Archives for May 2008

Derrick Rose’s Popularity Blooms

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By Paul M. Banks

When our hometown Bulls defied the odds (probability was a mere 1.7%) and snagged the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft lottery, a debate began immediately. Should they take Kansas State’s Michael Beasley, a power forward who averaged 26.5 points and an NCAA-leading 12.5 rebounds during his “one and done” college career? Or pick Derrick Rose, the excessively athletic playmaker from Memphis?  Check out any local publication and you’ll see that all the polls are heavily slanted (usually about 67%-33%) towards picking Rose. I find this fascinating because our home team currently has a guard surplus and a severe lack of frontcourt scoring. Taking Beasley over Rose makes utterly perfect sense, yet most casual fans and my fellow sports geeks voice their desire for the opposite. Why you may ask? Derrick Rose is a hometown hero. He owned the courts of the Chicago Public League while attending Simeon high school, a hoops factory that produced stars like Nick Anderson, Deon Thomas and Calvin Brock. Rose has electrifying quickness that even a video game couldn’t exaggerate. Bringing this franchise player back to ‘the Chi’ brings excitement back to a franchise filled with negative emotion.

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Like Poison told us in the 80s, “Every Rose has its Thorn,” and in this case the thorn (a glut of guards) is the Bulls current roster. If the Bulls draft Rose they should (MUST actually) trade away some of their extra guards for a proven low-post scorer. In the league’s “Bull Market” Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Larry Hughes and forward Tyrus Thomas are the most dealable commodities. The player they would need to shop most is Hinrich, the current starting point guard and a serviceable player who regressed somewhat this past season. However, he’s an excellent defender and a decent passer who would still be regarded as an upgrade at the one position for many teams. To look at some possible deals and how they would build a lineup around Rose go here. From a marketing perspective, a #1 overall pick playing pro ball in his hometown is HUGE! It hasn’t happened in my lifetime, and the closest we’ve seen is Akron, Ohio native LeBron James playing for Cleveland.  You’ve seen what he’s done for branding the Cavaliers. Here, a similar situation is possible.

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Fantasy Flyin

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Soxman’s Fantasy Baseball Weekly
 
 

The ascension continues as the Southside Soxmen are having a season similar to my favorite team. As we climb to second place with a 27-21 record.  My hitting continues to be helped by Mr. MVP Carlos Quentin, Joey Votto, and the sizzling Ryan Braun.  It is being hurt by Paul Konerko and Melky Cabrera.
 

Sizzlers
 
Brian McCann
He’s been sizzling over the last two weeks, batting .419 with two dingers and 14 RBI. He’s one of the best offensive catchers is baseball.
 
Justin Morneau
.415 clip with 2 bombs and 12 RBI in the last two weeks.  Enough said.
 
Carlos Quentin
Like most fantasy owners, Ozzie Guillen admitted to not even knowing who he was going into the season.  Now he’s the MVP of many leagues hitting .311, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 1 SB, and an incredible 1.085 OPS the last 14 days.
 
Ryan Braun
He’s hitting .288 with 6 HR and 12 RBI and a1.048 OPS over the last 14 days.
 
Joey Votto
He’s only hitting .244 the last 14 days, but he has 3 bombs and has been delivering in the clutch.
 
Fizzlers
 
Kurt Suzuki
After a hot start, he has struggled over the last 21 days, hitting only .197, 1 HR, 3 RBI.
 
Melvin Mora
Despite the impressive start by the Orioles, Mora appears to be lost.  He is hitting .172 with 0 HR and 3 RBI over the last 14 days.
 
Paul Konerko
Now we know Paulie has a hand injury which should compound his usual slow start. 
.162, 0 HR, 1 RBI over the last 14 days.  Can someone please tell me why I’m keeping him in my line-up?
 

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Under the Radar
 
Jerry Hairston
Remember him?  Hairston qualifies at shortstop in most leagues and has been getting full-time play over the last 14 days hitting .316 with 6 steals!  Overall he’s hitting .306, 1 HR, 7 RBI and 7 SB.
 
Taking the Mound
 
Jose Contreras
Over the last 21 days, few have been hotter.  Jose is 3-0, with a 1.61 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 21 Ks in 28 IP.  He was a free agent in my league until this past Tuesday!
 
Ryan Dempster
A HUGE surprise for the Cubs this year, Dempster had a rough start last week but still has a remarkable 2.05 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 31 Ks in 26 IP over the last 21 days.

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DL Difference Makers
 
Joe Borowski
Activated from the DL and immediately picked up a save on Saturday.  He is the Indians closer and worth the gamble.  Remember, he’s one year removed from a 45-save season.
 
Eric Gagne
 “Gag me” continues his horrid season now on the DL with a shoulder injury.  At least he can’t hurt your ERA any more while he’s there.  Solomon Torres is the closer-elect in Milwaukee, but keep an eye on Julian Tavarez, who the Brewers are expected to sign this week.
 

A Fanʼs View

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By Trenni Kusnierek, FSN Wisconsin Brewers Beat Reporter

When the Brewers hit the road 11 days ago, I finally got to stay home. The way Craig Coshun and I handle a grueling, 135 game schedule (plus Bucks in the winter) is by dividing up the road trips–especially the long ones–and it was Craigʼs turn to go planes, trains, and automobiles. The break was nice for a few reasons: I finally got to see the family and friends that I moved home for, my apartment got lived in, and I had the chance to see Brewers baseball from a different perspective–as a fan. It took some getting used to, but I found it helpful to watch the games a little differently and really listen to what Milwaukeeans had to say about the ʼ08 squad.

One thing is clear, this city is on edge and a little nervous. The list of concerns is long, but not completely warranted. At least not all of the complaints. The Brew City faithful are worried about starting pitching, the closing situation, the hitters, and the skipper. As a fan, Iʼm right along with the masses. As a journalist, Iʼm trying to take a less panicked approach. The talk in the local watering holes is that the upper brass of the club need to fire, hire, trade, and sign–but Iʼm not sure a fire sale is the answer.

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Letʼs start with trades and signings. I donʼt think it is any secret that the Brewers would like to add another solid starter to the rotation, but Iʼm not sure just taking anyone who is offered is the best approach. The team canʼt afford to wait too long, but it also canʼt afford to ship off current talent and snatch up the first arm thrown at at them. (No pun intended!)
Milwaukee and the Brewers are not the type of city/team that can throw money or talent around like the Cubs, Mets, and Yankees so they need to be picky and weigh their options. That said…for this club to stage a comeback and make a run at the post season, a lights out starter should be tops on the list. The two aspects of the club that are taking the most hits are the hitters and the manager. I was hard pressed to find a fan who was willing to be patient with either. The arm-chair managers want shake ups in the batting order and shake outs in the skipper’s office. When I found myself caught up in “fan speak,” I expressed many of the same sentiments, but quickly realized the customer isnʼt always right. I like the fact that
instead of making monumental moves, the team has instead tried to fix early problems with minor adjustments: the uneven platoon between Bill Hall and Russell Branyan, giving Seth McClung a shot in the starting rotation, and allowing some relievers in AAA a shot at succeeding in the bigs.

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Iʼm in the school of thought that if a team makes drastic changes, every player starts to look over their shoulder and the result is much of the same. With that said, if the simple changes donʼt have big effects, consideration has to be given to shaking things up. Deep breaths people, deep breaths. We are 52 games into the season–not even close to halfway home. I love that my hometown fans expect excellence instead of mediocrity, but even greatness takes time. Weʼd just like it to speed up a little.

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Carlos Quentin LoveFest Sox Exchange

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By Paul M. Banks and The Soxman 

 When Carlos Quentin hit his second home run in the ESPN Sunday Night Game, it was a walk-off winner. And the Cell was electric. Pandemonium. A madhouse…pick your cliché to describe it…should we just give him the MVP award now? Obviously Josh Hamilton will have something to say about it.
 
 (SM) Soxman was there, as you know Mr. Banks.  The Cell was electric.  Our energy was building before that however when “Mr. Hold ‘Em” Scott Linebrink kept the game tied in the ninth.  Soxman improved his record to a 5-0 in games attended on the season with that win.  One other thing before we talk about the 2008, Comeback Player of the Year, let’s not forget to give HUGE props to Jose Contreras.  Over the last month, he’s dipped himself in the magical waters of 2005.  Jose is 3-0, with a 1.61 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 21 Ks in 28 IP.  I couldn’t be happier that he’s found his stride.
 
Carlos Quentin?  Despite ALL THE CRITICS, I said all along he could be the offensive difference on this team if he’s healthy, and he has done just that!  Quentin has been carrying an anemic offense for a first place team.  That gives him a huge advantage over Hamilton at this point in the season.  If Quentin keeps this up he could very well win the AL Comeback Player of the Year, be named an All-Star, and win the AL MVP.

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When that happened the stadium audio rocked out to AC/DC (my keyboard doesn’t have a lighting bolt, sorry) “Thunderstruck” instead of “Sweet Home Chicago.” I like the hard rock anthem the best of the Sox official songs. I enjoy “Don’t Stop Believin,” “Go Go White Sox” and “Na Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye” as much as the next man, but seriously AC/DC is my favorite. Your favorite Sox tune?
 
(SM) How can you argue with the song that plays when you go to my website?  For me there is nothing like the opening montage played to “He’s a Pirate” from “Pirates of the Caribbean” followed by “Thunderstruck” and Gene Honda shouting for White Sox Fans to “get on their feet.”  Yeah that’s my favorite tune. 
 


 
Last year’s Achilles heel, the bullpen is now a huge strength. Scott Linebrink has been masterful, Boone Logan has given Southsiders quite a bit to cheer about and Bobby Jenks has been one of the best closers in the game. As a unit they all Share the Passion. Show the Swagger. Your analysis please? Except for Jenks, I’d rather Batboy field that one…. 
 
 (SM) The bullpen is as good as any in baseball right now in my opinion. Linebrink honestly deserves all-star consideration.  He has 15 holds (an undervalued stat in baseball) and is 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 23 IP.  Even though Dotel is scary, his ERA is only 3.48.  The rest of the pen also holds their own: Thornton (3.57), Logan (2.65), Masset (3.38).  Even Mike MacDougal, who no one seemed to like had a 2.08 ERA before his demotion.  As for our closer? (Soxman motions wide with his arms and then tall).
 
(Batboy) Boom, here comes the boom, ready or not, I’ll tell you why Bobby is hot!  With Monday night’s save, Jenks became the second-fastest closer in MLB history to notch 100 career saves.  He’s 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA and 13 saves, meaning he played a significant role in more than half of the Sox wins.  I’d take him over any other closer in the game today.

 
(SM) So does Batboy get the save on that question Paul? 
 
Yes, he successfully converted that opportunity. Good baseball nerddom with that stat. I’m all about this slogan for the site: “Less is more” made famous by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, an architect who left his biggest legacies here in Chicago, so I’m trying to keep word count down this week. However, it’s time for our weekly non-baseball question. I won those 6 tickets to a Sox game in August at a recent NBC5 fundraiser. The final ticket was given to an official TSB contest winner, Boston red Sox fan Eileen Collins from Taunton, Massachusetts. So now four sexy ladies are heading to the game with us two Midwestern gentlemen. Do you have any problem with this?
 
(SM) The ladies won’t get “less” that is for sure.  As for everything else?  “Less is more,” especially for the ladies’ imagination about catching a game with a sports Super Hero and a future Hall of Famer…an Illinois Media Hall of Famer that is.

Well, hopefully. The Illini Media Hall of Fame is a very exclusive group, I think I’ll have to work very hard and just try and hope for the best. Now if I throw in “And take it one day at a time” I’ve written 70% of all athlete quotes.

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Globalism and Drama at Indy

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By Andy Rosenberg 

It was considered the “perfect storm” for New Zealand born driver Scott Dixon. He pulled through with a victory at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, but the treacherous plight of the drivers around him made the day of rest extremely restless. The variety of drivers, leader switches, team betrayals and disheartening crashes gave the day more plot twists than an M. Night Shyamalan thriller. The race was very diverse, with 33 racers (including 3 women) hailing from 6 different continents. The personalities of these drivers could be seen in the way they raced and the sheer disappointment or happiness that resulted. Both the diversity and the results at Indy contributed to the extreme excitement of the day.

Two factors provided this excitement: the crashes and the final laps. Ten drivers totaled their cars during the race, including two projected frontrunners, contributing to some unexpected finishes. In the last 50 laps of the race, Brazilian driver Vitor Miera and American Marco Andretti quietly slipped by many frontrunners to achieve the 2nd and 3rd place spot. Both drivers gave Dixon some heavy competition in the last 20 laps, when the full-out sprint for 1st place reached its peak.
 

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But it was the events leading up to this final sprint that might have left viewers glued to their TV set. The first major twist of events came about halfway through the race, when Brazilian speed freak Tony Kanaan suddenly accelerated into first place, only to be cut off by his own teammate, Marco Andretti, soon afterward. Kanaan then spun off into a violent crash that took out Sarah Fisher’s car as well. Kanaan was not the only frontrunner to face their fate in a crash. Female favorite Danica Patrick had faced turmoil throughout the race, with car troubles that made it difficult to advance on her opponents, but it was a pit stop visit that ended her day of disappointment. As Patrick was leaving the pit, her car was clipped by Ryan Briscoe, wrecking her rear left suspension, and summoning the wrath of a female driver with a wrecked car. As she was supposed to leave the track, she stomped toward Briscoe and his crew, only to be led away by stadium security.

The entertaining scenes offered up by the Indy 500 made the race seem like the next summer blockbuster. Also, with gas prices constantly increasing, it was promising to see 300,000 fans on their toes watching 33 drivers use newly installed ethanol fuel. Maybe this gives hope for the environment, or it may scare those who realize how 1/3 of the ethanol-burning drivers crashed…but either way this race gave one hell of a start to summer ’08.

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Being John Paxson

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By David K.

In my initial mock lottery after the ping pong balls were revealed I said that Kansas State power forward Michael Beasley should be the first overall pick based on the Bulls current roster and desperate need for a low post scorer.  I also predicted that regardless of whether Chicago drafts Beasley or Memphis point guard Derrick Rose, a major trade will directly coincide with the Bulls’ pick.  The more I think about possible scenarios, the more I am leaning towards Chicago taking Derrick Rose and trying to deal Kirk Hinrich in exchange for an offensive minded big man. 

So allow me to play the role of Bulls general manager John Paxson and propose some trades that would be beneficial for Chicago to explore, and that would also help all teams involved.  The Bulls are in a position of power as they have plenty of valuable young pieces that should bring them some immediate help in return.  Here we go, and as always, feel free to comment on the proposals down below.  (2008-09 salaries in parentheses)

Trade 1

Bulls Get:
PF Dirk Nowitzki ($18.1 million)

Mavs Get:
PG Kirk Hinrich ($10 million)
F Tyrus Thomas ($3.8 million)
F Luol Deng ($4.5 million)

Hear me out before you say I’m crazy for even mentioning this trade.  Dallas is clearly in a tough spot.  They have a lot of terrible contracts, (Erick Dampier 3years, almost $33 million left…Jason Terry 4 years, around $41 million left) which means no cap flexibility for the next two seasons.  They dealt their first round picks in 2008 and 2010 to the Nets in the Jason Kidd trade, so they won’t be getting younger any time soon.  Nowitzki has not been able to carry this team and get them over the hump in the post-season, so why not trade an MVP for three young players and begin a re-tooling process?  Kidd only has one year left on his deal and has certainly lost a step, meaning a young point guard like Hinrich will be needed soon enough.  Deng and Thomas would provide some much needed youth and athleticism in Dallas.  This would be a no-brainer for the Bulls.  They would finally get that offensive minded big man who could stretch defenses and be “the guy” at the end of games.  Chicago could then seek out a veteran point guard in free agency with their mid-level exception and add another swing player.

Chicago’s line-up:

C Noah/Gray
PF Nowitzki/Gooden
SF Nocioni/Sefolosha
SG Gordon/Hughes
PG Rose

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Trade 2

Bulls Get:
C Zydrunas Ilgauskas ($10.8 million)
PF Charlie Villanueva ($3.4 million)
Cavs 1st Round Pick (#19)

Cavs Get:
SG Michael Redd ($15.8 million)

Bucks Get:
SG Ben Gordon ($4.6 million)
PF Drew Gooden ($7.1 million)
F Tyrus Thomas ($3.8 million)
G Damon Jones ($4.5 million)

It would be very strange to see these three division foes get together for a monster trade, but this deal would make sense for all teams involved.  Cleveland would finally get a true compliment for LeBron James in Redd; who has proven that he cannot carry a franchise on his own.  The Bucks dump Redd’s monster salary and get back a pair of young players in Gordon (who they would have to re-sign to a long-term extension) and Thomas, as well as two expiring contracts in James and Gooden (who for the time being could provide a much needed defensive presence in the Bucks front court.)  With Gooden, Jones, and Desmond Mason all coming off the books after next season, Milwaukee would clear $16.9 million in cap space.  As for Chicago, they get a pair of big guys who are very capable on the offensive end in Ilgauskas and Villanueva.  The Bulls could add another player with the 19th pick.  This scenario is interesting because it keeps Hinrich in Chicago and pairs him up with a bigger, more athletic Rose, allowing Hinrich to play the two-guard spot.

Chicago’s line-up:
C Ilgauskas/Gray
PF Noah/Villanueva
SF Deng/Nocioni/19th pick???
SG Hinrich/Hughes/Sefolosha
PG Rose

Since Dave is creating all sorts of new Bulls lineups with his trade proposals, I decided to bring out clips of the Bulls’ world famous lineup introduction. God I love YouTube. Notice how the technical facility declines as we go back in time, even though the team itself is much better the further back in time you go! 

Trade 3

Bulls Get:
PF Jermaine O’Neal ($21.4 million)
PG Travis Diener ($1.6 million)
Conditional lottery protected first round pick

Pacers Get:
G Kirk Hinrich ($10 million)
F Tyrus Thomas ($3.8 million)
PF Drew Gooden ($7.1 million)

This trade would take grapefruit size balls for Paxson to make.  O’Neal was limited to 42 games last season due to injury which caused him to put up his worst numbers since his first season in Indiana.  Maybe a change of scenery would be just what the doctor ordered for O’Neal.  If healthy, he would be the front court offensive player that Chicago desperately desires.  If not, paying someone 21-plus million dollars and giving up three valuable pieces for an injury-prone player likely puts Paxson in the unemployment line.  The Pacers jump at this deal because Hinrich is a better option than Jamaal Tinsley at the point while Gooden and Thomas would give them some depth up-front.  Again, this would be THE definition of rolling the dice for Paxson. 

Chicago’s line-up:
C Noah/Gray
PF O’Neal/Nocioni
SF Deng/Sefolosha
SG Gordon/Hughes
PG Rose/Diener
 

Trade 4

Bulls Get:
C Jason Collins ($6.2 million)
PG Kyle Lowry ($1.2 million)
Warriors 1st round pick (#14)

Grizzlies Get:
F Al Harrington ($9.2 million)

Warriors Get:
G Kirk Hinrich ($10 million)
Grizzlies 1st round pick from Lakers (#28)

Why this trade works:
The Warriors could be in big need for a point guard with Monta Ellis an unrestricted free agent and Baron Davis possibly opting out of the final year of his contract.  The Grizzlies could use a power forward that fits an up-tempo style of offense which would make Harrington a great fit, and they could then focus on getting O.J. Mayo with their fifth overall pick.  The Bulls acquire a point guard in Lowry to back-up Rose, while Collins is in the final year of his contract and could be a valuable trade piece later in the season along with Drew Gooden and his expiring deal.  Chicago could then use the 14th pick to draft a power forward with offensive skills like Darrell Arthur from Kansas or Florida’s Marreese Speights, or even hope a guy like Kevin Love from UCLA slips down that low (though that is highly unlikely.)

Chicago’s line-up:
C Noah/Collins/Gray
PF Gooden/Thomas/Arthur or Speights
SF Deng/Nocioni
SG Gordon/Hughes/Sefolosha
PG Rose/Lowry
 

Trade 5

Bulls Get:
C Brad Miller ($11.4 million)
G Quincy Douby ($1.4 million)
Sacramento’s 1st round pick (#12)

Kings Get:
G Kirk Hinrich ($10 million)
F Tyrus Thomas ($3.8 million)

Why this trade works:
Brad Miller still has some gas left in his tank and he would give the Bulls a much needed post player who can score with his back to the basket as well as knock down the mid-range jumper.  Chicago could use Sacramento’s pick to draft one of the aforementioned power forwards to add some more offensive punch down low.  The Kings don’t have a true point guard under contract for next season so Hinrich could step into that role immediately.  Thomas gives Sacramento a much needed athletic player in their front court.

Chicago’s line-up:
C Miller/Gray
PF Noah/Gooden/Arthur or Speights
SF Deng/Nocioni
SG Gordon/Hughes/Sefolosha
PG Rose/Douby

Welcome to Ernie Banks Plaza

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By Paul M. Banks 

The Chicago Cubs franchise began play in 1876, but they didn’t erect a statue of “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks until opening day of the 2008 season. The magnificent sculpture by Lou Cella resides on the Corner of Clark and Addison near the world famous marquee of Wrigley Field. The inscription quotes the most famous “Banksism of all, “Let’s Play Two!” a statement Banks made in response to the gorgeous weather one day during his playing career. (“What a beautiful day for a ballgame, let’s play two.”) I picked a night with similarly mild weather to really observe the statue. I figured my first NBC5.com Street Team posting should feature the most famous person in Chicago history to share my last name. What truly separates this monument from the Harry Caray statue on the other side of the park is the placement of benches nearby. I sat down with my notebook and some reading material but then engaged in a little people watching. Many people, drunk, sober and every state in between, stopped by to view the statue. About half of them paused long enough to be in a picture alongside the Cubs’ all time leader in hits, games played, at-bats, and total bases. The most memorable was a group of four young women who felt the need to grab Ernie’s legs and position their face in between his ankles for their photo opportunity. Two of these women were rather….let’s just say the base of that statue got a stress test, and it is truly a very strong supportive structure.

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This little place is quite popular and I think we should officially name it “Ernie Banks Plaza” or “Banks Square.” If this were in Lincoln Square, we could call it Banksplatz, in Little Italy “Piazza del Banks.” If you visit the National-Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in that Southside Chicago neighborhood, you can see the very picturesque Piazza DiMaggio complete with statue of the “Yankee Clipper.” Ultimately, I could see Banks Plaza becoming a very sacred place for me: a landmark close to my home for meeting up with people, yet also a place for me to relax, read, and write alone.

By the way, since this is my profile pic for NBC.
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Winning streak Chicago Sox Exchange

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By Paul M. Banks and the Soxman 

Let’s start by discussing the analogies you came up with last week (great job by the way filling in for me while I was away on business/pleasure, the “triple-threat” Sox exchange was quite impressive!) In the last Sox exchange you, Bruce Wayne-Parker and Batboy compared my personality to three members of the 2005 champion White Sox, Kenny Williams, Bobby Jenks, and Ozzie Guillen.
 
(SM) On behalf of Bruce and Batboy, we are glad you liked it.  Filling in your shoes wasn’t easy but it was fun.
 
As anyone who has ever attacked a TSB columnist, a member of my immediate family, or my cat Bastet has learned, I certainly do have an Ozzie Guillen side to my personality. I will unleash the dragon on any and all foolish enough to deride those closest to me. I feel all good leaders should make their enemies feel their wrath when necessary (Ozzie seems to enjoy doing this a bit more often than I do).
 
(SM) While you are a lot like Ozzie, where you are different is that you have never ripped on your fans.  He’s done that a couple of times now: saying that Sox fans unfairly bash his team.  As a manager yourself, you are not afraid to admit when the fan is correct or has a right to be angry with a sub par performance.  After all, without the fans, we don’t exist.  
 
 I also have a “closer mentality.” The the overpowering get-to-the-point persona of Bobby Jenks is admirable no matter what team you’re a part of.
 
(SM)  I think Batboy could find a Bobby Jenks association with just about anything.  No offense of course.  I was talking to him about Jermaine Dye’s big night against the Indians this morning and he still found a way to bring Jenks into the conversation.
 
However, the analogy I like the best is Kenny Williams. He is just so smooth, calm and collected. “Heavy is the head that wears the crown” yet he always seems to be completely in control and “cooler than Freddie Jackson sippin’ a milkshake in a snowstorm” as OutKast would say. Whenever I’ve met him in person, he’s been exactly like his public persona would make you expect. I strive to try and do a good job acting like….how can I put this? Have you ever seen a duck glide in a poetically aesthetic manner across the surface of a pond, yet below the surface is an unseen cumbersome and awkward looking set of motions propelling the animal forward? Everyone sees the cool, but no one sees the “grinder mentality” hard at work below. That’s great leadership, to “never let ’em see you sweat.” Williams is a GREAT dresser too. My sister Kristen, the most stylish person I know, is helping me emulate that aspect of his leadership model. 
 
(SM) Two things on your comparison to Kenny: You MUST not forget to compare the swagger of Kenny to your “Banksian” approach.  They are very similar. 
 

Second, Bruce Wayne-Parker is a pretty sharp dresser and said he’d take you on a shopping spree anytime.  He may be a little metro for you, but I understand you have first-hand knowledge that his fashion sense works. 
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I’ve seen it on multiple occasions: most recently, when the SICA babes pointed out our matching powder blue shirts. 8 in a row! FIRST PLACE BABY!!! This is starting to feel like 2005! When I look at the AL Central and I see the Detroit Tigers are a ship taking on water (Jim Leyland’s latest blowup is yet another piece of evidence) and the Cleveland Indians seemingly unable to play up to their potential, it seems like the division won’t require 95-105 wins like we originally thought it would. I just don’t see the Royals and Twins having the staying power either.
 
(SM) Well, let’s remember that the Sox have not lived up to their true potential yet either as a team.  Almost everyone thought that starting pitching was going to be the problem and our pitching as been unreal.  If we start bringing the thunder like we did Wednesday, look out.  I’m getting more excited as well, but I guess we should proceed with cautious optimism.  670 the Score reported that the White Sox had the exact same record one year ago at this time.  If that’s true, it is too early to start chilling the October bubbly.
 
The Indians are somewhat similar to the White Sox this season.  Their pitching has been excellent and their hitting has been slow starting.  Victor Martinez still does not have a home run and the big ogre Travis Hafner is only hitting .222 on the season. Grady Sizemore is hitting almost 30 points below his career batting average.
 
The Sox need to stay hot to win this division, bottom line.  We win eight games in a row and only lead the division by three and a half games.  That is not enough of a comfort zone for me. I liken the Tigers’ season to the Sox 2007 campaign.  They could not rise above their multiple injuries and several of their super stars are having down years.  The one thing you can glean from Leyland’s blow-up which I think is really important: team chemistry appears to be impacted.  Jason Grilli said the clubhouse chemistry has not been the same since players like Sean Casey left.  Remember, Soxman firmly believes chemistry is the “X” factor that puts a team over! 
 
 
The team has been blazing hot since Guillen tinkered with his lineup, moving catcher A.J. Pierzynski up to the No. 2 slot, followed by Carlos Quentin in the three-hole and Dye at cleanup. He also dropped Jim Thome, Paul Konerko and Nick Swisher in the order. Dye is on fire. Konerko and Thome are still coming along slowly, but look at some of the Tribe’s big hitters, Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner are having subpar seasons too. Even Harry Doyle from “Major League” would have trouble putting a positive spin on their season…the next time he hosts an edition of “Teepee Talk.”
 
(SM) I think not complaining about where they hit in the order speaks volumes as to the type of players Konerko, Thome, and Swisher are.  Remember a few seasons back when Dusty Baker tried to move Sammy Sosa to the five spot in the order? And he threw a hissy-fit? The Sox hitters just continue to go out there and do their best.  That’s professionalism and class in my book.  I like the lineup tweaks as they break up the logjam of slow runners in the middle of the line-up. As far as Quentin goes, you remember how high I was on him going into the season right?  He could work out to be an absolute steal if he stays healthy.
 
Konerko has me a little concerned.  Though the White Sox have won eight in a row, it is not Konerko who is coming through for the team. Last week he hit .148 with just one RBI.  He had an MRI on his hand, which thankfully came back negative.  Hand injuries can really zap a slugger’s bat speed and power.  It is something to watch closely for sure.
 Perhaps the Indians need some motivation.  I hear that Nick Swisher may have some inflatable dolls for sale!  
 
What are we going to do about Joe Crede’s below average defense?
 
(SM) Let Joe play through it.  He started out the season with the same stellar defense and has stumbled a lot lately.  His .926 fielding percentage is the worst on the team.  He has committed more errors this season (9) than the rest of the starting infield combined (5). Very few players with stellar defense suddenly lose it.  I would not hit the panic button on Joe just yet.  Remember the “x” factor on chemistry.

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Is Jose Contreras back to being himself? His forkball has wicked movement on it again and I guess the mental issues from his bitter divorce that clouded his mind seem to be gone…
 
(SM) In his last three starts, Jose is 3-0, with a 1.35 ERA.  He appears to be back.  You are correct.  Jose has had an entire off-season to put his divorce behind him and to focus on baseball again.  While there is absolutely no proof of this…I wonder if Steve Stone was a factor in Jose’s resurgence?  Early in the season, he mentioned his discussions on what Contreras did in the past to be successful several times.  Maybe he offered some friendly advice?
 
Contreras is third among Sox starters in ERA at 3.17 and second behind Vasquez in innings pitched (59.2).  He’s tied with Gavin Floyd in WHIP (1.14), and is second among starters in opponents’ batting average (.234).
 
Jose is a streaky pitcher so let’s hope he can stay on this streak until November.

Absolutely! By the way, Steve Stone is never ever wrong. His appearances on the Score are the highlight of that station.

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Attend a White Sox game with The Sports Bank

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Watch a game with The Soxman and site founder Paul M. Banks! in Box seats!

So I was at Al Hambra Palace tonight (you’ll notice this is being posted at 2:30 A.M.) for a special fundraiser benefitting the fight against Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) hosted by NBC 5’s Ginger Zee. The proceeds generated by the silent auction tonight will help combat the awful illness that tragically took the life of my aunt in 2005. The auction included 6 box seats to the White Sox versus the Kansas City Royals on Wed August 13th, 7:11PM. And a Gavin Floyd autographed baseball which will now have a special place in my home office. The first emailer (send answers to paulbo5@hotmail.com  subject heading “SOX GAME”) to answer this quiz correctly wins a chance to see the first place Sox take on THE MIGHTY Royals with me, TSB founder Paul M. Banks, The Soxman, and….other special guests that will be announced later. 

quiz

1.) As of May 23rd, Gavin Floyd’s WHIP is……? Floyd’s ERA is……?

 2.) Name either the 2005 World Series MVP or ALCS MVP (hint: they are not the same guy, but both are still on the team)

3.) What is the name of Soxman’s sidekick?

4.) What publication often features Soxman in their Friday “Battle of the Fives” segment?

5.) The best sports website in the whole WWW is……?

6.) True or False: TSB founder Paul M. Banks is a literary and journalistic genius 

 7.) The K.C. Royals

a.) suck

b.) really suck

c.) really freakin suck, but arent even worth ripping on anymore

d.) all of the above

8.) How many games did it take the Sox to win the ’05 World Series?

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email answers to paulb05@hotmail.com subject heading “SOX GAME” Win a trip to the Southside of Chicago with Kanye West fan Paul M. Banks and “American Boy” the Soxman. Win these tickets. then celebrate by dancing to the clip below

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2008 NBA Mock Lottery In-Depth

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By David K.

1. Chicago- Michael Beasley, PF, Kansas State
Bulls hit the jackpot!  For a team that I picked to be in the NBA Finals at the beginning of the season (yeah, my bad), this should be a huge boost for Chicago.  It is funny that their two needs are a low-post scoring threat (Beasley) and a point guard (Rose).  Despite Rose being a Chicago boy, I think the edge goes to Beasley because an offensive-minded power forward is a bigger need (this is my initial thought, I’m sure my mind will change 100 times in the next month).  Yes, the Bulls have a plethora of young forwards…

PG: Hinrich
SG: Gordon/Hughes
SF: Deng/Sefolosha
PF: Gooden/Nocioni/Thomas
C: Noah/Gray  

…and with Chris Duhon a free-agent, Rose would definitely make sense.  But I really think it is time for Chicago to make a big trade by packaging Gordon/Thomas/Deng/or Nocioni and acquire a proven all-star caliber commodity.  

My prediction: Whatever happens with this pick will directly result in a big off-season trade involving the Bulls.  Again, Beasley makes a lot of sense seeing that Drew Gooden is in the final year of his deal and Luol Deng’s and Ben Gordon’s rookie contracts expire and both will want a big payday, though neither deserve it quite yet.  Any of those players could be very attractive to a team looking to clear some cap space.

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2. Miami- Derrick Rose, PG, Memphis
In my opinion, the Heat should be praying that the Bulls draft Beasley.  By “settling” for Rose, Miami gets a ball-handler who can run the offense and break, thus taking some pressure off Dwyane Wade who has had the ball in his hands far too often the past two seasons.  Having Rose around would also help Wade take less of a beating which should keep him in the line-up rather than on the bench in a suit and tie.  A core of Rose, Wade, Shawn Marion, and Udonis Haslem doesn’t thrust South Beach back into the NBA Finals, but should definitely be good enough to land the Heat back into the playoffs. 

If the Heat end up with Beasley, they would be in a situation to go with a small ball line-up, but would have to find a point guard not named Marcus Banks, Jason Williams, or Chris Quinn to run the offense.

3. Minnesota- Brook Lopez, C, Stanford
Imagine a young front-court of Lopez and Al Jefferson to build around for the next 10-12 years.  Not too shabby if you are a T-Wolves fan.  In already having young guards like Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, and Rashad McCants, a post presence is the way to go.  If the T-Wolves think O.J. Mayo will be a franchise changing-type guard, then he could very easily be the pick.  But adding some size alongside Big Al seems like the road to take.

4. Seattle- O.J. Mayo, G, USC
If the Sonics don’t select a guard I would be shocked.  The Luke Ridnour/Earl Watson duo at point guard is a joke.  Adrian Griffin and Damien Wilkins are the only options at the two spot since rookies Kevin Durant and Jeff Green are better suited playing the forward spots.  A young nucleus of Mayo, Green, and Durant would be a very nice building tool for Seattle, or Oklahoma City, or wherever this franchise ends up.  If the Sonics don’t go with Mayo, I would expect Arizona PG Jarryd Bayless to be the pick.

5. Memphis- Anthony Randolph, F, LSU
When you look at the Grizzlies’ roster, they have three young point guards (Mike Conley Jr, Javaris Crittenton, and Kyle Lowry), two talented wing players (Mike Miller and Rudy Gay), and a worthless Serbian center (Darko Milicic).  If they can re-sign guard Juan Carlos Navarro, a big guy is the definite way to go.  Problem is, there may not be an obvious choice at this point.  Randolph, Kevin Love, or Darrell Arthur would be the most likely candidates, but Randolph’s athleticism makes him a better fit with the Grizzlies up and down tempo.  If Memphis does not plan on re-signing Navarro, Eric Gordon could also be an option at this spot.  Shopping this pick would not be a bad idea considering Memphis could likely move down a few picks and still land Randolph.

6. New York- Jerryd Bayless, PG, Arizona
Now that the Knicks have seemingly competent people in their front office, this pick may not be that off the wall.  Jerryd Bayless is the best option at this point, and seems like the perfect fit with New York being in need of a point guard to replace the soon-to-be-free agent Stephon Marbury.  My only concern with this pick is that Bayless is a shoot-first type of point guard (like Marbury) which does not seem to be the ideal floor general for Mike D’Antoni’s style of offense.  Gordon or Russell Westbrook could be the pick if D’Antoni doesn’t want Bayless leading his team.

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7. L.A. Clippers- Eric Gordon, SG, Indiana
The Clips are set up-front with Chris Kaman and a hopefully healthy Elton Brand, and they have Corey Maggette and Al Thornton on the wings.  The biggest need is in the backcourt where Cuttino Mobely is grossly over-paid and Shaun Livingston cannot stay healthy for the life of him.  Gordon would give the Clips a guy who can score in numerous ways.  Westbrook is another option if the Clips want to add a true point guard. 

8. Milwaukee- Danillo Gallinari, SF, Italy
The Bucks are terrible on defense; really, really terrible on defense which doesn’t bode well with new head coach Scott Skiles’ philosophy of being aggressive on that end of the floor.  However, there really is not a defensive-minded player at this point who can make an immediate impact.  I would expect the Bucks to actively shop this pick in hopes of landing someone to protect the rim.  If Milwaukee doesn’t move out of this spot, Gallinari makes the most sense with Desmond Mason having just one year left on his contract and Bobby Simmons being a huge bust as a free-agent signing.

9. Charlotte- Kevin Love, PF, UCLA
The Bobcats were one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA last year which makes a big man the smart choice.  Love, Arthur, and DeAndre Jordan are all options here but I think MJ and Larry Brown will pick the reliable, NBA-ready option in Love.  He just knows how to play the game and should take some of the load off of Emeka Okafor’s back down low.

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10. New Jersey- *Darrell Arthur, PF, Kansas
This might be my “favorite” pick in the draft in terms of perfectly fitting a player on a team.  The Nets have Devin Harris, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson locked in as starters on the outside.  They have two young post-players in Josh Boone and Sean Williams who rely more on their rebounding/defensive abilities than offensive talents.  Arthur could step in and be that offensive threat down low as he is dangerous with his back to the basket, but can also step out and hit the mid-range jumper almost in that David West-type of fashion.  If New Jersey doesn’t mind a long-term project, DeAndre Jordan is worth a look. 

11. Indiana- Russell Westbrook, PG, UCLA
When Jamaal Tinsley was sidelined last season, the Pacers did not have a legitimate true point guard option to fill his shoes.  Plus, let’s be honest, Tinsley just isn’t that good and is likely to get involved in an incident outside a nightclub again this off-season, but his contract is so awful that it is pretty much un-movable.  A point guard like Westbrook or D.J. Augustin makes the most sense, but Indiana could also use a young big guy like Jordan or Nevada’s Javale McGee to develop once Jermaine O’Neal’s massive contract comes off the books in 2010.  But in terms of the best available option for now, that’s Westbrook.

12. Sacramento- D.J. Augustin, PG, Texas
Outside of Quincy Douby, the Kings do not have a point guard on their roster as Beno Udrih and Anthony Johnson are both free agents.  Udrih played well for the Kings when Bibby was hurt and then traded, but even if they do re-sign him, a point guard still makes the most sense to add some depth.  However, if Ron Artest opts of his deal, a small forward like Nicolas Batum, Joe Alexander, Donte Greene, or Chase Budinger would all be viable options.

13. Portland- Nicolas Batum, SF, France
The Blazers are set up-front with Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge, and have a tremendous young talent at shooting guard in Brandon Roy.  That makes point guard and small forward their biggest needs.  With Westbrook and Augustin off the board, small forward is the way to go.  Batum is a versatile wing player who may not be ready to contribute right away, but would definitely be a promising piece to the championship puzzle they are trying to build in Portland.  The Blazers could even follow their own lead and leave Batum in Europe another season (like they did with Rudy Fernandez this past year), if Fernandez comes to the NBA.

14. Golden State- *Joe Alexander, F, West Virginia
Alexander seems like a great addition to Nellie-Ball.  He strokes the three, can dribble penetrate, hits pull-up jumpers, and plays effectively with his back to the basket.  With Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus free agents, a wing player seems like the logical choice.  Of course, if the Warriors cannot re-sign Monta Ellis, they could look to address the need for a combo guard although there is nobody like that available at this spot.  Slanging Syracuse small forward Donte Greene could be a more athletic alternative to Alexander.

On the brink of the lottery:
DeAndre Jordan, C, Texas A&M
Javale McGee, C, Nevada
Donte Greene, SF, Syracuse
Chris Douglas-Roberts, G/F, Memphis
Kosta Koufos, C, Ohio State
Brandon Rush, G/F. Kansas
*Marreese Speights, PF, Florida
*Chase Budinger, G/F, Arizona

*Underclassmen yet to hire an agent

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Discussing Ryno’s Managerial Potential with his team’s Owner

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Chicago Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg is currently the manager of the teams single A affiliate, the Peoria Chiefs. In this exclusive interview with Chiefs owner Pete Vonachen, we discuss what Ryno’s been up to lately and what he brings to the managerial table.

By Paul M. Banks

I caught up to Vonachen at the opening of Little Cubs Field in Freeport, Il. In addition to being a partial owner of the team, Vonachen is a member of the Greater Peoria sports Hall of Fame and the Peoria Chiefs’ old stadium was named after him. Its safe to say he has a fair amount of “juice” within the city of Peoria and the Cubs organization, so I was eager to his opinions on what the future holds for one of my favorite ballplayers growing up. I also love his “in my day…we didn’t have this….we had to go….”response to my final question.  

PMB: Tell me about Ryne Sandberg and what he’s brought to your franchise…

PV: Last year he brought us record attendance. The fact that he was the manager, he’s such a great guy, interacted with the fans so good, he gave everyone a new outlook, a different impression of what a hall of famer really is. He signed all kinds of autographs, was willing to go out and make speeches. I think he did so much for baseball and so much for the image of the Chicago Cubs. Win-win situation all around.

PMB: So it especially helps being so close to the parent club…

PV: When you’re in Peoria you either have the Cardinals or the Cubs. As far as our affiliate is concerned, we feel the Cubs are better from an attendance standpoint. There’s a lot of Cardinal fans, but I think there’s more Cub fans. I go to our ballpark every night and I see all kinds of Cardinal shirts and caps. They’re good baseball fans. That’s what it’s all about.”

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PMB: How much potential does Ryno have to manage in the big leagues?

PV: He certainly knows the game, has the respect of the players. He’s doing a very very intelligent thing, willing to come down and start in A ball. He’s willing to come back a second year in A ball. He just needs experience; he learns every day. I think if anybody’s got a chance, they should be lookin at guys like Ryne Sandberg. All they do, it seems to me, is they recycle these old managers. They need some new people. Just because they haven’t managed in the big leagues, doesn’t mean they couldn’t be a success.

PMB: What’s his leadership style? Is he fiery like the current Cubs skipper Lou Piniella or laid back and chill the last Cubs manager Dusty Baker?

PV: He’s laid back. He’s been in the big leagues 14 years and only got thrown out once. Our season is a month old; he got thrown out twice and got suspended already.

PMB: What did he get suspended for?

PV: He got suspended for a day for bumping the umpire. He fights for the kids. He’s going to be ok. Like anything else, you got to learn.

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PMB: Man I wish I had a park like this when I played as a kid…

PV: We didn’t even have little league. We used to go and get a taped up bat and ball and go to the park and choose up sides. We didn’t have anything like a little league at all. No organized baseball.”

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Vonachen was a VIP guest at the opening of Little Cubs Field. Here he is cutting the ceremonial ribbon
 

An Amazing Story that you Must Read!

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Thanks to FSN Wisconsin and TSB Milwaukee Brewers expert Trenni Kusnierek for passing along to me this inspirational and emotional story from yesterday’s Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Here are some excerpts from and the link to Mike White’s in depth feature story on John Challis which will likely leave you with watery eyes.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08125/878966-85.stm

The 18-year-old kid dying of cancer gets his wish, a chance to swing a bat maybe one last time in a real baseball game.

He hasn’t played in a few years, but he’s called on to pinch-hit. His eyes light up at the first pitch and he puts all of his 5-foot-5, 93-pound frame into one mighty swing, making contact and sending a line drive into right field for a single — if he can reach first base. The cancer he’s been battling for almost two years has spread to his pelvis, making running nearly impossible….

Actions and statements like those are what has inspired so many others. All of Aliquippa’s baseball players wear John’s jersey number “11” on their hats. At the walk-a-thon, Aliquippa star athlete Jonathan Baldwin, a Pitt football recruit, presented him with a ball signed by Pitt players.

After the walk, John addressed the crowd.

“He spoke from his heart,” Mr. Wetzel, the coach, said. “He said, ‘I’ve got two options. I know I’m going to die, so I can either sit at home and feel sorry, or I could spread my message to everybody to live life to the fullest and help those in need.’ After hearing that, I don’t know if there were many people not crying.”……

Six days later, Freedom played a game at PNC Park. John attended the game, but had an IV line in his arm for a treatment he was getting. He took out the IV line and asked Mr. Wetzel if he could pinch-hit again.

“Unbelievable. He told me the doctor said he could take it out for up to seven hours,” Mr. Wetzel said. “He told me he just wanted to be a normal kid one more time.”

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