And Another Thing...

And Another Thing...

Friday, Apr. 16, 2010
9:14 A.M.

Gotta love this time of year. Theres so much going on, locally and nationally, that there are plenty of topics to discuss at the bar, between bites of a U.S.D.A. prime steak that is. (For the customers, not me!) And since you asked..

BIG 5: For me, the most asked question of the last two weeks concerns the trade of Donavan McNabb to the Washington Redskins. What is my opinion? To quote Gordon Gekko: Conflicted. Its like seeing Sir Larry Wildman go over a cliff, .in my new Maserati! Ive always been a McNabb fan. Ive followed him from his days at Mt. Carmel when I first moved here. I think that for the most part hes been exceptional functioning in the cauldron that is Philadelphia. That being said, Im worn out. I have McNabb fatigue. Hes good enough to get you close, but hes been at his worst on his teams biggest stages. Sorry. Its that simple. For a fan of a team that has not won it all in my lifetime, it gets down to: Can you win it all? I have plenty of folks here who think Im nuts. I attribute that to the fact that they have not seen decent quarterback play for so long. In McNabbs case, there comes a time to get of the pot. As Eagles President Joe Banner said, At what time do you stop doing the same thing, expecting a different result? I dont know if Kevin Kolb is the answer, but a lot was invested in him and its time to find out. Judging from the two beat-downs that the Cowboys put on the Birds in the last two games of last season, both HUGE games, I think quarterback play is the least of their concerns. This mess is going to take time to fix, so why not go with the kid. Oh, and for you warm and fuzzy Cub fans that dont understand, whats the tone of this town going to be like towards the Cubs if they dont make the playoffs again this year? Understand my feelings now?

MASTERPHIL: Once again, the Masters tournament did not disappoint. The display of golf was extraordinary. (Mickelsons shot from between the trees, on the pine-straw to four-feet on thirteen during the final round on Sunday was one of the most amazing Ive ever seen. Of course I called it at the bar that he would gag the put. Ugh. But, Phil will be Phil.) It was great theater. I cant think of any other event that looks that good on a high-definition television. But of course there was more than a golf tournament going on and thats what dominated the conversation. The irony of Phil Mickelsons victory was not lost on anyone. Although Tiger still had his fans at the bar, he was the constant butt of jokes and wise-guy comments. All of the sudden, everybodys a late-night comedian. (That wasnt meant as a Tiger-Dave reference, but the ironies are everywhere!) Now, I dont know what kind of guy Mickelson is, so I can only make an assumption, (Insert comment here!) but there is no denying what he and his family are going through right now. Its a situation that has touched many of us. That he has stepped up to take care of his family is what anyone would expect of a person. The shot of him and his wife embracing just off the eighteenth green was an incredibly spontaneous (sort of), heartfelt moment that TV captured for all of us. It also presented to the viewing public the counter-balance of how Tiger took care of his.

UNDER PRESSURE: I have this eerie feeling of dj vu. I have this eerie feeling of dj vu. (Sorry, that makes me laugh every time. Its the simple things!) Im thinking back to 2008, when the Cubs were coming of a disappointing, yet not unexpected, playoff loss. They then plowed through the regular season, had the best record, then headed to the playoffs with a No. 1 seed and the weight of 100 years of frustration around their necks. I dont need to remind anyone how that worked out. Now we have the Blackhawks, the current darlings of the Chicago sports world. The untimely ending of last years playoff run was tempered by the fact that this was the first year that this group was in them and their core was young enough to go back again and again, starting with next year. Well, next year is here and the Hawks arrive with a No. 2 seed and the weight of 49 years of frustration. Not tying to be a buzz-kill here, but winning the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win professional team sports. Losing Brian Campbell and having a rookie in goal possibly could have already set their course and sealed their fate before their journey has begun. But being the eternal optimist that I am, (Im not kidding! Stop laughing!) I see something in this team that I didnt see in that Cub team from a couple of seasons ago, something that will help them overcome any adversity: its the heart of a lion, and his name is Jonathan Toews. While that Cub team looked scared and tight, I know the captain of this Hawks team wont allow it. The experience of this years Olympics will serve him well. There was an incredible amount of pressure on Team Canada to perform, and for my money, Toews was as good as any player on their team for the entire tournament. I look for him to lead this young team, and to, at the very least, get them to the Cup Finals. Its time for the best to step up. No pressure.
MY RUZZIN, FRUZZIN, MUZZIN, COUSIN VINNY: I cant wait to see the Bulls front office when theyre on the Springer Show. Who knew how entertaining everything was behind closed doors? Well obviously not any of us who read the local papers. We had to wait for YAHOO and TNT to let the cat out of the bag. Honestly, I dont see what the big deal is. There are always going to be disagreements running a business and sometimes they get heated, thats true for just about anyone, although in this case it would seem that it was totally avoidable. But my question is how could anyone following the team not know that Vinny didnt care for his bosses, especially by the way they let him twist in the wind last December? And if you were in his shoes, wouldnt you go down swinging? Hes taken nothing but grief in this town since he was hired. Then theres the understanding of EVERYONE that hes going to be fired at the end of the year, while still having one year left on his deal, and having taken the team to the playoffs in his only two seasons. He wants to win games to prove hes right and using Joakim Noah helps him do that. His job is to win games and use anyone on his bench to do so. The job of his boss, John Paxson, is to provide such players, or not. If there is a concern over minutes, while fighting to make the playoffs, should a coach be put in that position? I still believe that Noah should have been shut down, and if using him slightly over his allotment sets off the V.P., maybe someone else feels this way also. Playing someone in a way to avoid injury is a sure way to get him injured. And if the Vinny decision has already been made, why didnt they just let him go in December and let a veteran coach like Bernie Bickerstaff( unintentional pun!) take over? Or will Vinny be back? And whither Noahs feet? The answer to these and many more questions on the next episode of SPRINGER!

BULLS BIT PART II: Amongst all of the dysfunction, the most important thing is to not lose the eye on the prize, Chris Bosh. Hes the free-agent that I would target and he needs to be the primary focus. I love the fact that he called out his Toronto teammates for quitting down the stretch. He wants to go where there is a fire to win. Hi Chris, have you met John Paxson? This summer, a lot of teams are going to be able to offer money, the same money. So to sell your team, youre going to need a little something else. So with two straight playoff appearances, you could sell him that there is no quit in this team. (Unless Scott Skiles is coaching! Sorry, couldnt help myself!) And in light of recent revelations, the front office is willing to fight for its players, literally. How could he resist that? And a max contract.
BASEBALL: As in, get on base, ball. So far that seems to be a problem on both sides of town. I know that its way to early for panic, we have plenty of time for that, but the Sox are hitting .205 as a team as we start OZZIEBALL 2.0 and the Cubs are at the bottom of the NL with Houston and Washington, not exactly the company you want to keep. I believe that you dont make the playoffs by what you do in April, but you could miss them by what you dont. Baseball is such a long grind that it would seem that you wouldnt want to spend the whole season swimming upstream. Theres plenty of time to right both ships, but both teams came in with major questions about where there runs would come from and at this point we still dont have an answer. No worries, for now, since most of the city is distracted by the Hawks, and the Vinny and Pax Show. But at some point those distractions are going to go away and lets hope theres an answer by then. If not, this summers going to get very hot

Who is Victor Caratini? Breaking down the Cubs' new catcher

Who is Victor Caratini? Breaking down the Cubs' new catcher

Miguel Montero is out and Victor Caratini is in.

The Cubs made a shakeup at catcher Wednesday and will have to forge the last half of the 2017 season without the presence of veteran Montero, who has 1,149 MLB games under his belt and was hitting .286 with an .805 OPS this year.

But Montero talked his way out of town and Caratini is the immediate choice for a replacement behind starting backstop Willson Contreras.

[Where it all went wrong with Miguel Montero and the Cubs]

Caratini is a 23-year-old switch-hitter whom the Cubs acquired from the Atlanta Braves in 2014 as part of the Emilio Bonifacio/James Russell deadline deal. The Braves initially selected Caratini in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Miami-Dade College.

The Puerto Rican native has mostly played catcher (297 games) in his minor-league career, but has also seen time at first base (76 games) and third base (57 games). 

Caratini got his first taste of big-league spring training action this season, impressing with a .379 average and 1.175 OPS in 16 games (29 at-bats).

He is enjoying the best offensive season of his career in Triple-A Iowa, hitting .343 with a .384 on-base percentage and .923 OPS.

Caratini has already set a career high with eight home runs while clubbing 20 doubles and driving in 54 runs in 68 games. He also has only 40 strikeouts in 245 at-bats.

The Cubs named Caratini the organization's minor league player of the month in May after he drove in 17 runs in 24 games while hitting .366 with a .573 slugging percentage.

Caratini also should help the Cubs running game — an area where Montero was 0-for-31 in throwing out baserunners. Caratini has nabbed 28 percent of would-be basestealers in Iowa, a mark that is directly even with the MLB average.

Contreras is throwing out 34 percent of would-be basestealers in 2017.

Caratini figures to be the short-term answer for the Cubs at catcher given the organzation doesn't have many other options. Kyle Schwarber has not been a viable option behind the plate after recovering from major knee surgery that sapped almost his entire 2016 season. Taylor Davis — a 27-year-old catcher/infielder — is currently on the disabled list and has yet to make his MLB debut.

Where it all went wrong for Cubs and Miguel Montero

Where it all went wrong for Cubs and Miguel Montero

WASHINGTON – The Cubs swiftly reacted to Miguel Montero’s jaw-dropping criticism of Jake Arrieta, dumping the veteran catcher the day after the Washington Nationals ran wild with seven stolen bases and exposed some of the issues within the visiting clubhouse.

You could read the writing on the wall Wednesday morning when Anthony Rizzo’s comments on his weekly WMVP-AM 1000 appearance went viral. An All-Star first baseman who is tight with management and picky about when he decides to speak up called out Montero as a “selfish player.”

In designating Montero for assignment – a source confirmed catcher Victor Caratini will also be promoted from Triple-A Iowa – the Cubs will have to eat roughly half of his $14 million salary in the final year of his contract. 

Montero’s biggest sin is that he no longer produces like the two-time All-Star he had been with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he developed a reputation for blunt honesty and a willingness to mentor young players. The Cubs wanted that edge when they traded for Montero at the 2014 winter meetings, part of a dramatic makeover that included signing ace pitcher Jon Lester to a $155 million megadeal.

Montero’s goofy “#WeAreGood” hashtag on Twitter became a symbol for a rising franchise and a loose team that didn’t care about the weight of history. 

But where Montero could be the spokesman in Arizona and wear the target on his back, a backup catcher can’t torch a Cy Young Award winner and the team’s running-game strategy when he is 0-for-31 and Contreras is throwing guys out 34 percent of the time.     

Montero welcomed Contreras and Kyle Schwarber to the big leagues, generously trying to help with their learning curve, even as they kept taking his playing time. Montero didn’t exactly have the same reaction to David Ross becoming a media darling and a crossover celebrity.

[RELATED: Miguel Montero sends classy goodbye to Cubs players and fans]

Montero already put himself in jeopardy in the immediate World Series aftermath, ripping manager Joe Maddon in a radio interview on the same day as the championship parade and Grant Park rally.  

Montero couldn’t help himself, even after delivering a pinch-hit grand slam against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, and driving in what turned out to be the winning run in the 10th inning against the Cleveland Indians in a World Series Game 7.

Montero wouldn’t bite his tongue late Tuesday night after a sloppy, frustrating 6-1 loss at Nationals Park. With a 39-38 record, several key players on the disabled list and a clubhouse far more complex than Maddon’s Woodstock visions, the Cubs are in crisis mode.   

“It really sucks because the stolen bases go on me,” Montero said. “When you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time. It’s just like: ‘Yeah, OK, Miggy can’t throw nobody out.’ Yeah, but my pitchers don’t hold anybody on. It’s tough, because it doesn’t matter how much work I put in.

“If I don’t get a chance to throw, that’s the reason why they were running left and right today, because they know he was slow to the plate. Simple as that. It’s a shame that it’s my fault because I didn’t throw anybody out.”