This deal has been rumored for weeks now, basically since the trading deadline passed without the White Sox trading for Adam Dunn.  Instead of sending a prospect or two back to Los Angeles, the White Sox will pay the rest of Manny’s salary, close to $4 million.

Will the dreadlocks come East with Manny?

Some might view this waiver claim as a victory for the White Sox, some might say they should have stayed away from Manny, but we all can agree on one thing.  There’s probably going to be plenty of fireworks at US Cellular Field, whether it’s Manny hitting homers or Ozzie Guillen letting Manny have it.

The White Sox will definitely be the biggest story on the Chicago sports scene as they try to catch the Twins, and I think Manny can only help at this point.  They’ve needed a legitimate DH ever since the beginning of the season, and this gives them exactly that.  After not re-signing Jim Thome in the offseason, they were left with the likes of Mark Kotsay at DH.

We all know that Manny is next to useless in left field, or anywhere on defense for that matter, but many still consider him to be one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time.  While he’s only played in 66 games this season, he’s hitting .311, with an OBP of .405 and an OPS of .915, which is among the league leaders.

We all know that there was no way Manny was going to return to the Dodgers, especially with the McCourt situation.  They simply wouldn’t be able to pay him, no matter how justifiable or unjustifiable his salary demands will be.  I have my doubts about the White Sox being able to pay him either, but they’re probably more likely to be able to, if I had to pick between the two.

Think back to 2008, around the trade deadline.  Manny was extremely unhappy in Boston and he wasn’t keeping any secrets about it.  He gets traded to the Dodgers, and propels them all the way to the NLCS.  A revitalized Manny Ramirez took the Dodgers to the playoffs and quickly past the Cubs before losing to the eventual World Series Champion Phillies.  If the same sort of thing happens to the White Sox, their fans will be quick to forget Manny’s past transgressions.

What transgressions you ask?  Well, there was that steroids thing.  Manny was suspended for 50 games at the beginning of last season, and even though he denies everything, served his time without incident and all indications are that he’s been clean ever since.  Why shouldn’t Manny get a second chance?  Alex Rodriguez is an admitted steroid user, and has won a World Series.  As is Andy Pettite.

With US Cellular Field being a hitter’s ballpark, Manny Ramirez should thrive in his new environment, as long as he can get along with Ozzie, Kenny, and Jerry Reinsdorf.  I don’t think Reinsdorf will be an issue, since he’s the one who had to sign off on paying Manny’s salary.

Never did I think I’d see the day where I watched more White Sox baseball than Cubs baseball, but I  think that might be the case this fall.

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What a Weekend for Chicago Baseball


Wasn’t it just Thursday or Friday that I was bashing both sides of town for having bad baseball teams?

Well, over the weekend, Chicago baseball accounted for six victories, with the White Sox sweeping the Mariners and the Cubs dominating the Brewers.

The White Sox eeked out three one-run victories over the Mariners, but hey, a win is a win is a win, right?  Carlos Quentin, Paul Konerko, and Andruw Jones all homered, with Jones homering twice, one of them being a walk-off shot in the ninth on Friday.

Andruw Jones is surrounded by his teammates after hitting a walk-off homer on Friday night. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)

On Saturday, they made it two walk-off winners in a row as Alex Rios did the honors this time.  He did it while Ozzie Guillen watched from his office in the clubhouse after being ejected in the top of the ninth for arguing a call.  Ozzie wasn’t even watching the game.  He was watching a soap opera on Telemundo.

Don’t read into that with anything other than that’s just Ozzie being Ozzie.  I think that reading anything else into that would be a waste of time.

On Sunday it was another late-inning homer, but this time it wasn’t in the ninth.  Konerko hit a blast in the eighth that broke a tie and gave John Danks a win to complete the sweep. Continue reading

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Opening Day: The Most Optimistic, Yet Most Overrated Day in Sports


What do you think of when you think of Opening Day?

Players lining up on the foul lines for introductions, bunting (no, not playing small-ball), a painted logo on the grass, maybe a fighter jet flyover?

The first meaningful baseball game since November, hot dogs and peanuts in the stands, Old Style?

Get ready for this today

Maybe the thing that sticks out the most about Opening Day is the hope.  The hope that six months from now, your favorite team will be in the playoffs with a chance to win the World Series.  I really think that the phrase “hope springs eternal” was meant for baseball season (Wikipedia tells us that the phrase originated from a 1733 poem).  It applies ridiculously well, because at this time of year, everyone is tied for first.

All of this is all well and good, and the pageantry is nice and all, but it’s overrated.  Think about it.  It’s just one game.  One game out of 162.

I know I get caught up in the excitement, but I shouldn’t.  It’s just one game.  The baseball season is just as long as the other major sports, but they play so many more games that it feels so much longer.

People put way too much stock into the first game of the year.  Should the Cubs win, Chicago will be saying “This is our year!”

Wait, we say that every year.

Should the Cubs lose, you’d think the sky is falling over Wrigley Field.

Even the players admit that there’s more excitement over Opening Day.  I completely understand that.  It’s the first meaningful game in a long time for them.  But the sooner they get over the first game jitters, the better.  I’d bet most players don’t even like Opening Day because it takes away from the routine of the baseball season.  I can’t blame them.

Baseball players are creatures of habit, probably moreso than any other pro athletes.  They DON’T like their routines upset.

Each Opening Day game has a playoff-like atmosphere to it, and that’s OK, I suppose.  A lot of people will be emotionally drained after game one because of it.  Guess what sports fans?  You’ve got 161 more.

I know what I’m going to do today.  I’m going to put my feet up, crack an Old Style, and just enjoy the game.  I’m really happy that baseball is back, and I’m going to relish it.  I’ll tell myself now that I won’t get too excited if the Cubs win, and I won’t be too depressed if they lose.

I’m not making any promises about that though.

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Opening Day Preview


It’s here!  It’s finally here!  Baseball season has finally arrived.

Last night, despite having to work this morning, I stayed up to watch the entire Red Sox-Yankees game.  It couldn’t have gotten any better.  Sure it was a four-hour game, but it wasn’t short on offense at all.

I applaud Major League Baseball for their decision to open with Sox-Yanks.  It’s easily the most identifiable rivalry in baseball, and sure to get ratings.  Not to mention the fact that both teams will probably win at least 90 games.  I’m a huge baseball fan, but that matchup should rope in even the casual baseball fan, so kudos to Major League Baseball.

Now comes Opening Day, when everyone else begins the six-month march to October.  It’s one of my favorite days of the year, simply because it’s the one day when everyone has a chance to win the World Series.

We here in Chicago are lucky enough to have two baseball teams to follow, and they both should have decent, if not really good, years. Both open up today, one at home, one on the road.  The Cubs are in Atlanta taking on the Braves, and the White Sox are hosting the Indians at US Cellular Field. Continue reading

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More Impressive: Buehrle’s Perfecto or Woody’s 20 K’s?


Twelve years ago, Cubs fans watched as a young, flame-throwing rookie tied the major league record for strikeouts in a single game with 20.

Last July, White Sox fans watched as a crafty lefty reached baseball immortality against the Tampa Bay Rays, throwing a perfect game.

Not long after the latter, I was asked which performance I thought was more impressive; Kerry Wood’s 20 strikeouts, or Mark Buehrle’s perfect game.

My immediate answer, despite being a die-hard North Sider, was Buehrle.  I mean, it’s hard to argue with perfection, right?  He joined just 17 other pitchers in the history of the game to have thrown a perfect game.  Think of all the baseball games played every year, and there’s only been 18 perfect games since 1880.

Just recently, as Spring Training heats up, the debate crept back into my head, so I thought I’d examine it more closely.

Mark Buehrle’s Perfect Game; July 23rd, 2009

When you think of a Mark Buehrle outing, you think of a quick game.  The average game time of a Mark Buehrle start in 2009 was about two hours and 40 minutes, and that’s probably a bit inflated because of one 14-inning game.  He works quickly, and they say that keeps the defenders on their toes.  It’s not an impossibility for a Buehrle start to take less than two hours.  The perfect game was two hours and three minutes long.

Mark Buehrle celebrates with teammates after recording the 27th out.

You think of a guy who doesn’t strike out a lot of people.  He pitches to contact, hoping the batters get themselves out.  In 2009, he never had more than six strikeouts in any of his starts.  One of those was the perfect game.  This also allows him to go deep into games.  The average length of a Buehrle start in ’09 was 6.1 innings, so he’s usually pitching into the 7th inning.  Needless to say, these kinds of guys are invaluable to a team, and maybe more importantly, a bullpen.  Since he became a full-time starter in 2001, he’s never thrown less than 200 innings.

Of course, part of a perfect game is not walking anyone.  In all of 2009, he only walked 45 batters, three of which were intentional.  He averaged 1.9 walks per nine innings, fourth in the AL.  Obviously he didn’t walk any that day against the Rays.

Another part of the perfect game is defense.  Everyone will remember DeWayne Wise’s leaping catch in center field on Gabe Kapler leading off the top of the ninth.  Obviously you need your defenders to be perfect behind you, and they may need to make some spectacular plays from time to time.

The bottom line is, Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game, but I think it was more a case of all the stars aligning for him at once.  Though there is something to be said for Buehrle’s influence on the whole thing.  He’s got another no-hitter on his resume, and has made a couple of other bids at perfection.  In fact, in the never next start after the perfect game, he went 5.2 innings before allowing a baserunner.  He now owns the record for most consecutive batters retired at 45.

Like I said, it’s hard to argue with perfection.  But I’ll try anyway.

Kerry Wood’s 20 Strikeout Game; May 6th, 1998

When you think of a young Kerry Wood, one word comes to mind: Fastball.

You also think of that nasty curveball.  A fantastic young pitcher.  A lot of expectations.

May 6th, 1998 was the coming out party for the young rookie.  Striking out 20 in a game had only been done by two other pitchers, and they were both pretty darn good.  Roger Clemens did it twice, and Randy Johnson struck out 20 in nine innings of work in an 11-inning game.

The Astros' side of the scorecard from May 6th, 1998

Obviously, striking out a batter falls largely on the shoulders of the pitcher.  You have to make more pitches, and you can’t rely solely on the fastball.  Wood threw 122 pitches that day, with 84 strikes.  Looking that stat up, I was surprised to find that Wood threw only six more pitches than Buehrle did when he threw the perfect game.

Woody struck out the first eight batters he faced that day.  Obviously if you’re going to strike out 20, you’ve got to get out to a fast start, and you’ve got to do so economically.  In fact, you’ve got to be economical with your pitches all game long.  Wood only went to five 3-ball counts all day.

What gets lost in this debate is just how close Kerry Wood was to perfection that day.  It was a one-hit shutout, and he also hit a batter.  Two baserunners all day.  An incredible for performance.

Then you think about the fact that he was a rookie in 1998.  I’ve always thought that rookie pitchers have a slight advantage over hitters because of the lack of familiarity.  Plus, it was just his fifth Major League start.  It was the first time the Astros had gotten a real look at him.  Plus, Wood faced Astros’ pitcher Shane Reynolds twice, striking him out once, as Reynolds sacrifice bunted the other time.

Thinking about both Buehrle’s and Wood’s performances, I’m going to revise my initial answer to the question.  It’s not because I’m a homer, I just think that Kerry Wood’s 20 strikeout game is a better individual performance.  Buehrle’s perfecto might be remembered longer, but Wood did that basically by himself.

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