Yankees star Curtis Granderson building baseball field for his alma mater

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University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) alum and current New York Yankee centerfielder (he also spent some time with the Detroit Tigers) Curtis Granderson has pledged the funding for a new multi-million dollar baseball stadium on the campus of UIC.  The facility will be home for Flames Baseball, but more importantly, is intended to serve area youth and the Chicago community.  Partnerships with Major League Baseball (MLB), Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and various youth organizations will provide access to the aptly named “Curtis Granderson Stadium” for a multitude of events.

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Twins and White Sox Have a Lot in Common

 

American League fans in Chicago and Minneapolis have experienced tremendous disappointment so far this season. The lackluster play of their clubs has had many sitting on their hands at US Cellular and Target Fields. There are actually tremendous parallels between the two situations. It starts with a list of three disappointing players on each roster.

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Chicago White Sox News and Notes

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By Soxman

Yes Chicago baseball fans, I’m back from a long winter’s nap,
To talk Sox rumors, to dispel some of the flap.
Who will our teams trade, and who might they acquire?
Will we be buyers, or sellers by fire.
So grab your Sox Snuggie and drink some egg nog,
Soxman is here with an overdue blog.

The Bears stink.  The Bulls and Hawks?  Well that’s Paul M. Banks’ department.  Notice I didn’t even mention the Cubs. The most exciting news in Chicago sports the last couple of weeks has actually been the Chicago Fire, who lost for the third time after being one win away from the MLS cup on Saturday.  So after getting over my disappointment that the New York Monopoly (Yankees) bought, errr ah won another World Series, I can’t help but start paying closer attention to how our White Sox will look in 2010.

So without haste lets give a summary to date.soxmanbatboyhottie

Paul Konerko for Adrian Gonzales

The hottest rumor as of late is a three way trade where the White Sox send team captain Paul Konerko to the Angels, the Padres send Adrian Gonzalez to the Sox, and the Padres get a ton of prospects from both teams in return. While Konerko has full no-trade rights, he has indicated in the past he would accept a trade to Arizona or the Angels.

The gray area here is what prospects would also move in the deal.  I would think that the Angels would be offering the most as they are really giving nothing up in the deal. However critics are arguing that their assumption of Konerko’s $12 million salary would put the burden on the Sox.  The rumors have said the Sox would send cash to the Angels in the deal as well.

I have heard crazy speak of the Sox top three prospects- Jordan Danks, Daniel Hudson, and Tyler Flowers going to the Padres in the deal.

After we drank the “going young” Kool Aid from Kenny Williams last year, this would be a huge mistake. Kenny should hold his ground here.  The Angels have coveted Konerko since 2005.  At worst, if the Angels took on Konerko’s salary, the Sox would send one prospect to the Angels 2 or more in the deal.

Gonzales is a gold-glove caliber first baseman who has hit 130 home runs and driven in 400 runs the past four years.  He also hits the ball to all fields.  He would be under the Sox control for two years.

Free Agents Chone Figgins and Nick Johnson

Nothing brewing here at all despite both players being a good fit for the Sox in both the OBP and speed departments, not to mention Figgins is a switch hitter and Johnson hits lefty.

While Figgins appears set to command top dollar and most likely will either return to the Angels or sign with the Yankees, Mets or Phillies, Johnson does not have an active list of suitors at the moment.

Johnson has a career on-base percentage of .402 and is showing no signs of decline after posting a .426 OPB in 2009.  He could be a cheap source of run production.

After trading Chris Getz and all but promising Scott Podsednik will not return in 2010, the Sox need more speed.  Lets not forget that Kenny!

Curtis Granderson

The Chicago native, who hit 30 HRs last season with the Tigers is rumored to be on the trading block and is also a left-handed hitter.  However, the chances of the Tigers trading him to a central division rival are somewhere between slim and none. The Cubs are also rumored to be in hot pursuit if they can dump Milton Bradley.

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Rookie of the Year Snub?

For those of you who believe Gordon Beckham was snubbed, think again.  He had a great rookie campaign, hitting .270, 14 HR, and 63 RBIs in just 378 ABs.  But he tailed off towards the end of the season, hitting just .221 over the last 21 games.

Oakland closer Andrew Bailey clearly deserved the honors as he was consistent all season long, breaking camp with the team.  Posting a 6-3 record with a 1.84 ERA, a miniscule 0.88 WHIP, 26 Saves, and 91 Ks in 83 innings was just sick. As a matter of fact, his wins and saves combined indicate that he played a key role in 43% of the team’s 75 victories on the year.

As avid sportsbank readers might know, he has had my vote since July.

Rookie Watch: Jordan Danks

So far in the Arizona fall league, Danks is the Sox farmhand with the greatest chance of starting 2009 on the active roster perhaps starting in RF. Danks is tearing up the fall league sporting a .329 average with two home runs and 17 RBIs through 21 games according to MLB.com.  Soxman’s favorite statistic is that his on-base percentage is a sweet .457.

His glove was major league ready last year according to many scouts and now his bat may be close.  As the Sox currently have a vacancy in RF, the job could be his to lose.

The Mark Teahen Trade

Before spring training began on the 2009 season, Kenny Williams was asked why he didn’t grab a marquee free agent second baseman like Orlando Hudson.  His answer was that he was building a young core of more athletic, quicker players who have earned their chance as a starter.  Chris Getz was specifically mentioned.  Battling several injuries all season long, Getz hit .261 and stole 25 bases in 375 Abs, being caught only twice. As Sox fans, we drank the “younger, faster, from within Kool Aid.”IMG_9701

So we trade a player who was a “core part of our future” and under control for at least five more seasons for a player who will be a free agent in a year.  Better yet?  He’s now our everyday third baseman moving Gordon Beckham to second base, a move Kenny Williams said was not in Beckham’s best development interests as a player. What flavor Kool Aid should we drink now?

Honestly, Teahen has a career slugging percentage over .500 at US Cellular field, which perhaps is alluring to him.  Given a choice between the two, I would have stayed with Getz and spent money on speed elsewhere. I do like Teahen’s versatility however.  He is a capable player at 3B, 2B, 1B, LF and RF. Now Mark, the ball is in your wheelhouse.  Knock it out of the park and prove me wrong.

Mark Buehrle’s OC Chopper

Tune into Orange County Choppers on the Learning Channel on December 19th to see Mark Buehrle’s wife surprise him with his own chopper commemorating his perfect game.  It should be fun to see what they come up with. That’s the closest we will ever come to allowing you to make a pitch in for anyone in the OC, Mark.

That’s the buzz for now Sox fans.

Keep your socks white, your cheers tight, and hopes of more speed in 2010 on the south side in sight.

Detroit Tigers in First Place? Really?

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By Paul M. Banks and Adam Musto

After finishing in last place in the American League Central Division in 2008 with a 74-88 record, the Detroit Tigers (28-23) are back in first place.

The last time the Tigers (picked to finish last by numerous “baseball experts”) won the division was 2006, when the team represented the American League in one of the least watched World Series of all-time. That autumn they fell to an 83-79 St. Louis Cardinals team in a Fall Classic best remembered for reliever Joel Zumaya’s pick off throw to third with no one covering the bag, prompting the always insightful and brilliant Tim McCarver to yell this stunning revelation “that was a bad play by Zumaya right there.”  Yep, Tiny Tim McCarver: always pointing out the intricacies and nuances of the game.

Moving on to today, this Tiger team’s success can completely be attributed to pitching. Detroit leads the AL with a 3.90 ERA, seven shutouts and 8/5 hits per nine innings pitched. They have allowed  the fewest hits (417) and runs (216) in the league. joel-zumaya-curtis-granderson-kelly-kelly1

Justin Verlander (6-2) currently is second in MLB with 90 strikeouts, one behind the San Francisco Giant’s Tim Lincecum. Starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (5-3) boasts a 2.30 ERA and has allowed 59 hits and 25 runs in 74.1 inninngs pitched with 57 strike outs. Starter Fredrick Alfred “Rick” Porcello III (born December 27, 1988) is a rookie sensation for the Detroit Tigers He is considered by many to be one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. The teenager was drafted #27 overall in the first round of the 2007 Draft. Rick Porcello will soon become a household name with his (6-4) record, 3.70 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 53 innings. Closer Fernando Rodney converted all 10 of his save opportunities into successful saves. Four other pitchers have had save opportunities, but have gone just 1-6. The ancient Todd Jones is no longer the Motor City’s closer and that’s a good thing for them; not good news for the rest of the AL Central.

As a team, Detroit ranks in the middle of all the pack in all the major offensive categories. Their lineup is mediocre but does feature a couple of standouts. First baseman Miguel Cabrera and center fielder Curtis Granderson have paced the Tigers offense. Cabrera is second in the AL batting .358 with 38 RBI, and T.F. North (SICA!) and UIC product Curtis Granderson has 13 homeruns, ranking sixth in the AL. Cabrera has also recorded 67 doubles with a .578 slugging percentage.
Detroit is 0-2 so far in June with consecutive losses to the Boston Red Sox and 4-6 over their last 10. Upcoming is a three game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Following that is five critical games against division rivals: the Chicago White Sox, including a double header on Monday, and the Minnesota Twins, who are both 3.5 games behind Detroit for first place in the division. O far Detroit is the only team in the Central that doesn’t look to be mediocre or worse.  Just two years ago, the AL Central was the toughest and deepest division in baseball, where 90 wins still left you home in October.

This year, it’s the weakest: and 84 wins might just grant you the title. Look for Minnesota and Chicago to be the Tigers main competitors down the stretch for the AL Central Division “crown” in ’09.