White Sox not taking exception with Konerko's beaning

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White Sox not taking exception with Konerko's beaning

The White Sox may have pulled out a 3-2 win over the Cubs Friday at Wrigley Field, but the loss suffered in the third inning may loom larger.

A 2-2 splitter from Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija ran inside on Paul Konerko, hitting him in the face and leaving the White Sox captain crumpled in a heap at home plate for a few scary moments. The 36-year-old first baseman got up and had to be escorted off the field with a towel pinned to his face, as he suffered a small cut above his left eye thanks to the 85 mile per hour pitch.

"You never want to see a guy get hurt, period. To have a ball around someones head is a scary situation," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "Its something you dont want to see."

Manager Robin Ventura said he didn't have an update on Konerko's status, which was announced as just a laceration and swelling, although he was set to undergo further tests. Pierzynski saw Konerko before he left the park, though, and offered somewhat encouraging news.

"His eye was pretty swelled up, but he was cognizant and didnt say he was dizzy or anything," Pierzynski said. "Ive seen him get hit before and get up and go to first. It was a little scary when he didnt get right up. He seemed fine and well see how he feels tomorrow."

Konerko homered in his previous at-bat, so when Samardzija's offering sailed inside, naturally there were calls for blood from the White Sox fans in attendance at Wrigley Field. The Sox, however, weren't playing that game -- at least, so they say.

Philip Humber threw a fastball up and behind Bryan LaHair to lead off the bottom of the fourth, a pitch Humber and Ventura insist just got away from the White Sox starter. But home plate umpire Tim Timmons had other ideas and issued a warning to both benches.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum didn't label the pitch as retaliatory, but if it was, he thought the Sox could have done a better and safer job of sending the message.

Are you expecting retaliation of somebody throwing at somebody elses head? No," Sveum said. "Unfortunately, youre not really expecting any retaliation after somebody gets hit by a split-finger fastball. Were obviously not trying to hit Paul with any kind of pitch like that.

"But if theres retaliation, youd sure appreciate if the guy throws a little bit lower than he did. Unfortunately, you know, he didnt."

Sveum, essentially, just hoped the pitch got away from Humber and that it wasn't thrown in response to Konerko's beaning. Ventura tried to add some credence to that thought after the game.

"If we wanted to do anything, we would have hit him," Ventura said, referring to Samardzija, who led off the bottom of the third. "It's just baseball, you just keep going."

"That one just got away from me," added Humber. "It's just one of those things that happens during the game."

Pierzynski and Samardzija chatted before the Cubs pitcher came up to hit in the third, during which Samardzija apologized. From the sound of it, Pierzynski and his teammates knew the beaning wasn't intentional.

"He was asking if Paul was ok and that was it," Pierzynski said. "It was an offspeed pitch and we knew it wasnt intentional and Samardzija just said to tell Paul he was sorry, I didnt mean to do it. I was like yeah, we know. It was no big deal."

But in these crosstown contests, plenty of things can be blown out of proportion. Luckily for Gordon Beckham, most of the vitriol was directed at the umpiring crew when he, for all intents and purposes, tackled David DeJesus off the second-base bag, leading to a questionable out call that ultimately got Sveum ejected for the first time in his managerial career.

"I couldn't stop. I tried to get there and realized right when I lunged out that I was going to be late and ended up basically tackling him," Beckham said. "Didn't mean to do it, obviously."

For the first time in a little while, Friday's game felt like a classic crosstown matchup. The beaning of Konerko, the play at second, Samardzija's game-tying single, Beckham's go-ahead home run and, of course, Kerry Wood's final career pitch contributed to a lively atmosphere after questions about the series going stale were numerous this week.

"I think that was more than the typical game, it seemed like there was a lot of stuff going on," Beckham said. "Both teams played really hard, so you gotta be proud about that. We were fortunate enough to come out on top."

Fortunate is a good way to put it. The Sox are hoping Konerko, arguably the most irreplaceable player on the roster, won't miss much time. Without Konerko, the Sox may be fortunate to come away with wins.

Someone else who's hoping Konerko is back soon is his golfing buddy, who happens to be the manager on the other side of town.

"I hope Pauls all right, because hes a friend of mine," Sveum said. "I play with golf with him. Hopefully, its no big deal.

NBA offseason gone wild as league executives go into overdrive to compete with Golden State

NBA offseason gone wild as league executives go into overdrive to compete with Golden State

NBA free agency doesn't officially begin until 11 p.m. Chicago time on Friday, but league executives have already gone into overdrive in their race to create the next super-team to compete with the Golden State Warriors.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey hinted he had a big move up his sleeve last week, suggesting the Warriors "aren't unbeatable." Well, Morey unveiled that big move on Wednesday, rounding up a bunch of non-guaranteed contracts from all over the league to help him acquire Clippers' All-Star point guard Chris Paul before free agency even begins.

Paul met with Clippers officials on Tuesday, and basically told Doc Rivers he was going to sign with Houston as a free agent, so if the Clippers wanted to get anything for him, they better work out a trade right away. The return L.A. got in the 7-for-1 deal was hardly overwhelming, headlined by Chicago native Patrick Beverley and super-sub Lou Williams, and it showed once again how league executives are powerless if a star player decides he wants a chance of scenery.

Paul and James Harden wanted to play together, and Morey and his staff came up with a creative way to get it done. And, by all reports, Morey isn't done yet. The Rockets are hoping to swing a deal for either Paul George or Carmelo Anthony as a third star in the frontcourt, giving them a shooter's chance against the champion Warriors.

George is one of the biggest chess pieces being moved around boards in executive offices all around the league. Ever since George informed Pacers management he isn't interested in re-signing with the team, GM Kevin Pritchard has been searching for the best possible deal.

The Cavaliers would love to add George as the new third star on their super-team with LeBron and Kyrie Irving and send Kevin Love to the Pacers or to a third team that would provide Indiana with young players and/or draft picks.

Boston is hoping to trade some of Danny Ainge's treasure-trove of draft picks to bring George in, but only after they make a free agent run at Utah All-Star swingman Gordon Hayward, who played his college ball for Celtics coach Brad Stevens at Butler. Remember, making a trade for George carries a lot of risk, since he's eligible to become a free agent next summer and could wind up being a one-year rental.

George has told anyone who will listen he plans to sign on with the Lakers in the summer of 2018, but will new Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson get antsy with all the trade interest in George and try to bring him in now? Is it worth it for Magic to give up young players like Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson if he can just wait a year and sign George without giving up any assets?

We're already hearing reports of George trying to recruit Warriors sharp-shooter Klay Thompson to join him on the Lakers when Klay becomes a free agent in 2019. And, speculation continues about LeBron heading west to join the Lakers if the Cavs come up short of a championship again next season.

So many questions as we approach the start of free agency. Where will Derrick Rose end up after a fourth knee surgery? Will the Clippers be interested in bringing Rose in to play with Blake Griffin and keep Lob City going? And what about veterans like Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Serge Ibaka, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala, Kyle Korver, J.J. Redick, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, George Hill, Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague? What kind of market will they find with fewer teams having the kind of cap space we saw last summer?

And, where will Carmelo Anthony wind up now that Phil Jackson is out as Knicks President? Jackson might be the greatest coach in NBA history after winning 11 championships with the Bulls and Lakers, but it was clear the Zen Master was overmatched as a front office executive. Phil didn't want to travel to scout top college prospects, didn't stay on top of day to day roster moves around the league, and insisted on saddling his coaches with running an offense that didn't translate in today's game.

Maybe now Jeff Hornacek will be able to run his up-tempo offense that had some success in Phoenix instead of Phil's beloved triangle. But don't count on Anthony being a part of next season's Knicks team. Reports out of New York suggest the organization is still intent on dealing Melo, problem is that nasty no-trade clause that Phil gave Anthony on top of a $127 million contract back in 2014.

In the coming weeks, you can count on hearing all kinds of Anthony-related rumors. Maybe a trade to Houston, Boston or even Philadelphia. And, if Melo is able to convince the Knicks to buy out the remainder of his contract, look for him to join forces with LeBron in Cleveland for a shot at that elusive championship ring.

The Knicks may have rid themselves of Phil’s front office mismanagement, but their roster is still a mess with no easy solutions in sight.

The great thing for NBA fans is the buzz created by all the speculation. NBA offseasons are the most impactful of any sport since the acquisition of a star player can cause a major shift in any team's fortunes. Unfortunately here in Chicago, don't expect any free agent buzz this year, unless you're excited about the possibility of a Dwyane Wade buyout.

Bulls Executive VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson made it clear the Bulls are going in a new direction and will be patient and disciplined in their rebuild. That means no spending on veterans this summer as the front office keeps its power dry for some time in the future when the Bulls are closer to being a playoff contender again.

Player development will be the focus of the next couple seasons as Fred Hoiberg and his staff try to find out exactly what they have in young players like Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, Cameron Payne, Paul Zipser, Jerian Grant, Cris Felicio and Niko Mirotic.

Ideally, the Bulls will lose enough games next season to put themselves into position to land a top-3 pick in next year's top-heavy draft. Paxson talked about building a contending team through the draft, and that will require a lot of patience from everyone involved. Adding a Michael Porter, Jr. or Luka Doncic to a young backcourt of Dunn and Zach LaVine and a promising "stretch 4" in Markkanen could be the foundation of the next Bulls playoff team.

So, while the league's top teams engage in a massive arms race to try to close the gap on the Warriors over the next few weeks, all will be quiet in the city of Chicago. The buzzword for Bulls fans for the foreseeable future is PATIENCE.

No, Albert Almora Jr. didn’t subtly give the middle finger to President Donald Trump during Cubs’ White House visit

No, Albert Almora Jr. didn’t subtly give the middle finger to President Donald Trump during Cubs’ White House visit

WASHINGTON – Albert Almora Jr. didn’t use Wednesday’s Oval Office photo op as a subtle form of political protest, but it did sort of look like the Cubs outfielder gave President Donald Trump the middle finger, at least from that angle in an image that went viral on Twitter.    

“There was two fingers! Look closely, there was two fingers!” a veteran player yelled across the room as reporters gathered around Almora’s locker inside the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park. 

“Guys were giving me a hard time about it,” Almora said, “but I pointed out the second finger. We’re all good.”

In another White House visit that didn’t look nearly as unofficial or informal as the Cubs said it would be, one snapshot became Almora with part of his left hand in his pocket. Almora stood near Kris Bryant – who held a 45 Wrigley Field scoreboard panel – and Trump at his desk with the World Series trophy.

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

“Obviously, it’s unfortunate,” Almora said with a laugh. “I’m getting ready to take a picture and I’m posing there. But you guys know that I would never do that to the president of the United States. 

“I respect everybody. It is what it is. We laugh about it now, but there’s definitely two fingers out there.”

Almora is 23 years old, confident and focused, rarely straying off message during his interactions with reporters. He grew up in a Cuban-American family in South Florida and traveled with the team in January for the final official event in the Obama White House.   

“Hey, man, it’s not every day you get to meet the president of the United States,” Almora said. “To meet two in one calendar year, for me, is a special feeling.”