Sox Drawer: Will White Sox see YOU at U.S. Cellular Field?

660044.png

Sox Drawer: Will White Sox see YOU at U.S. Cellular Field?

The White Sox just swept the Cubs at Wrigley Field for the first time in 13 years. Theyre back to .500 for the season. Despite the dire predictions of just about everyone with a baseball column, radio show or Twitter account, theyre actually in the A.L. Central race (2.5 games behind Cleveland, a half game ahead of Detroit).

Adam Dunn is back. So is Jake Peavy and Alex Rios. A.J. Pierzynski is having a career-season. Gordon Beckham has started to hit. Dayan Viciedo is crushing the ball, and did so in the pressure-packed clean-up spot over the weekend. Alejandro De Aza has been the perfect lead-off hitter to open a game. Addison Reed looks like the right guy to close them.

And Tuesday night when the White Sox return to the South Side, Paul Konerko is expected back in the lineup after taking a baseball to the face. The Captain can see, but when he takes the field, the next question is this:

Will he see you?

Something has been missing from home White Sox games this season.

The fans.

Where have you been?

Definitely not at U.S. Cellular Field. It's been a ghost town for the first quarter of the season, with an average attendance of just 20,295, fourth lowest in the majors; ahead of only Seattle, Oakland, and Cleveland.

The White Sox have had a show-me fan base for years, and theres nothing wrong with that. If youre willing to pay the money to watch the team play, you deserve a good product on the field. The failure of 2011 created a ton of wounds to the moral of White Sox fans, and it hit the front office right between the eyes to the tune of 32 million being slashed from the payroll.

Throw in the putrid weather this spring, and the Sox 7-12 record at home (worst in the American League), and you probably made the right decision to stay away.

This summer might be a different story.

Things are happening with this White Sox team. Little things like stealing bases, throwing out runners, hitting cut-off men. And big things too -- Philip Humber throwing a perfect game, Peavy pitching like a Cy Young candidate, Dunn hitting baseballs to Mars.

And the best part: they havent even gotten hot yet. This could be the start.

We havent really clicked on all cylinders by any means, said Peavy, whos now 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA. We are starting to pitch well, watching Johnny (Danks) get back to doing what hes doing, Phil (Humber) bouncing back and having some good starts here. If they can keep going on the right track with the guys swinging the bats the way they have the last few days, we should be able to play a little more consistently.

Playing inside a noisy ballpark like Wrigley Field seemed to help. The White Sox fed off that energy and put on a show.

Its always fun to beat the Cubs, Peavy said. It was a great atmosphere. We had a good showing over here at Wrigley with the Sox fans wearing black. It was a lot of fun.

Tuesday the last-place Twins come to town. Why not kick them when theyre down? Then its the first-place Indians for a three-game series this weekend. Ive checked the weather forecast. High are expected in the 70s and 80s all week with little or no rain.

The White Sox seem poised to make a move.

Will you?

Cubs offense mostly quiet as bullpen blows late lead

Cubs offense mostly quiet as bullpen blows late lead

The Cubs offense had a quiet Saturday afternoon just 24 hours after putting 12 runs on the board against the Seattle Mariners in Game 1.

The Cubs only recorded three hits in their 4-1 loss to the Mariners on Saturday at Wrigley Field. 

The story for most of the game was Mariners pitcher Wade Miley, who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before it was broken up by Kris Bryant.

It was the second time this week the Cubs allowed a no-hitter through at least five innings.

White Sox pitcher Anthony Ranaudo took a no-hitter into the sixth inning on Wednesday before the Cubs poured it on and finished the game with eight runs.

Lost in the no-hitter was Jake Arrieta, who had one of the best outings of the season. Arrieta finished the game allowing two runs on two hits and three walks, striking out four in seven innings.

After a scoreless six innings of play, the Cubs drew first blood in the seventh. Dexter Fowler opened with a leadoff walk. Bryant broke up the no-hitter with a single. Following a Ben Zobrist bunt that advanced the runners, Javier Baez hit a grounder to third. Fowler tried to score and was thrown out at the plate. But after a second look, Joe Maddon challenged the call and it was reversed, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead.

A couple batters later, Miley attempted to pick off Baez — who reached on a fielder’s choice — but Bryant stole home in the process. First baseman Adam Lind quickly relayed the throw over to catcher Mike Zunino, and Bryant appeared to slide under the tag. After being ruled safe, the Mariners won a challenge of their own and the call was overturned.

In the eighth, the Mariners responded. Arrieta walked the first two batters and was relieved by Hector Rondon, who retired both batters he faced. Aroldis Chapman entered the game to try to get the final out of the inning. That happened, but not before the Mariners added three runs. A double by Leonys Martin scored two. Martin later stole third and scored on a wild pitch, making it 3-1.

The Mariners added another run in the ninth.

Slugger Anthony Rizzo didn't start, getting a day off to rest, but he came in to pinch hit for Chapman in the eighth, striking out. Willson Contreras started at first in Rizzo's place.

For Willie Young, Bears contract extension more than just a simple business transaction

For Willie Young, Bears contract extension more than just a simple business transaction

BOURBONNAIS — Sometimes football is just a business. Sometimes it’s that and a lot more.

For Willie Young, the business side was taken care of late Friday night when the Bears added two years to his contract, projecting him as a Bear through the 2018 season.

The emotional side was still being taken care of on Saturday, when a former seventh-round draft choice was able to step back and realize what effectively a third NFL contract means to someone who was passed over time after time in the draft and never expected to be much.

“I’m slightly speechless right now but excited,” said Young, someone rarely at a loss for words.

“It means a lot,” Young said after a long pause, reflecting on how seventh-round picks rarely even make teams. “All the teams that passed me over ... My big thing is who I am and what the name on my back stands for.”

[MORE: Bears sign Willie Young to two-year contract extension]

Young was able to call his family and give them the news, “We’re going to be in Chicago a little while longer.”

Just as his entry into the league was shaky, his tenure in Chicago was seldom secure before this weekend.

When Young signed with the Bears in the 2014 offseason, leaving the Detroit Lions, he did so assuming that he was coming in as a starting defensive end. That changed when the Bears landed Jared Allen to position opposite Lamarr Houston. That season ended nevertheless with Young leading the Bears in sacks (10) before suffering a torn Achilles late in the season.

Allen was traded away last season, giving Young a job opportunity as he was coming back from Achilles surgery. Trouble was, the defense Young was returning to had changed completely, and Young was now a linebacker, now with coverage responsibilities and playing in situations.

Despite that second major change from what he’d expected, Young still managed 6.5 sacks, second on the Bears. That, combined with his work through the offseason to date, convinced the Bears that he was more of a fit than even he perhaps thought once upon a time.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

The result was a two-year contract extension agreed to late Friday night and added to the final year (2016) Young had from his initial Bears contract which locked him up only through the end of this season.

“It feels good to reward somebody that’s worked as hard as he’s worked and overcome the injury last year, and the leader that he is out there mentoring our younger players,” said GM Ryan Pace. “I feel really good about it. It’s good for our locker room, it’s good for our team.”

Where he once struggled to fit in – and was not reluctant to say so – Young now is securely ensconced as one of the starting outside linebackers in the Bears’ 3-4 scheme. When the Bears go to a 4-3 in nickel situations, Young lines up as the defensive end he had been for his career.

“There’s not a big difference [between 3-4 linebacker and 4-3 end],” said coach John Fox. “I think that [‘don’t call me a linebacker!’] was a little tongue-in-cheek. Some guys up to a point have had their hand on the ground, it’s a little bit of an adjustment. But there’s way more carryover They are involved in coverage a little bit more but I think he’s adapted to it quite nicely actually.”

Coach K, on Chicago welcoming back Tom Thibodeau: 'I'm proud of my city for doing that'

Coach K, on Chicago welcoming back Tom Thibodeau: 'I'm proud of my city for doing that'

Tom Thibodeau made his long-awaited return to the United Center on Friday, and the reception he received from the Chicago crowd pleased USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Thibodeau, who's been an assistant with USA Basketball since 2013, was the first coach introduced before the team's matchup against Venezuela and received considerable applause from the sellout crowd. It was Thibodeau's first visit back to Chicago in a coaching capacity since he was fired as the Bulls head coach following the 2014-15 season.

Both Krzyzewski and Jimmy Butler, who spoke at the podium following USA's 80-45 victory, were asked about the reaction from the crowd. Krzyzewski, a Chicago native, took the question and fired off a 90-second response about how the warm reception was warranted and how pleased he was to hear it.

He even joked that he and assistants Jim Boeheim and Monty Williams paid 5,000 fans to cheer when Thibodeau, now the head coach of the Timberwolves, was introduced.

"(Chicago's) an amazing sports town, loves its athletes and its coaches, and they should love Tom. Tom brought great basketball (to Chicago) when it was not going well," Krzyzewski said. "And then really injury-wise...especially with Derrick (Rose), if he had been healthy there could have been another (NBA championship) banner or two here. And the fans realize that."

Thibodeau arrived in Chicago in 2010, coaching a Bulls team that had advanced to the playoffs the previous season for the first time since 1998. He coached the Bulls to a 255-139 record in five seasons and won 23 playoff games. His team advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011, the same year the Bulls won 62 games and Thibodeau was named NBA Coach of the Year.

[MORE: Why Jimmy Butler wanted Dwyane Wade to sign with the Bulls]

In that five-year span Rose, who was named the league's youngest MVP in 2011, missed 213 of a possible 394 games, and the team dealt with myriad injuries to key players in Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol. Irreconcilable differences within the front office led to Thibodaeu's dismissal, but Thibodeau said Thursday that he was grateful for the eperiences he had during this time in Chicago.

And Krzyzewski reiterated how pleased he was that the fans understood the successes Thibodeau acheived.

"He’s the best, as far as preparation and team player and whatever, and the fans appreciate that," Krzyzewski said. "It was great. I love the fact that my town gave the guy who gave them his heart and soul for the number of years he’s been here and acknowledged that. That’s a great thing. I’m proud of my city for doing that."