Archive for October, 2012

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

I try to be objective. As a Chicago fan I try hard to stay away from the bias that is seemingly inherent to area fans, whether we’re hating on LeBron, trashing Rodgers, or any other silliness we pull off as a collective. I think I do a fairly good job of being an objective observer of sports, and it’s a title that I both welcome and enjoy.

However.

There is one player that I cannot be objective about on any level. There is one guy in the entire sports landscape that I root for with a passion. One player, across 4 major sports teams in the area, completely compromises whatever journalistic integrity I attempt to maintain via this blog.

#1.

To me, Derrick Rose’s game is so Chicago, so south side, so perfect for this city that I desperately want him to succeed in the face of impossibly crazy odds. Midgets don’t win rings on their own. PG’s are rarely the best players on championship teams. His knee exploded. And in the face of that I want him to somehow, some way pull off what looks improbable and win a ring this year.

To me, Derrick Rose’s story is so important that it needs to be publicized. I’m not talking about Chicago Bulls PG Derrick Rose. Not even Memphis G Derrick Rose. I’m talking about the Simeon kid who got out. Ben Wilson’s spiritual brother escaping a brutal south side war zone that is now collapsing in the face of horrendous violence. He lived where too many have died, and he can stand as a beacon of hope for a community that desperately needs a light at the end of the tunnel.

Derrick Rose is a flawed player, but he is a player with a tremendous heart and a fearless attack that I absolutely love. And I can not, and will never be, objective about Derrick Rose.

Chicago Bulls, 2012-2013

Overall

Let’s get the obvious shit out-of-the-way: the Bulls are much worse than they were last year and that can be owed to a few things. Derrick Rose will likely be absent most of the year. The Bench Mob was completely gutted and replaced with variants of the former 80’s super group, European Badness. Boozer is older, Deng is coming off a nasty wrist injury, Kirk Hinrich was the prized free agent signing, I’m just saying it looks bad.

I don’t think this team collapses into the depths of the truly awful, however. Basketball Prospectus pegs the Bulls for 46 wins. I’ll take the over and say they can brush 50. Say what you will about Thib’s approach of trying to win every possession, the bottom line is that team will play hard every game and they will win games they shouldn’t because of it.

Offense

The offense will be ugly largely because they still utilize a basic flex offense and when that failed in the past they would kick it to Derrick and he would bail them out. Now the Bulls will not have that luxury and they will have to manufacture easy buckets in other ways. When Boozer was signed the assumption was that he would lessen the scoring load on Rose via an impressive array of post moves and inside scoring. Boozer has the moves but his pet of recent vintage is a fade-a-way jump shot from just outside of the key. It’s a move that other teams are willing to let him have because it isn’t a high percentage shot for him. Lu Deng is a fine defensive player but he’s still a limited offensive player with questionable handles. He has a good mid range game but the Bulls have that in spades.

You see, the Bulls are still a jump shooting team. They were when Derrick was drafted too, he just masked some of that with his explosive play. Hinrich is a jump shooter. Rip Hamilton has some slasher in him, but he’s primarily a jump shooter. Deng? Jumper. Boozer? Jumper. Noah? Not a jump shooter but he isn’t an “explode to the rim” type guy either.

If we go to the bench the only player that can attack the rim is Nate Robinson and he isn’t even that reliable as a rim attacker. He falls in love with the 3 pt. shot too often and can start chuckin’. Taj Gibson has some explosion at the rim but getting there is still an issue for him. Marco Belinelli is the stereotypical Euro player with nice touch from outside and limited game inside.

Look, the Bulls biggest problem over the years offensively has been manufacturing easy buckets and getting to the FT line. It’s still going to be a problem this year. When the jump shots fall, it’ll look great, and when they don’t, it won’t. This will be the most infuriating aspect of their game. Look for Jimmy Butler and if he develops any kind of offensive consistency. If he can he can be a valuable asset for the next version of the Bulls.

Defense

The Bulls defend pick and roll maybe better than anyone in the league. They can create turnovers with smart defensive positioning and are considered a top defense despite playing Boozer, a noted liability, big minutes. The Bulls have a shape in mind when they play defense and preserving that shape in the face of multiple screens and cuts is paramount to their defensive principles. They are very good at snapping back into form and contesting shots.

This is the primary reason I think the Bulls can win 45-50 games. Defensively they are still one of the best units in the league and some nights that will be enough to overcome some really ugly offense. Look for lineup changes in close games late. We’ve seen Thibs bench Boozer in favor of Taj Gibson. With Omer Asik gone I suggest we look at the minutes Nazr Mohammed and Taj Gibson log as the season progresses. With Omer gone and Deng coming back from a wrist injury the best defensive frontcourt the Bulls can employ early in the year might just be the Taj-Joakim-Nazr combo.

Bench

This unit has been greatly downgraded from last year. The sixth man might just be Jimmy Butler or Nate Robinson. Marco Belinelli replaces Korver, Nazr replaces Omer, and the Nate-Butler-Teague combo replaces Brewer. This group will be exposed in a big way should an injury occur. When you think about the recent injury histories of Rip-Deng-Boozer-Noah it’s easy to see one or more of the starters going down for an extended period and then watching the Bulls struggle to weather the storm. Thibs can be criticized for his strange sub patterns, and now the pressure will be on him to be even more creative with no clear cut “Sixth Man” on the team.

Look for Teague’s development early, Belinelli’s shooting streaks, and how well Nazr is playing defensively. Jimmy Butler is going to play a key role in all of this and his total game will have to improve.

Synopsis

I say they win 50 games and earn a 4-5 seed in the playoffs. I do think this team will be hard to watch in stretches as the offense struggles to find buckets but on the whole they will be a good team, albeit not a great one.

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Personally, I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of the signing. I am allowing room for myself to become a fan of the move, but as it stands it smells like the halfway competing bullshit that Williams used to pull: acquire some high risk high reward talent and hope for the best. Twitter seemed to like the deal though:

And Keith Law is a lot smarter than I am about these things.

David Haugh can have his…weird moments but my main issue with “addressing other needs” is that I don’t think SP was their main need. I do think it was that massive black hole at 3rd and what could be a developing albatross behind the plate.

If anything twitter will let you know who is a good follow and a bad follow for baseball news/analysis. Holmes is great at football but he does have his fair share of unfortunate moments with baseball.

 

 

 

Rongey has the toughest job in America, dealing with White Sox postgame callers for an extended period of time. He likes the deal which maybe means it’s a good deal, or he’s blindly hoping that it is to mitigate the stupid.

And then there’s Jayson Stark…who does things.

White Sox fans, the twitterverse thinks you got a deal, and I might have to agree with it. I’m just not sure it makes any sense for this squad.

 

 

 

 

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

It is said that what is called the Spirit of an Age is something to which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due to the world’s coming to an end. In the same way, a single year does not have just spring or summer. A single day, too, is the same. For this reason, although one would like to change today’s world back to the spirit of one hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out of every generation.

-Hagakure

When things end I become introspective and I begin to asses what I really learned from any experience I have that comes to an end. In relationships I find that at the end of them I learn more about myself than I would have expected. When a job/internship has ended for me in the past the things I take away from them always carry over to the next job.

It is this way for me in all things. And so, now that the baseball season has ended, I wonder in the aftermath of an ugly World Series sweep what did I learn about baseball this year? Are there things that we can collectively take away as Chicago baseball fans that we can carry into 2013 and beyond?

Ohhh fuck yeah there are.

As a Chicago Cubs fan I’m used to baseball failure. There have been times where I’ve hated this game, times where I’ve given up hope in ever seeing another serious title threat on Chicago’s north side.

The lesson I learned in 2012 that I feel was most important, and what I’ll carry over into 2013, is a genuine love for the game again. When Theo Epstein went up to that podium and announced a long term rebuilding that would include the complete gutting of the current team a switch was flipped in my head.

Suddenly the immediate empty wins and losses of the present didn’t matter. Sean Marshall being dealt to the Reds didn’t matter. Trading Maholm and Dempster and a host of other players didn’t matter. Instead what mattered to me as a Chicago Cubs fan was the long term health of the organization as it invests in young ball players to become contenders once again.

We aren’t talking about a short term spending spree that inhibits a long run of success. We are talking about becoming the Braves, the Yankees, the Texas Rangers even.

We are talking about a plan that is attempting to secure the long term future of the Chicago Cubs. That’s fucking awesome.

And so I let go of W’s and L’s, and I embraced the fluidity of Starlin Castro’s fielding mechanics, Anthony Rizzo’s short compact swing that projects to have genuine pop, Jeff Samardzija’s new found command and pitching mechanics.

You know what else I embraced? Paul Konerko’s approach to At Bats. Chris Sale’s wind up and how it creates positive momentum to the plate, creating odd angles and fusing it with great stuff. I embraced Bryce Harper’s violent swing, Mike Trout’s tantalizing skill set, Miggy’s bat which combines control and power in a beautiful fusion of arms and hips and legs. I embraced the Orioles improbable, stat defying run, the Oakland A’s getting white hot at the end, the Nationals rise to prominence, Mike Morse and his Hulk-like swing.

I embraced all of it, and through that I found a new way to love this game.

For Cubs fans I urge you to understand that they will not be relevant for some time. I urge my fellow Cubs fans to drop the old habits and begin to understand that they aren’t chasing short term wins, they are chasing long term trophies. We fans need to understand that we aren’t out of the rebuild yet, and it’s time to stop pining for band aids like Josh Hamilton and the like. You’re making us all look stupid and we don’t like it.

For the White Sox fans I hope you never squander another season like 2012 again. Baseball is quite an enjoyable sport in person, made even more so when you have a Cy Young candidate and a genuinely fun team to watch on the field. What they did as a collective was nothing short of impressive, and even though they did not close it out and make the playoffs they gave you 3-4 months of baseball bliss and struggled to sell out weekend home games.

And so, baseball ends. Kind of. You see, I’ll still be watching baseball in one form or another over the next few months. Caribbean ball, the WBC, all that good stuff? It’s still coming up. Over the next few months, starting in Nov. I’ll be ranking my personal Top 100 for 2013, the MLB players that I think will have the most impact in the coming year. For me, baseball will continue in a manner, but it is taking a much needed break.

The end is important in all things.

 

[audio http://awmr01.podbean.com/mf/web/vah9fj/TBL3.m4a]

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

A brief summary and look ahead at the 2013 World Series.

Andycast 1.0

Posted: October 18, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Columns, Podcast
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In this Andycast, Andy updates us on the playoffs. From his Toliet.

TBLcast 1.1

Posted: October 17, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Columns, Podcast, Through Both Lenses
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In today’s minicast I talk about Justin Verlander and misconception.

TBLcast .9

Posted: October 16, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Columns, Podcast, Through Both Lenses
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In this minicast I discuss the 2012 White Sox and their bleak looking future.

The SaniTERRYum XVII: That’s Why You Don’t Shutdown Your Ace

Posted: October 14, 2012 by Terry Carlton in Sports

THAT’S WHY YOU DON’T SHUT DOWN YOUR ACE

Hey, baseball fans.

With both League Championship Series now underway, including Joe Buck and Tim McGarver narrating the unscripted plot lines of the NLCS and The World Series, we are greeted on one side with two crazy National League comeback stories and two game five wins in dominant fashion by American League aces to get where we are. One can’t help but wonder where the Washington Nationals would fit into all this had they not shut down Stephen Strasburg. Detroit’s reigning MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander shutout the Athletics on four hits en route to his most impressive complete game all year to advance to the ALCS. CC Sabathia went the distance in game five against the Orioles to ensure the Yankees would advance. Stephen Strasburg was nowhere to be found in Washington’s crushing game five loss to St. Louis. That’s why…you don’t shut down your ace.

How was Strasburg this year? He…did some wonderful things.

The Strasburg situation had been bothering me before it even became official. Shutting down your best pitcher at the outset of a playoff run? Come on! It bothered me just hearing that the shutdown possibility was even out there. I can’t wrap my head around it, no matter how I try. I understand it, albeit only from a business standpoint. You shut down your top prospects and future power arms late in meaningless seasons when your club is rebuilding for the future. The Washington Nationals’ future was supposed to be this season. I can see Washington’s hope that the team they’ve assembled will be competitive for awhile, allowing Strasburg to throw in plenty of meaningful games down the road, but for them to assume that will be the case is downright ignorant. What happens when you assume? What happens if and when your team’s development is arrested? Sorry Nationals fans, your team’s brass has made a huge mistake.

St. Louis fans have to be all into themselves right now: “Steve Holt!” As seems to be the case with the Cardinals over the last decade or so, they get hot/lucky at the right time of the year to find themselves in favorable situations come fall. Them? Think about it. That crucial “infield fly” call at a pivotal moment during the wild-card game against Atlanta coupled with the shutdown of Strasburg provides St. Louis fans with an unexpected opportunity to be optimistic in October. Plus, they’re getting ridiculous clutch contributions from previously unheard of minor leaguers. Well, that was a freebie…

I’m just going to dive in head first…like Pete Rose and stick with New York and San Francisco to make it to the Fall Classic. Yes, the Giants lost game one at home last night with Madison putting the “bum” in Bumgarner. Yes, the Yankees are down 0-2 heading back to Detroit with Jeter their leader out for the season due to a broken ankle. Yes, they have to face ace Verlander in the midst of another one of his tears, but there’s always money in the banana stand with the Yankees. They still have the most potent lineup of the teams alive. They still have solid pitching. They still have Yankee pride, and they’ll represent the American League in The Series. I don’t know what I’m saying!

What I do know is that October is the best part of the baseball season. After 162+, we earn the right every autumn to make postseason memories while legends and dynasties are born. This is where boys become men, men become legends, and we separate the strong from the…chickens.

http://www.google.com/search?q=arrested+development+chicken+dance&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari#biv=i|0;d|HdQWFOitATbjWM:

Special Edition: The Moecast 1.0

Posted: October 14, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Columns, Podcast, Through Both Lenses
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I talk some DC baseball with you folks in this very brief special episode.

Werth It.

Posted: October 12, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Baseball, MLB, Sports
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13 pitch AB.

When he made contact and the ball was hanging in the air right  before it went  out, there was a moment of anticipation that I’ve never been privy to before. It’s that moment when you hang all of your hopes onto one thing working out, and 45K were all hoping for the same thing.  That moment, where it all comes together and works out for you,  right as the ball  leaves the yard is the coolest moment I’ve ever  witnessed.

Outstanding.