Heard over the bar

Heard over the bar

Friday, May 21, 2010
1:32 AM

Hello again everybody! Whats the talk of the bar this week?

Is it the LeBron watch? I dont know about you but this is just starting and Im already near my saturation point. Mindless speculation drives me crazy, and anyone whos telling you that they know, doesnt have a clue. But, like Brett Favres annual retirement drama, people cant help themselves. I honestly do not think hes coming here, but I wear a red bow tie for a living. One thing his coming here would do is make Chicago the second most relevant basketball city in the country. Whether hes the missing piece is another thing. The one thing he has not had is a dominating post presence to play with and that has meant his coming up short in the playoffs every year. If he comes here, who is that guy? Noah? Honestly? Thats why as intriguing as it would be to have him here, I think the best move for the Bulls is to get Chris Bosh and a two-guard that can actually shoot, Joe Johnson if possible, but I would not mind that Ray Allen fellow either.

Is it the plummeting fortunes of the local starting nines? Talk about not playing to expectations. The pre-season Sox talk centered around the rotation and the new DH by committee. Hows that working out? The rotation for the ages has been anything but and I find that very surprising. Floyd I can understand. The reason he was traded here was the fact that despite dominating stuff, he doesnt seem to have the make-up to match. Buehrle and Peavy? 5-7 with a combined ERA of 5.30 is not what was expected of the co-aces. I guess you can feel better that they cant get any worse, can they? But more than that, can this team hit at all? Rios and Andruw Jones have been a pleasant surprise and Paulie is Paulie, but the rest? If this doesnt turn around soon, somebodys gonna have some splainin to do! And the Northsiders? Say this: theyre always interesting. Now that the Z to the bullpen farce has imploded, what next? The logical choice would be Dempster being moved back to the pen, but does that make sense for the rotation? One thing though, he would always do whats good for the team and take the ball every time you give it to him. At this point why not? And who would have thought that watching the Cubs hit would be this frustrating? (LOL!) Everybody, well everybody but two noticeable exceptions, hits fine until theres a man in scoring position, then its back to flailing away. I cant remember a team leaving so many guys on base, well since last year. New Cubs same as the old Cubs. And who is that guy in the Ramirez jersey? He looks absolutely lost. He cant get any wore, can he? Still plenty of time, but both teams seem to be a bunch of pieces that dont fit.

As much fun as all of that is, there is only one real topic at the bar, the continuing march of the Blackhawks. The fever-pitch here at the bar only gets more intense as the games go on. I love playoff hockey! I do miss booing Rebound-o Luongo, but, HE GONE! These guys have really proven to be road-warriors. 7 straight wins away from home in the playoffs is mind boggling and a huge reason why the locals should feel good about how this season is going to end. But they do have to play games at home in these last two series and if they dont play better than in the last 2 rounds, it could but a damper on that whole parade planning thing. My guess is that they will come up huge this weekend and enable themselves to get plenty of rest before the next step. The next step? Well, thanks to one of the coolest things that I have ever rooted for, the Flyers becoming only the 4th team ever, in any sport, to come back from a 3-0 series deficit, it could get a lot more interesting for the guy in a red bow tie. My rooting for the Hawks this year hasnt been a problem, since they only played the Flyers once during the regular season and theres no way that these two would ever meet for the Cup. Is there? Holy..cow! It could be, it might be Everyone at the bar is rooting for it. Me? I am too, but its with a lot of trepidation and realizing both teams still have a lot of work to do.

Still..

A couple of weeks ago Patrick Kane was in for dinner after a playoff game with his folks and he asked me what would happen if both teams made it to the Finals. Thats easy, I told him, My head would explode! Looks like we might need a clean up in aisle 9!

Kyle Schwarber catching again is a good step for a banged-up Cubs team

Kyle Schwarber catching again is a good step for a banged-up Cubs team

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs are so strong up the middle that Javier Baez can star for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic and return to camp as a super-utility guy/late-game defensive replacement. 

But that projection in late March is based on across-the-board health, which never happens in a 162-game season. World Series MVP Ben Zobrist (stiff neck) hasn't played in a Cactus League game in almost a week. All-Star shortstop Addison Russell (stiff back) became a late scratch to Friday's lineup at Sloan Park.

After trying to make a diving catch in center field, Albert Almora Jr. exited in the third inning of a 4-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians with what the Cubs called "left neck tightness," though he still plans to play in Las Vegas this weekend.  

On the other side of the spring-training complex in Mesa – away from the crowd of 15,473 in a minor-league game against a Colorado Rockies squad – the Cubs did get a positive piece of news on the health front: Kyle Schwarber went four innings behind the plate, going Tony Pena style and trying to reduce the stress on his body.

"I love catching," Schwarber said. "Whenever I played baseball, I was always a catcher. For me to be able to do that today – and feel pretty good about myself walking away from the day – it was a good step."

This is clearly important to Schwarber, an intensely driven personality who doesn't want to hear "no." Otherwise, the Cubs probably would have shut this down already, not wanting to risk it with a franchise player, someone who might blast 35 homers at the top of their lineup.

[Buy Cubs tickets right here]

But the medical staff cleared Schwarber when pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona – 10 months after he underwent surgery on his left knee to reconstruct his ACL and repair his LCL – and it could become a valuable skill again. 

"The most difficult part I would probably say was setup-wise," Schwarber said, "trying to find that timing of your moves and everything like that. Sometimes I felt like I was a little late getting my setup. But that all came. It's been a year since I got behind there, so overall everything went really well."

The Cubs already have one of the best young catchers in the game (Willson Contreras) and a two-time All-Star making $14 million this season backing him up (Miguel Montero). Schwarber doesn't want to put a number on how many starts he might make behind the plate, though the Cubs have framed it as in case of emergency, an extra late-inning option for manager Joe Maddon or maybe something that makes sense with a particular matchup. 

"As of right now, it's still the third-catcher role," Schwarber said. "I'm down for whatever, but I know the majority of the time is going to be out there in left."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Mark Sanchez officially signs with Bears

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Mark Sanchez officially signs with Bears

On the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Chris Emma, Seth Gruen and Danny Ecker join David Kaplan to discuss the Mark Sanchez signing. Does this mean the Bears won't draft a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft? 

Later, the White Sox named Jose Quintana their Opening Day starter, but lose Carlos Rodon and Todd Frazier to injuries. 

Finally, Robin Lopez is back after serving a one-game suspension. The panel looks at the Bulls matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below.