Jeff Samardzija

It’s been a long time since I last spoke to you.  So much has happened in Chicago sports.  Here’s a look at the busy and unpredictable Chicago sports landscape.

Blackhawks keep winning

Blackhawks keep winning

Blackhawks:  They just keep doing what they do best, see win.  They lost their goalie Corey Crawford after an accident at a concert, but didn’t skip a beat.  Patrick Sharp returned to the ice and their winning ways have continued.  Right now, this organization is a blue print for the other teams in the city.

Derrick Rose makes a statement

Derrick Rose makes a statement

Bulls:  So much was written about the man the team needs in order to win a championship-Derrick Rose.  As long as he is healthy for the playoff run I don’t care if he sits every other game.  He is back, but not completely healed so he takes what the defense gives him.  It seems others are following his lead of letting their bodies heal to be ready for the games that matter.  DRose also made headlines when he showed support for the Garner family by wearing the I Can’t Breathe shirt.  Some local sports media questioned his intelligence and motives.  He knows what he’s doing and the implications; please stop insulting the young man’s intelligence.  Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler are the team’s MVP and Niko Mirotic has been as good as advertised.  Biggest problem besides health is the defense; they’re giving up more points so far this year.

The newest member of the Sox.

The newest member of the Sox.

White Sox:  The south siders are making moves this off season.  They have signed reliever Zach Duke, closer David Robertson and first baseman/DH Adam LaRoche.  They completed a six player trade with the Oakland Athletics getting starter Jeff Samardzija.  Pitching coach Don Cooper was downright giddy after learning about the move.  So they have strengthened their bullpen, starting rotation and hitting; now the question is will they catch the ball or will they throw away games this season.

The first step in competing in 2015

The first step in competing in 2015

Cubs:  Theo and company made a huge splash getting the best free agent pitcher Jon Lester for 6 years for $155 million, $30 million signing bonus and no trade clause.  There are many who think now that the team signed Lester they will speed up their clock to compete and look to acquire a big bat.  They signed pitcher Jason Hammel and acquired catcher Miguel Montero, with that move some expect Wellington Castillo to be traded.  Theo said they aren’t looking to trade him and apparently he told other teams that shortstop Starlin Castro is not available.  Cubs need offense so keeping Starlin makes sense.

Bears leaders searching for answers

Bears leaders searching for answers

Bears:  I saved the worst for last.  The coaches and players are bad, the front office is bad and the field is bad.  It’s just an all-around bad team.  Mel Tucker may be the fall guy, but I don’t think fans will think that is enough.  After this year many faces will be gone, and I’m not sure any of the young players are any good.  Thankfully the misery of this season ends in 3 weeks.

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There are less than 90 days until the Bears kickoff the 2014 season and the Bulls still haven’t picked up that elusive star, viagra so baseball is still center stage in Chicago.  While the north siders’ struggle to build a new Wrigley and the rumors of a possible Jeff Samardzija trade steal the headlines, the south siders are quietly remaining in the playoff picture.  I think it’s time to shift the focus to the south side boys of summer.

The White Sox sit in 4th place at 32-33 only 3.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers.

Sale against Trout

Sale against Trout

Quick Review:  Here’s all you need to know about what happened last week…it was bad.  The Sox finished off their west coast trip by being swept by the LA Angels.  The series included Chris Sale blowing a 5-0 lead (with the help of an error) and Mike Trout hitting a grand slam off Sale.  Jose Abreu struggled on the trip but hopefully all he needed was to return to the Cell as he hit a two run home run to help the Sox win the first game of the series against the Tigers and move to within 3.5 games of first place.

News:  With the third pick in the draft the Sox picked LHP Carlos Rondon from North Carolina State.  Rondon was considered by some to be the best pitcher in the draft and there are thoughts that we may see him sooner rather than later in the big leagues.

LHP Carlos Rondon

LHP Carlos Rondon

What’s Next:  The Sox will finish their four game series versus the Tigers and then welcome in the Royals for three games starting June 13th.  They will finish the home stand with 2 games versus the Major League Leading San Francisco Giants starting June 17th.  The upcoming promotions are going to be fun so get out there, especially this weekend with nice weather on the way.  June 12-K-Zone cards, June 13-Mullet Night and fireworks, June 14-White Sox Cap and Father Daughter Day and June 14-Father’s Day

My Thoughts:  Every week I write about the surprising White Sox who have overcome injuries, a bad start by the bullpen and spotty defense to be right in the thick of things.  I guess at this point the surprise will be if they don’t remain in the playoff race for the remainder of the season.  The only thing that can stop them is a catastrophic injury to a major player.  With the American League being so unpredictable; there’s plenty of opportunity for the Sox to make a move and sneak into the playoffs.  So with many games remaining in the season all I can suggest is that we enjoy the ride wherever it may take us.

Two Keys To The Surprising Sox, Eaton and Ramirez

Two Keys To The Surprising Sox, Eaton and Ramirez

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Most Chicagoans will agree that it is a little early in the season for the Crosstown Series, thumb but many of us will still attempt to watch two less than stellar teams battle it out for the sake of their fans.  It’s Sox vs Cubs, here South side vs North side, ’05 Champs vs Loveable Losers, etc. and our let’s be honest, the annual Chicago subway series isn’t what it used to be.

Gone are the days of punching A.J., Ozzie talking about rats and Carlos Zambrano threatening to hit anyone and everyone.  Now the teams are counting on their young stars to bring the excitement back to the series.  In a very classy move the Chicago Cubs honored Paul Konerko before playing his final game at Wrigley Field.  If there’s one thing Sox and Cubs fans can agree on is that Paulie has been great for Chicago baseball.

Konerko honored at Wrigley Field

Konerko honored at Wrigley Field

The Sox (17-17) are in 2nd place, five games behind the Detroit Tigers.  They can continue to chip away in the division this weekend against sub-500 teams..

Quick Week In Review:  The south siders swept the 2-game series at Wrigley.  Winning game one in 12 innings after great pitching performances by Jose Quintana and Jeff Samardzia along with Marcus Semien driving in the winning run with a double in the 12th.  The star of game two was Gordon Beckham who had 4 hits including a home run in the 8th.  The series will shift to US Cellular and the fellas will go for four straight against the Cubbies.

Earlier last week, the Sox avoided being swept and snapped a 4-game losing streak against the Cleveland Indians thanks to a 9th inning Dayan Viciedo 3-run home run.  The series also featured Jose Abreu’s 12th home run and a nice defensive play by him.  He couldn’t get the ball out of his glove, so he threw it to Scott Carroll to get the out.  They were swept in the quick two game series against the Detroit Tigers.  This series had great pitching from Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer as well as a 9th inning RBI bunt.  Over this stretch of games the bullpen has greatly improved, which is a good sign for the team.

News:  Jose Abreu won American League Rookie and Player of the Month honors and is leading the major league in home runs with 12.  Cubs pitchers are very impressed with Jose Abreu; in fact Edwin Jackson repeatedly mentioned that he is a big dude.  Adam Eaton was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right hamstring.  There is still no timetable set for Chris Sale to return, but he felt good after throwing recently.  Conor Gillaspie could return Wednesday after hitting a home run during his rehab stint.  Pitcher Nate Jones was moved to the 60 day DL and will have surgery to remove lower back herniated disc material.

AL Rookie and Player of the Month, Jose Abreu

AL Rookie and Player of the Month, Jose Abreu

What’s Next:  The Cubs head over to the Cell for a 2-game series on May 7 & 8th.  Arizona Diamondbacks will come to town May 9-11th.  Promotions:  May 9th-Miller de Mayo and Fireworks, May 10th-Pink Out Night, Pink White Sox Scarf, Mother-Son Night and Fireworks, May 11th-Mother’s Day, Family Sunday

My Thoughts:  This crosstown series has lost its fire.  There aren’t any characters on either side of town.  The closest to a character would have been Adam Eaton but he is on the DL.  The managers and players are nice and complimentary, so no one will be punched or have a ball thrown at him.  Yes, all of that is a reason for the lack of interest in the classic, but in my opinion the problem is that the teams just aren’t good enough to get the fans fired up.  Sure you want bragging rights but so what if at the end of the year both teams have lost 90+ games.  This series should never mean as much as a series against the Tigers or Twins, but it should provide entertainment and a chance for fans to watch good baseball.  So, until each side of town has a product worthy of the series in the past they will remain ho-hum and played in May!

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Living in a city that is known for its sports more than its fashion, viagra we do our best at SDI to marry the two in the most natural way possible, so you can imagine how pumped we get when a red carpet is rolled out for a sports-driven charity event.

O.K., to call it a ‘red carpet’ is pushing it, but the branded media backdrop was up this Friday night, creating the perfect environment to snap photos and capture some sound bytes from a handful of Chicago Cubs and our city’s own Cub-lovin’ local celebs.

The Cubs, local media and celebs were out in full force this Friday night for Kerry Wood’s 3rd annual Winter Warm-up at Harry Caray’s on the Navy Pier. Meghan Kluth worked the red carpet for SDI, getting up close and personal with some of our favorite Cubs including the Shark, Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs #1 prospect, Kris Bryant. Nothing was off limits as Meghan quizzed these Chicago sports celebs on their attire for the evening, their off-season activities and how they like to warm-up on cold winter nights.

Meghan Kluth and Jeff Samardzija, Photo Credit: SDI

Meghan Kluth and Kris Bryant, Photo Credit: SDI

Kelli Zink and Meghan Kluth, Photo Credit: SDI

Brooks Raley, Justin Ruggiano and Meghan Kluth, Photo Credit: SDI

 

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After a horrendous April when the Cubs went 9-16, view scaring fans that another 100+ loss season may be on the horizon, the Cubs bounced back in May calming Cubbie nation for the time being, thanks to solid hitting and pitching.

However, it’s still the Cubs and they could always use a little help. The Cubs went 13-14 in May with the highlight coming at the end of the month when the Cubs extended their win streak to five games. Other highlights included Matt Garza returning to the lineup, Anthony Rizzo’s contract extension and winning the Crosstown Cup against the White Sox.

Read on to find out about the good, the bad and the hopeful outlook on the month of June. It may be all Blackhawks here in Chicago, but the Cubs are starting to rear their heads and make some noise, making Cubs discussions more prevalent than ever.

THE GOOD: 

The Cubs starting pitching had a solid month not only on the mound but also at the plate. Cubs pitchers lead the league in RBI’s and have combined for a total of six doubles and four home runs this season, all of which have come in the last 13 games dating to May 15th.

Travis Wood (source: espn.go.com)

On May 30th in the Crosstown Classic finale against the White Sox at Wrigley, Travis Wood smacked a grand slam, the first by a Cubs pitcher since Jason Marquis in 2008.  It’s also the first grand slam by a Cub since Anthony Rizzo’s September 17th, 2012 against the Pirates.

The pitchers have not only provided most of the offense this month with 19 RBI’s but also have been keeping up with their defense. Jeff Samardzija, had his first career shut out May 27th against the Sox, whom he use to cheer for as a kid. He had been one of the more dominant pitchers, allowing only three earned runs in his last 24 innings of work!

 

THE BAD:

Starting pitcher Edwin Jackson continues to struggle and is still looking for his second win this season. Jackson, who was supposed to be the veteran in the rotation when the Cubs signed him to a 4-year $52 million contract this offseason, is now 1-8 on the season. Thankfully, the rest of the rotation, particularly Scott Feldman who has been outstanding,  have been able to pull the Cubs through the month of May.

Edwin Jackson

Although it’s good that RBI’s and home runs are coming in, it’s not a good sign when they are coming from the pitchers. The Cubs suffered a 6-game losing streak in mid-May thanks to poor offense.

Thankfully outfielder Alfonso Soriano has been consistent scoring 13 runs in May, three of which were home runs. Rizzo and Schierholtz each have 10 RBI’s, Castro has nine and DeJesus has eight.

The Cubs need their lead-off hitters to start drawing home runs and RBI’s like their pitchers are.

MAY’S MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:

Anthony Rizzo (source: seach.espn.go.com)

Anthony Rizzo continues to prove his value to the Cubs’ front office. After signing his 7-year $45 million contract extension earlier in the month, it’s clear that the Cubs are building around Rizzo as the future of the franchise.

Rizzo has continued to progress this month and although there have been some hiccups here and there Rizzo was bating .280 in the start of the season and by mid May he was at .452 after eight doubles, three home runs, and 14 RBIs.

WHAT TO WATCH IN JUNE:

6/7-6/9: You’ll want to catch these home games against the Pirates. After they won all their games against the White Sox their momentum is up and hopefully ready to take back those wins that they lost in May.

Clark Street Sports, $29.99

6/17-6/20: The southern rivals, the division leading St. Louis Cardinals will be hosting the Cubs in a four game series.

 

 

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SportsDivas, Inc.'s Weekend Wrap

It’s O.K. if you missed a few games this weekend. We did too. Thankfully, buy we have box scores, recaps, SportsCenter and web highlights.  We’ve taken the liberty to wrap up the biggest story lines and buzz-worthy details from the sports weekend below, just so you never have to miss a beat come Monday.

BULLS: 

The Bulls defeated the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night, 99-93 to win Game 7 in Brooklyn and take the first round series of the playoffs. In a true team effort, the Bulls used their entire bench to finish off the Nets as they were missing Kirk Hinrich (bruised calf) Luol Deng (bizarre virus infection) and of course, Derrick Rose.

The Bulls will only get one day of rest as the second round of the playoffs begin on Monday night at 6PM in Miami where they will face LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The Heat have been waiting for the winner of the Bulls/Nets series since April 28th after sweeping the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs.  

LeBron James was just named league MVP for the fourth time in five years and although the Bulls always seem to play the Heat incredibly well, this will definitely be a difficult series for the beat up Bulls as Hinrich and Deng are still listed ‘day-to-day’ and we still have no idea if Derrick Rose will defy the odds and make an appearance in the post season.

Check back in on Monday for our Bulls/Heat series preview.

BLACKHAWKS:

The Blackhawks went 1-1 this weekend in their opening series of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Minnesota Wild. On Friday night the Hawks came out guns blazing and beat the Wild 5-2 to take a 2-0 series lead. Michael Frolik and Patrick Sharp both had two goals apiece, and Bryan Bickell had a solid game once again for the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford continued to impress and silence his critics stopping 28 of 30 shots.

However, on Sunday in Game 3 when the Hawks played their first game of the series in Minnesota, the tables were turned as the Hawks fell in OT 3-2 putting the Wild are back in the series.

The only person who showed up on Sunday was Corey Crawford as he was shellacked with 40 shots on net stopping 37. It was sloppy play all around by the Blackhawks. Jonny Oduya and Duncan Keith notched the only goals for the Blackhawks who looked at times confused, out hustled against a hungry Wild team came out with desperation in front of their home crowd. They knew they couldn’t fall down 3-0 to the Hawks and they were physical and got in the Hawks’ heads.

The Hawks lead the series 2-1 and Game four is Tuesday night at 8:30PM on NBC Sports Network. The Hawks need to regroup and refocused. Or they might just come back to Chicago tied with the Wild in this series, that everyone thought would be a cake walk.

CUBS:

Alfonso Soriano (source: matchincome.com)

It was another long weekend for Cubs fans as the 11-19 Cubs were swept by the Cincinnati Reds at home ending with a 4-7 loss on Sunday.

Friday’s game started out with some high hopes as they only lost by one run, 6-5. The Cubs are convinced that closer Carlos Marmol might be able to get some batters out, but at Saturday’s game he couldn’t throw a strike! Alfonso Soriano hit a pair of two-run homeruns, and pitcher Jeff Samardzija was prepared for a first win since Opening Day, that is until Marmol showed up.

Marmol entered in the eighth with a two-run lead and once again, couldn’t execute, walking two and hitting another helping the Reds advance for four runs making a 6-4 victory against the Cubs.

Carlos Marmol (source: chicagonow.com)

The Cubs believe that if they continue using Marmol it will help him get back on track, but how much longer must fans wait before we get another W? It’s well known that Marmol struggled at the start of last season and eventually lost his job as closer. Since then he was able to make somewhat of a recovery with a 1.52 ERA.

Sunday’s game was another tough loss as starting pitcher Edwin Jackson got rocked allowing four runs on eight hits in just five innings, raising his ERA to 6.39. Jackson continues to struggle and is still looking for a win this season. The Cubs’ biggest off-season acquisition is starting to look like a bust after the Cubs signed him to a 4-year/$52 million deal this December and expected him to be a veteran anchor of the rotation.

Things don’t get any easier for the last place Cubs as they face the division leading Texas Rangers on Monday for a make up game before welcoming the division leading rival Cardinals on Tuesday and Wednesday before heading to Washington to take on the Nationals.

WHITE SOX:

After taking their opening series this season against the normally pesky Kansas City Royals, the Royals were back to their old ways this weekend, shutting down the Sox and continuing their annoying dominance over the south siders.

After Friday night’s game was postponed due to rain, the Sox dropped Saturday and Sunday’s meetings doing nothing to help their bottom-dwelling status in the AL Central.

On Saturday the Sox were shut out 0-2 by Royals’ pitcher, Jeremy Guthrie, the guy that always seems to be a huge pain in the Sox’ ass. Dylan Axelrod had a decent start but the Sox just couldn’t get anything going offensively.

The biggest sting came on Sunday in the Sox’ 6-5 loss in 10 innings. Closer, and former HAM, Addison Reed took his first blown save of the season blowing a 2-run lead in the 9th.   This was Reed’s first loss in his 11 chances this season. Not too bad.

Addison Reed

However, the bullpen continues to struggle and the Sox’ bats have been anything but consistent. The Sox will will make up their Friday night rainout on Monday in Kansas City before heading to New York to take on the Mets for a 2-game series before returning home to the Cell for a weekend series against the LA Angels.

 

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