Frankie O: Line of demarcation

584294.png

Frankie O: Line of demarcation

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com
There are events that create these lines in our lives and nothing is the same. For anyone associated with Penn State University, a line was drawn on November 5, 2011, and there is no going back. For the alleged victims of Jerry Sanduskys evil, predatory reign these lines were unfortunately drawn a long time ago, covered in a sickening shroud. I can only hope that for their sake that a new, uplifting one can be drawn, but the cynic, and realist, in me has no idea if that can ever be the case.

I think about these victims every day. Thats the parent in me. I cant help but feel a little guilty whenever I give my little ones a hug and kiss. I realize how precious they are and how fortunate I am to have them in my life. For some reason Ive been doing it a lot more frequently lately. How some monster could see them as something else is very unsettling. Seeing children for the gift they are is at the core being a parent. I dont know if it is coincidental that Sandusky does not have any biological children of his own. I know for myself, when my oldest was born it changed the way I looked at everything. First and foremost was the unconditional love and need to provide for and protect the new center of my universe. And not being unaware of what was right or wrong, being responsible for someone elses little angel took on an entire new meaning. I cant think of a bigger responsibility then when I am in charge of the care of someone's child.

That a sick deviate can exist is something that a behavioral psychologist can try to explain, but that doesnt mean the normal-thinking of us can understand. The issues being dealt with here are beyond any sort of acceptable behavior. But what makes me especially nauseous in this case is that there where highly educated people, who were put in a position because they should know better, and they did nothing to stop the atrocities from continuing. When procedure means that a university official can determine when a crime has occurred without consulting police, this should be a big red flag that morality has been shoved aside for profitability.

The more we learn the sicker it gets. I dont know when the thought of a cover-up began, but you cant convince me that isnt what occurred. In that case, what kind of monster agrees the safety and innocence of young kids is worth saving the program? I cant begin to fathom the depths of the feelings of the victims, but how could one be so unfeeling as to turn their backs on them?

The fallout, of course, is that it casts a stain on anyone associated with the university in any way. I know there has been a lot of talk about the current team and I get that, but this is much bigger. Being a symbol for child abuse, which the university now is, means that anyone who wears the Penn State colors, walks on the university campus or has the name prominently featured in their resume, is going to have to answer questions and explain how they feel about what has occurred.

Hopefully this will create enough emotion that it motivates us to make sure that the truth is learned and no matter who it is, anyone in any way responsible will have to pay a price.

Not that that will erase any of what has happened. Listening to the Bob Costas interview with Sandusky on Monday was chilling. I wont try to analyze his pauses and inflections for what secret meaning they possess, I think its obvious enough, but by just going on the facts of what he was talking about, at what point is it appropriate behavior for a man in his 50s to be showering at any time, let alone late at night in an empty building, with a young boy? Horeseplay? Again, I dont understand why this guy is not in jail! Not only that, he has no restrictions on his movements or is being monitored. In fact he was advised by his attorney, to take a vacation with his wife so he will be ready for the stress of the upcoming trial. Does that make anyone else angry?

This brings me to the least understood situation of what we are dealing with, at least with some that I talk to. These victims must confront their abuser in a court of law if justice is to be done. In a way it is to re-live their nightmare over again for all to see. I know that this is a fundamental procedure in our judicial system, and rightfully so, but it rips at my heart to think of how painful that must be. One can only hope that they have the strength and support to be able to do what must be done. And now that they are older, they can finally stand up to the person who willfully took advantage of them, in a way they were unable to as a child.

That is also how people are going to understand the magnitude of what has taken place. This story still has many, many unanswered questions. What has yet to come out is the explanations of what those tied to the university will use as their excuse. Im sure it will center on one person though, and whether you believe them or him. Mike McQueary being able to talk has to make a lot of people nervous. He also will have a say in the way that Joe Paterno will be viewed from here on out, although there still are some who refuse to believe that Joe could have done any wrong. At this point its a little late for that kind of thinking, isnt it? Its going to be to what degree of wrong, when all is said and done.

But whatever happens, its going to be when we hear from the kids themselves that this whole awful episode will hit home. No amount of spin-doctoring is going to be able to change what happened to them and the culture that allowed it to happen more than once.

The contradiction that is Paterno and what was built at Penn State is that we should strive to be something better, that education and brotherhood are great virtues. But the measure of what we achieve isnt in the magnitude of what we have built, it is in the knowledge that we make this a better place to live one at a time, bringing everyone with us, especially those who cant always fend for themselves. Somehow, Paterno and those around him forgot this very basic idea. They became enamored with themselves and all that they possessed. Soon we will learn at what price.

Joe Maddon has not seen anything like these recent implosions from Cubs pitching staff

hector_rondon_maddon_cubs_implosions_slide.jpg
AP

Joe Maddon has not seen anything like these recent implosions from Cubs pitching staff

Joe Maddon has not seen anything like these single-inning implosions lately.

At least not at the major-league level.

For the third time in the last five Wrigley Field contest, the Cubs pitching staff has allowed at least seven runs in an inning.

This time, it was nine runs before the first out was recorded in the eighth inning of Friday's 11-4 Cardinals victory.

The Cubs actually entered the inning clinging to a 3-2 lead and had their best setup guy — Carl Edwards Jr. — slated to pitch against the top of the Cardinals order.

But after taking out his teammate with a foul ball, Matt Carpenter began the wacky inning with a double off Edwards and the rout was on.

"We had a bad inning pitching," Maddon said after the game. "That's the third time in a week here at this ballpark, if you go back prior to the break. It's a seven, a nine and a 10 in an inning. 

"I've not seen that since rookie ball. That's crazy stuff. I'm saying it straight up: We played good baseball today. We just pitched badly for one inning. Some really good pitchers had a tough time.

"...That's kind of a strange day. We played well and lost because we gave up nine runs in an inning, which is really awkward to watch from the dugout."

Thirty-eight minutes after Edwards threw the first pitch of the inning, the Cubs finally retired the Cardinals and were looking up at an 11-3 score. 

Neither Edwards nor Hector Rondon recorded an out and they combined with Justin Grimm to allow six hits, six walks and nine runs.

Here's how it all went down:

That's the second straight Wrigley Field game that has featured at least nine runs in an inning but a Cubs opponent. Ace Jon Lester surrendered 10 runs in the first inning to the Pittsburgh Pirates on the day before the All-Star Break began.

And the day before that series began, Mike Montgomery and the Cubs gave up seven runs to the Milwaukee Brewers in a rain make-up game at the "Friendly Confines."

"You see it every now and again. Not often," said Jake Arrieta, Friday's starting pitcher who was in line for a win before that wild eighth inning. "You stick around this game long enough and you see some crazy things happen. And really, that was the turning point in the game. 

"A couple guys had a pretty rare outing in the 8th there. You won't see that rarely ever or ever again from those two guys. Just a tough one."

Rondon, who had entered the game having allowed just two runs in his last 13 innings, could do nothing but shake his head in trying to explain it after the game.

"That was a weird, weird inning," Rondon said. "First time I've seen something like that — nine runs with no outs. But it is what it is. They got us today and we'll see tomorrow."

Maddon has seen control issues with his bullpen all year, but still has confidence in the unit as a whole. He knows not to overreact to one game.

However, Maddon did point to the first game coming out of the All-Star Break where Montgomery and the Cubs bullpen squandered an 8-0 lead before Addison Russell's heroics to break the tie for good late in that contest.

"The bullpen has been fabulous," Maddon said. "Twice since the break, they just had tough games."

Rondon and the Cubs relievers won't overreact, either.

A year ago at this time, Rondon was the Cubs' closer and they hadn't yet traded for Aroldis Chapman. So no, one outing won't get him down. 

"Right now, I'm pissed and whatever," he said, "but tomorrow, I'll come in with a different mentality and try to win the game."

With NL Central suddenly bunched up, a reminder it won't all be sunshine, lollipops and rainbows for Cubs in second half

With NL Central suddenly bunched up, a reminder it won't all be sunshine, lollipops and rainbows for Cubs in second half

So that six-game winning streak was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it?

The Cubs’ perfect second half came to a crashing halt Friday in the series opener with the visiting St. Louis Cardinals, an 11-4 drubbing low-lighted by a never-ending eighth inning in which the Cards torched the Cubs’ bullpen for nine runs.

It was a screaming reminder that the second half, even with its 6-0 start, won’t be all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows for the defending champs.

One nasty result after a six-game stretch of hot bats and hot pitching shouldn’t send Cubs fans panicking about a falling sky — even though the heavens opened up and poured a gigantic, watery metaphor down on the Friendly Confines after Friday’s bullpen implosion.

But it also looked like an indication that the troubles of a sub-.500 first half might not be totally exorcized from Wrigley Field’s home clubhouse. Not that that’s denting the team’s confidence in any way.

“I don’t think we’ve gotten too high or too low, even throughout some slumps where we weren’t very happy about the way we were playing,” starting pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “I feel like we’ve been able to maintain an even keel and stay focused. While there has been some frustration, that’s just kind of the nature of not playing up to your potential and knowing you’re better than you’re playing. But having said that, we are positive and will remain to be so throughout the near future and stretch of games we have coming up. We look forward to playing some good baseball.”

Most importantly, perhaps, Friday’s result showed that it’s not just the first-place Milwaukee Brewers that the Cubs have to be concerned with in what is suddenly a tight and crowded race in the National League Central.

The Cubs might have gotten within a game of the Brewers, but the Cardinals and the surging Pittsburgh Pirates are right there, too. After Friday’s game on the North Side went final, the four teams were within four games of each other. A Brewers loss Friday night in Philadelphia could make things even closer.

“Baseball’s crazy,” outfielder Kyle Schwarber said. “You’ve seen a lot of races, I’m sure, and this is just the way that this division’s playing out. It’s really competitive between all of us.”

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Not dissimilarly from that up-and-down first half, Friday’s contest had signs both positive and negative for the team still on a quest to repeat as World Series champions.

Arrieta might’ve been relatively unremarkable, but he only gave up two runs in six innings, bettering numbers that were downright ugly earlier this season and perhaps signaling that his second half will be far more consistent than his first. In four July starts, he’s got a 2.13 ERA after posting ERAs above 4.50 in each of the first three months of the season.

Willson Contreras continued his torrid July with a first-inning home run. He’s batting .363 on the month with five homers and 12 RBIs in 14 games.

But the negatives were gaudier and more directly involved in the result. In addition to the offense going 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranding nine base runners, a bullpen that had been incredibly reliable fell apart in can’t-look-away fashion. Carl Edwards Jr., Hector Rondon and Justin Grimm combined to allow the first 11 batters of the eighth inning to reach. The first nine of them scored. Five of them walked.

Theo Epstein’s front office likely won’t answer the call of fans on Twitter howling for the team to trade for relief help. There’s no need to do that. Only the seemingly unbeatable Los Angeles Dodgers have a better bullpen ERA in the NL than the Cubs’ 3.51 mark.

“I trust our guys,” Maddon said, reacting to Friday’s nightmarish eighth. “The right guys are out there. C.J. was the right guy for the moment, it didn't play out. Rondon’s been throwing the ball great, but I really put him in a no-win situation. That’s my fault. And finally, Grimmer just had to suck it up.”

Maddon’s not wrong in singing the season-long praises of the three guys who got lit up Friday. But undoubtedly those three relievers provided some evidence that the final two and a half months of the regular season might not feature the Cubs sprinting away from their division-mates.

No, this could be a knock-down, drag-out fight to the finish. And the Cubs have 26 games remaining against the Brewers, Pirates and Cardinals.

So buckle up.

“That’s what you get when you play these kinds of teams that have a shot to reach the postseason,” Arrieta said. “We’re all within a few games of each other, so in our minds it’s up for grabs, it’s ours to take and we look forward to the opportunity to do so.”