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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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Did Chicago Blackhawks Give Dale Tallon A Raw Deal?

Posted by sportsmaven on July 15, 2009

The actual move was shockingly abrupt.  Not a hint was stirring for a mid-summer change.  But then it happened, swiftly and decisively.  The move left no doubt about who is in control of this Original Six franchise.  But as alarmingly quickly the Dale Tallon “re-assignment” has happened, this move was in the works the day the Chicago Blackhawks hired Scotty Bowman as Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations.  Bowman’s son, Stan has been an assistant to the GM for the Blackhawks for the past 3 years and seemed heir apparent to the Blackhawks GM job.  With Scotty in the fold, it marked a changing of the guard on the hockey operations side of the business and it started the clock ticking on GM Dale Tallon’s tenure in the organizational hierarchy.  Some believe the firing was undeserved.  It may be a sign of how the Blackhawks will now conduct business in their focused quest for a Stanley Cup Championship.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Whatever is thought of the Tallon replacement, it definitely came across as Blackhawks President John McDonough further stamping his imprint on the organization.  McDonough certainly has earned the right to make the changes he felt necessary to continue the impressive ascent of an Original Six franchise that was in complete disarray prior to his arrival.  McDonough skillfully danced around tough questions regarding the change in management, citing differing approaches and the botched contract paperwork for the 8 Blackhawk free-agents as impetus for the change.  Like any other GM, Tallon did some good things and not so good things.  Both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune point out Tallon’s good and bad moves as a means to evaluating his effectiveness as Blackhawks GM.

Did the Chicago Blackhawks give Dale Tallon a raw deal with his re-assignment? I don’t think the move was surprising, as the writing was on the wall for the past season when the senior Bowman entered the fold.  Was the timing suspect?  Potentially, it was, given the move was made in advance of the Chicago Blackhawks Fan Convention, which begins this Friday.  That should give fans fuel to continue questioning the move for the remainder of the summer.  The paperwork snafu was the final straw, providing the perfect opportunity to make that change now heading off  a more potentially messy divorce closer to the beginning of the upcoming hockey season.

Along with the manner in which former Blackhawk great and coach Denis Savard was summarily dismissed at the beginning of last season, it seems that the Blackhawks may be perceived as insensitive.  The fact that both Savard and Tallon were offered and accepted other positions within the organization softens the blows tremendously and proves that the organization has made inroads with keeping former key players in their fold in their quest to win a Stanley Cup.

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The IHSA Unduly Influences Boys High School Basketball Championship

Posted by sportsmaven on March 31, 2009

There is an unwritten rule in sports in the most simplest of terms, states that the outcomes of any competition should be decided on the field or court of play. In this stunningly bizzare twist of fate, the Illinois High School Athletic Association (IHSA) and the athletic administration of North Lawndale Charter High School were unintentional co-conspirators in determining the outcome of this season’s Illinois Class 3A Boy’s Basketball State Championship.

north-lawndale-loses-in-3a-state-semifinal-66-65-3-31-09

For those in the unknown, the Chicago Tribune high school sports reporter, Bob Sakamoto wrote a nice piece summarizing the facts:

In Friday’s 3A semifinal, North Lawndale began the game trailing 1-0 before the opening tipoff. Illinois High School Association Assistant Executive Director Kurt Gibson ruled that Lawndale’s illegal uniform mandated a technical foul.

Champaign Centennial’s Jeff Johnson made one of two technical free throws. As it turned out, North Lawndale lost by that one point, 66-65.

In tournament basketball, games with teams that are evenly matched, the outcome of the game is often decided by one single possession. You would like to think that the extra possession that resulted in a win for one team and a loss for another team would be earned in the heat of the battle, within the confines of the game itself. It appears in this case that game deciding possession was determined by gamesmanship of the rules prior to the tip off of the semi-final game of the high profile state basketball tournament.

While I’m not questioning the rule itself, what is in question is the inconsistency and randomness of how this particular rule was enforced. Both sides have pointed proverbial finger at each other in casting blame for the situation after the fact. According to the IHSA, the North Lawndale team knew they were in violation of the uniform rule, but were only warned about the infraction until the semi-final game, where the penalty was enforced. The North Lawndale team had to be aware that after several warnings, the IHSA could actually choose to enforce the penalty. It was a showdown that had no winner and no happy ending. Both parties are equally responsible for determining the end result of the crucial state championship semi-final game.

The only other issue that stands out is the extremely poor judgement the IHSA used in the timing of the enforcement of the uniform rule. Last week, in the face of severe public criticism and outrage, the IHSA issued statements defending their decision. While the decision itself may be defensible, the lack of sound judgement used in choosing that particular moment to arbitrarily enforce this rule is indefensible. If the IHSA knew the uniforms were out of compliance with their rule for the entire 2008-09 basketball season, why didn’t they choose to enforce their rule consistently and accurately from tip off of every game until North Lawndale conformed to the rule? If they had taken that approach, there would be no second-guessing of the rule enforcement in the semi-final game.

The IHSA should have acknowledged that they exercised poor judgement in enforcement of the uniform rule, thus inadvertently impacting the outcome of a tournament championship. This action would have disarmed any remaining critics. Instead, the IHSA justification introduces even more opportunity for criticism. Poor decisions are a fact of life, people are human, mistakes are made. Defending a poor decision not only reinforces that decision, but leads me to conclude that the IHSA has yet to learn the lessons from it’s mistakes and now establishes a trend of making poor decisions.

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Is Chicago Bulls Coach Vinny Del Negro Losing The Team?

Posted by sportsmaven on January 8, 2009

Chicago Bulls GM John Paxson knew he was taking a huge risk by hiring rookie coach Vinny Del Negro as his next coach of the Bulls.  We all know how well rookie coaches have fared in Chicago since Phil Jackson left town after the 1997-98 season.

Chicago Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro, left, talks with Joakim Noah in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009. Chicago won the game 99-94. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Chicago Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro, left, talks with Joakim Noah in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009. Chicago won the game 99-94. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Names like Tim Floyd, Bill Cartwright, Jim Boylan (interim after the Scott Skiles firing) and now Del Negro have all walked the hallowed halls of the Berto Center with the unofficial title of “rookie head coach.”  All have failed miserably, some setting the team back years in what feels like year 10 or 11 of  the rebuilding project.

Now there’s rumblings behind the scenes that current Bulls rookie coach Vinny Del Negro may be losing the team:

Are these signs that Vinny Del Negro is losing his team?  I would have to say that these are definitely not signs that Del Negro has a firm grasp on the team, the way Scott Skiles had a grasp on the team when he was named Bulls coach.

The Bulls are definitely in a rebuilding mode around Del Negro and rookie point guard Derrick Rose.  A .500 record is not out of the question for this Bulls team, but losing to the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves doesn’t help the cause.  More to come on this issue as the season progresses…

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Winter Classic Is Chicago Blackhawks Coming Out Party

Posted by sportsmaven on January 1, 2009

It can be very easy to say that the star of this afternoon’s NHL 2009 Winter Classic is Wrigley Field, and even easier to say the game is a showcase for NHL power, defending Stanley Cup Champions, and this year’s Stanley Cup favorite, the Detroit Red Wings.  But lets not be mistaken any longer than needed.  The NHL Winter Classic is the coming out party for Rocky Wirtz/John McDonough led, new, improved, and revived Chicago Blackhawks team.  And it’s exactly what the NHL needs for an Original Six team that has been down on it’s own luck.

(Tribune photo by Charles Cherney / December 31, 2008)

(Tribune photo by Charles Cherney / December 31, 2008)

Of course, the young Chicago Blackhawks team has been doing it’s part, especially of late, winning a franchise record 9 games in a row.  That streak was broken yesterday in Detroit, with the Red Wings pitching a shutout, adding to the already incredible hype of today’s game, making it into a nationally televised grudge match.

At least two generations of Hawks fans have been disenfranchised by the draconian methods of management under long time owner Bill Wirtz.  When the older Wirtz died in September of 2007, his son Rocky was tapped to run the team, and it seemed that Rocky learned all the “lessons” of his father’s mismanagement.  In 188 sweeping days, Rocky has reversed all the negativity of past mismanagement, with his first move, stealing the marketing genius McDonough away from the Chicago Cubs.  That move alone signaled to Hawks fans that Wirtz was committed to reviving the sagging fortunes of the once-proud Blackhawks franchise.

The rest is marketing history.  As we ring in what we hope to be a better year in 2009, hope springs eternal in the City of Chicago, for the Chicago Blackhawks, and their fans.  Regardless of the outcome of today’s game, the Winter Classic marks the coming out of a young Chicago Blackhawks team, the unveiling of a new, historic direction for a historic Original Six team.  For those not fortunate enough to secure tickets for the Classic, the game will be brodcast on television, as will every single game the Blackhawks will play this season.  This is a first in the 82-year history of the team.

So let the celebrations begin, hopefully the first of many celebrations for the new, improved Chicago Blackhawks.

Blackhawks Extras:

ESPN has extensive coverage of today’s NHL Winter Classic:

On the local front, the popular stories of the week on the Winter Classic:

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