Sunday, November 19, 2017

Five Winter Classic Possibilities Better Than Blackhawks-Bruins at Notre Dame (And Pens-Flyers Announced About An Hour After I Finished This)

                Announced yesterday, the Blackhawks will be back to the Winter Classic as hosts at Notre Dame next year, the exciting news met by half-hearted likes on Twitter after thinking about it by the Chicago faithful. It’s an odd place for me as someone who watched the 2009 Winter Classic thinking “something big is about to happen with this team”, but who also watched the third period collapse at Busch Stadium thinking “why do we keep getting booked for these”.  Dropping the puck under Good Goal Jesus makes more sense than the others: we’ve hosted training camp days on campus, it’s one of the more famous college football stadiums anywhere, and there’s enough overlap between Blackhawks fans and Notre Dame alumni/people who pretend they are to make it a good money day for the NHL. I’m also one of those fans who’s grown to love watching the league as much as his team, and it’s hard to ignore the matchups that got passed up on in favor of “hey we’re both original six and that 2013 Finals was pretty fun, we’re a rivalry now” Blackhawks-Bruins.

                So, half as an NHL dreamer, and half as a somewhat self-apologetic Blackhawks fan, here are five Winter Classics that make more sense than next year at Notre Dame:

1.       Penguins vs. Blue Jackets – Ohio Stadium, Columbus




The outdoor games have reached a point where more great collegiate stadiums are available than major sports venues (Wrigley and Fenway in the first three years is hard to beat), making Notre Dame Stadium a logical next best choice.  2014 at Michigan was the picture perfect Classic the NHL had dreamed of when starting this event, and has yet to be topped in my opinion from an all-experience perspective (real outdoor hockey games don’t have glare delays). The good people at r/hockey got to this one first, and it’d make for a great one: for how much the 2009 Winter Classic had an impact on exposure to the Blackhawks, the national coverage given to teams that might not otherwise get it is (or was, at least) a huge part of what the game is about.  After getting into the playoffs behind the President’s Trophy winning Capitals and the defending and future Cup champion Penguins, the Blue Jackets have quite a bit of future potential and deserve some big exposure. Having never participated in an outdoor game before, it’s about time, and the Penguins at or around their prime seems like the right matchup for this venue.

Why it works: The Penguins are at their height of relevancy, and seem to have struck the right amount of being in outdoor games without getting tired of them. They’ve been in two stadium series since, but their last Classic was the one they hosted and lost in 2011. Penguins have the consistent national exposure, but for good reason: with two Cups and a stacked roster, this is a good iron to strike while hot. Columbus, as said before, are due for some primetime coverage, and being able to host the biggest NHL annual event could do wonders for a fanbase bound to be a really great hockey destination. Dot the I with a cannonball and drop the puck.

Why it might not: Before filling up 100,000+ seat Ohio Stadium, filling up 18,500 seat Nationwide consistently would be the next best step for the Blue Jackets. Columbus is 2nd in the Metro and 25th in the league in attendance- likely for a number of reasons, but logistically it would be tough to justify the off chance of a venue change making for a quadrupling in attendance numbers. I personally think we’ll see a spike in Columbus attendance with another playoff berth, especially if it has a series win, but for now the attendance and lack of household names is holding them back. For Pittsburgh, it’s based on this current core still holding up their end of the starpower bargain after playing the maximum two seasons in a row. Even if past their prime, I’d still watch this current team in an outdoor game, but I’m not the one dropping hundreds of dollars on tickets and driving in from Pittsburgh. If you want a mix of safe bet and risk for a Classic, though, this might be the league’s best option.

Why It Might Not II: Because Pens-Flyers are booked for a Philly Stadium Series next year and I thought the NHL was just unoriginal with the Blackhawks and WE JUST SAW THIS BETTMAN BE ONE OF MY TWELVE READERS AND LEARN A THING OR TWO. 

2.       Maple Leafs vs. Oilers – Rogers Centre, Toronto




The biggest issue with a Blackhawks-Bruins Winter Classic is not only the same old teams, but almost certainly the same old players: Toews, Chara, Kane, and others are special players in a special game, but is a moment in a glorified regular season game going to be as cool as anything else they’ve done in their great careers? The gameday sweaters will be well done, but would either do anything for either fanbase besides get worn when the other three most favorites are dirty? This “rivalry” peaked with the 2013 Finals, and the players to participate have been through it all already- there’s just not much here but the change in scenery that we haven’t seen already.
Players like McDavid, Matthews, Drasaitl? They’ve barely seen the time of day in the States despite being the bonafied next generation of NHL superstars. We only get this matchup twice a year, and before the word’s out in the land of the free on these guys, they need to play each other in a really, really big room. Both their football stadiums have been used already for outdoor games, so I’ll allow a roof for this one: turn the AC way up in Rogers and put ice on that diamond.

Why it works: If McDavid vs. Matthews doesn’t make you excited from a casual hockey fan perspective, that’s exactly why we need this game to happen. These teams surprisingly haven’t met in a stadium game yet despite the Canadian Round Robin that is the annual Heritage Classic. It’s also the opposite of Hawks-Bruins from a “where we’re at as a team” perspective: these teams have yet to hit their stride but will be terrifying when they do. Before this is a Stanley Cup Finals matchup, it should be a Winter Classic matchup.

Why it might not: The Winter Classic has long set its precedent as a “grow the game in the States” event: only two have ever featured a Canadian team, and we’ve never had a Canada vs. Canada matchup. The NHL since contradicts itself from this perspective: Boston and Chicago have had no trouble moving tickets and selling sweaters for years now, why try to grow their markets? And who outside their market is interested in this game? The all Canada matchups are reserved for the Heritage Classic, which is another reason why this probably wouldn't be a Winter Classic: I’d hedge my bets on this matchup being that event next year. For the venue itself, I personally think it would be a great place for a hockey game (after THE seventh inning, any remotely big event looks awesome there), but it’s hard to justify it as a destination event when it’s a ten minute walk from the home team’s usual venue. Take away the tailgate scene unless the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not next door allows parking in the exhibits, and it loses a lot of its luster of what makes the Winter Classic special. Still, I’d settle for a hot dog and overpriced Labatt Blues inside the stadium if it meant seeing McDavid-Matthews.

3.       Predators vs. Blues – Neyland Stadium, Knoxville




Let’s start with the obvious for where the game’s at: if the NHL wants to continue this expansion and do it right, it needs a success story like the Nashville Predators to last more than one season.  These aren’t the same Cats I saw at Bridgestone years back in a section full of red sweaters: they’re peak Smashville, and I’ve already accepted the next five seasons of 2-1 games against them.  Shell-shocked as I still am from getting swept at their hands last year, their run was good for the league last year and likely won’t be the last. Add the Blues, an always fun to watch team and our partners in crime for flooding Broadway on road trips, and you have a fresh take on a slowly becoming stale event.

Why it works: A little more well known than Vandy and little better logistically than Nashville Superspeedway, Neyland has the capacity and stadium atmosphere that would hang with ‘em for any prior Winter Classic (at par with Notre Dame, at least).  Hard not to get excited about an SEC gameday for a hockey game, as odd a match as that sounds, and if done well it exposes the game to an area of the country that hasn’t had much over the years (something something “ran the Thrashers out of town”, I know). There’s enough starpower in the matchup with Tarasenko, Subban, Rinne, it’d be Nashville’s outdoor debut, it’s a unique venue- this one would have just about everything going for it.

Why it might not: Tough to keep ice cold at 50 degrees. If Dodger Stadium can pull it off, I’m sure the NHL can work its magic in Knoxville, but for an event that’s had mixed reviews on ice quality in the past, this wouldn’t exactly be December in Alberta easy to manage.  The timing of the Classic is also a little inconvenient for the demographic they’d be selling tickets to: if it stuck to year’s past, the game would take place on the biggest bowl game day of the year in the part of the country where college football has its own religious holidays. Catch Knoxville on a down year for the Vols and another Bama bowl, though, this would be a good one. Not much wrong to find with this Central showdown.

4.       Stars vs. Wild – AT&T Stadium




Relocation rivals, unique teams, Stars outdoor game debut, blah blah blah… I’m all in for this one if someone promises to clear the puck high enough to hit the Jumbotron. Dallas has very good attendance and I’m sure a unique event would garner even more interest. The list of great NFL stadiums to host is starting to run thin already, might as well have a game in the best modern one available.

Why it works: Let’s start with the obvious: UT and the Cotton Bowl are better from the cool venue perspective, but would also mean a long road trip in a hockey neutral state that fans of puck and stuck go to get away from the “ice can stay cold outside” parts of the world. Having the Wild play a huge game against the North Stars Senior also continues the NHL’s forever long apology for moving them in the first place. Consider a Winter Classic almost payback.

Why it might not: And probably will not. Dallas is quite the hike from the state of hockey, and the big and bright at night's probably wouldn’t be able to fill Jerryworld all by themselves. It’s the perfect matchup for Wild fans for the biggest stage, but one they’re very unlikely to make the trip for.  Would really have to be a “once in a lifetime” kind of trip, and after a long stretch of up and down years for both teams, it’d be tough to justify costwise as both teams stand currently.  Lastly, it’s Cowboys country through and through, and with the every year is THE year mentality of the fanbase, I can’t imagine Jerry giving the ok on putting an ice surface over the field at the start of what might be a month that playoff games take place. This is more likely a “four years from now if everything goes right” Winter Classic.

5.       Capitals vs. Bruins – Camden Yards




Not many “classic ballparks” left to host, making this one the perfect storm of everything. Easily accessible from Boston, in the backyard of DC, and in a city that has had minor league hockey before and would likely have enough interest to check it out. These teams have also played in Baltimore during the preseason before. (During which crabs were thrown on the ice- eh, we've all been freshmen.) Baseball stadiums seem to be the go to, and this one makes too much sense from that perspective.

Why it works: I know, I know, none of the 1800 words about the Bruins in a Classic so far have been positive, but if Red Sox fans will Amtrak for a weekend series against the Orioles, they’ll absolutely come out for outdoor hockey. Logistically it makes the most sense (Devils and Flyers were backups in the visitor slot). Caps, meanwhile, have shown that they come to play for these outdoor games. And again, the list of great MLB parks that haven’t hosted is wearing thin: Baltimore and San Francisco are the only ones that still make sense to me. And considering hockey weather hits the latter in mid-July, Camden seems like the best options.

Why it might not: Can’t make the “same ol’ same ol’" argument about the Blackhawks and Bruins and not make the same with the Capitals: aside from Oshie it’s the same big names from the 2015 Classic. Which is another reason it wouldn’t: this would be four years out of the last time the Capitals hosted. Didn’t stop them “hosting” the game in Annapolis this March, but this one’s likely a few years out if it will happen.


I should end this by, despite being the old man yelling at clouds and dismissing the Blackhawks outdoor games announcement, it is that time to start cherishing these special hockey events we still have left. Right now we’re a core that isn’t getting any younger and a group of prospects still adjusting, and that might not level out in the time we need it to. Our window for being taken seriously by the hockey world might be closing faster than we’d like. So despite it being kind of gimmicky, despite us not playing well in most, and despite me probably saying how much it’s just sort of meh at this point… my New Year’s Day 2019 is kind of already set. Provided my heart rate is rested after the White Sox World Series run that year.

BONUS: IF those two teams must play, here’s how I’d do it…

Bruins: vs. Capitals, at Harvard Stadium

Why it works: Historic, definite home game for Bruins fans, Capitals still good enough for fans to travel for.

Why it might not: 30,000 capacity

            Blackhawks vs. Jets, at Lambeau Field

           Why it works: Probably the last great NFL stadium left to host, Blackhawks fans would sell the place out.


           Why it might not: Packers have playoff games to have the field ready for, should be reserved for Wisconsin’s future NHL team (seriously, NHL, Houston’s being considered and Milwaukee isn’t?)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Playoff Preview

               I owe you guys for basically the month of September, so I figured I’d do a quick pick ‘em for the baseball playoffs. Pretty refreshing group of teams this year- even the staples like the Yankees have a newer, more exciting feel to them- and I’m more excited this year than in years past. Palehose are in a direction where our turn feels soon, and the root canal of a Cubs World Series win is in post-op: this year will be a fun one. (Hell, next year could be too for us if the Twins made the wild card game)

                Division Series

                Cubs - Nationals
                The only home field advantage factor in this series is the one less time Sox fans will have to take the Red Line north on gameday after work. I can’t imagine any opposing stadium being as nerve wracking for the Cubbies as an away game 7 for the last thing in sports to talk about being crossed off. Strasburg or Scherzer is still being decided for game one (I think they’ll go with Stephen), but I like Hendricks for the experience to keep that one competitive. Bats in the same weight class, it comes down to the pitching, and I think the Cubs’ rotation has the firepower for this series.

                Prediction: Cubs in 4


                Dodgers – Diamondbacks/Rockies
                Wild card game has yet to be decided. The Dodgers 104 wins have. Kershaw, Hill, Darvish take care of whoever wins tonight.

                Prediction: Dodgers in 4


                Astros-Red Sox
                REALLY happy to finally see the Astros make it, and you should be too if you’re a White Sox fan. Hoping for the heavyweight fight this series should shake up to be with the bats on both sides- the day games are just that little bit better when the defy time and logic by still going on when work lets out. Bring on the beautiful, four hours slugfests on days Chris Sale isn’t pitching (Hawks take priority but I will DVR that and watch it start to finish like a proud parent).
                Boston will be a sight to behold tomorrow with Game 1, Pats-Bucs, and Bruins opening night all happening at once. I don’t think Chris Sale’s first playoff start can be hyped enough, and I think Boston has the lineup to do away with the Astroturf’s homegrown efficiently

                Prediction: Red Sox in 4


                Indians-Yankees
                It’s odd to question a team as definitively great (see also: played mostly AL Central opponents) as the Indians. They have the make up of the regular season juggernaut, and without coming up tied with the Cubs in the Fall Classic last year, I’d probably feel more confident in axing them here.
                Equally as “I’m not really sure what to think here”, the Yankees are coming in off the shortest rebuild ever and are looking like more of a threat than I’d thought. The Kahnle-Robertson combo will certainly help, but it’s the bats that will have to overachieve for this one. Those Judge and Frazier strikeouts don’t seem as bad when it’s a regular season, but have a danger of adding up fast for five games max. Might be closer than the Tribe would like, but I think they advance

                Prediction: Indians in 5

                Championship Series:

                Dodgers-Cubs
                If you like 13 inning 2-1 games that’ll end at about 1:30 in the morning, boy will this be the series for you. Same teams as last year, different place to start: Wrigley for home field proved huge last year sans a huge night from Kershaw in game 2. As much as I’d like to think the Dodgers are more up for the task this year compared to last, I like the “been there before” pitcher more than the guy who hasn’t.  Cubbies lineup has that little bit more of an edge like the series before, and their rotation is more of a safety net for following bad starts. Cubs make the World Series for the second straight year because why not when it’s the end of days anyway.

                Prediction: Cubs in 6

                Indians-Red Sox
                Yes, a Yankees-Red Sox championship series would be great. The two blatantly best teams in the A.L. duking it out is a nice consolation prize, though.  Two teams in “win now” mode with what should be a good mix of pitching duels and slugfests that’ll likely go the distance.  I’d love to see Houston from a rooting for the underdog standpoint, but this series would be one of the more “must watch” playoff baseball of recent years.
                Both teams pretty much even, I think it comes down to home field advantage. Fenway in October is its own beast for opponents- that being said, Progressive packed with long overdue Indians fans is another Goliath entirely. Regular season fluke or not, if the Indians make it to the clincher this far in I don’t see that opportunity being squandered.  Tribes go 12 rounds to the classic.
                 
                 Prediction: Indians in 7

                World Series
               
                What would modern sports be if Cleveland didn’t meet the same opponent again in the finals. Parity is baseball’s biggest strength (if you’re a fan of just about any team except the one this site’s about, anyway), and I shouldn’t want to see the divisional rival and the noisier neighbor battle it out again. This game is too fun to watch to not want round 2 with these teams, though. Let’s get the Fall Classic back to the Great Lakes.
                The advantage for the Cubs, no matter who they wind up playing, is Maddon having broken up a lot of the monotony of the hangover season in various ways. The advantage for the Indians is, well, we’re a great team and losing last year still sucks. Changing leadoff hitters every day, switching up pitchers, making the surprise move to make the other team second guess themselves- I don’t think it adds up to beating a starving team.
                The Royals won it after losing the year before, why not Indians.  They won 22 in a row, what’s four out of seven, even against the team that knocked you out last year.  Tribe find themselves on the right side of home field advantage this year and finally get one.


                Prediction: Indians in 6

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Resurrection - vs. Angels

                May as well give some insight into why I started this for this year, last month or so (or more) aside. Life certainly didn’t stop for baseball. I’ll make up for that.

                Tadahito Iguchi had his retirement ceremony on Thursday, the ninth straight year with the last game at home scheduled well in advance in the dwindling regular season. Not much pomp and circumstance, no new number taken of the board for good, just a cool video and a first pitch to a standing O.

                He’s known best, of course, for his home run against the Red Sox in the World Series run, a game 13-year-old me watched from behind the upper deck foul pole in left. “This could be the last game”, I remember thinking when trailing: this was still one game down and a long way to go, and I was still the third generation fan of a team that could never close it out for the previous two.

                Then came the error, the clearest, most vivid baseball memory I have. A dribbler to Graffanino, a 99 times out of a 100 grounder. The fans groan, that then all too familiar “every damn time” groan: a loss at home and two more at Fenway flash through everyone’s mind.

                Through his legs. “UUUUUUUggggghhhhhhh…HRRRRRRRRR-AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

                The rest is history. I didn’t watch the home run ball land below me as much as I did the crowd in the bleachers: the hugs, the beer spilling everywhere, the flags waving, the vein-popping shrieks towards the general direction of home plate. We’d pummeled them the game before, but this was the game where it started feeling real: the defending champs were on the brink of getting swept, and the future champs showed everyone they weren’t a quitting team.  The juggernaut moved onward.

                The rest OF history is why the response to me saying I’m on a White Sox is usually “why?”.  The real answer is that my grandpa was an Irish dude that was taught the game of baseball from the pennant winning ’59 squad, and because my mom was the kind of fan that lambasted the TV during Disco Demolition because it meant forfeiting the second game. (She probably thinks I could’ve come up with a better name for this site). It’s not something seen anywhere near as frequently in the city, up year or down year for the Northsiders. Not much coverage, not much sustained success, a stadium usually a barren sea of empty seats- why these guys?

                Games like Thursday are why.

 I’m not gonna do coverage for the Cleveland series- a team coming in with 100 wins and a team out of the playoffs, these games are being played for contractual obligation purposes only. Thursday is the better send off, anyway: scoreless “let’s get this season over with” four innings to start, the Angels move ahead after getting up to speed with Covey. They’d remain ahead for the overwhelming majority of the game: two runs to tie, four outs to do so with.

Why do I like the White Sox? Why do I like the 2017 White Sox, specifically? Why have a whole site devoted to a team that has their heads barely above 100 losses?

The story of the season: never quit. (Coming from someone who had to take a month off the blog, but y’know, it’s the words that count here).

3-2, 2 out, Brantly puts one in the bleachers, one last souvenir for the weekday faithful. A perfect hit-and-run brings in Anderson for the winning run two batters later. The last image of 2017 What’s Our Name Again Field is Anderson to Abreu- a sight we’ll be familiar with. It was a meaningless game at the end of September with no implications on the standings or league whatsoever, but hell if they didn’t steal one last one anyway.

Why the Sox? Because when we’re good, our home runs crack a little louder, go a little farther, hurt the opponent a little harder. Because when we’re good, we scrape, claw, and bowl over anyone for that extra base. Because when we’re good, that’s when the fans come: entire families, multiple generations, tried and true Chicago originals with mustard stains on their Greg Luzinski jersey. And we’re LOUD: the upper deck got moved back when Your Ad Here Park was built, but we’re all still right on top of every batter that comes to the plate, and you’d better be on the home side when you do. And we’ll all be in black, rally towels and Modelos in hand, drowning out Thunderstruck into an absolute battle for the right side of 27 outs. We’re big, bold, eff you Chicago, and you’ll be hearing from us soon.

At least, that’s the hope. Baseball is a fickle mistress, and she’s been away for a while for us Southsiders. But now, the goal feels that little bit closer. That next big Iguchi type at-bat feels a lot less distant. I can almost make out a packed Comiskey, sitting in my actual seat as opposed to wherever I decided, standing next to an actual human being as opposed to the bag of the guy two seats over. I can almost hear a crowd- a CROWD, not people at a baseball game, a full-blown CROWD- deafening the packed house for reasons other than a Noise-O-Meter or a free t-shirt. I can almost feel the games counting for something. I can almost feel the crisp fall air at a baseball game: not the last gasp of winter in April. Not the lake effect on a July night. The nervous, teeth-chattering, sweating under three layers and death-gripping the rally towel for warmth and stress relief… THAT fall weather.

It was a meaningless game at end of September. And we came back and won. And you better believe that if we don’t quit when the game doesn’t count, we sure as hell won’t when it does. 


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Reynaldo Recap

                 Following the rest of this series is a little up in the air for me this weekend, and I’d like to shake things up in the dog days anyway. The most noteworthy part of the series, barring more Moncada heroics or neighborly spats turned benches cleared (good for the soul sometimes), was the White Sox debut of Reynaldo Lopez last night. Has been inevitable for a while now, and he made the most of his first start last night. Deserves a full breakdown.

                Scouting Report:

                Giolito was the headliner initially for the Eaton deal, but Lopez was the one coming in with actual major league experience.  I thought it was a couple starts and relief appearances back in Washington but didn’t realize until this week that he pitched in the NLDS. The fastball is what you notice first, flirting with triple digits on occasion, and the slider complements that very well- 85 with a lot of movement. Throws a good curve and, on the rare occasion, a change-up (we’ll get into that later).
                1st inning:

                Good first impression on the leadoff batter: Merrifield watches a slider go by for a called third. Fastball coming in at 97 mph pretty consistently, and he’s hitting his spots with it for the most part. He really brings the heat next at-bat, getting Cain swinging at 98 on the gun. Lot of scouts have said we’ll probably be getting used to that.

                Dances around Hosmer a little too much and forces the walk. Standing ovation follows- Melky Cabrera returns to the Southside for his first game as a Royal. (A pretty funny moment when we’re all sitting back down and the guy next to me yells “Now strike him out!” with great comedic timing.) Gets him to fly out to shallow left. Hit 99 and 100 in this inning supposedly- guessing that’s the hometown speed gun talking.

                2nd inning:

                The filthiest thing I saw all night came in the first at-bat against Moose: fouls off four fastballs and is down 1-2. Throws another fastball out of the zone (98) and follows it up with a 78 mph curve to get him swinging. Almost unfair, that bait.

                Have said in a previous post about Rodon that young strikeout-oriented pitchers make me a little nervous: the huge upside for them is outs without a ball put in play, the downside is my three sins of strikeout pitchers. The first sin is catching on to the gameplan right away: eventually the Royals start watching a lot of curveballs, which a strikeout pitcher tends to throw for less accuracy. If trying to just get an out (usually a groundout), it has to be in the zone enough for the batter to swing at with enough movement to negate solid contact. A strikeout pitcher will want much more movement with less intent to throw a strike: doesn’t matter if it’s in the zone or in the dirt if the outcome is the batter swinging and missing. Royals catch on and adjust accordingly.

                Lopez walks one and strikes out the next two- slider working early. Four change-ups supposedly thrown to Gordon, which would surprise me.

                The second sin of strikeout pitchers? Pitch count. Five strikeouts, 42 pitches through 2.

                3rd inning:

                Butera lines out on the first pitch, which is the best thing that could’ve happened to Lopez. He needs a quick inning if he’ll make it through six.  The next at-bat doesn’t help: he walks Merrifield, luckily not wasting many pitches in doing so. I’m curious to see how he adjusts his gameplan for a situation where I’d assume he’d look to forcing a double play.  He does no such thing: baits Cain with an off speed then blows him away with a fastball. Gets a first pitch pop up the next at-bat, and he’s out of the inning on ten pitches.

                4th inning:

                The first sin of strikeout pitchers: the hitters adjust accordingly

                The second sin: high pitch counts

                The third sin: you miss your spot, you’re in trouble. Home run trouble.

                It happens to every single strikeout pitcher, most obviously with Rodon and Shields. It was also my one critique of Chris Sale: a lot of lines featuring 10 K’s, 1 home run. The more you dance around batters and the more bait pitches you throw, the more pitches they hit the living snot out of when you miss your spot. Case in point: Moustakas.

                I thought it was a change-up Lopez threw there, apparently it was a hung slider. He wasn’t using it as a bait pitch so much as he did the curveball, but sometimes your slider doesn’t- well, slide. Moonshot to the right field bleachers, lead cut in half.

                The Royals get more aggressive at the plate this time through the order, following the homer with two hits on two pitches. Now I’m really curious to see what he does in a less implied double play situation. The foul out to hold ‘em was probably the highlight of the inning (another good outcome for strikeout pitchers).

                5th inning:

                Great diving catch by Engel saves Lopez the runner on nobody out trouble. Slider still coming in at around 85, but the fastball is losing some of the heat. (More of a fastball pitcher problem than a strikeout pitcher problem, but those overlap more often than not). Not sure if it’s necessarily a result of this, but Cain had a collision with the wall earlier in the game that it looked like his wrist took the brunt of. Lopez, that in mind or me looking to far into it, jams him for the foul out to first. If so that’s a great pitching mindset.

                Tim has trouble with a ground ball and Abreu saves him with a pick. Seemed to catch him off guard, and understood: it was Lopez’s first groundout of the game.

                6th inning:

                Lopez likely done after this. Was likely done before the Moose home run, but that probably sealed the deal (and unfortunately cost him the win). Homer came on a change-up, which going in I’d heard Lopez throws very sparingly. Like, four change-ups a game sparingly. He can get outs on his regular pitches, and it’s rare to be really, really good throwing five different pitches. Eventually we might be forcing the issue on those change-ups.  Gets a groundout and a pop out to close it out.

                Overall there’s a lot of potential here for him. When he’s on he’s filthy: some of those 98’s on the corner and late moving sliders were absolutely unhittable. Six K’s are nice, but the wins are better, and unfortunately only two mistakes were enough to cost him that victory. Have a feeling he’ll have a couple more of those games before this rebuild moves to phase two. So it goes here. 


Pray for the league

Friday, August 11, 2017

Big And Bright - vs. Astros (W 8-5, W 7-1, W 3-2)

                Series like this for Houston must be why college admissions require second semester grades from seniors. For the White Sox, awesome, sweeping from a great team. For the Astros… work week series against a last place team? Not a red flag in the dog days. Doesn’t seem like we saw the best of Houston this homestand.

                Don’t always get to talk about a series win here, though, so let’s dive in. Avi didn’t miss a beat coming back from the DL, putting us on the board right away Tuesday. More small ball follows for three more runs. Safe to admit that Keuchel didn’t have his best stuff- again, weekday game, last place team. ‘Stros tie it up right away before Kevan Smith takes over with a double and a homer respectively. I boil the good from this game down to consistent good starts from Holland, who definitely needed a win after getting cheated out of one last start, and the young guys getting it done, which was a very pleasant theme all series. Bullpen rocky, but that’s old news.

                Wednesday was a clear mission for me to retire the “live by the long ball” rhetoric. Sans the Tim Anderson (thank God) home run, all runs scored on singles or doubles, a great sign of moving the chains in the batting order. Love Beloved Son Moncada’s walks and Delmonico’s hot start, especially the middle of the order. Gonzalez back to his solid self, lasting eight with little difficulty, a tough feat against a team where half the lineup’s around .300. 

                Thursday. The Moncada game. Why I said give it a full month before actual concerns about him. Why the average doesn’t mean much. Why this guy has all the makings of the real deal. Welcome to the show, companero.


                The obvious before last night: dude gets on base. I’ve already brought up his vision at the plate here, but he has a knack for picking his pitches. It’s a great tendency to have compared to prospects who get impatient at the plate and swing at bad pitches, which leads to seeing less pitches, which leads to never really figuring out pitch sequences in major league at bats. Yoan’s seen a lot of pitches so far and seems to be getting the hang of how they’re pitching to him.  He also only has trouble with one pitch, change-ups, which means fouling those off in favor of other pitches. Different story if two or more pitches are a weakness. 

               Taking a 99 mph fast ball to the opposite field bleachers in the bottom of the ninth is a very, very good thing, with winning it on a base hit to boot. He’s here to stay, folks.


Credit Chicago Tribune

                 EDIT: Thanks to u/ChromiumSulfate for reminding me how days of the week work

Monday, August 7, 2017

Tankapalooza- Recap at Red Sox (L 5-9, L 2-3, L 1-4, L 3-6)


"Yuck"- Dennis Eckersley describing rehab starts and the White Sox weekend series. Lopez on Friday most likely if you haven't heard. Besides Nick's first career homer and some solid at bats from Yoan, not much to say besides onwards with the tank.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Kids These Days - vs. Blue Jays ( W 7-6, L 4-8, L 1-5)

              Time for new memos in the home Comiskey clubhouse. 16x20, framed, bold, multiple copies to each infielder…

              Always yield to your outfielder

         ALWAYS YIELD TO YOUR OUTFIELDER

          ALWAYS YIELD TO YOUR OUTFIELDER

          The heart attack symptoms have worn off since Monday, so it won’t be more than a couple days off for Yoan in a one step on the shallow end ladder entrance to the big leagues.  A play like that involving your top prospect will make you question where the nearest defibrillator is, me watching Twitter like a hawk after. The true outcome: rookie Moncada making a rookie mistake, which Willy unfortunately took the brunt of. 

It happens. It also shouldn’t affect the timeline for our other prospects, whatever each one might be.  Aren’t going to become major leaguers playing in a bubble.

And we got a win out of it! I personally don’t care if we lose out, but post-collision, that’s a win I wanted to see. I haven’t brought up Davidson much here given his uncertainty in the 2020 plan- third baseman is the most likely future external hire for Rick given Donaldson and Machado’s upcoming free agency. Write Sox also has a great tweet comparing his stats to Josh Fields of 2007, and it’s a near mirror image. 22 home runs is 22 home runs, well worth a long tryout based on this year. Games like Sunday and Monday also make you forget the strikeouts pretty fast. Put that win on Renteria’s resume- these guys really don’t quit under him.

The next two games were rebuild as scheduled.  Opposing home runs, strikeouts, men left on base (today’s leadoff triple not scoring especially brutal)- all a day in the life at this point. Holland had the quasi-rebound start I was hoping for: way too many strikeouts and men left on to help him out today. Tankers gonna tank, and grab some bench ten times.


Biggest big picture news (unfortunately because of Garcia’s injury) was Delmonico’s call up. Did well for the first two games: clearly some jitters, especially yesterday, but some very solid contact. Ozzie mentioned it in the postgame Monday: it’s good to have prospects come up and struggle against good teams, and this part of Toronto’s rotation followed by a four game set in Boston would be just that.  Not expecting much over the Mendoza with this upcoming small sample size, with Tuesday making me feel a little more optimistic about something in the .260-.270 range. Short fences to right in Fenway if he wants to get some power on that swing, provided Austin Jackson isn’t roaming around center. 


Not pictured: Austin Jackson thinking how much more fun last year was

Monday, July 31, 2017

Staying Central - vs. Indians (L 3-9, L 4-5, W 3-1)

                Two more pitchers now White Sox extended family members now. Friday showed us why.

                It’s tough to gauge pitchers in a purposeful tank season, for no other reason than “why waste a major league caliber arm’s time”.  The somewhat risky (as in “who can make this tank bearable every five days or so”) move to acquire Holland has at this point proven to not be his needed change of pace: yesterday makes double digits in loss column, now three losing affairs away from his career high, from his rookie year.

                Grant it, it’s the stud-loaded Indians roster in front of him and not the consistently best in the west Texas Rangers behind him. He was a .500 pitcher before us, but that’s the benchmark I’d like him to be hovering around. He’ll take the mound against Toronto coming up, which should have enough starpower to feel good about getting outs against and enough “good team in a bad year” vibe to get a quality start against. No run support didn’t help Friday, but six runs in barely over four innings tossed is the story.

                If we had to sum up the season so far (or at least post-Yankees trade), it’d probably be the highlight of Infante drilling Guyer with the bases loaded. What a White Sox way to lose one. Saturday night crowd, great giveaway jerseys everyone’s stoked about, game close until past the point where families have stuck around… then a bases loaded hit by pitch in the top of the ninth. If we’re going full-blown tank and having an Airplane! movie emergency landing of a bullpen, might as well make it entertaining while doing so. The bright spot: great comeback against a great team, with guys who are part of the plan driving those runs in.

                Of that plan, Sunday is why I still think Rodon will be someone that sticks around. Any hesitancy stems from my overall skepticism of young strikeout pitchers: it trends towards overpitching and risky pitches, and a higher pitch count early. The bad for strikeout pitchers has been Rodon’s starts of late: 4 runs in 4 innings despite 11 strikeouts against the Cubs is the biggest example. The good would be Sunday, going toe-to-toe with a no-hitter and making only one mistake on that home run ball. Wins and losses don’t matter anyway, and now’s the time for him to work out any kinks: he’s not the Sox child prodigy anymore, but barring injury and bad habits, I’d expect him in for the long haul.

                Moncada watch: thought he was ok in the cleanup spot. I don’t necessarily see that being where he winds up, but I’ll take doubles and dingers with men on. Once we have our trying to win baseball games roster I imagine he’ll take second in the lineup: that vision at the plate is no joke. For now let’s ride Sensai Saladino out while we have him.

                Lastly, Cowboy Melky, we hardly knew ye. A big bright spot in the lineup when we needed him most. Makes sense for the Royals in their last dance with these champs season. The versatility of him at the plate makes him a pretty easy fit in most rosters, and it’d be interesting to see if he’s the spark they need to make the Tribe sweat a little.

                Our return, meanwhile:

                A.J. Puckett

                Hovering around .500 in high-A. Seems to eat up a decent amount of innings and keep the ball in the park. Not sure where he falls into the 2020 plan at age 22.

                Andre Davis

                Copy + paste “young strikeout pitchers”. Nearly 90 Ks on the year with an ERA above five.
 
                Can never have too many pitching prospects, which is how the trade was made.  A lot of the reactions to the more recent trades has been apathy in regards to the return on them. A fair enough response given the absolutely massive returns on the Sale, Eaton, and Quintana trades. Melky Cabrera also isn’t an Adam Eaton: a proven but aging slugger won’t get the same return as a young, speedy juggernaut with a cannon of an arm. Hahn’s master plan is all but in place, and any recent deal is to swap out players that won’t be part of it. Melky, sadly, was the next one to fall into this category.

                He was probably the most realiable player on an unreliable team his time here. Any vet who stuck with us these past couple years deserves a lot of props. Go make the Central race we're out of a little more interesting, Cowboy.

                

Friday, July 28, 2017

My Kind Of Crosstown, Part II - Chris the Cubs Fan's Take

I'll tear the bandage off quickly... The Sox starters didn't look too bad in the first three innings of their respective starts on Wednesday and Thursday. But, predictably, the Cubs took both games on the South side and won the Crosstown Cup 3-1 in 2017. (A hollow victory...) Ultimately, Shields' pitch count got the better of him in game one at Guaranteed Rate Field and got literally slugged out of the game. (Crazy stat about his six consecutive starts mid-season that totalled a 24+ ERA. Since then he had gone six starts with a 2.12 ERA. Once again- baseball.) Moncada flashed some "future hype" with a strong home run to dead center but the recently reverted reliever-from-starter Mike Montgomery covered the last three innings of a strong start from Jake Arrieta. He's finally beginning to regain some form- and when that happens, ask any team if theycan score more than 2 off him. The young Sox also didn't help themselves with some defensive miscues in the infield. Does Moncada play shortstop? Because 22 errors for Tim Anderson just doesn't seem to be cutting it. I thought Pelfrey would stifle the Cubs a bit more on Thursday. (He had very similar numbers to Jon Lester, his opponent, coming into the matchup on the season aside from wins.) He did well in the first three, but as we've seen that doesn't always mean a good end result. The long ball was once again was prominent for both teams but more prevalent for the Cubbies. In the end, as we've discussed, a pretty predictable series. The Sox beat up on the rebuilding Cubs a few years ago and the Cubs do the same here. Until next year, the Crosstown Cup will live on the North Side.

My Kind of Crosstown, Part II - Disco's Take

                Feel no need to splurge for that McGregor-Mayweather fight anymore- the pitching matchups in our homestand portion were the biggest mismatch of the sports year.

                The Cubs can hit, and we can’t pitch. Some very solid pitching outings from Arrieta and Lester, capped off with the majority of the Cubs lineup getting hits against us.  (Kyle Schwarber, two home runs as the DH. Makes you think.)  A four game set with the defending champs is a tough National League draw after playing the Dodgers less than a week, and it’s been pretty obvious from those two series where both teams are at.

                But hey, first home run for Moncada, right?

                On the GM side, the bullpen’s a Catch-22. If you’re struggling, we let you labor, if you’re decent, we’ll trade you. From where Swarzak started with us, it almost has to feel good to be trade worthy. Curious about the return in Cordell, a 25 year old outfielder hitting .284 in the minors.  Assuming he’s an upcoming roster expansion addition. For Dan Jennings, a first baseman prospect is the prize, one who’s having a down year in average but with decent power and 44 RBIs. Don’t hate the thought of having a back up plan if Abreu’s play at first keeps regressing, but Gillaspie seems to need a little more progress. We’ve got the time for it, anyway.


                Cubbies, meanwhile. So hot right now. Buckle up for this weekend if you’re a Brewers fan. And hope the breeze on 94 cools off hot bats. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Kind Of Crosstown, Part I - Chris the Cubs Fan Talks Sox

Things just don’t happen like you expect them to…

Or do they?

What you would expect is the rebuilding White Sox to lose (badly) in the Crosstown Series to the Cubs, who came into baseball’s second half with a record of 8-1, the best in baseball.  But that didn’t happen.  As my dad always says: “That’s Baseball.” (Clever, right?)

And here I was—with those expectations—flexing my National League rules muscles with Kyle Hendricks giving the Cubs the early lead on Monday with an RBI groundout.  The Sox staff couldn’t possibly know what to do with a bat in their hands?  Nor could their no-name roster handle last year’s ERA leader.  Hendricks didn’t last long and threw a lot of early pitches in his first start back from the DL, unfortunately.

But no matter. The Cubs recently rejuvenated offense would soon begin their mash parade on Miguel Gonzalez.  After all, he would worsen as the game went on—as his ERA has risen from 3.56 in the first three innings of his starts to close to 5.00 in the 4th or later.  Surely the Cubs could handle a placehold starter?  Or they’d just wait to attack the dilapidated Sox bullpen whose best members have been dealt for prospects and a chance to win on a contending team this year.

All the while, the buzz from the crosstown rivalry in the stands on a picture-perfect day at Wrigley Field didn’t inspire or spill onto the field for the home team.  The Cubs simply looked scared or overwhelmed by playing their counterpart from the South side.  Meanwhile, the White Sox—as it seems they typically do against the Cubs—came to play and win.  “Pathetic” was the word I used to describe the Cubs performance on Monday.

Because, after all, there were some things that were not surprising in that game.  As I mentioned, the Sox came to play.  The Cubs left 12. men. on. base.  12.  (Opportunities abound for that young Cubs offense but even last year where so many RISP were overlooked by an abundance of runs, they have had to rely on far fewer chances and an inability to capitalize on quality chances for potential runs this season.)  And Joe Maddon asked for and received his death/loss wish when he called upon BOTH Justin Grimm and Koji Uehara to relieve Hendricks in the 5th and 6th.  Seriously: if you send Uehara out to throw a wobbly splitter over the heart of the plate at 87mph every pitch, you’re gonna have a bad time. 

In the end, give Gonzalez credit.  He pitched very well and took advantage of the fact the Cubs have never seen him.  Swarzak was also able to conquer the butterflies and lock down his first save, even with a patented late-inning “Fake Rally” brewing.  Also- should I start calling Adam Engel (…who?) “New Spanky?”

Tuesday was a little different and a little more “fun”—for many reasons.  Wilson Contreras set the tone with the 3-run homer in the first yet John Lackey did a very John Lackey thing in giving up a 2-run double to his counterpart, Carlos Rodon.  (Quit complaining about the pitcher’s hitting rule—it’s not so bad when that happens, eh?  Although of course I’m biased because the Cubs pitchers have been among the highest home run hitting staffs in baseball over the past 5-10 years.)  When Big John also managed to plunk back-to-back batters in the 5th, once again, the sort of mindless hype given to this series reared its ugly head.  (Seriously: everyone needs to chill out about these games.  The moment shouldn’t be too big for the Cubs to face their “rival” from across town…and I thought the Sox wanted to tank? Just play baseball, people!) Manager Rick Renteria tried to suggest that these wayward fastballs were intentional (and later retaliated.  Don’t you DARE hit our prized new rookie!  There, there, Yoany…)  No Ricky, he didn’t want to purposefully load the bases, even with two outs.  He’s actually just that bad.

(What’s more fun—I can assure you—is seeing Kris Bryant actually argue a third strike call.  I think I even saw him utter a nasty word.  So he is human after all… Although if I was him I’d want to be ejected after shooting a baseball off my tibia… it was still a terrible call, but I digress…)


Still, it turned out more “as we expected” with a 7-2 win in the end for the Cubs.  And that’s ok.  Ever since the mighty schedule people have changed this series to a measly 4 games in a row at the end of July every year, the hype has been diminished if not snuffed out.  With the current state of affairs, the Cubs should win this thing more and the Sox should sort of welcome that (with a “better draft position” at stake, according to another of my Sox fan friends.)  Let the players settle it on the field with both teams trying but not taking this too seriously.  My prediction of a road-team sweep on both sides is unfortunately off the table… but my non-hot take of a split of this series is still at large… That’s things as we expect, right?

My Kind of Crosstown, Part I - Disco talks Cubs

                Aren’t those pitcher at-bats fun, kids?! Nothing I love more when I go to the ol’ ballpark than watching bad man Miguel Gonzalez hitting with runners on! Forget that stain on the game designated hitter, children, it’s that strategy of whether to pinch hit for our starting pitcher in the top of the second inning that’ll save the game! Those bunt attempts, that’s what’ll bring the crowds in!

                Maybe a little bitter considering the runs Carlos Rodon drove in.  I’m writing about the Cubs this series, anyway, but I had to get some American League pride out of the way first thing (I grew up with Frank Thomas, pry the designated hitter option out of my cold, dead hands). Aside from being far and away the better team, being without a designated hitter for the majority of their games denies Kyle Schwarber his inherent birthright of the position he was born to play. Swing away, Hoosier boy, to the moon! No man leaps out of bed at the thought of playing left field!

                The most common take/criticism/complaint/tweet from the end of the world from Northsiders this season has been them struggling compared to last season.  Thus far the Cubs are not on pace for their anticipated 115 wins (prediction taken from various shouts on the Red Line approximately twenty minutes after a 2016 Cubs win). Last year was a juggernaut, jet-fuel, Roadrunner paced adrenaline junkie rampage that would make Hunter S. Thompson blush, and for every pulse-pounding bat out of hell drive to Vegas, there’s the stiff drink taper back at the hotel and anti-drug convention on the Strip.  It’s a season that will never be replicated by anyone, let alone the players currently on the come down right after it.

                For this year’s edition, the sign of a good team is the “next man up” setup. Though more of an addition by subtraction strategy, the rotating door leadoff man (now apparently Zobrist’s spot to lose) has been the most consistent example of this. Putting players like Schwarber and Rizzo put just as much faith in their replacement clean up hitters as it does the big names at the top of the order: they got on base, someone’s still got to drive them in.  Not many other teams have the luxury of affording a bat like Rizzo’s being taken away from an RBI opportunity at least once a game.

                Cubbies have also had their fair share of blowout losses (can’t seem to recall us having a game scheduled for the day before the All-Star break either, weird), but they’re very much a one at-bat away team still. Part Palehose pessimism, part Cubs lineup giving no real room to breathe, yesterday wasn’t over until the very end. Have said it a million times here, but we’re a lineup that wins if and (aside from a couple games) only if we get the timely home runs.  We also give up a LOT of them, hence me repeating “live by the long ball, die by the long ball” a million times here. Lived by it Monday, died by it early Tuesday.  (Carlos Rodon doesn’t like the thought of home run balls being thrown back, wants to make sure someone goes home with a souvenir).

                Coming into the year I didn’t think the N.L. Central would be a division that you could hover around .500 and be competitive in, but the Cardinals decline and the trending towards reality Brewers have kept the Cubs afloat. With the playoff experience under their belts, I think the first half of this year will be a gone and forgotten footnote on the team.  Decent pitching and this lineup should be good to keep the other side of the league nervous through fall.


                Fun to see some good games to start out a series I usually don’t think lives up to the hype. Today’s beanball fireworks were odd. Abreu’s HBP I can live with- those are bullets off Superman’s chest at this point- but don’t you scorn our Beloved Son again, Lackey. Hell hath no fury like a pissed off Hawk Harrelson (“WHAT ARE YOU DO-ING WEG-NER?!?!)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Soy Un Perdedor - at Royals (L 6-7, L 2-7, L 4-5)

                I’ve always compared a bad bullpen to a bad offensive line: it’s the most frustrating, it’s the hardest to fix, and it’s the most obvious flaw when it’s the weakest part of your team.  Grant it, this isn’t previous years when our relievers were rotating tryouts: there’s help coming, and hopefully soon. Reynaldo Lopez should be the next man up (shoutout to u/Chicago_45, I agree), and Kopech’s worth a look at some point as well.

                If you’re a baseball purist that never leaves early or a clockwatcher that hates games going over three hours (not much in the middle of that venn diagram), this won’t be a fun second half. I’m hoping we can make the first six or seven innings bearable and keep on tankin’ on by the time most of our family fanbase is out of the parking lots with the kids in bed. I didn’t expect to see the bullpen completely bottom out after the Yankees trade, but I’m sure the chaos has a little bit to do with this weekend’s struggles.  That and Shields and Holland not being able to keep the ball in the park (hopefully innings-eating Derek is back soon).

                The Moncada watch is going to be the one thing getting me through this losing streak, and it was interesting this weekend. The triple was a thing of beauty, and he’s got an uncanny eye at the plate for someone so young. Not concerned with his average if he’s hitting the ball hard. Maybe we’ll even get a dinger out of him this week to make the inevitable bullpen collapses against the Cubs more manageable.


                Speaking of the Cubs, check out that Eloy Jimenez statline from today to drown those sorrows.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Crosstown Commentary: “Q”uite the Trade

Wait… how did I get here? All these references to black and white, south not north, something about a rate that’s guaranteed not chewing gum?  Allow me to introduce myself: you can call me Chris the Curmudgeon Cubs Fan (or just Chris.)  I’m being allowed to contribute to Disco Demolished as a North-Side supporter (gasp!) because I like baseball.  And I love Chicago.  And the founder of this blog is a longtime friend of mine.  So here goes!

Fortunately for all of us, the two Chi-town teams gave me a great lead-off as a contributor to this blog with a certain trade that happened exactly one week ago.  A deal that many thought would never happen because of the societal implications on our fair city was announced early Thursday morning July 13th—and I swear I could hear “Kumbaya” mixed with “Why Can’t We Be Friends” ringing through the streets.  The White Sox traded Jose Quintana to the Cubs for prospects Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease and two others.

But you knew that already.  Maybe as a Sox fan you even turned on the Cubs game this past Sunday just to see Q deal one more time before fully moving on.  (It was quite the first performance, I must say: 7 IP, 0 R, 3 H with 12 Ks- a Cubs’ debut record.  His curveball was simply nasty.)  However, amidst the rebuild I’m sure many fans saw Quintana’s departure coming.  So perhaps you weren’t as sad as you’d normally be about losing a player of his caliber.  His landing spot being the team across town?  That might make you kick some dirt in protest…

Never fear, though!  Let this Cubs fan tell you what you’re getting in return.  Eloy Jimenez—the headliner of the deal—is projected to be an absolute stud.   Many major league comparisons have been drawn between him and Giancarlo Stanton.  His power is just that pure.  Reserve the left corner outfield spot for him in about 1-2 years (as he still sits in low AA ball) and trust that with a bit more development, the #14 overall prospect in 2016 will flourish into a great player.  Additionally, Dylan Cease will be joining the Sox.  He came in at #97 in last year’s prospect rankings and his stuff was also highly touted as legitimate.  A great slider and a plus fastball for starters, he had time and baseball IQ on his side to develop a third pitch and be a starter one day. (Once again—not for a while.  Cease was even lower in the minors than Jimenez: high-A.) 

The Cubs had the luxury of being patient with these two prospects having stacked their farm system with plenty of other talented players after several years of terrible baseball gained them many top-10 draft slots.  But Cubs fans knew they were coming and were excited for their time to come.  That’s why, when I heard the news that BOTH Jimenez and Cease would be traded for a viable #2 starter, I was slightly disappointed.  Sure, I knew what we would be getting with Quintana and was quite pleased with that for several reasons: addressed a need this year, controlled and at a bargain price for his stature.  And that’s the sign of a good—or should I say fair—trade.  Both sides should feel it yet be optimistic about the future. 

Theo Epstein—I’ve been told by non-Cubs fans—has gained a reputation for allegedly “ripping other GMs off.”  I don’t think that’s the case here- Cubs gain for the now, Sox gain for the later. I’ll concede the Addison Russell acquisition for Jason Hammel.  But getting Arrieta and Strop for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger was a move of taking players the Orioles had essentially given up on for players that were having good seasons on a terrible team by May of 2013.  That’s just taking advantage of opportunity and scouting.  Once they let Arrieta pitch like he wanted to- which they saw a mile away- he turned out to be great.  Sabermetrics.  Boom.  Should be what happens here with Quintana, though he did pitch like he wanted to- the run support was another issue.

Turns out Rick Hahn is taking a page out of Theo’s book.  He is doing a great job of getting the best packages for his best players and restocking the minors for a healthy longevity of his team.  It worked for the Cubs and Astros. Now many other teams are realizing it’s the way things have to be done.  (It’s also true that this was always the case and that trying to get around that approach doesn’t work.) And in turn, as evidenced by this crosstown trade, it allows a club to flip prospects for major-league proven commodities.  Especially pitching, which is always a gamble for every team coming up through the minors.  My guess is after the Cubs drafted Brandon Little and Alex Lange (LSU starting staff headliner from the College World Series), they felt they could make them their pitching projects of the future and deal Cease. 


The fact remains that Cease was probably best starting prospect that Cubs had and when you want to acquire a starter from another team, they will want pitching in return (at least.)  This trade was necessary for the Cubs with Arrieta almost assuredly gone in the offseason.  Scott Boras is going to demand way too much for a guy who’s pitched his arm off helping the Cubs win a lot of playoff baseball the past two years and as I said- there’s not much pitching in line for the Cubs in the minors (my one knock on Theo and his work so far in Chicago.  I think I’ll get over it…)  But make no mistake; the White Sox now have plenty of arms and position players to make them serious contenders in a few years and that is great for baseball and the city.  So… you’re welcome.  And thanks for Q. 

Come Fly With Me - Dodgers, Trade, Yoan Recap

                In the midnight hour, the “drop everything and go” game was finally circled on the calendar.

                But first, the brief series recap. Kershaw deserves much better than the west coast sports treatment, not even needing his best stuff to shut us out game one. These Dodgers will eat strikeout pitchers alive: the way to beat them seems to be pitching incredibly carefully, and not giving them extra outs. Rodon gave up four homers and walked three. Most notable player was Chicago weather, sparing us an additional inning of obvious rebuild work and cutting game two short.

                The real news was never going to take place on the field this week, though. Frazier, Robertson, and Kahnle are the latest Reinsdorf one way ticket purchases, going Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and heading from the Midwest to the Big Apple.  Kahnle is the obvious biggest loss- Frazier seemed to need a change of pace, Robertson had about five games of actual closer work this year- but he’s what got us Blake Rutherford in all likelihood. Missed him already last night when Beck was struggling and my first thought was “who… who’s left?”

                What’s in it for the Yankees:

                Hot Toddy: 318 to left at Yankee Stadium, so the five hundred fly balls that fell less than 10 feet short this year will finally be souvenirs. As the season wore on it became clear that some big change was needed, and this could be the fix for him. Having Judge around him should give him some peace of mind as well- guessing he took a lot of pressure on himself this year with a young roster. I’ve been guessing Boston for about a month now for where he’d land, now I’m not sure how much interest he really garnered there.  Which makes sense- we’ve done our mega-deal with them already, what more would they want to give us, especially for a power hitter in a down year? I’d expect a hot start from him: he wants to prove to himself that he can put a rough first half behind him, and being on a competitor should be the adrenaline rush he didn’t have at White Sox Daycare this year.

                Robertson: If there’s one fanbase I would not expect to forgive and forget, it’d be the Yankees. Dave only has one black mark on his Pinstripes card, but it’s a big one: his blown save technically set the stage for Derek Jeter’s walk-off last game, but I wouldn’t expect to head back to New York without expecting a couple “but if…”. Honestly, I think his biggest issue is just going to be adjusting back to bonafied closing situations: he’s had one run games, he’s had two inning saves, he’s had runners on and I need multiple outs here. He hasn’t had “it’s Sunday at Fenway, it’s the rubber game, it’s the heart of the order coming up” this year. He hasn’t had “two on, two outs, Bautista’s up, and I’m pitching the ninth next inning” this year.  There’s a different pressure to a closer on a competitive team that doesn’t happen on teams like the White Sox, and I think he’ll have a blown save or two in the dog days as he’s adjusting. In the few actual save situations this season, he’s been very solid, and if he keeps it up I think the Yankees will be close to even in the closing department.

                World’s Worst Teammate Tommy Kahnle: I can’t imagine any major league baseball player being less than friendly, and LaTroy Hawkin’s word is known as canon league-wide, so thank God this character issue is out of our clubhouse.  Far and away the most reliable of the relievers this year- again, not much else in the bullpen now that he’s gone. Guessing he’ll thrive in the adrenaline rush. Biggest get for the Yankees in this trade, and deservedly so.

                The Sox haul:

                Blake Rutherford: The top prospect, officially our tenth in the Top 100, but one I’m gonna wait on.  Too much of a climb left for a single-A 20 year old, but the potential’s there.  Curious to see where he’ll fit in for an outfield that’s already pretty crowded at the moment. .281 with 55 strikeouts so far: assume he’ll fit right in to our power hitting tradition once he gets more loft on the ball more consistently.

                Tyler Clippard: Lot of searches on Gif sites for “people celebrating” by Yankees fans when his departure was announced. Journeyman with an ERA a tick below 5.00- and our new closer. They teach us in the Midwest to swerve into the skid.

                 Ian Clarkin: Injury prone and then some- elbow issues, torn meniscus, and shoulder soreness since getting drafted in 2013. Not someone I’m feeling reassured about after Burdi going down.

                Tito Polo: Spitting distance of .300 and speedy in single A. Also apparently getting his power numbers up. Also, minor league player, major league name.  Crowded outfield once again, but definitely some steal potential here.

                Not feeling quite as good about this trade as some of the others, but there was less value on our end.  Essentially moving pieces that weren’t going to play much of a part in the rebuild to begin with.

                Now for the biggest news of the week, and the day our lives forever changed: the Yoan Moncada call up.

                I personally would not have minded (at the start of the season, preferred) him just riding it out in the minors until next season. Of all the prospects we’ve gotten, this is not the one I want to rush.  If I’m resigned to a lost year and waiting for the future, I’d rather make sure all of our prospects are major league ready at all cost and have them be overprepared later than “seems like a good time” now.

                That being said, what a difference one call up makes. Have never bought a spur of the moment ticket faster than when the news broke. The Red Line was packed… in the Dan Ryan direction! 45 minutes to game time, and I actually had to wait more than five minutes at 35th Red Hots. I waited in an actual line at concessions, as opposed to walking swiftly to the concourse, walking back to my seat, without missing a pitch in between innings. Entire sections of the Park sold out on TicketMaster, to the point where we actually waited until after his first at-bat to scout open seats to move down to.  It was what I hoped would happen with all of these call-ups: support the rebuild, and give the kids a warm welcome when they come up.


                I don’t want to do a first game recap of how I thought he did. I will say he had some pretty ballsy takes in his walk (based on the replay- I wasn’t calling balls and strikes from the upper corners) and some good contact on his line out. And I’ll let the excitement of getting to see the Beloved Son outweigh my “keep him in the minors” logic hardwire. I think the biggest key is patience with him, as he’ll probably make a couple errors and might struggle at the plate, and some meatheads might wonder why this is the guy we traded Sale for. My success line for him is .260 while making the plays he needs to make at second. Welcome to the show, Yoan, and thanks for putting up with us, all recently traded folks. Hope you like the new pinstripes. 


If you set zoom to 150% and squint you can see Yoan Moncada