Monday, April 27, 2015

It’s been nearly thirty days and the Chicago Cubs are 10-7. Not a great record for a team with high expectations. But once again it is the first month of the baseball season. Some teams get off to a fast start and fizzle and some get off to a slow start like the White Sox where it might take another brawl with the Kansas City Royals for them to turn it around.
Chicago could be considered the sports mecca of the U.S. right now with the draft being in town this Thursday. So the plight of both teams could be taken off the front page of the newspaper. Let’s not forget the Blackhawks and the Bulls advancing to the second round of their respective playoffs.
But this is baseball season and with the Cubs having called up two of their biggest named prospects the plight of the Cubs could over shadow it all.
Kris Bryant will hit and I wouldn’t be surprised that he hits nearly twenty home runs in this his first season in the MLB. Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are hitting like the all stars we’ve prayed they would be. Addison Russell will start to hit like expected though I’m not sure he’ll hit twenty homeruns this season. With the new playoff format the Cubs could turn into the National League version of the Royals. And that could start of a long run of successive seasons in the playoffs for this team. But there is always the ever present St. Louis Cardinals who right now are two games up on the Cubs in the division. By the middle of may that could change. What might spur that is the fact Manager Joe Maddon is doing something an old Cardinals Manager used to do, bat the pitcher in the 8th spot. Does that make a difference? I’d say it does. This team is hitting. They have a lineup of hitters. Patient hitters. Hitters who can draw walks and hit for power. What does all this mean if they don’t gel as a team? Most of these guys are playing together for the first time though we all know it takes just one good season to create a special season. Just ask the White Sox and Colorado Rockies.

It’s been nearly thirty days and by no means have things been settled but this a season about five years in the making. Mid season trades of veteran players to build up a top rated minor league system. While I wasn’t a fan of bringing up Kris Bryant early it seems as in the case of Addison Russell necessity won out. I personally am not sold on Joe Maddon being the savior for this team though he’s said all of the right things. I don’t think it even required a change in manager to be doing what the Cubs are doing right. I would predict they could be could be ten games over .500 this time next moth. Or they could be around .500 and stay there the rest of the season. I don’t think this team has the hype of the Washington Nationals a few years ago or the Cubs during the Dusty Baker or Lou Pinella years. With Maddon’s history in the American League and him treating this team like an American League team it is possible to repeat what he did in Tampa Bay. Point being that anything can happen with this team but a last place finish isn’t one of them.

Considering this is only a synopsis of the first thirty days of the baseball season and to an extent everyone is still in first place. Still thinking the key to the post season lies in a late season series in St. Louis that is if the Cubs want to win the division as is everyone’s desire.  An 84 win season will get them somewhere but not the National League Central Champion. A division which this season is about middle of the pack in strength and I think 84 wins are a stretch for this Cubs Team.
I don’t think this team can out hit its pitching considering they haven’t played together long. And with their interleague opponents the American League Central including Kansas City.
 They have had some signature wins particularly inside the division in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and Colorado. But the league is wide open in the early going.

Godfrey Logan April 27 2015

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Two Weeks In Spring

I don’t understand the fuss over sending Kris Bryant to the minors to start the season. The Cubs already have a third baseman in Mike Olt. They don’t need him to hit like Bryant but they need solid defense at the hot corner. Last year Olt started the spring well and struggled during the season. If that happens again I’m still not sure Bryant is the one to put at that spot. I’ve heard of struggles in spring training at the hot corner but that Bryant did well in the outfield. So a couple of weeks of outfield training won’t hurt. The Cubs do have a glut of outfielders as well as well as infielders like they went out and collected as many position players as they could. They’re starting the season with three catchers for goodness sake. I’m sure one of them will be traded.
Someone might not be too happy if Bryant takes his spot. But this year is all about winning so someone will have to suck it up because this could be the next biggest superstar on a Chicago baseball team since Sammy Sosa (Sorry Paul Konerko I’m a Cub fan). Unfortunately he is persona non grata with the Cubs.
The numbers he put up in the minors and in spring training would say that he deserves to be with the team opening day. What would he be opening to? Half the ball park is missing because of construction. Think how much money they’re losing because of that. And what if the team starts out with a losing record the first couple of weeks with the weather up and down and swirling around? What if he strikes out a ton of times his first time facing major league pitching and he starts to hear the boos, and the media is all over him? If he thinks they were annoying before always asking about where he thinks he should start the season let’s see how he handles questions about errors if they pile up or strike outs if they pile up.
It isn’t easy being a Cub fan or player. Though it might be easier than some other large markets and we have a manager that can distract from any troubles the team is facing. But then again he hasn’t been in Chicago long himself. One thing that hangs over Cub fans like an interminable dark cloud is a century of fruitless expectation. This isn’t even the best team the Cubs have fielded over that time and any championship will have to go through St. Louis though for once we can happily say there would be the Yankees waiting no matter who wins. Kris Bryant could be the best thing that happens all season and fans with tickets want to see that something special which is why there is such an uproar every time Derrick Rose goes down.
There’s always some controversy with this team even after several consecutive losing seasons. Regardless of having possibly the best hitter in the league on this team or having the best minor league prospects in baseball they cannot get out of the shadow of the fact they haven’t won anything yet. Need I say anything about the Sports Illustrated cover with Jon Lester on the cover? As they say anything is a story until something else happens. Let’s see where this team is at the All Star break. If they do win it all and Kris Bryant plays any role I can see the cover of the first book written about it called, “Two Weeks In Spring.”

Godfrey Logan Outside Analysis 4/2/15

When In Doubt Call His Mother

Can’t say I’m excited as a fan of the Bears for their signing of former 49er Ray McDonald. If he’s good enough to be signed by the Bears why isn’t he still in ‘Frisco? Because he’s under investigation for sexual assault and possible domestic abuse charges. Some would bring up the fact that we had three seasons of Brandon Marshall.
Brandon Marshall in my view at the very least did none of the things he’d been accused of in the past while he was here and made a point of addressing mental health issues. Personal issues and bringing to the light a disease many people struggle with.
Neither Brian Urlacher the modern day version of Dick Butkus, nor Lance Briggs were angels off the field either. Does anyone remember Tank Johnson being released from the Bears after a supposed DUI not long after losing a friend in a night club shooting? The Bears let go of him quickly.
Now they bring in Ray McDonald after talking to his parents as if he is a college recruit. Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio vouched for him as well but if you’re any of the women in either case you’re hardly singing the praises of the Bears for signing a possible wife beater and sexual deviant. It’s possible that McDonald might not even play the entire season for the Bears. Granted it is a one year contract therefore the Bears can jettison his as quickly as need be. My question is why take him on in the first place?
The Bears are going through a switch from their traditional 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense so it’s only natural to bring in players with some familiarity to the system. But when it is up to the Commissioner and the law whether or not a player sees the field with allegations like this hanging over his head why would you call his parents? As well as the current lawsuit for defamation against his former Fiancée. This young man is bringing with him more baggage than I have ever seen of any player to don the uniform.
Rumors are that McDonalds signing received the blessing of team Matriarch Virginia McCaskey much to the chagrin of many women’s/victims groups. I join in sharing their chagrin. This is akin to signing Ray Rice for a season. Although there is no alleged security tape that can cause league wide revulsion there is some sort of recording allegedly made by McDonald himself of him and his accuser having sex.
This might be a case of he said, she said. If the recording ever comes out whatever she said might not bode well for McDonald and I would hate for the Bears to be looking at a Super Bowl run when all of this comes down. What if this goes on into the next season and the Bears have decided to sign him to a longer contract? What do the Bears do then?
It easy enough to be a Monday morning quarterback but I cannot remember a time in Chicago where there was a player so reviled the rest of the league is flat out afraid of him. Maybe Albert Bell or Milton Bradley. In this case it isn’t the rest of the league that is afraid of him it is women. Considering Chicago is a city where women do love their teams it matters not that he paid for his own ticket to plead with a team to sign him. This is something that should be allowed to go through the courts before he sets foot on the field again.
Chicago has a thriving night life which is what most fans were afraid of with Marshall. Do we have to worry about the same thing with Ray McDonald?

Godfrey Logan Outside Analysis 3/27/15

My Man Thibs

If The Bulls and Tom Thibodeau part ways at the end of this season it’ll be such a shame. Hardly like watching Jordan walk away from the team and end up in a Wizards uniform. It’d be like letting your best friend go for no good reason at all. It wouldn’t make sense. I’ve heard that he can be a little rough on his players in the amount of playing time they get or don’t get depending on who he likes to have on the court in the 4th quarter. But I’d rather be a player who gets a ton of minutes than a player who hardly ever gets into the game.
There has been gossip about a rift between him and management. I’m sure that can be said about Phil Jackson when he was here and while Thibs has no championship rings the two of them have one thing in common, winning. You can almost put any set pf players on front of Tom Thibodeau and he’ll find a way to win. When Derrick Rose went down last season the city of Chicago basically gave up all hope for the team doing anything special. Boy were we wrong when we ended up doing even better than expected.
I don’t know why regular season success hasn’t translated to success in the post season but for the 2012-2013 season where the Bulls lost in the conference semifinals to the Miami Heat. It isn’t for lack of effort or heart. There are a ton of teams who haven’t had nearly as much success and the fans of Chicago aren’t screaming for his head as much as they’re screaming to put hometown boy Derrick Rose to pasture. Which coach do you know wants to keep answering the same questions over and over about one of your players. Although it seems his defensive veneer has cracked with the Bulls losing a number of games that they were in or should’ve won because of said defense giving up 100 or more points something the hasn’t done very often in the five year Thibs has been here.
I’ve always felt like the front office in recent years have tried to win on the cheap which is not an easy thing to do. Considering the Bulls did nothing at the trade deadline and now have key players injured, the Bulls have nothing to put in place to assure the continuity of a winning team. When Jimmy Butler went down we did nothing. With Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose out their replacements are Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich? While Brooks has played well this year this is not a squad that will win you any games in the playoffs. So why the questioning of Tom Thibodeau ? If the Bulls wanted to win and win now give him the talent to win with. Perhaps that’s why the Bulls and Thibs should part ways. Which would be sad because he would get snatched up right away and given the players to win with.

Godfrey Logan Outside Analysis 3/10/15
Trading Brandon Marshall is bad magic. I don’t know what’s going on with the new management of the Chicago Bears but I don’t like where it’s going. Sure Cutler has been a lightning rod for the team since he’s been here and a number of people call him a coach killer but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The Bears have one of the more productive and talented offensive personnel in the league and Marshall has always been one of his favorite receivers and Alshon Jeffery was productive mainly because of Marshall and the influence he had on him.
The Bears get back a fifth round pick for Marshall whom the Bears used petty reasoning for letting him go. Something about a twitter battle with a Detroit Lions fan for a boxing match which in the end would have been for charity and because he called out his teammates after the loss to the Dolphins.
2014 was a year when a number of current players faced former teams/teammates and coaches. Jared Allen with the Vikings, Jay Cutler with Lovie Smith and Tampa, and Brandon Marshall with the Dolphins. Who doesn’t want to show their former team what they’re missing? The Miami loss was particularly bad so I don’t blame the man.
The Bears needs are on the defensive side of the ball. Particularly with the safeties and cornerbacks. Why trade a player who is still productive and influential. He’s stayed out of trouble in Chicago. He’s stood up and taken the blame when the team didn’t do well as the former regime showed they have no business being in football.
There had been some rumbling the Bears were looking to trade Matt Forte and I not being a big Forte fan thought we should package up Cutler and Forte to the Browns since John Fox has been non-committal on the overpaid quarterback. But once again the problem hadn’t been with the sullen quarterback leading this team it was with the defense giving up points and looking like they have no idea where they’re supposed to going or that they should be tackling the man with the ball in the different color jersey.
There is some stink on this trade. I know that the Jets have personnel who are familiar with Marshall but I ask the question, for a man who has never been to the playoffs in his eight year career where would you rather be? I wonder with an talent as his does he not have a no trade clause or was he more concerned with his radio show in New York? Either way the Bears have a little over a month before the draft. We will have to wait and see what the Bears will do. So far however they’ve been way too quiet. They quickly put together a coaching staff and then went dark. I hope they’re not going the way of drafting for whatever position players are needed because they will lose fans quickly. If that happens John Fox’s tenure in Chicago will be short as well.

Godfrey Logan Outside Analysis - 3/7/15
Call it a team going through the motions but they seem to be flat out sleep walking into the All Star break. The last two years we’ve heard nothing but how we need Derrick Rose and now that we’ve got him back and healthy everyone else seems to have fallen off the map. Jimmy “Buckets” Butler was the star when Rose was working his way back to NBA level, he’s come back to earth.
The Bulls with the additions of Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic, they have the pieces to go on a run like the Atlanta Hawks and the Golden State Warriors. I do believe the Bulls are better than at least Atlanta if not the best team in the league. But they’ve managed to lose to a troubled Cavaliers team twice in three games and lose to teams like the lowly Orlando magic. On the plus side the Bulls have beaten Golden State and have feasted on some of the best teams in the west. My only fear is that if they keep paying up or down to their opponents they will play their entire 2015 playoff battles as the road team. No one wants to be the road team in a seven game Series.
Call it a team going through the motions. The Bulls have been known for their defense under Thibs and it’s been said that this is the most offense Thibs have had since he’s been in Chicago. Players have said because of that offense they tend to let up on the defensive side. Even if they are going through the motions it has been proven the hottest team going into the post season is the toughest to stop.
With Derrick Rose’s return the Bulls have a solid and vocal leader. But even he’s going through his own struggles with turnovers and in the early going his shooting. With the pieces they have and giving McDermott their first round draft pick some playing time and opportunity to get into a rhythm the Bulls have a better than average chance to win it all. It isn’t the first time we’ve said that and have seen them lose in early rounds or to the Miami Heat, I think this is the most legit winner Thibs has had but that doesn’t explain the going through the motions when certainly all of these players have some amount of pride not to lose to subpar teams.
Please don’t tell me it happens in every sport. It goes to the character of every athlete. I understand struggling through a back to back situation. You just don’t have the legs to push through. That’s what a quality bench is for. There is rumor that Tom Thibodeaux has at times over used his players. Playing them ridiculous minutes and that’s what’s wearing them down. None of his players have come out and said that nor have they complained about his rotation where he sticks to the same 4th quarter lineup every game regardless of the score.
These are all fair criticisms but still no reason for a team to play up or down to their opponent when you’re as good as the Bulls are. We will have to see after the All Star break whether this will be an ongoing issue. By that time some of the hotter teams may have cooled off and it will be the right time for the Bulls to make a run of their own. Like I said, nothing wrong with being the hottest team going into the playoffs.

Godfrey Logan Outside Analysis 3/7/15
Derrick Rose goes down for the third time in as many years with a knee injury. I have to give him credit for any mental strength he has at this point. And the fact they’re even talking about him coming back at some point this season is a little strange to me because who knows how long of a rehab he’ll have to go through. By the time of his estimated return it’d be around playoff time and there’ll be even more pressure on him then. Considering he won’t have time to work his way back into things. I question why the Chicago Bulls would even want to put him in that position.
True enough the team seemed to be sleepwalking their way to a 4th seed which isn’t very special in a particularly top heavy eastern conference and even with Rose there was no guarantee they would even win their division. Somehow Cleveland has managed to right the ship and Lebron James return though regarded as a mess at the beginning his teammates seem to want him around rather than give him the Kobe Bryant treatment where they’re happier without him.
Everything Rose did this season seemed to be over-scrutinized to the point of petty and the team continued to lose games they should’ve won. But things only matter once the playoffs start. Do we really see the Atlanta Hawks in the finals? As much as the Bulls were struggling with all of the pieces they were still the favorite in the east in my mind.
What bothers me most however is this continued rent a point guard stance. I think we are beyond hurting Derrick Rose’s feelings if we were to draft a point guard to give us a quality player at that position should he go down again. No one seems to notice that Kirk Hinrich has probably missed games than Rose has with a sundry of injuries. We’d do just as well to grab someone from the stands.
Unfortunately Chicago is a big city media town who doesn’t go easy on their stars. They find all types of ways to create stories especially during the Lovie Smith era where they were frustrated by the lack of information they could glean from the Buddha like head coach. But when it came to Rose it seemed like it was a roast every night. I’ve seen articles calling him soft and questioning why a man would want to have a life beyond basketball. If it was negative they’d jump all over it. He could score thirty points and show flashes of his “former self,” and it was never enough. They complained when he slowly worked his way back into the flow of things which he should have done last season and I blame the organization for that one. And poor Coach Thibs having to get his dander up because he had to defend his star in dealing with questions on when he would play
They wouldn’t say a word when Pau Gasol or other teammates would miss a game or two and holy cow did they make a stink when Derricks travel plans awry and he missed a practice after the All Star break. Be glad he didn’t turn into Allen Iverson. Instead he apologized to his teammates especially when it affected his play during a loss. I would be the last to say maybe he would be better off somewhere else. Some small market city where they appreciate their stars. I could understand the consternation if this was Los Angeles and they’re celebrating their 14th win. But this is a playoff team and most teams don’t gel until after the all-star break when everyone is trying to solidify their playoff position. We have the coaching to win with or without Rose. I guess it’ll be up to the old adage hoping something else happens to knock this story off the front page.

Godfrey Logan Outside Analysis  2/28/15