Aly Raisman claims her Olympic legacy

838539.jpg

Aly Raisman claims her Olympic legacy

From Comcast SportsNet
LONDON (AP) -- Aly Raisman was ready to claim her Olympic legacy. She just needed a little bit of karmic justice to help her do it. The ever-steady, ever-stoic captain of the U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics team made history during the event finals on Tuesday, becoming the first American to win gold on floor exercise. She added a bronze on balance beam to cap off an already impressive two-week run. Not bad for the athlete who's the often overlooked core of the superstar group of U.S. gymnasts known as the "Fierce Five." Five days after a tiebreaker cost her bronze in the all-around, Raisman won a tiebreaker to reach the podium on beam and turned the confidence boost into what she called the best floor routine of her life. "Wow!" she yelled after finishing four flawless tumbling runs over 90 nearly flawless seconds. Then she raced to hug coach Mihai Brestyan. He reminded her to enjoy the moment. "I told her, 'That's the maximum you can get, now just wait for the color,'" Brestyan said. It was gold. A sparkly bookend to the gold she helped the U.S. grab in the team finals last week. The victory gave Raisman three medals for the meet. One more than all-around champion Gabby Douglas. Two more than good friend and world champion Jordyn Wieber. This from a gymnast who has spent most of her career being too reliable for her own good. The 18-year-old lacks the bubbly star quality of Douglas or the driven intensity of Wieber. What she does have, however, is power to spare and a "team-first" mentality that filtered down through the ranks. "It looked like Aly always did the best for the team then when it came to do stuff for Aly Raisman, I don't know, she could not deliver her best," U.S. women's team coordinator Martha Karolyi said. Until the last day of perhaps the last major meet of her career. Raisman -- who lost a tiebreaker to Russia's Aliya Mustafina in the all-around finals that prevented her from joining Douglas on the podium -- appeared headed for a similar fate Tuesday when her beam score of 14.966 flashed on the screen. Brestyan raced over the judges for an inquiry, and after a quick review the bumped Raisman's difficulty score to a 6.3, pushing her into a tie with Romania's Catalina Ponor at 15.066. Raisman earned the medal for executing just a little bit better. Wieber and Douglas struggled following a draining 10 days, though for very different reasons. Wieber came in looking to win a handful of medals but ended up with just one -- the team gold -- after failing to qualify for the all-around finals and finishing seventh on floor. She flew out of bounds early during her first competitive event in a week and didn't come close to reaching the medal stand. Afterward coach John Geddert revealed she was dealing with a painful right leg injury that limited her training. When Wieber flies home to Michigan after the games, she'll do it wearing a walking boot to protect and ready for X-rays that Geddert expects to reveal a stress fracture. While Wieber insists her leg is "fine," Geddert is positive the pain and watered-down practices took its toll. "I know you're at the Olympic games, you've got to deal with what you've got to deal with," Geddert said. "The fact that we couldn't train normally, obviously there were very few performances that were polished and we've got to be polished here." It's a polish Douglas had in abundance in becoming the first African-American to win the Olympic all-around title. The subsequent hoopla left her drained for event finals. She was last on uneven bars on Monday and 24 hours later was a non-factor in the beam final after an uncharacteristic fall. "If it wasn't my time to shine, it wasn't my time to shine," Douglas said. "Overall I think the competition went really well. I wanted to finish off on a good note. Event finals is something a little extra." The U.S. finished with six medals in all, a solid number but four less than the 2008 team captured. Not that it matters, not after the group of teenagers stormed to victory in the team competition to give the Americans their first Olympic title in 16 years. "I feel it was extremely successful," Karolyi said. "It showed the power of this young generation and showed the mental toughness of this whole team. I can't wish for anything more." The men certainly could. The group that made its motto "One Team, One Dream" ended up walking away with just one medal, the bronze earned by Danell Leyva in the all-around. Leyva and teammate Jon Horton put together solid sets in the high bar final on Tuesday, but finished well behind gold medalist Epke Zonderland of The Netherlands, whose jaw-dropping score of 16.533 after a breathtaking display left Horton -- who had to go next -- laughing. "He makes my routine not so cool anymore," Horton said. Expect Horton to work on that. The 26-year-old team captain plans to work toward the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. He expects teammates Leyva, Sam Mikulak, John Orozco and Jake Dalton -- all 21 or younger -- to stick around too. There's more uncertainty surrounding one of the most decorated U.S. women's teams of all time. While 15-year-old Kyla Ross and 16-year-olds Douglas and McKayla Maroney could compete for awhile, the future is a bit cloudier for Raisman and Wieber. Wieber begins her senior year of high school in the fall, and Raisman has already graduated. They both plan to stay in training, but projecting four months down the road -- much less four years -- is difficult. Karolyi believes all five team members can continue to compete if they stay healthy but will understand if they don't. They've already reached the top for their sport. Anything else is just gravy.

Tonight on CSN: Cubs-White Sox finale from Wrigley

Tonight on CSN: Cubs-White Sox finale from Wrigley

The Crosstown Classic concludes on Thursday at Wrigley Field as the White Sox square off against the Cubs on CSN Chicago. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 6 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale (14-3, 3.18 ERA) vs. John Lackey (7-7, 3.79 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

 

Anthony Ranaudo becomes first White Sox pitcher since Mark Buehrle to hit a home run

7-27anthonyranaudo.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Anthony Ranaudo becomes first White Sox pitcher since Mark Buehrle to hit a home run

Anthony Ranaudo hadn’t reached base in eight major league plate appearances and hadn’t got a hit since his high school days in New Jersey. He didn't have any at-bats in the minor leagues, and wasn't given an opportunity to hit while playing for college baseball powerhouse LSU. 

But in his second trip to the plate in the White Sox 3-1 loss to the Cubs Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, Ranaudo lifted a solo home run into the right field bleachers off right-hander Jason Hammel. It was a bizarre (in a good way) moment for a guy who also took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against one of baseball’s best offenses. 

“I figured it was going over Heyward’s head,” Ranaudo said. “I thought it was a double at first. I thought it got stuck in the ivy and I kind of pulled up at second base. I looked back at (the White Sox dugout) and realized it was a home run, from the way everybody was reacting and stuff, and I had to finish out the jog. I think it took me a little longer than I wanted it to, but it was a good experience. It was fun.”

Ranaudo last homered nine years ago as a senior at St. Rose High School (Belmar, N.J.), where he actually once faced White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier (Toms River, N.J.) during a state tournament as a freshman. He also blasted a home run in the New Jersey state championship game as a sophomore in 2005. 

With his fifth-inning solo home run, Ranaudo became the first White Sox pitcher to homer since Mark Buehrle blasted a dinger against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on June 14, 2009. He joined Buehrle and right-hander Jon Garland as the only White Sox pitchers to hit a home run in the designated hitter era (1973-present). 

Ranaudo also became the first pitcher to homer in his White Sox debut since Jack Salveson went deep in a 16-11 loss to the Washington Senators on June 14, 1935. He’s also only the second American League pitcher to homer at Wrigley Field, joining Detroit Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris, who took one out on Aug. 19, 2015. 

Ranaudo, who entered Wednesday with a 17.18 ERA in 2016, had his one-man show spoiled by home runs he allowed to Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. But the former first-round pick out of LSU still won’t forget his White Sox debut thanks to his no-hit bid and mighty wallop. 

“Yeah, that was definitely cool,” Ranaudo said. “Definitely something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”

Jay Cutler has answered doubters in Bears locker room, coaching staff

Jay Cutler has answered doubters in Bears locker room, coaching staff

When Jay Cutler came to the Bears in that 2009 trade with the Denver Broncos, he was “the new guy.” The locker room belonged to Olin Kreutz and Brian Urlacher on their respective sides of the football, and while the quarterback position by definition places its occupant in a necessarily leadership position, that wasn’t the Bears. They weren’t going to be “Cutler’s team,” not for a while.

But Matt Forte exited this past offseason and with him went the last position player – on either side of the ball – who had been here longer than Cutler now has. The reality wasn’t lost on Cutler.

“I was looking at the roster a couple of weeks ago and I feel like there’s been a major shift in experience — especially on the offensive side,” he said. “I’m at 11 [years] and then you look down, there’s a couple of nines, a couple of eights and mostly five and under, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think a new talent and new guys in the building, there’s new energy and new attitude. I’ve embraced it. I’ve enjoyed it. I think the coaching staff’s done a great job of getting all these young guys up to speed. It’s a good group right now.”

It is also a group that looks to Cutler perhaps in ways teammates haven’t. Where Forte was at least the template for an NFL professional for his position group, Cutler now becomes the go-to veteran for everything ranging from details on a play-call to how to behave as a rookie.

It is a role that at times Cutler did not always appear to fit into comfortably, particularly with established veterans and personas that were the Bears’ identity for, in cases like Kreutz and Urlacher, a decade or more. Now, a player once sometimes perceived by outsiders as poutish or petulant has become something of a standard-setter for teammates.

“Obviously Jay does a great job with the younger guys,” said guard Kyle Long. “He brought me along, and continues to bring me along. He can be a little honest and blunt with me from time to time, but beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s the right thing to do in his position, as the leader and vested player.

“The quarterback is the leader of our team. I think he’s done a great job. I see him with the defense a lot, which is something I didn’t see a lot the first few years. I don’t necessarily know if that’s on Jay, or if it’s a perception-of-Jay basis. He’s a great guy. People in that locker room love him. He’s tough as hell. He’s got a cannon. He can run. And he’s a competitor. We love him. He’s been great this offseason and we’re looking forward to seeing how he’ll be this season with this new O-line and with the defense getting us the ball back a lot.”

Tough love approach

Cutler has earned the respect of his teammates. But gaining the confidence of his head coach and general manager through last year were possibly career turning points.

Cutler had been given a contract extension six games into his first (2009) year with the Bears. He responded by leading the NFL in interceptions.

When Phil Emery arrived as general manager, he spoke from the outset of Cutler as a “franchise quarterback” and “elite.” Emery gave Cutler a seven-year contract after the 2013 season, whereupon Cutler again led the league in interceptions in a 5-11 season marked by friction with coordinator Aaron Kromer and coach Marc Trestman, whose staff was fired after that year.

Instead of fawning treatment, Fox, coordinator Adam Gase and GM Ryan Pace were decidedly noncommittal on Cutler through last offseason and into the year. Cutler produced the best statistical year of his career, still not as good as Aaron Rodgers’ poorest single season, but with an overall performance that settled the Bears’ quarterback situation for the foreseeable future.

"I had questions on everybody," Fox said. "You come in, you take a job, you evaluate and you have to make decisions oftentimes before you even meet somebody in Year 1 as a head coach or general manager. They could be robots for all you know. But the game is still about people and relationships.

“I will say this: At the conclusion of the whole season working with Jay, I was very impressed. So I feel way more confident about him."