Take a vacation from your problem, baby steps and death therapy

Take a vacation from your problem, baby steps and death therapy

Friday, July 16, 2010
4:45 PM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Used to be that the time around the all-star break was spent talking about baseball and vacation plans. Well theres still plenty of that, but in this new world of the 12-month season for all of the professional sports, theres plenty of other topics to keep the conversations at the bar flowing. Get it? Flowing? Wheres my rim-shot?! Since your man behind the bar is leaving for a little R and R, (Relaxation with the family and the Recovery afterward!) I dont have the time to share with you EVERTHING thats on my mind here right now, but of course I cant leave without a few shots! SHOTS!

I guess if you live long enough, you see things repeat themselves over and over and during that evolution of time they might change form. The new age of self-promotion is upon us, and talk about leaving a bad taste in your mouth. (Im on a roll!) From Joe Namath, to Muhammad Ali to Reggie Jackson, these were the masters of media manipulation when I was a youngster. They never met a microphone that they didnt like. Funny thing though, they were entertaining and, oh yeah, winners! The disaster known as The Decision was about as far over the top as you could get. I watched like everyone else, but I would more consider it rubber-necking than actually watching. Besides the unveiling of LeBrons massive ego for all to see, it also demonstrated the fact that his handlers are in way over their heads. If the Three Stooges do make it to the Finals, they actually made me a Lakers fan.

Talking about the legacy of George Steinbrenner was another topic, but how could you avoid it when it was on the World Wide Leader non-stop for 4 days. I understand that he was one of the largest sports figures of our times, but.. I guess thats the point, you can argue his merits, both ways for hours. My opinion is that in the last 40 years he and Marvin Miller might be the two most important non-players in sports. (with Pete Rozelle a close third.) That being said, my lasting memory, besides the sparring with Billy Martin, will be of him yelling at George to get him his calzone on Seinfeld.

Did you know that Major League baseball had its All-Star game this week? Apparently no one else did either since it got its lowest rating EVER. Hey, Bud! Do you realize that youre the only one who thinks that playing this game for home field advantage in the World Series is a farce? And if this is a game to promote the sport, why wasnt the hottest thing to hit your sport in years, Steven Strasburg, in the game? He, right now, is one of the top 10 pitchers in the game, plus EVERYONE wants to see him. Could you imagine him pitching against A-Rod? What? A-Rod didnt play either? Have you been talking to LeBrons people? (This is the first year I can remember that I didnt watch the Home Run Derby. Nick Swisher? Honestly?)

Locally, there are two baseball conversations: Can the Sox last? And, when are they going to blow up the Cubs? Well know by the end of the month when the trading deadline comes, it will tell us all we need to know. Then again if youve been coming into the bar, you already know how I feel about both teams. (Hint: Adam Dunn and TNT!)

In the, what a difference a year makes department, do you remember Cutler-Mania? I think with everything else going on around here, the fact that no one is really paying attention to them is a good thing. Its time for them to go to work and doing it under the radar will hopefully payoff. I dont think that they are going to get a lot of respect nationally, or maybe even locally for that matter. Thats why I think they are going to have a chance at a decent season. I think the keys will be the O-line and the pass rush. (What a football genius!) Naturally well beat this topic to death in the coming months.

I finally found a way to get interested in the World Cup. I had a little rooting interest, if you know what I mean. This time I wasnt bored out of my mind. I actually watched the games for what they were supposed to be. In doing so I realized that watching any competition being played at the highest level can be mesmerizing, even if I didnt get the payoff I was hoping for.

First there were the Go-Go Sox, now we have the Bye-Bye Hawks. Its another example with the mass exodus of playerscontracts of how truly special this past season was and how this organ-I-zation performed at every level. The good thing is that the core will be here for a while. The question is whether the new pieces brought in can play to the level of their predecessors.

Well Id like to keep going, I know that youre interested in how my roto baseball team is doing and of course my opinions on one of my obsessions, The World Series of Poker, but the big fella has to get the car packed to the hilt and hide the charge cards from the boss as she makes her last minute preparations. Well have plenty of time for whatever is going on in sports, and then some, in two weeks. For now, when you think Clark Griswald, picture him making a drive to the beaches of Delaware in an out of control min-van. My one treat for myself as we drive? Im going to have the kids watch the movie I referenced in my title. There are only so many episodes of Sponge Bob that a father can listen to in one trip. Im sailing!!!

Fire hoping to build on Houston win

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Fire hoping to build on Houston win

The Chicago Fire slogged through the first third of the season with just two wins, but the 1-0 win against Houston on Saturday offered some hope.

That hope comes not just in the result, but in the way the Fire played.

The 20 shots was the most for the Fire this season and the seven on target was second to only the season opener. It was probably the Fire's best performance of the season when adding in the solid defensive performance that was absent back on March 6.

There are still things that the Fire need to improve on though. The Fire probably should have converted more of those chances and the Dynamo had 62.9 percent of the possession.

“I’m absolutely sure that at some point of the season all the pieces will come together," coach Veljko Paunovic said during Tuesday's conference call with media. "We will start performing much better and we will have more offensive outcome and obviously we have to keep our defensive good performance."

So now that the Fire had a decent performance and result, the question becomes can the team build on it?

“I think we have to build on this win," goalkeeper Sean Johnson said after the game. "I think any type of positivity in this time you have to grab and you have to run with it."

It must be said that Houston is down near the bottom of the league's standings and the Dynamo are now 0-6 on the road. With that in mind, beating Houston should have been more of an expectation, but if it gives a confidence boost to the Fire that may be all that matters.

It won't be as easy against Portland, the defending MLS Cup champions. However, a win against the Timbers would start to make the MLS standings less cringe-worthy for Fire fans ahead of the Copa America break.

"We believe that winning the game against Houston will help us to come to this game with more confidence, better prepared and that’s something that we have to work on this week," Paunovic said. "We believe that actually it’s a great moment for us to finish the first part of the season winning against a very good team, at least have a very good performance.”

On the injury front, Paunovic said that David Accam is still at full strength and ready to return after being suspended for the Houston match. Gilberto is still nursing a minor hamstring injury, but has been training with the team. Michael Harrington and Collin Fernandez are nearing returns, but may still be out Saturday. John Goossens will be out Saturday, but Paunovic said he expects him to be back after the break.

White Sox try to slow down skid as they battle the Royals on CSN

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White Sox try to slow down skid as they battle the Royals on CSN

The White Sox take on the Kansas City Royals on Thursday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Thursday’s starting pitching matchup: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Danny Duffy

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

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

Cubs don’t see Cardinals as ‘big brother’ in rivalry anymore

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Cubs don’t see Cardinals as ‘big brother’ in rivalry anymore

ST. LOUIS – Jake Arrieta’s breakdown of his performance sounded like something out of the maybe pile for Joe Maddon’s next T-shirt idea: “I picked a good day to be sh---y.”

The Cubs ace then messed with a reporter who asked a follow-up question after Wednesday’s 9-8 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, wondering if Arrieta would study anything in particular after giving up four runs in a regular-season start for the first time in 11-plus months…or stick with the same routine.

“Well,” Arrieta said, “I’ll probably, maybe, throw left-handed or underhand.”

Arrieta may have some underlying issues with his timing and command, but the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner is still 9-0 with a 1.72 ERA. By Year 5 of the Theo Epstein administration, and Maddon’s second season in the dugout, the Cubs now have first-division problems. 

Whatever turbulence the team with the best record in baseball may have experienced during a 4-5 road trip through Milwaukee, San Francisco and St. Louis, the Cardinals scored eight runs on Arrieta Day and still lost. While the Cubs have already won two series this season at Busch Stadium before Memorial Day weekend, after eliminating the Cardinals from the playoffs last October.    

“For the first three-and-a-half years when we were in Chicago, it just felt like they were the big brother,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “They controlled the game. They controlled what was going on, the tempo of the game. They were the more talented team, the more experienced team. 

“Now we’re two very good teams playing. And whoever plays better that night is going to win the game. I think there’s something really refreshing about that when you come in here. We know we’re good. We know they’re good.

“We know that there’s a lot of good teams in the National League and we match up well with them.”

The Cubs ambushed St. Louis starter Carlos Martinez for six runs in the second inning, getting the kind of bounces the Cardinals are used to seeing here.

Jason Heyward’s two-out, two-run double hit first base and bounced up the right-field line, and maybe luck will change for the $184 million player who turned down the St. Louis core. Ben Zobrist is still on fire, getting two hits that inning, including a bases-loaded, two-run single that skipped in between diving first baseman Matt Adams and diving second baseman Kolten Wong.

“I wouldn’t say (things) are shifting,” said Kris Bryant, who blasted what turned out to be the game-winning homer, a three-run shot off Seung Hwan Oh in the sixth inning. “It’s just really competitive baseball. Lately, we’ve come out on top. They play us hard every game. It’s going to make for a lot of fun games in the future.”

When it looked like the Cardinals might stage one of their last at-bat comebacks, Hector Rondon didn’t buckle in front of a sellout crowd (45,465). The Cubs closer roared back after allowing back-to-back singles to begin the ninth inning, striking out Yadier Molina and Randal Grichuk swinging and knocking down the ball pinch-hitter Jedd Gyorko hit back to the mound for the final out and his eighth save. The Cardinals are now a third-place team that’s one game over .500 at 24-23.

“Of course, I totally think they’re going to be there at the end,” Maddon said. “They’re really good. They have a very good offensive club. They need to get their pitching straightened out. They have a good bullpen. And they just play hard. They play hard every second of the game.

“You can never walk away from that. They have some really good players in skill positions. They’re going to get (shortstop Jhonny) Peralta back, I think, at some point, and that’s going to make a big difference for them. And then the problem’s going to be: Where do you put (Aledmys) Diaz?

“They have some nice problems on the horizon.”  

The Cubs (31-14) now have an eight-game lead over the Cardinals in the division and a 9-3 combined record against St. Louis and the Pittsburgh Pirates, the other two heavyweights in the Central.  

“It’s going to be close to the end,” Arrieta said. “The Pirates and the Cardinals – these guys are going to continue to win games, in and out of our division. We just have to do our job to try and separate that gap when we have the ability to do so, because we know they’ll be close on our heels to the very end.”