Archives for January 2009

Cubs Off-Season Exchange

By David K. and Paul Schmidt

(DK) The wheel certainly doesn’t need to be re-invented.  But after the embarrassment of a second straight three-and-out in the post-season, some sort of shake-up needed to be made with the Cubs roster.  GM Jim Hendry has kept the core of the club in tact, but has been fairly active in adding other pieces to the puzzle.

Perhaps the biggest transaction for the Cubs this off-season is the one Hendry didn’t make.  During the winter meetings, it seemed like all but a done deal that Padres ace Jake Peavy would end up calling Wrigley Field home.  Instead, Hendry passed stating that San Diego’s asking price was too expensive.  I can’t help but think that Hendry still believes he has a shot at landing Peavy.  By trading Mark DeRosa and Felix Pie for five young pitchers and then dealing one of those young arms and Ronny Cedeno for Aaron Heilman, it seems like Hendry is still trying to load up on enough young ammunition to pull the trigger on a deal for Peavy.  Even ESPN’s Buster Olney believes the door is still open between the two teams.  So let me ask you this, what do you think the chances are that Peavy will be donning a ‘C’ on his hat by the start of Spring Training?

(PS)  It certainly seems as though a deal will get done, although I fear it will be sooner than later.  The latest Jim Hendry trade to go through is a little baffling to me, as I don’t know that I see the logic of ever giving up anyone for a pitcher (Aaron Heilman) with a career ERA as a starter of 5.96.  But hey, we have more Golden Domers, and that’s gotta be good, right?

The Peavy trade though is going to happen.  I think that, in the long run, the Cubs will still be the frontrunners, but I don’t believe a deal is going to happen until much later in the season, most likely around the All Star Break or later. The Pads have to cut salary and Peavy makes up 25 percent of their salary this season (an astronomical figure, really), and that will only get worse in the later years of the contract.

Do the Cubs need Peavy?  I think that’s a resounding yes, with the questions surrounding the fifth starter in the rotation, whether Ryan Dempster can repeat his ’08 effort, and if Rich Harden’s arm is eventually going to detach at the shoulder mid-pitch.  Hopefully, Hendry will see sooner rather than later that right now we have the power in the trade talks.  IF there’s a big injury or underperformance from the rotation, power shifts to the Pads and we’d have to give up more.

I think that I’m curious how much rope Jim Hendry is going to have this season.  He’s made a lot of moves that are very easy to question and second guess, which is interesting given how solid he has been over the last several seasons. With new ownership set to take over, how long of a rope will Hendry have this coming season?

(DK) I do think the Cubs need Peavy to contend for a World Series.  I am not sold on rewarding Dempster with 4 years, $52 million after his first year as a full-time starting pitcher in five seasons.  He is a great clubhouse guy and was as valuable a player for the Cubs in ’08 as anyone on the team, but I fear that he hit his peak last year and in two or three years, that signing will come back to bite Hendry in the butt.  And let’s pray that Harden’s arm doesn’t go Dave Dravecky on us.  I am sure Sweet Lou will be smart again in protecting him and limiting his innings throughout the season.

As for Hendry’s leash, I think he did a good job this off-season of cutting back on the spending.  He jettisoned about $15 million in unloading Jason Marquis and DeRosa, and saved another five or six mil by letting Kerry Wood walk and instead acquiring Kevin Gregg from the Marlins.  So hopefully the new management realizes his smarts with those matters and that the Cubs are a never-ending source of income and lets Hendry pursue a player with the salary of Peavy.

On the other hand, Hendry did give Milton Bradley $30 million over three years.  I know the Cubs were desperate to land a left-handed bat for the middle of the line-up, but now we’e counting on a guy who spent most of last year DH’ing (just 20 games played in the outfield) to come and play 130 games in right field.  I thought the circus days of a right fielder patrolling Wrigley Field was over when Sammy Sosa, Jeromy Burnitz, and Cliff Floyd left.  Plus, there is that whole crazy factor with Bradley.  I would not want to be a Gatorade cooler in the Cubs dug-out with both Bradley and Carlos Zambrano pacing back and forth for 162 games…

(PS) – Let me be the first to say that I love Bradley’s fire.  Most of his outbursts aren’t directed at teammates. Rather, they are directed at people questioning his heart, desire or talent, and I’m ok with that.  He had a really, really tough childhood, and it’s amazing he’s even alive, let alone a Major League Baseball player.  Obviously, your concerns about his health and…”ability” to field are exactly the same as mine.

Whether or not you’re right on Kerry Wood remains to be seen, though he did say he’d come back and play for whatever Hendry thought was fair.  I don’t know why you wouldn’t bring him back for another season, especially since it seemed what he wanted to do.

Kevin Gregg isn’t a good pitcher and no kind of answer to any possible bullpen problem…obviously, I’m not real high on that acquisition. I’m also not sure why giving away Jason Marquis for a below average reliever when Marquis had been nothing below an average starter and could hit the ball and pinch run – an underrated part of his game- was supposed to be a good plan.

I also think that our roster as a whole got a lot less flexible after DeRosa left. I said at the time that sometimes players are more valuable to you than they are to other people – and this was back when they were looking to send him to San Diego for Peavy, so what they actually got for him was disappointing.

Point being, I think that Hendry might be in more jeopardy than people think.

Derrick Rose Inspires Illini Leader

By Paul M. Banks

Before budding Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose came to the NBA, he owned Chicago prep courts during his career at Simeon. Along the way, he befriended St. Joseph product and current Illinois sophomore Demetri McCamey, who leads the #19 Illini in scoring. McCamey a.k.a. “Cames” is also fifth in the Big Ten in assists at 5.0 apg. In Big Ten games only, McCamey leads the Big Ten in assists (6.0 apg) and assist/turnover ratio (4.0). Earlier this season, Illini Head Coach Bruce Weber gave McCamey a Sports Illustrated article about the work habits and development of Rose, the 2008 #1 overall NBA Draft pick.

“It talked about how he matured and some of the things he does before games and I took it to heart. It helped,” McCamey said. Cames mentioned how happy he was to see his friend Rose and how hard he wants to work being a “student of the game” to try and reach the league just like the Bulls’ point guard.

“That’s what all the great ones do, that’s how you get better- what Derrick said in the interview. The coaches gave him cards of what defense they play. They’re doing it in the pros and you gotta do it in college {in order} to get to the pros, so you just gotta keep working,” McCamey said.

Cames still has a LONG way to go to reach the NBA “Rose” garden: his shot selection is sometimes suspect, his work ethic needs improvement and his defense can often be non-existent. However, he’s also the Illini player with the most athleticism and star potential.

“If you study him over the course of time, he has very good games and a tendency not to be real consistent, this goes back way to high school and AAU and that’s where he’s got to mature. He has the big one and then average, average. He needs to be more consistent if we’re going to be a very good team because he can do things that other people can’t do,” Coach Weber said.

If Demetri matures into a consistent player, the Illini could make a deep tournament run in March and Derrick Rose could possibly see another Windy City friend in the NBA.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the NBC Street Team, the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

Illini Leading Scorer Demetri McCamey

Interviewed by Paul M. Banks

Sophomore Demetri McCamey is the Illini’s leading scorer and seeing a big improvement from his 8.2 scoring average as a freshman. In addition to his scoring, McCamey is fifth in the Big Ten in assists, averaging 5.0 apg. In Big Ten games only, McCamey leads the Big Ten in assists (6.0 apg) and assist/turnover ratio (4.0). “Cames” has been described by Weber as “able to do things, the other guys on the team can’t do.” Of course, his game still needs a LOT of polish which we discuss with rigorous candor in this interview.

Overlooking the embarrassing loss at Minnesota, the Illini are hugely improved over last season, the play of McCamey is a big reason why. Another cause is the more selfless play illustrated by this year’s squad. It appears that Head Coach Bruce Weber’s decision to take the players’ names off the backs of the jersey and getting them to focus on the name on the front of the jersey has paid off.

“Cames” on the team’s biggest difference from last year…

“We’re more like a family on the court, we stay together, we keep our composure through the tough times and just keep talking to one another and help one another instead of being down cuz last year we were fussing, arguing, everyone was playing for themselves. This year we’re playing more as a tam and getting others involved and any given night someone could be the leading scorer: Dominique, Myself, Tisdale, Mike Davis, Trent, we don’t care who scores, we want Ws”

On the school record for losses in 2007-08…

“Everyone looked at us like we were a joke cuz we were 16-19”

McCamey is often criticized, by Coach Weber and Big Ten announcers alike, for his work ethic, but Cames says he’s dedicated to edifying himself on the game…

“A student of the game, that’s the only way you’ll get better. It’s all about making the right decision and every possession is worth something. Coach McClain and I watch film, I like to come in and watch film. If I’m at home, my roommate Alex {Legion} and I, that’s all we do is watch college and NBA basketball.”

One of the first things McCamey is criticized for is his shot selection

“When my litter brother says it than I know everybody notices, my little brother told me I was settling for too many threes, so I got to get back to attacking the paint like I used to.”

And for not being very consistent overall game to game…

“It’s not just scoring for me, especially on the defensive end and becoming a leader, being more vocal- don’t yell at guys, pick your spots and be a true leader”

Demetri spoke candidly about how he has to improve his defense, another point of contention raised by his critics. I asked him what else he needs to improve?

“Standing up a lot and watching instead of attacking, sometimes I rely on my teammates too much when I can just push the ball and make plays happen instead of just trying to wait for them to happen. It’s being aggressive all the time and take every play like it’s you’re last and make the right decision.”

Current Bull and #1 overall draft pick Derrick Rose is a friend of McCamey’s and someone he talked about modeling his game on.

“He’s a wonderful player. I played against him all the way since 7th grade, he knows me, I know him and I know I’ll be in the same boat and playing with passion if I just listen to everybody, because they’re only trying to help…No matter how young you are you can be a real good player. We used to be enemies on the court, now I’m a fan, maybe one day I’ll get to where he’s at.”

R.I.P. Illini over Gophers Winning Streak

By Paul M. Banks

I’d rather not bring up the score of Minnesota’s upset over #19 Illinois. This baffling outcome at Williams Arena marks the end of an era. Pour out a little liquor for the 20 game win streak by Illinois over Minnesota. I’ll miss ya buddy…it was fun while it lasted! With some help from the University of Illinois Sports Information Department, here are some fun facts about the Illini Reign of Terror over Goldy Gopher…(with some commentary by me of course)

Illinois leads the all-time series 113-61, but Minnesota owns a 44-41 advantage in games played in Minneapolis. (Sounds pretty dominating, right Andy, Pete, David?)

Illinois had won eight straight over Minnesota at Williams Arena, with the Gophers’ last home win coming in 1999. (“Livin La Vida Loca was really popular then…I was a junior at Champaign back then, Cory Bradford and Sergio McClain were the “stars” of that team which set a school record for losses) Last year’s Illini team broke that school record btw)

Illinois’ 20-game, 10-year streak began with the 1999 Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinal. It is the Illini’s longest winning streak in school history over a conference opponent.

(I was a junior then, and it was a pre-Facebook, Myspace, Twitter world…I think we were on Web .05 back then)

Illinois’ 20-game winning streak over Minnesota spanned 10 years, seven head coaches (three at Illinois, four at Minnesota) and four cities (eight wins in Champaign, eight wins in Minneapolis, two wins in Indianapolis and two wins in Chicago).

(It was before most of us had heard of Bush 43..ooohh those were the days, and instead American thought something called Y2K was a problems)

It is Illinois’ longest winning streak in school history over an opponent. Here are Illinois’ all-time longest winning streaks over an opponent:

1. Minnesota 20 1999-2009

2. Butler 16 1940-61

Northwestern 16 1947-55

Wisconsin 16 1981-89 (Yes, the Badgers really sucked in the 80s)

Northwestern 16 1984-91  (Hey, nice to see you again)

6. Ohio State 12 1950-56

It was the fourth-longest current winning streak nationally by a team over a conference opponent:

1. Oklahoma over Baylor Big XII 25

2. Penn over Dartmouth Ivy League 23

3. Texas over Baylor Big XII 23

4. Illinois over Minnesota Big Ten 20

5. Ohio State over Northwestern Big Ten 17

(Man, they own the Cats in football too! The easiest school to get into in the Big Ten, well after Iowa of course, owns the hardest conference school to get into in sports)

Illinois’ eight straight victories at Williams Arena is one shy of the longest opponent winning streak in that building. Indiana won nine straight at Williams Arena from 1981-89. (So that Jackass Bobby Knight still gets to hold on to this record)

This loss hurts a little bit…but ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Soxman and Friends Preview Super Bowl

By TSB Staff

SOXMAN

Regardless of what the experts have said all season long, statistically you couldn’t ask for a better Super Bowl match-up that has defined the 2008-2009 NFL season.

The Cardinals sport the NFL’s 4th best offense (365.8 total yards per game) and second best quarterback in Kurt Warner, (who averages 292 passing yards per game).

The Steel Curtain defense of Pittsburgh is number one in the NFL (237.2 total yards per game), 1st against the pass (165.9 yards per game), and 2nd against the rush (76.9 yards per game).

Most experts are picking the Steelers to win based on their dominating season and Super Bowl experience.  Conventional wisdom would agree.  However, when has Soxman done anything conventional?  The very nature of a baseball super hero commenting on football alone could draw a challenge flag from many a fan of the gridiron.

Footlocker.com

Alas, I challenge you to think of the intangibles, and as I have no monetary interest in this game whatsoever, to pick with your heart.

Your Super Bowl 43 Champions will be: The Arizona Cardinals.

Intangibles:

The Arizona Cardinals used to be the Chicago Cardinals and play in Old Comiskey Park.  Have to support a Chicago alum!

While the Cardinals running game was dead last in the NFL during the regular season, Edgerrin James seems to have found the fountain of youth or at least the fountain of pending free agency to emerge as the number one rusher in the post season.

Soxman loves the underdog.  Ask Paul M. Banks about last year’s Super Bowl.
Is this not the year of Change?  Yes We Can!

The “X” factors to the Cardinals victory will be the establishment of a running threat.  Edge and Hightower don’t have to dominate, they just have to open up the Steel Curtain slightly to the pass.  If this happens Pittsburgh will not be able to contain what is, in my opinion, the best trifecta of receivers in the NFL in Fitzgerald, Boldin, and Breaston.  Boldin’s hamstring and mental stability after his play-off meltdown will also be key.
So why many may be saying “Who cares” when commenting on this year’s Super Bowl, I believe making the statement that: this year’s big game is going to the birds is actually a good thing.  Go Cards!

PAUL M. BANKS

First off, if still you’re looking for something to do for the big game, head to Stardust in Downers Grove where I’ll be MCing the hottest Super Bowl party in Chicagoland. GET YOUR TICKETS HERE!

Although this is far from being the most interesting Super Bowl in recent years, it does present a captivating contrast in franchise histories. The Pittsburgh Steelers have 5 Super Bowl wins, tied for most all-time with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. The Arizona (previously the Phoenix, St. Louis and Chicago) Cardinals are not really here at all, right? Seriously! Since the L.A. Clippers of the NFL are here, I might as well pick the 7 point underdog: because absolutely nothing that’s occurred this NFL season has been predictable or made any sense.

Footlocker.com

Also, the Cards hold a trump in place-kicker Neil Rackers, whose spikes are already in Canton due to the game in which he kicked three 50 yard field goals. He was my graduating class at the University of Illinois and lived in my apartment complex senior year. There he was known as “the totally boss kicker who splits the uprights on kickoffs and sprints downfield to touch the goal line on all touchbacks” and/or “the crazy kid with dyed hair.” I often joke about how Neil Street in Champaign is named after Rackers. At the conclusion of this game…it honestly will be.

Still don’t think the Cardinals will win? They have Jesus H. Christ on their side via Kurrt Warner…and after driving the wicked money changers from the temple, protecting Warner’s blind side blitz should be a piece of cake.

MELISSA S. WOLLERING

Picks Cardinals Over Steelers – By 6

Little girls like Cinderella and grow up rooting for Cinderella teams to win Superbowls. Watch the Cardinals’ offense outshine the Steelers’ defense just a wee’ bit. I predict back-and-forth TDs until the Cards are forced to fight for the yardage needed to get within field goal range.  That’s when Rackers makes the two they’ll win by- both in the mid-40’s.

Either way, Terrible Towels are made by the mentally challenged in Chippewa Falls, WI, so if Pittsburgh wins, hard-working people gain job security and pride. No bring-you-down moment there!

DAVID PALMER

There is one simple reason that I am picking Arizona to win Super Bowl XLIII; I trust Kurt Warner.  He’s the kind of guy you can tell your cash card PIN # to if he took you to a drive-up ATM.  I trust that he’s said all the right things to his teammates.  I trust that he has read the appropriate amount of bible passages, and he is really pushing the whole underdog thing.  Never underestimate a team with nothing to lose and a high-powered offense- especially with two coaches that were recently on the other team.  Plus, I’m getting seriously close to man-crush status with Larry Fitzgerald.

Footlocker.com

The Stock Report

By David K.

A weekly update of whose NBA Draft stock is rising and falling.

BUY:

Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke, Jr, 6-4

Henderson arrived at Duke with fairly high expectations coming out of high school. In his first two years with the Blue Devils, Henderson never fully lived up to his potential and was known more as the guy who bloodied Tyler Hansborough than an NBA prospect. Finally, over the past few weeks we have seen Henderson show us why he has lottery potential. He is averaging 21 points over his last five games while shooting 67% from the field, 77% from downtown. I still don’t think he will declare after this season, unless of course Duke wins a national title, but if he did, Henderson would be a mid-first round pick.

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Craig Brackins, PF, Iowa State, So, 6-10

I am guessing that 95% of you have never heard of this guy. Well, listen up. Brackins blew up against Kansas going for 42 points and 14 rebounds. He already has games of 32/16, 28/17, and 38/14 this season. Brackins is second in the Big 12 in points behind some guy named Blake Griffin, is athletic for his size, and has decent range on his shot. Because he plays for a crappy team like the Cyclones, he could be tempted to turn pro after this season and would likely be a mid-first round talent.

Jodie Meeks, SG, Kentucky, Jr, 6-4

When you score 54 points in a single game, people are going to take notice. Meeks has come out of nowhere this season and turned into one of the elite scorers in the nation, averaging almost 26 ppg. He’s shooting 45% from three, 91% from the charity stripe. In an offensive-minded league like the NBA, there is always the need for a pure scorer who can create his own shot, which is exactly what Meeks does. He is probably a borderline first round pick if he declares though, and would be better suited heading back to UK.

SELL:

Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina, Jr, 5-11

Lawson is still having a very nice season for the Heels. However, he was absolutely exposed by Jeff Teague in their loss to Wake Forest. The taller Teague went off for 34 points as Lawson had no answer to stop him. Lawson is still a first round pick, but is quickly falling down the point guard heavy rankings behind the likes of Teague, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Patrick Mills, Darren Collison, and possibly Eric Maynor and Johnny Flynn. That’s not counting Ricky Rubio if he decides to come to the “association.” (Totally ripped that off from Jim Rome) Lawson may actually be better off staying at UNC for his senior season so he could be eligible for the 2010 Draft which looks to be lacking in point guard prospects.

A.J. Abrams, G, Texas, Sr, 5-11

Abrams has had a real tough go of it lately- being held below double digits in five of his last nine games. He is in a major shooting slump partially because defenses are keying in on him and making it nearly impossible for him to get a good look at the basket. That does not bold well for a 5-11 (more like 5-9) two-guard in the NBA. Abrams will eventually snap out of his shooting funk and still could be a second round pick. He has to prove he can play the point though if he wants to catch on in the pros.

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Ronald Steele, PG, Alabama, Sr, 6-1

Early in his collegiate career, Steele was considered a first round prospect, but injuries have de-railed his once promising career. Nagging knee problems forced Steele to sit out last season, then last week Steele announced he would leave the ‘Bama program because of plantar fascitis. Other reports say that Steele left the Crimson Tide because he no longer wanted to play for head coach Mark Gottfried, who was pretty much forced out of his job on Monday. Whatever the situation really is, any chance Steele had of playing in the NBA appears to be no more.

Super Bowl Party at Stardust

Inaugural Blackhawks Exchange

An Offseason of Randomness

What’s Brewing in ’09: Milwaukee’s Bullpen & Prospects

By Melissa S. Wollering

Is it just me or are you as baffled as I to see the Brewers now have 39 players on their 40-man roster?  It sure doesn’t feel like we’ve made that much progress in the off-season.

We’ve previously discussed the starting rotation situation in length. This month, Brian Anderson weighed in on whether the Crew needs another starter in his blog. Either way, Yovani Gallardo may step into the top spot in the rotation. Meantime, here’s a preview of what the Brewers’ bullpen may look like come spring

Closer: RHP Trevor Hoffman      RHP Carlos Villanueva       RHP David Riske
RHP Jorge Julio                        RHP Todd Coffey             LHP Mitch Stetter
RHP Eduardo Morlan (Rule 5 Pick)

Don’t count out Tim Dillard, Mark DiFelice, R.J. Swindle or Luis Pena.  They’re still in the running.

If you’ve seen the latest edition of Baseball in America , then you know some of the Brewers’ prospects are getting as much attention as the American Idol bikini girl; namely their cover boy Alcides Escobar. Tom Hardricourt is behind the Top 10 Prospects list each year for BA and he’s listing SS Escobar, 3B Mat Gamel and C Brett Lawrie as his top three within the Brewers organization.

Canadian prep player Lawrie was the Crew’s first-round pick in ’08.  He insisted on converting to that position full-time. The last time the Crew nurtured a catcher that made it to the big leagues may have been Mike Matheny…AGES ago.

Personally, I’ll be on the edge of my seat for another year until RHP Jeremy Jeffress is ready (at the earliest). He’s approached the 100 mph mark, but is nowhere near ready for this season.

Someone who may not have to wait that long is OF Lorenzo Cain, 22.  “The Toastman” didn’t start playing baseball until high school, but by age 20 he had won the short-season Arizona League batting crown. The reason “Lo-Cain” has got a shot at the bigs this season: in ‘08 he combined for 11 homers, 61 RBIs and 25 steals in the minors.


In the “Arbitration Update,” RHP Seth McClung avoids it by signing for more than $1.6M. Prince Fielder is King after snagging a two-year $18M deal. It’s no surprise Agent Satan ‘figure-dropped’ Ryan Howard’s $10 million from last winter (this year Howard filed for $18M for one year).

For anyone who’s counting, $18 million buys you approximately 29,032,258 veggie burgers. All 5’11’’ and 270 pounds of Fielder would also equal out to $253,521 per inch or $66,667 per pound. Really, he’s as tall as Michelle Obama and only 270?  Which scale were you using?

Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks are still working on coming to terms with Bernie Brewer.  Speaking of, you ever notice Bernie could be anyone one of the following men: Phil Garner, Robin Yount or Doug Melvin?  Rollie Fingers says mustaches are the new black.

The Texas Rangers and New York Mets are still eying free agent Ben Sheets. Signing with either would give the Brewers another second-round pick in June. I wager this with Sheets’ future team now: the man will suffer a hangnail, sore elbow, groin pull, ear infection and come down with the stomach flu before he obtains five wins for you next season.  He’ll be on the DL by the All-Star break. But if you want him, take him.  Read NY Daily News John Harper’s case for signing him.

Meanwhile, Doug Melvin may still have a go of it with Braden Looper, according to Ken Rosenthal.
Craig Counsell is back However, word is wiener-whacker Randall Simon did not impress Melvin at last week’s open tryout. Sausages everywhere are rejoicing.

Former Brewer Eric Gagne may be able to choke on a Twinkie this season. Star Tribune’s La Velle E. Neal III says the Twins would use him in a setup role. Texas has also been mentioned in association with Gag Me.

This week in “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” Rich Harden’s shoulder joint tear is making Ben Sheets’ bill of health look clean. The Baby Bears also traded OF Felix Pie to B-more for pitchers Garrett Olson and Henry Williamson, probably giving up too soon and, in my opinion, getting a less-than-acceptable return for him. The Cubs also inked So Taguchi to a minor-league deal.  He’s 39, over the hill and TERRIBLE at baseball.  I recommend he take up ping pong, chess or underwater basket weaving.

And finally, in “Just a Bit Outside,” farewell to Brewers’ announcer Jim Powell. Since 1996, he’s been bringing Bob Uecker back to the play-by-play at hand and providing much needed Usinger Sausage back-and-forth banter. Powell will announce for the Atlanta Braves who are also trying to bring back former Brewer Don Sutton. This is where I shamelessly plug his wonderful son Darren Sutton, whom I had the pleasure of tabulating stats for in the FSN booth for from 2000-2003.

Also, I sweat our comrades at Right Field Bleachers who outlined the history behind the trade of former Brewer Richie Sexson in flow chart magnificence.  Do not miss this one:

College Hoops 101

By: David K.

Welcome to a weekly article at thesportsbank.net where I will give you the 101 on what has happened in the week of college basketball and what is to come in the days ahead.

Rewind

-Georgetown is falling apart.  The Hoyas were waxed by West Virginia who straight up out-worked G-Town and then got upset at Seton Hall in a game in which four of their starters combined to shoot 7-35 from the floor.  JT3’s team has now lost three in a row and is fading fast in the rugged Big East.

-Wake Forest became the last D-1 to suffer a loss when they were stunned at home by Virginia Tech.  The ACC needs to be in consideration with the Big East and Big Ten as the toughest conference in the nation.

-Wisconsin has now lost four conference games in a row for the first time under Bo Ryan.  Bo usually gets the most out of his Badgers, but that is certainly not the case this season.  Their lack of a go-to scorer has really hurt them as they appear to be NIT-bound.

-Time to start taking Butler seriously.  They beat the second and third place teams in the Horizon league fairly easily this week and are now 18-1 with their only loss coming by three points at Ohio State.  Brad Stevens has to be one of the best young coaches in the country and will probably be a hot name for a lot of big conference jobs this off-season.

-Oregon State, who didn’t win a single Pac-10 game last season and is coached by Barack Obama’s brother-in-law Craig Robinson, won back-to-back games at Cal and Stanford in the same week as Obama’s

inauguration.  Coincidence?  Probably not.

-D-Bag of the week goes to Houston’s Aubrey Coleman:



My AP Top Ten (if I actually voted in the poll)

1. Duke (18-1)
2. Pitt (18-1)
3. UConn (18-1)
4. Oklahoma (18-1)
5. Wake Forest (16-1)
6. North Carolina (17-2)
7. Louisville (15-3)
8. Marquette (17-2)
9. Arizona State (16-3)
10. Michigan State (16-3)

Nipping on their heels:
Xavier (16-2)
Clemson (16-2)
Butler (18-1)

Fast Forward

-Marquette at Notre Dame (Monday, 6:00, ESPN) and Georgetown at Marquette (Saturday, 1:00)

Marquette is 6-0 in Big East play beating up on the teams that they should win against… although that has been a problem in years past.  We will find out this week just how good the Golden Eagles are.

-Duke at Wake Forest (Wednesday, 6:00, ESPN)

Duke is coming off a 41-point thumping of Maryland.  They are undoubtedly the number one team in the country right now and will have a huge road test when they visit Wake.  Expect a lot of offense in this one.

-St. Mary’s at Gonzaga (Thursday, 11:00 ESPN2)

Both teams are unbeaten in the West Coast Conference.  St. Mary’s Patty Mills is one of the top point guards in the country.  The Zags have won six straight after dropping four of five in late December.

-LSU at Tennessee (Wednesday) and Florida at Tennessee (Saturday, 8:00, ESPN)

All three of these teams have just one loss in the very weak SEC.  The Vols have struggled, losing five games outside of conference play, and need these wins come seeding time for the NCAA Tourney.

The Drive to 225

To update my goal of watching 225 college basketball games this season…

Games watched through 1/25:  141

Games watched this past week: 15

Arizona at USC
Syracuse at Pitt
Texas A&M at Kansas
Ohio State at Illinois
Arizona State at Arizona
Villanova at UConn
Wisconsin at Iowa
West Virginia at Georgetown
DePaul at Marquette
Wisconsin at Illinois
Memphis at Tennessee
UConn at Notre Dame
Xavier at LSU
Houston at Arizona
Louisville at Syracuse

Brian Campbell Talks About All-Star Game & Break

By Paul M. Banks

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell was the leading vote-getter among Western Conference blue-liners for the NHL All-Star game in Montreal. This will be his third all-star appearance, in 2007 he was the leading vote getter among Eastern Conference defensemen or “defencemen” as they would say in his native Strathroy, Ontario.

In 07-08 Brian led the league in games played as one of only two players to appear in 83 games, or one more than a team’s full schedule, as based on his trade to San Jose (the other being Jeff Halpern. On Canada Day, Campbell signed an 8 year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks for roughly 7.1 million dollars a year. Fox Chicago reported that Campbell chose to sign with the Blackhawks despite allegedly receiving better contract offers from other organizations.

After the final game of the first half of the season, “Soupy” spoke openly about All-Star experiences and his thoughts on the state of his current team

On partaking in the NHL All-Star Game experience…

“It’s exciting I played in the last two, and they were in Atlanta and Dallas, and they’re not the biggest hockey hotbeds…so Montreal is really something that I’m looking forward to. It’s always fun to spend with your parents, and my brother and sister-in-law are coming down, so it’ll be fun to enjoy that spend some time with four teammates as well and I’m going to try and take home that car”

What it means to get his family involved in the All-Star fanfare…

“For me when your Mom and Dad sacrifice everything in the world for you to get myself, and my two brothers, and for them to go in and enjoy it and to see the smiles on their faces, it’s great. I know the NHL has a cooking class, my mom’s so excited about that. She loves those sort of things, so they can enjoy a weekend like that and obviously for the work they’ve done and obviously they are proud of myself for my accomplishments.”

On becoming a regular fan of the hockey, not just a player during the All-Star game…

“It’s fun to go with guys from your team and get autographs from other players, and something special to look back upon later in life and obviously we’re starting and we owe a lot of that to our fans who’ve been great all year long.”

Discussing his habit of collecting memorabilia from other All-Stars…

“I’ve gotten jerseys signed by everybody. I’d like to get the team stuff signed, I think it’ll be fun to play with Scott Niedermayer I need to get something from him signed I’ve looked up to him a lot, you try to collect things, I’ve got a stick already signed by Pat Kane and Jonathan, and myself, so you know that’s something that’ll be going up on the wall back home or here in Chicago.”

Giving a possible reason as to why the Hawks are now in this current funk…

“I think we’re working hard, were just not working hard and smart at the same time. I think we’re not in the right lanes sometimes or out of position or maybe we’re working too hard- you got to play it with your head too. You can’t just go out there and run around.”

Opining about the big 8 game road trip coming up and the psychology surrounding the prospect of the facing the next few weeks with little or no home games…

“You look at the schedule, you study it, you know the advantage, obviously it’s to your advantage to be playing at home, especially before you go on a long road trip and we have to be better and accountable for each other, we’re professionals here.”