Goodbye, Old Friend

Saying good bye is supposed to be hard to do.  However, it isn't hard to do when you've got a brand spankin' new site.

I would like to thank everyone for everything.  I want to thank readers for reading, commenting on our blogs and telling their friends.  That's really how this site got as big as it did -- even though at times I wish it were bigger -- I appreciate the fan base we already have.

With that said, I am hoping you follow us to the new site, which is a vast improvement over whatever this was.  You'll like it.  I promise.  All your favorite bloggers will be there.  Including yours truly.

Please come on down.  We're awaiting your presence.


THE NEW BIG DEAD SIDEBAR

Baseball, Replays & Apologies

There is a part of me that wants to apologize for a lack of recent posting despite some crazy things that are going on in our sports world.  But there are just times that the real world gives us more than we can handle and we can't serve you -- our loyal readers.  Heck, our memory is so shot, we forgot Oliver Perez went to Pittsburgh with Jason Bay.  (Our minds are fried.)

So, until everything is straightened out across the board, posts will be sporadic.

However, I did want to knock out a quickie about baseball's instant replay ... or lack of it.

There has been widespread outrage and plenty of head shaking going on since the recent announcement that Bud Selig was going to turn a blind eye to common sense and ignore the request of players, umps and fans and stick with the archaic method of officiating.

Is Selig foolish for doing this?  Yes.  Will this continue to be an issue as time goes on?  Yes.  Will change come soon?  No.

Let's be real folks.  Bud Selig isn't going to change anything until Major League Baseball starts hemorrhaging money.  Then Bud will begrudgingly tweak the replay rules to make it seem as if he did something.  I can almost guarantee the next thing Selig does with instant replay will be too little, too late.

You want to see replay in the MLB sooner rather than later?  Then you better pray to your little hearts content for one (or all three) of these scenarios:
  1. Lack of replay screws Yankees.
  2. Lack of replay screws Red Sox
  3. Lack of replay screws Cardinals.
If Joe Mauer had his double called foul while wearing Yankee pinstripes, there would have been instant replay in place for the next game of the series.  Had it been Boston having to play a four out defensive frame because of a third-base umpire's inability to see a play that is unfolding within arm's reach in front of him, there would have been a Congressional hearing.  And don't even dare fathom what would happen if a call went against The Best Fans In Baseball, your head might start to spin.

That's just how it is.  And it's not just baseball -- so get that thought out of your head.

Defenders getting too physical with M. Jeff?  Here comes the "hand-check" rule.  Tom Brady gets a boo-boo, now you can't tackle him.  Major changes happen when major money-makers are involved.

As for other things on our docket:
  • We won't be overly mad if the Cubs can't find a taker for Crazy Uncle Milton right away.  Jim Hendry screwed himself once by signing him, twice by signing him to a three-year deal and thrice by going public with a suspension that killed what remaining tradeability he had entering the offseason
  • We also won't get too caught up in Hot Stove stuff.  Is the idea of Roy Halladay headlining the Cubs rotation?  Yes.  Is it worth writing two dozen posts on?  No.  I refuse to treat this situation like the Jake Peavy Saga or the Brian Roberts Hostage Crisis.  (So, how long until reports break about some fan seeing Roy Halladay singing "Go Cubs Go" at a Toronto bar?)
  • Brad Miller got hosed, and I'm not saying that because I'm a Bulls fan.  I'm saying that because there was not inconclusive evidence to overturn the call.  Isn't that what you need as an official?  Had they called it no good in the first place, then upheld the decision upon further review, I would have been fine with it.  And for the NBA to say its officials were right.  Ha.  Did you think they were going to side against them?  (No, our officials sucked on that one.  Our bad.  We'll try to find better ones when they're out of prison available.)

Remember What I Wrote About Mike Cameron? Scratch That.

For those of you whose memories flee like a talented Cuban pitcher, here's a reminder.

1. Mike Cameron, CF.  There was once a time where Cameron was among the best center fielders in baseball.  The three-time Gold Glove winner was always spectacular in the field, making routine plays and making difficult plays look routine.  At the plate, he was serviceable at best, but was usually a threat on the base paths. Cameron has three 30-steal seasons and five more years of at least 22 swipes under his belt.


Unfortunately, at age 36, those days are behind Cameron.  Yes, he still has some pop in his bat (24 home runs, .795 OPS) but I'm not quite sure that He's hit at least 20 HRs in each of the last four seasons.

Yeah.  Um, can we pretend that never happened?  Good.  Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I'll use this as a place where I will vehemently argue against bringing on Marlon Byrd.

Marlon Byrd should not be patrolling center field at Wrigley Field unless he is on an opposing team.  In 2003, Byrd finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting as he posted a .303/.366/.418/.784 line.  He would then procede to fall off the face of the earth from 2004-2007 where his slash stats got ugly.  We're talking a three year average of .225/.309/.349/.658.  Then he went to Texas and got hot (no homo) posting a .295/.352/.468/.820 line in his three years with the Rangers.

And after previous attempts to acquire Byrd in the past have failed, it looks like GM Jim Hendry is lookingo to make Byrd his new Bradley.

And everyone knows Hendry always gets his man.  It makes me wish CC Sabathia was his man last year, or that Carlos Beltran was his man a few winters ago.

With that said, Mike Cameron needs to be Jim Hendry's "man" to a certain extent this offseason.  It's not because of the .795 OPS he posted last year or the 70 home runs he has hit over the last three years.

It's because of his defense, stupid.

Remember when the Cubs couldn't compete on the road against the Rockies, Padres and Diamondbacks?  Manager Lou Piniella said it was because the Cubs didn't have the speedy outfielders that could go get balls hit in the gaps.  Kosuke Fukudome could not get those balls.  Neither could Crazy Uncle Milton.  I don't expect the rotund Byrd to be able to get them either.

Two of the Cubs' biggest problems in 2009 were the lack of team speed and the lack of team defense.  With Alfonso Soriano in left field and Fukudome in right, there's a gaping hole in center.  A hole big enough to drive a mack truck through.

If the Cubs are not going to get better on the offensive side of the equation, they need to do whatever they can on the defensive end.

That means saying no to Byrd, while biting the bullet for Cameron.

Chris Lowery Gettin' Interactive

Once upon a time, SIU men's basketball coach Chris Lowery was apprehensive about Twitter, to say the least.  In an interview before I went mainstream, Lowery said he was unsure about Twitter because he hadn't looked much into it.  He knew its pros and cons, but was unsure whether or not he would add the social networking tool.

Now, it seems as if you can't get the guy off the thing.

Lowery's latest trips into the Twitterverse ask Saluki fans several questions.

  • Saluki fans- what is your most memorable moment at SIU Arena? from web 
  • Saluki fans- who should start in the home opener? from web  
  • Saluki fans- who has been your favorite player through the exhibition games? from web

Some have brought it to the attention of TBDS, asking whether or not a man making $750,000 a year should be asking his followers to do his job for him.  Those people, in my humble opinion, really must be looking for straws to pick in regard to Lowery's coaching ability.

He's frowned upon when he looks like a big meanie.  He loosens up, and he still gets ridiculed.  We've played two exhibition games and people ask these stupid questions.

Now, I know some of them were made in jest.  Still, what does it hurt for the coach to ask his fans who they would like in the starting five on opening night?  It hurts nothing.  Except maybe your fingers if you type too quickly.

Oh, and for what it's worth, here would be my starting five after two preseason games.
  1. Dillard
  2. T. Freeman
  3. Bocot
  4. Fay
  5. Evans
That's right, Nick Evans' play has put him in my projected starting five.  In 44 minutes of play, Evans has scored 19 points, 13 rebounds and is shooting 8 of 16 from the field.  Booker has struggled.  He's hit only two of his eight field goal attempts in and grabbed three rebounds in his 29 minutes of playing time.  I'm sure hurting his head in Saturday's win against Southern Indiana compounded matters, as well.

It wouldn't surprise me to see Evans in the starting line-up on Saturday night.  He certainly has earned it through the exhibition season.


And while I have the forum, I might as well answer Coach Lowery's other questions.


Favorite Player Through Preseason: Kendal Brown-Surles.


It's almost a shame that Brown-Surles didn't come in as hyped as the previous class of Saluki freshmen, because he is equally as talented.  Through two exhibition games, KBS seems to fit the mold of your prototypical Southern guard.  He values the ball on offense (4 assists, 1 turnover in 36 minutes) and pressures it on defense (8 steals).  He's not quick ... he's just flat-out fast.


Everyone knows that I hate making projections after exhibition games, especially when it comes to college kids.  (Some of you will remember the pre-TBDS days when I proclaimed Matt Shaw as MVC POY, Carlton Fay FOY and Randal Falker Sixth Man of the Year after a Saluki game -- albeit tongue in cheek.)  But there is no discounting the effort Brown-Surles puts on the floor.  You can see it in the way he plays.  And the fact of the matter is, effort always translates no matter who you play.


Favorite SIU Arena Moment:  Oh, so many to choose from.


And since there are several, I'll pick my top three-and-a-half.

1.  My 1st Creighton Game.  As a freshman, I attended every home game while school was in session, but my first Dawg Pound experience was the Creighton game.


I remember the weekend very well.  Valentine's Day was around the corner and my roommate had decided that trying to make a girl that was six hours away his girlfriend was more important than the Valley's most intense rivalry.  (Note: maybe that's why I'm still single -- no I don't regret my decisions.)  Anyway, I yelled, screamed and heckled as the Maroon & White defeated the evil Creighton Swallows Bluejays.  And in the end, I ate the chocolate covered strawberries my roommie had made for his potential lover, but had left behind.


Epic win?


2.  My Last Creighton Game (as a fan).  Who can ever forget the ESPN GameDay game?  That whole day was an experience.  Again, that was during the pre-TBDS days.  The 48-44 win for SIU yielded plenty of highlights.  Including the now-infamous picture with Erin Andrews, who complimented my sign, autographed it and then posed for a picture.

We won't ever speak of the day in which the last time I saw SIU and Creighton square off at the SIU Arena.  Worst.  Day.  Ever.  On more than one account.



3.  "The Media Pick-up Game."  It is a day that still stands as one of my favorite moments as a Saluki beat writer.  Southern had an extended film session, pushing back the start of practice.  Rather than leave and return for interviews, media members were allowed to pick up a ball and have a brief shoot around before the players and coaching staff took the floor.


We took advantage of the opportunity, of course.  So, it was Southern Illinoisan beat writer Todd Hefferman, a pair of TV guys whose names I always seem to forget.  Oh, and Phil Oskilanec -- now at ESPN Radio -- was there too. 


We shot freely.  Then we attempted to do the Giant City Chicken game. (Lay up, free throw, 3 pointer in 30 seconds) and i was the only one to not make his three. (FAIL, I know).  But what I will claim is that in our game of 21, yours truly scored a few buckets, none more clutch than his drive to the lane while being fouled by Todd.  Of course, you don't call fouls in 21, but he got me across the arm pretty good.  He won't admit it, but I wouldn't expect him to.  He's followed Saluki basketball long enough to know it's not a foul unless there's blood or until the refs blow the whistle -- whichever comes first.



I hope answering these questions was helpful to Coach Lowery.  Maybe I'll forward him this blog post.  Or maybe someone can do it for me.

Hot Stove Tease: Roy Halladay

Two years ago, it was second baseman Brian Roberts.  Last year, it was Jake Peavy.  This year it will be Roy Halladay.

But unlike the last two offseasons, count me out of the Hot Stove's hottest topic.  Over the summer, Roy Halladay received more interest on the open market than a well-developed teenager at a R. Kelly concert.  The rumor mill will rotate more quickly this winter as there will be more teams interested that will not be battling stringent demands and a deadline at the same time.

Let's thank the Daily Herald prematurely for crushing our souls with the latest tease:

One interesting scenario has new Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos indicating he'd be open to trading ace pitcher Roy Halladay, who becomes a free agent next fall after he's scheduled to make $15.75 million in 2010. 

Halladay has a no-trade clause in his contract, but he's said he'd like to play for a contender, and the Cubs seem closer to getting back to the playoffs than do the Blue Jays. To get Halladay, the Cubs must move money.
Could Hendry package Bradley and prospects for Halladay? Bradley could thrive in the relatively quiet environs of Toronto, and Halladay would provide an instant jolt to the Cubs' rotation.


Cubs fans, you'll be let down this offseason when Roy Halladay is pitching in Toronto and Milton Bradley is starting in right field.  I won't be, for I have begun to prepared for the worse.

Some suggest Ted Lilly to be back in April after his offseason surgeryl, but recent history suggests if Prior Wood Lilly returns at all, it will be sometime in August.  So, I have prepared for 20 Tom Gorzelanny starts.  And thanks to the folks at HJE, I'll do so without getting alcohol poisoning.

As for Bradley, don't come crying to me if he enters spring training with the team.  Thanks to Jim Hendry's thoughtless season-ending suspension, teams should have no inspiration to acquire a malcontent coming off his healthiest, yet, least productive season.

Do I expect the Cubs to make changes in 2010?  Yes.  They have a new owner who is bringing a fresh philosophy to the table.  And even though Hendry is the GM that brought Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez through the trade market, he's also the same guy who bid against himself for Bradley and Aaron Miles while trading a once untouchable commodity that will be under team control for years to come for one shitty year of Kevin Gregg.

In Hendry I trust?  No.  In a real GM, I lust.

Ten Guys The Chicago Cubs Should Avoid Like The Swine Flu

Baseball's winter meetings kicked off today in Chicago, meaning after Jim Hendry guzzles a dozen donuts this morning, he won't have too far to go to meet with someone who will gladly take Milton Bradley off his glaze-covered hands.

In the Hot Stove League, it is easy to write about who you want on your team.  But it takes a real keen eye to identify the guys you don't want around.  Over the past few years, Hendry has identified those guys ... and proceded to sign those guys on the Cubs.

Here are the guys he should avoid like the plague swine flu.


1. Mike Cameron, CF.  There was once a time where Cameron was among the best center fielders in baseball.  The three-time Gold Glove winner was always spectacular in the field, making routine plays and making difficult plays look routine.  At the plate, he was serviceable at best, but was usually a threat on the base paths. Cameron has three 30-steal seasons and five more years of at least 22 swipes under his belt.

Unfortunately, at age 36, those days are behind Cameron.  Yes, he still has some pop in his bat (24 home runs, .795 OPS) but I'm not quite sure that He's hit at least 20 HRs in each of the last four seasons.

2. Rick Ankiel.  This is what I said at the A League Of Her Own blog about this season's scariest players on the open market.

"I fear signing Rick Ankiel. Lefty hitter. Power at times. Knows the division. Plays all 3 OF spots. Sounds like a Jim Hendry signing to me."

I still feel that way today.  Ankiel had a breakout season in 2008, hitting 25 home runs and driving in 71.  His production took a dip in 2009 as he hit only 11 home runs and had 38 RBIs in 404 plate appearances.  Funny how this turns out.  Ankiel had 11 homers and 39 ribbies in 190 plate appearances in 2007.  If that's not a red flag, I don't know what is.  Oh yeah, that whole HGH thing Cardinals fans always seemingly forget about when it comes to their own players.

But BOOOOOOOO Manny Ramirez!

3. Brett Myers, SP/RP.  One could argue that Myers hit a pinnacle in 2007 when he saved his season, and possibly career, by moving into the bullpen.  Myers racked up 64 strikeouts in a little more than 53 innings pitched with a 1.200 WHIP, 2.87 earned run average and 21 saves.  On the other hand, one could argue that his biggest hit came on a woman.

Myers wants to be a starter, a role in which he has struggled with in a hitters haven such as Philadelphia.  Doesn't sound like someone you want to throw into the pressure cooker on Addison and Clark.

4. Mark DeRosa, 1B/2B/3B/OF.  I made my argument here for why the Cubs shouldn't bring DeRo Your Hero back to Chicago.  And if you want to bring in a guy who will be 35 next year and is coming off a season in which he posted a .250/.319/.433/.752 slash line on a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal then you should probably get your priorities in line.

5. Gary Matthews Jr., OF  Over the last three years, Gary Matthews Jr. has posted a .248/.326/.379/.705 slash line.  In that same time span, Milton Bradley has posted  a .294/.405/.501/.906 slash line.  If you would trade Milton Bradley for Gary Matthews Jr., you are clinically insane.

6. Doug Davis, SP.  I've heard plenty of Cubs fans who want Doug Davis on the 2010 Cubs to fill the role of inning-eating, back-of-the-rotation guy.  But really, I think Cubs fans want him because he has tortured the Cubs (9-6, 3.20 ERA, 1.159 WHIP) throughout his mediocre career.

The only team Davis has more wins and a lower ERA against is San Diego.  Think about that.

7. Oliver Perez, P  Can you believe the Pirates acquired this guy in exchange for with Jason Bay? (Ed. My bad.) I still want no part of this guy being on the 2010 Cubs.

8. Carlos Silva, P.  Do you want to know why the Seattle Mariners are a bad baseball team?  Because they gave this scrub a four-year deal worth $48 million.  No thanks.

9. Willy Taveras, OF.  A possible non-tender candidate, Taveras is fast.  His $4 million option will likely be declined.  Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown could spend $4 million on blow and I would still think it is a wiser investment than giving it to Willy-T. (possible non-tender)

10. Eric Byrnes, OF.  Total douchebag, which is cool if you're into that thing.  I'm not.  Two years ago, Byrnes hit .286/.353/.460/.813 with 21 home runs and 50 stolen bases.  Two years ago, George W. Bush was our president.  Sometimes things change.  Shit happens.

Honorable Mentions: Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, Vernon Wells, Aaron Rowand.

Pigskin Pimpin On A Sunday Night: Bears, Salukis & Much More

Your favorite football feature that is chock-full of cheerleaders is back.

Site News: Stripped

This is going to be short, sweet and a pain in the behind.
  1. We're trying to make TBDS look like a legitimate site, not just something two idiots put together over night.
  2. So we've enlisted the help of some friends of the program to make this site not suck.
  3. In the middle of rebuilding, said friends of the program got busy and had to leave.
  4. And as smart as I can be, like Jerry Angelo, whenever I answer one problem, 10 others show up.
So, in older posts, you should click on the post title to read the entire thing.  Until then, no more "read more" tag.  We'll hopefully not have something that doesn't completely suck by the end of the week.  And by the end of the week, I mean I have no idea if and/or when this will get done.

Bear with us as we try to make the blogosphere a better place.  Until then, I hope you enjoy the picture of Mariah Carey.

Mariah Carey at PRECIOUS Premiere in Hollywood presented by AFI Fest

The Weekender

The Weekender is a blog with links to things you should read while spending time at your computer over the weekend while I'm spending time away from it.  Must read links after the jump.  Oh, and pretty girls, too.

Building A Champion: The 2010 Cubs

Cubs-Braves
Cubs fans would have a lot to celebrate if I could pull this off.
   
In mid-October, I was challenged by a friend/reader to rebuild the Cubs.  It’s not as if that is a new concept to me, seeing that I’ve played this game on PlayStation, PlayStation3, XBOX and XBOX 360 many times before. However, the catch was to do it fairly, so not to take advantage of dumb computer GM’s that don’t appreciate young talent.  

Starting Point: The Cubs’ Opening Day payroll was $134,809,000, and I was given the opportunity to bump the payroll to $150 million after negotiating out of the original $145 million projection.

When building this team, my goal was to patch some holes with long-term solutions without spending too much money.  It was a difficult task, and one that will likely go unrewarded.

When you're done, I'd appreciate your criticisms in the comments section.  Thank you.  And without further to do, the 2010 Cubs, as pieced together by yours truly using The Hartwig Plan.

Lilly Has A Bum Shoulder ... And It's Not Even 2010 Yet

Vinyl Ready Art - Road Signs

I nonchalantly dismissed Ted Lilly's shoulder surgery after initial reports of it being a minor scope.  Then I read on, minor scopes don't take pitchers down through April.

Yep, you've got it Cubs fans.  Less than one day after the baseball season comes to an end, the Cubs are already screwing themselves out of next year's pennant race.

Rage after the jump.

World Series Buried Lead: Can We Have Vintage Pedro Back For One Night Only?

Red Sox Photo Day

Tonight's Game 6 match-up is being branded as a barn-burner already.  The Yankees will send Andy Pettitte (28-22 over the last two years) to the mound in search of a title clinching win.  The Phillies will counter with Pedro Martinez, the Phightins' No. 3 starter and  he who has the most wins in playoff history, to the mound in search of one more win and one more World Series title. 

If allowed to go into an actual time machine, I would probably screw up that entire space-time continuum beyond repair.  I would invest a significant amount of money in something called The Facebook, warn Jim Hendry about why it would be a terrible idea to sign Milton Bradley to a three-year, $30 million deal and get on board and attach my bandwagon to Gawker Media and Deadspin.
 
I would also bring back a gift for baseball fans everywhere.

We'll start with classic Pedro -- the greatest pitcher to survive the Steroid Era.

This Week Inside Carrie's Box: Tom Ricketts & Good Questions About the '10 Cubs

2nd Annual ACM
Honors

So, why the picture of Carrie Underwood?  Only because her album comes out one day after a Carrie Muskat inbox is released.  Coincidence?  I think not.


My inbox looks something like this.  Bill, bill, with love from mom, bill, "Do you want to be LARGER?", bill, "Do you want to meet cute singles in you're area??????, "#&$% you %^&*@" ... then there's Carrie Muskat's correspondence with her fans.

Her questions.  My answers.  Your remarks in the comments section.  Everything else after the jump.

This Alexis Rios For Ben Gordon Trade Already Haunting The Bulls

Bulls-Celtics

Pictured above is the last image Chicago Bulls fans saw of the Ben Gordon era in Chicago.  You can name a million (or $55 million) reasons why it ended.  And for some odd reason, I will always point to Jerry Reinsdorf and his love for baseball.

Out Of Hibernation: The Segment Formerly Known As Bears Buzz

Cleveland Browns v Chicago Bears

Sometime Sunday afternoon, I came up with a more clever name for the blog responsible for the Chicago Bears round-up segment.  Though it lacks the alliteration of Bears Buzz, it is name that seems to fit Bears rewind blogs -- especially after yesterday's game against the Cleveland Browns.

Pigskin Pimpin On A Sunday

Fan

Your weekly installment of football stuff and gratuitous cheerleader photos after the jump ... has been replaced for this week.

The Weekender

The Weekender is a blog with links to things you should read while spending time at your computer over the weekend while I'm spending time away from it.  Must read links after the jump.  Oh, and pretty girls, too.(Today: A three-for-all because I'm so damn late)

Who's Burning Detroit? WBD4.0

Raging house fire


[Editor's Note: Last year, Scott Mieszala served as my Assistant Sports Editor before I went all Dusty Baker on him and burned him out midway through the semester.  Still, Scott presented his highly regarded weekly columns.  The fact that he is without a job while scabs such as Rick Morrissey and Chris DeLuca are still employed is a sad.  Someone, hire him.  With that said, here he is with a new rendition of his award-winning column, "Who's Burning Detroit?"]

So, who will it be this week?  Find out after the jump.

Well, At Least One Of My Teams Promises To Be Great This Season

Duke Blue Devils v North Carolina Tar Heels

Long-time readers of this blog know that I am a North Carolina homer despite never attending a single class at the Chapel Hill campus.  It was my love of Michael Jordan that turned into my love for everything Tar Heels.  I could have gone to school there and attended one of the top journalism schools in the country, but decided to keep it close to home.

During my freshman year at Carbondale, North Carolina beat Illinois to win the national championship.  Despite being on the campus of SIU (drop the "C" please) there were plenty of Illini fans.  Most of them wanted to see long-time Saluki coach Bruce Weber win the big one with the Orange Crush.  Then there was lil' ol' me.  The Saluki homer miffed that both Bruce Weber and Matt Painter left.  (And the fact that I apparently wasn't good enough for U of I or its school of journalism.)  The long-time Carolina fan in me wanted to see the Illini fall apart against my beloved Heels.

On that day, Talent triumphed over Team.  In the coming years my roommate would be a Duke fan -- which set up some pretty heated college hoops arguments.  Also, a close friend and former co-worker (and, at times, TBDS reader) was also Duke fan, and that set off some pretty intense moments in the office.  However, that was offset because one of my mentors was a big-time North Carolina fan too.

For two years, my roommate was a Michigan State fan.  And everyone knows how the last two games between Michigan State and North Carolina have ended.

So, let the homerism begin as THE University of North Carolina will start the season ranked No. 4 in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches Poll.  Kansas is No. 1 with Michigan State and Texas following the Jayhawks.  Kentucky, Villanova, Purdue, Puke Duke, West Virginia and Butler (not the butler ... but Butler) round out the Top 10.

The Alma Mater received three votes and The Arch Nemesis of the Alma Mater received seven votes.  Northern Iowa, the reigning Missouri Valley Conference champions, received one flippin' vote.

No love for Frostbite Falls.

World Series Buried Lead: FOX Sports Chicago

(The Big Dead Sidebar will try to provide readers with a buried lead before each and every World Series game.  This is the second installment in a series.)

In an effort to pull in a third large market for the World Series, FOX Sports will present the World Series through the eyes of some of Chicago's most popular players and managers.  At least, that's my theory ... and I'm sticking to it.

World Series Buried Lead: The Cleveland Factor

Cleveland Indians Media Day

(The Big Dead Sidebar will try to provide readers with a buried lead before each and every World Series game.  This is the first in a series.)

Unless you're totally oblivious to playoff baseball, you know that former Cleveland Indians pitchers CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee are the Game 1 starters for the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, respectively.  The fact that they are no longer members of the Tribe could be one of the primary reasons Manny Acta has a job in Cleveland and Eric Wedge is somewhere in an unemployment line.

Lee went 22-3 with a 2.54 earned run average in a little more than 223 innings en route to a Cy Young.  In eight seasons with Cleveland, Lee posted an 83-48 record including 14-win seasons in 2004 and 2006, sandwiching an 18-win season in 2005.

Then there's Sabathia, who wile he was in Cleveland was known as C.C. Sabathia.  (Yes, he took out the periods after being traded to Milwaukee.)  Watching Sabathia start a World Series in a Yankees uniform has to be painful for fans of the mistakes by the lake.  It would have been different had Sabathia returned to Milwaukee, gone west to be closer to home, stayed in the National League or went west and stayed in the National League.  Instead, he took the money and pressure that comes with playing in the Bronx.  And he performed.

Sabathia went 106-81 in his eight year career in Cleveland, but really didn't put it all together until his 2007 Cy Young season.  He went 19-7 with a  3.21 ERA while making a league-most 34 starts and pitched a league high 241 innings.  Those numbers aren't eye-popping enough for you?  How about the ridiculous amount of hitters he faced, 975 in total.

After struggling in the playoffs, and out of the gate in Cleveland, Sabathia regained the magic touch in Milwaukee (I'm convinced it was the bratwurst) and went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA while racking up 128 strikeouts in a little more than 130 innings.  Sabathia single-handedly carried the Brewers into the playoffs.

Honestly, how often does a team develop two true aces who end up bringing home Cy Young Awards in consecutive seasons and then are traded away in consecutive seasons?  Not often?  How about not ever.  But if was going to happen anywhere, it would be in Cleveland.

But it doesn't stop there.  The Tribe could field a team of players they've cut ties with that happened to reach the playoffs this season.

The Indians could have had Manny Ramirez (Dodgers) in left, and Ryan Ludwick (Cardinals) in right field.  Casey Blake and Ron Belliard (Dodgers) could have been playing third and shortstop, respectively, with Mark DeRosa (Cardinals) at second.  Jim Thome (Dodgers) could have handled first with Victor Martinez (Red Sox) at catcher.  Out of the bullpen, Acta Wedge could have called upon Rafael Betancourt out of the bullpen.  Heck, they could have thrown Ben Francisco as the designated hitter.

Did I mention a healthy Grady Sizemore would have made the Indians an elite American League team?  It would have. 

Instead, Cleveland is back in rebuilding mode, even though they probably shouldn't be.

Your Official Chicago Bulls Projection, Prediction Blog

Orlando Magic vs. Chicago Bulls

So how does Derrick Rose follow up his sensational rookie season?  Find out after the jump.

Ten Things from MVC Basketball Media Day


Sheryl Crow performs under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis

St. Louis was home for the Missouri Valley Conference Media Day earlier today, and as Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery points out, every team feels pretty happy about their team right now. Here are 10 thoughts and fun moments from the Sheraton City Center.

10.  Saluki women's basketball is in "transition" year, according to the MVC press release. Are they referring to new coach Missy Tiber's fast-break offense or the team being picked to finish last in the 10-team league? And I wonder how many times Tiber will refer to a "roller coaster" when describing the ups and downs of her team.

9.  Saluki point guard Kevin Dillard's shoes had to be 3 sizes too big. Dillard seemed to be annoyed by his long, "cowboy-boot looking" footwear. "Voice of the Salukis" Mike Reis poked fun at Dillard's look. Head Coach Chris Lowery: "If only we can get him to play as good as he looks."

8.  Evansville head coach Marty Simmons couldn't really comment on the new NCAA rule prohibiting charges under the basket, similar to NBA's arc under the hoop. Simmons (who looks like an offensive lineman): "I wouldn't know, I haven't taken one in my life."

7.  The economy has affected the media guide process. Indiana State is adapting well, with its basketball media guides being published on a disc. As for Bradley, they had a letter saying they are no longer printing media guides, and you need to look online for various team notes. Ah, gotta love these times.

6.  For those who do not know much about basketball, Missouri State coach Cuonzo Martin may not be the guy to talk to. He does not simplify the art of winning games; it is strictly basketball speak. He could be a 400-level professor in a basketball class. Also, Martin had what seemed to be a 45-minute talk with SIU Athletic Director Mario Moccia...would have liked to overhear that conversation.

5.  Fox Sports Midwest gave away big coffee mugs to everybody. It made me think of last year when announcer Dan McLaughlin spoke at Media Day. I just heard him on a college football telecast, so I understand why he wasn't there today. The guy never stops working, and as much as it would be cool to see him, I will take the coffee mugs.

4.  Each coach is disturbed by the trend of BCS conferences getting more and more at-large bids in NCAA tournament, while mid-majors get fewer and fewer. Illinois State and Creighton could have arguments last year on men's side, but they came up short. Scheduling well and getting national exposure are big ways, according to coaches, to get the league back to tournament.

3.  Illinois State men's coach Tim Jankovich was at it again. He had this to say about his team, who happens to be picked third in the league: "We got eight new guys in practice, and we are just trying to figure out what basket is ours most of the time and which one we're defending."

2.  And speaking of Illinois State, women's coach Robin Pingeton says preseason all-conference selection Maggie Krick did not want to say it to media, but Krick told her jokingly that she is happy that 3-time MVC Player of The Year Kristi Cirone is gone: "'I'm just so thankful she's finally gone, cuz now I can shoot the ball.'"

1.  I wonder how many times each coach has to answer the same exact question. The event is five hours long, there are tons of media members around the Midwest, and there a variety of different interview requests. Thank you coaches, especially with many coming from Wichita, Kansas, Omaha, Neb., Des Moines, Iowa Cedar Falls, Iowa and every other MVC city that is not that that close to STL.

Making Sense Of Nonsense: Indians Hire Manny Acta

MLB: Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers

I'm not sure which of these is more of a head scratcher: the Cleveland Indians hiring Manny Acta or the Astros being upset with not hiring Acta.

All this over a manager with a career 158-252 record, a .385 winning percentage and a 26-61 record before being fired by the Washington Nationals.  Meanwhile, the Indians just came off a season in which they fired Eric Wedge, a manager who posted a 561-573 record and a .495 winning percentage.

Tell me how hiring a guy with a .385 career winning percentage to replace a guy with a career .495 winning percentage is an improvement?  Sure, Acta received the Washington job and didn't get much support from baseball's version of the Detroit Lions.  But don't be too sure the Tribe won't be too far off from the Nasty Nats.

Cleveland's 2009 bunch was a shell of its former self, which was up 3-1 in the 2007 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox before suffering a classic Cleveland collapse.

CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, the last to AL Cy Young award winners will square off in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night, with reserve outfielder Ben Francisco watching from the dugout.  Victor Martinez was shipped off to Boston and helped push the Red Sox into a Wild Card berth.  While former Indian role players Mark DeRosa, Casey Blake, Rafael Betancourt and Carl Pavano each enjoyed postseason runs in cities not named Cleveland.

Grady Sizemore must feel like Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez from "The Sandlot" because he's the only legit star among a rag-tag group of kids.  What is there to be excited about in Cleveland?  Crazy Fausto Carmona?  Jeremy Sowers?  Aaron Laffey?  Chris Perez?  Heck, the team's big-ticket free agent signee from a season ago, the much-beloved Kerry Wood, struggled in his first season with the Indians.

I can name five things I would like about managing the Nationals (Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Nyjer Morgan, Stephen Strasburg, John Lannan) before I could name five I liked about Cleveland.  After naming Grady Sizemore, the only things that could have been used to entice me to be the leader of the Tribe would have been courtside seats to Cavs home games, free admission for my friends and me to Cedar Point, Ohio State-Michigan football tickets and a studio session with Bone Thugs & Harmony.

Then there's the Astros, who low-balled Acta by only offering him a two-year deal, as reported by the Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice.  And by his account, the 'Stros really screwed the pooch as they turned away a long-time fan and someone who worked 16 years in the organization.

And if you look at it objectively, the gig in Houston looks more appealing than the one in Cleveland.  There are heart-of-the-order thumpers in Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee, speed at the top with Michael Bourn and a budding star in Hunter Pence.  Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez anchor the rotation, and the back of the bullpen has the potential to be nasty if the Astros would be willing to re-up with Jose Valverde.

A change at the top step of the dugout might be worth something for the Indians.  But not it won't bring the kind of change Tribe fans are looking for, especially when considering they will be watching two of their former aces square off in the World Series.

Unless the Cleveland LeBrons are on.

Your NBA Predictions, Projections And Thoughts Go Here (But Only After You Read Mine)

NBA All-Star Rookie Challenge

Get your Craig Sager on after the jump...

Sources: The NBA Season Is Upon Us

la lakers media day 9/29/2009
Kobe & Phil are here to remind us the NBA tips off tonight.

Sources close to The Big Dead Sidebar tell us the NBA season begins tonight.  I was very hesitant to believe these sources until I received additional info that four (count 'em) four games kick off the 2009-10 season.

Huh?

And this is why I can't get excited about the National Basketball Association.  It's Opening Night and you have four games.  That's it.  Maybe I'm upset because I'm spoiled.  When the NFL kicks off, we get a full slate of Sunday games.  Same for the MLB, which sees every team in action on Opening Day.

I know The Association wants eyes fixated on TNT for its doubleheader featuring Boston vs. Cleveland and Lakers vs. Clippers ... but at what cost?  My beloved Bulls aren't slated to get underway until Thursday against San Antonio.  Sure, it gives me more time to prepare my Bulls preview blog, but if not for ESPN.com's front page, I would have assumed it was just another day between me and the beginning of the World Series.

And to be honest, the newsworthiness of the opening of another NBA season pales in comparison to the newsworthiness of the upcoming World Series ... or hell ... another week in the NFL.  But before you even argue that point, remember there are only four flippin' games on tonight.  Four.  Yes, the MLB and NFL each open with one single game, but there's glitz and glamour that surround that one game.  It's the only game in town for a reason.

Am I supposed to get pumped about the Lakers-Clippers game?  Even if Blake Griffin was 100 percent healthy.  That would be like opening the baseball season with a game between the Yankees and the Kansas City Royals.  Or an NFL opener starring the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions.

The NBA has done a lot recently to stir my juices ... whether it be allowing the SuperSonics to vanish into thin air without much of a fight, or handing its TV deal to ESPN and its set of buffoonish broadcasters and analysts.

And really, all I want is a full slate of games.  Instead, I find myself ready to countdown the days until the playoff season that somehow always finds a way to feel longer than the regular season that preceded it.

Ricketts (Finally) Gets The Keys To Cubdom

Cubs-Ricketts

In April 2007, I voiced my excitement upon hearing the announcement that Tribune Co., a long-time nemesis (and hopefully one day, future employer) was going to sell the Chicago Cubs.  For a long time, I had compared TribCo.'s ownership of my beloved baseball team to a bad relationship.  Sure, guys like Andy MacPhail and Larry Himes tried to run the franchise into the ground, but in the end, they were always there for you.  For better or worse.  Always.

And after a two-year courtship, Tom Ricketts, whose family founded TD Ameritrade, is (officially) the Cubs' new partner in crime.  Ricketts will make a statement to the media Friday.  But as happy as this news makes me, I have already been warned about getting too giggly over the situation.

Older Cubs fans have been through this before, like in 1981 when ownership last changed hands.  They thought the Tribune Co. would save the Cubs after the Wrigley family had turned a once proud franchise into a hobby.  And after three years, it looked like they had done the trick.  But after getting a 2-0 lead in the NLCS over the Padres, the Cubs collapsed.

The 1980s and 1990s should have been much better to the Cubs.  Dallas Green had a plan, but never got to see it blossom thanks in part to TribCo.'s mismanagement of the team.  Young talent came through the system as player such as Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace and Greg Maddux should have been franchise cornerstones.  They would go on to add Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, each of whom had a share in why the Cubs have become one of baseball's most popular and profitable franchises.

Under a proper management system, the Cubs should have made at least one World Series appearance between 1981 and 2009. And that's just according to the law of averages.

Instead, all the Cubs have to show from the Tribune Era is the following:
  • 6 playoff appearances
  • 5 division titles, 1 wild card
  • A 9-22 postseason record
  • 1 playoff series win
  • 0 World Series appearances
  • 0 World Series titles
The Cubs went 2,179-2,282 from 1982-2009.  They had more 90-loss seasons (7) than 90-win seasons (4) and have had 17 different managers in the same time span in which the Cardinals have had only five.  We're talking nearly three decades of disaster.

In short, Tom Ricketts has small shoes to fill.

The Paul McIntosh Era For SIU Set To Begin Saturday At Indiana State


Paul McIntosh, your table is ready

I knew I had to write this post as soon as I received a text message early Sunday morning that claimed the Saluki football team's season dead on arrival upon hearing the news of Chris Dieker's injury, which was confirmed today..  As usual, yours truly has been asked to play the voice of reason.  Between the boo-hoo birds and the maroon kool-aid drinkers, here I am telling both parties to sit down, shut up and enjoy the rest of the show.  Because that's what you're going to get out of the rest of the Southern Illinois football season.

A show.

It's not as if the Salukis will be trotting out the collegiate equivalent of JaMarcus Russell every Saturday until the team hits Chattanooga.  Paul McIntosh is a damn good quarterback, and you'll see it soon enough. 

McIntosh, a redshirt freshman, will make his first career start Saturday against the Indiana State Sycamores.  Here's what you need to know about McIntosh before we make the trip to Larry Bird's old stomping grounds.
  • Was a 3-year varsity starter at the quarterback position.
  • Rushed for 1,600 yards and 34 scores in his high school career.
  • Threw for 2,400 yards and 22 touchdowns and only 5 picks in his senior year (4.4-to-1 TD/INT ratio) 
  • Led his team to a 15-0 record and state title as a senior.
  • Was Indiana's Mr. Football and Gatorade Player of the Year in 2007.
  • Other recipients of that award include none other than Rex Grossman
  • Unlike Grossman, McIntosh doesn't suck.
Alright Saluki fans, let's get this straight.  He's a winner (evidenced by the state title and 15-0 record).  He's not turnover prone (22 TD passes, 5 INTs as a senior).  He's versatile and mobile (34 rushing TDs).  He was an elite high school signal caller (Indiana's Mr. Football).  Name is not Rex Grossman.

Those are all signs that SIU isn't as completely screwed as you might think it would be.  Dale Lennon is still roaming the sidelines.  Deji Karim is still on the team, as well as offensive weapons such as Bryce Morris, Joe Allaria, Marc Cheatham and Ryan Kernes.  The defense hasn't left Carbondale either as Brandin Jordan, Korey Lindsey and Marty Rodgers still are alive and well.

And as scary as it might sound for the rest of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, the Salukis might be better off with McIntosh under center.  He led the team with 81 rushing yards on Saturday, and his nimble feet will send defensive coordinators scrambling to defend what was once a non-factor of Southern's offense.

Remember when New England Patriots fans thought their season was over when Drew Bledsoe went down and all the Pats had to fall back on was a former 6th round pick named Tom Brady?  Well, we saw how well that has worked out for everyone.

I expect similar results out of McIntosh.

Crank that offseason plan: Chicago Cubs

I started with the Chicago White Sox and now I move onto the Chicago Cubs and what they should do over the course of the offseason.

MUST-MAKE DECISIONS

1) Milton Bradley: To trade or not to trade?

Without question you got to trade crazy Uncle Milton right? Perhaps not. With his former hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo on board the Cubs may have a shot at fixing their confused and disoriented right fielder. Of course, the Cubs want to trade Bradley ASAP but they may have to try to restore a little bit of value because he doesn't fit on many teams due to his antics and inability to provide adequate defense. He did, however, stay healthy which should help his value out a bit. A straight salary dump doesn't make sense and I don't think the club has a viable option in right field to repalce him, either.

2) John Grabow: long term deal, arbitration, or not?

I think this should be the easiest decision the Cubs make all offseason. Of course they, at the very least, offer Grabow arbitration but if he declines you can't let him walk, even for his type-A compensation. The Cubs haven't had an even remotely capable lefty out of the pen since "Stevie" was on the team and it's always difficult to find a reliable lefty on the open market. My best idea would be to offer him arbitration only if a long term deal cannot be reached.

FLEXIBLE DECISIONS

3) Who's on second? Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot, Aaron Miles or somebody entirely different?

This has been a huge area of concern for the Cubs with no in-house candidate capable of truly holding down the job. I thought the Miles signing last year was weird from the get-go but I didn't expect him to be as bad as he was either. At this point I think you can rule out the Fontenot era and Jeff Baker isn't anything more than an better version of Andres Blanco so it would seem the best solution is to go outside the organization for some help be it by trade or free agency.

4)Do you make room for Jake Fox on this team somehow or do you look to trade him?

Fox was one of the better stories of the 2009 season for the Cubs but he's best served as a designated hitter for an AL team. He could have some value as a first baseman as well but neither position is open for him on the current club. He could be a valuable trade chip along with Josh Vitters to get a second baseman or a closer (both are areas of concern).

FREE AGENCY

5) Which positions are in most dire need of an upgrade?

Without a doubt, second base and closer are in the most dire need of an upgrade with the potential that right field an area in need of an upgrade as well. The rotation appears to be in OK shape.

6) Name three (or more) free agents you’d consider, at a price.

Sign Chone Figgins for 3-years at $12 million-per-year. The Cubs are going to be in a bidding war with just about every team with money to spend for the versatile and speedy Angel. Beauty of it is Figgy can play positions where the Cubs need the most help (OF and 2B).

Sign Billy Wagner for one-year at whatever price it takes to be the highest bidder.

Sign Orlando Hudson for 2-years at $8 million-per-year. He brings good defense and switch hitting skills which helps the Cubs two-fold.

TRADES

7) Name three (or more) realistic trades that could improve the Cubs.

Trading a package of Jake Fox, Josh Vitters and Jeff Samardzija to the Washington Nationals for Adam Dunn, Christian Guzman and John Lannan.

Is this too much to give up Cubs fans? It would fix the Cubs need for lefty power by adding Dunn and fill the hole at second base with Guzman. Lannan has a career ERA under four and just posted 3.88 ERA in 2009. Fox doesn't have a position and as long as Aramis Ramirez stays healthy there's no room for Vitters either. The Nationals would be up for this deal because Dunn doesn't help them win in the future and Guzman is overpaid.

Option Two: Trading said package for Brian Roberts. It wouldn't be a Cubs offseason story without an attempt to trade for Roberts.

SUMMARY

Basically, the plan is laid out. The Cubs need to upgrade second base and find a closer. It's more important then trading Milton Bradley, trust me. The good news is that there are plenty of options from both a free agency and trading standpoint for both positions. It should be a relatively easy fix. I'm not too sure about the back end of the rotation but there's more important issues to address. The other key for the 2010 season? HEALTH. The Cubs should be neck and neck with the St. Louis Cardinals if everyone stays healthy. Aramis Ramirez wasn't 100 percent at any point this season and when you're missing one of your top-two hitters, it's bad news. The Cubs also never had a closer this past season, either. Kevin "Kelly" Gregg was a joke from the get-go and general half-ass playing did this team in (see Phonsi and Geo Soto). Bounce back seasons all around and the Cubs are contenders again with just minor tinkering needed. Here's looking at you Rudy J.

Do The Bears Need Change At The Top?

Dallas Cowboys v Chicago Bears

I knew it wouldn't take long before the calls for heads to roll would be coming in.  And I don't blame Bears fans.  Not one bit.

There are only so many times you can put up with failed screen attempts, dive plays run for players who are barely tall enough to ride a rollercoaster.  Bubble screens on third and long.  Ron Turner's playbook is so vanilla, chocolate wants no part of it in a swirl.  It's bad and embarrassing.  And to think, Bears fans (myself included) thought there would be an improvement with Jay Cutler under center.

And while Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett have stepped their games up, the Bears offense as a whole is still as boring as ever at times.

The only way the Bears are going to get change in the offense is if it says good-bye to Lovie Smith, who prior to this week's debacle, had done a pretty good job calling the defensive plays.  But Smith, who has two years remaining on his current deal, seemed to have had his playbook switched with the old Bob Babich kind.

So, where should the Bears go with this?  You'll see after the jump.

Bears Buzz? More Like Bears Bust

Chicago Bears v Cincinnati Bengals

Jay Cutler admits the Bears were embarrassed on Sunday.  Well, um, duh.  I would hope so.  Anger after the jump.

BALCO Presents: Your 2010 St. Louis Cardinals

Mark McGwire #25

We'll get to the Bears stuff sometime tomorrow.  Until then, let's divert your attention to some baseball.

It looks as if Tony La Russa is returning to manage the St. Louis Cardinals, dashing the wet dreams of some idiot Cubs fans that prayed nightly for La Russa to leave his perch in the Redbirds dugout and travel up I-55 (along with sidekick Dave Duncan) and win a championship for the Chicago Cubs.

And in a stunning development which looks like an attempt to not be outdone by the Cubs' signing of a "superstar" scapegoat hitting coach, it looks like La Russa is bringing Mark McGwire out of hibernation with him.  Yes, that Mark McGwire.  The man who hit 583 home runs in his 16-year career and posted 1.111 OPS while with the Cardinals will be St. Louis' hitting coach for the 2010 season.

I'm not sure how McGwire, a career .217 hitter in 10 postseason series, is going to help the Cards not make Vicente Padilla and Randy Wolf look like Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax.  However, when Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan each have 60 home run seasons next year, we'll know why.

Pigskin Pimpin On A Sunday

Baltimore Ravens v Minnesota Vikings

Your weekly installment of football stuff and gratuitous cheerleader photos after the jump.

The Weekender Returns

The Weekender is a blog with links to things you should read while spending time at your computer over the weekend while I'm spending time away from it.  Must read links after the jump.  Oh, and pretty girls, too.  (Ed. Note: I didn't even realize I missed The Weekender last week.  That's what happens when real life interferes with blog life.)

Inside Carrie's Box, There's More Mark DeRosa Stuff!

Mailbox with mail

My inbox looks something like this.  Bill, bill, with love from mom, bill, "Do you want to be LARGER?", bill, "Do you want to meet cute singles in you're area??????, "#&$% you %^&*@" ... then there's Carrie Muskat's correspondence with her fans.

Her questions.  My answers.  Your look of disapproval as I mock the system.  Happy Friday, gang!

Saluki Men's Hoops 2009-10 Preview: Carlton Fay

[Ed. Note: This is the last installment of a series previewing the 2009-10 SIU men's basketball team's projected starting five.  Starting Monday, we'll look at head coach Chris Lowery's bench before writing a slick set of previews Friday that will include some notes on his coaching staff and the all-important, yet very irresponsible, pre-season prediction blog. Now to the rest of the garbage...  After finishing the 2008-09 season with a disappointing 13-18 record, Chris Lowery's Salukis are one year stronger and one year smarter as they will look to extract revenge on the Missouri Valley Conference teams that took advantage of a young squad.  Those teams will get their comeuppance soon enough.  And what better way to warn them than with a preview of each player that will tear their hearts out and step on their souls.]

Carlton Fay's freshman season was a struggle.  He scored what was then a career-high 11 points against Illinois State, but it was a brief highlight as he only averaged 2.4 points per game as he lingered behind senior forwards Matt Shaw and Randal Falker.


Then came Fay's sophomore season -- and it came in a big way.  He opened the season with a double-double against Cal (Pa.) in which he scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.  Fay would go on to win the 2K Sports Carbondale Regional's Most Valuable Player as he scored 33 points in two games.

Fay would go on to score in double figures in 19 of the team's 31 games.  He averaged 13.6 points per game over the season's first nine games.  At times, he played as if he was Shaw's clone.  Getting away with garbage buckets down low while also being a threat on the perimeter.

Fay should be able to build on a solid sophomore season as he enters his second year as a starter under head coach Chris Lowery.

Crank That Offseason Plan: Chicago White Sox

I'll try to keep this short and sweet, highlighting areas of question for each team. I'll start with the Chicago White Sox.

MUST-MAKE DECISIONS

1) Octavio Dotel: Arbitration, or not?
Dotel – Walk

2) Jermaine Dye: Mutual option, arbitration, or not?
Dye – Buyout

FLEXIBLE DECISIONS

3) One-year contract for John Danks? If not, what would you pay to extend him?

I think a multi-year offer similar to the one Jon Lester got would be fair. I can't think of a more comparable pitcher to Danks than Lester. If he doesn't go for that then go to year-to-year with him.

4) One-year contract for Bobby Jenks, extension or trade?

Jenks – You have to keep Jenks but under no cirumstance should they offer him a multi-year deal. The problem with trading Jenks is that it moves everybody in the bullpen up one job. So, while Matt Thorton would probably make a solid closer (see Brian Fuentes) it moves both Tony Pena and Scott Linebrink into roles they should not be in on a contender.

FREE AGENCY

5) Which positions are in most dire need of an upgrade?

One of the corner outfield spots are in dire need of an upgrade more than anything else on this team. It would be nice to have at the spot filled by an athletic player not named Scott Podsednik. I simply don't think he'll be cheap enough to make sense nor do I think he can duplicate his career year in 2009.

6) Name three (or more) free agents you’d consider, at a price.

Sign Bobby Abreu to a 2 year $20 million dollar contract. (I don't expect the Angels to be able to sign him along with Chone Figgins and John Lackey)

Sign Joe Beimel or Will Ohman for a 1 year deal around $2.5 million

Sign J.J. Putz to an incentive laden deal.

TRADES

7) Name three (or more) realistic trades that could improve the Sox team.
I don't see any trade as a likely scenario unless we're getting a superstar outfielder for Jenks but he didn't have the season that would warrant something like that. I'm thinking we should stand pat till the trade deadline if we need an extra piece (see Chris Getz getting bit by the injury bug).

SUMMARY

Obviously, the White Sox need to replace Dye at the very least and I assume they'll need to replace Scott Podsednik as well. All in all the White Sox need a backup catcher to replace Ramon Castro, two corner outfielders, a lefty out of the pen to replace Randy Williams and a designated hitter. Kenny Williams isn't a guy that spends big bucks in the free agent market and most of his moves are made through trades.

The White Sox don't have a ton of money to spend due to the trades and waiver claims made for Jake Peavy and Alex Rios, respectively. My key to the offseason is getting Bobby Abreu to fill one of the corner outfield spots and beyond that, one buy low right-handed option out of the pen and a semi-reliable second lefty would be lovely.

Getting a backup catcher isn't critical because no matter who it is they'll probably be terrible. They always are. Cole Armstrong makes sense in the short term but he's essentially a bad version of A.J. Pierzynski (throws righty, bats lefty). I'm fine with rotating the designated hitter spot especially if either Tyler Flowers or Dayan Viciedo can make the club.

Saluki Men's Hoops 2009-10 Preview: Anthony Booker

[Ed. Note: This is the newest installment of a series previewing the 2009-10 SIU men's basketball team.  After finishing the 2008-09 season with a disappointing 13-18 record, Chris Lowery's Salukis are one year stronger and one year smarter as they will look to extract revenge on the Missouri Valley Conference teams that took advantage of a young squad.  Those teams will get their comeuppance soon enough.  And what better way to warn them than with a preview of each player that will tear their hearts out and step on their souls.]

Once upon a time, M.J. Hartwig and I debated about student-athlete blogs.  It stemmed from an issue with allowing athletes to write columns -- it was about the time Nick Hill was penning pieces for the DE as he prepared for the NFL Draft.  The conversation turned to who we would have do it next year.  I said no one.  He suggested Anthony Booker, who to this day is still the highest ranked recruit the modern era of Saluki basketball player has brought in.


"I'd give him whatever he wants," is what I remember Hartwig saying at the time.  Lots of time has passed between then and now.  (P.S. This is a much better blog than it used to be.)

So, here we are in 2009 and Booker has found his way into my projected starting line-up.  And for good reason.

Atlantic Division: Is it 2010 yet?


In the Eastern Conference, both the Southeast and Central division should be fun to watch. The Atlantic division? Not so much.

Everyone is waiting for the big 2010 free agency class, especially the teams in the Atlantic. Boston will be a great team, no doubt about it, but the other clubs have been waiting for their Christmas for two years now.

The New York Knicks have done a spectacular job of keeping themselves mediocre for the last two seasons as they cross their fingers and hope for LeBron James or Chris Bosh at the least. The New Jersey Nets have done the same thing in a more subtle way. Instead of announcing to the world they are waiting for 2010 like the Knicks did, the Nets have stockpiled plenty of young talent and kept their salary cap low as they have sold the idea of a "rebuilding process."

Don't be fooled, they want those big names just as much as New York. And poor Philadelphia and Toronto have been stuck in the middle. They have rebuilt and unloaded at the same time, resulting in a good, but not great team. So until 2010, here is what to expect from this division.

1. Boston Celtics
This team definitely does not want 2010 to come. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo will all be pursued heavily come June, so the Celtics know their time is now if they want another championship. Rasheed Wallace will hopefully be able to lighten the load on Kevin Garnett so they can keep their defensive leader healthy for the whole season.

The only weak spot the Celtics have had is on the bench, but they took big steps to solve that with the acquisition of Marquis Daniels. Glen Davis started to come into his own in the playoffs and I still think Bill Walker will bust out at some point this season. Celtics cruise to a division championship.

2. Toronto Raptors
The 76ers may look like the teams of their glory days with their throwback jerseys this season, but Toronto is better. The Raptors had huge additions with Hedo Turkoglu, Jarrett Jack, Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan. This is the best the team has looked on paper in a while and there is depth. Chris Bosh will play his hardest as he wants a big payday this summer and Jose Calderon with super-scorer Turkoglu on the floor.

Defense has been a problem in the past, but I think Jack and Johnson both bring tenacity on that end of the floor. And your darkhorse for Rookie of the Year: DeMar DeRozan. He has looked good in preseason. Let's not forget Andrea Bargnani, he has improved each year.

3. Philadelphia 76ers
The biggest question on this team: Can Elton Brand stay healthy, and if so, does he remember how to play basketball? The team has plenty of young talent including Marreese Speights, Thaddeus Young and rookies Jrue Holiday and Dionte Christmas, but Brand is the key. In a division with Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez, a solid front court player is a must.

Andre Igoudala is the man, but this team will struggle this season because it doesn't have an NBA-ready point guard. Louis Williams fills in OK, but he is much better as a shooting guard. Holiday has potential, but it is rare to see a rookie point guard have a significant amount of success in their first year. Royal Ivey will provide much needed defense at the point.

4. New Jersey Nets
The Nets have received plenty of criticism and I'm not sure why. I think Courtney Lee is a great addition as he is a solid, consistent defender as well as a good scorer. Devin Harris and Brook Lopez are nearing all-star status and Chris Douglas Roberts continues to improve as a scorer. The team doesn't have much of a bench, but it did add some veteran leadership.

The additions of Rafer Alston, Tony Battie and Keyon Dooling will provide guidance to a young team susceptible to outside influences. This core group of veterans should keep the young players focused on the game, but they are still too unseasoned to be seen as a true threat yet.

5. New York Knicks
They just want LeBron James in 2010 and I'm sure they wouldn't mind adding another top-five draft pick to the mix next season either, so don't expect much from the Knicks. David Lee will continue to record empty double-doubles, Larry Hughes will continue to take too many shots, Eddy Curry will continue to be too overweight, Nate Robinson will continue to be too short, Al Harrington will continue to take ill-advised threes and Wilson Chandler will wonder why he is in New York.

I like Chandler, and I think Chris Duhon is capable of good games for the most part. Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas will try to fit in, but this team has got next to nothing.

2010 is almost here, hang in there.

Is Jim Hendry Reading This Blog? If So, Please Continue To Do So

Rudy
Jaramillo
The Cubs offense is already putting new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo to sleep.

A couple of years ago, my roommate and I were discussing the upcoming Major League Baseball offseason.  It started as a hot stove chat and turned into me analyzing who would go where and for how much.  Back then, I wrote a blog that was not TBDS and made predictions on a handful of players.

I was spot on in each prediction.  He would later suggest MLB execs were reading my blog. So, Jim Hendry, if you're out there reading.  Thanks.  Click a link and help some brothas get paid.  Oh!  And stay tuned for my offseason guide to not fucking up building a contender.  Maybe you'll see something you like.

There really is no denying this timeline:
Hiring Jaramillo is truly a step in the right direction for the Cubs.

Saluki Men's Hoops 2009-10 Preview: Justin Bocot

[Ed. Note: This is the newest installment of a series previewing the 2009-10 SIU men's basketball team.  After finishing the 2008-09 season with a disappointing 13-18 record, Chris Lowery's Salukis are one year stronger and one year smarter as they will look to extract revenge on the Missouri Valley Conference teams that took advantage of a young squad.  Those teams will get their comeuppance soon enough.  And what better way to warn them than with a preview of each player that will tear their hearts out and step on their souls.]

Justin Bocot exploded onto the Saluki hoops basketball scene when he scored a career-high 28 points in Southern Illinois' 72-64 win at Missouri State.  But really, his on-the-court success began with a homecoming of sorts as he scored a team-high 14 points in a 70-63 loss at Illinois State.

From that point on, Bocot averaged 10.8 points per game -- including the 28 point game that was in the team's second game after losing senior guard Bryan Mullins to what would eventually end up being a season-ending stress fracture.

So, what does Bocot do for an encore?  Replacing Ryan Hare, who was dismissed from the team on Sunday for violating team rules, in the starting line-up would be a good start.

The Central is the center of attention


The Central division can be summed up in two words: LeBron James.

Chicago is riding high after the best first-round NBA playoff series in history against the Boston Celtics, but they are no match for James' Cleveland crew. All eyes will be in Cleveland as James and The Big Witness begin their march for a championship.

Oh, and regardless if Cleveland wins a championship, James will sign with Cleveland. So all you fans of other central teams, don't start getting your hopes up for the summer of 2010; he isn't going anywhere.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers
This is probably the easiest call to make as far as a division winner goes. The only way Cleveland loses the division is if James gets injured for an extended period of time. Shaq should add to an already dominant team and Anderson Varejao will continue to look like an all-star from all the nifty passes he receives from James.

I suppose Cleveland could lose the division if Delonte West shows up to work with his collection of 18 guns one day (Too soon? I know, disgruntled employee jokes aren't funny, they're dangerous people).

2. Chicago Bulls
It pains me to write this, but they have established themselves as the second best team in the division. Derrick Rose was great last year, and assuming he added a jump shot during the offseason, he is going to be near unstoppable at times. And did Joakim Noah cut off Kareem Abdul Jabbar's hands and surgically connect them to his arms? I'm not sure when Noah got that soft touch he has been showing, but it scares me.

The Bulls will also be one of the deepest teams in the league, boasting, Kirk Hinrich Jannero Pargo, Taj Gibson, Brad Miller and James Johnson. The shooting guard position has some questions, but John Salmons is a good, consistent player.

3. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons have received a lot of criticism this offseason, but they are not as bad as some people think. Yes, they overpaid for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, but people cannot forget they are both still very good players. Rodney Stuckey should continue to improve and Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are always a handful.

They have plenty of question marks on defense, except for Stuckey and Prince who are both top notch. They also don't have much in the front court other than Jason Maxiell and at times Chris Wilcox. They better hope Austin Daye was the right choice, because they will need all the help they can get up front.

4. Milwaukee Bucks
I refuse to ever pick the Bucks to finish last. And I also actually think they are better than the Indiana Pacers. Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut NEED to stay healthy this season as there is not much firepower behind them. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute should break out as one of the league's best defenders and Brandon Jennings is going to at least make people remember Milwaukee has a basketball team again.

The darkhorse: Hakim Warrick. Expect big things out of him this season. He had a great preseason and I think he will turn heads. The Bucks are also deep at the forward position with Warrick, Ersan Ilyasova, Mbah a Moute, Carlos Delfino and Joe Alexander. Rebounds will be key for this team.

5. Indiana Pacers
Some experts think they are on the upswing, but as long as Jim O'Brien is coaching it won't matter. Brandon Rush seems ready to bust out and Danny Granger is one of the league's best players. Roy Hibbert is good, but O'Brien loves Josh McRobert's facial hair so he will play the wrong person most of the time. Everyone debates Tyler Hansbrough's worth, but it wont matter because this team isn't going to win many games either way. That's just what happens when you don't have a bench.

They lost Jarrett Jack and Marquis Daniels in the offseason; two huge assets off the bench. Now they boast intimidating players such as Solomon Jones, Luther Head, A.J. Price and Travis Diener. Sounds scary (for Pacers fans).

Saluki Men's Hoops 2009-10 Preview: Tony Freeman

[Ed. Note: This is the newest installment of a series previewing the 2009-10 SIU men's basketball team.  After finishing the 2008-09 season with a disappointing 13-18 record, Chris Lowery's Salukis are one year stronger and one year smarter as they will look to extract revenge on the Missouri Valley Conference teams that took advantage of a young squad.  Those teams will get their comeuppance soon enough.  And what better way to warn them than with a preview of each player that will tear their hearts out and step on their souls.]

When I was the Daily Egyptian's sports editor, I received many e-mails about the well-dressed young man sitting at the end of the bench.  They asked if he was a coach?  Kind of, but not really.  A recruit?  Kind of, but not really.

Eventually, I got around to writing a feature about Tony Freeman, a 6-foot-1 guard from Maywood, Ill.  The University of Iowa transfer sat out the 2008-09 season because of NCAA transfer rules and will look to break out in his senior year at SIU.

And for those who fear he will be rusty, take note that T-Free was named the Most Valuable Player in a tournament played in Turkey over the summer.  One of his teammates on the trip was fellow Saluki Nick Evans, and they helped topple the mighty basketball dynasties of France, Germany and Bulgaria.

So, what should fans expect from the team's lone senior?

Saluki Men's Hoops 2009-10 Preview: Kevin Dillard

[Ed. Note: This is the first in a series previewing the 2009-10 SIU men's basketball team.  After finishing the 2008-09 season with a disappointing 13-18 record, Chris Lowery's Salukis are one year stronger and one year smarter as they will look to extract revenge on the Missouri Valley Conference teams that took advantage of a young squad.  Those teams will get their comeuppance soon enough.  And what better way to warn them than with a preview of each player that will tear their hearts out and step on their souls.]

Kevin Dillard became the first Saluki freshman to lead the team in scoring since Kent Williams.  So how does the former Illinois Mr. Basketball follow up a stellar first-year campaign?

Carol Slezak isn't familiar with the WBC

"The schedule has been out of control for years, but it keeps getting worse. Just six years ago, the Cubs and Florida Marlins played Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Oct. 15. Just four years ago, the White Sox won the World Series on Oct. 26. But today, Oct. 20, the Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees will play Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, and Game 7 of the World Series is scheduled for Nov. 5." --- direct passage from Carol Slezak's latest column...

Seriously?

Apparently she doesn't realize that the World Baseball Classic is the reasoning behind the World Series probably running into the first week of Nov. and not because MLB wants to drag this thing out as long as it can.

It's just dumb. She made no reference of the WBC either. Maybe she forgot it happened. I mean it was boring and I couldn't even tell you who won it at this point. The idea is cool but it's not worth it.

That's not the point though.

The point is, the season runs long this year because of the WBC and for no other reason.

But it gets even more dumb. She says the World Series should be played at a neutral site.

Why? Who cares if it's cold? Did White Sox fans not show up in 2005 when it was freezing rain? Would the Cubbie Blue faithful not show up if it was 20-degrees and windy at Wrigley Field in 2010?

I would much rather freeze to death and be able to enjoy a game in person rather than watch a watered-down version take place at a dome in Florida with only the wealthy elite in attendance.

That's just dumb.

The Steve McNair Saga Just Won't Go Away


Steve McNair's death on the 4th of July has been an absolute mess.  CBS News further muddies the situation by doing some damn good investigative journalism as it was able to obtain cell phone records.  A little bit of research has gone a long way in my opinion.  Now, to clean up the rest of the mess.

Right?

Well.  Not quite.  I almost feel as if this is adding insult to injury -- as the old sports cliche would have it.  I'm sure McNair's surviving family members and friends want justice.  But at what cost?  Some have said that this ruins his legacy.  I would argue against that idea.

Sure, being a married man dating a 20something waitress while he's got a wife and kids at home is going to put a smudge on his life story.  However, no one can take away the positive things he brought to his community when he was alive.

Not even charges of adultery.