Word on the Street: Cubs looking at Berkman?

Word on the Street: Cubs looking at Berkman?

Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010
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Cubs interested in signing Lance Berkman?

Looking to add some left-handed pop to their lineup without paying too much, Fox Sports writer Ken Rosenthal claims the Cubs are looking into former Houston Astros first baseman Lance Berkman. Berkman was primarily used at first base after being traded to the New York Yankees late in 2010, but says he wants to play the field again. (foxsports.com)
No arbitration offer for Pierzynski an interesting choice

The White Sox chose to offer salary arbitration to free agents Paul Konerko and J.J. Putz, but declined the option on A.J. Pierzynski and Manny Ramirez. While the Ramirez choice isn't shocking, the Pierzynski decision is a bit of a head-scratcher. How could declining to offer Pierzynski actually be beneficial for the White Sox and aid in the veteran's return to the South Side? (examiner.com)

Chicago home to "Hole of the Year"

Golf Digest's Ron Whitten handed out his 2010 awards in the December issue of the magazine and Chicago Highlands won big. Located in west suburban Westchester, the courses par-3 13th hole won the "Hole of the Year" award.

"It's shaped like a volcano ... blow it left, right, short or over the green, and the ball could roll 60 yards down. It's a giant chocolate drop of a hole, a pyramid of grass, the Iwo Jima of golf," wrote Whitten. (ChicagoBreakingSports)

Scott Boras potentially in trouble with Players Union

Baseball super-agent Scott Boras, agent to some of the greatest players in the game over the last two decades including Alex Rodriguez, Greg Maddux, and Barry Bonds, may have violated the rules of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Boras is accused of providing tens of thousands of dollars of loans and payments to Dominican teenage prospects. According to the union's regulations, loans of more than 500 to players andor their families are prohibited unless the reason for the loan is disclosed to the players union.

The money obligates them to the agent, gives the agent leverage, and coerces the athlete to do what the agent wants because of fear of foreclosure or other adverse consequences for the athlete or the athletes family, said Mark S. Levinstein, a prominent sports lawyer who is a partner at the Washington law firm Williams & Connolly.

If found to be in violation of the union's rules, Boras could be subject to fines or even have his rights to represent players revoked. (The New York Times)
Vick featured on SI cover

Michael Vick has quickly become the most talked about player in the entire NFL, and this week Sports Illustrated is jumping on the bandwagon, featuring Vick on the cover of the this week's issue of the magazine. The cover, and the infamous jinx to those featured on it, add even more hype to this Sunday's Bears-Eagles game at Soldier Field. For their part, the Bears are convinced they can stop Vick.

"We believe in our defense and it's set up to play guys like him. We give him all the respect in the world, but our guys are excited about playing against not just Mike Vick, it's more than Michael Vick, the Philly offense. They have good skill guys all the way around," said coach Lovie Smith. (ChicagoBreakingSports)

Heat flounder against Pacers, fall to 8-6

The star-studded Miami Heat, once the subject of talks as to whether or not they could best the 1995-96 Bulls NBA-record 72-10 regular season record, have lost their second consecutive game, bringing their season record to 8-6. Their most recent loss, a 93-77 dismantling at the hands of the Indiana Pacers, was the teams worst offensive performance of the year and came just hours after learning that they would lose their top reserve Udonis Haslem indefinitely due to a foot injury.

After their most recent loss, the Heat would have to go 64-4 for the remainder of the season to tie the Bulls' record. (ChicagoBreakingSports)

NFLPA writes to Quinn, Daley about potential lockout

The NFL Players Association's president Kevin Mawae wrote a letter to Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Richard Daley on Monday, warning the two of the massive amount of money that the state and city could lose if the NFL is locked out in 2011.

Mawae claimed in the letter that if the NFL does not play in 2011, the city and state stand to lose as much as 160 million. (SB Nation Chicago)

Morandini to manage Phillies Class-A squad

Former Cubs second baseman Mickey Morandini was named Manager of the Phillies Class-A Williamsport Croscutters on Monday. Prior to taking the job with the Phillies, Morandini was a baseball coach at Valparaiso High School in northwest Indiana. Morandini played two years with the Cubs, including their 1998 season in which they won the National League wild card. (ChicagoBreakingSports)

Cubs conserving Jake Arrieta for October and see another Cy Young push coming

Cubs conserving Jake Arrieta for October and see another Cy Young push coming

SAN DIEGO – West Coast atmosphere, late August, almost no-hitter stuff for a Cubs team riding a wave of momentum. Jake Arrieta might be reentering the zone that made him the hottest pitcher on the planet last year. Get your onesies ready.

It felt that way on Tuesday night at Petco Park, where Arrieta shut down the San Diego Padres, allowing only two hits across eight scoreless innings in a 5-3 victory, making another statement in his Cy Young Award defense.

For all the questions about Arrieta’s fastball control and mechanical tweaks – and times where he’s admitted he’s felt a click off – this is still a top-of-the-rotation guy who leads the league with 16 wins and has a 2.62 ERA.

“He should be” in the Cy Young discussion, manager Joe Maddon said. “The only thing that’s been amiss is a little bit of command issues on occasion. Otherwise, stuff is the same. Numbers are fabulous. It’s hard to replicate what he had done last year, because he just nailed it.

“If he gets hot over these last couple weeks…”

It will be up to Arrieta to complete that thought in a World Series-or-bust season for baseball’s first team to 80 wins this year, one that’s now 35 games over .500.  

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This didn’t feel like a perfect game or create any no-hitter drama. The Padres are already 20 games under .500 and years away from being a serious contender. And Arrieta had to bounce back from last week’s ugly win over the Milwaukee Brewers – when he walked a career-high seven batters – and work around a first-inning walk to San Diego leadoff guy Travis Jankowski.

But the Cubs played spectacular defense behind Arrieta, with catcher Willson Contreras make a lightning-quick throw to pick off Jankowski at third base. The Cubs turned three double plays while a thunderous lineup led by Kris Bryant (33rd home run) and Addison Russell (fifth home run in his last five games) lowered the stress level. After Alex Dickerson’s single leading off the second inning, the Padres didn’t get another hit until Christian Bethancourt’s double with two outs in the eighth.

“I really wanted to let my defense work,” said Arrieta, who finished with six strikeouts against three walks. “When you have Addison and (Javier) Baez in the middle of the infield – two of the best athletes in all of baseball – you want the ball to go to those guys.”

At a time when Clayton Kershaw (back) and Stephen Strasburg (elbow) are on the disabled list, leaving potential playoff opponents like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals in scramble mode, the Cubs can see Arrieta building toward October.

The way Arrieta did with that Aug. 30 no-hitter last year at Dodger Stadium on national TV, walking into the press conference in a moustache-covered onesie, Maddon going with the pajama theme again for the flight home after this weekend’s series in Los Angeles.

But the Cubs ultimately paid the price for all that effort poured into the wild-card chase, which explains why Maddon pulled Arrieta after 99 pitches with a five-run lead (leaving Aroldis Chapman to clean up Felix Pena’s mess in the ninth inning and get the final two outs, giving him eight saves in a Cubs uniform).

“Yeah, I was mad at Joe taking me out,” Arrieta said. “But at the same time, he came over to me and he said: ‘Hey, just remember last year and let’s conserve some things for October.’

“That’s our game plan. We want to be as strong and as dominant as we can be, but still in the back of our mind understanding that late September, early October, mid-October is really the most important time for us.

“Could I have finished the game? Yes. Does it play in our favor to maybe conserve that for later? Yeah. Joe’s a really smart guy. He knows what he’s doing. I feel like he makes the right moves in the right situations. And that’s why we’ve been playing as well as we have.”

No doubt, Addison Russell is becoming a star for Cubs

No doubt, Addison Russell is becoming a star for Cubs

SAN DIEGO – On a team bursting with MVP frontrunners and Cy Young Award candidates – and in a clubhouse with louder, flashier personalities – Addison Russell can emerge as an All-Star shortstop and not become the center of attention.

But here at Petco Park last month, Russell drew scrutiny for his spot in the all-Cub infield, patiently answering questions from reporters about whether or not he deserved to be the National League starter the fans voted for in that popularity contest.

Russell might actually be developing into a superstar now, a Gold Glove-caliber defender with legitimate middle-of-the-order power, someone absolutely essential to what the Cubs are doing now. Russell crushed the San Diego Padres again on Tuesday night, opening up a two-run game with a two-run homer in the fifth inning of a 5-3 victory.

“Just watch me over the course of a year,” Russell said. “My numbers may not be great or whatever, but I contribute to my team every single day. I play my heart out for my team.”

Super-agent Scott Boras, posted up at Petco Park to see clients and watch Jake Arrieta pitch, pointed out that Russell is now only one of five shortstops within the last 40 years to have at least 19 homers during his age-22 season, joining Cal Ripken Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Troy Tulowitzki and Corey Seager.

Russell is the first Cubs shortstop to reach the 80-RBI mark since Ernie Banks did it in 1961. For all the comparisons to Barry Larkin, he didn’t make his big-league debut with the Cincinnati Reds until the age of 22, and didn’t exceed 12 homers in a season until five years later.

Russell has homered five times in his last five games, leads the best team in baseball with 23 multi-RBI games and exemplifies a no-panic approach that should translate in October.

“I’ve said all year, we have guys on our team that get on base and it’s my job to get them over or get them in,” Russell said. “I’ve taken that role to heart. It’s a lot of fun out there. I challenge myself whenever I’m in that situation.”

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Russell’s highlight-reel play during Monday night’s victory inspired manager Joe Maddon to give him a bottle of Justin Isosceles wine with a “6-3” written on it. Imagine the reward if Russell wins a Gold Glove.  

“Defensively, it’s as good as there is being played right now,” Maddon said. “It’s getting to the point where there’s nobody else like that right now.”

Whether or not Russell can stay healthy and remain productive enough to become another Mr. Cub – or come close to matching Larkin’s Hall of Fame numbers – you don’t get the sense he will be a one-time All-Star.

“I’m very happy for him, because I know prior to being selected, that was an issue,” Maddon said. “I’m so proud of him, how he came out and confronted it in his own way, very quietly, but in a distinguished manner. That’s who he is.

“Now he’s showing everybody how good he is. And I also believe that event has pretty much catapulted him to the point he’s at right now (with) the status that he felt by being here. In some ways, there was this negative dialogue going on. He’s turned it into a very positive one. Good for him.”

Golden State of mind: Joe Maddon meets Steve Kerr and sees similarities between Cubs and Warriors

Golden State of mind: Joe Maddon meets Steve Kerr and sees similarities between Cubs and Warriors

SAN DIEGO – Wearing a blue T-shirt, jeans and Vans slip-on sneakers, Steve Kerr looked like a believer in the Joe Maddon dress code. The Golden State Warriors coach walked down the dugout steps and into the visiting clubhouse, meeting with the Cubs manager for almost 30 minutes before Tuesday night’s game at Petco Park, a natural connection between two teams that have embraced the target.

Maddon is open to new experiences, and appreciates these opportunities to speak with innovative coaches from other sports. The Padres had shown Kerr, a San Diego resident, on their video board in the middle of Monday night’s game. Kerr also played in Chicago, winning three championship rings on Michael Jordan’s Bulls, and two more with the San Antonio Spurs, before winning another as Golden State’s rookie coach during the 2014-15 season.

“You got a combination of great players and his touch, along with (Luke) Walton,” Maddon said, referencing the interim coach who took over while Kerr recovered from back surgery last season, helping guide the Warriors to an NBA-record 73 wins and earning a head job with the Los Angeles Lakers. “Walton did a great job in his absence, also, which is really unusual, but that also speaks to the quality of the player, too. What that tells me is they built something pretty dynamic culturally.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of freedom within that group, also, to be themselves and play. It’s kind of a loosely based structure that works somehow. Xs and Os – I’m sure there is a lot of that. But when you have individual talent like that – like we do – you don’t want to get in the way too often either. I don’t want to get in their way at all.”

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Of course, those Warriors are also the cautionary tale for Cubs fans watching a team dominate the regular season, only to see LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers win a Game 7 in the NBA Finals.

But when Kevin Durant ditched the Oklahoma City Thunder and joined the team that beat him in the playoffs, the superstar talked up Golden State’s chemistry, culture and vision, sounding a lot like Jason Heyward after the $184 million outfielder turned down the St. Louis Cardinals and switched sides in their rivalry with the Cubs.

“Believe me, it’s not everywhere,” Maddon said. “You don’t get that everywhere. It doesn’t happen. I’ve been in places where it doesn’t feel that way. Not a lot of fun to go to the yard sometimes. I’m sure it’s not a lot of fun to go to the shootaround in the mornings. But when you develop that, and people actually want to come there – good people want to come to your spot – that’s pretty solid.”