The method to Matt Garzas madness

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The method to Matt Garzas madness

The silence bothered Matt Garza as he looked out across the Cubs clubhouse. It was mostly empty, except for the reporters three or four deep waiting by Kerry Woods locker.

(Bleep) guys, its Game 1, Garza said, raising his voice. Its like a (bleeping) morgue."

So Garza climbed onto a chair late Thursday afternoon and turned on the stereo. Music is only supposed to be played after wins, but Bob Marleys voice filled the room. This drew smirks from at least two teammates.

It was a bizarre scene after an Opening Day loss to the Washington Nationals, with Carlos Marmol firing the seasons first Next question. But Garza loves the noise and enjoys being the center of attention. Ever notice whos up there standing on the top step of the dugout?

After another winter in which his name was all over the trade rumors, Garza will get the ball on Saturday at Wrigley Field. Near the end of spring training, he was asked if these past few months have changed what the Cubs think of him long-term, or if he had a sense of what the front office is thinking.

Ive never worried about that, Garza said. Im comfortable in my skin. Im going to adapt to what I have to (in order) to be successful and thats just who I am. Im not going to go out there and go out of my way. Its not an insult or anything. Its just that I pride myself on what I do.

This is who I am. This is what youre going to get, every day, day in and day out.

More than once in Arizona, general manager Jed Hoyer said that the Cubs planned to discuss a contract extension with Garzas agent, though its unclear how those talks progressed.

One data point figured to be the five-year, 65 million extension the White Sox gave left-hander John Danks last December. Then this week Matt Cain and the San Francisco Giants agreed to a five-year extension worth a reported 112.5 million.

This is not an exact comparison. Cain is 27 and could have become a free agent after this season. Garza is 28 and remains under club control through 2013. And these statistics can be misleading. But check out the career numbers: 69-73, 3.35 ERA (Cain); and 52-54, 3.83 ERA (Garza).

Thats great for him, Garza said. He deserves it, every penny. Hes been one hell of a pitcher for the last five, six seasons. Thats awesome for young guys like myself. That means a lot, but different people sign for different things.

I dont see myself worrying about that. My job is to get ready for Saturday, and I love my job.

Clubhouse chemistry is an inexact science. Theo Epstein watched Garza eliminate the Boston Red Sox and win the 2008 ALCS MVP award with the Tampa Bay Rays. The new Cubs president sort of laughed when he described the view up close.

Hes a smarter guy than youd think from across the field and I dont mean that the wrong way, Epstein said. You watch him and how energetic and extroverted and fidgety he can be looking at him from across the field. You get a certain impression about him that maybe hes not sort of always thinking things through. But the reality is hes actually got a method to his madness.

He knows himself really well. He understands the game really well. He knows how to prepare and I think theres a lot more going on upstairs than people give him credit for.

Hes a really good teammate and a really loyal member of the organization, someone who respects the game and people in the game. He cares a lot about winning.

Garza corrected a reporter who figured the pitcher wouldnt care what his agent does the next several months (meaning he wouldnt impose a deadline or let negotiations the Cubs havent acknowledged any talks become a distraction).

I care what he does, Garza said. Dont mistake me, but its more my focus isnt on that. Its on helping this team be successful. (So thats) focusing on what I need to focus on, putting my priorities on family, my job and then the rest of my (extended) family and then business. Thats the last (one). Thats the least of my worries. If I do my job, everything will take care of itself.

So Garza will put on his game face. He likes to pull a hooded sweatshirt over his head and block everything out with headphones. His body language screams: Stay away.

Thats part of the equation, Epstein said. He embraces the competitive aspects of the game and he doesnt try to pretend its just another day. He needs his music and his time to himself. He brings a lot to the table. He walks sort of a fine line. It can be in control and out of control, but that really works for him emotionally.

Garza says hes been like this since Little League, bouncing from baseball to football to soccer to basketball: There were no stops. It was always competing, competing, competing.

If the Cubs are going to contend, theyll need Garza to take another leap forward, but manager Dale Sveum is just focusing on the fundamentals.

Garza would launch rockets on routine throws to first base, finishing last season with seven errors or one more than the rest of his big-league career combined. And his attitude toward hitting in his first season in the National League was pretty much: I get paid to get outs.

Hes taken some big steps the guys pitched in the World Series, Sveum said. His numbers last year were pretty good on a not-so-good team (10-10, 3.32 ERA). We gauge a lot on wins and losses. Well, a lot of times thats the team youre on. Unfortunately, last year the defense wasnt good. (His) own defense wasnt very good (it) maybe cost him two to four wins.

These are things that got to improve. (Just) being able to bunt might keep him in the game to get him one more or two more wins, too. So its important for him to completely get his whole game together, and he knows that. Hes worked his butt off to try and be better in everything.

Garza certainly hasnt lost his edge, but he appears to be more relaxed in his second season on the North Side. He considers himself more of a lead-by-example type, not the guy who will tell teammates what to do. Hes integrated with the clubhouse, and not just because he brings in Popeyes fried chicken.

If there are any misperceptions out there, well, Garzas going to let his pitching do the talking.

Thats fine with me, Garza said. Shoot, whatever works for people to cope with how I am. It doesnt bother me. Im fine with how I am and the way I see myself. Thats the only thing I can deal with and actually worry about. Saturdays my day, and I cant wait to get there.

Fashion Statement: Kevin White shows team spirit with socks at Bears practice

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Fashion Statement: Kevin White shows team spirit with socks at Bears practice

OTA's are underway at Halas Hall and there seems to be a new battle taking place on the Bears offense - whose sock game is stronger? Wide receiver Kevin White and running back Ka'Deem Carey made fashion statements Wednesday, sporting customized socks to display their Chicago Bears pride.

White's pair of socks took a page out of the Bears' fight song, while Carey's featured the Chicago skyline.

Take a look for yourself.

Fans seem to be split over whose sock game takes the prize, but if both pairs of socks keep White and Carey at the top of their game, they should share bragging rights. 

2016 NBA Mock Draft: Mark Schanowski makes his picks

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2016 NBA Mock Draft: Mark Schanowski makes his picks

1. 76’ERS - Ben Simmons, F (LSU)

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown has a relationship with the Simmons family from his years coaching in Australia. Plus, the versatile 6-10 forward might be the only player in this draft with superstar potential, making it an easy choice for the 76’ers.

2. LAKERS – Brandon Ingram, F (Duke)

Los Angeles needs scoring punch in the frontcourt, and the 6-foot-9 Ingram has been compared to Kevin Durant by some scouts. He should fit in well with the up-tempo style preferred by new head coach Luke Walton.

3. CELTICS – Dragan Bender, F (Croatia)

Danny Ainge will be looking to use this pick in a trade for an All-Star caliber veteran (like Jimmy Butler). If not, the 7-foot Bender is the likely choice as this year’s version of Kristaps Porzingis.

4. SUNS - Jaylen Brown, SF-SG (California)

Brown has the most potential of the wing prospects available. Tremendous athleticism and ability to attack the rim. Still needs to improve his outside shooting after just one season at Cal.

5. TIMBERWOLVES - Buddy Hield, SG-SF (Oklahoma)

Tom Thibodeau gets his first chance to “buy the groceries” as head of basketball operations. Hield will provide some much-needed outside shooting to complement the talents of 2015-16 Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns.

6. PELICANS - Jamal Murray, G (Kentucky)

Murray might be the best pure shooter in this draft and the Pelicans will be in the market for a shooting guard with Eric Gordon likely leaving in free agency.

7. NUGGETS - Kris Dunn, PG (Providence)

Look for a trade at this point, maybe involving a team like the Bulls looking for a point guard. Nuggets have three picks in first round and might try to move up to draft either Hield or Murray.

8. KINGS - Demetrius Jackson, PG (Notre Dame) 

Dysfunctional Kings looking for a fresh start with Dave Joerger taking over as head coach. Rajon Rondo could leave in free agency, and Jackson could be a future star in the mold of Kyle Lowry.

9. RAPTORS - Marquesse Chriss, F (Washington)

Toronto has been looking to upgrade the power forward spot for the last two years. Chriss is one of the youngest players in the draft, with the highest ceiling among the PF’s still on the board.

10. BUCKS - Jakob Poeltl, C (Utah)

Milwaukee could use another big man to complement their collection of athletic wing players. Free agent Greg Monroe is likely available in a trade after a disappointing first season in the beer city.

11. MAGIC - Deyonta Davis, PF-C (Michigan St.)

With defensive-minded Frank Vogel installed as the new head coach, the Magic will be looking for a shot-blocking presence inside. Davis is raw after limited playing time in his only college season, but should be a plus defender right away.

12. JAZZ - Denzel Valentine, SG-SF (Michigan St.)

Utah has done a good job of building a talented, young roster and a smart, four-year collegian like Valentine should fit right in. A very skilled passer with high basketball I.Q., he should eventually become a solid NBA three-point shooter.

13. SUNS - Henry Ellenson, PF, (Marquette)

With their second pick in round one, the Suns can go for a stretch PF like Ellenson, who also can score in the post. Kentucky big man Skal Labissiere also a possibility here.

14. BULLS - Wade Baldwin, PG, (Vanderbilt)

Tremendous athlete, who measured at 6-foot-4 with shoes at the draft combine, with an amazing 6-11 wing span. Should be an NBA-ready defender right away, and the Bulls can groom him to take over at point guard in 2017-18 after Derrick Rose most likely leaves in free agency.

15. NUGGETS - Skal Labissiere, PF-C (Kentucky)

With three picks in round one, the Nuggets can afford to take a chance on the painfully thin seven footer. Labissiere has an excellent shooting touch, with should complement Denver’s other young bigs, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic.

16. CELTICS - Timothe Luwawu, SF (France)

Again, don’t be surprised if Ainge packages this pick in a trade on draft night, but Luwawu is an intriguing prospect with excellent defensive skills. Also, a personal favorite of our Bulls’ analyst Kendall Gill.

17. GRIZZLIES - Domantas Sabonis, PF-C (Gonzaga)

The son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis has a polished low post game, and the frame to withstand physical NBA play in the paint. He gives the Grizzlies a young big to develop behind Marc Gasol, who is coming back from a broken foot.

18. PISTONS - Malachi Richardson, G, (Syracuse)

Detroit could use another reliable guard off the bench to play behind Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Richardson burst on to NBA scouts’ radar after a strong showing in the NCAA tournament.

19. NUGGETS - Taurean Prince, F, (Baylor)

It’s unlikely Denver will keep all three of its first round picks, but if they do, an athletic forward like Prince is a good value pick at this point.

20. PACERS- Tyler Ulis, PG, (Kentucky)

Larry Bird made no secret of the fact he wants his team to play at a faster tempo and score more points. Having a speedy guard like Ulis to run the second unit would fit in well with Bird’s master plan.

21. HAWKS - Cheick Diallo, PF-C (Kansas)

With Al Horford heading into free agency, the Hawks need to add some depth to the frontcourt. Diallo didn’t play much in his one season at Kansas, but showed a lot of potential at the NBA draft combine.

22. HORNETS - Malik Beasley, SG-SF (Florida St.)

Charlotte needs to fortify the wing spots with Nic Batum, Courtney Lee and Marvin Williams all free agents. Beasley is coming off a strong season in the ACC and scouts like his aggressiveness on the offensive end.

23. CELTICS - Furkan Korkmaz, SG-SF (Turkey)

Ainge completes his international trifecta by taking this sharp-shooting wing player in the mold of Orlando’s first round pick from a year ago, Mario Hezonja. Korkmaz has good athleticism and could develop into a streaky perimeter scorer.

24. 76’ERS- DeAndre Bembry, SG-SF (St. Joseph’s)

The Sixers could go in a number of directions with so many needs, so why not take a local Philly product like Bembry. He showed very well at draft combine, and has the versatility to play both wing spots off the bench.

25. CLIPPERS - Brice Johnson, F, (North Carolina)

Coming off a strong NCAA tournament, Johnson would give the Clippers a talented forward to add to their bench. Doc Rivers is still looking for more consistency on that second unit.

26. 76’ERS - Dejounte Murray, G (Washington)

Probably would have been better served to spend another year in college, but could develop as a combo guard in Philly.

27. RAPTORS - Damian Jones, C (Vanderbilt)

With Bismack Biyombo ready to cash in after a strong playoff run, the Raptors need a center to back up Jonas Valanciunas. Jones has good size and showed well against SEC competition.

28. SUNS - Caris LeVert, SG (Michigan)

Phoenix coach Earl Watson wants to play fast, and if the Suns keep this pick, LeVert is a guy worth taking a chance on. He probably would have been a lottery pick if not for injuries in his last two years at Michigan.

29. SPURS - Thon Maker, PF-C (Australia)

The international man of mystery in this year’s draft. Intriguing size at 7-foot-1, but NBA scouts aren’t sure what position he’ll play. The Spurs can let him develop overseas for a couple years before bringing him over.

30. WARRIORS - Ante Zizic, C (Croatia)

Another draft and stash candidate for the loaded Warriors. Golden State could use another center if Festus Ezeli is allowed to leave in free agency.

92 Days to Kickoff: Sandburg

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92 Days to Kickoff: Sandburg

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26.

School: Sandburg Eagles

Head coach: Scott Peters

Assistant coaches: Marty Balle (LB), Kevin Clark (DL), Larry Sheppard (DB/Co-defensive coordinator), Matt Barrett (assistant DL), Bill Mulchrone (assistant LB), Kevin Fahey (OC), Jim Zimmer (OL), Tom Lally (QB), Shane Meyer (WR), Jon Bergin (RB), Mark Lenkiewicz (assistant OL), Darren Monnet (K)

How they fared in 2015: 6-4 (5-2) Southwest Suburban Blue. The Eagles made the Class 8A playoff field, but lost to Palatine in the opening round.

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Eagles reload with a new head coach?

Names to watch this season: LB Pat Brucki, DE Mike Murphy, DT Malik Skates

Biggest holes to fill: The Eagles need to replace 11 graduated starters on offense this season. 

EDGY's early take: Peters takes over a Sandburg program that has been winning games but hasn't made a deep state playoff run since the early 2000s. The Eagles bring back just three starters and will need to get up to speed in a hurry this fall, but this school always has talent in the building.