....I'm a very important person, don't you know?
....I'm a very important person, don't you know?
There is no question the Cubs need to blow up their underachieving, overpaid roster. That, of course, is easier said than done with all the big contracts and no-trade clauses standing in GM Jim Hendry's way.
However, Hendry did provide his organization about $4.5 million in savings Thursday by trading the expiring contract of outfielder Kosuke Fukodome to the Cleveland Indians for Triple-A reliever Carlton Smith and Single-A outfielder Abner Abreu.
It's an uninspiring move, but it's one that makes sense for both sides. Fukudome is making $13.5 million this season. He also has 13 RBI. So, essentially he's making $1 million per RBI. That's what you call an expendable player. With Fukudome out of the way, the Cubs can take a look at outfielder Tyler Colvin, who was recalled from Des Moines Thursday. And, Abreu may be a decent prospect over the long term.
From the Indians perspective, they didn't give up anything of significance in this deal. Fukudome doesn't provide much in the way of run production, but his .374 on-base percentage and solid defense in right field make him a modest upgrade over the dreck Cleveland has been trotting out there in the absence of injured outfielders Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo. The Indians had been using a platoon of .228-hitting Travis Buck and .216-hitting Austin Kearns in right field. That's brutal and Buck was designated for assignment Thursday.
A couple of concerns for Cleveland: Fukudome is a lifetime .217 hitter in Interleague play, so he may struggle adjusting to the American League. In addition, the 34-year-old has a lifetime .198 average in September. Fukudome is a notorious fast starter and slow finisher. Tribe fans will have to cross their fingers and hope he reverses that trend down the stretch.
Cubs fans have to be wondering whether this is the start of a major roster purge. The guess here is no. Would the Cubs love to trade Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano? I'm sure they would, but I don't see a big market for either player. There's no question some team out there would want third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who has been swinging a hot bat. Ramirez hinted Thursday he might be willing to waive his no-trade rights, but who really knows what the enigmatic veteran is thinking?
The White Sox and Cubs have both made trades already in advance of Sunday's non-waiver deadline. Rumors will be flying all weekend with both teams looking to shed salary. Given the poor quality of play we've seen on the field in Chicago this year, these next few days might provide the most interesting moments of the entire season.
Are the White Sox buyers or sellers at the trade deadline? So far, I'd say they are sellers, but who the hell really knows?
The Sox traded starting pitcher Edwin Jackson and utility man Mark Teahen to the Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday in exchange for relief pitcher Jason Frasor and minor-league pitcher Zach Stewart. Let's examine the pluses and minuses of this trade, shall we?
First and foremost, this trade is about money. Jackson is making $8 million this season. He will be a free agent next winter. Scott Boras is his agent, so there was zero chance he would be back with the Sox in 2012. The Sox have been going with a six-man rotation for much of the season. They wanted to get rid of one of them to save some money, and Jackson was the easiest choice.
Teahen was scheduled to make $5.5 million in 2012. He's been a complete bust, and the Sox were eager to move that salary to anyone who would take him.
Here's the disappointing part: Sox GM Kenny Williams reduced Jackson's value by giving Teahen to Toronto. If he had traded Jackson on his own, he could have gotten a better player(s) in return. But Williams was under orders to shed salary, so gaining financial relief was a far greater priority than maximizing a return on Jackson. Williams could have asked Toronto to give him a good prospect for Jackson. Instead, he asked Toronto to take Teahen's bad contract off his hands. The Blue Jays obliged.
So, the Sox didn't get a great return in this deal, but Frasor is not a bad pickup in the short term. Right now, the Sox are overworking Jesse Crain in the set-up relief role. Crain has made a team-high 46 appearances and thrown 46 innings already this season. That's a lot. Now, the Sox have another proven right-handed reliever to help Crain for the rest of the season. Frasor has a solid 2.98 ERA in 44 appearances this year. These two can share the load setting up closer Sergio Santos.
As for Stewart, he's being sold to the Sox fan base as a guy who could step into the rotation shortly. Not so sure about that. He's a former third-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 2008, but he has been pitching at Double-A this year after previously pitching at Triple-A. I'm not sold on a soon-to-be-25-year-old with an ERA over four in Double-A. Sounds like a new project for pitching coach Don Cooper.
I think a lot of Sox fans were galled when Toronto turned around and flipped Jackson to St. Louis as a centerpiece of a trade that brought young outfielder Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays.
Rasmus has struggled all season with the Cardinals, but he's a young position player with upside who could be a cornerstone player. I'm not a big Rasmus fan personally, but if you have to trade an Edwin Jackson, you'd rather deal him for an everyday player than a middle reliever. The day's events have left a number of people asking, "Why didn't the Sox send Jackson to St. Louis for Rasmus? That's what Toronto did..."
Well, I think it came down to the Cardinals wanting left-handed relief help in addition to Jackson. The White Sox didn't have a match for them. St. Louis, I'm sure, asked about Chris Sale. Williams wasn't going to give Sale up, but it was rumored he offered Matt Thornton to the Cardinals.
St. Louis wasn't going to take Thornton, plain and simple, because Thornton is owed $11 million over the next two years. In addition, he has an option for $6 million with a $1 million buyout for the 2014 season. So, any team that acquires Thornton is assuming, at minimum, an $12 million financial commitment.
The Cardinals need to save every penny possible to try to retain free-agent-to-be Albert Pujols this winter. They needed a cheaper option than Thornton. Like Sale, for example. The Sox said no, so the Blue Jays entered the fray as the third team. They ended up with Rasmus, and the Cardinals are getting lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski from the Jays.
At the end of the day, the Sox have a weaker roster to show for their efforts. Teahen is no loss, but I'd rather have Jackson than either Frasor or Stewart.
About the only good news? The Sox announced that loafing, slumping, lazy center fielder Alex Rios would be "taking a back seat." Alejandro De Aza was called up from Triple-A to play center field, and he hit a two-run homer in the Sox 2-1 win over the Detroit Tigers Wednesday.
Sitting Rios' sorry ass down was a move that was long overdue, so perhaps that is the one silver lining in Wednesday's roster moves.
Here's a question for you: Does White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen realize Jake Peavy is the sixth-best starting pitcher in his rotation?
When sizing up Tuesday's matchup between Peavy and Detroit All-Star Justin Verlander, Guillen spoke thusly:
"(Peavy) has to go with his best stuff because the guy we are going to face (Verlander) is pretty good," said the great Oz. "That's the reason he's our ace. That's why we get him here, to pitch in the big games."
No, Ozzie, Peavy is not your ace. Not this year. He's less than one year removed from having surgery to repair a torn lat, a surgery which no pitcher had ever undergone before. Peavy is a five-inning pitcher at this stage of his recovery, nothing more, nothing less.
If you're waiting for Peavy to stare down Verlander and outpitch him over eight or nine innings, it just ain't gonna happen. Here are some telling numbers about Peavy coming into tonight's start:
Pitches 1-25: Opponents bat .271.
Pitches 26-50: Opponents bat .226.
PItches 51-75: Opponents bat .140
Pitches 76-100: Opponents bat .457.
Peavy loses it IN A HURRY once he hits that 75-pitch mark. As sure as the sun rises in the east, he's going to crumble in the sixth or seventh inning. He has yet to build up the necessary endurance coming off that surgery to go deep into games. If you're the manager of the White Sox, you HAVE to know this. And you HAVE to have a quick hook.
Guillen has no clue, and it cost the Sox again Tuesday night. Peavy took a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning. He lost it all at once, giving up a quick three runs. The Tigers took a 4-2 lead and went on to win 5-4.
And now, the Sox are 4 1/2 games back of Detroit instead of 2 1/2 games back. Nice job, Guillen.
Peavy may be making the most money among Sox pitchers, but you can't stubbornly sit there and insist he's your "ace" when the results prove otherwise. You have to adjust to what your eyes tell you. Guillen never adjusts, and that's why he is 50-52 with a team that should be much, much better than it is.
Based upon the pitching matchup, the White Sox were supposed to win Monday night's game against the Detroit Tigers. The South Siders had their best guy on the mound -- Mark Buehrle -- while the Tigers were pitching their fifth starter (for now) -- some rookie named Duane Below.
The Sox did what they had to do, winning 6-3 with Buehrle improving his record to 8-5. It isn't being talked about much, but the veteran left-hander is having one of his best seasons. He gave up no earned runs in six innings Monday, marking the 15th consecutive start where he has allowed three earned runs or less.
The last Sox pitcher to have a streak like that was Eric King, who had an incredible run of 22 such starts bridging the 1989 and 1990 seasons.
Buehrle has started 20 games this year, and the Sox are 14-6 in those contests. In other words, the Sox are 36-45 when somebody other that Buehrle pitches. That's how valuable he is to his team.
The Twins most effective pitcher: Michael Cuddyer
We'd like to take a moment to laugh at the Minnesota Twins, who lost 20-6 to the Texas Rangers Monday night. Perhaps their most effective relief pitcher was outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who worked a scoreless bottom of the eighth inning.
I know Sox fans have a chronic fear of the Twins, but I'd be shocked if Minnesota comes from behind to win the AL Central this year. The Twins just do not have the pitching they've had in previous seasons. That 4.58 team ERA is not pretty -- and that was before Monday's debacle.
The White Sox open a 10-game homestand Monday night during which they will play three games against the Detroit Tigers, three games against the Boston Red Sox and four games against the New York Yankees.
The Sox begin this difficult stretch against contending teams 4 1/2 games out of first place in the American League Central. Is it make-or-break time? Closer Sergio Santos believes it is.
"This is, I think, a big make it-or-break it test for our team, to see if we can match up against these great teams and play well and win some series," Santos said in Monday's edition of the Chicago Tribune. "It only reiterates we are a top team, a team that can play with the best. It will be exciting. It will be fun. We are at home."
That statement can't be dismissed outright. There's no question the Sox could make a splash by going 7-3 or 8-2 in this stretch. They could also go to the outhouse quickly if they go 3-7 or 2-8.
The thing is, this is about the third or fourth time this season I've heard players, media or fans describe an upcoming stretch of games as "make-or-break." On July 4, the Sox began a stretch of 19 consecutive games against American League Central Division opponents. A lot of people -- including myself -- thought these divisional games would tell us a lot about what kind of team the Sox truly are.
A lot of people -- including myself -- were wrong. We are 15 games plus one rainout into that 19-game stretch, and what have we learned? Absolutely nothing in my book. The Sox have gone 7-8 in those 15 games. They were 3 1/2 games out of first when play opened July 4. Three weeks later, they are 4 1/2 games back. Little has changed. The Sox aren't making anything resembling a pennant push, but they aren't falling out of the race either. They have not been made, nor are they broken and hopeless.
It wouldn't shock me if the Sox go 5-5 in these next 10 games. When this stretch is over, they might very well remain somewhere between four and six games out of the division lead. Nothing will different, aside from 10 more games coming off the schedule. If that scenario unfolds, it would neither make nor break the Sox. It would be merely treading water, which is something the Sox specialize in.
This is a Sox team that seems destined to win roughly half its games and be perpetually four or five games out of first. I won't be the least bit surprised if the Sox go 81-81 and finish four games back of a Detroit squad that appears destined for 85 victories.
There may never be a "make-or-break" moment for the Sox this season. They are a mediocre team doing mediocre things, and no one should be surprised if the treading water act continues for the remaining 62 games.
I've always had a lot of respect for guys who are baseball beat writers. It's a long grind of a season, especially when the team you cover stinks. The writers on the Cubs beat are dealing with that this year. There are another 65-70 games left in the season, so that means they've gotta come up with another 130-140 stories (about two per day) about a dead-ass team that was eliminated from all realistic contention in May.
That ain't easy to do. There isn't much to talk about when it comes to the Cubs, so sometimes a beat writer has to stretch a little bit. And I think Sun-Times writer Gordon Wittenmyer was stretching quite a bit in his defense of Jim Hendry in today's editions. Wittenmyer calls for the Cubs to give Hendry an extension. I think Hendry should have been fired last year.
FanGraphs makes a great case today about why Hendry should be gone -- I'm quite sure I couldn't articulate the anti-Hendry argument any better myself. You see, I think Hendry is in love with his own creation. I think he overvalues his own players, as illustrated in this quote than FanGraphs cites:
"Why would we trade anybody who we think is going to help us next year or the years after? I would say if we move anyone it would be somebody we clearly knew wouldn't be back. We're not going to move people that we think are going to help us. Why would I trade Sean Marshall? Why would I trade Darwin Barney? Those calls kind of stop quickly. It makes no sense."
I'll tell you what makes no sense, Jim. It's your delusional belief that the Cubs can get back into contention next year. Why trade Sean Marshall? That's an easy one. EVERY contending team in baseball is looking for help at the back end of the bullpen, and Marshall is one of the better situational left-handers in the National League. That's a valuable chip, one that might bring you a decent prospect or two in return. By not listening to offers for Marshall, Hendry is doing the Cubs organization a huge disservice. He could be passing on a trade that helps rebuild the team for the future.
Why trade Darwin Barney? Well, let me be honest. There's nothing special about Barney. His defense at second base is decent, but not Gold Glove-caliber by any stretch. He's not a power hitter (only one home run all season). He's not a basestealer (only four thefts all season). His OBP is .328. That's OK, but hardly outstanding. Why is Darwin Barney untouchable? I can't think of one reason why, yet Hendry isn't even willing to listen to offers.
In his defense of Hendry, Wittenmyer talks of a farm system "that finally is starting to produce impact position players for the first time in decades." The Cubs have only two young players in their everyday lineup -- shortstop Starlin Castro and Barney. I assume those are the two guys Wittenmyer is talking about. I'll give him Castro, who is a terrific young talent. But Barney is replaceable, the prototypical "sell-high" candidate. Truth be told, Castro is the only player on the Cubs who should be untouchable on the trade market, but apparently Hendry has expanded his "untouchables" list to include several other names on his roster. For a GM whose team is 21 games below .500, that's silly.
OK, so the Cubs came within one win of the World Series under Hendry. But that was eight years ago. The 2008 Cubs were a pretty good team also -- having won 97 games that year. They flamed out in the playoffs, and Hendry overreacted big time the following offseason. He was so desperate for a left-handed bat that he gave Milton Bradley $30 million. That started a downward spiral for the Cubs organization that hasn't stopped yet.
Wittenmyer concludes that if we're going to blame Hendry for Bradley, Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano, we have to give him credit for Castro, Barney, Marlon Byrd and Matt Garza.
OK. Castro is good. But Garza (4-7, 3.80 ERA) is a league average pitcher this season. He only looks good when compared to the other bums on the Cubbie staff. (Randy Wells, cough, cough). Was it really worth giving up three prospects to acquire Matt Garza, knowing that you're at least two years away from legitimate contention? Marlon Byrd? Respected veteran, sure, but he's been hurt most of the year. And what have the Cubs won with him on the roster? And we've already talked at length about Barney here.
So, should the Cubs keep Jim Hendry because of Starlin Castro? That's about all he's got going for him at this point. That's a tough sell. A real tough sell. Give Wittenmyer credit for going against the grain of public opinion. I'm cool with writing things that are unpopular at times. It generates discussion, like this blog entry, for example. However, it's an argument I just can't buy in this case.
Dunn's batting average now sits at a robust .158, which is the lowest it has been since May 6. Worse yet, his slump seems to be deepening:
April: .160, 2 HRs, 10 RBI
May: .204, 3 HRs, 13 RBI
June: .136, 2 HRs, 6 RBI
July: .100, 2 HRs, 7 RBI
Total: .158, 9 HRs, 36 RBI
At least Dunn has seven RBI in July, giving Hawk Harrelson an excuse to say he is hitting "a hard .100." But right now, I don't have any reason to hope Dunn is going to extricate himself from this horrible tailspin any time this season.
If this continues, Dunn has a chance to become the player with the worst average ever in the modern era among players with enough ABs to qualify for a batting title.
Right now, former Detroit slugger Rob Deer holds that dubious distinction. He batted .179 for the Tigers in 1991. Dunn has him licked by 21 points as it stands right now.
Here's the funny thing about guys who bat .158: Usually they get benched. Therefore, they don't get enough ABs to qualify for a batting title. Not in the Sox organization. Not under this regime. They'll continue to let Dunn bat fourth every single day no matter how bad this gets. The Sox don't believe in making adjustments offensively, this much we know.
It looks to me like "The Big Donkey" is going to be drowning for another 66 games.
The Cubbie faithful are going to have to get this whole notion of Carlos Marmol being an elite closer out of their minds. Maybe Marmol was good last year, but he couldn't stink any worse if he took a bath in manure this season.
Marmol blew his seventh save of the year in hysterical fashion Thursday night, turning what looked like a sure 2-0 Cubs victory into a 6-3 loss to the Florida Marlins.
This was an outing that made Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams look like a terrific control pitcher. Of the first 13 pitches Marmol threw, 12 of them were wide of the strike zone. Most of them weren't even close. Mike Stanton, Mike Cameron and John Buck drew three consecutive walks to load the bases on those 13 pitches.
Buck, who came to bat with runners on first and second, squared to bunt on each of the pitches he saw. His goal was to give Marmol an out and advance the runners into scoring position. The Cubbie closer refused to take the out, walking the .218-hitting Buck on four pitches.
Naturally, pinch hitter Greg Dobbs then cleared the bases with a three-run double down into the right field corner. At least that pitch looked like a strike.
Former White Sox outfielder Dewayne Wise -- he of "The Catch" fame -- was pinch running for Buck. As Wise came around third on the Dobbs double, he tripped and fell flat on his face. The Cubs had him dead to rights at the plate. Alas, the relay throw home got away and went all the way back to the screen. Wise got up and scored easily to put the Marlins ahead 3-2.
Oh, Marmol wasn't done blowing up just yet. He walked Emilio Bonifacio on four straight pitches, forcing Cubs manager Mike Quade to bring in Kerry Wood.
The misery continued as Wood walked a guy, then gave up a sacrifice fly and an RBI single. James Russell came on with his gas can and gave up another RBI single to make it 6-2 Florida before things were all said and done.
The Cubs managed a run in the bottom of the ninth, but hey, you ain't winning nothing after a bullpen implosion like that. Wonder if Matt Garza still thinks the Cubs are "right where they need to be" after his seven innings of shutout ball went up in smoke Thursday.
The final line on Marmol: 0 IP, 1 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, O K, 25 pitches, only seven for strikes.
As Quade might say, Marmie didn't have his good stuff.
The top four strikeout pitchers in the American League this season are Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander (147 Ks), Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez (140 Ks), Tampa Bay right-hander James Shields (137 Ks) and New York left-hander C.C. Sabathia (126 Ks).
Guess how many of them pitched in the All-Star Game Tuesday night? None. And that stinks.
All four of those men started for their respective teams Sunday afternoon, and there's a stupid MLB rule that bars any pitcher who throws Sunday from pitching in the Tuesday game. It's ridiculous.
With their four best pitchers unavailable, is it any wonder the American Leaguers lost 5-1 to the National League?
As a fan, I want to see the best players in the All-Star Game. On Tuesday, the AL trotted out such luminaries as David Robertson, Jordan Walden, Chris Perez, Brandon League and Gio Gonzalez.
Are those good pitchers? Yeah, sure. But none of them can carry the jock of the four guys I mentioned earlier.
A couple of pretty decent National League pitchers were prohibited for pitching because of this stupid rule as well -- San Francisco right-hander Matt Cain and Philadelphia left-hander Cole Hamels.
Hamels, quite rightfully, was pissed about not being able to participate.
"I'd love to pitch," Hamels said. "Tuesday is a bullpen day. It's usually the day I feel the best. It's one of those things where people who don't play the game make the rules. I don't think they understand the way we work out and how we train. When you come you want to play. Most of us are pretty smart; we're not going to injure ourselves in an All-Star Game.
"I'd be all for it. I have to throw a bullpen anyway. And it's only one inning. That's the thing. It's not like I'm going out to throw 60 pitches. As strenuous as it is, we're built to throw a hundred and 25 is nothing."
Exactly. Instead of making up dumb rules designed to save people from themselves, MLB should allow each individual pitcher to make a decision on whether they are available to pitch in the game. These are grown men. These are pitchers who are at the very top of their profession. They don't need "protection" from the league.
If the All-Star Game is going to decide homefield advantage for the World Series (another stupid rule), then all the best guys should be out there. That's the bottom line.
Jered Weaver gets the start for the American League in Tuesday's Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Every time I see Weaver pitch, I can't help but think of this classic bit from the 1989 "Weird Al" Yankovic movie "UHF":
"Are you ready, Weaver?"
"I sure am, Kuni!"
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few days, you probably heard Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter became the 28th member of MLB's 3,000-hit club over the weekend.
A few weeks ago, a co-worker of mine asked me a trivia question: Name the three members of the 3,000-hit club who are not in the Hall of Fame.
The topic came up again Sunday night when I was having dinner with a couple friends. Again, I remembered Rose and Palmeiro, but forgot the third one.
It's freakin' Craig Biggio. I don't know why I can't remember that Biggio had over 3,000 career hits. He always slips my mind.
Biggio is not yet eligible for the Hall, because he retired in 2007 and the requisite five-year waiting period has not yet passed. Rose is, of course, banned from baseball for gambling and not eligible for induction. Voters have passed on Palmeiro because of his positive test for performance-enhancing drugs in 2005.
So, now there are four members of the 3,000-hit club who are not in the Hall, with Jeter joining the list and still active as a player.
I almost drove off the road when I was headed east on I-88 Sunday. I could have sworn I heard Barry Rozner say on The Score's weekly "Hit-and-Run" program that he still sees no reason why the White Sox can't win the American League Central Division.
Forgive me for not being inspired by the Sox 2-5 performance this week during a seven-game homestand against Triple-A competition (Kansas City and Minnesota). Personally, I see plenty of reasons the Sox won't win their division. Here's the short list:
1. The Sox are a combined 2-12 against Detroit and Minnesota this season.
2. The Sox are 8-16 against AL Central Division foes.
3. The Sox are 21-25 at home, where their slugging lineup is supposed to be at an advantage.
4. The Sox are 5-8 in extra-inning contests.
5. The Sox are 24-28 against teams currently .500 or below.
6. The Sox have lost 12 games where they held their opponent to three runs or less.
7. The Sox have scored three runs or less in 50 percent (46 of 92) of their games.
The seventh and final point is perhaps the biggest indictment of the 2011 Sox. They play in the American League, which means they can use a designated hitter. They play in the most notorious hitters ballpark in the entire league. Yet they've been been neutered offensively in literally half their games. Just in the last 10 games, they've been mowed down by dignitaries such as Rodrigo Lopez, Felipe Paulino, Bruce Chen and Anthony Swarzak. That's embarrassing.
The Sox stand at 44-48 through the first 92 games, and I don't see why anyone should expect anything to change over the next 70 games. Members of the Chicago media should be slaughtering everyone in the Sox organization for the lack of results we're seeing on the field. But inexplicably, there still seem to be quite a few who believe the Sox are capable of turning this thing around under current management with the current roster.
I'm just not seeing it. I just don't.
Doesn't it look strange seeing Karl Hoinkes (center) wearing Yorkville colors? The Hall of Fame coach toiled for 26 years at Oswego -- where he won 190 games and two state championships. Now, he's coming out of retirement to try to turn around a Yorkville program that hasn't had a winning season since 2002. That will be one of the storylines we'll be following this football season, which believe it or not is only seven weeks away.
Here's your weekly composite schedule for area teams:
Friday, August 26
West Aurora at East Aurora, 7:30
Marmion at Batavia, 7:30
Stillman Valley at Aurora Christian, 7:30
Rockford Lutheran at Aurora Central, 7:30
Waubonsie Valley at Naperville Central, 7:30
Metea Valley at Plainfield East, 7:30
Marian at Oswego, 7
Rich South at Oswego East, 7
Streator at Yorkville, 7:30
Chicago Brooks at Kaneland, 7:30
Rock Island at Geneva, 7:30
Plano at Lisle, 7:15
Sandwich at Westmont, 7:30
Alden-Hebron at Mooseheart, 7
Friday, September 2
St. Charles East at West Aurora, 7:30
Yorkville at East Aurora, 7:30
Fenwick at Marmion, 7:30
Chicago Academy at Aurora Christian, 7
Oswego at Waubonsie Valley, 7:30
Quincy at Metea Valley, 7:30
Oswego East at Oak Lawn, 7
Huntley at Kaneland, 7:30
Batavia at Plainfield East, 7
Wheaton North at Geneva, 7:30
Seneca at Plano, 7:30
Dwight at Sandwich, 7:30
Luther North at Mooseheart, 7
Saturday, September 3
Marengo at Aurora Central, 4
Friday, September 9
West Aurora at Wheaton Warrenville South, 7:30
East Aurora at Metea Valley, 7:30
Marmion at Montini, 7:30
Aurora Christian at Chicago Christian, 7:30
Immaculate Conception, at Aurora Central, 7:30
Waubonsie Valley at Bartlett, 7:30
Oswego at Romeoville, 7
Plainfield South at Oswego East, 7
Ottawa at Yorkville, 7:30
Kaneland at Dixon, 7:30
Batavia at Larkin, 7:30
Geneva at St. Charles East, 7:30
Manteno at Plano, 7:30
Sandwich at Herscher, 7:15
Saturday, September 10
Mooseheart at Rockford Christian Life, 6
Friday, September 16
Naperville Central at West Aurora, 7:30
Neuqua Valley at East Aurora, 7:30
St. Edward at Marmion, 7:30
Guerin at Aurora Christian, 7
Chicago Christian at Aurora Central, 7:30
Lake Park at Waubonsie Valley, 7:30
Metea Valley at South Elgin, 7:30
Oswego East at Oswego, 7
Yorkville at Geneseo, 7:30
Kaneland at LaSalle-Peru, 7:30
Bartlett at Batavia, 7:30
Elgin at Geneva, 7:30
Plano at Coal City, 7:30
Peotone at Sandwich, 7:30
Saturday, September 17
Mooseheart at Christian Liberty Academy, 1
Friday, September 23
West Aurora at Glenbard North, 7:30
East Aurora at Streamwood, 7:30
Immaculate Conception at Marmion, 7:30
Aurora Christian at Montini, 7:30
Aurora Central at Marian, 7
Waubonsie Valley at Metea Valley, 7:30
Plainfield East at Oswego, 7
Oswego East at Plainfield Central, 7
Morris at Yorkville, 7:30
Rochelle at Kaneland, 7:30
St. Charles East at Batavia, 7:30
Geneva at St. Charles North, 7:30
Herscher at Plano, 7:30
Sandwich at Coal City, 7:30
Rockford Christian at Mooseheart, 7
Friday, September 30
Wheaton North at West Aurora, 7:30
Lake Park at East Aurora, 7:30
Walther Lutheran at Aurora Christian, 7
Aurora Central at Guerin, 7
Waubonsie Valley at Larkin, 7:30
Metea Valley at Neuqua Valley, 7:30
Oswego at Plainfield North, 7
Minooka at Oswego East, 7
Yorkville at Rochelle, 7:30
Kaneland at DeKalb, 7:30
Batavia at Geneva, 7:30
Sandwich at Manteno, 7:30
Mooseheart at Kirkland Hiawatha, 7
Saturday, October 1
Wheaton Academy at Marmion, 1
Peotone at Plano, 1:30
Friday, October 7
Naperville North at West Aurora, 7:30
Marmion at St. Francis, 7:30
Aurora Christian at Immaculate Conception, 7:30
Neuqua Valley vs. Waubonsie Valley at NCC, 7:30
Metea Valley at Bartlett, 7:30
Plainfield South at Oswego, 7
Oswego East at Romeoville, 7
Yorkville at Kaneland, 7:30
Elgin at Batavia, 7:30
Streamwood at Geneva, 7:30
Plano at Sandwich, 1:30
Saturday, October 8
East Aurora at South Elgin, 1:30
Aurora Central at Walther Lutheran, 1
CICS/Longwood at Mooseheart, 1
Friday, October 14
West Aurora at West Chicago, 7:30
Waubonsie Valley at East Aurora, 7:30
St. Edward at Aurora Christian, 7
Wheaton Academy at Aurora Central, 7:30
Lake Park at Metea Valley, 7:30
Oswego at Plainfield Central, 7
Oswego East at Plainfield North, 7
DeKalb at Yorkville, 7:30
Kaneland at Sycamore, 7:30
Batavia at St. Charles North, 7:30
Plano at Reed-Custer, 7:15
Seneca at Sandwich, 7:30
Hope Academy at Mooseheart, 7
Saturday, October 15
Marmion at Guerin, 1:30
Geneva at South Elgin, 1:30
Friday, October 21
Glenbard East at West Aurora, 7:30
East Aurora at Bartlett, 7:30
Marian at Marmion, 7:30
Aurora Central at Aurora Christian, 7
South Elgin at Waubonsie Valley, 7:30
Elgin at Metea Valley, 7:30
Minooka at Oswego, 7
Plainfield East at Oswego East, 7
Sycamore at Yorkville, 7:30
Kaneland at Morris, 7:30
Streamwood at Batavia, 7:30
Geneva at Larkin, 7:30
Sandwich at Wilmington, 7:30
Westmont at Plano, 7:30
Saturday, October 22
Mooseheart at North Shore Country Day, 1
Ramon Ortiz has appeared in a grand total of 16 MLB games over the last three years. That didn't stop the Cubs from dusting off the 38-year-old right-hander to make a spot start Tuesday night against the Washington Nationals.
Surprisingly enough, Ortiz held his own. He gave up three runs -- only two earned -- over six innings and struck out seven hitters. Of course, he still took the loss as the Cubs got beat 3-2.
At first, I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that Ortiz was called up to take the injured Carlos Zambrano's place in the rotation. After all, the Cubs are 35-52. They are done for 2011 (and probably beyond). Why not allow a young pitcher to take the spot in the rotation?
Well, I looked up the stats for the Iowa Cubs this year, and guess what? The Cubs don't have any starting pitchers at Triple-A with an ERA below six. Except for Ortiz. And that's why he's back in the bigs. That is a huge indictment on the Cubs' farm system. GM Jim Hendry will tell you the Cubs' organization has a "bright future." I'm not buying that.
If the Cubs have such a bright future, how come they aren't playing any of their young players? You look at their lineup each day, and besides shortstop Starlin Castro, it's the same collection of declining veterans day after day.
Sox offense still stinks
First, Cubs right-hander Rodrigo Lopez gets his first win of the season against the White Sox. Then, just two days later, 0-6 Felipe Paulino of the Kansas City Royals earns his first victory of the season against the Sox.
The Sox stranded 13 runners in the 5-3 loss to last-place Kansas City. Paul Konerko went 3-for-4 with a home run, an RBI single and a base hit in the ninth inning off Royals' closer Joakim Soria, but as usual, he got no help whatsoever in clutch situations.
It's a wonder anyone even throws the ball over the plate to Konerko anymore -- because the rest of the Sox lineup is so bad. If I'm facing the Sox, I walk Konerko every time and make somebody else beat me.
The two teams in front of the Sox in the American League Central standings -- Cleveland and Detroit -- saw fit to make changes to their respective coaching staffs. The Indians fired their hitting coach last month. The Tigers fired their pitching coach over the weekend.
The Sox, on the other hand, seem content to win about half their games this season. If you still believe that "All In" stuff, I'm afraid you've been duped.
And, oh, one other thing about Paulino: He was 1-9 last season, so his last MLB win came June 4, 2010 against the Cubs. It's been awhile since that guy has beaten a legitimate major-league lineup.
The free agency period began Friday in the NHL, and as expected, the Blackhawks were among the more active clubs. They added five veterans, all of whom will be playing on one-year contracts. Let's take a look at the signings:
Andrew Brunette (pictured above scoring on Cristobal Huet) is a reliable 15-year veteran. He's as durable as they come, having played 80 or more games for nine consecutive seasons. He scored 18 goals for the Minnesota Wild last year and has scored 15 or more goals for 11 straight seasons. He had 25 goals two seasons ago, so this guy is likely to be the most productive offensively of the five free agents signed thus far. The 37-year-old left winger is versatile enough to play on both a skilled line or a checking line. He netted eight power-play goals last season, so don't be surprised if he gets on the ice when the Hawks have the extra man. This is a guy who isn't afraid to go to the net.
Jamal Mayers, 36, played for Hawks coach Joel Quenneville in St. Louis. He had three goals and 11 assists in 78 games for San Jose last season. He also had a plus-3 rating and totaled 105 hits. Mayers is good in the faceoff circle, having won 57 percent of his draws over the last five seasons. Look for him to be the Blackhawks' fourth-line center this season and play on the penalty-kill. A reliable defensive forward.
Sean O'Donnell, 39, has played 16 years in the NHL with eight different teams. He's a big defenseman, 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds. At this stage of his career, he's probably the seventh guy on the blue line, but he should provide veteran leadership for the younger defensemen on the Blackhawk roster -- such as Nick Leddy. I'd expect O'Donnell to be a healthy scratch on some nights, but he's the sort of guy you can plug into the lineup when you have an injury and not worry about what you're going to get.
Daniel Carcillo, 26, is a goon. I guess he's gonna be hanging around to try to protect the Blackhawks' star players from all the shenanigans the Vancouver Canucks pull. Carcillo doesn't add much in terms of actual hockey-playing skill. He's a fighter and not much else. Frankly, I'd be surprised if he scores a goal all season. You just have to hope this guy doesn't take too many stupid penalties.
Brett McLean, 32, has played in the Swiss League the last two years. He was last in the NHL in 2009 as a member of the Florida Panthers. McLean signed a two-way contract, so don't be surprised if he begins the season with the Rockford Ice Hogs of the AHL. This is a depth move. McLean will be around when the Hawks have an injury to one of their forwards, but don't expect significant contributions from this player.