Chicago Sports Inside and Out – The Chicago Sports Maven

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The 2013 Chicago Blackhawks Live Chicago Tough — And Earn A Stanley Cup!

Posted by sportsmaven on June 24, 2013

We are Chicago….we are not known for our championships from our major professional sports teams. We have lost more than we won, that is if we even make the playoffs, which we typically don’t. A Chicago sports fan is a breed accustomed to disappointment and despair and wait until next years. It is nights like tonight that Chicago fans appreciate and love more than any other sports fans in any other city in the world. Tonight, our Chicago Blackhawks completed the fan’s dream — bringing a championship home to the City of Chicago.

A Chicago sports fan is personified by Blackhawks F Andrew Shaw. In tonight’s Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Shaw took a puck to the face, appeared to be knocked out cold on the ice. Yet he stood up, got his stitches in his cheek and his eye. Bleeding throughout the game, he just kept coming and coming. Win or lose, he was going all out. He was a warrior tonight, wearing the pride of Chicago on his bloody sweater. If the Bruins rallied around Boston Strong, the Blackhawks and all sports fans were Chicago Tough. It describes our fans, our athletes, and the persona of a city that leaves it all on the table, ice, court or field.  That’s how we roll, win or lose.

Tonight, we in Chicago can go to bed, awake in the morning and call ourselves champions along with our beloved Blackhawks. Win or lose, we would still be Chicago Tough. Put an asterisk on our season or leave it off.  Either way, we are tough and can roll with it.  Tonight, the Cup comes back home to Chicago.  And I’m glad to be part of it in any meaningful way.

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I’m Back!

Posted by sportsmaven on April 13, 2012

To my loyal and faithful readership, I wanted to fax my two-word response back into the blogosphere, ala Michael Jordan.  But instead, you get this brief post and my sincerest thanks for your patience while I dealt with things away from Sportsmaven.

In the next few weeks, I will be working on some new content, some thoughts, opinions and even a change to the design of this site.

Bear with me and pardon the dust…more to come!

The Chicago Sportsmaven

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The Beginning of the End For Cubs Manager Mike Quade

Posted by sportsmaven on April 13, 2012

If there wasn’t already enough non-baseball related drama surrounding the Chicago Cubs this week, Sunday night’s Starlin Castro fiasco on national television highlights the sad state of affairs afflicting the Cubs in 2011. If Friday’s firing of GM Jim Hendry was the culmination of bad on-field performance, ESPN’s showcase of the young shortstop Castro’s nonchalant daydreaming is the exclamation point on a Cubs culture in desperate need of positive change. With Hendry’s departure, the bullseye of this seasons poor performance is directly focused on Cubs manager Mike Quade and he sticks out like a sore thumb.

Mike Quade was Hendry’s hand-picked manager, but with a volatile mixture of underperforming, overpaid veterans, youngsters up the middle, an injured, suspect starting rotation and an unreliable bullpen, the Cubs were already a disaster waiting to happen. Add to that a couple of meltdowns by Carlos Zambrano, a head-scratching dedication in playing veterans over youth while sitting 16 games under .500 and 20 games behind the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers, Quade is punching his ticket out of town post haste. Each day that Reed Johnson gets a start over a Tyler Colvin or a Tony Campana is a display of how far apart the perception of the Cubs manager is from the reality of where his team resides. Each mismanaged Zambrano outburst or Ryan Dempster confrontation or Starlin Castro maturity lapses is a stamp on how overmatched and over his head Quade appears as the manager of the Chicago Cubs. Somewhere in Reading, PA is Ryne Sandberg, thanking his lucky stars that he didn’t inherit the mess that is currently drowning Mike Quade.

If Cubs interim GM Randy Bush was smart, he would be pursuing every opportunity for waiver deals to move veterans in favor of increased playing time for the youngsters. Bush should also get on the phone and order Quade to play Colvin and Campana as much as possible so the organization can see what it has. On Sept 1st, bring up CF Brett Jackson, P Chris Carpenter, 2B/SS/3B DJ LeMahieu and possibly 3B Josh Vitters to get some major league innings under their belts. Of course Quade will continue to manage the Cubs as he has to date, thus reaffirming his eventual demise as Cubs manager. The new Cubs GM will want to start fresh somewhere. Minor League director Oneri Fleita and Scouting Director Tim Wilken are both highly regarded by Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts so change will come elsewhere. The odd man out is clearly Quade and it’s just a matter of time.

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Tonight’s Chicago Bears Performance Is An Indictment of Jerry Angelo

Posted by sportsmaven on October 11, 2011

Chris Williams.  J’Marcus Webb.  Major Wright.  Jarron Gilbert.  Juaquin Iglesias.  Garrett Wolfe.  Marcus Harrison.  Dan Bazuin.  Michael Okwo.  Josh Beekman.  Dusty Dvorcek.  Jamar Williams.  Todd Johnson.  Ian Scott.  Cedric Benson.  Mark Bradley.  Tank Johnson.  Leon Joe.  Michael Haynes.  Rex Grossman.  Marc Columbo.  Roosevelt Williams.  Terrence Metcalf.  These 23 players are the Chicago Bears high pick draft busts in the Jerry Angelo regime.

The Chicago Bears have had 82 draft picks in the Jerry Angelo era.  The breakout includes:

  • 8 first round draft picks; 2 still with the team (RT Gabe Carimi, LG Chris Williams)
  • 8 second round draft picks; 4 still with team (DT Stephen Paea, RB Matt Forte, WR Devin Hester, CB Charles Tillman)
  • 13 third round draft picks; 4 still with team (S Chris Conte, S. Major Wright, WR Earl Bennett, LB Lance Briggs)
  • 12 fourth round draft picks; 4 still with team (DT Corey Wootton, DT Henry Melton, CB D.J. Moore, S. Craig Steltz)

The Chicago Bears have had 41 total picks in the top half of the draft in the last 10 years.  A total of 14 are still with the team.  Total number of Pro Bowl players? Two.  Its extremely difficult to build a consistent winning team when over 60% of your top draft picks are busts.

In contrast, Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson has served half the time that Jerry Angelo has with the Bears and has drafted 7 Pro Bowl players since 2006.  The Detroit Lions have drafted 2 Pro Bowl players in the 3 years that GM Martin Mayhew has been at the helm.

What about impact free agents?  Lets see,after Julius Peppers, its Roy Williams, Vernon Gholston, Amobi Okoye, Frank Omiyale, Devin Aromashodu, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Brandon Manumaleuna, Muhsin Muhammad, Chester Taylor, Orlando Pace, Todd Collins, Brandon Meriweather, Sam Hurd.

A total of 17 of the above players played for the Bears in tonight’s Monday Night Football matchup against the Detroit Lions.  The talent gap between the Packers, Lions and the Bears is considerable.  Those 17 players are supposed to represent the future of the Chicago Bears.  If tonight’s performance in a 24-13 loss to the Lions is any indication, it’s the beginning of the end for Jerry Angelo and the Chicago Bears.

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Zambrano Rips Cubs After Loss…This Time He’s Absolutely Right

Posted by sportsmaven on June 5, 2011

After the Chicago Cubs crafted yet another come from ahead loss to long time nemesis the St. Louis Cardinals, Carlos Zambrano could hold back no longer. Moments after Albert Pujols launched his second of back to back walk off homers to beat the Cubs on consecutive days, Zambrano took a minute comment on the Cubs morbid play and this time he couldn’t be more spot on with his commentary. In his post-game comments following Sunday’s 3-2 loss, Zambrano pulled no punches when asked what he thought of the outcome, as reported by Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune:

“The problem wasn’t Pujols,” Zambrano said in a loud voice, glancing toward Marmol’s locker as he spoke. “The problem was (Marmol’s slider to Theriot).

“We should know better than this. We play like a Triple-A team. This is embarrassing. Embarrassing for the team and the owners. Embarrassing for the fans. Embarrassed — that’s the word for this team.

“We should know better than what we (did) on the field. We should know that Ryan Theriot is not a good fastball hitter. We should know that as a team. We should play better here. We stink. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

The unfortunate part of what is quickly becoming a lost season for the Cubs, Big Z seems to be the only one in the Cubs organization who is not only openly honest in how the team is currently playing, but also seems to be the only one with any sense of holding anyone accountable for poor play as of late. No, the problem wasn’t WHAT Big Z said, the problem was that he was THE ONLY ONE that stepped up to say it. Past history aside, maybe Zambrano should be questioned for being the bearer of this on the mark comment, as his past comments haven’t been sparkling to say the least. But Sullivan’s comment of Zambrano throwing Cubs closer Carlos Marmol under the bus? C’mon, this needed to be said. If not by Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, then certainly by manager Mike Quade, who is the orchestrator of the latest incarnation of the debacle known as the Chicago Cubs and is quickly losing the faith and support of the dwindling Cubs fan base.

The best thing to happen to Tom Ricketts, Mike Quade and their Cubs team was the long playoff run by the Chicago Bulls, which took all the pressure and focus off of a wobbly and challenging early season of marginal play by a team with a severe identity crisis. Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t have been worse for the Cubs, as the focus has shifted from the wildly successful Bulls season that ended prematurely, directly to a team that is in it’s worst performing stretch of play thus far this season.

And unfortunately for Mike Quade, direct comparisons with Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau will now start, as Quade seems to hold what appears to be a diametrically opposite coaching/managing philosophy to Thibodeau, who is notoriously known for holding his players accountable. Just ask Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah about accountability.

Another unfortunate situation for Quade is sharing the Chicago baseball spotlight with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen who would, as Sullivan eloquently states, never allow another player to throw a teammate under the bus because that’s his job to do as Sox manager.

Being a player’s manager in and of itself is not a bad thing. The other thing that Tom Thibodeau is known for is being a players coach and he seems to be skillfully adept at managing that along with player accountability. What I wanted to hear from Quade today would be something to the effect of:

“We didn’t get the job done again today. We had the book on Ryan Theriot, went away from what we knew best and it burned us. We also had an opportunity to change our approach from yesterday and we didn’t do that and it cost us the game. This is an unacceptable performance today and in this series from the manager down to the 25th guy on the roster and we need to change this immediately in order to get better.”

Instead, according to Paul Sullivan, Quade chose to say this:

Manager Mike Quade, who watched Pujols beat his team in extra innings for the second straight day, said he would let his players “deal with” Zambrano’s critique.

“I don’t know exactly what that means,” Quade said of the “Triple-A” comment. “We had a chance to win a ballgame 2-1, and we didn’t get it done. The people that picked him up were not Triple-A caliber, (Sean Marshall) and Marmol.”

Marmol has blown saves in Zambrano’s last two starts. Quade said he had no problem with Marmol throwing a slider to Theriot with a 2-2 count and the tying run on first.

“He got ahead with his fastball,” Quade said. “Right now, I could care less. Those are the things you go back and look at tomorrow.

“Marmol throws a slider. Everybody is always (ticked) when he gets beat with his fastball. I’m just (ticked) when we get beat. ‘Z’ pitched good. That’s all I know.”

Sounds like shades of ex-Chicago Bulls interim head coach Jim Boylan, who in 2008, had an incident with then-rookie Joakim Noah, who yelled at assistant coach Ron Adams when Adams was riding Noah particularly hard in practice. In a still stunning move, Boylan allowed Bulls veterans Adrian Griffin and Ben Wallace to add 2 additional games to the one game suspension Boylan had already doled out to Noah for the yelling incident. Yes, let’s let the players police themselves and deal with the critique. Good idea.

Of course Quade’s “players rule” mantra ultimately starts at the top with Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who had a chance to inject some upfront honesty when asked by the Chicago sports media this week to assess how his team has performed thus far this season:

“When asked earlier today what was wrong with his 23-30 team (now 23-34 after the Cardinals weekend sweep) on the verge of being swept by the “worst” team in the National League (the Houston Astros), Ricketts said simply: “Nothing. Just a lot of injuries. We’ll be fine.'”

Of course if you believe that a team that has the longest current losing streak in MLB at 6 in a row, a team that has yet to win 3 games in a row all season, a team with a 23-34 record good for 5th place, has 7 players on the disabled list, the worst pitching in the NL, second worst fielding in the NL, a team that has taken the fewest walks in the league while giving up the most walks in the league is “fine”, then you have drunk the Kool-Aid the Ricketts have served along with the improved “Wrigley Experience”.

As famed Clinton political strategist James Carville would say if asked about the state of the Chicago Cubs, “It’s all about winning, stupid!” and the Cubs aren’t doing a lot of that along with not enough honest looking into the mirror either. Good for you, Big Z, wish your management would have beat you to the punch on that one though.

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