Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Blackhawk's Q & A with a Guest!

(Editor's Note: In honor of this being the 101st post here at F&F, we're trying the first interview ever at F&F.)

Most people think of NHL hockey as a joke. To lose a whole season to the greed and petty squabblings of group of spoiled rich people soured a great many people here in the lower 48 to the big league. And since it's return, the NHL has taken some odd steps in trying to restore its casual fan interest including changing rules to increase scoring and having the players walk around town to give away tickets.

(How would you like to be an elite athlete that has to barter for his meals? "Oh, please come see our games. Hey here's some free tickets. And don't forget to tell them that Nicky sent you." Seems like a righteous retribution if you ask me.)

But last season's playoff were still a source of joy for fans of competition. There's not a much more intense scene than that of a playoff hockey game; every hit is harder, every pass is crisper, every save is more clutch. There are no gimme's in playoff hockey.

Unfortunately for fans of the Chicago Blackhawks, playoff hockey is like a distant memory. Gone are the glory days of Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Eddie Belfour and Chris Chelios. Lately the limp likes of Eric Daze, Jocelyn Thibault and Alexei Zhamnov have offered fans a view of what it means to be called the dregs of the league.

Back in the day, the firing of a Blackhawks' head coach would lead all the local sports shows, be front page news of the local newspapers, and be prime water cooler gossip; today it was the third story on television, the fifth page in the paper and a survey of multiple Chicago sports blogs provided nary a note on the situation.

But despite the crap-fest offered by Bill Wirtz and company, the Blackhawks still have fans, and fervent ones at that. And I've asked one of the most fervent to join me in a sit-down concerning the recent and very under-reported firing of Trent Yawney. Michael Miller, the most knowledgeable Hawks' fan I've read and the purveyor of the best Blackhawk fan site I've ever found (check out his comprehensive message boards...and honestly, there aren't many Hawks' sites out there),, graciously granted my request to talk Tallon, Yawney and Savard.Below follows our Q & A...

F&F: Let's get this thing started nice and simple, what the hell was Dale Tallon thinking when he fired Trent?

Michael Miller: I suppose he was thinking about his own future as General Manager and how SOMEONE had to take the fall for this season sooner or later. I wouldn't doubt if he had a white-haired devil over his shoulder saying "It's either him or you. You decide." Personally, I think Dale should take more of the blame than he has. By no means is this fiasco all Yawney's fault.

F&F: Tallon's Wirtz-like demons aside, what did Trent Yawney do wrong?

Michael Miller: I hear people complain that Yawney messed with the lines too much or he didn't show enough emotion or that he refused to hold people accountable for bad play or that he depended too much on the veterans to lead the team as opposed to doing it himself, etc. Perhaps there's some truth to all of that but the guy could only play with the cards he was dealt. It wasn't his fault that Ruutu, Handzus, Havlat, and Khabibulin went down. I think the main thing he did wrong was take a job in which he was guaranteed to fail. Aside from that, I believe he did everything he could to make the best of a bad situation - a situation that wasn't his fault to begin with.

F&F: You mentioned that Yawney was guaranteed to fail. Why do you think that and why, without major personnel change, wouldn't Savvy be guaranteed the same failure?

Michael Miller: Honestly? I think Savard is guaranteed to fail. History pretty much tells us that the Blackhawk head-coaching job is a virtual career killer (similar to the Cubs manager spot.) The 'Hawks just dont have the talent needed to win in the NHL. That's not necessarily's Yawney's fault or Savard's (and not totally Tallon's fault either.) There's a plan in place and several solid drafts have definitely given reason for a more optimistic future. But history tends to repeat itself over and over with this organization. Somehow, someway, they'll find ways to screw it up.

Vorobiev and Yak-me-ov were 2 highly touted picks. Both are gone and Vorobiev was pretty much screwed over. Before that, Ty Jones was a cant miss prospect. There was talk of a great team being built around Daze and Ethan Moreau (until Moreau was traded.) Mccarthy, Bell, Calder, Arnason, Babchuk were all highly touted kids. All are gone.

A couple of years ago, this team was stacked with goaltending talent and prospects. That's been depleted in Tallon's tenure.

Sure they've drafted well to replace those guys - but there are no guarantees and draft picks are a crap-shoot: some will succeed. Most will fail. Hell. Most will be GONE by the time they get close to their prime.

From a fan's point of view - it's absolutely a "I'll believe when I see it" scenario. Until proven otherwise, the status quo will remain the same.

F&F: In my eyes there was improvement. They seemed to adapt well to the new rules and, until the injuries occurred, were scoring at a rate not seen since the Bobby Hull days. Yawney, a coach in the organization for 6+ years, in my eyes led that improvement. Or was it really replacement coach (and power-play orchestrater not to mention Hawks hero) Denis Savard's doing, and what will Savvy do that Yawney couldn't?

Michael Miller: I think you'll see a couple of things happen with Savard at the helm now.

One, there usually seems to be an initial boost in everyone's game when a new coach comes on board. Although it may not necessarily translate to wins (as the upcoming schedule is pretty tough.)

Two, as you mentioned, Savard took over the PP this year and there's been a noticeable difference, compared to the last few seasons, in the set up of plays. THAT, for sure, is a result of Savvy as opposed to Yawney.

Finally, and probably most important, Savard will benefit with the timing of Havlat's return. Havlat's not a god by any means, but he seemed to be a key spark in the early.

F&F: Elaborate a little for me (you somewhat addressed this answering the first question)...the inconsistency of the younger players, the injuries to the front line players, aren't these just excuses for the poor Tallon free agent choices of former Hawk Matthew Barnaby and current Hawks Adrian Aucoin and Nikolai Khabibulin, two of the most overrated players in recent Hawks history?

Michael Miller: I don't think the injuries are 'excuses'. When the top line and #1 goalie go down - it's a huge hit for any team. But the lack of depth, and perhaps overly high expectations on the kids, came back to bite the Blackhawks on the ass. Tallon's mistake in this regard was putting $20 or million of the precious salary cap money to 4 guys: Aucoin, Havlat, Khabibulin and Lapointe. He had to overpay, though, to some extent just to get free agents to come to Chicago. But a lack of wiggle room with the cap space and mere fact that players don't want to come to the train-wreck in Chicago hindered any possible efforts on Tallon's part.

I agree with the idea of not trading away one of the kids (Seabrook, Keith, Barker, etc.) for what would ultimately be a band-aid for this season. But there has to be other options than rotating AHL-caliber players in the lineup.

Maybe to free up some money, he has to SPEND money. Trade Khabibulin (or Aucoin), but agree to pay part of the contract. That way you get something decent in return and save a bit of room on the salary cap. It'll "cost" him a bit, but it would be worth it.

F&F: Okay last question...if hell freezes over and Bill Wirtz sells the team what the heck will you do with your domain name?

Michael Miller: I was actually relying on Peter (Wirtz) taking over and then his kids and then their kids....

But if the team actually get sold? I'll probably drink myself to death in celebration.

F&F: I'll make sure to join you if it does!

(Editor's Note: The banner at the top of this post is taken directly from All rights to said banner are reserved by

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Milestone Time: Post 100!

Yep, this is officially post 100 in the three month life of Fleece & Flog, and we're damn proud of it! But what to write about? Hmmm...

We could write about how we'd rather have Denis Savard skating for the Blackhawks rather than coaching them, but no one really cares about hockey, right? The least Trent Yawney could have done when leaving the team is rip Bill Wirtz and Dale Tallon a new asshole. But we're betting they gave him quite the golden parachute to keep his mouth shut. Coward.

We could write about how the Illini and Indiana and Penn State all lost on the first night of the ACC/ Big Ten Challenge, but somewhere Dick Vitale is screaming at anyone who'll listen to him that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Maryland coach Gary Williams are the best in the business. And the din is too deafening to overcome. At least Lemont native Alando Tucker and Wisconsin won. Oh, so did Northwestern, but like hockey, no one cares about Northwestern basketball.

We could write about the two game win streak the Bulls are currently enjoying and how the players must love being able to sleep in their own beds again after that dreadful Circus trip, but the win streak is back-to-back victories over the dysfunctional New York Knicks, and they didn't play that well in the two wins anyways -- hardly something to be proud of.

We could add to the Ben Wallace rip job, and say that his overt insubordination tells of a deeper rift affecting the team than anyone had previously imagined, but if their early season play didn't already indicate that, well, then we're no basketball fans. The slumping shoulders tell the true story of that team. And we can't handle the thought of a return to the Jalen Rose days of the Bulls past. Free agents will again be shunning Chicago if coach Scott Skiles doesn't show a little flexibility.

We could write about hot stove reports concerning the possible departure of our man crush Joe Crede, but we'll let the rumors and innuendos settle as we search for a reason why Kenny Williams is even considering offering arbitration to Scott Podsednik. Thank god, KW saw the light and resigned semi-man crush, Ross Gload!

We could pine for the destruction of Wrigley Field (it is in a prime real estate area), but the idea watching Sweet Lou Pinella losing his mind when Alfonso Soriano declares he won't play CF is just way too sweet a thing to miss. And we actually like the Cubby Bear, and what would it be called if the ivy came tumbling down? A Prince-like The Bar Formerly Known As...?

We could write how we're seeing the gleam of a Super Bowl trophy disappearing as we type in the shadow of one Rex Grossman, and how under/over-rated (you decide) Brian Urlacher will dig Rex's grave for him if he keeps giving the ball back every time the defense barely takes a seat on the sideline, but we're not into writing about future Urlacher tomes called "If I Killed Rex."

We could express our remorse at realizing that maybe Notre Dame isn't as good as we wished they were, but why spoil a healthy bout of homerism even though we never attended ND nor lived in South Bend. Even the Fighting Irish name is a misnomer, and while the moniker may be the only thing we share in common with the institution of higher learning, we know that in actuality the university was founded by the French and some Potowatami Indians. What the hell do we have in common with them? Damn history. Damn Frances Wallace.

We could write about a great many things here in Chicago -- the possibility of the Olympics; the exploits of native sons Dwayne Wade, Donovan McNabb, Chris Chelios or Jim Thome (okay, so he's from the Peoria area, well, the Illini are from Champaign and by proxy Chicago, so we can use Thome as such); how Chicago will have the two most outspoken managers in baseball in Pinella and Ozzie Guillen -- we could go on and on.

But we'll really just write one small thing:

Thanks for reading, and come on back now, yah hear?

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Harrelson and Pinella: A Conversation

Date: The middle of June, 2007
Location: An undisclosed golf course somewhere in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.
Players: White Sox broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson and Chicago Cubs manager Lou Pinella

Harrelson: Hey, Sweet Lou, how's that carmine derriere doin'?

Pinella: Hawk, you ol' son of a bitch.

Harrelson: So what's the bet today? A sleeve of balls to the guy who stays off the beach today?

Pinella: Eh, I don't know Hawk. I'm tired of gettin' hustled by you, Hawk. I mean, you live on this friggin' course.

Harrelson: I luuvvvv it when you analyze, Lou.

Pinella: Now don't get me started, Hawk, or I'll kick your ass like I did Dibble's.

Harrelson: I'm no can-o-corn, Sweet Lou, like Dibs was. Now you wanna talk can-o-corn. Jay Mariotti, now he's a can-o-corn. Probably never been in a fight in his life.

Pinella: Yeah, Hawk, what's the deal with that guy? At least Psycho Lyons talked shit a seat away from me. This Mari--how do you say his name, Hawk?

Harrelson: I just call him heiny bird.

Pinella: Huh?

Harrelson: You know, Sweet Lou, a bird that flies in concentric circles until it finally disappears up it's own behind.

Pinella: I thought you gave up the sauce, Hawk.

Harrelson: You're dadgum right, I did.

Pinella: (To himself) What the fuck is he talkin' about? (To Hawk) Anyways, so this Jay writer guy...I hear he doesn't actually attend games that he writes about and doesn't do interviews anymore.

Harrelson: Nope, he's afraid to cinch it up and hunker down. At least on the South side he is. I can't speak for that NL park.

Pinella: I don't have a clue what the guy even looks like. Maybe he hides in the back of the reporters and tells that Phil Rogers guy to ask his questions for him.

Harrelson: Nah, Rogers is a big hack, no contact guy. The heiny bird you just gotta reel him in, zone him in, and light him I'm about to do with this 3 iron. (Swings a golf club) You can put it on the board, Yes!

Pinella: You know, Hawk, I sure am glad the guys upstairs at Wrigley got me Soriano. Alex Rodrigez was amazing, but this Soriano guy...

Harrelson: Lou, he's the right size, wrong shape for your club. You need a guy who'll bow his neck.

Pinella: (Stepping onto the tee box) Huh?

Harrelson: You need someone to do some chunkin' for you.

Pinella: Huh?

Harrelson: Someone to throw some hang whiff 'ems.

Pinella: (Swings his golf club) Pitching? (Looking at the flight of his ball) Cabron!

Harrelson: (Looking at Pinella's golf ball) Get foul! Get foul! It will! I luvvvv sleeves of golf balls!

Pinella: What do you mean we need pitching, Hawk?

Harrelson: Instead of spending all that money on one guy, you coulda got double barreled action in Zito and Schmidt.

Pinella: Ah, fuck it Hawk, and your team is any better?

Harrelson: Lou, you better grab some bench talkin' about my team or I'll cancel your postgame show.

Pinella: (Searching the rough for his golf ball) C'mon, Hawk, help me find my ball.

Harrelson: (Walking away from Lou) Sorry, Lou, but you're doing the dreaded lead off walk. Not me.

Pinella: For the forty years I've known you, Hawk, I can never remember you being such an ass. And you call me a hot head.

Harrelson: Sorry, Lou, but I got some gasssssss from the baklava my wife made last night.

Pinella: (Still searching for the golf ball) Here it is! Hey, Hawk, can I take a drop over here?

Harrelson: Sure, but you're just gonna hit a chopper, two hopper.

Pinella: (Swings his wedge) I like it! Stay on the green, stay on the green! How about that shot, Hawk?

Harrelson: (Long space of dead silence)

Pinella: What's the matter, Hawk? Cat got your tongue?

Harrelson: (More dead air)

Pinella: Hey, that guy on the green is playing too slow. Maybe we should ask him if we can play thru.

Harrelson: (Walking toward the green after swinging his club and mumbling to himself) I just missed that one.

Pinella: (To the guy already on the green) Hey, buddy, is it okay if we play thru? You seem to be a little slow today. (The guy on the green looks up and starts running away)

Harrelson: (Motioning to the guy running away) Hey, Sweet Lou, lemme introduce you to the heiny bird himself, Jay Mariotti. He gone!

Pinella: (To himself) I hate golfing with Hawk.

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Fleece & Flog's NFL Top Five: Week 12

We've all heard of the 7 second delay in live broadcasting. To censure any off-the-cuff remarks inappropriate for family viewing most networks send the live feed slighty staggered from the real event. After viewing the Bears game Sunday afternoon, I wonder if Rex Grossman is playing on a 2 second delay. His passes were consistently behind his receivers, his decisions a tad slow. Maybe he's taken one too many hits in the last few games and he and the doctors have missed diagnosing a concussion because his vision has been a tad foggy on the field.

Of the three interceptions and fumble, Rex seemed to be behind the time in each instance. Now rather than join the growing list of people calling for Rex's job, I suggest Lovie take Rex off slow motion and just let him hand off. Cedric Benson is finally showing up. Sadly for Bears fans, it'll be Rex or bust come playoff time. Can Bears fans handle that type of delay?

Onto the Top Five-----------------------------------
  1. Indianapolis Colts (10-1): Smashing Philly doesn't necessarily get you style points anymore. Doing it with nothing but a running game does.
  2. San Diego Chargers (9-2): Is is okay to call Ladanian Tomlinson LT? Isn't there something sacreligious about it? How does Lawrence Taylor feel about it? Can't we be more creative with our nicknames nowadays than to just call people by their initials?
  3. Baltimore Ravens (9-2): Maybe Brian Billick knows what he's doing. Since Jamal Lewis starting running, the Ravens have been unstoppable.
  4. Chicago Bears (9-2): Yeah, I know, I have the Bears ranked ahead of the team that just beat them, but the Pats just didn't impress me. Rex just disappointed me. Losing 17-13 on the road to a good team isn't all that bad. At home or on a neutral field, the Bears win.
  5. New England Patriots (8-3): I was, however, impressed with Tom Brady. He was as cool under pressure as any QB I've ever seen play. He's this generation's Joe Montana to Peyton Manning's Dan Marino.
The Bears can win the NFC North outright with a win against Minnesota this week in Chicago. Let's just hope Rex is on time for the game.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

No Headache Approach to the ND/ USC Game

Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. What were you thinking, Charlie?

Okay, to prevent a recurring headache I have at the end of each ND season, I'm not gonna dwell too much on what I should have known was the obvious outcome of a Notre Dame/ USC tilt. As has been reported to death, USC has won the last five meetings, and only last season's game was even close. USC just has ND's number right now, and ain't much gonna change until Charlie Weis can cash in a recruiting class in the top 5.

But I would like to point out one stat that might not get that much attention with Dwayne Jarrett doing his best Keyshawn Johnson vs. Northwestern in the Rose Bowl impersonation.

Notre Dame 4th down efficiency: 2 of 6.

Of the four failed attempts, only one can be called a reasonable attempt, and that was at the very end of the game.

The others?

With 2:34 gone from the opening kick off and ND at the USC 29 yard line, Coach Weis went for it on 4th & 9 instead of attempting a 46 yard field goal. Some will say going for and making it early would have put USC on their heels, but with no score and the NCAA rule of the ball returning to the line of scrimmage on a missed FG, any early points on the road are key. Instead the defense is jacked up, the offense is hyped and, blam-o, eight plays later USC scores a TD, 7-0 USC.

Trailing 21-10 and following a John David Booty interception, Charlie Weis inexplicably goes for it on 4th & 4 at the USC 46 yard line. On the USC 46 yard line? Wouldn't a punt down inside the 15 yard line be the right play? The defense was starting to get its bearings; they were bringing more pressure and had even blocked a punt. Good ole momentum was on the defense's side, not Brady Quinn's.

On the very next Notre Dame drive, which followed another Booty interception, Charlie Weis once again eschewed the field goal points and went for it on 4th & 6 at the USC 32 yard line. At this point, and the word is apropos, points are what mattered. A FG would have made it a one score game, and USC defense wouldn't crush the ND offense's spirit with its 3rd stop on 4th down.

Add to these strange calls the Darius Walker fumble on the USC 3 yard line, and ND was a team marked by missed chances. In all Brady Quinn's completion percentage tells the tale for the offense: 49%. If he completes 3 more passes, we're talking a whole different outcome, but then again (cliche alert), that's why they play the games.

Notre Dame is starting to make me feel like Cubs fans feel when they habitually say, "Wait til next year."

Thanks a lot for that, Charlie.

(Update 11-29-06: The guys at The Blue Gray Sky -- probably the best ND football blog around -- pretty much agree with my assessment. And I was actually gonna use 3rd down conversions in my analysis too, but as we know, I'm lazy.)

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I've been doing some number crunching, and I've come up with a few stats concerning Ben Wallace.
  • For the 2006-2007 season, The 'Fro is earning $15,680,000.00.
  • Thru 13 games The 'Fro is averaging 33 minutes and 53 seconds of court time per game.
  • That's $191,219.51 per game thru an 82 game regular season.
  • That's $5643.47 per minute of court time.
  • That's $94.06 per second of court time.
If Ben Wallace's stats stay at their current per game rates...
  • Rebounds at a rate of 9.23 per game would equal $20,717.17 per rebound.
  • Points at a rate of 5.46 per game would equal $35,021.89 per point.
  • Personal fouls at a rate of 2.38 per game would equal $80,344.33 per game.
  • Assists at a rate of 1.77 per game would equal $108,033.62 per assist.
  • Steals at a rate of 1.62 per game would equal $118,036.74 per steal.
  • Blocks at a rate of 1.54 per game would equal $124,168.51 per block
If Ben Wallace's game play remains at it's current rate...
  • Smush Parker dunks over The 'Fro at 1.00 per game would equal $7,840,000.00 per Smush poster
  • Erick Dampier looking like Moses Malone at 6.00 times per game would equal $1,306,666.67 per flashback.
  • Outplayed by Samuel Dalembert at a rate of 8.15 minutes per game would equal $633,535.35 per minute Dalmebert sees the floor that The 'Fro doesn't
  • Minutes lost due to wearing a team-rules-breaking headband: 15.48.
Wait, what?

That's right. The day after Ben Wallace plays a season low 19 minutes 38 seconds in a loss to Philadelphia, he's benched at two different times against New York, including what must have been an embarrassing last second yank-job right before the start of the second half.

And the reason for the benching?

That's right. He wore his trademark headband.

So when did the Chicago Bulls become the New York Yankees? When did Scott Skiles gain the cache to impersonate Joe Torre? Did Jerry Reinsdorf secretly channel George Steinbrenner with recent clubhouse edicts including the White Sox insistence on haircuts for Joe Crede and AJ Pierzynski? Long, unsightly hair is one thing; a headband preventing sweat from getting in the eyes is another.

David Stern's recent iron-fisted tactics concerning wardrobe choices for players sitting on the bench and entering the stadium could be seen as an attempt at teaching a younger generation a lesson in class and appearance. And I can somewhat understand his implicit motives -- the perception of reality can outweigh actual reality. In other words, the NBA and it's players had an image problem, one of laziness, insubordination and carelessness. Looked upon as a league of thugs and malcontents with their hip-hop culture including bawdy bling and baggy clothes, Stern choose to institute a dresscode as a direct affront to the thug-life image most ballers chose to portray. Out went the big gold and platinum chains, the sweat suits, the baggy jeans; in were collared shirts, ties and suit coats. If the players look professional, less will be perceived as ignorant and troublemakers, and in turn the NBA will gain back a little of the lofty status it's lost since the golden days of MJ, Magic and Larry Legend.

But the Bulls insistence on no headbands seems to be taking the idea a bit too far. And if headbands aren't allowed, why are wrist bands or knee high socks okay? Both are a part of the street baller image I'm assuming the team is trying to suppress. Why are special shoes allowed? Aren't sneakers/ kicks the godfather of status when it comes to image in the NBA? The idea of uniform appearance would certainly be enforced if the players wore the same shoes; high schools and colleges don't have any problems with the same shoe method.

What if there were a medical need for a headband? What then of Skiles ban? Didn't Tyrus Thomas wear one on top of his face mask to keep the sweat from running in between the mask and his face?

And in the name of team harmony, wouldn't a happy Ben Wallace go a long way to better Bulls play than a brooding and sulking Ben Wallace? He's been accused of such actions in the past. Was the headband a middle finger in the direction of Skiles for the benching in Philly? When he entered the game in the second half with headband still in tow, was it in defiance of Skiles edict, a proclamation that he wasn't going to stand for such draconian laws?

I don't know exactly what Ben Wallace was thinking wearing the headband, nor what Skiles (or Reinsdorf) was thinking issuing such a meaningless restriction. What I do know is that it's one expensive headband to be causing such trouble.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

The Great Sports Coaster Is Back!

After a week's hiatus -- more because we're lazy than any other reason -- the great link dump day is here again. Add the recent Bulls slide to the mix and my brain has been somewhat paralyzed when it comes to thinking rationally. I need the Bulls to do well, or I might go all Colonel Nathan Jessup on someone and skull fuck his ass.

But in the interest of getting out the vote, or reading is fundamental, or a mind is a terrible thing to waste, or whatever catchphrase is popular right now, here's a few links that might help educate a man or woman or maybe just confuse the ever-living piss outta them.

I cannot and will not be held responsible for your reaction to the below links. I will, however, laugh at your ass.
  1. So when does Forbes put out that richest people in the world list, and who on Fornelli's list won't make that list? (Foul Balls)
  2. Following Frank the Tank's theory I should have rooted for the Detroit Tigers, right? (Frank the Tank's Slant)
  3. I actually emailed The Southtown's Joe Cowley once. The guys at The Big Lead really don't like him. (The Big Lead)
  4. Gary Matthews made a killing this off-season, and here's one White Sox fan thankful it wasn't in Chicago. (Sox Machine)
  5. Jeeves thinks the BCS is a mess. Don't we all? (ChiSox Blog)
  6. Another White Sox Fan with a Cubs/ Soriano rant. (Ron Karkovice Fan Club)
  7. Remember the song, "Detachable Penis"? Well, it looks like life actually imitates art on a very big scale. (Deadspin)
  8. Another arena/ stadium with a name too big for a billboard? Geez. (28 Days)
  9. Bull's fans air their grievances. Of course, mine is the first comment! (Blog-A-Bull)
  10. This week's non-sports link is a review of Bobby from the very underrated Chicago Reader. (Chicago Reader)
  11. Non-sports link #2. My buddies play in a band. Their band is playing at O'Malley's in Alsip tonight. Join Us! (Imperial DLX)
And that's all the news that's fit to print. So remember boys and girls, as Gary Gnu always says, "No gnus is good gnews."

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Thanksgiving: The Day After

In a blatant attempt at pity, let me tell you, the reader, in four words how my day went yesterday: sleep, pizza, sleep again.

Thank god for pizza. I prefer mine veggied up -- onions, mushrooms, green peppers and black olives -- the pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars and green clovers of any good Chicago-style pizza. And since I don't get the NFL Network and subsequently last night's KC/ Denver game as part of my cable package, last night was quite lacking for anything of authentic viewing pleasure. In other words I was asleep around 9 PM with dreams of Thanksgivings past dancing in my dreams.

But I awoke around 1:30 AM to an epiphany of sorts. Actually I awoke to the smell of leftover pizza and the sound of whatever piece of educational viewing the History Channel was broadcasting at the time, but why quibble over words. And I digress...

How about the painfully obvious easy post detailing things for which I'm thankful. That's a tad too easy, right? Besides it's not really Thanksgiving Day anymore, is it? So we've decided to take the other side of the equation and be the Yang to Thanksgiving Day's Yin. We'll post the things we're NOT thankful for...

I'm NOT thankful for Alfonso Soriano joining the Cubs. Now I'll have to deal with the listening to another Cub outfielder with a big ego and little English skills.

I'm NOT thankful for Lou Pinella managing in Chicago because now I'll have to hear Hawk Harrelson cry about Jay Mariotti everytime he writes about the White Sox and Cubs.

I'm NOT thankful for Joe Crede's decision not to have surgery on his back. After four months of man love, I'll be forced to wonder what I did to make Joe not love me anymore when the strains and rigors of a long season affect his game and his back again in late August and September.

I'm NOT thankful for David Aardsma and his crazy stare especially after watching a documentary about Robert F. Kennnedy and realizing they have the exact same eyes. I have a feeling I'll have a few sleepless nights next summer after watching him pitch.

I'm NOT thankful for Brian Anderson's stint in Venezuela because it'll give Ozzie Guillen all the the ammunition he needs to start Rob Mackowiak in center field more than he should.

I'm NOT thankful for Brady Quinn's senior season since I'll be rooting against him next season when he's playing in Detroit.

I'm NOT thankful for the OSU/ Michigan game because anytime anything as ambiguous as a close game happens the cries go out for an NCAA football playoff and who can resist the allure of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl or the Car Care Center Bowl or the always splendid Dominios Pizza Bowl?

I'm certainly NOT thankful for what I can only hope is a bad joke by Bruce Weber in offering a scholarship to a high school fresheman. With the advancement of science, what's next? Tracking the fetal movements of embryos?

I'm NOT thankful for the hype machinces surrounding players like Greg Oden who are being hailed as the savior of the Chicago Bulls when he hasn't even played a single game for his current team, the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Speaking of the Bulls, I'm NOT thankful for becoming so involved in a team that I've overlooked essential daily functions of life like eating, sleeping, bathing, etc.

And I'm definitely NOT thankful for Ben Gordon's shooting percentage that's hovering somewhere around the basketball version of the Mendoza line.

I'm NOT thankful for the human turnover, Chris Duhon, and hope Thabo Sefolosha will keep taking more of his minutes.

I'm NOT thankful for David Stern's new balls and the consternation they're creating throughout the league, and I'm not even talking about the new composite leather things the players actually shoot with.

I'm NOT thankful for the NHL's unbalanced schedule. It's just a travesty that the Original Six teams the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Blackhawks have played one game in Chicago in the last three seasons.

I'm NOT thankful for Nikolai Khabibulin who turned his one hot season and Stanley Cup Championship into an albatross contract for the Chicago Blackhawks.

I'm NOT thankful for Michal Handzus, Martin Havlat and Mikael Holmqvist. Injuries have turned the H from hope into horror for the high scoringTriple-H line.

And speaking of injuries, I'm NOT thankful for another Mike Brown season-ending injury. Next season he should be required to get hurt in either the preseason or the first game of the season so he'll be available come playoff time.

I'm NOT thankful for the Miami Dolphins and their supposed hex over the Chicago Bears franchise. I thought bears ate fish for dinner.

I'm NOT thankful for a woeful NFC. It slights the Bears and has an AL dominating the NL only to be shown up in the playoffs feel.

I'm NOT thankful for Joe Theisman in the MNF booth. They should can him already and replace him with Mike Wilbon, a Richard Pryor to Tony Kornheiser's Gene Wilder.

I'm NOT thankful for ESPN in general and their MTV-like slide into a pop culture mess. When did reporting the scores become a red carpet event?

And I'm NOT even thankful for sports blogs. If I never found Bill Simmons, the Daily Quickie, or South Side Sox (the first blogger/ blogs I'd ever really read), I might actually have a life right now and would have enjoyed a leftover turkey sandwich at 1:30 AM this morning instead of cold pizza.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bowing Down to the Golden Calf

This blog is far from objective; in fact it's main goal is to be unobjective, to sear, to masticate, to roar with lions' jowls at aches and pains received daily from the ineptitude of Chicago sports teams. Much to my delight, however, there hasn't been too many things to cry about lately; the White Sox are a year removed from a championship, the Bears are the best team in the NFC if not all of football, Notre Dame is headed to a BCS bowl with an outside shot at the championship, the Blackhawks were playing well until bitten by the injury bug, and even the Cubs made a joyful noise unto their fans with the free agent signing of Alfonso Soriano.

Then there's the Bulls, the team I drink the Kool-Aid from more often than not.

As it stands, the team is 3-7. They have no offense to speak of, the defense is in shambles and the prized rookie, Tyrus Thomas, is getting less than 10 minutes a game. And I can't find a word to say about them.

Yes, I feel hypnotized or mesmorized or brainwashed by the dealings of John Paxson. He put together a team that looked to be a winner, he put together a team that no one should score any points against, he put together a team that had Chicago embracing it before a single game was played. And I prostrated myself just as much as the next person.

So far, Ben Wallace is even money or maybe a little on the bust side. His contributions in the defensive post have been nice and his hustle for offensive boards have helped the Bulls win the three games they've won, but where's the fear he's supposed to strike into opponent's hearts? Smush Parker sure wasn't afraid of Ben when he posterized him the other day. Smush Parker?!?! The free throw shooting we expected, the inability to hold the ball like Tyson Chandler we didn't. Maybe Pax was sold a bag of rocks and has tried to sell it off as a bundle of roses to the fans. You can keep it, Pax.

I'd like to introduce Tyrus Thomas to former draft pick of the Bulls, Marcus Fizer. Here's what happens when you play out of control, Tyrus. You lose minutes, the coach's good graces, teammates' trust and eventually the fans' trust too. You get booed, become a malcontent, and suddenly you're on the inactive list more than you're off it. You care less cuz it seems everyone's against you, don't practice as hard, and one day when you finally get a chance, karma bites you in the ass and you get injured. You spend the next year working your tail off to make it back, but by that time the next flavor of the month has arrived and you're shipped off to the d-league to flounder in anonymity for the rest of your career all while wondering how you're gonna feed the five mouths your family has suddenly grown. I already see the question mark of your game, Tyrus. Just don't' go get it as a tattoo or I'll really be scared.

When did Kirk Hinrich become such a whiner? Just cuz he played well with the national team over the summer doesn't mean he's getting any more recognition now. Sure, he may be friends with LeBron, D-Wade and the rest, but he isn't getting their love anytime soon from the referees. And stop dribbling the ball so damn much and attack the hoop.

The steal of the century, Viktor Khrayapa, has been as advertised -- the Krap-man. Slower feet than Darius Songalia, less jumpers than Antonio Davis, matador defense like Eddy Curry; did John Paxson take all the bad traits of recent players and mix them into one batch to produce this guy?

Chris Duhon -- it should have been this Dookie point guard flying through the air off a motorcycle instead of the other one.

And now for the true enigma of the Chicago Bulls, Ben Gordon. He's not exactly someone I'd like to meet in a dark alley, he might try to sell me bubble bath or something. For as strong a body as the 6' 3" guard has, he plays like Snuggle in the rinse cycle. And the dumb turnovers. But most annoying of all? He'll catch a pass with a wide open shot, and he'll pump fake drawing a defender or two. For as good a shooter as Ben Gordon is, he's doesn't seem to wanna ever catch and shoot. It's always catch, pump fake, drive; or catch, pump fake, spin, travel; or catch, pump fake, dribble, turnover; never a simple John Paxson-like or Craig Hodges-like catch and shoot. The raw spot in the middle of my desk is from the pounding of my forehead everytime Ben catches the ball.

Some niceties here. As I've said before, Thabo Sefolosha is a steal. While he needs a jumper, he's fearless, a good defender and ballhander, and has a better NBA game already than Duhon. And Luol Deng can be a monster. I actually think he's a power forward in a small forward body. If he can work on a post game, the Bulls needs in the post may be solved.

But I'm done with my Mariotti diatribe. I love the Chicago Bulls, more than any other Chicago team around, so when I'm told one thing and shown another, I feel a little hoodwinked. Then again, it's only ten games, and the Bulls have started slow each of the last two seasons only to make a charge into the playoffs. At least Scott Skiles has a plan, but what that plan is I'm not sure. For now I'll just have to keep bowing to the golden calf and hope it grows into a charging Bull.

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Fleece & Flog's NFL Top Five Week 11

The maturation of Rex Grossman is an interesting thing to watch. From throwing the pigskin off his back foot to tucking the ball and taking a sack, Rex's improvement has been noticable. Sure he played with what looked like a sense of fear against the Jets, but to my eyes that was more game planning than anything else. He rushed some throws that ended up behind or at the feet of his receivers, but at least they weren't in the arms of defenders eithers. In fact, Rex probably made one dumb throw all game that luckily went threw a defender's hands.

It's funny how the coaching staff scared Rex into a game plan. They probably had the offense play eleven on thirteen to simulate extra pressure from blitzing, and in the first half Rex still thought there were thirteen guys out there. Sure there was a Bernard Berrian drop that didn't help, but he gets a small pass for trying to play hurt; Rex could have put that pass on his numbers instead of over his head. All in all there really wasn't that much pressure on Rex, and TJ and Ced's running made the day much easier for Rex to handle.

But he'd better get used to the rest of the games being this way. The way to beat the Bears is to pressure Rex, and we'll see if his second year of playing (he's finally made it past 16 games of play in his fourth year) has continued improvement. It sure looks like it to this Bears fan.

Onto the Top Five---------------------------------------------------

  1. Da Bears (9-1): Yeah, this is a homer pick. Yeah, the defense kinda bent but didn't break. Yeah, they only scored 10 points last week. BUT...they won for the second week in a row on the road. They didn't allow a single point scored on the road. They beat a hot team on the road. Did I mention they were playing on the road? (Next week: @ 7-3 New England Patriots)
  2. Indianapolis Colts (9-1): They finally lost a game...on the road...against a hot quarterback...and a tight defense...shocking! Not really. Going undefeated is the hardest thing to do in professional football. Now if someone will just shut up those '72 Dolphins. (Next week: 5-5 Philadelphia Eagles)
  3. San Diego Chargers (8-2): This team has competing values. There's LT and Philip Rivers on one hand -- the guys you really root for, and then there's Marty Shottenheimer and Shawne Merriman -- the former a coach with a Napolean complex, the latter a poster boy for a chem-lab in each NFL training complex. I'm not jumping on this bandwagon just yet. (Next Week: 2-8 Oakland Raiders)
  4. Baltimore Ravens (8-2): This is another team with a god-complex head coach. And don't think Brian Billick's not patting himself on the back right now for the genius behind installing himself as the team play caller. At least Jamal Lewis is happy. Oh, and how does that sideline feel, Ray Lewis, like somewhere god wants you? (Next week: 4-6 Pittsburgh Steelers)
  5. New England Patriots (7-3): They absolutely crushed GB in Lambeau this week with a 35-0 drubbing. That home loss to the Jets kinda pissed Tom Brady off just a little huh? The defense was more pissed; they knocked out Brett Favre and his back-up, Aaron Rodgers, in the same game. (Next week: 9-1 Chicago Bears)

Thanksgiving week is upon us and along with turkey and dressing we actually get a Thursday night football game. Yes, for the first time in over 30 years, someone other than Detroit and Dallas will be playing a home game on Thanksgiving: Denver will be playing at Kansas City. For me the game of the week is the Bears on the road in New England. A win there should finally validate Chicago as the best team in the NFL, and it just might clinch the NFC North title too.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Cubs Magic

Look over here kids, watch the beautiful assistant (high-priced left-fielder[?]), while your Uncle Jim looks to pull a rabbit (decent starting pitcher) out of his hat(his, well, you can guess).

The Cubs made the biggest splash they believed they could. They signed Soriano. If you wanted Barry Zito, you should have been born a New Yorker. Mark Buerle will be a St. Louis Cardinal before Zito is a Cub. Instead, they signed a guy to play a position he actually sat out a game to not have to play. His formidable offensive numbers scream for a 3-5 slot in the line-up. The problem is when he actually is put there in the line-up, he isn't so good. So lead off it is.

So how does that solve the Cubs pitching woes? It doesn't. Granted, it isn't the best year on record for free agent pitchers. Still, Soriano makes for better headline, if not so much better scoreline. He is an undeniable talent, but unless he can take the mound every fifth day, he won't help the Cubs into the playoffs alone. Hendry looks to have have fallen into the Alex Rodriguez-trap. Ask Texas and even the Yankees how they would love better pitching to actually win playoff games. As a White Sox fan, one could not be happier that the Cubs have decided to tie up their future so misplacedly. The Cubs seem to be hoping that they can get a medium-tier guy or two, and then get lucky that three or four of the starters pitch above all previous expectations (ala 05 Sox). Talk about a magic act. It would be nice to wish them luck, but, um, no it can't be done. It shouldn't take too long for the wheels to fall off this wagon. When they do, the Cubs band will be playing a different, more familiar song. Everybody join in if you know the words, it starts like this: Wait 'til next year...

Until next time, be good.

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A Whole New Meaning to a Big Right Hook(er)

All aboard the crazy train, where it stops, not even god knows at this point.

Our favorite rapist/boxer with a lisp can now add another profession to his resume. If you thought Mike Tyson could sink no lower, you clearly underestimated the storm of insanity that is Iron Mike. Tyson is now partaking in the world's oldest profession. No, he's not a connoisseur, but rather a provider. He is officially a prostitute. Tyson has hooked up with the infamous Heidi Fleiss who now has a 60-acre, legalized, brothel for women known as Heidi's Stud Farm.

Now that I think about it, such a move by Tyson isn't all that surprising. I'm not referring to his craziness, but rather his fondness of loving. Tyson was once quoted as saying,
"I may like fornicating more than other people. It's just who I am. I sacrifice so much of my life, can I atleast get laid? Know what I mean? I been robbed of most of my money, can I at least get a blow job?"

It all makes sense. Tyson loves to fornicate, and he's been robbed of most of his money, so why not fornicate for money? It's perfect, he's killing two birds with one stone.

Tyson on his new profession,

"I don't care what any man says, it's every man's dream to please every woman - and get paid for it."

I have two questions now for Tyson.

A.) Would he really please every woman? Would he really "please" a woman like this?
B.) What's his prostitute name going to be?

Prostitutes are required to have ridiculous names like Candy or Star or Hooty McBoob or Chesty LaRue, so what will Tyson go by?

He could go for the always classic Buck Naked a la Seinfeld. Perhaps he could go by Big Right Hooker and pay respects to his roots as a boxer. He could also go as Big Nasty Nate in homage to his days in jail and to the movie Half Baked. Maybe he'd go and make a play off Brokeback Mountain as everyone else has done in the past year and go by Broke-Ass something or the other to relate to the fact that he has no dough.

Regardless of what his name will be, I think Mike will be very successful in his stint as a gigolo. After all, he claims he could "sell out Madison Square Garden masturbating." Plus, if there are any unwanted pregnancies, Mike can just "eat his children."

So here's to you Mike. You've gone from boxer, to poet, to male prostitute. As you approach this new challenge, just remember this one bit of advice, "Don't be a fool, cover your tool."

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

I Must Be Having A Flashback

Last night's ephemeral jaunt into the twilight zone ended with the buzzing of an alarm clock at 11:55 AM this morning so I could be awake to watch the Bears/ Jets game. Let me tell you, I was tired. My throat was sore, my eyes were puffy, and slipping out from underneath the covers was a task I dreaded.

But a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. So after remaining in bed for the first quarter, I courageously crawled out of bed to check how my fantasy football teams were faring. Swooning from a light head and empty stomach I stumbled over to my desk, turned on the computer and found the bookmark to my first team. (Lee Evans massive first quarter staked me to a lead in two of my three matchups.)

The Outlook email notification told me to check the mail so I found a comment from Fornelli about something I posted yesterday, something he obviously found bemusing cuz all it read was, "(shakes his head)." One of the few commenting problems Blogger has is the non-identification of what post the comment email originates from, and with the ambiguity of the comment I needed to check the site to see what had Fornelli shaking his head.

Upon opening the site, I found the post just below this one which I really don't remember typing, but there were no comments attached to it so to the next one I went, the one with a big ole' pic of "Go Blue" staring me in the face. Yikes. Without looking, I knew what Fornelli was shaking his head at.

So after yesterday's games where did Notre Dame stand in the latest rankings? The AP and USAToday/ Coaches Poll were both available by this time, and the next link I clicked was to check it out.

The dream world/ fantasy land I'd invaded last night in order to post such a crazy thing as flags and flaggers suddenly flashed before me. On the television to my left the Bears were struggling with a mediocre Jets team, but that was no dream. The Bears have had issues lately. No, I felt the tug of the prior night's musings cuz of the headline before me: The Cubs Sign Alfonso Soriano for $136 Million.

Huh? Was I still asleep?

Was this part of my nocturnal journal?

A pinch of the skin didn't help; I was still groggy with sleep. Maybe I needed to clean the plumbing, get the blood flowing, get the neurons firing in the brain. Then again, maybe I needed to dry out from yesterday's cough medicine overdose.

The Tribune Company doesn't step out that often to make a big splash in the free agent market; they normally make their hay by trading for big names. They did so for Sammy Sosa, D-Lee and Aramis Ramirez. No, their free agent spending is used on the Todd Walkers, Jeremy Burnitzs or the Jacques Joneses of the baseball world -- third tier players used as stop-gap measures until something better comes along. Or they'll save their money to resign their own guys like A-Ram and Kerry Wood.

No, this headline didn't register in my cerebral cortex because it's something the Cubs management would normally never attempt. Look at the outrageous numbers included in the contract: 8 years at $17 million a year. And this after they just spent a bundle resigning A-Ram. What's with the recent unconscious spending spree? Wasn't the Cubs real problem pitching? Shouldn't they be spending that money on two established starters like Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt? Ten million for Zito and eight or nine for Schmidt would have given them a rather formidable rotation with Zambrano, Prior and Wade Miller or maybe even one of the many up and coming rookies they started last year.

But didn't the Cubs just sign a 2nd baseman, Mark DeRosa, and isn't A-Ram the 3rd baseman for the foreseeable future? What happens to Matt Murton's growth if they throw Soriano out in LF where played most of last season? Does this signal the end of the Juan Pierre era in CF, someone every Cubs fan will tell you they were very high on last year? They can't possibly spend any more money on free agents without risking a huge hit from the luxury tax, can they?

This certainly would signify a change in team strategy, one more to the liking of new team manager Lou Pinella. In fact the Cubs remind me a lot of some of his Seattle teams --big big lineup, fair to okay pitching, defense that will be tested down the lines other than at firstbase.

But now I'm thinking crazy. I'm speculating about the lineup, rotation and defense of the Cubs, a team I dislike almost as much as the University of Michigan. My eyes are starting to swell again, the Bears are still mired in a 0-0 tie at half-time, and I'm having vision of flaggers again.

"Get out quicker," that was last night's medicinal message.

"Get back into bed, you're seeing things" is what I'm hearing today. I can't really be seeing a Cubs team that's giving itself a chance to compete, can I?

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Thoughts From a Drug-Addled Brain

Okay, the little insomnia outcropping from my flu bug impels me to post some garbled and unintelligable thoughts on how certain Chicago teams are fairing right now. Usually, we like to be flippant here at Fleece & Flog, but a semi-serious -- albeit rambling -- post is from time to time a necessary evil. And I know I'm as far from Hunter S. Thompson as the earth is from the moon, so don't give me any crap about the Fear and Loathing vibe. In the throws of a Young Guns-like peyote (the pic on the left) vision quest my mind is wandering to places unforeseen.

Where will the vision stop first?

Join me to find out...

I'm driving northwest on Archer avenue turning right onto to 35th street when I start seeing flags and flaggers. Park here for cheap, avoid the mad scramble at the regular lots, get out quicker, get out quicker, get out quicker. And then I see the grand facade of the US Cellular Field still a mile or so away, but still "get out quicker" runs thru my mind.

Get out quicker.

Neal Cotts got out quicker; he was traded to Cubs. Mark Beuhrle tried to get out quicker; he was seen at Busch Stadium during the World Series wearing a backwards St. Louis Cardinals hat, his wife being overheard to have said they couldn't wait for him to pitch in St. Louis. Brian Anderson is getting out quicker; he alienated himself from team management by being a headcase, hard to work with.

Who else will get out quicker?

Jon Garland is rumored to be heading to Texas since one of the starter has to go to make room for Brandon McCarthy. Scott Podsednik is surely leaving town with a ring and a wife and a tail between his legs. Juan Uribe too may be headed for the Kenny Williams scrap heap if KW can pry Michael Young from Texas.

Get out quicker.

The list of 2005 White Sox is dwindling and I'm wondering who'll be the next to get out quicker.

Freddy Garcia was terrible for much of 2006, Jose Contreras had injury troubles again as did Bobby Jenks, and Joey Cora won't be waving Paul Konerko around 3rd on any more bloop singles.

The fanciful, unexpected happiness the 2005 season provided only made the failure of 2006 more devastating. Get out quicker.

World Series championships don't come along very often, certainly not in Chicago, so don't expect a repeat performance anytime soon is the prevailing notion. Get out quicker.

Living and dying with a team and players holds nothing in the way of loyalties as older generations' teams did. Why care about Scott Pods when after one bad year he's traded or let go? Why scream for Jim Thome's return knowing Frank Thomas is just let go after years of hard -fought, if somewhat petulant, service. Get out quicker.

The last flagger on 35th and Normal avenue passes and instead of parking I head straight for the ball field, the ball mall, the distraction in action. Maybe I'll just drive on past so I can get out quicker by not getting out at all. I mean, who's playing for the White Sox this week? Who's still around even from a 99 win team in 2000?

Change is constant, chaos has its merits, and nothing is as bewildering and wonderful as it was as child. Well adjusted people are just that -- people who don't fear change, but can all change be good? My father talks in reverent tones about players he grew up with. I followed Harold Baines and Ozzie Guillen with a hero-cult passion as a child. But nowadays, the most time any fan can expect a player to stick around for is five years in one city. It's the state of economics in baseball, and unless Derek Jeter is on your team, expect your favorite players to leave.

Subconsciously, I wonder what sort of an affect the constant flux of player movement has on the youth of our nation. Nothing is sacred anymore, certainly nothing as arbitrary as sports and sports figures (remember, a Chicago kid uttered the words, "Say it ain't so, Joe"), but what kind of message is being sent to our children when their favorite player leaves town? Get out quicker? What underlying principles are being undermined by seeing players and GM's bowing down to the almighty dollar? Get what you can and run?

But the stadium is now in my rear-view mirror, and I'm turning onto the Dan Ryan Expressway to escape the flaggers and their "get out quicker" subliminal message. If only I would have thought of that before going to a White Sox day game in the middle of the week. Oh, the gridlock.

(Author's Note: The original thought for this post started in my mind as a bitch-fest about the Bulls and Blackhawks and somehow morphed into a diatribe about the turnover rate of baseball players. See, I told you I was shiftless tonight from all the drugs. Stream-of-consciousness writing is just so damn lazy it cries out for times like these.)

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Saturday, In the Park...

You'd Think It Was the...18th of November?

Or Step 1 in Notre Dame's march to the National Championship.

And here's the unfortunate part. Normally I'd never ever ever use the words "root for" and "U of Michigan" in the same sentence unless they were followed by the words "swallowed by an earthquake-induced sink hole", but today is a day that will forever go down in infamy for Fleece & Flog's main administrator.

I have to utter the words go blue.

The place I once claimed to forever to remain nameless on this blog will now occupy a huge place for three hours on the pro side of my cheering equation. You see, as I've mentioned before, U of M beating Ohio State (pretty handily in my estimation) is Step 1 of the "getting by with a little help from their friends" part of an ND National Championship. And as I type, U of M and OSU are tied 7-7 at the start of the 2nd quarter in Columbus.

Florida has already won today, running up the score on West Carolina, 62-0, and Arkansas is in a close game with Mississippi State, leading 21-14 in the 3rd quarter.

But the game that occupies everyone's attention is the game challenging my own allegiances. Go Blue.

An update of the U of M/ OSU game has OSU leading 14-7 with Chad Henne getting flagged for intentional grounding. What the fuck, blue? The grumbling will increase as the game goes along especially since it's so against my nature to root for U of M. It's like a Hatfield inviting a McCoy to Thanksgiving dinner together and not poisoning his cranberry sauce, or maybe a Palestinian inviting a Jew to brunch without slipping a little pork into his falafel.

And, yet, fate may have already intervened in this game. The face of U of M football -- actually the face of U of M anything -- Bo Schembechler died on Friday. Is it possible that the team may have it's thoughts elsewhere? Invited by U of M coach Lloyd Carr to speak to the team on Thursday, Schembechler's last public appearance was to the team. How can the blow of his death not be on the minds of Henne, running back Mike Hart and the rest of the Wolverines? The last thing they needed was the distraction of his death.

And a distraction it may be indeed. An update on the game has OSU flying 91 yards on only four plays for a 21-7 lead over the Dead Schembechlers (no, not the very recently disbanded punk band of same name). And an 10 yard sack of Chad Henne has Michigan reeling again. Go Blue?

But Notre Dame needs a U of M comeback, and there is plenty of time. A flu bug has me wrapped in layers of sweat shirts and pants with a cup of Thera-Flu steaming next to me on my desk, or I 'd be hootin' and hollerin' at my buddy -- and Michigan fan -- Zilla's house. Of course I'd be getting teased to no end for switching allegiances on this game as happened the only other time I rooted for Michigan (a similar situation some years back where ND needed U of M to beat OSU to get a National Championship shot). From time to time, my ND friends will call me traitor, and my U of M friends will say, "C'mon, Jimmy, gimme just one Go Blue, you closet Wolverine." Well, here it is, guys. Go Blue!

Go, Fight , Win!

And Step 1 in the Notre Dame National Championship march will be complete.

Oh, the agony of saying go blue. Maybe I'll fake laryngitis the rest of the day so I don't have to hear myself say it.

(Update: It's 2:45 AM and on top of the flu bug, I'm now afflicted by a bout of insomnia. Of course it could be the pseudoephedrine coursing thru my veins after quite a few drinks of flu/ cold medicine -- shoulda took NyQuil I guess -- but I'm here to say that the day's events have not proceeded exactly as I had hoped. Most likely, following the close win by Ohio State University over the subject of this post, Notre Dame will be playing in a non-championship BCS game come January, and my ego will wallow in the knowledge that I rooted most of the day for a loser which is somewhat ironic cuz I already knew the Wolverines were just that. For shame, James. For shame. )

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Friday, November 17, 2006

In The Line Of Fire: Muhsin Muhammad

So what did Muhammad ever do to anyone? Nothing, really. Unless you belong to the Bears opposing defense. This isn't necessarily a diatribe to his otherworldly statistics. Instead, it is a paean to his skills, and the drop off behind him.

When he was signed, Muhammad was a significant piece of the puzzle for the Bears offense. Some people are all excited about what he is doing this season. Some people have wondered what took so long. Some terrible offensive coordinating by Ron Turner's predecessors, and inconsistent (at best) quarterbacking have finally, it seems, been put behind him. His numbers are solid, if not spectacular. The question to ask is what would happen if he went down?

The Bears upper management has done a good job at making sure that for the most part they have pretty good depth. Wide Receiver is not the best example of this plan. Remember David Terrell? Now, to be fair, it isn't all Jerry Angelo's fault. Terrell seemed good to a lot of folks coming out of college. Otherwise, it has been injury that has held back some of the receivers. Mark Bradley has looked okay in flashes, but flashes rarely win SuperBowls. Berrian seems to be having a good year, if his ribs can hold together. Justin Gage appears to be the little engine that could fly down field but couldn't hold on to the ball. Together they make a motley assortment of plug-in types who collectively can provide decent 2nd, 3rd, 4th receiver help. The real problem is if Muhammad goes down, which of them would step up? Who could? Unlike a small fantasy league, it isn't like the team just picks up another number one WR off the waiver wire. Barring the immensely rare in-season trade, the answer would have to come from the Bears current roster. Does anybody not already associated with the Bears really believe that is likely?

In fact, if Muhammad should go down the team's next best option isn't a wide receiver. It's tight end Desmond Clark. Clark started the season strong but has been attracting more attention lately, partially due to opposing defenses realizing his importance in the passing game behind Muhammad. Better to let the other, "lesser" threats in their eyes, make the play to beat them.

So there it is. On the march to the Super Bowl, it is a wide receiver who holds the key. If Rex goes down, there is the capable, if not beloved Brian Griese to take over. If Thomas Jones, goes down, Benson will get all the carries he can handle and than some. So it is with most of the lineman on both sides of the ball. Pretty much every other spot has at least reasonable backup without insane drop-off. If Berrian were to become number one, that leaves Bradley and Gage to two and three. That fearsome wide receiver set is unlikely to lead the Bears to a Super Bowl berth. Maybe the playoffs, but this team has, as well it should, bigger, grander aspirations. So if you're a Bears fan, send all your warmest wishes towards Muhsin Muhammad. The Bears, and their Super Bowl dreams, need them.

Until next time, be good.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Loyalty At It's Finest

Okay, okay, okay. By now I'm sure most readers have heard of the trade between the Cubs and the White Sox. The particulars are Neal Cotts (*sarcasm alert* one of my FAVORITE pitchers) for David Aardsma and minor leaguer, Carlos Vasquez. Here are Jeeves' ChiSox Blog words on the numbers the two new Sox put up last season...
Neal Cotts is heading north, and in return we get bug-eyed David Aardsma and minor league reliever Carlos Vasquez. Vasquez, a 23 year-old lefty, had decent numbers in high-A ball and AA ball. In 85 innings he had a 2.75 ERA with 91 K's. In 45 appearances for the Cubs, Aardsma (who you may remember for replacing Hank Aaron as the player listed first alphabetically in basbeball history) had a 4.08 ERA. In 53 innings of work he had 49 K's and 28 BB's. He may not look like much, but his second half was markedly better, which bodes well. Post-ASB, he had a 3.12 ERA in 35.2 innings and had 35 K's along with 14 BB's.
A two-for-one trade usually means the solo tradee was the more valued of the participants, but as all Sox fans know, we have Don Cooper the magician to help smooth the ruff edges on any prospect in need of minor adjustments. If his mechanics are right, Aardsma throws in the mid '90s and would give the White Sox a back-ended bullpen featuring four flamethrowers. Last year Coop turned flame-out Matt Thornton into en fuego lefty in the matter of one spring training, so the hope for any pitching acquisition is at an even keel, 50/50 before he ever throws a pitch in a Sox uniform.

As for Carlos Vasquez, maybe the simple matter of an s replacing a z will mean money to the Sox. Yes, I refer to his homophonic brother, Javier. And don't give me the Vanilla Ice "...It's not the same thing..." crap about how to pronounce his name either. They sound exactly the same. And other than the sound of the name, I know nothing about 'Quez the Younger except what Jeeves has posted. But the current make up of the Sox pitching staff says he'll be in Birminghm or Charlotte come opening day rather than 35th & Shields. A worthy prospect or trade bait, perhaps?

As for Cotts and the Cubs, it's was nice of the White Sox to trade Neal up North so he'll not have to move out of wherever it is he lives during the season. And plying his trade in Wrigleyville, the bachelor will now have better access to all the gay clubs he wishes to attend. (That was in no way any slander toward the gay community. They might not even want Neal as one of their own.) By the way, being from Belleville, IL, a suburb of St. Louis, do you think the Kenny Williams had a sly smile on his face knowing he traded a boyhood Cardinals fan to its hated rival?

"Thanks for all your help, Neal. Now feel the pain of 2006 when you go home in the off-season wearing that Cubs uniform."

Hows that for loyalty?

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Shed a Tear, Laugh at Life

I can't bring myself to post anything substantive concerning the Bulls right now. The misery with which I watch every waning second has somehow morphed into a rather healthy habit of fruited beer and Black Haus. Last night's fouling of the best free throw shooting team in the NBA wasn't without its merits though: practicing their boxing out under the basket without repercussions. (The Mavs didn't miss a free throw. 24 for 24!) And at least I know I have strong neck muscles with all the head shaking going on.

Judgements this early in the season are worthless especially with eight new faces on the roster, but I'm not liking what I'm seeing at all. Shaky perimeter defense, surprisingly shoddy rebounding, the inability to score points: all these things make for a very unhappy administrator here at Fleece & Flog.

"But I'm here to tell yah/ there's something else.../"

The Matadors!

In times of despair, dancing fat guys always make me laugh. And that'll save me from the smack I'm about to spike my veins with.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How About a Happy Happy, Joy Joy for Two White Sox

Finally! Some love for Joe Crede! He and Jermaine Dye earned Silver Slugger awards voted on by major league managers and coaches for the best hitters at their respective positions. Looking at the numbers, JD certainly deserved his award, but comparing our man-crush, Joe Crede, to A-Rod's numbers, and you just sort of have to wonder what the voters were thinking. But I'll take it, as will Joe Crede, and any A-Rod backlash -- perceived or real --is always a good thing!

For a closer look at a comparison of Crede's and A-Rod's numbers check out Jim @'s piece breaking it all down. As Jim points out, prior to a September swoon, they were just about even.

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And Now a Word About the Clown Princes of Chicago

A recent survey (the link to which I do not have) stated that the White Sox had taken over status as the top sports team in Chicago. I'm not sure what the survey was based upon, or whether the study was scientific or not, but one thing is for certain: the Cubs have definitely dropped. (How the White Sox rate over the Bears is the real mystery, if you ask me.)

And yet, maybe there are some signs of hope for the Northsiders. Coups such as Lou Pinella and Alan Trammell joining the coaching staff certainly helped, but in what I think is probably more a step back now there's word that Aramis Ramirez and Kerry Wood resigned with the Cubs this past weekend.

Despite his decent numbers, I can't get past the enigma of Ramirez being a poor man's A-Rod. And while A-Rod has never been called lazy, A-Ram has. He posted his gawdy numbers this year when the season was well out of reach for the Cubs, and his defense has never been called stellar, although he supposedly had less errors this year than in previous ones. Was that a case of him getting to less balls? Let's look at the numbers and see. (Note: the following numbers are strictly qualifying NL players.)
  • A positive for A-Ram: Fielding Percentage: .965, tied for the best % with Scott Rolen and Ryan Zimmerman for 3rd basemen who qualified for leader status (2 out of every 3 games played)
  • A negative for A-Ram: Total Chances: 375 to Rolen's 428, and Rolen played in 14 less games and 136.1 less innings than A-Ram. Zimmerman, who played in 14.1 more innings than A-Ram had 427 put-outs.
  • A positive for A-Ram: only 13 errors.
  • A negative for A-Ram: a Range Factor of 2.41 ((PO + A) / innings played), lowest in the NL.
  • A positive for A-Ram: 110 put outs and 252 assists, both career highs
  • A negative for A-Ram: Zimmerman had 152 put outs, and Rolen has 320 assists
  • A-Ram's Zone Rating, a defensive metric put together by the geniuses/ geeks at STATS, Inc., was .772 compared to Pedro Feliz's .817 who had 96 more chances than A-Ram. Yikes! The stodgy Morgan Ensberg had an .821 ZR!
I think it's safe to say A-Ram's nice fielding percentage was more a result of getting to less balls than it was to stellar defense. Sure, he may have played better than before, but this was a contract year. And as everyone knows, players perform big in contract years. Let's also balance out A-Ram's big offensive numbers with his contract year status. What will the Cubs get now that A-Ram has all that money, now that he'll have D-Lee back as protection in the lineup? Time will tell.

As for the Kerry Wood signing, who woulda thought they'd ever hear the words again, "Now pitching for the Cubs, Kerry Wood"? Then again, spring training hasn't started yet, and he hasn't had a chance to injure himself again. I'm betting he doesn't make it out of April healthy.

One more Cubs note. Sammy Sosa says he's clean. He says people want to jump on him because they're jealous of what he's done -- three straight years of 60+ homers. He says he wants to play again to get to 600 homers. Well, of course he's clean; he took a year off to get all the crap out of his system. Either that or he could have taken some cutting edge, designer drug undetectable to current MLB drug tests. You know the Dominican Republic is the lab rat for performance enhancing drugs and their makers, and Sosa has just enough money to back such testing for his own personal vindication. I'm not saying he did, I'm just saying.

(Update: The Cubs are about to sign former Texas Ranger 2B Mark DeRosa to a 3 year, $13 million dollar contract. The second coming of Todd Walker -- likens him to Tony Graffanino -- makes an appearance on the North side. Nothing like sticking with the status quo, Cubbies.)

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Notre Dame's National Championship Hopes in a NutShell: Albeit a Very Big Nutshell

I am unapologetic about my love for Notre Dame football.

Notre Dame stadium is a simple structure, unobtrusive and unshorn with frills and side show attractions. One simple scoreboard hovers over the south endzone and the press box stands silently on the visitor's sideline as unobstructing as a bird flying overhead. There are no gawdy suites, no garish displays of Notre Dame's glorious history stealing the attention of spectators inside the stadium. Outside, the statues of coaches and players stand in silent reverence, almost pious in their relief. There is a quiet calm surrounding Notre Dame stadium, a hallowedness, an awe-inspiring aura that wraps fan and opponent alike.

There's something classy about the gold helmets and the unadorned uniforms. The simple message every Notre Dame football player passes and embraces before entering the playing field expresses not only a sporting motto, but one that every person can use in every day life: "Play like a champion today." Bring your best, boys, cuz any less would be an affront to your own honor. Notre Dame University asks nothing less. Is it any wonder that a player such as Randy Moss never made it to Notre Dame?

Even the religious spectacle of Notre Dame has an un-put-upon feeling. Sure Touchdown Jesus is seemingly out of place in a world driven by money, cockiness and greed, but the rectors and fans and students and athletes all maintain the Notre Dame tradition of attending mass or making a pilgrimage to The Grotto to light a candle.

And if we're talking tradition, who can forget Knute Rockne or the Four Horseman, Grantland Rice's immortalization in print? Who can forget the golden boy, Paul Hornung, or Heisman winners Johnny Lujack or Tim Brown? Joe Montana is an ND alum, and (with apologies to Unitas and Elway fans) is there a greater QB in history than Joe? Ara Parasegian coached them, and an ND alum was immortalized on film who played in all of one game for two plays for his entire career.

I love Notre Dame football, and I still think they can win the national championship this year, but they'll need a little help from their friends. Here's what must happen for ND to play on January 8th in the BCS championship game.
  • First and foremost ND must win out. They have Navy this weekend and then the biggie: a road game versus USC.
  • Michigan must beat Ohio State pretty handily.
  • USC needs to beat Cal this weekend to maintain top five status.
  • Rutgers must lose one of its three remaining games against Cincinatti, Syracuse or West Virginia (looking like a big game).
  • Florida loses to Western Carolina (not gonna happen) or Florida State (good possibility)
  • Arkansas loses to Mississippi State (yikes) or LSU (most likely) or loses to a two loss Florida team in the SEC Championship game.
I can't see West Virginia or Boise State or Wisconsin or LSU leap-frogging the Irish if the above scenarios play themselves out. However, Ohio State could sneek into the BCS championship game even if they lose a close game to Michigan, and I can't see the Irish leap-frogging the Wolverines if Michigan loses solely because of their bad loss to Michigan early in the season.

So light a candle at your local parish, light a match, light a gosh-dang bonfire for chrissake! And keep your fingers crossed for Old Notre Dame. We just could be singing the fight song in praise of a national championship once again come January 8th.

Rakes of Mallow thinks it's much simpler than that.

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Talk About Lonely

If you think Devin Hester of the Bears has it bad, try being a Chicago Blackhawk. Or a Blackhawk fan for that matter.

As my friend Soxually Repressed likes to say, "If a post falls in the forest, and nobody comments on it..."

Well, if a team at the United Center actually has a winning streak and nobody sees it, does it really happen? Well, guess what folks. Chicagoans got a rare treat as a home Blackhawks game was televised Friday night. So maybe someone who wasn't at the UC actually saw the game. When I was flipping channels, I did a double take when I saw the big Blackhawk symbol in the middle of the ice. I'll say this much for the game, it stopped my ADD-afflicted channel surfing for a few moments.

The Blackhawks are on a win streak. And in the last three games, they've accumulated five points all while being hurt. They've even lost young gun Rene Borque for 2-6 weeks and still managed to win. Chalk up the win streak to hot goaltending. On Sunday, Brian Boucher shut out Columbus, 1-0. And on Friday Sebastien Caron stopped the St. Louis Blues, 3-1. The two games prior to the win streak had very decent goaltending as well: a 2-1 shoot out loss in New Jersey and a 2-1 loss at home to the Red Wings.

Losing big time scoring means the defense has to step it up, and at least the goaltending has produced. Now as soon as Martin Havlat returns, maybe someone will hear the tree fall in the forest, I mean, the Blackhawks win a game again.

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Fleece & Flog's NFL Top Five: Week 10

Now doesn't that feel a little better, Bears fans? A week later and another 108 yard return of a missed field goal, and all is right in Beardom.

The life of a kick/punt returner must be a difficult one. Who do you bond with? Sure a quarterback can throw an interception and be a scapegoat, but his lineman bleed for him. A cornerback can feel alone on an island from time to time, but usually a defense will take mistakes on their shoulders as a whole unit even if it's an individual's fault. The return and coverage units are usually manned by the same personnel, the exception being the returners which in the case of the Bears have different guy on the kick-offs and punts. About the only guy as lonely as a returner must be the kicker, and even he has a punter, holder, long snapper and third string quarterback to keep him company. What self-respecting punt returner wants to be seen with those guys?

Who are Devin Hester's friends on the Bears? The equipment boy? The training staff? The receptionist at Halas Hall? The Bears aren't exactly loaded with guys from Miami University, so he can't exactly posse up with guys from The U. In fact, with the plethora of University of Florida Gators residing on the Bears' roster, one would have to imagine quite a bit of jawing going on between Hester and those from the Swamp at Gainsville.

For now, Hester is back in the good graces of his teammates. He did a marvelous job selling the non-return and then bolting for the sideline, and no muffs make for a lot of friends for Devin on Mondays. Heck, maybe he and Nathan Vasher are now good buddies as they both own the record for longest play in NFL history.

Onto the Top Five---------------------------------------------
  1. Indianapolis Colts (9-0): The breaks go the good teams' way, and Indy caught a huge one this past weekend. Denizens of Buffalo must be going mad right now hearing the words, "Wide Right!" Rian Lindell awoke the echoes of Superbowl failures for Bills. That damn lucky Peyton Manning.
  2. Da Bears (8-1): A tight, see-saw affair looked like a blow out in the final score. Rex Grossman found his moxy in the second half, and the Giants found grandma's old cough medicine. A clearly hurting Bears defense stepped it up in the second half. Alex Brown was my game MVP.
  3. San Diego Chargers (7-2): What a week for barn burners. Down at least three touchdowns to Cincinatti, Philip Rivers and LaDanian Tomlinson rallied the Chargers to a win scoring 42 points in the second half alone! I said it before, I'll say it again. Come playoff time, Indy better be scared of this team. This team can score some points in a hurry.
  4. Denver Broncos (7-2): If Denver isn't playing Oakland, they lose this week's game. Despite three interceptions by Jake Plummer, the defense holds off the Raiders, and the Broncos have their Chi-Az game for the season.
  5. Baltimore Ravens (7-2): Like the Chargers, the Ravens were down big. Unlike the Chargers, it was to the Titans. Steve McNair could be co-MVP again with Peyton Manning. What a quiet 7-2 this team has, and they don't have the toughest schedule down the stretch. It's gonna be a race for home-field advantage and a first round bye between 3, 4 and 5.

Add the somewhat reeling New England Patriots to the mix and the balance of power is clearly in the AFC. They have some powerhouses running things over there. As for the NFC, the Giants, Saints and Falcons all lose leaving those divisions wide open for the taking. Seattle has a two game win streak and is about to get Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselback back, and the Cardinals have fallen off the map. Is the AFC better than the NFC? They have a 21-17 edge in head-to-head matchups thru ten weeks which isn't that wide a lead. I guess we'll see come Superbowl time when the Bears will be whopping the Chargers' asses for the title.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

White Sox Blogger Roundtable Part 3: The Conclusion

Yay! Cheat dropped the last of our three part roundtable discussion about the White Sox into the mailbox last night, and since I have precious few minutes to sit at the computer today, this will have to suffice for posts. There is so much to get to too. But thanks again to Cheat for asking and all the other participants for making it fun. (Check out their blogs sometime if you get the chance: South Side Sox, Sox Machine, Exile in Wrigleyville, ChiSox Blog, Foul Balls and Ron Karkovice Fan Club.) Until next time...

The final episode of our Trilogy: Kenny's quest for more rings

I linked to the Elias Sports Bureau's Free Agent Compensation Ratings last week, but I didn't even think to look at where Alomar and Riske ranked. I just assumed that they were worthless and wouldn't be offered arbitration. That's not the case, however, as Keith pointed out in the comments section, Riske is a Type A free agent. My question to you: What should the Sox do with Riske?

Tom: You can find a pitcher just like Riske for less than $2.5 million. Sure, it's not much, but it's $2.5 million that can go towards Joe Crede's salary.

Keith: I'd offer him arbitration. Afterall, Wayne Krivsky could always use another reliever, right? He'll willingly throw 2 years, $4 million at Riske...

But seriously, I think that offering Riske arbitration is a pretty small risk (no pun intended). If he accepts, it'd be easy to trade him as he'd be making what, $2.5 million? And, you might get lucky and have a team sign him. The Sox could always use an extra high draft pick.

Jeeves: I agree. Worst case scenario we get stuck with an OK arm in the 'pen. Unless we make some extravagant move, we shouldn't have the need to pinch pennies, so paying him $2.5 mil won't be that big of a deal.

James: But $2.5 million for a non-closer/ non-setup guy? Yeah, my budget screams for that. Then again, I think his salary will decline if he accepts the arbitration, and how often does that happen? (I read that note at MLB Trade Rumors that a lot of teams are offering two and three year deals to relievers not titled closer more often, and in the fickle and fragile world of middle relief -- anyone that's not a closer -- I'm not sure why that's a smart thing.)

Do you play russian roulette here hoping that another team signs him and take the salary hit if they don't? I didn't realize the MLB was governed by NASDAQ and CBOE rules of trade? Or maybe I'm just naive.

(To read the rest of this post, click the Read More link below.)

Criminal Appeal: I agree that it makes no sense to spend big money on relievers, especially one's who pitch limited innings in generally low-leverage situations. Having said that, if the Sox could turn Riske into a draft pick I'd just about wet myself with excitement. I guess it's a risk/reqrd analysis. Is the market for middle relievers strong enough that you trust someone else to pay to take Riske off our hands in this scenario? It may be with all the talk about the Jamie Walkers and Justin Speiers of the world.

Jim: I'm amazed that David F. Riske has produced the toughest question so far. Everybody has good points.

If the way he ended the season was any indication (only three of his last 10 outings were scoreless), I wouldn't offer it to him, unless the Sox had a strong feeling he'd reject it.

$2.5 million doesn't mean a lot for position players, but it can make a difference in a bullpen. A difference-maker Riske ain't. I'd keep that money stored away for the deadline next year, when the Sox are only buying half a season of relief if they're in need of bullpen help.

Cheat: I'm glad you guys came up with the $2.5M number on your own. When I originally wrote the question, I sort of answered it myself using $2.5M as my guesstimated arbitration award. Either we're all really smart, or well, let's not talk about the alternative.

As for what I would do: I'd offer him arbitration. If for no other reason than some team will be willing to guarantee him multiple years on the free agent market. He's not going to get that here. So from Riske's point of view, he'd be deciding between 2.5 for a year on the southside or something like 4-5M over two years somewhere else. Most players will take the latter.

Trades: Name your three biggest targets, and try to come up with three trades you can see the Sox making. (those don't necessarily have to be for your three top targets.)

Criminal Appeal: As has been mentioned, Kenny Williams tends to come at the trade block from unforeseen directions. Plus, there is always far more smoke than fire in trade rumors. Still, the Sox need to add a left fielder, and probably a short stop or center fielder, so that they're not lugging around dead weight at more than one position next season. My guess is that they'll shop for value on the free agent market at one position, trade to fill one position, and let the kids battle it out at one position (or let Uribe sit tight if the remaining position is SS). So, where might that trade fit in? I think three of the most intriguing names are Michael Young, Carl Crawford and Coco Crisp (I'm considering A-Rod a pipe dream and hoping to be shocked at this point).

Young is coming off a season in which his on-base percentage was over .350, he hit 14 homeruns, and he played an outstanding defensive shortstop. The defense is an improvement for him, but the other numbers were right around Baseball Prospectus's projection for him. Plus, he's 29 years old. So, he seems like a safe bet to repeat his established production for the next few years.

Crawford hit 18 homeruns this season and posted an on-base percentage just under .350. He plays a below average defense in left field. He outperformed his mean projection in somewhere in the range of the 75th to 90th percentile. Right now Young is the better player, but Crawford is 24 and getting better.

Crisp is the most interesting case because of his injury problems this year. He was limited to about 100 games and his on-base percentage dipped to .317. Offensively, Crisp under-performed his 10th percentile projection this year. He's an average CF, and played excellent defense in LF in 2005, when he was out there regularly. In all likelihood, he is both undervalued, and going to bounce back if healthy. He's 26, which means he's probably full developed and will never be much better than he was in 2005. But a .350 on-base percentage, 15 home runs and great LF defense would be a welcome addition.

I guess that of these three guys, my first preference would be Young. However, if the Sox can get Crisp at a discount because of his struggles in 2006, then that's an opportunity that I wouldn't pass on. Whoever the Sox acquire, we know the bargaining chips: a starting pitcher (Garcia or Buehrle) plus a prospect (hopefully not Fields). I'd give up those two assets for any of the above.


  1. Coco Crisp. I think the Sox really admire his game, and he's the typical Sox target. Very good defensive left fielder, likes to run -- and while his OBP dropped as he battled nagging injuries, he stole 22 of 26 bases, by far the best percentage of his career.

    Who they'd give up: Freddy Garcia. Though I'd hope to get some sort of prospect back as well, given the situation Boston's in.

  2. Chone Figgins. He seems like he's going to be pushed out eventually with this new wave of players coming in. He has the speed Ozzie likes, and can play a few positions decently.

    Who they'd give up: I have no clue. The Angels could use some high-OBP guys, and the Sox don't have a wealth of those in the minors.

  3. Jeff DaVanon: My thinking is: If Brady Clark, why not DaVanon? DaVanon's cheaper, younger, more versatile, and just as likely to be pushed out of the AZ outfield picture. I'm not sure how much he'll cost -- from what I can tell, he'll be in the $900,000 - $1,000,000 range. He's coming off ankle surgery, which could depress his value. AZ may not want to part with him since Eric Byrnes needs to get out first, but I'd try for DaVanon before thinking about Clark.

    Who they'd give up: Arizona could use pitching. Heath Phillips-caliber plus another body?

Vince: I don't know if this is the least bit likely, but I want to throw the idea out if we're talking about huge, smack-your-forehead trades that Kenny Williams could make. Vernon Wells. The Jays are interested in moving him because he doesn't want to stay in Toronto beyond the end of his contract, which ends in 2007. Wells will be eligible for free agency after the upcoming season.

The upsides are that Wells is a tremendous player on both sides of the ball, a replacement for Podsednik (albeit, one who would play center field) and a huge addition to the offense that offsets regression from players such as Dye and Crede or, in the case of Crede, if he gets traded. Another upside is that it allows the Sox to let Brian Anderson and Ryan Sweeney split left field.

The risks are that the Sox would have to give up a lot of talent to get Wells with the uncertainty of whether they would have him for more than one year, and another potential long-term contract if the Sox were able to re-sign him.

I agree that the Sox are targeting Michael Young. I think they will be better off without Young, unless they somehow convinced him to play second base. I worry about Young's defense, although I think he scored better on Chris Dial's Zone Rating-related metric this year.

A third big trade target? I highly, highly doubt it, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like the deal, but I'll say ... Dontrelle Willis.

Keith: I'm sorry to Vince, but I'm going to have to snatch his idea in my trade thoughts.

The first trade I see is the obvious move of a starting pitcher. With Contreras' no trade clause, moving Garcia makes the most sense. I've been preaching it for the past two months, so why stop now? Garcia + Cintron (completing the Mets' secondbase platoon) for Aaron Heilman + Lastings Milledge.

The Sox then send a package centered around Milledge to Toronto for Vernon Wells. Since question six seems geared towards these hypothetical trades, I'll say Milledge + Fields + Broadway for Wells. The Sox would empty out the farm system, but, as in most cases (/aside: damn Vazquez/Young trade), Williams gets back the best player. Wells is in his prime, and if he comes close to matching his production from last season, is a top twenty player in all of baseball.

It doesn't solve the "problem" of not having a leadoff hitter, but you could easily slip Wells into the two spot and slide Iguchi to leadoff.

BTW -- I think Terrero will end up as the 4th OFer, for better or for worse.

James: Will the Sox try the Milwaukee well again and pursue a very cheap Brady Clark? Or how about former trading partner Arizona and Gold Glover Orlando Hudson? Would KW try and justify the pot o' gold at the end of the rainbow, A-Rod? Or will Michael Young be shipped our way for the enigma that is Freddy Garcia?

Let me ask this: was Jim Thome on any of our radars last off-season? Well, he wasn't on mine; that trade was a complete shock. But the Javy Vazquez trade wasn't as much of a shock cuz KW had made no secret of his desire for him. The point is...expect something from KW. He's never been shy about trading youth for talent or potential for experience. And yet we all heard about him casing Mark Prior last year. What is certain is that KW has an eye for underappreciated and undervalued talent, and he will bring someone in.

This question, though, was about specific trades, and I have to pose at least one serious scenario, so here it is...

The big trade, if it happens, will be trading from a position of strength (starting pitching). Either Garcia, McCarthy or Vazquez will be traded (Buehrle is the only lefty starter the Sox will count on) along with either Sweeney, Fields, Broadway or Owens for Ichiro (doubtful but intriguing), Mike Cameron (a decent fit) or Coco Crisp (if healthy). I really think KW's focus is lead-off hitter/left fielder with OBP and defense in mind.

Tom: Of the names I've heard thrown around the one that really makes my mouth water is easily Michael Young. I would LOVE to see that guy in a White Sox uniform. He can field, he can hit, and he's as clutch as anybody in the Majors in big situations.

Carl Crawford is another guy who I like, my only question is how much we would have to give up for him. The price would be high to get him, and how much we would have to pay him to get him to stay here would be large so I fear it may cost us somebody else.

I don't really like Coco Crisp that much. He tends to kill the White Sox, and suck against everybody else. So if he was on the Sox he would suck full time.

I will make it clear that I do NOT want A-Rod. It's nothing against his ability as a baseball player, I just hate the guy, and would feel horrible if I had to root for him.

I wouldn't mind seeing Mike Cameron back in a White Sox uniform either.

Jeeves: Most of the trades I've heard about and mulled over have been said already, so there's no point in me repeating them, but I did come across a trade proposal by some blogger (I can't remember from where)as I was surfing the net a couple weeks ago... Freddy Garcia to the Padres for Scott Linebrink and Mike Cameron. I'm not quite familiar enough with the Padres to comment on whether or not they would be likely to make such a trade, but it would plug up two holes for us.

Cheat: Elsewhere I had proposed a swap of Scott Podsednik for Yorvit Torrealba based on the rumors that the Rockies were interested in Dave Roberts and Sarge Jr. But just now after looking through the '06 Rockies roster, I discovered that they've already got a bunch of crappy light-hitting speed guys who play CF poorly. They don't need Podsednik when they've got Cory Sullivan, Choo Freeman, and Ryan Spilborghs. They've probably got a Nook Logan in there somewhere too.

Come to think of it, didn't Logan end the year with the Nationals, who are about to lose one outfielder to free agency? The Nationals don't have much of anything in their minor league system, and Bowden's not the sharpest tool in the shed; maybe he'll part with Ryan Church, whose respectability has been wasted by spending far too much time in New Orleans. Church would fit perfectly into the role that Rob Mackowiak was forced into last season. That doesn't fix our problem hitting lefties, and probably means Rob is our full-time LFer or on his way out of town via trade.

Before even reading Keith's response, I had the same idea with the exception of targeting Carl Crawford instead of Wells. I have bad memories of trading for Blue Jays named Wells, even if we did "win" that trade.

I think the conundrum then becomes which would you prefer; Garcia for Crisp, or the package for Garcia plus some of our top prospects flipped for Wells/Crawford?

I wasn't really able to find a fit for Podsednik, who I think we all acknowledge will be gone, but I suspect he's coveted by a few teams supposedly in the market for a leadoff hitter. Can you guys come up with anything that will work for both sides?

This concludes the White Sox Bloggers of the Roundtable. I'd like to thank the other Sox bloggers -- and Keith -- for their participation.

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