Of Chris Lowery, Marcus Belcher and Other SIU Coaches

West Virginia Mountaineers v Southern Illinois Salukis

Remember when I said Rodney Watson is not walking through that door. Well, that still holds true. Apparently, though, Marcus Belcher will be.

It looks like Chris Lowery will be keeping it in the family by hiring the former Saluki point guard who is expected to be the team's newest assistant coach. Belcher was the starting point guard on the 2002 Sweet Sixteen team and recently assisted Marty Simmons at the University of Evansville.

Let the record show his UE Twitter account is blank and his coach profile page on the Purple Aces Web site has disappeared. Sounds like he's up and moving to me.

In this thread, fans do not seem to be fond of the hire.

It's tough to judge a relatively young coach, but SIU might be playing with fire as it has a relatively young staff for a team that will return a core of youngsters including Freshman of the Year Kevin Dillard and fellow freshmen impact players Anthony Booker and Ryan Hare ... not to mention sparkplug Nick Evans.

But like I said in the lead, Rodney Watson's don't grow on trees. And who's to say Belcher won't be at SIU for 20-plus years? (Conveniently ignores the fact that this is Belcher's fourth assistant coaching job since 2005).

Oh, and do not expect Lowery to just hand the associate head coach title to just anyone. Lowery said several factors went into giving Watson the title a few years ago. Factors including his loyalty to the program, knowledge of southern Illinois and the respect he had garnered in his years at SIU.

Now, the Salukis' longest tenured assistant is Brad Korn (5 years at SIU) and its most experienced assistant is Lance Irvin (16 years at various schools).

Making the post-Rodney Watson transition even more difficult is the fact that Lowery will be traveling to assist Team USA's U-19 team. In his stead, Irvin will take over the operations in Carbondale.

...

And before you ask, no, SIU is not done on the 2009 recruiting trail according to Lowery. Yes, signing day has come and gone. But there are still guys who have yet to qualify and "quality players" that are still unsigned. But Lowery did say the team does not want to put itself in a position in making a questionable or regrettable signing.

...

Thumbs up to C-Lo for acknowledged as being on the cusp of being one of the nation's best 25 coaches. Thumbs down for not knowing Lowery does not coach at Illinois State.

...

Am I the only person who thinks it is cool that SIU women's hoops head coach Missy Tiber is on Twitter? Maybe. Am I the only person who cares she is on Twitter? Probably. Still, I'm fond of the social networking tool.

Heck, it's on our sidebar. Damn right I'm fond of it.

I think this is a brilliant brain child of marketing guru Mark Gadzik. Marketing SIU is a tough job, but anytime you can put your name out there it has got to be a good thing.

In chats with Tiber, I feel as if she is doing a good job of selling the program thus far. Whether it has been keeping key recruit Kat Garcia and bringing in the talented Teri Oliver or going out and doing meet-and-greets.

All in an effort to bring some sunlight to a program she said has been 'living in a box' in recent years.

...

Is it football season yet? I'm just dying to know what Dale Lennon, Phil Longo and Bubba Schweigert have up their collective sleeves for the 2009 Saluki football team.

The Double Standard

Cavaliers vs. Magic
King James didn't look so royal walking off the court following Cleveland's game six loss to the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals.

It's one thing to be upset about losing, but you don't walk off the court without shaking the other team's hand or congratulating them.

It was inexcusable when the "bad boy" Pistons did it after losing to Michael Jordan's dominate Bulls team, and there was actual bad blood between those two team.

This was just LeBron pouting after not living up to the expectations of leading his team to the NBA Finals.

Now I understand James does need more help to win that ring, and at 24-years-old, he has plenty of time to do that.

Mo Williams and Delonte West are very good players capable of helping a team win a championship, and Anderson Varejao could be a good energy guy off the bench, but Williams is not the Robin that James' Batman needs. He needs a bona fide scorer.

But to say James did what he did to send a message to management is just blasphemous. He did it because, for the first time in his career, he didn't live up to expectations and he couldn't handle it.

That's no excuse to not embrace the Magic, who were clearly the better team in the series.

If that had been Kobe Bryant walking off the court without embracing the other team, every single NBA analyst and Kobe hater that exists would rip him to shreds.

Bryant would be getting the "he's the most selfish player in this league and he's just a crybaby" treatment.

But James does it and he's just "upset" that the Cavs lost? Please.

LeBron, you're 24-years-old now. It's time to act like it.

I Wonder If Nike Has Any Dwight Howard Puppets Hanging Around?

Magic-Cavs

Somewhere, David Stern is using ratings sheets to dry his tears. So are the network execs at ABC.

Kobe Bryant held up his end of the bargain. And to an extent, so did LeBron James.

But averaging 38.5 points, 8 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game just was not enough to carry Sideshow Bob, The 7-foot, 3-point Sniper and "Where Did You Go?" Mo Williams to an appearance in the NBA Finals.

Part of the reason Kobe is gunning for his fourth title, and first since disposing of Shaquille O'Neal, is the talent around him. Pau Gasol, despite being (arguably) the NBA's ugliest player, is a true low-post scoring stud. Lamar Odom, who sometimes looks apathetic out on the court, is still 6-foot-11 with the ball handling skills of a 6-footer. Trevor Ariza, Jordan Farmar and Derrick Fisher are all usable parts on a championship team.

Delonte West can be that kind of player, and so can the aformentioned Williams. But Anderson Verajao, Daniel Gibson, Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic are laughable at best.

But the biggest difference in the teams might be at the head coaching position.

Sure, Mike Brown was named the NBA's Coach of the Year this season for being at the helm of a team that won 66 games this season. But check out the list of recent winners.

Byron Scott, Sam Mitchell, Avery Johnson, Mike D'Antoni, Hubie Brown, Greg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, Larry Brown and Doc Rivers.

Of these last eight winners, only Popovich and Scott still coach the team they won the award with. Johnson and Hubie Brown rep the ESPN family of networks. Rivers, Carlisle, D'Antoni and Larry Brown are coaching elsewhere.

Anyone seen Sam Mitchell, lately?

Phil Jackson is a master motivator and one hell of a coach. He is what Dusty Baker was to the Giants with Barry Bonds and what he should have been to the Cubs with Sammy Sosa. Jackson manages ballplayers and egos more effectively than anyone this generation has seen.

Meanwhile, Mike Brown was simply outcoached by Stan Van Gundy and outclassed by SVG's super 'stache.

Now, with its NBA season over and its stars gone fishin' with Kenny, Chuck and EJ, Cleveland can return to its worrisome roots as it preoccupies itself with trying to invent ways to keep its Favorite Son from abandoning home for greener pastures.

Or they can watch Mark DeRosa's average plummet and Kerry Wood's earned run average soar through the roof.

The choice is theirs to make.

Kobe wants to be like Mike? Well here's his chance

Bulls V Lakers
Everything Kobe Bryant has done since he became a star in this league has been compared to Michael Jordan. Tonight, in game six of the Western Conference Finals, Kobe has a chance to do something truly Jordanesque.

Let's take the time machine back to the 1998 NBA Finals, Chicago Bulls visiting the Utah Jazz in game six of the NBA Finals. Everyone knows the story, Jordan hits the shot over Russell to win his sixth and final NBA title.

Fast forward to tonight's game. Los Angeles has a chance to go into Denver (similar setting to Utah) and close out the Nuggets on their turf.

While Kobe isn't quite on his last leg as one of the top NBA players as Jordan was at that time, he probably only has two, three years at most left as a top five NBA player.

Now of course, this is the Western Conference Finals and not the NBA Finals, but remember that Jordan's Bulls played in the Eastern Conference, so Kobe, like MJ, is going against the best from the West.

Closing out the series in Denver, as opposed to going back to L.A. for a decisive game seven, will go a lot further towards arguing for Kobe Bryant as the best current player in the NBA, and one of the best in the history of the game.

Of course, he still needs to capture the championship and Finals MVP before we can really talk.

Cavs Beat Magic, Delay The Inevitable

37 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists was all LeBron James needed to send the Cleveland Cavaliers back to Florida for Game 6.

Sorry, Cleveland. You will have to wait until at least Saturday night to implode.

UPDATE: I'm Not Necessarily Defending Big Z's Big Blowup But ...

Update: Zambrano was suspended for six games and fined $3,000 for his actions. That $3,000 fine represents only 0.16901408450704225352112676056338 percent of his 2009 salary. Yeah, way to make an example out of him.

... there is no excuse for an ump bump.

I digress to the real reason for this post.

Have you ever seen a bigger group of douche umps?

Mark Carlson is a joke. So is Tim Tschida. As is Bob Davidson. These guys make Eric Gregg, Bruce Froemming, Joe West, Angel Hernandez and C.B. Bucknor look like competent officials.

Umpires are supposed to police the show, not become it. Isn't that what a good authority figure does?

Being an umpire is simple. Call balls and strikes, safes and outs, fairs and fouls ... and of course home run balls (with the help of video replay.) And as much as the older generation will come to the defense of umpires, noting how hitters and pitchers both do their own form of show boating, it still gives umpires no right or reason to do some of their own.

I pay to see Alfonso Soriano's bat flip after launching one on to Waveland Avenue. I pay to see Carlos Marmol pump his fist after cleaning up his own mess by striking out the side without allowing a run. I pay to see Reed Johnson crash through walls as he tries to make a catch.

However, no one pays to see umpires do anything.

Apparently, Davidson and this crew didn't get the memo.

Hawkeytown Once Again?

When this site started, hockey was an afterthought. But thanks to a season that saw the Chicago Blackhawks go through two coaches, play a game at Wrigley Field and reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1995, it is OK to care about hockey again in the City of Wind.

Allow me to take you back to my childhood, if only for one moment.

I wasn't exposed to hockey when I was young. Ice skating was hard and it involved me being exposed to cold temperatures for long stretches of time. That didn't fly well with someone who spent his summer days and nights eating, sleeping, drinking and breathing baseball. My family didn't have cable access for some of the Blackhawks' glory years ... and when we did, their home games weren't on TV ... which was the only option for a family that just simply could not afford going to a hockey game at the UC ... one of the cities most expensive tickets.

So when I was young, I didn't care about hockey. The Hawks were mediocre at best and without proper coverage because of their mediocrity, they were put on the pay-no-mind list. Talented players, coaches and even the voice of the Hawks Pat Foley were shown the door under the Bill Wirtz Regime.

And Old Man Wirtz passed away and Rocky came into the picture, things started to change. It was sad to listen to Sports Talk Radio and hear people basically cheer the death of the team's owner. But everyone always said it would take death to Dollar Bill for change to happen.

I guess you can say those guys were prophetic, huh?

Games came to television. Foley returned to the radio. Some guys named Kane and Toews joined the team. So did marketing guru John McDonnough.

That's all I needed to get on board.

I watched from a distance as the Hawks grew together as a team this year. Unfortunately, as the Hawks skyrocketed, so did the know-it-all "die hards" who hated the bandwagon jumpers.

Yes, I'll call myself a bandwagon jumper. But in a sense, bandwagon jumpers can be a good thing.

You can either shun them as an outsider, or accept them as part of the family. But Blackhawks Bandwagoners seem different. They seem like they care enough about the sport and the team to learn and soak in as much history and information as possible. They want to put money into the franchise whether it be with ticket sales, advertising or jersey sales.

Ask any old time Chicagoan and they will tell you tall tales of how the Hawks were once bigger than both the Cubs and the Bears. Chicago was Hawkeytown, USA.

After a stellar season, here's hoping Chicago can have that once again.

Huet, Kane Give Hope but Red Wings still Champions

You could blame Cristobal Huet for the Game 4 disaster, but he really had no help in the Detroit Red Wings' 6-1 rout of the Blackhawks. Still, not many people were confident with Huet heading into Game 5. After all, he was the number-two goalie for a reason behind Nikolai Khabibulin. Yet with Khabi's injury, in came the big free agent aquisition. And man, did he show up.

His 21 saves in the first period set the tone and kept the game scoreless. He continued to make tough saves, all the way up to the end of the third, saving the season temporarily for the Hawks with an extended pad save on Johan Franzen with a little over 20 seconds remaining. In total, he stopped 44 of the Wings' 46 shots. Yet, it was still not enough to overcome the defending champions. Detroit is headed back to the Stanley Cup Finals with a 2-1 overtime win.

Patrick Kane finally lit the lamp, and it could not have come at a better time. He tied the game with a thrilling rush down the ice and a backhand past Chris Osgood. With Kane's goal and Huet's sparkling play, you saw some more of what could be an exciting future. There is a chance Khabi will not be back with the Hawks. This would make Huet the number-one goaltender for Chicago. Kane will continue to lead Chicago along with the rest of an exciting core of young talent.

This season could be described as a resurgence. Now that they have a fan support again, they will look to continue building the franchise. They reached the conference finals pretty quickly with this group, and the question is can they repeat, or even better, win their first title since 1961?

It will be hard, but some other Central Division team has made it look relatively easy. Detroit is the team to beat, and the Hawks and Wings will continue to see a lot of each other. For now, it is the Red Wings and Penguins in the Stanley Cup for the second straight year.

At some point, we may have a change of the guard atop the conference. Yet, for now, Detroit can celebrate again. We'll see what happens next year for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rodney Watson Isn't Walking Through That Door, And That Bothers Me Inside

Photo Credit: Sean McGahan, Daily Egyptian

Sometime around 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, my final day as the Daily Egyptian sports editor (again!) I was finally able to get former SIU men's basketball head coach Rodney Watson on the phone.

I expected an assistant or a secretary, instead, it was Coach Watson on the horn. When I had heard about longtime Saluki assistant accepting the head coaching job at Division II powerhouse Southern Indiana, I shot him a congratulatory text as I was unable to get to my office phone in between the time I found out about the news and the time his introductory press conference started.

So, of course our conversation started with a little bit of some good-natured ribbing.

"You've gotta pick up the phone next time and call," Watson said with a laugh.

And that's when I really realized I would miss Rodney Watson.

Known as The Dean of Missouri Valley Assistants, Watson spent 21 years as a Saluki assistant under the likes of Rich Herrin, Bruce Weber, Matt Painter and Chris Lowery. To say he was a pillar of the program is an understatement. He coached 11 MVC championship teams, nine NCAA Tourney squads and 15 teams that participated in postseason play.

He coached talented Valley stars such as Troy Hudson, Ashraf Amaya, Kent Williams, Darren Brooks and Jamaal Tatum.

Watson was not only a tireless recruiter as he was equally as tireless as a coach.

Did you ever have a good teacher who actually taught you things that were applicable to life, not just regurgitating textbook jibber-jabber? That was Watson.

Better yet, did you ever learn from that teacher? I mean, actually learn ... not just sponge information until finals week was over.

Coach Watson was the kind of teacher that taught until you learned. And believe me, you learned from Rodney Watson.

I'll never forget when Coach Watson allowed me to watch his scout as he broke down an upcoming opponent. And what I saw at that practice was exactly how it played out in the game. It was like deja vu all over again. It was prophetic. It was Coach Watson at his best.

Off the court, Watson was just as good. He introduced himself to me early in the basketball season as he said I came "well recommended" from his friend Paul Povse, who happened to be one of my journalism professors.

One practice before SIU traveled to New York City to play Duke, I was story hunting as I got players' thoughts on their upcoming trek. That's when Coach Watson came up to me and suggested I talked to first year assistant Lance Irvin, who played at Madison Square Garden once upon a time.

"I'm just trying to give you a scoop, brother," Watson said.

I heeded his call and interviewed Coach Irvin. Jackpot! Another perspective on a historic trip.

After the season, the DE sports page needed an additional story and I had wanted to write something about how weird it was for the SIU men's basketball team to not be in postseason play. I had remembered that Coach Watson said I could call him anytime.

I did.

He was in the weight room at the Trout-Wittman Center and stepped away just to give me a few minutes on the phone. He explained the offseason workout plan, who was working hard, who would benefit ... he broke it down. Then he would go on to break down the NCAA Tournament for me.

Again, jackpot!

I'm selfish for not wanting Watson to go. If anyone deserved a head coaching job, it was him. Thankfully, he won't be going too far as he will be in Evansville, Ind., Chris Lowery's home town.

As we parted ways on the phone, Watson asked me about my job status and had told him I was about to accept a position at the Harrisburg Daily Register. He congratulated me and said if I ever needed anything, I could call.

Then he said it again, making sure I understood that anytime I needed anything I could call him.

And if there is one thing I learned from my time covering Saluki basketball, it was that if it came out of Rodney Watson's mouth, you could believe it.

Of course, I appreciate it ... and will likely take advantage of it. I don't think Coach Watson will mind one bit.

Au Revoir, My Dear Watson: Long-time Saluki assistant gets his big break [Daily Egyptian]
The Dean Is Done As Rodney Watson Finally Gets The Call [Daily Egyptian]

And This Skid Is Ova!

Even Mother Nature was sick of watching the Cubs lose.

Now if the Cubs could face Ian Snell (5 IP 8 H 6 R 6 ER 4 BB 4 K 1 HR) everyday.

Instead, the North Side Nine will send Carlos Zambrano to the bump against a resurgent Zach Duke (5-4 2.77 ERA 39 K 1.08 WHIP).

Gulp.

This College Grad Has A Real Job With A Newspaper. You can pop that bottle ... NOW!


Yep, that's right kids. I've accepted a job at the Harrisburg (Ill.) Daily Register. And it's even got a Twitter page.

My job title? Well, I'm not quite sure yet. My first day is tomorrow, officially and I'm going to have a lot of responsibilities. I wonder how that will look on a business card.

There are so many people to thank, but I won't thank them all here. Even though once upon a blog post I did that.

As for The Big Dead Sidebar, it's not going anywhere. Not until someone says I can't write it anymore. That will be a dark day in blogger history if that ever happens. And even if it did happen, there is a contingency plan in place (in my mind, at least), but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

Until then, there's a celebration in Carbondale. Not as big as the one pictured above, but I think you get the gist of things.

Who's Selling?

We're only a week away from June so who figures to be sellers at the deadline?

The quick answer is that 10 or 11 teams are almost locks to sell at the deadline or prior to that. Others could join them based on how the next few weeks go.

Let's start with the AL East.

Baltimore Orioles:

Reliever George Sherrill could be an attractive piece for clubs with bullpen needs. He has an ERA under three, closing experience and an affordable contract.

First baseman Aubrey Huff had a quiet 30-100 season in 2008 and is off to a solid start in 2009 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs. The New York Mets could be a candidate for a trade because of an injury at the position. The San Francisco Giants are also an option.

Third baseman Melvin Mora could be a temporary fix if the price was right for a team with injuries at the corner infield spots (see Chicago Cubs and New York Mets).

In the AL West Oakland and Seattle are possible sellers but I think the division is weak enough that the A's will climb back into the picture in the coming weeks so let's take a look at the Mariners.

Seattle Mariners:

Starting pitcher Erik Bedard has been outstanding from a health and performance standpoint this season but is in the final year of his contract. I don't see the Mariners resigning him and they need prospects desperately. The Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and White Sox should all be players for the left hander.

Third baseman Adrian Beltre's bat has taken the year off so far (.211 average) but he brings one of the best gloves in the game with him everyday. Beltre would be a great fit for a team like the White Sox or the Kansas City Royals.

In the NL East both the Florida Marlins and Washington Nationals are longshots to compete for a playoff spot.

Florida Marlins:

Second baseman Dan Uggla had a magnificent start to his 2008 season that derailed after some miscues at the All-Star game and he hasn't recovered since. He's currently batting .200 but does have eight home runs and 30 RBIs. He could be a nice fit for the Cubs, White Sox or Milwaukee Brewers if his average becomes respectable.

Reliever Kiko Calero has an ERA under three and could pull in some low level prospects come the deadline as well.

Washington Nationals:

First baseman Nick Johnson is one of the few people of value on the Nationals and his career year pace (.388 average) makes him an immediate possibility for anyone looking for a stop gap DH or first baseman.

More on this Wednesday.

It's Simple: Jim Hendry is not a good GM

Give me a $120-plus million and I'll give you a mediocre team, too.

Okay, perhaps I'll give you more than mediocre.

Chicago Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry has done less with more since getting the green light on turning around a championship starved franchise that recently won back-to-back division titles before promptly getting swept in the first round of the playoffs each time.

Everyone was lauding Hendry for the moves he made resulting in said championships but any idiot with deep pockets can make those moves. Looking back on it, he was actually lucky that the moves that panned out for him actually did.

Pitchers Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis surprised me when they had a decent amount of success for the club when they probably shouldn't have succeeded.

Lilly was a fly ball pitcher going to hell (Wrigley Field) essentially and Marquis couldn't even crack the post season roster with the St. Louis Cardinals the year before he signed with the Cubs.

Furthermore, Lilly never had an ERA under four in a full season before posting a 3.83 and 4.09 ERA respectively in consecutive seasons with the Cubs in 2007 and 2008.

This year Lilly has been throwing the ball well with an ERA of 3.77 but Marquis' contract cannot be viewed as a success.

He posted two consecutive years of ERAs in the mid-fours and punched his ticket out of town for reliever Luis Vizcaino.

Which leads me to my next point. What has Hendry done to fix the bullpen?

Far and away the biggest problem with the Cubs is this year's verison of the bullpen which grew thinner after letting closer Kerry Wood depart and replacing him with a closer without an out pitch (Kelly? Kevin Gregg).

Three regular relievers have an ERA over five this season and they don't have a lefty that can get anyone out.

Big issues.

And it isn't helping that starter Ryan Dempster, he of the newly minted contract, is flirting with an 5.00 ERA.

Dempster is another guy that shouldn't have worked out for the Cubs but did. He had an epic year in a contract year and he's a guy with a track record of being average.

It probably would have been best to let Dempster leave for draft pick compensation to replenish a middle of the road farm system and trade whatever spare parts they had for San Diego Padres pitcher Jake Peavy.

Letting super utility man Mark DeRosa go hasn't panned out either as the money saved was spent poorly on a rickety designated hitter playing outfield (Milton Bradley).

Bradley isn't as bad as his Mendoza line average indicates but this isn't a guy who can stay healthy (physically or mentally) for an entire season anyway.

Instead of paying the same amount of cash or less to veteran winners like Bobby Abreu, the Cubs decided to blow their cash on a guy who hasn't been part of a winner before.

But some of it really isn't Hendry's fault. Take the injuries for example.

Star players Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden and Aramis Ramirez have spent time on the disabled list this year which is going to kill clubhouse continuity but two of the three injuries should have been expected and thus planned for.

Zambrano has thrown a ton of innings in the regular season coupled with extra innings logged in the playoffs while Harden seems to be injured for at least a couple weeks every year anyway.

The key for the Cubs may be an explosion from Pinella if the slide continues and getting their stars healthy.

Unfortunately, the Cubs have plenty of leap frogging to do to get back in the race but their talent overwhelms their peers so there's still hope.

If not, do what you always do.

Wait till next year.

You Make The Move: How The Cubs Could Have Been Cured Before The Season Started

If the Chicago Cubs do not win the National League Central, there will be plenty of blame to go around. Most of it should go to the players, who at this point are underachieving to the umpteenth degree.

But so has GM Jim Hendry, who put this team together.

And since the Cubs don't have Hank Steinbrenner's limitless checkbook, what moves should Hendry have made in the offseason?

Options?

You want 'em? You got 'em.

1. Signing Orlando Hudson to play second base?
  • No one saw the Cubs' struggles at second base coming ... except anyone with a brain. Mike Fontenot had a great year as a role player, and that's how it should have stayed. Aaron Miles is a joke and deserves to be on a Major League roster as much as I do. Meanwhile, the O-Dog is hitting a robust .342 with an on-base percentage of .410 to go along with a nightly dosage of Web Gem defensive plays. Hudson's 2009 salary, you wonder? $3.38 million.
2. Signing Bobby Abreu or Adam Dunn to play right field?
  • Adam Dunn might have been the perfect Cub. He tortures NL Central pitching to the tune of 118 homers and 276 RBIs in his career. At Wrigley, Dunn owns a .286 average, .419 OBP and 23 HRs. All he is doing is hitting .284, on-basing .420 while smashing 14 homers and driving in 39 ribbies. Bobby Abreu signed with the Angels in February and has been an on-base machine, getting on at a .404 clip with a .303 batting average. Both have been more productive and less distracting than Milton Bradley.

3. Trading the farm to acquire Jake Peavy?
  • Sean Marshall and Jake Vitters were among the names bantied about when linked with the 2007 NL Cy Young winner, but Marshall still sports Cubbie blue and Vitters is smashing everything in the minors. Meanwhile, Peavy still teases, but has taken his show to the South Side. Right now he's 4-5 with a 3.48 earned run average, but that's one more win than Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster and an ERA that is lower than every one of the Cubs starters.

4. Keeping Kerry Wood, Mark DeRosa and Henry Blanco?
  • Losing Wood, DeRosa and Blanco apparently means more to clubhouse chemistry than it does on the field. None of the three are getting the job done on the field. The former Cub closer has seven saves, but also owns a 7.20 ERA. The Super Utility Man is hitting .254 and getting on base at a .319 clip while manning the hot corner. Hank White is batting only .154, but is doing work as Peavy's personal catcher. Peavy's line: .207 batting average against and 79 strikeouts compared to 23 walks (3.49 K-to-BB ratio).

5. Not trading for Kevin Gregg?
  • Without a doubt, the Gregg-Ceda swap was Hendry's worst move of the offseason. Part of it is because it came on the heels of officially parting ways with Woody, but the major reason this was a bad move was because Gregg isn't good. It's not that Wood has fared much better, but Gregg has proved to be nothing more than a younger, uglier (and more expensive) Bobby Howry.
Bonus: Not re-signing Ryan Dempster?
  • After an All-Star 2008 season, Demp's distracting glove trick pulled the wool over Hendry's eyes as he collected a four-year $52 million contract. Derek Lowe, a pitcher with a nasty sinker and a better playoff pedigree than Dempster inked a four-year $60 million contract. At this point, Lowe is worth the extra $8 mill as he is 6-2 with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP.

The Cubs shed the contracts of Wood ($10 million in '09, $4.2 in '08), DeRosa ($5.5 million) Jason Marquis ($9.875 million) while re-upping with Dempster ($8 million in '09) and bringing in Gregg ($4.2 million in '09), Miles ($2.2 million in '09) and Bradley ($5 million in '09).

The most cost-effective moves would have been signing Orlando Hudson to play second and Bobby Abreu to patrol right. Signing Hudson and Abreu cost a combined $8.38 million dollars. Kevin Gregg, Aaron Miles and Milton Bradley's combined cost? $11.4 million.

Jim Hendry, admit it: You were pwned this off-season.

Baseball contract numbers courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

The Cubs Are Partying Like It's 2005 All Over Again

Cubs fans are born and bred to read signs. It's in our blood and engraved into our DNA.

Look for ghosts, ghouls, goblins, goats, black cats, Bartmans and the occasional savior.

And while searching for signs that the 2009 edition of the North Side Nine would break out of its seven-game slump, I learned that this team is eerily similar to the 2005 bunch that graced our presence with 79-83 record.

Take a look, the signs are there.

Sign No. 1 - The expectations
  • 2005: Even though the '04 team didn't make the playoffs, the '05 team came in with high expectations. Prior and Wood were finally healthy (hold your laughter for later, please), the team was expected to get a full year out of Nomar (please, not yet) and the Evil Stoney was gone. OK, you can laugh now. And all the Cubs did was come out and play mediocre ball despite the magnificent play of Derrek Lee as Nomah, Mr. Glass and Woody each had extended stays on the DL. When the statement "Neifi Perez saved us" is uttered from the manager, your team has holes.
  • 2009: After winning back-to-back division titles, experts expected the Cubs to run away with the division title. Being an expert is easy, but noticing the gaping holes on the roster put together by Jim Hendry is even easier. Like picking up chicks with Derek Jeter as your wingman (that's baseball's version of shooting fish in a barrel.)

Sign No. 2 - The 'haunting' departures
  • 2005: Despite hitting 39 homers and driving in 106 runs in 2004, Moises Alou's services were no longer wanted in Chicago. Neither were Sammy Sosa's after a 35 homer year of his own. Those two were replaced by Todd Hollandsworth and Jeromy Burnitz as everyday starters. If that happened now, Dusty Baker's Twitter would have read as following. "Dude, I gotta start Holly and Burnitz everyday? FML."
  • 2009: Despite hitting 20 homers, Mark DeRosa was traded. Despite being the main cog of the clubhouse, face of the franchise and being a lights-out closer, the Cubs parted ways with Kerry Wood. The departures helped all hell break loose across Cubs message boards and call-in shows across the nation, if not world. There is a good chunk of Cubs fans that still cut their wrists nightly when they think about Woody and DeRo in Cleveland uniforms. Those guys need lives and girlfriends.

Sign No. 3 - The one where that fan favorite gets the full-time job and sucks
  • 2005: Todd Hollandsworth made one great catch in 2004 and people wanted him to start over Sammy Sosa right away. Those guys got their wish. In turn, Hollandsworth turned into Hollandsworthless as he batted .244 in 131 games.
  • 2009: Cubs fans wanted to hand Mike Fontenot any starting job they could after "Lil' Babe Ruth" hit .309 with 9 homers in 141 at bats. Fontenot was handed the everyday second baseman's job, mostly because his biggest competitor (Aaron Miles) sucks at life. Fontenot is hitting ... well ... nothing.
Sign No. 4 - The very costly injury
  • 2005: Injuries to Prior and Wood were like clockwork. But when Nomar Garciaparra goes down and you have to replace him with Neifi Perez on an everyday basis, your team is screwed.
  • 2009: Injuries to Rich Harden are like clockwork. But when Aramis Ramirez gets hurt trying hard and you have to replace him with Aaron Miles on an everyday basis, your team is screwed.

Sign No. 5 - The acquisition that was supposed to happen, but didn't
  • 2005: Rafael Furcal was destined to be a Cub. Beyond his penchant for a frosty beverage or two, Furcal fit two of the Cubs' biggest needs: A leadoff hitter and a shortstop. Too bad penny-pinching Andy MacFailure put an end to that nonsense. Furcal would go on to ruin Derrek Lee's wrist and the 2006 Cubs' season.
  • 2009: Jake Peavy was destined to be a Cub. He fit one of the Cubs' biggest need: A bonafide No. 1 starter. But Kevin Towers pulled the plug on that. Peavy just helped shut out the Cubs one day after rejecting an offer from the White Sox. Cubs fans went from "yay, he's not going to the Sox" to "damn it, we have to face him" in the matter of hours.

Long story short, the 2009 Cubs are just the 2005 Cubs reincarnated. To the point where the crap I was writing was the same. Cue the "Twilight Zone" soundtrack.

Now that I've got that figured out, no need to waste time at the old ball park paying attention to the game.

More losing = More boozing!

Happy Memorial Day!

Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals

Athletes and coaches get so much praise and criticism in this world. But if it were not for our Armed Forces protecting us every day, we would not have the opportunity to say things such as "Jake Peavy is a bum for turning down the White Sox" or "Jim Hendry is a genius" or anything for that matter.

Freedom is fun. Freedom is good. Enjoy it.

And enjoy your Memorial Day.

In fact, enjoy every day.

You Got Power Rankings? I'll Show You Power Rankings!

You know what aggravates me? Tribune baseball columnist Phil Rogers. You know what aggravates me equally as much, if not more? His silly power rankings. (By the way, don't bother clicking on the link ... you'll want those 30 seconds you would waste back eventually.)

See, power rankings are dumb because they already exist: They're called "standings." So you want power rankings, Phil? Here are some power rankings for ya!

(Besides, I'm tired of writing the weekly update of Cubs need pitching ... or this week, hitting ... and that the White Sox to get young and fast. Shit gets boring after a while.)

1. Suspensions. Despite losing the team's best player due to a bedroom performance-enhancing drug suspension, the Dodgers still own baseball's best record. Joe Torre's bunch (except for Andre Ethier) has proven it can win without Manny. It's like when your starter girlfriend dumps you and two days later your making out with her super-hot best friend.

2. Going long. David Ortiz hit his first homer of the season on May 20. Congratulations, you still trail Ryan Theriot and now have as many homers as Carlos Zambrano.

3. A match-up between Matt Palmer and Micah Hoffpauir. Despite his impressive start, I am still trying to figure out why the national media is slurping the Angels' 30-year-old rookie the same way local Cubs fans slob on the knob of the Cubs' own Four-A ballplayer. I would love to see a matchup between these two if only to see someone's head explode.

4. Broken bat home runs. Mark Texeira took one out of the new Yankee Stadium after breaking his bat in half. The ball went about 10 rows deep into the left field bleachers. Wonder if Mark busted out a Triple Play Baseball cheat code for that one?

5. B-Jays. Despite a mild case of the Cubsies (commonly known as nursing a losing streak), Toronto girls got that Creighton Fever.

6. Missing third base. Ryan Church channeled his youth by doing something young men have done for years: Trying to score without touching third base.

7. The Mark DeRosa love fest. Seriously guys, he's gone and not coming back. And if you're missing his .254 average and .326 on-base percentage then it's time to find something else to care about.

8. Jake Peavy. Everyone wants him, but he's turning you down like the Prom Queen turns out that pimply faced kid who ends up turning into a billionaire.

9. Six days in Chicago. It hasn't been a good thing to be a Pittsburgh Pirate ... not since Barry Bonds (pre-BALCO) and Jim Leyland reigned supreme. But thanks to some quality scheduling, the Pirates get to spend six straight days in Chicago as they play the Cubs in a three-game set after just finishing up with the White Sox. When it's all said and done, the Pirates will have spent more time in Chicago this month than I have.

10. LeBron James. He's already saved Cleveland with a 3-point jump shot and could possibly save the Browns. Indians fans are curious if he's got two "plus" pitches so they can throw him in the bullpen as their closer.

One Hit on Havlat May Have Dug the Hawks In

Controversial? Brutal? "Gutless" in the words of Brian Campbell?

However you describe Niklas Kronwall's hit on Martin Havlat in Game 3, it is safe to say that this was a turning point in the series. Yes, there was no Nikolai Khabibulin today, and that played a factor in Detroit's 6-1 rout of the hometown Hawks. Yet, it also looked like Chicago was out for revenge, ready to play a physical game against the NHL's best team; it clearly did not work.

The Blackhawks never got back in the game following a 2-nothing deficit after one period. Goalie Cristobal Huet looked rusty in his first start of the playoffs, and there was clearly more crowd noise during Jim Cornelison's national anthem than there was in the game itself. Chicago looked like a young team, taking dumb penalty after dumb penalty. Ben Eager received a pair of 10-minute misconducts and rookie Chris Versteeg received a game misconduct in the third period.

The Hawks played physical, but Detroit played smart. In the end, it was the defending champion Red Wings that controlled things, and they take a 3-1 series lead back to Detroit. It did not matter that defenseman Nikolas Lindstrom was out with injury, along with Kris Draper and Pavel Datsyuk.

The fans booed Kronwall each and every time he touched the puck. This is understandable, but for the players on the ice, going out of their way to hit people away from the play was not the way to go about things. You do not bully around the Detroit Red Wings, and this is a lesson learned for the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Hawks are a young team, and the series is not over yet. Detroit still needs one more win, but you can sense some deflation in the eyes of the Hawks. It has been a great season, and nobody expected Chicago to reach the Western Conference Finals this year. They will not be happy with an exit in this round, but maybe, it is a step in the learning process before the team can really get over the hump.

We will see how they respond in Wednesday's Game 5. I know one thing...if they want to check people left and right, for no apparent reason other than revenge following Kronwall's hit, they will not respond well.

Could 'Turk' Work In Chicago?

Magic vs. Celtics

He is not Michael Jordan. Nor is he LeBron James. But Hedo Turkoglu, known as the "Turkish Jordan" (which could be comparable to being named the valedictorian of summer school) could be a difference maker in Chicago.

Turkoglu is doing all he can to carry the Orlando Magic into one of the biggest upsets in NBA Playofff history. But this all comes with a price ... a price Magic management might not be able to afford.

Hedo apparently exercised his option to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. New GM Gar Forman needs to make the Bulls a better team.

Am I the only one that sees a match made in heaven?

Adding Turkoglu would allow the Bulls to let Ben Gordon walk away without losing much in the scoring department while adding size. Listed at 6-foot-10 with the ball-handling skills of what Chicago fans might consider the old-school Scottie Pippen "point forward" spot.

At 6-10, Turkoglu can see over most small forwards, and could facilitate moving the 6-foot-6 John Salmons to the two guard slot. In addition to that, Turkoglu could be flexible enough to play the two guard or even the power forward slot in a small-quick line-up.

Obviously, this is all speculation based on the Bulls' need for improvement at that position and the possibility that a player like that is available in the open market. And would probably be contingent on Turkoglu's willingness to come to Chicago and the Bulls' ability to shed the black hole of a contract owned by Luol Deng.

This summer, the Bulls' top priority should be giving star point guard Derrick Rose another option on offense. Preferably one that can score at will and shoot the 3-ball.

And if it's Turk, it just might work.

Hawks' Depth Will be Tested

The Chicago Blackhawks have been a deep team all season, and that depth will be needed the rest of the series against Detroit, or at least Game 4. There is a good chance winger Martin Havlat will not play for Chicago tomorrow afternoon. Also, goalie Nikolai Khabibulin will likely be out with an injury of his own.

You figure Havlat would not play after taking a harsh check along the boards from Niklas Kronwall in Game 3. Now, the Hawks number-one goalie has had an injury develop this past week. He missed practice between Games 2 and 3, and then he sat out the 3rd period and OT in the Hawks' victory on Friday.

Bring in Cristobal Huet. He was brought to Chicago in the offseason, and it looked like he was going to be the starting goalie for most of the season. The Blackhawks released Khabibulin, but seeing that no team wanted to pick him up, the Hawks decided to just stick with their guy. This turned gold for Chicago as Khabi played his heart out this season. His veteran leadership helped carry the Hawks through the year, and while he split time with Huet during the year, it was clear that Khabi was the top goalie for Coach Quenneville.

This means nothing now, as Huet will be needed in Game 4. The Hawks are down 2-1 in the series. They have another "must-win" game on Sunday. The goaltender is always a big focus in the postseason, and after not playing in the postseason until the thitd period yesterday, Huet will need to step up in a big way.

As for the loss of Havlat, well, this is tough as well. Yet, the Hawks have plenty of talent surrounding the veteran. Detroit lost scoring leader Pavel Datsyuk, and they still scored three goals in Game 3. You lose the leadership, but these young Hawks around Havlat have grown up in a heartbeat.

Injuries are a part of every sport. The other players just need to lace up the skates, and do their job. There will certainly be a big target on Mr. Huet.

Leads That Make You Go Hmmmmmm

One of the forgotten aspects of this blog has been its penchant for quality sports writing. Sometimes, I think that gets lost while balancing school, work, schoolwork and that thing called real life.

Anyway, while being inundated by Web link after Web link insisting Jake Peavy would be joining a Chicago baseball team eventually, I tripped across a piece of journalistic nose gold that dripped from the pen and onto the keyboard of Chicago Tribune scribe Phil Rogers.

"Swisherlicious."

That's what some New York Yankees players are calling the good times they've had during their winning streak, which ended at nine games Friday night.

And in a matter of two months, Dirty 30 has soiled the entire Yankees organization.

He's the only player in Major League history to raise his batting average to 1.000 without lifting the bat off his shoulder.

It won't be long until another college hottie is lapping it up after getting some "Swisher Sweetness."

I think it's time for me to place another order of "Dirty 30 Juice" because my supply is on low and I'm in a massive slump.

Nick Swisher, Joe Girardi inspire New York Yankees [Chicago Tribune]

Is this it for Mike Keenan?

Bye-Bye again.

A long time ago, well actually just the early-90's, Mike Keenan was the Blackhawks coach. He led Chicago to their last Stanley Cup appearance. Now, in this decade, he was the coach of the Calgary Flames for the past two seasons. Yet, after back-to-back first round exits in the postseason, Keenan was fired.

He has coached eight of the 30 NHL teams, and now after losing to one of those teams in the playoffs, Calgary has said good-bye. He is one of those veteran coaches, who despite not having a whole lot of success in the past 10-15 years, the guy will still probably find a job somewhere.

There are still 22 teams left that he has not coached. Why not have some time with all of them?!

"Chicago Blackhawks-One Goal"

The "Detroit Sucks" chants were loud and clear at the United Center during the first 30 minutes of play last night. Yet, when a team suddenly comes back from down 3-0, and ties the game going into the final period, that chant really has no meaning anymore. The Red Wings silenced the 22,000-plus fans during the last half of the second, and it seemed they were poised to go up 3-0 in the series.

Yet, as the slogan has been all year for this highly-marketable franchise, "one goal" changed everything in this series. There is still another must-win on Sunday, but for now, Patrick Sharp's overtime goal brought the Hawks back in the series. There is also something about this Chicago team in overtime that wants to get the games over in a heartbeat. This is their third overtime win at the United Center in the postseason, and all three have come within the first four minutes. Sharp's was at 1:52, and it let the Hawks fans breath a sigh of relief instead of waiting out one of those marathon overtime games in the playoffs.

This sets up another big one at the UC on Sunday. There are still many questions that need to be raised going into that game. Is Martin Havlat all right after taking a brutal hit from Detroit's Niklas Kronwall in the first period? I doubt he will play tomorrow after that check, but we will see. Either way, the Blackhawks will be pretty angry about what Kronwall did to Havlat, whether it was legal or not. The referees deemed it illegal, giving the Wings defenseman a 5-minute interference penalty and a game misconduct.

Another player question focuses on Nikolai Khabibulin, who was benched after the third period for backup goalie Christobal Huet. This substitiution was based on injury, not the fact that the Wings scored three in the third to tie the game. While Huet knows what he is doing, I am still more confident with Khabi in the net. We'll see how he feels tomorrow.

The other question revolves around the team, and that is what they will do about these Wings' rallies. For the third straight game, the Hawks jumped out on top. This was a three-goal lead, and they could not even hold that. Detroit just does not go away. Chicago still needs those early leads, but at some point, they need a complete effort to where they can keep the lead.

Either way, it is a 2-1 series now. Detroit is still in command, especially if they win on Sunday. It should be another wild one at the UC tomorrow, and the biggest question is whether the Hawks can win two straight "must-win" games against the defending champions.

LeBron's First "Like Mike" Moment

Ghosts of Craig Ehlo had seemingly made their way from what used to be Gund Arena as the Orlando Magic seemed poised to take a 2-0 lead out of Cleveland and back to Orlando.

Needless to say, LeBron James exercised those demons.



With his game-winning from-way-downtown-bang! 3-pointer, James turned the table on Cleveland hoops history. And for Hedo Turkoglu, who is known as "The Turkish Jordan," he might now be known as "The Turkish Ehlo."

And for good measure...

I Don't Care How Many Stanley Cups They've Won ... Detroit Sucks (And Other Witty Things To Say Tonight)



If you're lucky enough to be going to the BlackWings-RedHawks game tonight, then you, my friend, will be lucky enough to take part in one of the greatest traditions in Chicago sports.

Chanting "Detroit sucks!" over and over again.

But the fact that Detroit sucks is as fresh as yesterday's coffee. So it's time to update the age-old chant. Here are some ideas.

  • "Make better cars! Make better cars!"
  • "Jim Leyland's old! Jim Leyland's old!"
  • "Eminem's new album is disappointing!"
  • "Your football team is the Lions! Your football team is the Lions!"
Remember Chicago sports fans, no matter the outcome of this series ... at least you don't have to live in Detroit.

Defending Jake Peavy

Get your popcorn ready and your Facebook status updated, Stat Boy is here to defend Jake Peavy.

Yesterday, the 2007 NL Cy Young award winner did like any normal 28-year-old with a family in mind, he made the rational decision of choosing to live in beautiful San Diego rather than the South Side of Chicago.

I would probably make that same decision too, unless the White Sox threw in a lifetime supply of chicken from Harold's Chicken Shack.

However, Stat Boy feels as if Harold's Chicken did not play a part in Peavy's decision to dismiss the White Sox. But the following three things might have.

1. "I like the NL" really means "I like Petco Park." Can you blame Jake Peavy for not wanting to leave The Spacious Confines? I mean, he is nearly unhittable as he owns a 1.08 WHIP and batters only hit .219 while slugging at a .334 clip. You've gotta be some sort of clinically insane pitcher to want to leave Petco for The Cell when you're putting up Nintendo numbers.

2. West is best for his pitching style. But it's not just Petco Park that keeps Peavy's pimp hand strong. Playing in the NL West not only means facing weak sister line-ups, but it means doing so in pitcher's paradise parks such as Dodger Stadium and AT&T Park. He is 40-29 with a 3.57 ERA, 1.202 WHIP and 559 strikeouts.

3. The White Sox aren't that good. Going from a 19-22 team to a 17-23 team really isn't a stepping into the heat of a pennant race. The ChiSox are inept defensively without a center fielder that can overcome the deficiencies of Carlos Quentin and an aging Jermaine Dye. The Sox are only 10-9 at home, while the Pads are 14-6 at confines that seem to be truly friendly to Peavy.

The diminishing returns factor might be the biggest hurdle the San Diego Padres must clear in trading Jake Peavy. They balked at the best offer on the table from the Braves, then they walked away from an equally solid offer from the Cubs.

If this goes any further, you might be able to get a former Cy Young winner for a bucket of balls and some pine tar.

Pending Peavy's approval, of course.

Here Come the Hawks (maybe)

Well, we have reached the evening that every Blackhawks fan was waiting for. It is Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, which means the series with the Red Wings shifts to the Windy City. The Blackhawks are 5-1 at home during the postseason, have had the best attendance all season long, and have fed off the crowd's energy most of the time.

Detroit has been here before. They have won in all different types of environments in their numerous runs to the Stanley Cup over the years. They have veterans on this team that will not be affected by 22,000 crazy fans chanting "Detroit S---s" the entire game.

Chicago played well in Game 2, but their own mistakes and a tremendous effort from Wings goalie Chris Osgood gave the Hawks a 3-2 overtime loss. They are in a 0-2 hole in a series for the first time this postseason, and Chicago can only hope that the home crowd can get them going.

The Hawks have scored the first goal in the first two games, only to see their early leads vanish as the game went on. In the previous round against Vancouver, Chicago scored the first goal only once. They need to continue this newfound pattern of grabbing the lead. This will allow the crowd to continue to go crazy, and the Hawks can feed off the energy for the rest of the game. Yet, even if they do score early, Chicago knows Detroit will not be going away.

From the "Here Come the Hawks" song to Jim Corneilson's anthem to the "Chelsea Dagger" goal song, the atmosphere at the United Center has been crazy all season. It will need to be great again, but only the home team's play on the ice can control whether that it is the case.

Either way, it will not be easy. Detroit does not care how exciting the playoff atmosphere has been in Chicago. They have seen it before in numerous venues, so the crowd will not be enough. It is about the Hawks players, and if they keep making mistakes, this series will be over in a heartbeat.

Stat Boy Presents: Change Cubs Fan Can Believe In

It was lights out for the Cubs almost as soon as Albert Pujols launched a first-inning homer that knocked out the 'I' in Big Mac Land. What can I say? I guess that is The Machine's way to say he is ready to move on from the Mark McGwire Era.

And Stat Boy is eager to move away from the era in which Ryan Freel, Mike Fontenot and Aaron Miles patrol third base.

Once upon a time, Freel was a very valuable utility player who averaged 36 steals and a .367 on-base percentage while playing various positions for the Cincinnati Reds from 2004 to 2006. Since then, Freel has strayed away from stealing bases and has wandered over to Craigslist to steal some hearts as he has 21 steals since his hey-day.

And in addition to his 0-for-3 night at the plate, Freel found a way to do the impossible: Overthrow the giant of a Gold Glove winning first baseman also known as Derrek Lee.

Meanwhile, Fontenot continues to struggle, even though manager Lou Piniella moved him back to his natural position of second base. And Miles has been as effective as Mike Damone's five-point plan.

So it's time to get all fantasy baseball in this bitch and invoke some change Cubs fans can believe in.

Radical Step One is going to a local sports equipment store and buying a new second baseman's mitt for Alfonso Soriano, who is making $16 million this year and probably could afford to buy his own glove. Soriano slugged as a second sacker as he mashed 157 homers, posted an .820 OPS and stole 162 bases as a full-timer from 2001-05.

On the other hand, he committed 105 errors at second base in that time.

But second basemen that average 31 homers, 38 doubles, 32 steals and 90 ribbies don't grow on trees. Sometimes the best defense is an offensive attack that will produce long balls, two-baggers and swiped bags.

Soriano's hop and dart-throwing arm in left field would be gone, but not forgotten. Speaking of dart throwing, remember when Bob Brenly said you could throw a dart in the Cubs dugout and find a better defensive outfielder than Soriano.

If I was throwing the dart, it would have hit Micah Hoffpauir.

The life-long Four-A player is what Daryle Ward would have been had he not eaten the entire post-game spread.

Hoffpauir might as well have his name changed to Hoffpower as he has hit .314 with a .372 OBP to go along with four homers and 14 RBIs ... and in 53 less plate appareances has outperformed the Cubs everyday first baseman, who also has four home runs and 18 runs batted in.

"The Hoff" can play left and put Brenly's prediction to the test. And even if he butchers a ball or two (or two dozen), it will matter less if he keeps slugging at a .557 clip.

And at third base, Bobby Scales, please stand up, grab a glove and head over to the area vacated by Aramis Ramirez.

Scales had more hits in his first week in the big leagues than Fontenot and Miles have combined for in their last 14 games combined.

Hopefully on this road trip the Cubs will find their bats while somehow stranding Fontenot, Miles and Neal Cotts at the San Diego Zoo.

North Siders Rejoice: Jake Peavy Isn't Coming To Chicago


Yeah, we bitched about Jake Peavy not coming to the Cubs all winter long. Now White Sox fans can share in our misery of not having an ace pitcher while watching our respective teams lose to our most bitter rivals.

Speaking of which, off to see the Cubs limp sticks try to get up against "Jesus" Wainwright.

In the meantime, I'll have what Jake's having.

Sources: Jake Peavy Rejects Trade To White Sox [Chicago Sun-Times]

Saluki Softball Loses An Ace



Nikki Waters was darn near unhittable when she stepped into the circle. She went 15-2 overall and was a perfect 9-0 against Missouri Valley Conference competition.

However, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that Waters is transferring to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to be closer to home.

That's a big blow to one of the Valley's best pitching staffs. SIU was already slated to lose lefty Katie McNamara to graduation. But don't fret Saluki Nation, head coach Kerri Blaylock is one of the best recruiters in the country and will likely have a resolution to this situation before you could blink twice.

Jake Peavy Couldn't Come Soon Enough, Could He?


Bartolo Colon's uninspiring line read as follows:

2.0 IP 7 H 8 R 1 ER 2 BB 1 K 2 HR 7 DCE*

*DCE denotes Double Cheeseburgers Eaten.

Hat Tip: Deadspin, Yahoo!

Cubs-Cards Round III Game III: At Least I'm Not The Only One That's Pissed Off Edition

Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs

The weather isn't the only thing heating up in the Midwest. Someone check Cubs manager Lou Piniella's temperature, because I'm pretty sure Mount Piniella is about to erupt.

Apparently, prior to being "razzled" by some St. Louisans on his lonely walk back to the Hilton at the Ballpark which is a stone's throw from the new Busch Stadium, Piniella had an unpleasant conversation with the team's traveling secratary. (For the record, you can find stones at the landfill that is supposed to be Ballpark Village if you'd like. I digress.)

Sweet Uncle Lou does this from time-to-time to deflect some eyes, ears and thoughts away from the team when they're playing bad. But a rift with the traveling secretary should be the least of the team's concerns.

And I know it's three hours til game time, so here are a list of things that should be concerning Piniella:
  1. Milton Bradley's .193 batting average
  2. The Mini-Me Midget Committee at third base
  3. The fact that Aaron Miles and Kevin Gregg are still on the roster
  4. Rich Harden's (lack of) velocity
  5. The after-effects of eating a large Imo's pizza
No. 6 on that list would be Adam "Jesus" Wainwright, who is due for a breakout game ... unfortunately for Cubs fans, his next start is against the boys in blue.

Prediction: Wainwright's good for seven shutout innings as the Cards complete the sweep.

Now That! Is What I call Pessimism, Vol. 100.

Where Art Thou Josh Vitters?

All this Jake Peavy madness has me thinking about Chicago Cubs top hitting prospect Josh Vitters, the former center piece of a Peavy-to-the-North Side deal that would have been going to San Diego.

Actually I had thinking about Vitters long before Pursuing Peavy Pt. II started. ... It actually began when Aramis Ramirez injured himself in Milwaukee and I realized the Cubs were stuck with Mike Fontenot and Aaron Miles as platoon mates at third base. So when I finished throwing up in my mouth a little, I did what any self-loathing Cubs fan would do: Check up on Vitters' progress.

And even though he is only in Single-A, he is torturing opposing pitching. Vitters is batting .360 with 7 homers and 21 ribbies and a batting-average driven .389 on-base percentage. The Peoria Chiefs third sacker is slugging .581 with an OPS of .970.

Vitters is coming off a 12-for-19 week against the Beloit Snappers. Fontenot has 13 hits since April 25.

You can see why the Padres insisted he was part of the deal and why the Cubs were not so willing to deal him.

Unfortunately, Vitters isn't getting the call and Cubdom will be stuck with Fontenot and Miles ... who have combined to hit .208 and a .284 OBP.

Then there is Jake Fox, who can play first, third, left, right and be an emergency catcher and is currently tearing through the Pacific Coast League like an inland hurricane with a .431 average, .513 on-base percentage, .954 slugging percentage and an absolutely sickening (in a good way) 1.467 OPS.

Meanwhile, expect Lou Piniella to do some line-up shuffling as the Cubs try to not get swept by the arch rival Cardinals.

Take that Northside

If this Jake Peavy deal goes down I'll have full analysis later.

Jake Peavy To The White Sox? Pardon Me While I Scream In Rage

MLB: APR 21 Padres at Giants

San Diego Padres pitcher Jake Peavy was the Brian Roberts of the 2008-09 offseason for the Chicago Cubs and their fans.

He was the carrot dangled in front of a fandom that had just seen its team bow out of the NLDS without a fight for the second straight season. Peavy was rumored to be singing "Go Cubs Go" and packing his bags for a trip to Chicago and North Side vendors were tailoring No. 44 jerseys with Cubbie blue pinstripes ... not shirts that mentioned a St. Louis lawn care expert.

And Peavy still might be headed to Chicago ... but instead he might be heading to the South Side.

Grumblings last night turned into confirmed reports that the Padres and White Sox had agreed to a deal for the 2007 NL Cy Young award winner.

If Peavy waves his no-trade clause, it will say one thing about both of Chicago's general managers.

It would bring major props to White Sox GM Kenny Williams, who was much maligned this offseason for failing to get a lead-off man, centerfielder while also failing to get rid of the team's old, slow softball sloth-like players.

As for Jim Hendry, it would confirm what I've written here many times: A major disappointment. After getting an extension this offseason, he allowed popular players that actually were part of the team's 97-win core walk. Bye-bye Henry Blanco and Kerry Wood in exchange for absolutely nothing but frustration. Hendry would go on to trade the oh-so-versatile Mark DeRosa for minor elague pitchers that were once rumored to head to San Diego for Peavy but now are toiling in the minor leagues without much fan fare.

In exchange for three of its most popular and most productive players, Hendry brought in Paul Bako, Kevin Gregg and Aaron Miles. Bako is no longer with the team, while Gregg and Miles make their case on a daily basis to join Bako in the unemployment line.

If this trade does go through, expect a good chunk of Cubs fans to leap off various tall buildings while there will be celebrations in the projects. I'll also expect a letter of resignation on the desk of Tom Ricketts, Sam Zell or whoever is running that joint.

So, Jake ... for the love of Cubdom ... Just Say No!

Mocking The NBA Draft, Vol. 1.5

NCAA Second Round: Oklahoma State Cowboys v Pittsburgh Panthers

In Vol. 1 of Mocking The NBA Draft, I previewed what the teams that were simply not good enough to make the playoffs. Hence, their appearance in the draft lottery selection show. But what about the teams that will be looking to tweak its collective rosters.

15. Detroit Pistons - Gerald Henderson, Duke. Rebuilding projects are all the rage in Detroit these days, so add the Pistons backcourt to the list. But unlike the fledgling auto industry, reloading a talented backcourt shouldn't be hard. And that should start with the explosiveness Henderson could provide.

16. Chicago Bulls - DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh. If only so I can write a blog similar to this Deadspin Deleted Scene:
"he goes up to da hottest chick on the floor she was like a mily cyrus clone an he be like heyyy shawwwtyyy u lookin dammnnn fine momma an i was like shiit son dat takes some nerve but hes blair and he the tank he gets wat he wants and he be bangin and blangin wid that girl an she was prob like oooh dejuan you so sexii and he was like yeah i am trick...."

17. Philadelphia 76ers - Jrue Holliday, UCLA. The Sixers have more athleticism than you can shake a stick at. Enter Holliday, who is a project of a point guard but should fit in with the ultra-athletic Sixers if he can learn to properly execute alley-oops to Andre Iguodala or Thaddeus Young.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves - Patrick Mills, Saint Mary's. The last time the Timberpups had a legit point guard, he kind of looked like an alien. The point guard before that acts like one now. Mills might be the safest pick in the draft outside of Blake Griffin. Which now means he will bust quicker than a stand-in on set of the "Jizz In My Pants" video.

19. Atlanta Hawks - Jeff Teague, Wake Forest. The Hawks are as desperate for a point guard as I am for a date on Friday night. Oops, my back space button doesn't work. The Hawks have passed on Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and Rodney Stuckey. Yet, all I think about is how Teague should have been a Saluki.

20. Utah Jazz - Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina. Scrappy. Tough. Hard working. White. Yep, sounds like a Jerry Sloan pick right here.

21. New Orleans Hornets - Toney Doughlas, Florida State. Saw this online ad in N'Orleans: "Seeking backcourt mate fond of scoring and sharing." Sounds like CP3 is asking for some help.

22. Dallas Mavericks - Darren Collison, UCLA. With the Jason Kidd Era coming to an end sooner rather than later, the Mavs are going to need a heady point guard to lead their offense. Question is: Does Collison have a Twitter account?

23. Sacramento Kings - Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech. I had no idea who this guy was, but a couple of friends say he's got potential. I won't even bother to Google him because he ain't going to my team.

24. Portland Trail Blazers - Chase Buddinger, Arizona. He's got golden, curly blonde hair and a background that includes a penchant for playing volleyball. Buddinger isn't in the mold of your everyday Jail Blazer ... and that's why he fits.

25. Oklahoma City Thunder - B.J. Mullens, Ohio State. Rapper Cam'ron seems to be more fond of the Buckeye State than the former Buckeye that will be drafted in this spot. Too bad Mullens will spend more time in the D-League than the pros in 2009-10.

26. Chicago Bulls - Terrance Williams, Louisville. Williams has all the talent, athleticism and skills in the world ... but all that and $1.50 can get you Sunday's paper. The Bulls should prepare themselves for a world without Ben Gordon. At least Williams won't pout when he's coming off the bench next year.

27. Memphis Grizzlies - Taj Gibson, Southern California. Gibson and former Trojan teammate O.J. Mayo will be reunited as the Grizzlies still search for someone that can rebound missed baskets, a key element in what is called "defense" in basketball. Tim Floyd will pay for that ticket.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves - DaJuan Summers, Georgetown. If you give the Timberwolves enough draft picks, they will either pick someone who is worth a damn ... or trade it to the Lakers. Let's see what Kevin McHale has up his sleeve this time around.

29. Los Angeles Lakers - Dante Cunningham, Villanova. The Lakers could lose Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom, turning their second biggest strength (frontcourt presence) into a weakness. Doesn't matter who they pick here as long as Kobe Bryant still takes the court 82 times a season.

30. Cleveland Cavaliers - Dionte Christmas, Temple. Because once LeBron leaves Cleveland for New York, Cavs fans are going to be begging for Christmas presents year round.

Report: Gar Forman To Replace John Paxson As Bulls GM

The John Paxson Era was good, bad and ugly. But in the end, he should be fondly remembered if only because he rescued a franchise that was mired in a waist-high pile of doo-doo at the tailspin of the Jerry Krause regime.

Sure, Pax butchered the Ben Wallace deal and sent out Tyson Chandler, who would go on and flourish with Chris Paul in New Orleans. But there wasn't a Bulls fan out there that wasn't going to boo that trade. Until of course Wallace made a big stink about hairstyles, headbands and Chicago traffic.

What Paxson did best was draft. Kirk Hinrich hasn't been spectacular, but he has been a solid role player. Ben Gordon should get paid handsomely for his scoring efforts and before the back-to-back disappointing and injury-plagued years, Luol Deng was a budding NBA star.

The jury is still out on Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas. You know who the jury is not on: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay. Wouldn't any of those guys look really good running the break with Derrick Rose?

I digress onto the news of the day.

Gar Forman, he of the scouting background and player development, has some mighty wide shoes to fill. As the new general manager, Forman will need to spearhead contract talks with Gordon while trying to build around Rose, Noah and vets such as John Salmons and Brad Miller. And he'll have two first round picks (Nos. 16 & 26) to work with as the Bulls should either use the picks to acquire a starting-five caliber player or to strengthen bench depth.

But moments after the conclusion of tomorrow morning's scheduled press confernce, I expect Forman to call the Los Angeles Clippers and inquire about Marcus Camby or Chris Kaman.

But as soon as someone mentions Zach Randolph, hang up the phone and run away.

And in the name of Air Jordan, if Kobe Bryant's name comes up in a trade offer accept it immediately!

John Paxson Turns Over Bulls role to Forman [Chicago Sun-Times]

Cubs, Cards And The Return Of Carp

Colorado Rockies vs. Chicago Cubs

Long story short, the Cubs are screwed.

If all they could muster off Joel Piniero was three hits, then an offense in which Mike Fontenot is the best option at third base will make Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright look like Bob Gibson and Dizzy Dean.

Sure, Carp is coming off an extended stay in the DL Hotel and hasn't done any minor league rehab ... but he's Chris Carpenter. A former Cy Young award winner who owns a career mark of 7-3 against the Cubs with a 3.08 earned run average, 1.14 WHIP and a 5.69-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in more than 96 innings of work.

And even though he will be making his return to the rotation, I wouldn't be shocked if the Cubs went hitless in St. Louis.

As for Game 3 of this series, the Cubs will have to deal with Wainwright, who has surprisingly struggled this season. Well, except against the Cubs, where Waino already has a win against the Cubs -- thanks in part to Larry Vanover's extended strikezone.

The Cubs will counter with Sean Marshall.

Yep, St. Louis is supposed to be real nice this time of year. But not for the Cubs.

Mocking The NBA Draft, Vol. 1

Oklahoma Sooners v Syracuse Orange

A long time ago, in a blogosphere far, far away, a young, up-and-coming sports blogger provided his thoughts on the upcoming NBA Draft. That post of insight and comedic relief helped springboard The Big Dead Sidebar, so I figure I'd bring back one of my favorite segments.

Void if without sarcasm.

1. Los Angeles Clippers - Blake Griffin, Oklahoma. It's all over but the crying. The consensus No. 1 pick will go from potential star to probable bust once he puts on a Clippers jersey. The good news, kid: You're going to L.A. The bad news: You're not playing with Kobe. Enjoy playing in front of Penny Marshall and 1,700 of her closest friends.

2. Memphis Grizzlies - Hasheem Thabeet, UConn. The people in Memphis are convinced Mike Conley Jr. is the point guard of the future. I'm convinced their spending more time on Beale Street than paying attention to their basketball team. At least Thabeet will provide a defensive presence to a team that last year couldn't grab a rebound if it was served to them on a platter.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder - Ricky Rubio, Spain. Think Rubio is regretting declaring for the NBA Draft? It will be a tough transition to go from a cultural gold mine like Spain to ... well ... Oklahoma. Ouch!

4. Sacramento Kings - James Harden, Arizona State. Poor Sacramento, they went from being on the verge of drafting Blake Griffin to draft lottery afterthought in a matter of moments. It's hard to write up something about a team that hasn't been relevant since Vlade Divac skipped town.

5. Washington Wizards - Jordan Hill, Arizona. The Wiz could have done a Bulls-like leap up the Eastern Conference standings had they landed the No. 1 pick and Blake Griffin. Instead, they will have to settle for the 6-foot-9-inch frontcourt thunder. How long before Hill and Agent Zero are exchanging love stories about Lute Olson?

6. Minnesota Timberwolves - Tyreke Evans, Memphis. Evans is versatile enough to fill one of the T-Wolves' two biggest holes, whether it be at point guard or at small forward. Too bad this pick will end up being traded to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Brian Scalabrene.

7. Golden State Warriors - Brandon Jennings, Greece. The Warriors have about $20 million locked up in their backcourt. Unfortunately, about $9 million will go to the albatross that is Jamal Crawford. Eh, screw it. It's time to bring back NellieBall by running four guard offenses on the road to respectability.

8. New York Knicks - Stephen Curry, Davidson. Step one in conning LeBron James into signing with the Knicks is by drafting his sharp-shooting, media darling of a pal. Besides, this move has been speculated before, so, it makes too much sense. And since it makes sense in the first place, expect the Knicks to go completely off the board with this one, probably drafting some Eurotrash.

9. Toronto Raptors - DeMar DeRozan, Southern California. The Raptors haven't had a legit shooting guard since Tracy McGrady wasn't a brittle boy and Vinsanity didn't play himself out of Canada. So it's time to draft DeRozan, who will say good bye to Song Girls and hello to Canadian League Football!

10. Milwaukee Bucks - Jonny Flynn, Syracuse. If I was TBDS NBA scribe Jeff, who would I want? A point guard that can distribute and play defense, and as I look down the Bucks roster, that guy does not exisist. Welcome to Milwaukee, Mr. Flynn, enjoy beer, brats and beerbrats.

11. New Jersey Nets - Earl Clark, Louisville. The Other Lopez Twin needs a frontcourt friend, preferably one that speaks English and isn't bad at basketball. Clark fits the bill here as a runner-jumper athletic specimen that Devin Harris can throw some alley-oops to.

12. Charlotte Bobcats - Wayne Ellington, North Carolina. You know what the Bobcats really need? A shooting guard. ... And another Tar Heel product. Ellington will save a buck or two in moving expenses thanks to fellow UNCers Larry Brown and Michael Jordan.

13. Indiana Pacers - Eric Maynor, Virginia Commonwealth. He slayed the Dukies and he came close to doing the same to UCLA. Maynor single-handedly put VCU on the map and helped parlay that success into Anthony Grant's first big job. He will fit in well with the Pacers, who haven't had a real point guard since the Mark Jackson Era.

14. Phoenix Suns - Ty Lawson, North Carolina. Sad, but true: Steve Nash isn't going to play forever. And the Suns really do need an heir apparent at the point, and unless the Suns have chryogenically frozen a Steve Nash clone, the choice here is the former Baby Blue Blur.

Stay tuned to The Big Dead Sidebar for more insight and draft projections as we get closer to that time. Besides, we're still in the first round of the NBA Playoffs right? That means there is plenty of time for the draft board to shuffle.

Hawks in Uphill Climb

The Chicago Blackhawks have been challenged before in this postseason. Every game that they needed to win, Chicago has come through with the victory.

In Round 1 against Calgary, they faced a Game 5 with the series tied at two. In Round 2 against Vancouver, they faced the same situation and won on the road. They also were down 2-1 in the series and had a big comeback win at home in Game 4.

Now in the Western Conference Finals, the Blackhawks face the biggest test of them all. They are down two-nothing against the defending champion Red Wings, with the series headed back to Chicago. They need to hold serve at home because even being down 3-1 going back to Detroit does not sound very promising. Something that should annoy fans is that the Hawks have been right there with the Wings in the first two games. Yes, they lost 5-2 in Game 1, but that game was tied at two almost midway through the final period.

The issue is, out of the seven goals Detroit has scored (not counting the empty-netter), more than half of them have come off of Chicago turnovers. You cannot do that against a team as skilled as the Red Wings are. The turnovers have led to odd-man rushes, most noticably in the overtime period last night. A three-on-one break should not develop against you in overtime. There was another three-on-one in Game 1 of the Vancouver series that occurred in the final two minutes and was the game-winning goal for the Canucks.

The Blackhawks like to push the tempo and that is fine. Yet you have to be careful with the puck because the Wings will make you pay for a mistake. The other problem the first two games has been that so many Hawks have tried to make one-on-one plays, or sometimes, one-on-three. Most of the Hawks players are skilled offensively, but you have to move the puck around against Detroit. You cannot beat Nikolas Lindstrom and the Detroit "D" single-handedly.

Game 3 is Friday and Game 4 is Sunday. There are two days off right now to get better and come through with a pair of wins at home. Chicago has been right there with the Wings, but it is only the final score that matters in the end. The Blackhawks need to limit their mistakes and move the puck. If not, Detroit will be on their way to another Stanley Cup Final.