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Chicago White Sox Still Have Some Big Time Problems

Posted by sportsmaven on May 23, 2011

If you were one of the 25,081 that watched today’s Chicago White Sox game against the financial juggernaut Los Angeles Dodgers, you have to be fully aware that after 48 games, the Sox still have some big time problems. Sure, the Sox have had a really nice run over the past few weeks, but despite having to hide all the valuables in advance of a visit from Dodgers owner Frank McCourt this past weekend, the Sox still have some high profile “glitches” on the championship bandwagon, most notably:

Starting pitching, especially John Danks receives little support from the hitters and even less support from the bullpen.

The outfield defense has been a hot mess, just witness Juan Pierre’s left field adventures.

The Sox biggest acquisition (literally) 1B/DH Adam Dunn is hitting just .190 approaching June, including an 0-30 against left-handers for the season.

Closer? Anyone find a closer in that clusterf&$k of a bullpen? Sergio Santos was the latest sacrifice to the Gods of Closers. Apparently his scoreless innings pitched streak was the only casuality of the May 21st Rapture.

Despite all the issues, the Sox are closing ground like Animal Kingdom on a dirt track, as its May 22nd, they are only nine games out of first, two games out of second and looking at their nemesis the Minnesota Twins fading badly in their rear view mirror. If the Sox could only play inter league schedule all year. They would be 43-5 by now.

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Top 10 Moments In Chicago Sports In 2008

Posted by sportsmaven on January 17, 2009

The new year has already started and amidst the resolutions, fresh starts, diets, and new beginnings comes the ever reverent look back at the year that has passed.  The year 2008 was a banner year for Chicago sports, as three teams won their prospective division titles, and one, the Chicago Wolves won a championship.  There was good, bad, ugly, and everything in between for Chicago sports fans.  So, lets take a look back on the Top 10 Moments in Chicago Sports in 2008 (in no particular order):
Bears use goal line stand to beat the Eagles 24-20

Bears use goal line stand to beat the Eagles 24-20

Bears goal line stand against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4 — The Chicago Bears were leading the Philadelphia Eagles 24-20, Eagles had first and goal from the Bears 4, 5:40 left in the game.  Eagles run RB Cornell Buckhalter off right tackle for 3 yards.  Second and goal was a handoff to FB Tony Hunt for no gain.  Third down was back to Buckhalter to the right for no gain.  Eagles call a time out and decide to go for it on 4th down.   Buckhalter again off left tackle, this time, stood up by RE Alex Brown of the Bears for no gain.  Game over.  Bears win.

Zambrano hurls a no-hitter.

Zambrano hurls a no-hitter.

Cubs RHP Carlos Zambrano throws no-hitter against the Houston Astros on Sept. 14th —  The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros waited two long days to find out where they would be playing their key late season series against each other.  Houston was being devestated by Hurricane Ike and MLB moved the Astros to “neutral” Miller Park in Milwaukee to face the Cubs.  Zambrano brought his “A” game with him to “Wrigley North”, shutting down the powerful Astros lineup, striking out CF Darrin Erstad swinging for the last out of the first Cubs no-hitter in 36 years.

Chicago Cubs Win 2008 NL Central Division

Chicago Cubs Win 2008 NL Central Division

Cubs win back to back NL Central Division titles — The Cubs began the 2008 season with one of it’s goals to win the 2008 NL Central Division title, as well as seeking their first World Series appearance since 1945 and first World Championship since 1908.  Alas, the Cubs could only slay one 100 year drought, as they won an NL-best 97 games en route to the 2008 NL Central Division title for their  first back to back division titles since 1908.  A quick sweep in the NL Divisional Series by the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers dimmed what was to that point, a most magical season for the North Siders.

chicago white sox win 2008 al central division title

chicago white sox win 2008 al central division title

White Sox win 3 elimination games in a row to win the AL Central title — The Chicago White Sox looked dead in the water, losing  4 of their final 5 games to the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians, coughing up a 2.5 game division lead and falling 1/2 game behind the Twins with one game to play.  The final game of the Cleveland series and the regular season was a must win game with Mark Buehrle on the bump, the Sox beat the Indians to force the Monday afternoon post-season makeup game against the Detroit Tigers.  The Sox win the makeup game against the Tigers, forcing a one game playoff game against the Twins for the AL Division title, this time, in Chicago.   The Sox, behind a masterpiece by LHP John Danks, beat the Twins 1-0 and claim the AL Central Division title, winning three elimination games in a row.

derrick rose drafted #1 by chicago bulls

derrick rose drafted #1 by chicago bulls

Chicago Bulls win the 1st pick in the NBA Draft and the right to select PG Derrick Rose Chicago Bulls GM John Paxson had to work wonders to undo all the bad karma and decision-making by Bulls brass in the post-Michael Jordan/Phil Jackson era, but by sheer luck,  one of those bouncing ping-pong ball went red, and the Bulls, with a x% chance, landed the #1 pick in the 2008 NBA draft.  Around the same time, a young freshman PG from Chicago was leading his one-loss  Memphis Tigers team to the 2008 National Championship game against the Kansas Jayhawks.  The Jayhawks win the title, the young freshman forgoes his eligibility and declares eligible for the NBA Draft and the prodigal son returns a hero.

The City of Chicago becomes a finalist for host city for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games — Chicago survived the US bid process to emerge as the US entry for host of the 2016 Olympics.  Election Night provided the world a glimpse of what Chicago 2016 could be as Grant Park served as the world’s stage for President-Elect Barack Obama’s election night speech.  Chicago is President Obama’s hometown and can be in prime position to be named 2016 host, but it can’t rest on that momentum as concerns about finances, transportation infrastructure, and sports facilities still shroud Chicago’s Olympic bid chances.

Youngsters lead the resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks

Youngsters lead the resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks

The arrival of a young and resurgent Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, who finished  the 2007-08 season very strong and opened the 2008-09 season even stronger — the Chicago Blackhawks under owner Bill Wirtz became the city’s red headed stepchild of Chicago professional sports.  Even the minor league AHL hockey team, the Chicago Wolves, were outdrawing the Hawks in attendance.  Things couldn’t have been any lower, and then, Bill Wirtz died.  Bill’s son Rocky took the team over and his first move as team owner was to steal marketing genius John McDonough away from the Cubs, hiring McDonough as his new team president.  A change in coaches (Joel Quenneville in, Denis Savard out), a #1, and #3  draft pick later, youngsters C Jonathan Toews and RW Patrick Kane lead a marketing and on-ice resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks.  High point to date, a team best 9 game winning streak leading into the 2009 Winter Classic against the Detroit Red Wings.  The game resulted in a loss for the Blackhawks in the standings, but was a HUGE win for the Hawks in prestige and heritage.  A vintage Original Six team is reborn.

Chicago Bears Matt Forte leads Bears ground attack

Chicago Bears Matt Forte leads Bears ground attack

Bears hammer Indianapolis Colts on national TV in the season opener, marking the coming out party for Bears RB Matt Forte and ruining the home opening of the Colts new Lucas Oil Stadium — The Chicago Bears were playing on national television.  They were also playing the mighty Indianapolis Colts on the road in the Colts brand spanking new stadium.  The Bears have traditionally been nothing short of horrible in nationally televised night games and this was Sunday Night Football on NBC.  And QB Peyton Manning, coming off a knee injury, was planning on starting this game. The Bears were doomed, but fate forgot to mention that to this Bears team, lead by a resurgent defense and the nimble running of rookie RB Matt Forte, the only Bear to eclipse 100 yards rushing in his first ever game (123 yards), the Bears down the mighty Colts 29-13.

QB Juice Williams leads Illinois to 2008 Rose Bowl

QB Juice Williams leads Illinois to 2008 Rose Bowl

The University of Illinois football team plays in it’s first Rose Bowl since 1984 — In 2001, the University of Illinois football program was reaching it’s pinnacle capped by a Big Ten Conference Championship and an appearance in the 2002 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.  Two short years later, the Illini hit rock bottom, going 1-11, eventually firing coach Ron Turner and hiring master recruiter Ron Zook as his replacement.  In year 3 of the rebuilding process, the Illini found themselves with a 9-4 record, stunning #1 Ohio State on the road in a 28-21 victory that propelled the team to it’s first Rose Bowl in 24 years.

Chicago Wolves win the 2008 Calder Cup Championship

Chicago Wolves win the 2008 Calder Cup Championship

Chicago Wolves win the 2008 Calder Cup Championship, bringing a hockey title back to Chicago — The Chicago Wolves AHL hockey team beats the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-2 bringing the Calder Cup back to Chicago.  It is the 4th title for the Wolves in their 14-year history.  Soon after, Wolves Coach John Anderson is promoted to coach the parent team, the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers. The Wolves dip into a famous Chicago hockey family, tapping Don Granato as their new head coach.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Fighting Illini | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

White Sox GM Kenny Williams More Than A Hidden Talent

Posted by sportsmaven on December 10, 2008

Chicago White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams has always been a man that plays his cards close to his vest.  In the super secret sensitive world of Major League Baseball, that position is not necessarily a terrible proposition, as team are competitive in nature, from ownership right on down to the clubhouse management teams.  Across town, Williams’ counterpart, Cubs GM Jim Hendry, is embroiled in the highest profile deal making at the Annual Baseball General Manager’s meetings in Las Vegas, courting perhaps the National League’s best pitcher this side of CC Sabathia in Padres P Jake Peavy.

Hendry has been open in his desire to acquire Peavy and is generally open in discussing his desires to continually improve the level of talent for the Chicago Cubs.  Here is where he and Kenny Williams diverge, and that divergence may be misinterpreted as Williams not being cooperative and sleuth-like in managing his team.  In a Chicago Sun-Times article on December 10th, Williams comments on his recent transactions and his potential transactions to date in this off-season certainly reinforces the “sleuthness” of his personality:

“I don’t have any timeframe, any timetable to do anything. We are in the fortunate position where we have good young players, we’ve acquired more depth. We’ve also not taken our eye off some of the veterans that could make themselves available to us in the marketplace. My guys are under instruction to listen to deals and potential deals whether they go along the prospect lines or the veteran lines.”

Kenny Williams is certainly underestimated as a baseball GM.  His work has resulted in 2 division titles and a World Series Championship since 2005.  He has hit big with the Carlos Quentin acquisition, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, A.J. Pierzynski, Jermaine Dye and a host of others that have kept the White Sox in playoff contention for most of his tenure.  He has done it with limited budget and a very demanding ownership group looking over his shoulder.

He has done it in a city where the White Sox are the red headed stepchild to the more venable Chicago Cubs in a city deeply divided in it’s baseball loyalties.  He has endured extreme criticism, risen to the top of the mountain in bringing the White Sox their first World Series title in 88 years in the Sox infamous 11-1 playoff run in 2005.

Williams was also a key figure in Michael Lewis’s bestselling book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game.  In the book, Lewis details Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane’s dealings, more than a few with Kenny Williams.  Williams is characterized in the book as a GM that is consistently outmanaged and outsmarted by efficient analysis of Beane and his team, almost looking foolish and overmatched.  Lewis paints Billy Beane as a statistical mad scientist, brilliant in his management of efficiency in a market in which Beane must be creative to compete.

But with all the brilliance of a Billy Beane as portrayed in Moneyball, it is Williams that ultimately gets the last laugh, as he is the one with the World Series championship and not Beane.

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Something Special In The Air In Chicago

Posted by sportsmaven on September 30, 2008

It almost didn’t happen.  Two series ago, the Chicago White Sox were left for dead.  They went into Minnesota to play the badly limping Twins, armed with a 2.5 game lead and left down by .5 game with 3 to play.  At least they were home and playing a Cleveland Indians team that was playing out the string in a disappointing season.  The Twins were doing their part, losing the first two games of their final series against an all of a sudden very tough Kansas City Royals team, but the Sox kept throwing the generosity back, losing their first two games as well.  Then, the first break came.  Indians LHP Cliff Lee, the probable AL Cy Young Award winner and 22-game winner was shut down due to a stiff neck.  The next break came in the form of a clutch outing by LHP Mark Buehrle on Sunday to extend the season.  The third break was facing RHP Freddy Garcia (who so happens to be married to Sox manager Ozzie Guillen’s wife’s niece) and the Detroit Tigers at home.  The break after that was Garcia pulled from the game in the 6th inning after shutting down the Sox, only to be followed by 2B Alexi Ramirez’ grand slam to win the game for the Sox.  The biggest break of them all?  Hosting a one game playoff for the AL Central Division title at home against Minnesota.

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

The local Chicago media has been focused on a dual Cubs/Sox playoff presence for most of the baseball season.  Both teams were in 1st place in their respective divisions for most of the season.  TBS made a huge mention of this fact tonight on their television broadcast, as well as the fact that it has been 102 years since both the Cubs and the Sox made the post-season in the same year.  Nobody else mentioned the fact that in the same city theme, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers also made the playoffs this season.  Little coverage, little play anywhere for that story.  Since 1901, the White Sox have made the post-season 10 times, in 2008, 2005, 2000, 1993, 1983, 1959, 1919, 1917, 1906, and 1901.  In the same timeframe, the Cubs have made the post-season 16 times, in 2008, 2007, 2003, 1998, 1989, 1984, 1945, 1938, 1935, 1932, 1929, 1918, 1910, 1908, 1907, and 1906.  The last time both the Cubs and Sox make the playoffs in the same year?  That’s right, 1906.  In contrast, the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s have made the playoffs in the same season 5 times since 1968.  The New York Yankees and New York Mets have shared post seasons three times since 1969 and the Dodgers and Angels have done it twice since 1961.

There have been 17 intracity World Series matchups in baseball history.  The Yankees and Mets played each other in the 2000 World Series, dubbed the Subway Series.  In 1989, the A’s swept the Giants in the Bay Series, marred by a devestating earthquake.   Then it’s the Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956 and 1955, 1953, 1952, 1949, 1947, and 1941.  In the middle, the St. Louis Cardinals vs. St. Louis Browns in 1944.  Before that, it’s the Yankees again vs. New York Giants in 1951, 1937, 1936, 1923, 1922, and 1921.  Chicago Cubs vs. the Chicago White Sox?  Once, in 1906.

I don’t know if this will be the year for the Chicago match up for the ages, but something special is in the air in the Chicago baseball world in 2008.  Lets hope that it’s not another century before this happens again.

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The Baseball Gods Are Brutal To The White Sox…

Posted by sportsmaven on September 9, 2008

Historically, the month of September has been a month of angst for Chicago baseball fans. This September is no exception. In fact, this September has been particularly brutal for the Chicago White Sox. If a tough schedule wasn’t enough, the Sox are losing key players to an injury bug that has them clinging to dear life to a one game lead in the AL Central Division with 18 games left in the season.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The September schedule looks a bit tougher in real life than on paper. The month started by facing perhaps the best pitcher in baseball this season in Cleveland Indians LHP Cliff Lee. All Lee did was hang 5-hit complete game shut out on the Sox to run his record to a MLB leading 20-2. It gets worse this week with the hottest team in baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays hitting town. The Sox lost the first two of a 5 game series today and they face RHP Roy Halladay and his 18-9 record.  The Blue Jays have won 10 in a row to move into 3rd place in the AL East.   After this homestand, the Sox hit the road for 9 games with 6 games against a hungry New York Yankees team and the upstart and amazingly resilient Minnesota Twins before a season ending 3 game homestand against the Indians and one more potential shot at Cliff Lee.

That’s not even the worst of it. The rash of injuries that have hit the Sox this season has been absolutely horrific, with the brunt of key injuries happening this month. The Sox had already lost RHP Jose Contreras on August 11th with a season ending achilles injury and had to endure losing all of August and the beginning of September without their best releiver, RHP Scott Linebrink. Now, in September alone, the Sox expect 3B Joe Crede to miss the rest of the season with a back injury, AL MVP candidate LF Carlos Quentin is injured, breaking his wrist in a freak mishap with his bat and is out until potentially the post season if that happens, and now tonight, the Sox hottest hitter in the last 10 days and team captain 1B Paul Konerko goes down with a sprained MCL slipping while cutting off a throw from right field.  His status is uncertain.  In addition, also announced today, September callup IF Chris Getz will miss the rest of the season due to two broken bones in his wrist.

Now the Sox don’t want anyone to feel sorry for them, with Manager Ozzie Guillen stating that they just have to fight through this and keep going with the team they have.  Things aren’t all that bad, with CF Nick Swisher moving to first and plenty of CF options are available for Guillen to play with.  DH Jim Thome can play first if Swisher needs a breather and OF Ken Griffey, Jr. is also available to swing between DH and OF.  The Sox definitely have karma working against that right now, but have somehow managed to fight through all the adversity that has plagued them this season to still remain in first place, one game ahead of the Twins with 18 games to play.  The Sox have a lot of fight left in them…they will need every ounce of fight to cross the finish line in first, and they may be the better off of the two Chicago baseball teams…..

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