Frankie O's Blog: It's a Man('s bracket) baby!

Frankie O's Blog: It's a Man('s bracket) baby!

Friday, March 18, 2011
9:33 a.m.

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

That time of year again when one word takes over the lexicon of most adult (by age!) males in this country. The fact that we only use it now makes it more special. But like wearing white pants after Labor Day, I dont want to hear about yours, nor will I talk about mine two days after the Final Four is over. Enough is enough. For now though: Its game on!

I had a more difficult time than usual, since thanks to D-Rose and the Bulls, Ive watched a ton of pro basketball this year and that hasnt left time for a lot else. Not to mention the fact that I always try to watch the Heat when they play a good team so I can watch them lose. That never gets old! So my college basketball knowledge, while not always a strong-suit, is even less so this year. (Yes, even guys who go on TV wearing a red bow tie, have limitations!) This college basketball season did not seem to capture my, or most people that I talk to at the bar, attention. Sure, I have Jimmer Fever, but how many games against great competition did he play? At a time when we were all watching? Add to that, the local college scene is a mess. Illinois was all over the road, leading to a lot of Webber must go discussions (or should I say vents!) from the Illini unhappy faithful. This team had a lot of expectation, played well early, then tripped all over themselves for most of the second half. And they were the good story! DePaul and Northwestern are irrelevant, and most of the lesser-lights are rebuilding. For me, it got so bad, that I didnt once look at Joe Lunardis bubble!

Still on Selection Sunday, the competitive juices, along with the beers, started flowing. Contemplating your bracket is one of the rites of spring and an opportunity to win cash and bragging rights, not necessarily in that order. But most of the time, well almost ALL of the time, my efforts spent on my bracket are just an exercise in futility. I dont know if there is anything that I have spent a considerable time at over the years that has produced less results. I mean besides the diets that is. (Can I help it that the only places that sell food when I get done work sell breakfast, burgers or pizza only? Or that all said food types taste better when washed down by beer?) But hope springs eternal when you hit that send button and gazing at that freshly printed bracket in your hands is a living testament to your sports acumen. At least thats what you think when you go to sleep, the morningafternoon (I work nights!) will bring another reality.

This year, I took the tact of picking teams that I would like to see win, divided by their seed, times the lesser of two evils. Who said this wasnt an exact science? One thing Ive learned through years of paralysis from over-analysis is that, in the end, its whether you pick the winner or not. Style points dont matter. How many times has one of my genius picks played a great game, only to falter down the stretch and lose by a basket? A gazillion! Thats how many! Then I have to listen to chalk boy, who didnt think twice about the game, he just picked the better seed, tell me that he picked the winner. Ugh.

So I put it all together and came out with the number one over-all seed winning. What?! Chalk? Hold on! Along the way, I picked 10 lower seeds to win in the first 32 games. This included 3 12-seeds and a 13!! Who else, besides someone in Jr. high school, do you know who can say that? I didnt think so. Amongst my very Sweet Sixteen, I have a 13 and a 10-seed. After this point though, my common sense screamed to take over and I joined the chalk highway. I didnt go all President Obama and pick 4 number 1s, but I did take two. I finished with a Final Four of Ohio State, Kansas, San Diego State and, against my better judgment, St. Johns. 1,1,2 and 6-seeds. I think Ohio State will beat Kansas in the final. Anyone who knows me understands how difficult it was for me to type that, but I had to stick with my formula.

I understand that none of that is going to happen, thats just the way it is, but I do know, that I will watch every game that is humanly possible and root for the big upset whenever it presents itself. The story of Cinderella is what makes this tournament so great. Like everything else, its about the story and no story is better than one about over-coming adversity or a higher seed. Add to it that upsets blow-up brackets, and that connects all of us in two ways: Were all captivated by this tournament and all it offers. And, after cursing our misfortune, almost all of us can toss our bracket in the garbage, where it belongs and know it will be 11 stress-free months until we need to add the b-word to our vocabulary.

Cubs score five runs in seventh to power past Brewers

Cubs score five runs in seventh to power past Brewers

MILWAUKEE – The franchise sensitive to being the other team in town is catching the Cubs at the worst possible time, another you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up story coming out of the White Sox clubhouse.

While Chris Sale serves a five-game suspension for playing with scissors, the Cubs will start Jake Arrieta, the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, on Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

The perception will be hot-seat manager Robin Ventura has lost control over this White Sox season, while Manager of the Year Joe Maddon actually answered a question this weekend about how the Cubs might align their playoff rotation.

One week out from the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the debates will be which players White Sox executives Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn should sell off, and which Cubs prospects Theo Epstein’s front office should put down to buy the big-ticket item for a World Series run.

Optics, marketing and promotional throwback jerseys aside, the Cubs also appear to be hitting their stride again after a much-needed vacation, winning their third straight series out of the All-Star break with Sunday afternoon’s 6-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.  

The Cubs did it with their $155 million ace (Jon Lester) throwing only four innings, getting charged with four runs and giving up five walks and five stolen bases. The Cubs could also absorb one quarter of their All-Star infield (Addison Russell) leaving in the middle of the game with a left heel contusion.

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The Cubs stormed back with five runs in the seventh inning as MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo delivered the biggest swing, a bases-loaded, three-run double into right-center field off lefty reliever Will Smith. 

Three sellout crowds here over the weekend watched the Cubs welcome back All-Star leadoff guy Dexter Fowler to the top of the order, give the ball to six-time All-Star closer Joe Nathan in his return from a second Tommy John surgery and keep the St. Louis Cardinals seven games out of first place heading into Sunday night and what should be a gut check for the entire White Sox organization.

“I anticipate that same wonderful crosstown rivalry kind of atmosphere, which I love,” Maddon said. “It’s great for the city. It’s great for the sport. I don’t think fans really care much about records at that particular moment. They just care about your team winning.”

White Sox top Tigers with two walk-offs on Sunday

White Sox top Tigers with two walk-offs on Sunday

The White Sox are somehow still afloat. But just barely.

Melky Cabrera’s game-winning single in the ninth inning Sunday afternoon got David Robertson off the hook and helped the White Sox to a 5-4 win over the Detroit Tigers in front of 30,281 at U.S. Cellular Field. Cabrera’s single past Nick Castellanos to score Adam Eaton, who reached base four times. The hit arrived just minutes after Robertson surrendered three solo home runs and blew a victory for Jose Quintana, who may have made his final start in a White Sox uniform.

The White Sox, who entered Sunday with losses in eight of their last nine games, started the day by completing Saturday’s rain-suspended contest with a 4-3 victory over Detroit on Eaton’s two-out RBI single in the ninth inning. The victories kept the White Sox from entirely slipping out of the wild-card race as they remain 6 1/ 2 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays.

It has been widely speculated the White Sox could move Quintana before the Aug. 1 nonwaiver trade deadline in an attempt to rebuild a roster that general manager Rick Hahn said has been “mired in mediocrity.” An All-Star and one of the top pitchers in the American League, Quintana and his team-friendly contract could fetch a handsome return were the White Sox to part with him in a deal.

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Sunday’s 118-pitch effort displayed exactly why Quintana is an attractive option for a contender as he shut down a Detroit lineup that has given him trouble over the years. Quintana kept the Tigers off balance throughout the effort, never allowing more than one runner to reach base in any inning. Quintana faced two over the minimum through five innings and struck out Miguel Cabrera to end the sixth after he surrendered a two-out double to Jose Iglesias.

Though he started the inning at 107 pitches, Quintana returned in the seventh and recorded two more outs before he allowed a bloop-base hit to Justin Upton. Nate Jones struck out Mike Aviles to end the inning.

Quintana allowed three hits, walked one and struck out four. He also lowered his earned-run average to 2.97.

It’s no secret the White Sox have struggled to score runs for Quintana since he arrived in the majors in 2012. Even though he owns a career ERA of 3.39, Quintana’s career record remained at 41-42 after David Robertson blew his fourth save in 27 tries. Robertson, who earned the win in the first game of the day, allowed three ninth-inning solo homers.

The sub-.500 record is in large part because the White Sox never seem to score with Quintana on the hill. This season, Quintana ranked 126th out of 136 qualified starters with a 3.2 runs per start headed into Sunday.

But the White Sox followed Eaton’s lead. Less than 45 minutes after he won the opener, Eaton singled in the bottom of the first and scored on a two-out RBI single by Jose Abreu. An inning later, Eaton took advantage of singles by Dioner Navarro and J.B. Shuck went he lined a three-run homer with two outs off Anibal Sanchez to give the White Sox a four-run lead.

The four runs scored for Quintana marks the team’s second-highest output for one of his starts this season.

The White Sox didn’t take long on Sunday to wrap up a lengthy Saturday contest that included three rain delays. Robertson pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Saturday’s game, too. Avisail Garcia made it count with a single and a stolen base and Eaton singled him in off Justin Wilson for the game-winner.

Ken Griffey Jr. finished his Hall of Fame speech in most fitting way thanks to Frank Thomas

Ken Griffey Jr. finished his Hall of Fame speech in most fitting way thanks to Frank Thomas

Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon, and he went out in the most fitting way possible.

At the end of his speech, Griffey Jr. grabbed a hat from under the podium and put it on backwards, rocking his signature look.

Griffey Jr. said in his speech that it was White Sox legend Frank Thomas who pitched the idea and ultimately convinced him.

"You gotta do it," said Thomas, who joined Cooperstown in 2014.

In his 22-year career, Griffey Jr. played half a season with the White Sox in 2008. He had three homers and 18 RBIs in 41 games with the team.