Random News: Bull Market, a Night at the Tops

Random News: Bull Market, a Night at the Tops

Monday, Feb. 14, 2011
9:50 a.m.

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

Happy Valentines Day! Heres hoping you didnt have to stand in line at Walgreens at 6am for a crack at a the remaining dented boxes of Russell Stover chocolates. But if you did, congratulations for being persistent. Is it just me or is Valentines Day like a trip to a 4am bar? Think about it. They all kind of revolve around a certain air of desperation:

Why am I losing sleep over this? Should I really be spending all this money? Why was I talked into celebrating this nonsense? Stupid peer pressure. And reallywhat will I get out of this by nights end?

Anyway

Here are some random thoughts and observations from the sports world:

BULL MARKET: The Bulls just went a combined 7-5 on Novembers Circus Trip and Februarys Ice Trip out west. It is the best such mark since the 97-98 season. And the news only gets better for the Bulls: four of the next six opponents are against teams that currently sit outside the playoff bubble (CHA, TOR, MIL, WAS). Of course, the Bulls do play San Antonio (Thursday) and Miami (Feb. 25th) in that stretch. But one of the Bulls biggest tests of the year will be when the calendar turns to March. Four of the first five games are on the road. The first three of them: at Atlanta, at Orlando, at Miami. Looks like they timed out this Joakim Noah recovery schedule just right, eh?

SHUFFLE THE DECK: There is still time to register for the Shamrock ShuffleChicagos 8K race that begins and ends in Grant Park and winds through downtown. The race is perfect for the novice runner because it contains a marathon-like atmosphere (nothing says motivation like trying to keep up with 40,000 of your closest friends), but the distance roughly five miles--- is a little more kind to your knees than a 26.2 mile marathon. And if youre a runner looking for a unique workout this week, I suggest the Lake Shore Drive trail: heck, the city plowed that path sooner than some of the side streets. If youre in the suburbs, try out the Swallow Cliff slides on Route 83 just west of LaGrange Road. Its like a StairMaster on a sugar high: 121 steps of muscle-building. Hey, with the weather soaring to near 50 this week, its time to break away from the poorly-ventilated gymnasium. Take advantage!

A NIGHT AT THE TOPS: It is a rarity in high school basketball when a 1 faces a 2 in the regular season. Saturdays City-Suburban showdown between top-ranked Simeon and 2nd ranked Benet could just as well be called the Halleys Comet game by that regard. OKOK, the occasion isnt that rare (Im sure that the top two teams have faced each other in the regular season more than once in the past 75 years), but this game should be a real treat for the eyes. Simeon defeated Benet in a classic double-overtime game in the Hinsdale Central Supersectional last season. This years tilt will take place Saturday at the UIC Pavilion, with tipoff at 8:45. Benet features Northwestern-bound guard David Sobolewski and future Wisconsin Badger, 6-10 Frank Kaminsky. Simeon counters with sophomore phenom Jabari Parker and a well-balanced, state champion lineup. Both teams are undefeated and ranked nationally.
READ & WATCH: Complete preps coverage

SPRING TRAINING: Keep up with CSNChicago.com for all the latest news from spring training. Our Cubs insider Patrick Mooney will be on the beat this week in Mesa and Chuck Garfien will have up-to-the-minute information from White Sox camp in Glendale starting on Wednesday. Follow them on Twitter: @CSNMooney and @ChuckGarfien.
READ: The fundamental nature of Mike Quade

AND FINALLY: Tune in tonight at 7:30pm for the Comcast SportsNet Awards, benefiting the March of Dimes. The honorees chosen are top athletes from Chicago's professional teams who have made considerable contributions to their teams and the Chicago community.

MORE INFO: The 2011 CSN Sports Awards

This year's honorees include: Duncan Keith (Blackhawks), Taj Gibson (Bulls), Marlon Byrd (Cubs), Gordon Beckham (White Sox), Israel Idonije (Bears), Sean Johnson (Fire), Ozzie Guillen (Lifetime Achievement Award), Jonathon Ruiz (Inspirational Athlete Award). The event will also present a special champions award honor to the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. A special preview show will air at 7pm.

John Lackey roughed up as Cubs blanked again by Dodgers

lackey.jpg
AP

John Lackey roughed up as Cubs blanked again by Dodgers

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs have scored zero runs through 18 innings at Dodger Stadium this weekend and still haven’t faced Clayton Kershaw yet. Neither game got tense enough for star closer Kenley Jansen and the sound system blasting “California Love.”

Of course, the Cubs survived a 21-inning scoreless streak last October and came back to eliminate the Dodgers and win their first National League pennant in 71 years.

But the Cubs have to keep saying this is a new year, even as a grueling schedule approaches the Memorial Day mile marker for a 25-23 team. And you could see the frustration during Saturday’s 5-0 loss in front of 48,322 and a national TV audience.

John Lackey walked off the field and down the dugout steps after the fifth inning and slammed his glove to the ground. A one-run game had turned into a 5-0 blowout as Lackey walked pitcher Brandon McCarthy and Chris Taylor then drilled the first pitch he saw into the left-field seats. Lackey screamed into his glove after Chase Utley knocked a two-out, two-run single into right field and Dodger Stadium got loud.

Lackey is now 4-5 with a 5.18 ERA for a team that had been built around reliable starting pitching. The Cubs will try to avoid the sweep on Sunday afternoon in what should be a must-see Kershaw vs. Jon Lester matchup.

Scott Boras fires back at Jake Arrieta’s critics and makes another Max Scherzer comparison

Scott Boras fires back at Jake Arrieta’s critics and makes another Max Scherzer comparison

LOS ANGELES – Scott Boras waved a Cubs beat writer over toward the VIP section behind home plate at Dodger Stadium. Holding a smartphone in hand, the super-agent started rattling off data points on Saturday afternoon, making the case for Jake Arrieta once he hits the free-agent market after this season.

Boras pushed back on the idea that Arrieta is something less than an elite pitcher and compromised by diminished velocity, launching into a defense that lasted roughly 15 minutes and drew in two more Chicago reporters before a security guard told the media to clear the field because it was an hour before first pitch.

Once again, Boras used 2014 Max Scherzer as a reference point, detailing five of six starts between May 21 and June 17 in which a Cy Young Award winner gave up seven runs, five runs, four runs, four runs and 10 runs. That didn’t stop Scherzer from making another All-Star team, going 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA, leading the Tigers to another division title and jumping to the Nationals for a seven-year, $210 million megadeal.

“I just remember going through this,” Boras said, “because when Detroit came to town, I got the ‘Oh my God, the ship is sinking.'"

The night before, Boras sat in a front-row seat with his entourage watching Arrieta during a 4-0 loss that saw aging Dodgers Chase Utley and Adrian Gonzalez crush fastballs over the center-field wall. One theory – floated by the media and essentially confirmed by manager Joe Maddon – is that Arrieta (4.92 ERA) will have to learn how to pitch in a new reality where he can’t automatically unleash a 95-mph fastball.

“That is so far remote from the truth,” Boras said. “To create a voice to your fan base to suggest that Jake is not Jake – Jake is throwing at frankly better levels than what Scherzer did. And the reality of it is that Jake has this history.

“He’s got a great history that goes on, like (Clayton) Kershaw does, like (David) Price does, like (Zack) Greinke does. These guys have not done this for one year. He did it ’14, ’15, ’16.”

Here’s how Brooks Baseball’s online database has tracked Arrieta’s average velocities across the last three-plus seasons:

2014

Four-seam: 94.59

Sinker: 94.49

2015

Four-seam: 94.93

Sinker: 95.21

2016

Four-seam: 94.32

Sinker: 94.44

2017

Four-seam: 92.64

Sinker: 92.50

Here’s the Brooks Baseball analysis of Scherzer’s fastball from 2012 through last season’s Cy Young Award campaign: 94.97, 94.46, 93.88, 94.67, 95.23.

[MORE: Scott Boras doesn't believe Jake Arrieta is feeling pressure of free agency]

Boras dismissed a question about Arrieta’s inconsistencies at the beginning of his career as he shuttled between the Orioles and their Triple-A affiliate and how that could impact the perception of a 30-something pitcher.

“I’m looking at a three-year window coming into ’17,” Boras said. “When you’re elite, you have not done it once. You have not done it twice. You’ve done it three times. Jake has had three premium years. He’s in the Cy Young voting three years in a row. That puts him in a class of all these people.

“(One) comment is: ‘Oh my God, he’s dropped in velocity.’ Fair observation. My point is they all drop in velocity. All the elite pitchers drop in velocity, because they come in the league, they’re throwing 96, they’re throwing 95, then they’re down. But what are they all doing? They’re all (within) the ranges, probably close to 92 and 93.5.”

The Boras Corp. pitch to owners and executives this offseason will also revolve around durability, advanced stats and postseason experience. Arrieta has made 25, 33 and 31 starts across the last three seasons, ranking second in the majors in WHIP (0.97) and third in soft-contact percentage (22.6) and pitching in six playoffs rounds.

Where Kershaw and Price have repeatedly had to answer questions about their big-game performances, Arrieta can cue up the highlights from the 2015 wild-card game in Pittsburgh and show off his 2016 World Series ring.

Boras clearly has an agenda, but all this is worth remembering amid all the instant analysis and overreactions to how the defending champs are playing now. It might also reinforce why Theo Epstein’s front office could view this as a bad investment and keep rolling the dice with change-of-scenery guys and trading from their surplus of hitters. 

“We’re going to sit here and evaluate a player on a 60-day moment or a 10-start moment when he has three years of his history?” Boras said. “Don’t do it. That’s not fair. It’s not an evaluation, because all their velocities drop.

“All these guys are all still doing well and all their velocities dropped. The key thing is they were able to do what they did three years running. What does Jake have an advantage over all of them at? What does Jake do better than anybody? He wins big games.”