Same As It Ever Was

Same As It Ever Was

Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010
10:25 PM

For most people, change, is something that is avoided like the plague. That is, in their lives. As far as how they view others, its completely different. Its far easier for someone else to change than it is for them. This is especially true when it comes to sports. In this age of instant gratification, success better be now or its, NEXT!

In relation to players, everyones a GM. A player isnt producing, get rid of him! Its just like you do with your fantasy team, easy enough. Well, as weve learned around here, long-term contracts have made that increasingly difficult. Once you sign someone to a big-money contract, youre usually stuck with him for the duration, no matter what his production is. (Alfonso, this is Carlos, get to know each other, when youre not counting your money.)

Most fans understand this, well I think they do. The Bradley situation with the Cubs was an extreme situation, one that could not be put in better perspective than by looking at the contract that they had to absorb with Carlos Silva, just to get rid of Bradley. Ouch! (At least it was a pitcher with a bad contract. Who knows maybe theyll get lucky. Doubt it!)

Still, player movement will always be part of pro sports, and through it, an organization can point to the good things that will come. For all but that one lucky team each year, it is also vital. It is part of what a team needs to get better and it shows the fan base that you are trying. In the fan relationship, that is a very important thing.

Once you become a fan of a team, you are there for better or worse. Sound familiar? Well, where I work, I listen to fans from all over talk about teams from every different sport. The one thing that sticks out is the loyalty that they feel towards their team. Obviously it is more fun when your team wins a lot, Ive listened to enough obnoxious New Englanders lately to understand that, but thats not going to be the reality all of the time. Fans want to be part of something, to share in the experience. The shadow a team casts in a community is a large one and there are many covered by it. A team is something that can unite and provide civic pride. I know sometimes it can be over-the-top, but, as always, its fun to win!

The team in Chicago that unites like no other is the Bears. My own opinion, and Im a sports geek who follows just about every known sport, is that the NFL rules. The NFL in the collective communities where it resides is the heartbeat, especially in one of the original cities, which has one of its signature franchises. With out a doubt, the most animated sports discussions in the bar almost always involve the Bears. I always tease that, instead of bed-time stories, the story of the 85 Bears is read to youngsters here. Why else would everyone know the story of that team so well, or revel in its accomplishments to this day. I have heard about that team everyday since I moved here! 15 years ago!

Well, 1985, in sports terms, is a long time ago. The fan base wants to live that story, since a large portion werent around, or were too young to comprehend what was happening. Not to mention, the ones who can remember, need a new story to tell! I know way too much about Mongo and McMahon!

That 85 team was never able to produce a follow-up to that magical season. Most of the fans I talk to dont blame the players on that team. They also treat the coach, Im sorry, Da Coach, of that team as a football god. The blame always seems to go a little further up. All the way up.

That brings us to the events of the last 3 years. The 2006 season was a magical time in this city. Led by a rampaging defense, the Bears were the toast of the town. Coming off a playoff disappointment in 2005, they were a force to be reckoned with. Alas, Peyton Manning ended that dream on a rainy night in Miami. The blame, all seemed to agree, was with the play of the quarterback.

So too, it would seem, to be for the results of the 3 disappointing, playoff-less seasons that have followed. At least that seems to be the story that comes out of Halas Hall. No matter the fact that for 3 years the defense has been living on its reputation, the problem here lies with the offense, so offensive coaches, adios! I wrote here last April that the big winners in the Jay Cutler trade were Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith.

Smith for the fact that even though there were grumblings after 2 playoff-less seasons after the Super Bowl tease, could throw his offensive coordinator under the bus this season if things went bad, and say that he needs a Cutler guy running the offense, his expertise is on the defensive side. (WOW! How did I see that coming?) With Angelo, its 2 extra seasons, because this season its the O coordinator, next year its Lovie. Look to his comments before the Baltimore game as proof. The talent is here to win.

Unfortunately, all of this is too easy to predict. Its been happening for a long time. Is that a coincidence? You tell me. What I know is that the fan base doesnt seem to be buying what its being sold. Theyre still Bear fans. That will never go away. Theyre loyal as the day is long. But, that loyalty is to the team on the field and WHOEVER can lead them to that next title. In the end thats what its all about. That this generation can have a team that it can embrace for eternity. After 25 years of no repeat, its a testament to their devotion that they are always there. What they want is a change they can believe in. Not a change that seems suspiciously like one that was done to save some jobs of people that are not living up to the hype. Bear down.

Nick Delmonico takes advantage of fresh start with White Sox

Nick Delmonico takes advantage of fresh start with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Given he was almost out of baseball just two years ago, White Sox farmhand Nick Delmonico never imagined he’d be where he is now.

But the former Baltimore Orioles/Milwaukee Brewers prospect feels like he has rid himself of the off-the-field issues that stunted development early in his career.

In 2014, Delmonico served a suspension for unauthorized use of Adderall and later asked for and was granted his release by Milwaukee. Now with a fresh start with the White Sox, he heads into the final week of camp with an outside shot at the roster. Though he’s likely to start the season at Triple-A Charlotte, Delmonico knows he has made tremendous progress both on and off the field the past two years.

“I definitely did not see this,” Delmonico said. “I’m very blessed to be here.

“It feels awesome. It feels like I’ve accomplished a lot just in my life to get here. Just being around my teammates is one of the biggest things I enjoy every day, just coming to the ballpark. I’m very happy and honored to be able to come here everyday.”

The White Sox weren’t sure what to expect when they signed Delmonico, 24, to a minor league deal on Feb. 11, 2015. A sixth-round pick by the Orioles in 2011, Delmonico received a $1.525 million signing bonus. He was traded to Milwaukee in July 2013 in exchange for closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Delmonico received a 50-game suspension for Adderall in 2014, which he told the Charlotte News Observer he’d used since high school for attention deficit disorder (ADD). Delmonico told the Observer he informed Milwaukee that he no longer wanted to play baseball, changed his phone number and asked for his release. He was placed on the restricted list on July 28 and never played in the Brewers farm system again.

The White Sox signed Delmonico seven months after his final game with Milwaukee and he returned to the field that June.

Delmonico requested privacy when asked about switching teams but acknowledged, “I had some past issues with some stuff that I’d like to keep to myself,” he said.

Delmonico started the 2015 season at Single-A Kannapolis and was promoted a week later to Double-A Birmingham. He finished the season with a .733 OPS and made an additional 76 plate appearances at the Arizona Fall League.

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Last season, Delmonico combined to hit .279/.347/.490 with 17 homers between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte in 110 games. That earned him an invite to big league camp, where Delmonico has displayed a swing refined the past two seasons.

Current third-base coach and former director of player development Nick Capra said Delmonico has worked hard to go from a pull hitter to one who uses the entire field. He entered Sunday hitting .268/.328/.589 with nine extra-base hits this spring in a team-high 61 plate appearance this spring.

“This kid has made a complete turnaround from when we first got him in camp,” Capra said. “He’s done everything. He’s done probably more than we expected him to do. He’s in a really great place. He has a personality that people kind of gravitate to and it’s been a blessing to have him around and see the smile on his face when he comes to work every day.”

Originally a third baseman, the White Sox have moved Delmonico around this spring. He’s logged time at first base and also in the outfield as they try to improve his versatility. If Delmonico performs well at Charlotte, there’s no reason he couldn’t eventually find his way to Chicago and succeed in the big leagues.

“We’re continuing to try to explore his ability to play third base,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He can obviously play first. We’ve started using him in left field. He’s a young man that has a bat to carry. Can hit the ball out of the ballpark. Gives you good at-bats. There’s something to him about his personality and the way he carries himself, which is infectious, which we like.”

Delmonico praised the family-feel that has been prominent in the White Sox clubhouse this spring. He had some jitters coming into his first big league camp but hasn’t allowed them to hinder anything.

He likes how Renteria and his staff have brought a young group of players together. And best of all, he’s happy to be in the right place to enjoy the experience.

“It definitely gives you confidence what you do here,” Delmonico said. “You’ve got to keep moving forward. The biggest thing for big league camp for me is learning as much as I can from everybody. And learning from myself, I’ve been able to handle things and try to pick up as much as I can.”

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Whacked on his ailing left hand by Khris Middleton, Jimmy Butler shook off the pain to hit a rare triple in transition while Middleton was complaining for a foul a couple possessions later.

Butler then darted into the passing lane for a pass intended for Jason Terry like a linebacker jumping into the flat for an interception, then trotted down for an uncontested dunk to give the Bulls an unlikely 17-point lead.

For the man who claims he’s the best football player in the NBA, playing through the pain and doing so with his team’s playoff hopes dwindling, Butler may finally have some believers to his boasts.

Not only did the Bulls avoid a season sweep to the Milwaukee Bucks with a resounding 109-94 win at the BMO Bradley Center Sunday afternoon, they restored a slight sense of pride after looking like they had none of it Friday night in their loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Butler scored 20 with a career-high 13 assists in a grinding 39 minutes, but he could play the role of a semi-closer, making those big plays in the fourth when the Bulls pulled away.

Instead, it was March Madness as Nikola Mirotic played up to his career numbers in his favorite month on the calendar, drilling five triples on his way to 28 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes.

Mirotic and Rajon Rondo helped the Bulls to a decisive double-digit lead in the third quarter with Rondo scoring 14 of his 18 points in the period, hitting a triple, getting into the lane for layups and dishing out a few of his eight assists.

It was an offensive masterpiece for the Bulls, a prospect that seemed highly unlikely given the opponent and the way they played coming into Sunday’s contest. And with the Bucks getting Giannis Antetokounmpo going early along with Middleton, it looked like a nightmare of a different kind was in store for the Bulls.

But Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wasn’t about to let an instant replay occur, having seen his own version of a “Nightmare on Madison Street” Friday night against the woeful 76ers when his backups let time stand still for minutes at a time, squandering a double-digit lead.

Hoiberg decided not to mess around with the second unit as the Bucks began pulling away in the same manner the 76ers did Friday night. He brought the starters right back in when the lead ballooned to 45-33 at the 8:29 mark.

Then the Bulls went to work to finish the half, with a 23-10 run, along with starting off the third as efficient as they had been in awhile against a worthwhile opponent, shooting 14 of 21 in the period to take a 91-79 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Mirotic was seven of eight from the field before halftime and his first miss of the third—a 30-foot triple that went wide right, wound up in a 3-point opportunity for Rondo, who scooped the ball and scored on a layup while being fouled.

It was that kind of afternoon for the Bulls, a team that can’t seem to decide who they want to be on a nightly basis—making it that much harder for an opponent to predict, that much more difficult to eliminate from the playoff conversation.