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Posts Tagged ‘Darrin Erstad’

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 »

Sports Maven’s Top 5 Needs for White Sox in 2007

Posted by sportsmaven on January 29, 2007

This weekend was the 15th Annual SoxFest Fan Convention at the Palmer House Hyatt in downtown Chicago. The timing was mixed for Chicago White Sox fans, as it just so happens that the convention fell on the weekend prior to Super Bowl XLI, and the Chicago Bears just happen to be playing in that Super Bowl for the first time in 21 years. Chicago Cubs fans know how that goes with the last two seasons of Bears playoff home games coinciding with the Cubs Convention, but fortunately, the week is slow for Super Bowl news.

The big news out of SoxFest was GM Kenny Williams inadvertent torching of P Mark Buehrle’s chances of being with the White Sox past the ’07 season. The White Sox made plenty of news this off-season by trading P Freddie Garcia to the Philadelphia Phillies for P Gavin Floyd and P Gio Gonzalez, a move I liked, by the way. I felt the more sketchy move was trading P Brandon McCarthy to the Texas Rangers for P John Danks and P Nick Masset. I felt McCarthy was the young pitcher that Williams was using to build his strategy of post-title rebuilding to stave off the hyper inflation of pitcher salaries. This is a HUGE roll of the dice with the payoff being very marginal, at best.

Regardless, if the White Sox are to have a chance to get back to the post-season and compete for a World Series title, I predict 5 key needs/things will have to happen. They are:

1. Bullpen needs to be way more solid. Last year’s bullpen was a bit of a mess, especially in left handed relief. The White Sox had a hard time bridging the gap to closer Bobby Jenks. LHP Matt Thornton was a terrific surprise for the White Sox, but P Neal Cotts (since traded to the Chicago Cubs) was a disaster. The White Sox bullpen is now filled with power arms from both sides with the addition of RHP David Aardsma (from the Cubs trade), LHP Andrew Sisco, and late season pick up RHP Mike MacDougal. Add LHP Boone Logan into that mix and there are a lot of power arms that can really bring it. If this group can somehow find the consistency that was non-existent last season, this will put the White Sox worlds ahead of where they were last season.

2. Fill the hole in CF — CF Brian Anderson was a major disappointment last season. He will be the first to admit that. That being said, there is no way the White Sox can go into the 2007 season with that same kind of hole in their lineup. Anderson actually caused two holes, as his hitting in the 8/9 spot was virtually an automatic out in a strong White Sox lineup and caused power hitting 2B Tadahito Iguchi to have to hit in the #2 spot, which he is able, but would be much better suited to hit lower in the order. I’m very encouraged by the signing of OF Darrin Erstad and the developement of OF’s Jerry Owens and Josh Fields. Brian Anderson has a fight on his hands this season. He could very well end up from the starting CF in Chicago to starting CF in Charlotte.

3. Buehrle needs to come back in form, need strong seasons from the #4/#5 starters — P Mark Buehrle needs to rebound from a career worst 12-13 4.99 ERA season to be the typical Mark Buehrle we are used to seeing. P Javier Vasquez finished the season on a strong note, but was essentially a 5 inning pitcher for most of the season. The since departed P Freddy Garcia had an up and down season, but finished very strong. (although his fastball lost some life this past season) The struggles of the starting rotation only highlighted the difficulties in the bullpen, as they were forced to pitch more in bad/ineffective/short outings by starters Buehrle/Garcia/Vasquez. The bottom of the rotation is now new, with Vasquez holding down the #4 spot in the rotation, and the #5 that could be Gavin Floyd or Charlie Haeger. Either way, the bottom of the order plus Buehrle need to step it up bigtime for the White Sox to compete.

4. Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko need to keep up with the big bats — otherwise, the White Sox have no chance. Any significant drop in one or two of the Big 3 will spell doom for the White Sox. The White Sox have an almost perfect balanced lineup, power hitters and avg./contact hitters, hitters with speed, and fairly good lefty/righty balance. The Big 3 keeps producing, the White Sox are in the race. If not, will be a long, grinder season that won’t be pretty.

5. Develop a replacement for LF Scott Podsednik — I am not a big Scott Podsednik fan. I thought in 2005, he did what he needed to to ignite the White Sox and in the playoffs he was huge, but 2006 really showed that he and Anderson were the weak links in an otherwise formidible White Sox lineup. Now, Scottie Pods starts out 2007 behind the 8-ball with groin surgery. The White Sox need an effective leadoff hitter badly and Scottie Pods is not the answer…..another season like ’06 and the White Sox find more trouble.

The White Sox lived off of the 2005 World Series last season, but things change quickly. The intoxication of the first World Series victory in 88 years is nearly worn off and the construction on the Dan Ryan expressway is a year over schedule, so the White Sox have some work to do to get even close to last year’s attendance record. Do all 5 above, the White Sox are in the playoffs. Anything less, the AL Central is too strong and the White Sox will find themselves on the outside looking in.

Posted in Chicago White Sox | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Sox to Sign Erstad, Podsednik Groin, and Cliff Floyd To Cubs?

Posted by sportsmaven on January 24, 2007

With less than 28 days remaning until the start of spring training, the short slumber of baseball transactions is about to end. Both the Chicago newspapers are reporting that the Chicago White Sox are on the verge of signing OF Darin Erstad to a free agent contract. The White Sox have been pursuing Erstad for about 6 years now, dating back to 2001 when they offered the Angels P Jon Garland and OF Chris Singleton. What a disaster that would have been, since Erstad’s best days were clearly behind him, even in 2001 and Garland has emerged as a stong top of the rotation starter and the Sox most consistent pitcher in a pitching-challenged 2006 season.

Still, this is a fairly shrewd pickup by Sox GM Kenny Williams. Pick up a solid CF veteran to bridge to the Josh Fields era. (Does anyone miss the Brian Anderson era yet?)

On another note, Scott Podsednik’s groin is acting up again, causing the White Sox LF and leadoff man to have surgery on Tuesday for a sports hernia. The surgery will most likely set back Podsednik a couple of weeks in spring training.

Finally, Cliff Floyd rumblings about the quiet Chicago skyline. MLB.com is reporting a deal with Floyd and the Chicago Cubs is eminent. Floyd was an all-star as recently as 2001 (.273 avg, 34HR’s 98 RBI), but had an injury-plagued season for the New York Mets, batting .244 11 HR’s and 44 RBI. So will we be getting good Cliff or bad Cliff?

Posted in Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »