Even after Pujols, Cardinals still running like a machine

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Even after Pujols, Cardinals still running like a machine

ST. LOUIS After Paul Maholm gave up a bomb to Albert Pujols in spring training, he joked that there was a reason why no American League West teams were on his wish list as a free agent.

The Cubs werent in the market for a megadeal last winter. They bought low on guys like Maholm, a veteran left-hander who had spent his entire career in the Pirates organization.

The plan was to collect enough starting pitchers so that the 2012 Cubs could have a chance every night, while Theo Epsteins front office built the infrastructure for a perennial contender.

With Sundays 10-3 loss at Busch Stadium, the Cubs are 3-7 after two turns through the rotation. Pujols wasnt here for the banner raising or ring ceremony over the weekend, part of a power play by the Angels to gain ground in Southern California.

But its clear that the Cardinals are still running like a machine, even with a first-year manager (Mike Matheny) replacing a legend (Tony La Russa).

Maholm didnt have to face Pujols whos 22-for-39 (.564) for his career against the left-hander or World Series heroes Lance Berkman and David Freese, who both sat out on Sunday.

Instead, Maholm watched Yadier Molina hammer a 3-2 pitch 359 feet beyond the wall in left for a three-run homer that made it 6-0 in the third inning. The Cubs dont have the lineup to win those high-scoring games often.

Maholm hit two batters, walked another and gave up six runs in four innings, running his ERA to 13.50.

Yeah, obviously, Id much rather be 2-0 with a zero right now, Maholm said. But thats not how it is. Im going to learn from it.

Its a long season. Im going to get it going. And all these guys in here are busting it and expecting to win and thats how were going to do it.

Or, as manager Dale Sveum said, It wasnt real pretty again.

Maholm will make 4.25 million this season (the Cubs hold an option for 2013). He hasnt won a game since July 10 of last season, when he beat the Cubs (a streak skewed in part because he was shut down with a shoulder issue).

The Cubs took a game on Friday against Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals ace still recovering from Tommy John surgery, but were outscored 15-4 the next two games in front of sellout crowds.

Its such a great baseball atmosphere, said Cubs utility man Joe Mather, who came up through the Cardinals system. You cant deny that, no matter what team youre on. Even once the games over, you go try to get some food and theres red everywhere.

Coming into St. Louis, where were not fan favorites, its always nice to come in and play close games. I think were probably just a little more disappointed we arent playing as competitive a game as we think we can.

The Cardinals (7-3) didnt have a problem with the back end of the Cubs rotation Maholm or Chris Volstad and they exposed the gap in the National League Central.

We just got to do things a little bit better, Sveum said. We got to make our pitches when we have to and stay away from slugging percentage. We didnt do that too well in this series. Even though they didnt hit a lot of home runs, there were a lot of doubles and triples with guys on base.

Even without Pujols, the World Series champs are going to defend their title.

Fire's John Goossens says he "can do way better"

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Fire's John Goossens says he "can do way better"

John Goossens endured a hectic March.

On top of signing a new contract with a new team in a new country and league, the Chicago Fire midfielder had to travel back to his home country, The Netherlands, to get his visa. The long transatlantic trip forced Goossens to miss the season opener.

In the next match in Orlando, Goossens started and earned an assist on a long clearance that David Accam ran onto and scored for the Fire's only goal in a 1-1 draw. He went 73 minutes in that match, still his longest appearance of the season.

In Goossens' first home match against Columbus, a hamstring injury forced him to leave the match at halftime. The injury didn't cause Goossens to miss any games, but it did hamper his fitness and limited his minutes. He was already catching up after joining the team in the middle of the preseason and then missed the opener.

“It was a tough month for me," Goossens said. "I had some traveling back home for my visa and it was hard. I had some problems. I was in Orlando, I start feeling the hamstring and then in the game against Columbus at home after 45 minutes it was better to stop because I had too much problems with it."

After the Columbus match on March 19, an off weekend due to an international window gave Goossens time to recover, but he came off the bench the next two matches. He started the match against Montreal on April 16, his first start since the injury, and played 58 minutes. Despite coming off early, Goossens said he felt fully fit.

The midfielder drew some attention after a spectacular long-distance volley goal in a preseason scrimmage against the University of Portland. He finished with two goals and an assist in five preseason matches and appeared to be a solid candidate to replace Harry Shipp as an attacking midfielder for the Fire.

However, he hasn't had the influence on matches that he would like to so far.

“I can do way better,” Goossens said. “I think it’s for the whole team. We are not happy with the results. We are working really hard for it. You just need wins to be satisfied. For me personally I have to do better and I’m working on it everyday. In my opinion if you work hard everyday the good moments will come to you so we will see.”

Goossens said he has had little trouble settling in with the team and to the league, but admitted the long travel is something that takes getting used to. In the Dutch Eredivisie, where Goossens started his career, the only long flights would be for European competition, which Goossens has never played in. In May the Fire will have road trips to Vancouver, New York Red Bulls and New England in a span of eight days and the team will stay on the road for the duration of the trip.

“I have to get used to it, the flights and things like that," Goossens said. "It’s hard, but since the day I came here you know about it and you have to prepare yourself for it. Until now I feel fine. It’s going to be a really long season. Somewhere in the summer, August or September, there will be a point that you start to get tired, but it’s mentally. It’s our job, we have to take care of it. You have to take care of yourself and your body.

"For me it feels like a big adventure. It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be fine. I really enjoy and I’m having fun, that’s the most important thing.”

Clark the Cub hops on the Arrieta bandwagon with fake beard, onesie

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Clark the Cub hops on the Arrieta bandwagon with fake beard, onesie

Hey, Clark the Cub is wearing pants!

That was my first reaction when I saw the get-up for the Cubs mascot Thursday. OK, technically a onesie isn't "pants," but it's close enough.

As Arrieta took the mound for the Cubs in his first start since his second career no-hitter, Clark showed his support with the same onesie:

BEARrieta - Get it?

For reference, here's Jake's onesie from Los Angeles last August:

We're not even going to get into the beard or why a bear with fur covering its face would need - or even have - a beard.

This has been your pointless Chicago sports news of the day. Back to regularly scheduled programming.

Score one for Jim Harbaugh: NCAA rescinds ban on satellite camps

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Score one for Jim Harbaugh: NCAA rescinds ban on satellite camps

Jim Harbaugh vs. the NCAA rolls on, and the khaki'd one just scored a big victory.

There hasn't been a more-uttered phrase than "satellite camp" this offseason, thanks mostly to Harbaugh, who made national headlines when he took his Michigan football team down to Florida for a practice at a high school known for cranking out top talent.

Harbaugh was obviously using it as a recruiting tool, to show off his Wolverines in the fertile recruiting ground down South.

Head coaches from the SEC were not happy, calling it an infringement on their recruiting territory and lamenting what they saw as an unfair recruiting advantage.

So the NCAA sided with the SEC and banned satellite camps, a move that disappointed many coaches across college football, who argued that these camps give kids who wouldn't otherwise be able to show their abilities off to coaches from outside their immediate area. For example, a player from Texas not catching the eyes of schools from the Lone Star State and unable to drive across the country to visit schools in the Midwest and elsewhere could land a scholarship thanks to a Midwestern school coming to his area and running a satellite camp.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald was one of many to voice displeasure with the NCAA's decision.

The NCAA took those arguments to heart, apparently. Thursday, the NCAA Division-I Board of Directors rescinded the ban put in place by the NCAA Division-I Council, a major win for Harbaugh and other proponents of the satellite camps.

The Board of Directors also vowed to conduct a "broad assessment" of the recruiting process.

"The Board of Directors is interested in a holistic review of the football recruiting environment, and camps are a piece of that puzzle," said Board of Directors chair Harris Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina. "We share the Council’s interest in improving the camp environment, and we support the Council’s efforts to create a model that emphasizes the scholastic environment as an appropriate place for recruiting future student-athletes."

Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips is the chair of the Council.

"It’s clear that the membership has differing views on this subject, and the Council appreciates the Board’s insights into this important issue," Phillips said. "This review will provide an opportunity to identify the most effective ways prospective student-athletes can have their academic and athletic credentials evaluated by schools across the country."

Michigan was obviously feeling good about the news.