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.
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: Brett Jackson, Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs, Chris Carpenter, Cubs, DJ LeMahieu, ESPN, Jim Hendry, Josh Vitters, Mike Quade, Milwaukee Brewers, Oneri Fleita, Randy Bush, Reed Johnson, Ryan Dempster, Starlin Castro, Tim Wilken, Tony Campana, Tyler Colvin | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on May 22, 2011
You heard it here first if you already haven’t witnessed it firsthand tonight. The NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals are over. The Chicago Bulls have no chance of winning against this Miami Heat team. Not in a seven game series. Not when the Bulls vaunted defense is neutered by NBA referees when they decide to play defense. Not when the Bulls don’t follow their game plan. Not when the Bulls again can’t make a basket. Not when the Bulls are bullied, pushed around, out-muscled, out-hustled and out-classed. Not if they play defense like they did tonight.
Believe what you want about the Bulls, but know this: The Bulls are in the midst of learning a serious lesson and if they don’t get their act together soon, their season will be over. When you turn on your TV tomorrow, I can almost guarantee that you will hear ESPN’s Skip Bayless say the series is over and he won’t be the only one that holds that opinion.
ESPN, TNT and Comcast Sports Net, analysts have all talked about the benches being a factor, but they are absolutely wrong. What it comes down to is Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh vs. Derrick Rose, and the level of defense each team plays and that’s it. The rest is all coffee house chatter. The problem with this Chicago Bulls team is that I don’t trust them. Not in these playoffs. They have played two good games in a lackluster first round matchup against an inferior Indiana Pacers team. They played two somewhat dominant games in the second round against a very beatable Atlanta Hawks team that played even less physical than the Pacers. The Bulls played their most dominant game of the post-season in Game 1 of the Conference Finals and haven’t shown up since.
For the last three days leading up to Game 3, I’ve heard the Bulls talk extensively about wanting to push the pace, attack before Miami sets up their half-court defense, be aggressive. What I saw tonight was the Bulls walking the ball up nearly every possession, settling for jump shots, no movement of the ball, and no drive, kick and shoot. Too many missed shots under the basket. As for the Bulls players, what happened to Joakim Noah and Luol Deng? Kyle Korver’s shot still MIA. Carlos Boozer offensive game appeared tonight, but as usual, his defense was atrocious.
On defense, the Bulls had too many breakdowns, bad or no rotations, little help defense and virtually no aggression. Nobody in a red jersey touched Chris Bosh tonight and it showed. Little intensity, passion and desire in the 4th quarter equals yet another winnable loss. Miami seemed to get to all the loose balls and seemed to have all the bounces go their way.
As for the Heat, give them credit, they executed their game plan. They let go of Game 1, made their adjustments and cranked it up a notch. They executed the Bulls game plan better than the Bulls did while they were at it. They played defense the way the Bulls have played defense the entire season, something the Bulls have seemed to forget to play at times throughout the playoffs.
Now that the Heat have figured the Bulls out, shut down Derrick Rose and wrestled home court advantage away from the Bulls, how will coach Tom Thibodeau and his young team respond? So far, the Bulls have had absolutely no answers for the Heat’s adjustments, nor have they matched the Heat’s intensity and hustle. Game 4 becomes critical, the most important game of the season. And by the way, all the pressure is squarely on the Bulls. I can guarantee you this, the Bulls will learn a lesson on Tuesday night. Only time will tell if they are mentally strong enough to learn the lesson now, next year or if they will ever learn it.
Posted in Chicago Bulls | Tagged: Atlanta Hawks, Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh, Comcast Sports Net, Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, ESPN, Indiana Pacers, Joakim Noah, Kyle Korver, Lebron James, Luol Deng, Miami Heat, NBA, TNT | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on July 8, 2010
Who in their right mind would dare write anything suggesting that the Chicago Bulls might be better off without LeBron James? After all, LeBron James is considered by nearly everyone in the world outside the city of Los Angeles to be the best basketball player in the world. How can the Chicago Bulls be better off without LeBron? Well the answer to that question depends on the LeBron James that you get — the best basketball player in the world, who wants to legitimize his basketball legacy by winning — and winning multiple NBA Championships, or the LeBron James that is morphing into this persona of a global media icon?
In past interviews leading up to his free agency, LeBron has spoken about cemeting his legacy by winning multiple NBA Championships. He has also spoken about building himself up as a global icon and his desire to be the first billionaire athlete. What I’m unclear about is which is more important, and that unclarity should be resolved in about 8 hours, when LeBron picks his “choice” on ESPN.
Chicago seemed to be the early favorite in the LeBron derby, offering the best roster that would allow James to compete for titles immediately. As rumors persisted that Chicago was moving down the list of possibilities, the Bulls reportedly reached agreement with former Utah Jazz PF Carlos Boozer on a very cap favorable 5 year, $75 million deal, filling a major hole in the Bulls lineup, a hole that has existed for years. With a young nucleus of PG Derrick Rose, C Joakim Noah, surprising rookie PF Taj Gibson, and even SF Luol Deng, if he ever reaches his potential, Boozer provides the grit and determination of a back-to-the-basket inside game that the Bulls have lacked since the Jordan days.
Adding LeBron James to the mix would vault the Bulls to the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, especially if you get the best basketball player in the world version. Even with all the hype, the circus-like atmosphere and potential disenfranchisement of many basketball fans for the garish way in which this free agency season ended up for the Big 3 of LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, the Bulls may somehow be better off without LeBron.
If LeBron chooses Miami and links up with Wade and Bosh, there will be one less team (The Cleveland Cavaliers) competing for dominance in the Eastern Conference. In addition, the “Three Amigos” and a remaining roster of minimum salary players is still not guaranteed to be a championship roster, not to mention the potential ego clashes once play begins. Anywhere else, LeBron is no better than his situation is in Cleveland — other than Chicago. If LeBron chooses not to come to Chicago, the Bulls can spend their remaining $18 million of cap space on getting quality role players (a pure shooter or two, backup center for instance) that truly make the difference between contending and winning championships (ask Kobe Bryant about Ron Artest and Derek Fisher). Finally, the Bulls would not have to deal with a circus-like environment that would enevitably follow James wherever he goes.
Believe it or not, the Chicago Bulls are in the driver’s seat tonight so to speak. They have the least to lose in the LeBron sweepstakes. If LeBron is not in Chicago, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it might be the beginning of a run of championships that could potentially rival the Jordan days.
Posted in Chicago Bulls | Tagged: Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh, Cleveland Cavaliers, Derek Fisher, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, ESPN, Joakim Noah, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Luol Deng, Ron Artest, Taj Gibson | 6 Comments »
Posted by sportsmaven on March 20, 2009
Virtually every college basketball fan who watches ESPN knows that President Barack Obama is a HUGE basketball fan. it is also well known (or at least it should be by now) that President Obama took a moment to step away from blistering AIG executives for handing out bonuses and in true American fashion, filled out his own 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket, which is posted on ESPN and now becomes some form of public record, visible to the entire sports loving, internet consuming, content craving public.
Photo by: Pete Souza
In the American spirit of competition and for love of comparative analysis, I wondered how my picks compared to basketball-crazy, sports passionate President Obama’s picks. It is well known that the President loves to talk smack about all things basketball, so lets see how he compares to the SportsMaven:
The photo of President Obama’s picks:
President Obama's 2009 NCAA Basketball Picks
For those who don’t recall my picks, here is a link to the full post.
So how’s the comparison after the first half of the first round games?
- President Obama went 11-5, missing picks on BYU, Butler, Illinois, Clemson, and the upset special, VCU.
- SportsMaven went 14-2, missing picks on Illinois and Clemson.
Stay tuned for an updated post on the final results for the first round, but so far, looking strong against President Obama.
Posted in Fighting Illini | Tagged: 2009 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, AIG, Butler, BYU, Clemson, ESPN, illinois, President Barack Obama, SportsMaven, VCU | 1 Comment »
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)
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.
ESPN has extensive coverage of today’s NHL Winter Classic:
On the local front, the popular stories of the week on the Winter Classic:
Posted in Chicago Blackhawks | Tagged: 2009 NHL Winter Classic, Bill Wirtz, Carol Slexak, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Cubs, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chris Chelios, Chris Kuc, Daily Herald, Detroit Red Wings, EJ Hradek, ESPN, Gene Wojciechowski, John McDonough, NHL, Original Six, Rocky Wirtz, Scott Burnside, Stanley Cup, Tim Sassone, Wrigley Field | Leave a Comment »