There’s a reason that professional sports organizations do not build their line ups like fantasy league teams. Besides the fact that the games would get boring very fast due to the complete lack of defense bundled with minimal strategy, there’s also the element of frustration when you see players running up and down the court, or field or whatever without any sort of resistance.
Yeah, really, resistance is futile when it comes to games like that.
If you ever need any reminder of this fact just watch an All Star Game for any sport. Yesterday we had two fine examples of this truth.
ADAM L. JAHNS from the Sun Times takes a look at the figure skating event that claimed to be a hockey game.
Jonathan Toews’ demeanor said it all. The Blackhawks center, who’s epitomized by his seriousness, was relaxed, funny and content Sunday night at the All-Star Game.
In the end, it was just good for Toews and his Hawks All-Star teammates — defenseman Duncan Keith and forwards Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane — and their coaches — Joel Quenneville and Mike Haviland — to get away from the grind of a season marred by inconsistencies.
‘‘It’s different because you’re always answering the same questions [elsewhere],’’ Toews said. ‘‘Back home, it’s always about a win or loss and what you have to do. Sometimes you just talk about the simple things, what the team needs to do better and this and that.
‘‘[At the All-Star Game], it’s just a lot of guys mixing it up and having fun with the media and the fans. It’s a good time for everybody.’’
By the end of the weekend, nobody had a better time than Sharp, who was named the MVP of the game after a goal, two assists, five shots and a plus-2 rating. It may have been in a losing effort, as Nicklas Lidstrom’s team defeated Eric Staal’s team 11-10, but Sharp did more than enough to show he belongs among the league’s best
Sharp, the Hawks’ leading goal scorer, was one of the most notable omissions on the All-Star ballot when it came out in November. The NHL added him to the All-Star Game this month, but being named MVP is vindication.
‘‘I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bothered by it,’’ Sharp said of the ballot. ‘‘It was motivation to play well. . . . I’m proud to be a Blackhawk in the All-Star Game, and things worked out.’’
It was even better to do it in front of his parents, Ian and Ruth Ann Sharp, after inclement weather affected their travel plans. The Sharps’ flight from Newark, N.J., was canceled, but they were fortunate enough to meet people from Raleigh, jump in a minivan and drive from midnight to 8 a.m. to make the game.
Sharp said the Honda Crosstour EX-L he received for winning the MVP award most likely will go to his other brother, Chris.
‘‘I played hockey because my older brother did,” Sharp said. “We are the standard hockey family. It’s my brother and I, and we both played. It seemed like every other day my mom and dad were driving to a rink to either pick us up or drop us off.’’
Sharp has bragging rights over Kane, Keith and especially Toews. Keith and Kane each finished with an assist Sunday. Toews, who needed a second chance to defeat Sharp in the accuracy challenge Saturday, had a goal and two assists.
‘‘I’ll be sure to bring it up a few times,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘Jonathan and I have some unfinished business with the accuracy shooting. . . . We’ll have to do something back in Chicago.’’
Sure, there’s a certain amount of local pride to be garnered from having a Blackhawk win the All Star MVP. And you’ll never hear me say anything bad about Patrick Sharp. Those of us who watch him regularly know what a tremendous force he is on the ice. Even so, the entire game seemed like a shoot out with spectators on the ice.
But that was small change compared to the pinball fest that passed itself off as the NFL Pro Bowl. THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE reports that the score looked a lot like a Pee Wee game rather than anything to do with pros.
Devin Hester made the kind of error that surely made Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub cringe, but nothing was going to derail the NFC after it opened up a 42-point lead in the Pro Bowl.
Hester fumbled trying to hand off to the Redskins’ DeAngelo Hall on a third-quarter kickoff return and the Jaguars’ Montell Owens recovered for a touchdown but the NFC cruised to an 55-41 victory Sunday night at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
Selected as a kickoff returner, Hester got plenty of time playing wide receiver. He gained 19 yards on a double reverse and caught two passes for 27 yards. Defensive end Julius Peppers also represented the Bears in the game and was selected as a captain.
It looked like Peppers stripped Houston Texans running back Arian Foster to force a 1st half fumble but they credited San Francisco’s Justin Smith with the play.
Tennessee’s Marc Mariani had 326 kickoff return yards, breaking the previous record of 228 set by Bears returner Jerry Azumah in 2004.
Bears linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs were named to the NFC team but withdrew with undisclosed injuries. It was Urlacher’s seventh selection. He has missed the last three all-star games he’s been chosen for, last appearing in 2004. Briggs has been selected to six Pro Bowls and has played in two.
London Fletcher and Jon Beason, who were added to replace the Bears, each had interceptions and Beason returned his for a touchdown.
Players on the winning team receive $45,000 and players on the losing team will receive $22,500.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez set the Pro Bowl record by scoring his sixth career touchdown. Gonzalez scored on a four-yard pass from teammate Matt Ryan, putting the NFC ahead 21-0 early in the second quarter.
MVP DeAngelo Hall had one of his team’s five interceptions and returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown. AFC quarterbacks Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Matt Cassel each threw first-half interceptions to help the NFC blow open a 42-0 lead.
Fittingly for this strange contest, center Alex Mack of Cleveland scored the final touchdown on a 67-yard pass play that featured two laterals with 16 seconds left.
Carolina’s Jon Beason returned the fifth interception thrown by the AFC, and second by Matt Cassel, 59 yards for the NFC’s final touchdown to match the single-team scoring record set in the NFC’s 55-52 victory in 2004.
There wasn’t any defense played yesterday in as much as there were guys on the other side of the ball who were in placed in such a way that they could scoop up the various offensive mistakes. And there were several doozies. Including, but not limited to, Hester’s bizarre hand off on a return. Really? Someone thought it was a good idea to take the ball out of the hands of the NFL record holder for returns? I didn’t know Lovie was coaching yesterday.
I still feel that, instead of these meaningless games, the players selected should just get a nice banquet and then hold a fan appreciation day at some neutral site. Fans would gladly pay for the chance, the players could get to enjoy a day of glowing adulation, and no one would have to be submitted to these painful displays of weekend warrior level athletics.
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Charles Barkley, who knows a thing or two about the game of round ball, claims that the Bulls are the scariest team in the East. When Noah returns the Bulls can field one of the most formidable back courts in a long time with Noah at the 4 position, Thomas at center and Asik playing a defensive 3. Rose and Boozer could have a field day with the rebounding trio from hell watching their backs. Plus, good news for the fans, Derrick Rose has finally gotten the recognition we all knew he deserved and has been selected to start on the All Star team.
Heading into the All Star break the Bulls are a mere 1/2 game behind the dreaded Heat and are just 3 1/2 games out of first.
So with all this going on, what’s Rose got to worry about?
Facing LeBron James in the playoffs? Nope, hasn’t mentioned it.
Worrying about Carmelo Anthony showing up and screwing up his game? Nope, not a mumbling word.
What, then, could furrow the brow of Chicago’s preeminent hoopster?
Dancing at the All Star Game.
JOHN JACKSON at the Sun Times has the scoop.
Bulls guard Derrick Rose and Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard have been friends since they went on a tour of China together in 2009. They got to spend some time together last summer filming those ‘‘Fast Don’t Lie’’ commercials for Adidas.
‘‘It was a lot of fun,’’ Howard said. ‘‘It kind of opened [Rose] up a little bit. Everybody knows Derrick is not one of those guys who’s outgoing and gonna talk a lot. He kind of opened up a little bit. He had fun.’’
Someone asked Howard if there was a version of his commercial with Rose sitting at a piano singing instead of Howard.
‘‘No,’’ Howard said. ‘‘I don’t think people would have wanted to see that.’’
On Thursday, Rose was announced as a starter for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game, along with Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat.
‘‘I’m just excited for him,’’ Howard said. ‘‘A lot of the work he’s putting in is paying off. I can remember us being in China, and after we did our appearance, he would go to the gym and work out and get shots up.’’
Howard said the biggest challenge will be getting Rose to dance during the pregame introductions, which has become a tradition of sorts in recent years.
‘‘I’m not doing that,’’ Rose said. ‘‘I’m not dancing. I’m gonna look silly, and they show that video forever.’’
Does Rose dance?
‘‘I dance, but everybody’s gonna be watching, Twittering and Facebooking,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t like watching people embarrass themselves, and I’m not gonna embarrass myself.’’
Howard had a message for his friend before the Bulls-Magic game.
‘‘Never come down the lane when I’m here,’’ Howard said. ‘‘No, just stop jumping off one foot. Watching his games, I think he’s learned when to come down the lane and when to pull up for the jump shot. He’s become more of a complete player.’’
Last season, Rose sprained a wrist when he was fouled hard by Howard and crashed to the floor.
‘‘That’s basketball,’’ Rose said. ‘‘When you run into someone huge like him, you’re gonna bounce off and hurt yourself.’’
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy isn’t surprised the Bulls have had success with Kurt Thomas filling in for Joakim Noah at center.
‘‘I think Kurt’s helped them a lot,’’ Van Gundy said. ‘‘Four of our coaches have coached Kurt in the past, me being one of them. We’re not surprised.
‘‘Noah does some things better than Kurt; Kurt does some things better than Noah. Kurt’s a great interior defender, whereas Joakim struggles a bit with bigger, stronger guys inside. Kurt’s very good in those situations. Kurt’s very good in the pick-and-pop shooting the ball, and he really knows how to play and move the ball. You’re not losing a lot when you’ve got to play Kurt Thomas.’’
Everyone here knows that I’m a fan of Noah’s but that doesn’t mean that I’m an idiot. Thomas has been a great addition to this team. To say otherwise would mean that I’d have to go work at Fanhouse.
And I certainly don’t want that to happen.
Even if we won’t get to see Rose shake his groove thing at the All Star game, we can still enjoy the sight of the Bulls boogieing into the playoffs.
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I don’t get what’s up with people today. One minute you’re talking about the socioeconomic
WOW! LOOK AT THE PONY!
Yeah. Like that.
Here’s a simple truth, I don’t care if Cutler left Soldier Field and then went and performed in Swan Lake. The larger issue is how poorly the Bears handled the news of his injury. The even larger issue is how poorly they prepared for the title game. The big old granddaddy of issues is the fact that they’re planning on giving Lovie Smith an extension while they haven’t locked up any of the assistants for next year.
Light in tunnel? Meet oncoming train.
This organization has finally sucked the ‘fun’ out of dysfunctional.
The Bears seem happy to let Twittergate unfold as they stay out of the limelight and make some amazingly bad decisions. They have around 14 free agents this year and have already lost a special teams coach. I should also note that Martz and Marinelli were signed to one year deals and that year is up. Now is not the time to extend the head coach’s contract, now is the time to make sure he has a team to coach and the assistants he needs.
I know, I know, I’m being a big old stupid-head trying to use logic and reason concerning Halas Hall.
I was beginning to feel like the lone voice in the wilderness until today. I don’t know if DAN MCNEIL at the Tribune actively reads this front page, but it sure seems like he’s been paying attention.
The Bears weren’t the only losers this week. The aftermath at Halas Hall also produced a turnover in the red zone.
Professional football players, past and present, lost their minds as they blabbed about tough guy code. National media jumped right in. Ants in the afterbirth.
Local media performed poorly, too, losing sight of how Jay Cutler and Lovie Smith again spit the bit in a big game. We were hoping for Jagger and Richards. Cutler and Smith didn’t get so far as Loggins and Messina.
Sports radio, more than normal, became a sanctuary for the beer muscles crowd. I tried to put the brakes on it earlier than most, but had very few takers regarding the actual events that precluded the Bears a trip to Dallas.
Meanwhile, television types continue to shove sideline shots of Cutler down our throats.
Somebody should roll video of his pathetic throws — a by-product of dreadful mechanics — against the Super Bowl-bound Packers. Cutler wasn’t wearing a hooded parka or on an exercise bike when he laid the egg, but it’s those images that will be the lasting ones from the toughest loss to Green Bay in the rivalry’s history.
That’s a shame because be it with a bruised ego or his typical “whatever” demeanor, Cutler will be the Bears’ quarterback next year. I’d welcome some conversation about how the Bears are going to make him better because the Cutler who now has played five NFL seasons isn’t good enough.
Smith coached as poorly as Cutler played, yet little has been said or written about the coach’s imminent contract extension. Maybe it was foxy on Jerry Angelo’s part, sliding that news in at Monday’s post-mortem. Angelo might have figured a nation obsessing over machismo wouldn’t notice.
Only a few of us did. Perhaps we were in the minority who noted terrible judgment Sunday, a Smith staple during his three post-season runs, including the one to the Super Bowl four years ago.
Most coaches take a timeout when the game is on the line and a third-string quarterback is looking at fourth and five. Most coaches opt to insert reliable kickers for field goals when their teams don’t sniff the red zone.
Call me goofy, but if I had the two best kick returners in the league, I want the ball in their hands after I win the coin toss. Smith arrogantly trusted his defense against the Aaron Rodgers, the hottest quarterback in the league. Smitty lost.
Smith did a decent job this year, but anybody who suggests the Bears weren’t remarkably fortunate to win the division and host the NFC title game wasn’t paying attention. For the results, Smith earned the right to come back for the final year of his deal. Nothing more.
If he knocked it out of the park again in 2011 in a lame duck year, the Bears would be happy to pay him. If he fell on his smug face, nobody beats down the door to get him. Even if they did, a non-playoff year would mark the time to head in a different direction.
We lost focus this week. We even saw video Thursday of Cutler shopping with his almost-famous girlfriend in sunny California. Now we can analyze his limp.
Sometimes I hate the Internet.
I always hate losing. We did a lot of it this week.
I’ll remind fans of this simple fact; Smith is 3-3 in the post-season. Over 7 years. His tenure makes the Cubs look like a juggernaut. Whatever it is that they’re slipping into the Jesus-Juice at Halas Hall, I wish they’s share with the rest of us. Becasue, hard as it may be to believe, I’m too sober to understand what they’re thinking.
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Did you hear about the toddler who fell down an elevator shaft? That’s Jay Cutler’s fault.
Did you hear that the Appellate Court ruled that the state can’t just randomly tie two items together, in this case video poker and chocolate, for taxation? Jay Cutler screwed that up for everyone too.
I mean, who doesn’t like a tasty bon bon when they’re pulling for an inside straight?
The dearth of porn in China? Cutler.
Immigration concerns? Cutler.
The problems with the political party of your choice? All Cutler.
How bad have things gotten for Chicago’s beleaguered QB? I could announce that I had a bevy of hot, female, porn stars giving away free samples during an open bar and I’d get 30 bloggers posting that Cutler rendered them impotent.
You think I’m kidding?
Yesterday I wrote about 3 young, Chicago, baseball players who were ranked in MLB’s top 50 prospects. Every single response to that post concerned Cutler. It seems that when I noted, two days ago, the Bears’ PR department could screw up a one car funeral, I was being kind.
Since I can’t avoid this mess I may as well jump right in. At least that way people can pretend they read the front page when they comment.
RICK MORRISSEY at the Sun Times takes time out of his busy day to excoriate the Bears pathetic attempts at public relations.
Image-wise, Jay Cutler made his own bed, but the Bears tucked him in every night the last two years.
General manager Jerry Angelo says winning is the only thing that matters in the NFL, which might explain why the team has done nothing in Cutler’s time here to give his poor public image a makeover.
This indeed is a victory business, but it’s also an entertainment business. On Sunday, the Bears needed to apply whatever public-relations expertise they possess. They failed.
Their disdain for anyone outside the organization explains why nobody thought to give broadcasters some idea of the seriousness of Cutler’s knee injury during the NFC Championship Game. And their fear of upsetting Cutler is why no one told him during the game to help out third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie. Where were Smith or offensive coordinator Mike Martz to tell him to quit sulking and start being a good teammate?
Any PR person with a clue would have stepped in as the injury mystery deepened Sunday and said, ‘‘We can’t have this. Our star quarterback’s reputation is taking a beating. We’ve got to get ahead of this situation.’’
But nobody did step in. And NFL players with Twitter accounts continued to rip him. Cutler was a wimp, they tweeted. They were wrong, of course, but the damage to Cutler’s character was done.
Now the Bears know for sure that appearances do matter. The raging debate about Cutler’s injury, toughness and concern for teammates will never go away. Ask Scottie Pippen if he’d like those 1.8 seconds back.
From the top of the organization to the bottom, the Bears are scornful toward the media and thus toward the public. If the franchise couldn’t see that the reticent Smith was in desperate need of some PR intervention when he became head coach, then there was no way it was going to have the guts to tell Cutler to change his act when he arrived in Chicago.
The Bears seem much more concerned about limiting questions for Smith during news conferences than about putting the franchise in the best light.
They shouldn’t be surprised about the uproar over Cutler. They’ve had ample opportunity to help soften his image, to give him media training, to impress upon him that how he carries himself does indeed matter. As far as anyone can tell, they didn’t.
In the short term, they could have softened the PR hit Sunday by informing the public right away that Cutler was injured seriously enough that he couldn’t possibly return — further, that it was amazing he even tried to play in the first series of the second half. But that would have been giving out state secrets, and once those got out, where would the Bears be? Prostrating themselves at the feet of the Hun Packers, that’s where.
Cutler’s return remained ‘‘questionable.’’ So did his courage.
An opportunity lost. Forever.
The Bears have such a widespread PR problem that when they finally announced Monday that Cutler had a Grade II tear of a knee ligament, some people wondered why there wasn’t a statement from one of the team doctors confirming the diagnosis. The Bears wouldn’t make up an injury to protect Cutler and the organization, would they?
That’s what happens when the entire thrust of a franchise is to keep people out. That’s how paranoid thinking wiggles to the surface.
If I didn’t know better, I’d swear the Bears made sure the car salesman with the Packers tie got fired. They didn’t. Right?
If, as the Bears seem to believe, image doesn’t matter, then they shouldn’t be offended that outsiders see a different Cutler than the one they seem to know. They shouldn’t be offended when a national columnist comes to town, starts asking questions about the quarterback’s less-than-stellar reputation and writes about being greeted with a coldness normally associated with Siberia.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t act as if image is a superficial thing and then be upset when your quarterback’s public persona puts him somewhere between Sean Penn and Ty Cobb.
That the Bears don’t care about improving Cutler’s image is one thing, but it goes well beyond that. They’ve given him license to be the moody and aloof person he is or is perceived to be.
They’ve become enablers, either out of disdain for their audience or out of fear that what people have always said about the quarterback is true: He’s a head case.
Public relations matter. Maybe more people would have given Cutler the benefit of the doubt Sunday had they seen some improvement in his attitude the last two seasons.
But have you ever seen more professional athletes pile on another than the mob that landed on Cutler?
A sad sight. And it didn’t have to be that way.
I know a young lady who’s met Cutler twice. She runs in the same charity circles as he does. She claims he was witty and charming and not the slightest bit creepy. She even said she understands what Kristin Cavallari sees in him. So, clearly, somewhere beneath that pouting emo shell there lurks a human being worthy of consideration.
I’ve never seen it, you’ve never seen it, the media sure as heck has been denied a viewing, but it does seem to be there nevertheless.
And, just to add insult to injury, the Bears announced that they’re going to extend the contract of a head coach who’s gone 3-3 in the playoffs over 7 years.
Bear down indeed.
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This just in; Jay Cutler has an image problem. This also just in; Twitter allows morons a place on the national stage like they’ve never had before.
That pretty much covers the Chicago media’s take on the NFL this week.
I suppose I could jump into the fray but, quite honestly, it bores me. Yesterday I met a guy who defended his take on Jay Cutler by saying “It doesn’t matter if I’m correct or not, it’s my right to say it.” Since his “logic” is irrefutable, I see no reason to sully myself, or you, with rational thought or common sense.
The only bright spot in the ongoing melee is Elliott Harris’ interview with Playboy model Jaime Edmondson, who’s wearing Bears underwear. She also offers some scintillating insight into the Super Bowl.
‘‘It’s blasphemy,’’ former Miami Dolphins cheerleader Edmondson told Quick Hits. ‘‘There’s only six teams that don’t have cheerleaders, and two are in the Super Bowl.’’
I can certainly agree with that.
Since she’s in the running for Playmate of the Year, you should probably click the link and vote for her.
However, if that’s all I have to write about, this is going to be a very brief front page. So, instead, I’ll glance ahead as we get ready for pitchers and catchers to report.
Yesterday MLB.com released its list of the top 50 MLB prospects and the list contained three players from Chicago. SCOTT MERKIN takes a look at the 2 Cubs’ players who made the list.
With Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, Kosuke Fukudome and Tyler Colvin anchoring the 2011 Cubs outfield, Brett Jackson’s big league time doesn’t seem to be a matter of now.
But with Jackson’s immense talent, his Major League arrival should be a matter of when, and probably soon. Jackson’s ability was recognized on MLB.com’s 2011 Top 50 Prospects list, announced on Tuesday night, at No. 46. Jackson checked in one spot ahead of pitcher Chris Archer, who was sent by the Cubs to the Rays as part of the recent Matt Garza trade.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound outfielder was the Cubs’ top pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft and the 31st selection overall. Jackson played three years collegiately at Cal, before making his way through three stops in the Cubs’ Minor League system during that first year with the organization.
In 2010, Jackson suited up for Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, posting a combined 12 home runs and 66 RBIs. The fleet-footed left-handed hitter also knocked out 32 doubles and 14 triples, while producing a .298 average. Jackson looks to be a leadoff man of the future for the Cubs, supported by his 103 runs scored and 30 stolen bases amassed over 128 games in 2010.
During his Minor League career, Jackson has 43 stolen bases.
Jackson, 22, played in the Pan-Am Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico but was limited to three games for Team USA because of a right ankle injury. The up-and-coming talent suited up for the Mesa Solar Sox in the 2011 Arizona Fall League, driving in five runs in four games.
That Arizona stint had to be cut short when Jackson was hospitalized in Mesa because of cellulitis with an abscess in his shin. But Jackson is ready to continue his ascent through the Cubs ranks, with a 2011 target of Wrigley Field.
Yeah, I have no idea what Merkin was doing slumming up at Wrigley either, but it’s nice to know that the Cubs have a back up plan should they be forced to part ways with Fukudome or Soriano. If I were a Cubs fan I would be demanding that the Cubs flip a coin, cut one and get that party started. But I’m not, so I won’t.
Nevertheless, SCOTT was also on the Southside, so he has the report on Chris Sales inclusion on the list.
Is Chris Sale a starting pitcher? Is Sale a reliever? Is the young left-hander the White Sox 2011 closer?
All of these topics were thoroughly debated this past weekend during SoxFest 2011 at the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago. And what decision was arrived at by White Sox fans, management and players alike?
Sale’s immense ability leaves him qualified enough to accomplish any or all of the above, even at 21 years of age, with limited big league experience. That talent also earned the southpaw spot No. 25 on MLB.com’s list of Top 50 Prospects, officially released on Tuesday night. Sale was the lone White Sox prospect on the list, coming in just behind fellow 2010 draftee, Baltimore’s Manny Machado.
As the 13th selection overall in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Sale became the lone player to reach the Majors from that particular class. The idea arrived upon shortly after the pick was to use Sale as a big league reliever just months after he was anchoring the Florida Gulf Coast University rotation, although his future was as a starter. This potential promotion came with the assumption he could prove his mettle during Minor League stops at Class A Winston-Salem and Triple-A Charlotte, and Sale gave up six hits and struck out a combined 19 over 10 1/3 innings thrown for the Dash and Knights.
In 21 games for the White Sox, Sale posted a 1.93 ERA. He yielded just 15 hits over 23 1/3 innings, fanning 32 and walking 10. He added four saves in four opportunities, giving rise to the idea how Sale could close, with Bobby Jenks now having moved on to Boston as the Red Sox’s setup man.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen admitted this past weekend that Jenks was healthy enough to pitch during the season’s final homestand, confirming an assertion made by Jenks to MLB.com, after the former closer missed most of September due to ulnar neuritis. But with the White Sox eliminated from postseason contention, Guillen wanted to get a look at what Sale could do in these pressure situations.
Other stories have added to Sale’s short but impressive professional baseball career. His Major League debut on Aug. 6 at Camden Yards consisted of Sale walking Brian Roberts and allowing Nick Markakis’ single, so he never registered an out.
Life would get easier for Sale, who was touched up for just one earned run in nine August appearances. His most famous trip to the mound came on Aug. 18 at Target Field, when Sale fanned Orlando Hudson, Jim Thome and Joe Mauer in one inning of work. The Mauer strikeout came on three pitches.
“He made Joe Mauer look infantile,” said White Sox radio play-by-play broadcaster Ed Farmer during a SoxFest seminar, although general manager Ken Williams quickly asked Farmer not to give bulletin-board material to the game’s best hitter after that one at-bat.
“I say it all the time, I was very fortunate to come to a veteran team of guys who have done it before and who showed me the ropes,” said Sale at SoxFest, addressing the help he received as part of his short Major League experience. “They are a good group of guys. They are good at what they do and have been doing it a long time.”
Possibly the most telling piece of information about Sale came after the White Sox had drafted him. Williams and director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann, who runs the First-Year Player Draft, were sitting in the White Sox war room and watching tape of Sale pitch in college.
At that same time, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper was working with a left-handed reliever in the bullpen well before the start of that night’s game. Williams looked at the unnamed reliever, who clearly wasn’t All-Star Matt Thornton, looked back at the Sale tape, looked at the reliever again and called Laumann over. Williams pointed out that there was a problem when the young man just drafted already was better than the guy they had working through kinks in the bullpen.
Figuring out Sale’s role for 2011 seems pretty straightforward after many offseason assessments. If Jake Peavy is not quite ready to return from season-ending 2010 surgery to repair a detached latissimus dorsi muscle in his posterior right shoulder, then the lanky southpaw with the deceptive delivery most likely will move temporarily to the starting rotation and then return to the bullpen when Peavy returns from his injury.
Cooper has spoken out against such a split-responsibility for Sale at this formative age. But Williams believes he can handle the change, as Sale prepares this offseason as a starter.
“You will have to fine-tune, have three pitches you can throw for strikes at any time,” said Sale of moving to starter. “Last year, I was more of a fastball-slider guy and really didn’t incorporate the changeup too much.
“If I was a starter, like Coop said, ‘We’d have to throw the change. We’d also have to get a little better to both sides of plate with the fastball.’”
Williams doesn’t believe age should matter on the importance of a 2011 role given to Sale. He engaged in a humorous dispute with one of the White Sox beat writers during SoxFest on this concept, asking the writer if he would feel better if Sale was 26 instead of 21.
Basically, if you’ve got it, you’ve got it at any age. Williams left little doubt where he sided on the question of if this Top 50 Prospect had the necessary talent.
“Hasn’t that been answered?” said Williams with a smile. “When you can do it, you can do it. He’s shown he can do it.”
Yeah, that kid looks like a keeper. It’s just disconcerting that I have socks older than him.
I’ll get over it.
If you want to catch some of the Spring Training games, just click the link. They update the schedules daily so you won’t miss out.
In the meantime, it’s nice to have something positive to write about.
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