Frankie O's Blog: Back to Normal?

Frankie O's Blog: Back to Normal?

Friday, March 25, 2011
Posted: 9:06 a.m.

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Its hard to say that anything in my life is normal, that happens when you serve adults alcohol for a living and have three young kids and a boss at home. Pretty much, in all facets of my life, Im just along for the ride, and hanging on for dear life at that. But in anyones life you have to find that something that allows you to get away and balance yourself out. That my something puts me into a full psychosis should tell you everything that you need to know about me, that is, if you havent already guessed: I have a few issues!

For me, back to normal means that my fantasy hiatus is finally over. After a long year of the baseball-football fantasy doubleheader, even yours truly needs a little time to re-charge the batteries. Although I will admit, I did consider going year-round and playing in a fantasy basketball league with the other sickos in my two leagues. But then they changed the draft day on me and I was shut out. You dont think its because theyre tired of giving me their money is it? Anyway, it gave me a break from my computer, but for some reason with the additional time, I didnt seem to get any more done. How does that happen?

So as usual, the beginning of spring training had me chomping at the bit to get back into it. Fantasy guides are littering my desk and all month I have fallen asleep reading MLB information on my iPhone. At work, the mind-games were in midseason form. A lot of the fun of this is messing with your league mates. On-line banter is fun, but in person is funner. Sending out draft dis-information is all part of the master plan. The name of the game is to not only win, but to climb in their heads and have a sandwich while youre there. The pressure of the draft is pretty cool. Its high-stress, but its not entirely real. At least I keep telling myself that. In a perfect world, I think every fantasy draft should have everyone in the same room and should be in the auction format.

This starts every person on a level playing field and any person can have any player. (Not to mention something else that is a side benefit is that you all can enjoy a few refreshments and this will ALWAYS tilt the playing field not to mention giving you stories that will last the year and beyond. Am I right Puppy Kisses?) But since we do not live in a perfect world, I had to sit alone in front of my computer and deal with the vagaries of a snake draft. In the end I think a snake evens out, but just once I wouldnt mind the first pick, not complaining, just saying. Starting a draft with the best player is a nice advantage, if we all had to bid on it, that player is available to anyone who wants to pony up. As I sat on-line waiting for the 10:45 p.m. draft to start, I finished the fortress of information around me, drawing chuckles from the wife as she rolled her eyes and went to bed. But whats really funny is that I rarely use any of it.

Once the draft starts Im in such a trance that I really dont notice anything else. One thing I did notice was the lost connection filtered screen that dropped over my draft screen with the dreaded spinning circle. It only lasted a few seconds and went away. That was weird. There are many theories to drafts, and in a 7x7 NL only roto league such as ours, theyre too many to mention. For me, it gets down to two things: Guys I like to watch play and young guys with up-side. You can study every number you want, but this is still a lot of luck, and in the case of baseball a REALLY long season, so Im big on the kids I enjoy watching. (One of those kids is Joey Votto, who Ive owned for the last two years, while finishing 2nd and 1st in those two years. I dont think thats a coincidence and I love to watch him hit, although my enthusiasm will be a little tempered this year.)

In the first round Ryan Braun was there when it was my turn and he was gone when I used that turn. His powerspeedavg. combo made that pick a no-brainer. When I got to pick on the wrap-around I was able to get my new Votto in Andrew McCutchen. I think hes going to have a monster year. So far Im feeling pretty good, although that pesky lost connection screen keeps popping down. Of course the pick before mine in round three took the player I wanted, Hunter Pence (another Ive owned for two years, what can I say, I get attached to my guys!) but I knew my getting him in the third was a reach so I settled for my plan B: Jay Bruce. My team is going to hit!

Then it happened. As soon as I took Bruce, I queued Mike Stanton in my selection box, thinking Im going to have a core of four who can give me strength in all seven offensive categories. As my turn was one away I lost my connection! Do you know what happens when you lose your connection and its your pick? The computer picks for you! It picks the highest rated player according to our service, which is Yahoo!. And do you know who that was? Mr. Calf Strain himself: Jimmy Rollins! Now most of you would think that I would be happy with a former MVP, that plays in a quality scarce position, and by the way, is a PHILLIE! Ironically he is the Phillie who I have a lovehate thing with. Now thats funny, not funny ha-ha but funny.

I would not draft him EVER, or at least in the first 15 rounds. Hes old. He uppercuts his swing way too much, and especially now that I think he will hit in the three-hole since the Phils wont have Chase Utley, hell want to be a power hitter. Can you say 2-0 popup? And by the way, did I mention he gets hurt? A lot! Other than that, I dont have much of an opinion. Mr. Phillie himself, Mike Schmidt, said the same things about him this spring. (Schmidt and what he says are another three blogs, but this time I thought he was spot on.) I thought my head was going to explode.

I let out a tirade that would have made Rex Ryan blush. My vision was gone, in more ways than one. But what could I do? I know that the rest of my league-mates could care less. Stuff happens. But honestly, Rollins? Im still hot thinking about it. I wish I could say things got better, but for the rest of the draft, I lived in fear of another auto-pick. (Unfortunately, this did happen to others, but none with the consequence of my 4th pick.) My next one occurred in the 10th round when the computer picked a Met for me. A freaking Met! I hate Mets! If I could get away from my anger, there really is some funny, ironic stuff here. Funny if it was happening to someone else!

So this event that Ive been looking forward to for so long tuned into a three hour, 30-round hell ride. And just for good measure, my last pick, was an auto-pick! Only fitting thats how it ended and that one made me laugh out loud for the fact that it happened and that the player selected is no longer in baseball! In a change of luck, as soon as I was finished stomping on my computer and throwing its trampled remains out on the street (kidding! Sort of.) I turned on the TV and Old School was just coming on. Nothing like a little Will Ferrell to help me forget about my train-wreck of a draft. As I was watching, I remembered something that I believe totally about fantasy baseball.

Its not just about the draft. Its about how much work you put in. Unlike football, where the draft is ginormous, you can overcome your misfortune with due diligence. Fantasy baseball is a six-month marathon. You will get out what you put in. In a long season, players will come out of nowhere to have an impact. A lot of them have not been drafted yet. You just have to find them. The night after the draft was non-stop fun at work as I was taking a ribbing for my picks and my response to them. Nothing like some good old gallows humor! That night after work I consoled myself by looking over the other rosters and I realized with a little luck, I should once again be in the mix. As I was enjoying my 3 a.m. hour pondering the positive and negatives of Ronny Cedeno and Jason Michaels, my sick 11 year old came into the kitchen because her cough had woken here up. As she enjoyed a soothing Halls, she looked at my computer screen and rolled her eyes. (Where have I seen that look before?!!) She said that all of the boys in her class were addicted to fantasy baseball and that was all that they were talking about in school. Well, it is a great way to keep up on the math skills, I told her, hoping she did not see through me. Yeah, but my teacher says her husband is the same way, and that its a sickness. Thats quite a teacher you have there, I replied avoiding direct eye contact. Shes got me pegged! Again! How do kids get so smart so fast? I think its time you went back to bed young lady, Daddy will tuck you in. Then hes going back to his computer to find some more stolen bases! I close my eyes, only for a moment and the moments gone

White Sox expect Chris Sale's return to be 'fairly normal'

White Sox expect Chris Sale's return to be 'fairly normal'

It doesn’t sound as if there’s much ambivalence among the White Sox about Chris Sale’s expected return on Thursday.

Manager Robin Ventura said Wednesday he expects things to be “fairly normal” as Sale is scheduled to pitch the finale of the Crosstown series after serving a five-game suspension for insubordination and destruction of team property. Adam Eaton said teammates should have no reservations about Sale’s coming back after his actions Saturday left them in a bit of a bind. And pitching coach Don Cooper said he’s the first to forgive and that everyone has situations they might later wish they’d handled differently.

“Open arms,” Eaton said. “He’s our teammate. He’s our guy. All of the things that are swelling around about his character, who he is as a player … he’s my brother and I enjoy every second with him on and off the field. Can’t be a better person. I’ll be excited to see him and I’m sure he’ll be in the same form he’s been the entire year — go out and perform and be Chris Sale.

“I’m sure he’ll be well-rested and a clear mind for him I’m sure is going to be a good thing. We’ll welcome him back.”

[SHOP: Get your White Sox gear right here]

The pitching staff could use some innings from Sale without question. When he didn’t pitch Saturday, the White Sox filled those innings with a committee of relief pitchers. Prior to Tuesday’s win, the bullpen had pitched 19 1/3 innings the previous four games.

But the White Sox have handled the drama extremely well. They’re 4-0 with one game left in Sale’s suspension and they look forward to having their ace back. Cooper said he hopes to move on, sentiments that were previously echoed by Ventura and executive vice president Kenny Williams.

“Welcome back, let’s go,” Cooper said. “Let’s go to work. Let’s move on. Listen man, who would want to be held responsible for the (stuff) they did at 22, 24, 26, 27, you know what I mean? He’s way too good of a kid. I don’t think anybody would. Everybody screws up from time to time or has some missteps.”

One of the actions that has caught Sale flack is his criticism of Ventura’s handling of the situation. Neither Ventura or Williams responded to Sale’s comment on Tuesday that “Robin is the one who has to fight for us.” Ventura said he wouldn’t have done things any differently and Williams applauded how Hahn and Ventura handled a difficult, “unique” situation.

Ventura said he doesn’t expect much out of the ordinary.

“I think it’s going to be fine,” Ventura said. “Players always have their teammates’ backs, and that’s no different with our clubhouse, and it’s going to be fairly normal, as far as he’s going to be prepared to pitch and our guys are going to prepare to play and it’s going to go from there.”

White Sox C Dioner Navarro has a good story behind the best game of his career

White Sox C Dioner Navarro has a good story behind the best game of his career

There’s a good story behind the best game of Dioner Navarro’s 13-year career. 

On May 29, 2013, Navarro — then playing for the Cubs — hit three home runs and drive in six in a 9-3 Crosstown victory at Wrigley Field. Both were career highs. 

And Navarro did it without a whole lot of preparation. 

“I got to the ballpark and I didn’t see the lineup, I thought I wasn’t playing,” Navarro recalled. “So we go out for stretch and the first group is hitting and they called my name and I’m like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ And they said ‘You’re playing.’ It was already too late to get into the group so I went inside.”

Navarro only took two rounds of batting practice in his haste to get ready. But he also took those swings thinking right-hander Jake Peavy was going to start for the White Sox, so he hit left-handed during batting practice. 

The White Sox, though, were starting left-hander John Danks, so the switch-hitting Navarro wound up batting right-handed when the game started. 

The pregame mixup hardly hurt Navarro, as it turned out. He homered off Danks in his first and second at-bats, and then launched a three-run homer in the seventh off White Sox right-hander Brian Omogrosso. 

“It was one of the best experiences of my career,” Navarro said.

Navarro is one of a handful of people to play for both the Cubs and White Sox since the two teams began their annual interleague series in 1997 (others include pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Bob Howry, Edwin Jackson and Neal Cotts, among others). His perspective from playing off the Addison and Sox/35th Red Line stops is one he said he’ll cherish after his career is over. 

“I’m really fortunate to be part of it from both sides,” Navarro said. “A little bit bittersweet because the Cubbies had lost 100 games the year before and we were onto our way to lose 100 more games that year (2013). But still the rivalry against this team was something that people always talked about. Being part of it with the Cubs and now being part with the White Sox is a tremendous experience, something I look forward to share with my kids when I get older.”

White Sox happy to retain, and drink beer from, Crosstown Cup

White Sox happy to retain, and drink beer from, Crosstown Cup

The White Sox had a little fun with the Crosstown Cup trophy after securing it for the third consecutive year.

Well, at least one player did for sure: Left fielder Melky Cabrera, according to first baseman Jose Abreu, drank some beer out of the trophy after the White Sox beat the Cubs, 3-0, Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. 

The White Sox retained the Crosstown Cup by virtue of winning the season series in 2014 (three wins, one loss), splitting in 2015 (three wins, three losses), and assuring themselves of at least a split in 2016 (two wins with two games to play). 

This isn’t like a college football rivalry trophy that gets passed between campuses every year. And baseball players generally aren't keen to over-emphasize four or six games over the course of a 162-game season. 

But the Crosstown Cup is still a trophy, and it’s one White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton appreciated receiving again. 

“Any time you win an award — I don’t care if my grandma gives me an award during checkers, I’m excited,” Eaton said. “I don’t really care. But if you play for anything there’s some extra emphasis there. I definitely do think guys take pride in it for sure. But more pride in it that our side of town is happy with us in that sense that we’ve taken the cup back. 

“You don’t want to put too much emphasis on any particular series. But at the same time, if it makes our fans happy that we got the cup back then that’s what we do.”