Monday, April 30, 2012

Bull And Bear

Jordan Bernfield of WGN Radio joins me to talk about life after Derrick Rose, as well as a recap of the Bears' 2012 NFL Draft.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

The Good: Cubs Baseball
Matt Garza was dominant on Sunday, pitching
7 innings of one hit, shutout baseball.
The Cubs took two of three from the Phillies over the weekend, and they have a chance to make it three out of four tonight.  They began the series on Friday by beating Roy Halladay, lost on Saturday, then won yesterday.  Chris Volstad has a tall task ahead of him though.  Despite their not-so-good start, it’s still the Phillies, and Volstad is 0-4 in his career against the Phightin’ Phils.  Plus, Vance Worley is coming off of a win over the Diamondbacks in which he gave up just one run over six innings.

The Bad: Derrick Rose’s Knee
“Pop” went Derrick’s knee.  “Pop” went the Bulls’ championship hopes bubble.  ‘Nuff said.  See this for more.

The Ugly: Rajon Rondo
No, this doesn’t mean that Rajon Rondo is an ugly human being…just his overall demeanor on the basketball court.  A few weeks ago he was suspended two games for throwing…no…chucking the ball at an official.  Then last night he was T’d up for arguing, then T’d and tossed for bumping the official.  His postgame explanation of what happened might be more despicable.

Rose Is Done, Are The Bulls?

Call Chicken Little.  The sky is falling on the Bulls!

Derrick Rose is out for the season with a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), and Bulls fans’ confidence tore right along with that ligament in Derrick’s knee when he went down.  Immediately, questions about why he was in the game at the point came up, and I’m sure more than a few Bulls fans took to Twitter to release their pent up anger at Tom Thibodeau for leaving Derrick in the game when it was seemingly in hand.

Derrick Rose in a heap on the United Center Floor
But hey, this is the same Bulls team who had the best record in the league while playing 27 of their 66 games without Derrick, right?


BUUUUTTTTTT…..this is the playoffs now.  They might be able to get by the Sixers in Round One still, and maybe even the Celtics in Round Two.  But do we really think they can beat the Heat in the playoffs WITHOUT Derrick Rose?  Did you see what the Heat did to the Knicks on Saturday?  The Bulls went 2-2 against Miami during the regular season, and 1-1 without Rose.  But the Heat are built for championships.  They don’t really care about the regular season, so long as they get into the playoffs.  They flip a switch when the lights come on for real, and there’s no reason now to think they wouldn’t beat the Bulls, sans Rose, in five games.

The bottom line is, the playoffs are a completely different story than the regular season.  It’s part of what makes the NBA so unappealing to me, at least during the regular season.  I’ll stop short of saying that guys don’t try hard, but they certainly don’t play with the same intensity in December that they do in April and May.  That’s just common sense.  Guys have talked about the 82 game season and how you can’t go balls-out every night because you just won’t last the whole season.

As far as cutting the season down is concerned, let’s just say I’d love to see it.  But David Stern was on the Dan Patrick Show last week, and he essentially said that it would never happen.  Too bad.  I think it would make their product better.

You might be asking yourself, “Self, why in the world would Tom Thibodeau have his best player, the key to their championship run on the floor with 90 seconds remaining in a 12 point game?”  I say it’s a fair question, but there’s a fair answer as well.

The Sixers had closed the gap, and stranger things have happened (ie Clippers and Grizzlies last night).  Rip Hamilton had Thibs’ back:

"Philly was making a run. In playoff basketball, you never want to give a team confidence. ... When you have a team down, you have to try to keep them down. They made a little run so we needed guys that could put the ball in the basket."

Doug Collins also gave his support:

"He knows what he's doing coaching his team," Collins said. "Thibs is my buddy. I have the ultimate respect for him. From his standpoint, he wanted to finish that game for what he did. It's awful that Derrick got hurt."

They’re exactly right.  It’s an unfortunate injury to a key player.  If the injury had happened to CJ Watson or even Taj Gibson, their depth would take a hit, but the most important player would still be on the floor and Bulls fans would still feel good about their chances.  Speaking of CJ Watson, he’s going to have to play out of his mind if the Bulls are to have any chance at even making it to the Finals, let alone winning them. 

There’s no set time for recovery from ACL surgery.  It depends on how the athlete bounces back from surgery, not only physically, but mentally as well.  It’s about how Derrick attacks his rehab.  I tore my ACL when I was in high school, and I was running and playing basketball, albeit cautiously, four months out of surgery.  I wasn’t anything remotely near the elite athlete Derrick Rose is, so I think he’ll be fine.  I heard someone suggest even that he could be back by opening night next season.  I think that’s a stretch.  Not that he can’t do it, but there’s no reason to rush him back because it’s such a long season and the Bulls are still a good team, even without the reigning MVP on the floor.

Sadly, Bulls fans, I think the championship dream is lost.  Tom Thibodeau is NOT to blame, and Derrick will return to form eventually.

Friday, April 27, 2012

With The 19th Pick In The 2012 NFL Draft...

Who is Shea McClellin?

The first round of the NFL Draft seemingly played right into the Bears’ hands, with just two defensive ends off the board.  One of those ends was Bruce Irvin, who was a complete surprise at 15th overall to Seattle.  I highly doubt he was one of the seven players that Phil Emery was considering, so really the Bears were on the clock with all but one of the defensive end prospects that they coveted (Quinton Coples went 16th to the Jets).

Shea McClellin out of Boise State
So who would it be?  Chandler Jones of Syracuse?  Whitney Mercilus out of Illinois?  What about an offensive lineman?  Nope.  It would be Shea McClellin out of Boise State.  So who exactly is Shea McClellin?

He’s a 6’3”, 260 pound defensive end who was a three year starter for the Broncos.’s scouting report said he had fifth-round value.  Here’s what else they said:

“Strengths:  McClellin is a strong player inside for the Broncos who uses good leverage to get under heavier offensive linemen and jolt them back in their stance. He is aggressive, stout, and can hold off linemen and smother tight ends at the point of attack. He has no problem tackling and is a good pass rusher.”

“Weaknesses: McClellin will have a tough time convincing teams, even though he has been productive, to take a shot on him early in the draft because of his size. He has displayed enough athletic ability for teams to consider him at outside backer, but he could stand to lose weight as he enters the next level.”

So probably thinks the Bears reached here, because he lacks good size for the defensive end position.  But what he lacks in size, can apparently be made up for with his tenacity. had a much rosier outlook on McClellin.  They describe him as an efficient, hyperactive edge player who put on 12 pounds of muscle before the combine though they say he falls short of “elite athlete” status.  They also say his hyperactivity can get the best of him, as he overpursues the ball sometimes. 

The description SCREAMS Clay Matthews, Junior.  But will be he as good as Matthews?  Only time will tell.  I think they were looking for someone to complement Julius, not necessarily to be a star.  They need another guy capable of getting to the quarterback when Peppers is double teamed.  His strength should at least give him a chance of getting off single blocks.

Fun Fact about Shea McClellin:  He grew up on a farm in Idaho off of Chicken Dinner Road (no, I’m not making that up), and is described as country strong.  He said his athleticism comes from chasing chickens around the farm.  It’s not exactly the pro shuttle, but hey, it got him to the NFL, so it must work.

The more I read about him, the more I like him.  While he’s not the guy that hardly anyone projected the Bears to pick, he’s certainly a solid prospect.  Plus if Lovie Smith gets canned anytime soon, and the Bears bring someone in who coaches a 3-4 defense, they have someone who can translate to it. 

As for the reception to Phil Emery’s first draft selection as the Bears’ GM, the move was met with incredible skepticism.  As David Haugh points out, it might be instinctive because of Jerry Angelo’s history of terrible, God-awful drafts.  Rick Telander says it’s a curveball.  Both fair points, but isn’t this what Phil Emery was brought in for?  To do his due diligence on players with his background as a scout?

To me, we have to see the kid play before we can make ANY judgments on the 2012 NFL Draft.  Too much can happen between now and September and then the end of the season.  Time will tell, let the kid play before you judge.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tonight Is The Night

Tonight is the night that the NFL franchises will determine their future by drafting someone in the first round of the draft.  I had Jake Smerdel on the podcast today to talk about his mock draft and who the Bears might take at #19, so here's that conversation:

And here's Smerdel's complete first round mock draft:

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC

4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

6. St. Louis Rams: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

9. Carolina Panthers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

10. Buffalo Bills: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

11. Kansas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

12. Seattle Seahawks: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

13. Arizona Cardinals: David DeCastro, OT, Stanford

14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

16. New York Jets: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

17. Cincinnati Bengals: Stephon Gilmore, DB, South Carolina

18. San Diego Chargers: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

19: Chicago Bears: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

20. Tennessee Titans: Whitney Mercilus, LB, Illinois

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

22. Cleveland Browns: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

23. Detroit Lions: Dre Kirkpatrick, DB, Alabama

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama

25. Denver Broncos: Devon Still, DT, Penn State

26. Houston Texans: Rueben Randall, WR, LSU

27. New England Patriots: Nick Perry, DE, USC

28. Green Bay Packers: Shea McClellin, LB, Boise State

29. Baltimore Ravens: Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama

30. San Francisco 49ers: Jonathon Martin, OT, Stanford

31. New England Patriots: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame

32. New York Giants: Coby Fleenor, TE, Stanford

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

News and Notes

It's been a crazy month for me, probably my busiest month in a long time.  Lots of work at WGN with the Blackhawks and Cubs playing at the same time, broadcasting UIC baseball and softball, and other odds and ends here and there.

Mike Smith stole the series for the Coyotes
Blackhawks Lose To Coyotes
I said before the playoffs began, when we weren't sure who the Blackhawks would face in the first round, that the last team I wanted to see was the Phoenix Coyotes.  I said that for one reason: Mike Smith.  I may not be proven right very often, but this time I was.  Smith was spectacular in the series, and if they gave an MVP award for the Western Conference Quarterfinals, it would go to Mike Smith.  I'll just go ahead and make the award and present it to him.

Bulls Lock Up East's Top Seed
Out of the Bulls' 64 games thus far, I can count the number of full games I've watched on one hand.  It's not that I don't enjoy watching Derrick Rose dominate the competition, because I do, but it's because I think the NBA regular season is a joke.  I think that holds true for most seasons, not just this lockout-shortened sprint of a season.  Between all the marquee players taking time off for small, nagging injuries to the multitude of awful basketball teams, NBA regular season basketball is incredibly unappealing to me.  I mean come on, the Bulls were without their best player for nearly half of the season, and they still are tied for the best record in the league.

Once the playoffs start, though, I'll turn my attention to the NBA.  The Bulls seem destined for another meeting with the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, and obviously the next step for Rose is to defeat the evil empire and get to the Finals.

Cubs Trade Marlon Byrd
Marlon Byrd was off to a historically bad start this season, hitting .070 (3-for-43) before they traded him to Boston for Michael Bowden.  Of course, they had to send most, if not all, the rest of Marlon Byrd's salary to the Red Sox as well, so it's not like they totally rid themselves of Byrd.  They needed someone to fill in for the injured Jacoby Ellsbury as he recovers from a dislocated shoulder.  So far with the Red Sox, Byrd is 3-for-9 in two Red Sox wins over the Twins.

I really hope Byrd can be successful.  I enjoyed the way he played the game, always 100% full speed.

NFL Draft Kicks Off Tomorrow, Bears Pick 19th
Who will the Bears select in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft?  If you ask Mel Kiper, he's got them taking Whitney Mercilus, a defensive end out of Illinois.  Ask Todd McShay, and he'll tell you the Bears will take Quinton Coples, another DE out of North Carolina.  Mike Mayock of the NFL Network has the Bears drafting Chandler Jones, yet another DE out of Syracuse.

The Bears have several positions of need, but the consensus seems to be taking someone to play opposite Julius Peppers.  I think the offensive line is a greater need than defensive line.  You have to keep Jay Cutler upright to be able to throw to his new favorite target in Brandon Marshall.  They also need to start thinking about how to replace Brian Urlacher.  He's not getting any younger and he's also coming off a knee injury.

PODCAST COMING TOMORROW: I'll talk with Jake Smerdel of, and he'll go over his mock draft, and we'll talk about what the Bears might do in the later rounds.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Never-Too-Early-To-Analyze-The-Bears-Schedule Post

Two nights ago, the NFL release the entire 2012 schedule.  Let's take a look at what the Bears' 2012 season will look like.

Week 1 vs Indianapolis
Let's hope Jay Cutler isn't running
for his life all season.
What's up Andrew Luck?  Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, and company will greet the rookie quarterback, who the Colts said today will in fact be the number one overall pick next week.  Here's hoping Rod Marinelli throw some wrinkles at Luck, because the Bears' Cover 2 scheme could allow Andrew Luck to get into a rhythm.  The Colts had one of the worst scoring defenses in the league, so Jay Cutler could have a field day with his new receiver Brandon Marshall.

Week 2 at Green Bay
The Bears' first NFC North test comes early, as the Bears will travel to Green Bay on a short week, as the game will be played on Thursday night.  It's their only Thursday night game in the NFL's new Thursday night schedule, in which there's a Thursday night game every week from 2-15.  This one could be a shootout, as everyone knows what the Packers offense is capable of, but they also had one of the league's worst defenses.  Should be fun.

Week 3 vs St. Louis
The Rams regressed in 2012, going from seven to two wins.  Sam Bradford battled injuries and didn't have much help around him.  They traded the number two overall pick in next week's draft for a king's ransom, so don't expect them to be down for long.  They traded this year's #1 for the Redskins' #1 this year and their top picks for the next two years.  They'll also receive the Redskins' second round pick this year.  Bradford is good, but it's too early to judge what the Rams will be this year, because they have a chance to draft several impact players.

April 18th Podcast

The Stiff Arm, and Ben Heisler joins me to talk all things Major League Baseball.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Blackhawks Put Themselves in Early Hole

Seabs scored the game-tying goal with
just seconds left in regulation
Brent Seabrook had a great game last night.  I was about to tweet something about that, just before he scored the game tying goal with just 14 seconds left in regulation.

The Blackhawks' defenseman was the proverbial "stat sheet stuffer" last night, registering the goal, a +1 rating, seven shots on goal, two blocked shots, and six hits in 31 minutes of ice time which led the team.

But Seabrook's best efforts weren't enough to keep the Hawks out of the loss column, as the Coyotes took a 1-0 series lead on Matin Hanzal's tip goal in overtime.  Despite the loss, the Hawks showed some encouraging signs.

1. Increased pressure on the power play
I'm sure some of this had to do with the return of Jonathan Toews, but the Hawks had plenty of chances on the power play, especially with the top unit.  Even though there was no goal to show for it, the results last night were better than they've been recently.

2. Corey Crawford
Crawford was pretty good in defeat.  He made some spectacular saves, especially when the Hawks were shorthanded.  He's going to have to be every bit as good as Mike Smith, and I think he's up to the challenge.

One thing I think will come into play is the officiating.  Joel Quenneville wanted a too many men on the ice penalty on Phoenix's first goal, and I'm not sure he's wrong.  But then again, they always seem so lax when it comes to that rule.  In my opinion, there needs to be a cut and dry definition of what the rule is, and it needs to be interpreted and enforced as such.  Also, it seems like they will let the boys play, which is good and bad.  It's the norm for playoff hockey, but it's a big difference from the regular season.  I think the NHL has the biggest disparity between regular season and postseason officiating, and the teams must adjust.

I think that favors the Coyotes, because they will be allowed to push around the Hawks.  We know the Hawks struggle against physical teams, so it's just another hurdle to overcome.

I'm still cautiously optimistic about the Hawks' chances in this series, but Phoenix took a huge step forward in winning Game 1.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Shea Weber Gets Off Easy

Shea Weber's hit last night at the end of the Predators' 3-2 win over the Red Wings generated a lot of speculation about just how long he'd be suspended.

I wondered myself whether or not he'd be suspended for the rest of the series, however long that may be.

I got in the car today on my lunch break and found out that Weber will, in fact, not be suspended a single game, and will be fined the maximum $2,500.  Say it ain't so Brendan Shanahan, say it ain't so.  What do you think about the hit?

Here's a statement from Shanahan, the league's head disciplinarian:
"This was a reckless and reactionary play on which Weber threw a glancing punch and then shoved Zetterberg's head into the glass.  As is customary whenever Supplemental Discipline is being considered, we contacted Detroit following the game and were informed that Zetterberg did not suffer an apparent injury and should be in the lineup for Game 2. 

"This play and the fine that addressed it will be significant factors in assessing any incidents involving Shea Weber throughout the remainder of the playoffs."
There's one phrase in what Shanahan said that is exactly why he should be suspended for at least five games.  "Shoved Zetterberg's head into the glass" is the phrase I'm referring to, and is why I think a lot of people are so upset.  The league portrays such an awareness and a desire to curtail head injuries that you'd think they'd like to make an example of Shea Weber, or at least continue the precedent they've set with others.

I get that it's the playoffs, and that you want the stars on the ice, but it's also the time when the NHL gets the most national attention.  As Steve Rosenbloom points out in an online column, it'd be the perfect time to practice what you preach.  I don't always agree with Rosenbloom, as he often over-exaggerates, but he hit the nail on the head this time (no pun intended...or is there?).  Also, whether or not Zetterberg plays in Game 2 should have no bearing on Shanahan's decision.

So how are the Blackhawks affected by this decision?  Shanahan's decision indirectly says it's OK to target the head.  The Hawks have a very important piece most likely returning to the ice tonight in Phoenix.  Jonathan Toews had best have his head on a swivel, because the Coyotes might feel up to taking some liberties when they get a chance.  Toews missed the last quarter of the regular season with a concussion, and more than likely isn't 100% recovered.

Game 2 between the Predators and Wings ought to be interesting.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Perfect Birthday Present

Cody Zeller and Christian Watford will return
to play for Indiana next season
April 10th, 1987 was the night I was born so yes, today is my birthday.  25 big ones.  It seems that every year, my recurring wish is for the Cubs to win on my birthday.  Tonight, Paul Maholm will try and do just that.

Today, though, I got one of the best birthday presents I've ever gotten, as a fellow Hoosier pointed out to me that BOTH Christian Watford and Cody Zeller will return to Indiana to play basketball.

I had less doubt about Cody returning than Christian, because of how his brothers handled college.  Both of his older brothers stayed all four years at their schools (Luke at Notre Dame and Tyler at North Carolina).  His family definitely values education, and it seems they've instilled those values in Cody.  That being said, Cody is the best of the Zeller brothers, and he's projected as the #6 NBA Draft prospect.

I think Cody will eventually be in the NBA, but I think he needs to fill out a little more before he'll be able to compete with some of the beefier big men in the league.  He's got a good offensive post game, and he runs the floor as well as anyone (and not just big men), so I think his skill set fits well.  We'll see how long he stays.

As for Christian Watford, he's sort of in between an NBA 3 and 4.  I think he's too skinny to play the 4, but might not be quick enough to play the 3.  One reason I thought he might go was that his stock has never been higher.  The game winning three against Kentucky put him on the map, and his stellar play in the NCAA Tournament was a help as well.

Adding those two back into the mix makes the Hoosiers one of the most formidable teams going into the season next November.  It's been a long time since Indiana could post a starting lineup like this:

PG: Jordan Hulls (Senior)
SG: Victor Oladipo (Junior)
SF: Will Sheehey (Junior)
PF: Christian Watford (Senior)
C: Cody Zeller (Sophomore)

And none of those starters are part of the top ten recruiting class that Tom Crean has assembled.  Add in upperclassmen role players like Derek Elston and Maurice Creek, and sophomores Remy Abell and Austin Etherington, and Indiana might be the deepest team in the country.

Look out college basketball, the Hoosiers are here to stay!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Every Monday I'll look back at the weekend and give you The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  Here's the first edition...

Bubba Watson and his fully-buttoned collar is your
Masters champ for 2012
The Good: Bubba Watson won the Masters yesterday in a playoff with Louis Oosthuizen.  What was so good about it?  Nevermind the drama that Sunday at Augusta always presents, it was how he won the second playoff hole.  Neither player hit a great drive, but Bubba was way worse off than Oosthuizen.  Oosthuizen’s second shot from the rough came up short of the green, but he probably thought he was just fine based on where Bubba was. 

But Bubba got as lucky as he could possibly get in this situation, and he had a clear line to the green, so long as he could get his ball out of the woods, then hook it around to the right.  He did just that, and produced one of the GREATEST golf shots I’ve ever seen.  He landed it within ten feet of the cup, and at that point I knew there was no way Bubba Watson was going to lose.  There’s just no way that Louis Oosthuizen was going to come back after watching Bubba do that.  Congratulations Bubba Watson.  His shirt buttoned all the way to the top, though?  That’s a different story.

The Bad: As good as Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthiuzen were over the weekend, Tiger Woods was just as bad.  He was never in contention, and finished tied for 41st, his worst finish since he was cut in 1996.  Yeah, that’s 16 years ago.  Everyone was high on Tiger’s chances coming in, higher than they would normally be because Tiger finally won a PGA Tour event.  He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago at Bay Hill.  It finally looked like Tiger was putting everything together again.  Finally getting back to being the dominant golfer we know he can be. 

But any progress that was made at Bay Hill was undone at Augusta.  He missed fairways, missed greens, didn’t putt well, and let his temper get the best of him.  It’s a show we’ve seen before, and it’s not pretty.  Personally, I’m rooting for Tiger to get back on top.  Seeing guys like Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy win is nice, but adding Tiger back into the mix would do wonders for golf.

The Ugly:  Kerry Wood had an awful opening weekend for the Cubs.  On Thursday, he came into the game in the 8th inning with a one run lead, two outs, and Ian Desmond on first.  Obviously, it’s not the ideal situation for a reliever, but there’s a reason Wood is in the back end of the bullpen.  Desmond stole second, and then Ryan Zimmerman walked.  Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, and now the go-ahead run is in scoring position.  Wood then walked Adam LaRoche to load the bases, and then walked Jayson Werth to tie the game.  He got DeRosa to ground out to second, but the damage was done.

On Saturday, Wood came in again in the 8th inning, this time with a clean slate and a two run lead.  He got the first two hitters, but then gave up a homer to Danny Espinosa.  Back to back singles followed, and Kerry Wood was done for the day.  Both runners eventually scored to give Wood three earned runs on the day.  Here’s Wood’s line for the season so far: 1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 27.00 ERA.  Yeah, I know, an ERA isn’t a great barometer for relief pitchers, but WHIP sure is, and Wood’s is at 6.00.  I also know that it’s April 9th, and the Cubs have 159 games left to play.  While he had an ugly weekend, hopefully he can get back to being the Kerry Wood we know and love.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Adam Dunn Will Bounce Back

Hell, he can't get much worse than last year, right?

His batting average of .159 may have been the worst of all time.  He struck out 177 times, which isn't a career high, but then again he only played in 122 games.  Let's put that into proportion.  Had Dunn played in all 162 games, he would have struck out 235 times.  That would have set the Major League record for most all time.

He looked just plain lost last year.  Some will attribute it to the fact that he changed leagues.  Others will say it was his first time as a DH, and it takes time to adjust to that role.  I'd say that in reality, it was a combination of all those things, plus some mechanical issues.

The only thing saving him from being totally roasted by Sox fans and the media was that pretty much everyone else on the Sox had an awful year too.

But that was last year, this is this year, and I'm predicting that Adam Dunn will bounce back this season (Yeah, I said all that before he hit his homer today).

I have no real scientific, concrete evidence as to why Dunn will have a good year, it's just a hunch.  I think his comfort level will rise, and his familiarity with American League pitchers will help, too.  Plus, if his teammates have better seasons, it will take the pressure off Dunn, though he's still going to be expected to produce, hitting in the middle of the lineup.

My prediction for Dunn's season: .240, 25-30 HR's, 85-90 RBI.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cubs Fall on Overrated Opening Day

Opening Day in Major League Baseball is one of the best days of the sports year.  It's up there with the Super Bowl, the Final Four, any Game 7, the NFL Draft, etc.

That being said, I think there is way too much fanfare for Opening Day.  Especially now that Opening Day is actually three or four different days.  Plus, it's one game out of 162.  ONE GAME!!!!  The way baseball fans react to the first game, they either think their team is going 162-0 or the exact opposite.  Get a grip people!

It was Tommy Lasorda who said...
"No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games. It's the other third that makes the difference."
 It's a long, long season.  So much is going to happen between now and September.  It's not like football where the first game can actually give us a good idea of what the team's strengths and weaknesses might be.  For example, we knew after one game (and probably before that) that the Bears were going to have trouble protecting Jay Cutler.

Can we say the same about the Cubs?  No way, no how.

Ryan Dempster spun a gem against the Nationals, going 7.2 innings, giving up one run on two hits, striking out ten.  He's not going to give you thirty starts like that.  That's just now how baseball works.  He'll have his days where he gives up seven earned runs in the first two innings and be done.

Kerry Wood won't always be all over the place, and Carlos Marmol won't always melt down with two outs (or maybe he will).  There's a lot of baseball left to be played.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, and Cubs fans like myself everywhere, I don't think the Cubs will win more than 70 games this season.  I'm actually OK with that.  But that didn't take away the sting of losing a game the way the Cubs did today.

Welcome to Cubdom, Dale Sveum.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In Other News...

This has nothing at all to do with sports, but I saw this on someone's Facebook and so I clicked on it and I now wish I hadn't.

It appears that Morgan Freeman...well I'll just let you click on the link and see for yourself.

It's too bad.  Morgan Freeman is one of my favorite actors.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Most Awful Anthem Ever Created

In case you missed it last night, the national anthem at the NCAA Championship Game was more than probably the worst rendition I've ever heard.  The Fray put on an excellent concert, and I'll be seeing them again in a couple of weeks.  God I hope they don't play the anthem.

So which was worse?  The Fray?  Or this....

Maybe it's just the fact that Jim Nantz introduced them both.  "Hello Friends, your ears are about to bleed"

Kentucky Wins Title...Now What?

Sometimes the best team does win the tournament after all.  As much as it pains me to say it, Kentucky was by far the best team in this tournament, and it showed again on Monday night.  Despite Kansas’ comeback attempt in the last five minutes, the final score doesn’t indicate how dominant of a performance it really was by the Wildcats.

From the opening tip, it was clear who was more prepared to play.  Bill Self spoke to his team before the game about how all the pressure was on Kentucky.  Kentucky thrived under that supposed pressure and took control early.

In order to win, Kansas would have had to slow the game down to take away Kentucky’s transition game advantage.  The Wildcats used said transition game to build a double digit lead early, and never really let go.  They smothered Kansas inside, both when the Jayhawks tried to enter the ball into the post and when the rebounds were up for grabs.  It seemed like there were at least four white shirts in the lane at all times. 

Kentucky is your
national champion

I find it hard to believe that guys like Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones would stick around.  They can both make money in the NBA right now.  Davis will most likely be the number one pick.  Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is one of the most talented players in the draft class.  The only prominent Wildcat I could see sticking around for another season is Marquis Teague.  While the guard class is rather weak, he could really improve his draft stock by sticking around and learning more from Calipari.  Look at what Cal has done with point guards.  Derrick Rose and John Wall are both Calipari-produced point guards.  Teague isn’t nearly as talented as either of those guys, but with another year of school he could take a step in the right direction.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The ABC's of the 2011-2012 Indiana Hoosiers

What a ride they took us on, right?  Who knew a team that won just 12 games a year ago would be able to win 27 games this season.  They did all of that in one of, if not the best, basketball conferences in America.

While the Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky will sting for awhile, there's a lot to look forward to with this group.  Indiana Basketball is back in a big way.  Let's summarize the season...

A: Remy Abell
The freshman from Louisville sort of flew under the radar, especially with #40 being the headliner of the recruiting class.  But Abell certainly played some vital minutes for these Hoosiers, and there's no reason he won't be a part of things for the years to come.  He's a good defender, and hit some big shots down the stretch in a couple of games.

Cody Zeller helped Indiana to a 27-9 record
B: Big Time Recruiting 
Tom Crean certainly put Indiana back on the map with the successful recruitment of Cody Zeller.  Zeller's commitment set off a chain reaction of great talent, especially in-state talent, on the way to play for the Hoosiers.  The Class of 2012 is among the country's best, and four of the incoming freshman make their home in Indiana.  Certainly the season the Hoosiers just had won't hurt either.

C: Christian Watford
The junior from Birmingham, Alabama might want to take up permanent residence in Bloomington after graduation.  That's because this shot on December 10th is a moment all Hoosier fans will remember for the rest of their lives.  Plus, Watford will likely never have to buy a drink in Bloomington ever again.  That game aside, Watford had a huge junior season.  12 points and six rebounds per game might not sound like a lot, but his impact was felt on every game, positive or negative.  When he played well, Indiana was a better team.  Here's hoping he stays in college for his senior season.

D: Dancing
For the first time in four years, and the first time in the Tom Crean era, the Hoosiers made the Big Dance.  I'll be completely honest...I was definitely not expecting this team to make the tournament, much less be a number four seed.  I guess I underestimated the impact Cody Zeller would have.  Also, Indiana made the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002.  That's a long time for a program like Indiana.

E: Elston, Derek
Another junior, Derek Elston's game improved quite a bit this season.  He became more of an all around player, playing more under control and also increasing his shooting range.  While he didn't shoot a lot of three's, he knocked down more than half of the ones he took (16-29).  He also posted a great overall field goal percentage (49.5%).  He'll never be a star, but he'll always be an effective role player.

F: Finishing Games
Young teams have trouble finishing games.  It's a fact of sports.  As the Hoosiers become more upperclassmen-heavy, they're going to be better at finishing.  That first became apparent to me in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, when they played at NC State.  They trailed the Wolfpack by seven at the under-8 media timeout of the second half, but ended up winning by 11.  The Wolfpack eventually upset San Diego State and Georgetown before losing to Kansas in the Sweet 16.

G: Great Start
Indiana went into the Big Ten undefeated at 12-0, which equaled their win total from a year ago.  That start included wins over #1 Kentucky, at NC State, Butler, and Notre Dame.  That's one Final Four team, one Sweet 16 team, another tournament team, and a Butler team who was in the national title game the year before.  After losing the conference opener to Michigan State, they beat another Final Four team in Ohio State, and another tournament team and eventual Big Ten co-champion Michigan.  14-1 is never a bad way to start the season.

H: Hoosier Nation
I wonder how many fanbases could endure what Hoosier Nation has endured over the past three seasons.  To watch a college basketball powerhouse win six games because the previous coach left the program in an absolute mess was depressing, and that was only my fourth year of being a true Hoosier fan.  I can't imagine what fans who lived through the Knight era could have thought.  That being said, the Hoosier Nation stuck with the team, understanding all along that better times were ahead.  Hoosier Nation has been patient, and that patience is finally paying off.

I: Indiana
The Hoosiers owned the state of Indiana this year.  Not only do they have four high level Indiana prospects coming in next season, but they didn't lose a single game to another Indiana-based university.  They beat Evansville, Butler, Notre Dame, and Purdue (twice).  Not a bad way to announce your return to prominence.  Well played, Tom Crean.

J: Jordan Hulls
The junior from Bloomington was the starting point guard all season long, despite several "experts" saying that Verdell Jones was the starting PG.  What Jordan lacks in size, he makes up for in shooting percentage.  Hulls was nearly automatic from beyond the arc.  He shot 40% from back there, and has a quick release that makes up for the unorthodox shooting motion.  He's also developed the ability to pull up off the dribble from mid-range.  Some say the arrival of Yogi Ferrell signals a reduction of playing time for Jordy, but I think the senior-to-be will have every opportunity to be in the starting lineup.

K: Kentucky Game
As I mentioned earlier in the blurb about Christian Watford, December 10th 2011 is a night I won't soon forget.  Personally, I could only watch the first half live.  I was on pins and needles all night before I could get back to the television and watch the rest of the game.  Some will say that Indiana was lucky to win that game.  Anthony Davis was in foul trouble, Terrence Jones didn't show up, and Watford had to hit a three at the buzzer, but nevertheless, Indiana won.  Won't ever forget it.

L: Losses
There were nine of 'em.  I certainly expected more.  The first one didn't come until almost 2012, as I mentioned earlier.  Certainly there were some losses easier to take than others (at Michigan State, at Ohio State, at Wisconsin, Sweet 16 to Kentucky) but then there were the ones that shouldn't have happened (at home to Minnesota, and at Nebraska).

M: Matt Roth
Matt Roth was never a superstar for Indiana, but he had his moments in the spotlight.  He scored 29 points, hitting nine threes his freshman year against Ohio State.  This season, he was in the regular rotation for most of the season, simply because he was ultra-reliable from distance.  He was 42-77 on the year, good for 53%.  He was also part of Crean's first recruiting class, among the group who came to Indiana when nobody else would.

N: Next Step
Not many were expecting the program to take this big a step this early on.  I mentioned that I, personally, was not expecting this.  So what's the next step?  Did they take too big a step too soon?  With great recruiting class coming in, I suppose the sky is the limit.  They must make sure, though, that they stay within themselves and the upperclassmen must be good mentors to the freshman.  I've had a few people tell me that this is a Final Four caliber team.  I'm not sure about that, but another tournament run would be fun.

O: Oladipo, Victor
He's the Hoosiers' best on-ball defender, their best dunker, their best slasher, and their best finisher at the rim.  They say the biggest improvement for a college basketball player comes between freshman and sophomore year.  It held true for Oladipo.  He's the most athletic player Crean has had come through Bloomington so far, and he's only going to get better.  He loves playing, and he loves Indiana.  He did have a shooting slump for most of the year, though.  He just didn't look comfortable shooting from distance.  It reminded me of the slumps Lance Stemler and Eric Gordon went though.

P: Pritchard, Tom
Ah, what can I say about Tom Pritchard?  He came in as a freshman as the team's starting center.  He tore up the non-conference, but met his match in the Big Ten.  To say that Tom gave his all is an understatement, even if it meant getting called for what must have been a record number of illegal screens.  The only good thing about Tom's departure from Indiana is that it signals progress.  I say that in a positive way, because Tom helped recruit better, more athletic players.  His contributions to the program can't go overlooked.

Q: Quite a Rematch
On Selection Sunday, Indiana heard their name called early, seeded fourth in the South region.  Number one overall seed Kentucky was in the same region, and the two were headed straight for a Sweet 16 rematch in Atlanta.  I was expecting Kentucky to win, partly because the game wasn't in Bloomington, and I didn't expect Terrence Jones to disappear again.  He didn't, scoring the first five Kentucky points.  Davis did get into foul trouble, committing his second with about 15 minutes left in the first half.  The Hoosiers were poised to make a run with Davis on the bench, but Cody Zeller picked up his second a few seconds later.  Indiana was able to keep it close with Davis out, but in the second half it was a different game.  Davis made his impact felt, and Kentucky made 35 of 37 free throws for the game, sealing a 102-90 victory on their way to the Final Four.

R: Ranked Teams

Indiana made a habit of beating ranked teams at Assembly Hall.  #1 Kentucky fell in December, #2 Ohio State fell on New Years’ Eve, and #5 Michigan State fell later in the season.  You rank ‘em, we spank ‘em.

S: Scoring
Four players (Zeller, Hulls, Watford, Oladipo) averaged in double figures, and the Hoosiers led the Big Ten in points per game.  A lot of this had to do with the tempo the Hoosiers played at.  They were at their best in transition, which of course means a lot of layups.  The Hoosiers led the conference in field goal percentage as well as three point percentage.  A great year shooting the basketball for the Hoosiers.

T: Tom Crean
Four years in, I think Tom Crean is ahead of schedule.  Coming into this season, I heard a couple of national radio hosts (cough, Dan Patrick, cough) theorize that it was now or never for Crean, but clearly they haven't closely followed the program.  Crean's relentless recruiting has brought the program back from the dead, and what he did with the talent he had on the floor this year deserves commending, too.  I underestimated the impact Cody Zeller would have, but Crean did a great job meshing all the talent to get 27 wins.  It's also worth noting that the Hoosiers' turnaround was the biggest in college basketball this season.  They were one win away from equaling their win total from the previous three seasons combined.  Tom Crean is here to stay.

U: Unexpected
As I've mentioned before, I wasn't expecting the Hoosiers to be this good so soon.  I underestimated the impact of Zeller, and the improvements of Oladipo and Sheehey was huge.  I think they took the entire country by surprise, too.

V: Verdell Jones III
Over the course of his four years at IU, Verdell has been the target of much criticism because of his propensity to turn the ball over.  I think, though, he was mis-used as the point guard.  He's more of a shooting guard, and he proved that over time as he developed a lethal mid-range pull up jumper.  He also had a knack for making big plays late in the game.  When he tore his ACL during the Big Ten Tournament win over Penn State, the building was absolutely silent.  Granted, it was a pro-IU crowd, I think everyone in the building realized what Verdell meant to the program over the last four years.  Kind of ironic that he didn't get to participate in the NCAA Tournament he worked so hard to get to.  It's also kind of a symbolic passing of the torch, though, that he's handing the keys to the program over to the future.  Thanks, Verdell, for all that you did.

W: Will Sheehey
I don't know if anyone has more fun playing the game than Will Sheehey.  The surprisingly athletic 6'6" sophomore had a great season, spending most of it as the first man off the bench, providing a spark on both ends of the floor.  He's a great slasher, a pretty good shooter as long as he's open, and he can defend as well.  If he does nothing else at IU, he'll also be forever remembered for knocking down the game winning shot against VCU in the Sweet 16.

X: X Factor
Uh, this kid named Cody was pretty good.  Indiana was mostly the same team this season, plus a 6'11" freshman from Washington, Indiana.  He has good post moves, stayed out of foul trouble for the most part, and he runs the floor as wells as any big man I've ever seen.  He's projected to be a high draft pick right now, but I think he needs to put on some weight before he can be successful in the NBA.  Also, judging by his older brothers, he values education.  I think he stays at least one more year.

Y: Yesteryear
Personally, I've only been following the team for seven seasons, but talking to older Hoosier fans, this team reminded them of teams of old.  Also, this team makes the last three seasons somewhat worth the wait.  Hopefully this year's team was an indication of things to come.

Z: Zeller, Cody
I've gushed enough about Cody Zeller, so I'll just reiterate how important he was to this year's team.  Without Zeller, the Hoosiers don't have an inside presence.  They wouldn't be leading the conference in scoring and field goal percentage, and most importantly, they wouldn't have 27 wins, and most likely wouldn't have been in the NCAA Tournament.  Stay as long as you can, Cody!!!