Bowman: Hawks have areas for improvement

684556.png

Bowman: Hawks have areas for improvement

NEWARK, N.J. Stan Bowman talked with a few of his fellow NHL general managers on Wednesday, including Tampa Bays Steve Yzerman and the Florida Panthers Dale Tallon. No, it wasnt tradebarter talk. But theres no time like the present to start the friendly banter.

Bowman was one of many GMs participating in a brief meeting in New York on Wednesday. The meeting was to talk about some potential rule changes as well; but it also lays some light groundwork for trade chatter.

A couple guys I spoke to said well talk over the next couple of weeks, but there was nothing of substance, really, said Bowman, who added hes not looking for anything specific for this Blackhawks team this offseason.

We have a lot of good components in place already. Were just looking to get better and that can be shown in a couple of different ways, he said. We have some ideas but we havent decided, definitively, where were going with it yet.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks coaching staff is still minus an assistant after Mike Haviland was fired earlier this month. Bowman said its a focus, but the team is not in a tremendous hurry to hire a new assistant.

The important thing is to get it right; its not about doing it fast, said Bowman. Weve got some ideas on how to handle it, and were going to dive back into that in a few weeks.

It was ultimately coach Joel Quennevilles decision to fire Haviland; Quenneville spoke of dysfunction that had to be addressed at the time, but didnt elaborate on it much. Bowman didnt expand upon it much more, either, on Wednesday.

I dont want to live in the past, he said. Joel addressed it, put it succinctly that were trying to improve, ad thats what it comes down to. He agreed with me that we could be better, and thats a big part of it as well.

So now it comes down to that improvement aspect. The Blackhawks stars have continued to be just that these past two seasons, for the most part. The supporting cast is where the team has struggled, as attempts to conjure up the same magical group that won the Cup in 2010 has faltered. One way or another, the Blackhawks need to find that chemistry again, top to bottom.

Well look at adding, be it new faces or substantial players from other teams. Thats one way to improve. The other way is from within, Bowman said. Your own players can step their games up and coaches can get more out of them. You add all those up, theyre areas for improvement.

How a fan's kind gesture surprised Mark Buehrle on his big day

How a fan's kind gesture surprised Mark Buehrle on his big day

It’s one of the more iconic moments in White Sox history, and now Mark Buehrle has a key piece of memorabilia after a fan’s kind gesture.

Already overwhelmed by a series of gifts from the White Sox on Saturday afternoon, Buehrle was in disbelief when 17-year-old Tommy Maloney walked onto the field during a number-retirement ceremony and presented him with the flipped-through-the-legs ball from 2010 Opening Day.

The memento was one of four gifts Buehrle received from the White Sox along with a new truck, a four-seat All-Terrain Vehicle and a personalized piece of art created by White Sox outfielder Ron Kittle commemorating many of the highlights of the pitcher’s White Sox career. It was just another part of an overwhelming, emotional day for Buehrle, who was honored for his 12 seasons in a White Sox uniform.

“Pretty cool,” Buehrle said. “I don’t recall signing it for him when it happened. I don’t really remember where it went. But one, for him to give that up, that was pretty awesome.”

Maloney’s father, Matt, contacted the White Sox earlier this month to see if Buehrle wanted to meet with the fan who had the ball from a moment in White Sox history that has been replayed thousands upon thousands of times.

The Maloneys also reached out to the White Sox back in 2010, too. They informed the club they had the ball that Buehrle retrieved and flipped through his legs to Paul Konerko, who caught it with a barehanded to retire Cleveland’s Lou Marson in the fifth inning of the April 5, 2010 contest. Buehrle autographed the ball in 2010, but neither he nor the White Sox asked for Tommy Maloney, who was 8 at the time, to hand it over.

“At that point it’s just a cool ball, it’s not part of White Sox history,” said Brooks Boyer, White Sox vice president of sales and marketing.

As he looked for a unique artifact for Buehrle to offer another layer to Saturday’s ceremony, Boyer came across Matt Maloney’s most recent email. He definitely thought Buehrle would have interest in reuniting with the fan who held a key artifact from a play that has become legendary around these parts over the years.

But Boyer also asked if the Maloneys would want to donate the ball to Buehrle.

“We didn’t have the unique thing,” Boyer said. “We just didn’t have it.

“Here it is.”

How it had gotten in Tommy Maloney’s hands in the first place was interesting enough. The Munster, Ind., high schooler said his father got tickets for the 2010 season opener and he left school early to watch Buehrle, his favorite pitcher as a kid. The seats were in the first row behind the far right edge of the White Sox dugout, the same ones he was in for Saturday’s ceremony.

After the improbable play to steal a hit from Marson, Buehrle fell to his knees, which brought manager Ozzie Guillen out of the dugout. Somehow Guillen retrieved the ball and upon returning to the dugout, flipped it to Maloney, who had earlier asked him for a ball several times. Even though it was a prized possession, Tommy Maloney said he’d have no problem surrendering it again if he were asked.

The White Sox rewarded Maloney for his sacrifice as club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf determined that the youngster would present Buehrle with the ball on the field. But the White Sox didn’t tell Maloney he would present the ball until Saturday, surprising him with the news about an hour before the game.

“It’s awesome the way it played out,” Maloney said. “He’s such a great guy. He was hugging me in the dugout. He looked at me when I went up there to give him the ball and said, ‘Give me a hug.’ ”

Maloney not only stood on the field before the ceremony, he had a chance to briefly meet Buehrle in the dugout. He also received another autographed baseball. And after he was applauded by the sellout crowd, several fans stopped by Maloney’s seat to pose for a picture.

Buehrle was touched by the gesture.

“I was like, ‘Brooks, we’ve got to do something here,’ ” Buehrle said. “’He can’t just give the ball and walk out of here empty-handed.’ So I ended up signing him a ball and I don’t know if we have something else in mind, but it was pretty awesome.”

Jon Lester, Cubs rotation trends in right direction with win over Marlins

6-24_jon_lester_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Jon Lester, Cubs rotation trends in right direction with win over Marlins

MIAMI – Jon Lester dropped his head and wiped the sweat from his face. The Cubs ace didn’t jerk his neck and twist his body, hoping the swing and the sound somehow fooled him. The slow turnaround revealed the obvious – his 75-mph curveball flew over the left-field wall and nearly into the Clevelander bar billed as an adult playground.  

Lester gripped the next ball, stared out into the visual noise at Marlins Park and went to work on Saturday after J.T. Realmuto’s three-run homer in the first inning. This is the stuff, determination and tunnel vision that’s been the antidote to the pressures of playing at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field and made Lester such a big-game pitcher.

Lester retired the next 13 hitters he faced, 15 of the next 16 and 18 of his last 20 at a time when the Cubs needed that kind of performance to buy time for their young hitters, survive a brutal schedule and weather a series of injuries. 

A 5-3 win pushed the Cubs to 38-36 as Lester (5-4, 3.83 ERA) and the overall rotation continue to trend in the right direction.