Posts Tagged ‘Football’

The Blackhawks remain undefeated (in regulation) a quarter of the way through the NHL season and coming home from a ridiculously successful extended road trip. Tom Thibodeau and The Bulls continue to plug right along, anxiously awaiting the return of Número Uno. And here I am, about to talk to you about some motherfucking Rugby.

Fumbling through Saturday’s monotonous network programming, I stumbled upon some good old fashioned Rugby. On NBC, no less.

Am I crazy or is Rugby not only completely badass, but also waaaaay cooler than Football? Where I come from, Rugby doesn’t even exist. I’ve heard of this sport you speak of, but seeing it is a-whole-nother-thing

Are you feeling a little empty since the American football season ended? Need something to fill that void? Post Super Bowl blues gotcha down? Have a hankering for something familiarly similar yet maybe just for you? Might I suggest…Rugby?

Rugby’s like football on steroids and amphetamines if NFL players weren’t already on steroids and amphetamines. It’s like if football was one long, constant backwards lateral pass and what looks like a touchdown is worth 5 points. Where kickers look to posess a skill set beyond one precise motion. Where there are no pads. Where the ball is bigger and harder to handle. Where the halves are hella short. Where the plays are fast and furious and you mit find yourself in an organized scrum. Come to think of it, Rugby is nothing like football.

I never learned this on Flight Of The Conchords, but New Zealanders rule supreme in it. Awesome.

After taking in a full Saturday docket of Rugby, I still don’t completely understand the rules/scoring/much of it at all, but I do know this: it is fun as hell to watch.

SPORTS!

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The SaniTERRYum XLVII: Super Bowl Edition

Posted: February 4, 2013 by Terry Carlton in Football, NFL, SaniTERRYum, Sports
Tags: , ,

Super Bowl XLVII: A Tale of Two Fuses
The 49ers will be contenders for awhile, Ray Lewis can fuck right off, the power went out, and Beyonce killed it. Nutshell. Boom.

Anyone who knows me knows I love the city of San Francisco and all it has to offer, including their football 49ers, so watching yesterday’s game was painful in a few ways.

Cocktail of the game concocted courtesy of the bro-in-law consisted of Smirnoff Citrus, Arnold Palmer, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, but no amount of delicious liquor can make me forget what a classless, mean jerk Ray Lewis truly is. Greatest Middle Linebacker to ever play the game or not, his persona and off the field shenanigans are questionable at best. But let’s talk about the game on the field before I get carried away here.

The game started questionably for the San Francisco 49ers, gaining 20 yards on a well-executed 1st down pass play, only to have it called back on an illegal formation penalty. From there, the Baltimore Ravens seized momentum and held onto it until the end of the first half and into the first blackout in Super Bowl history.

Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco made huge first half plays, extending would-be sacks into offensive opportunity and eluding would-be tacklers to give his receivers chances beyond belief to come back to badly thrown balls to make plays. Seriously though, has Joe Flacco EVER hit a receiver in stride? Ever? Colin Kaepernick, on the other hand, showed little to no resemblance to the quarterback we’ve grown to love over the last few weeks. He even managed to throw the first interception in San Francisco Super Bowl history, a feat that is quite frankly, astounding. The 49ers have played in a lot of Super Bowls, and to think that Joe Cool/Steve Young never threw a single INT blows my mind, albeit only slightly.

The second half’s start just brought more of the same gridiron shock and hash mark horror for the 49er faithful. Jacoby Jones took the half’s opening kickoff to the house for a Super Bowl record-tying 108 yards, clearly just as inspired by the Destiny’s Child reunion as the rest of us.

Then, the lights went out. Literally. No, seriously. A power outage knocked out the lights at The Superdome, resulting in a delay of over half an hour. And everyone rooting for San Fran hoped for a Mulligan. This being the Harbaugh’s Bro Bowl and all, here’s a thought: you ever play Tecmo Bowl (or any sports game, for that matter) and start losing badly, so you “accidentally” reset the system? That’s what Jim did to big brother John when the power went out. There’s my conspiracy theory, but it turned out to be for naught.

They might as well have gotten the desired restart though. The game played out as A Tale of Two Fuses, with San Francisco making a hell of a game out of it after all. But Flacco did what he does: throw the back shoulder pass, throw the jumpball, and watch his receivers make plays for him in clutch situations, something San Francisco’s wideouts have done all year but failed to do last night. Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree usually haul in those on-the-money throws from Kaepernick, but they dropped balls and ended up strangely as non-factors. The Baltimore WRs have been coming up big for Flacco and the Ravens this entire postseason, and they’ve been the hottest team at the right time. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: the eventual champion in any sport is not always the best team in the league. Champions are crowned according to whose momentum swings favorably at the end of the season.

And of course, the Super Bowl wouldn’t be the Super Bowl without the commercials. And it wasn’t the greatest commercial crop in recent memory, but XLVII had some highlights:

The Volkswagen commercial with the dude from Minnesota who speaks with a Jamaican accent.

For the farmer in all of us: the Dodge commercial with Paul Harvey’s powerful testimonial from the 1978 FFA Convention. “God made a farmer.”

It felt as though the Ravens had XLVII wrapped up for the majority of the game. Then the clock ran out on the 49ers, and I was left with the weirdly unsettling feeling of accepting Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens as Super Bowl Champions.

The story of Ray Lewis ends with him on top of the NFL and atop the topic of conversation for years to come, for both his play and his foul play.

That’s so Raven…

Weekend Roundup

Posted: January 28, 2013 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Sports
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Blackhawks are off to the best start in franchise history Nick Leddy scored an OT goal to push the Blackhawks to 6-0-0 with the 10-0-0 Maple Leafs firmly in sight. 

Bulls lose to the Wizards – The Bulls front court got eaten up in an ugly loss to the Wizards, who are suddenly hot after an atrocious start. They were of course Wall-less for the first half of the season, but the Wiz have managed to beat the Heat, the Bulls, and the Thunder. 

Oh, and everyone is still waiting for Derrick Rose.

Paul Konerko shaved his goatee – Please note that all beards are to be flown at half mast until the start of the season in remembrance of PK’s tremendous goatee. He looks so wrong without one.

Image

I just can’t.

Dave Sappelt made some unfortunate comments on twitter – They’ve been deleted, but here’s the recap.

The Pro Bowl was on? – Some stuff happened and here’s a happy fun time article about it.

Go forth and attack the day:

[audio http://awmr01.podbean.com/mf/web/tm8rv/Episode_016.mp3]

iTunes Linkage

  • 00:35 – Andy fucks up
  • 02:30 – First place White Sox
  • 09:00 – Giving Seattle fans some Chicago love
  • 10:30 – Young Guns
  • 15:40 – Lucky Dog
  • 16:50 – Concussion talk
  • 23:20 – Bears Talk
  • 27:37 – Raul’s summer beer advice
  • 31:48 – NBA Jam and BJ Armstrong, Where are They Now
  • 37:26 – The Cubs are indeed, awful
  • 39:00 – Because I’m Mexican
  • 43:50 – “I fucking hate softball”
  • 46:40 – Top Ten Individual Seasons
  • 01:04:07 – Origins of Mudbone

Email us 99sportsproblems@gmail.com
Find us on iTunes

  • 0:48 Andy is dead this episode
  • 1:15 Propers
  • 2:10 Tony thinks Twitter is exuberantly happy
  • 2:46 Ted Lyons Sunday Starter
  • 9:30 Top Ten MLB HOFers that need to be kicked out
  • 19:38 Breakage
  • 20:15 Beer brewed with maple syrup
  • 22:00 Andy’s story time
  • 23:00 Waite Hoyt sucks too
  • 25:00 @SaintLouisSport
  • 25:30 White Sox talk
  • 37:02 Chicago Cubs talk
  • 43:54 Breakage
  • 44:30 A buncha gutless dogs that folded like lawn chairs
  • 48:43 House Cleaning
  • 51:58 Where Are They Now: Bo Jackson
  • 57:50 The show never really ends
  • 59:27 Bye-bye

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Ruining a Dynamic Young Arm, by the White Sox

In the 2010 draft, the White Sox selected Chris Sale with the 13th overall pick, even though he came from someplace called Florida Gulf Coast University, not exactly a noted baseball factory. He was thought of so highly that the Sox are thought to have stolen him there at 13. When you draft a pitcher that highly, it’s obvious you consider that pitcher to be HIGHLY valuable and a big part of your future. Accordingly, you take every precaution with an arm that prized. You do everything in your power to make sure he’s taken care of to the maximum of your organization’s abilities. So why the hell are the White Sox doing their best to piss away such a dynamic young asset?

After drafting him, the Sox rushed Sale to the majors 2 months later in August. Yeah, they were fighting for the divisional title, something they ultimately fell short of. They used him exclusively in relief 21 times, not too tough a workload even for a kid fresh to the bigs. He excelled in the bullpen. In 2011, he was also used exclusively as a reliever and excelled once again. The Sox had always pictured him as a starting pitcher like he was at FGCU. They were commended for taking their time with him and slowly breaking him in. They let fan favorite Mark Buerhle leave via free agency so a rotation spot could open up for Sale. Buerhle is a God to Sox fans for some reason. The fact the team viewed Sale as his immediate successor spoke volumes about their opinion of what Sale meant to their future.

Flash forward to a week ago. Chris Sale had made 5 starts for the Sox to start the season and again was excellent. All systems seemed to be a go. Then, his elbow started to ache. Not just any elbow, but the elbow of the guy who the Sox had hoped would become a legitimate Ace. Now, when such a young and promising pitcher has any sort of distress or pain in his pitching wing, the generally accepted way of handling this is to shut the guy down for a period of time until the pain either stops or it doesn’t, which necessitates medical attention. I coached both baseball and softball for about 14 years and ANY time a kid who pitched complained of any type of soreness, we stopped them from pitching. Immediately. Even if the parents bitched about it (which none of ours ever did, but I’ve seen it happen) the decision was made as it was our responsibility to that child to keep his best interests in mind. Since a kid of 10 or 11 is obviously not as baseball valuable as Chris Sale is, it stands to reason that he also would be shut down, right?

Wrong. The Sox, for some reason, decided that instead of being shut down, a move to the bullpen was the right course of action. No immediate MRI, no ceasing of any and all pitching, no restriction on self-pleasuring himself. Nope, they decided not only to keep pitching him, they decided to take him off a regular, set schedule of pitching every five days to a far more erratic schedule of pitching. He might have been called upon to pitch two or three days in a row. Is that any way to take care of such a valuable and precious young asset? Of course it wasn’t. To make matters worse, they denied anything was wrong with him….he was just “a little sore”. Yeah, my ballsack was just “a little sore” after my vasectomy. They told me to stay off it while I healed, too. I did.

So on Thursday, it was revealed that the team was sending Sale for an MRI after one relief appearance where he was ineffective and obviously not right. What changed? His elbow didn’t suddenly take on a new degree of soreness after the shift to the bullpen, did it? If it didn’t the team is negligent in caring for Sale’s arm. If it did, the team is just as negligent in caring for Sale’s arm. Either way, the second they decided NOT to shut him down and IMMEDIATELY send him to the doctor for the MRI, they committed a grossly negligent act towards Sale, his future and the team’s fan base. I hope Sale is okay, but the Sox really dropped the ball on this one.

Kerry Wood, Official Cubs Mascot

This past off-season, the Cubs gloriously hired Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations and gave him the keys to the franchise in hopes of reaching baseball glory. Tom Ricketts told Theo to do things his way and promised to stay out of the operations side of the team, which he has done so far with one glaring exception….the re-signing of team mascot Kerry Wood. While Theo has promised to run the team like a big league franchise free from drippy sentiment, he catered to Rickett’s wish and brought back the guy who has been dead to me since game 7, 2003 NLCS. Not only did the team bring back a rapidly declining relief pitcher, they did it at the Cubs Convention. You know, they place that’s so filled with cloying sheep that the “BAAAAAHHHHH BAAAAAAAHHHHH” sound can be heard from a mile away. Don’t get me wrong, the place has some serious and critically thinking Cubs fans in attendance, but they’re the minority. I’ve been there and have seen it for myself.

Anyway, they rolled Wood out at the end of player intros on opening night to the delight of the meatheads who screamed shit like, “WE LOVE YOU KERRY!!! YAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY!!! WELCOME BACK!!!!”. I saw clowns post on message boards that they were moved to tears by this blatant publicity grab by a team that needed a feel-good story in the middle of January. Seriously? Moved to tears by a guy that choked away a chance to go to the World Series in glorious and spectacular fashion? A guy that has never reached his vast potential? True, it’s not totally his fault on that last point as he was abused in high school, memorably pitching both ends of a playoff doubleheader days after the Cubs drafted him. He never became more than a thrower…he never became a pitcher. But I’ll never forgive him for game 7. Anyway…..

Wood’s signing was the high point of his current contract as he’s really not a part of our future. His presence on this team was supposed to be about feel-goodery and not about being a competent major league pitcher. Apparently, the feel-goodery is lagging as well. Tuesday night, Wood came into a tie game against Atlanta at Wrigley Field and promptly sucked as hard as a Hoover set on “$100 Whore” and blew the game with a symphony of suck. He gave up 2 walks, 2 hits and whatever shred of dignity he had left when he launched his glove and hat into the stands after the inning was over. At least he hit his mark with his glove, which is a far cry from what he did with a fucking baseball that inning. With an ERA approaching 15 and a surly attitude (after the game, he copped a shitty attitude to a scribe, calling his question about the glove toss “irrelevant” and mixing in a nice cuss word to boot) what the hell is this guy still doing here and why the Christ does he still get cheers from the lemmings?

He gave the ownership what they wanted…a big reaction at the Cubs Convention. It would be nice if Wood could go out like something more than the petulant asswipe he played on TV Tuesday night and retire immediately. Hey Kerry, do the noble thing and give a young kid with a chance to help us win in the future a shot at refining his game at the major league level. Bow out of a failure of a last dance season. Tell the ones who still profess their love for you that the feeling will always be mutual and you’ll always be a Cub and blah blah blah. Take whatever gig the Ricketts family has promised you in your retirement and start building that 401k fund. Go on a world cruise. Impregnate your wife a few more times. Pretend you’re an NBA player and knock up a bunch of ho’s looking for a baby daddy. Do whatever you wish.

Bottom line….just go away. For all our sakes.

NFLer Jacob Bell Call it Quits

Eight year NFL veteran offensive lineman Jacob Bell retired this week in the wake of the Junior Seau suicide last week. Bell cited numerous reasons for this abrupt decision, his health and long-term future the chief concerns. To quote Bell himself…

“One of my biggest concerns when it comes to the game in general is my personal health. One thing that’s obviously on the minds of a lot of people lately is brain research and all the stuff that’s going on with that. One of the big things that I thought about when I was considering this is how much do I love the game? How much can they pay me to take away my health and my future and being able to be with my family and just have a healthy lifestyle?”

Bell signed a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals last month that was worth nearly $1 million, which is what he walked away from. I applaud Mr. Bell for taking a step back from his life in the present and seeing his life in the future, weighing it against the money he was due this season along with likely future earnings, then making a decision that at least 95% of the rest of the NFL players out there wouldn’t dare make. He may not have been a star player, but his family thinks he is and will be blessed with a happy and healthy Jacob for years to come. Good for him.

Shit, I hate being all sensitive and semi-mushy. Since I can’t close like that, here’s a quick funny for you…

Q: Why can’t Jesus play hockey? A: He keeps getting nailed to the boards.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Junior Seau, CTE and where this all may lead

On Monday, future NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau put a gun to his chest and pulled the trigger, ending his own life at age 43. This is eerily similar to how former Bears defensive back Dave Duerson took his own life in February of 2011. Duerson left a note saying he intentionally left his brain intact so it could be studied for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as CTE. It’s a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to violent contact sports like football and hockey. Repeated blows to the head in these, and other, sports are suspected to directly lead to CTE, which in turn causes the victim to suffer from memory loss, depression, confusion and aggressive behavior. Obviously, suicidal tendencies are also a symptom and unfortunately, sometimes the last symptom.

With the recent deaths of hockey players considered “enforcers”, Rick Rypien, a CTE victim who committed suicide, the possible suicide of Wade Belak, a depression sufferer, and the overdose of Derek Boogaard, also a depression sufferer and CTE victim, the hockey community has been seriously questioning the role of enforcers in the game as its becoming apparent the constant punches to the head may be directly linked to CTE. Considering the relative youth of these 3 players…Rypien was 27, Boogaard was 28 and Belak was 35…the crippling effects of CTE manifesting itself in such young men is truly frightening. If getting into fights on the ice is linked to CTE, what the hell is the game of football doing to others?

Virtually every play in football ends with a high-speed collision between at least two people…at least one of which is moving at full speed. From the first time a youngster puts on the pads and taps into that neanderthal gene that says “RRRAAAAAHHHHHRRRRRR!!!! HULK SMASH!!!!” they are subjecting themselves to the very real possibility of injuring their brain on a constant basis until the day they stop playing the game, be it one play later or when they retire from pro football. The damage done to a brain from a violent concussion can never be trusted to fully heal and the medical data supporting that conclusion gets bigger with every study done on the brain.

When do parents around the world finally say, “Not my child” and refuse to allow them to participate in sports where the risk for brain injury is so great? I’m not advocating one side over the other here, just asking that very important question….”When”? I’m certain that many parents out there won’t give a shit about anything that’s come to light and will keep enrolling their kids in these sports and will continue to scream encouragement from the stands when little Johnny plants a crushing hit on the son of another set of parents. They’ll yell “SHAKE IT OFF, RUB SOME DIRT ON IT AND GET BACK OUT THERE” even when it’s their kid on the sideline, woozy and nauseous from receiving a similar hit, even when their coaches insist they watch from the sideline until they’re cleared by a doctor to return to game action. I’m not sure where this is leading for the future of these sports, but I’m sure controversy will abound.

The Cubs and the Farm System

On a lighter note….Yeah, the Cubs suck hard this season and probably will in 2013 as well. While this is nothing new for us Cubs fans, what is new is there’s an actual plan to improve via the farm system. Let’s take a look at my top 5 prospects…

1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B The prize of the Adrian Gonzalez to Boston deal, the Cubs somehow heisted The Riz (That’s MINE and I expect royalties when he wins his first MVP and everyone calls him that) from the Padres for Andrew Cashner. Only 22 years old, he’s tearing it up at AAA to the tune of a .372/.422/.638 slash line and is only being held back by the issue of service time (free agency eligibility begins after 6 major league seasons and teams sometimes try to delay the eligibility clock by bringing young players up in June or July) and the fact that Bryan LaHair is playing well at the major league level. He’s a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor, so you know the kid is a fighter, too. I think he’s the most big league-ready of our youngsters and will give the Cubs a big run producer for a decade or so. ETA…June 2012

2. Brett Jackson, OF Jackson is a big, left-handed hitting OFer with superb defensive skills, is faster than rent in the ghetto and actually has the ability to draw a walk, something the Cubs haven’t stressed in the past. He’s prone to the strikeout, but so were plenty of other difference-makers with a similar tool set. I’m hoping he can be Jim Edmonds with more speed and less power. I don’t expect 40 homers from him, but 40 steals per season are in his sights. He’s excelled at every level he’s been at and at 23 is ready to hone his craft in Wrigley. There’s an available OF spot for him, but he’s in the same service time boat as The Riz. This kid is going to get every chance to be the dynamic leadoff hitter we have lusted after like we’ve lusted after a video of Kate Upton doing the Cat Daddy.

God help the rest of baseball if Jackson exceeds that level of awesomeness. ETA….June 2012

3. Javy Baez, 3B The last 1st round pick of the Jim Hendry reign of terror, he’s from the last MLB draft where overslotting and overpaying those players was possible. Drafted 9th overall in 2011, he’s 6′ 1″, 205ish, and still filling out since he’s only 19 years old. Scouts raved about how the ball jumps off his bat to all areas of the field. Defensively, he’s already a plus player and has the ability to play SS as well as 3B. Attitude may be an issue, though. He was recently scolded for admiring a home run and responded, “I can do whatever the fuck I want!” He’d better hit about 35 homers with a .300+ average in Wrigley if he’s going to be a cockbite. Hey, they can’t all be saints. ETA….2015

4. Matt Szczur, OF
Pronounced “Caesar”, Szczur is a super athlete who played both baseball and football at Villanova before choosing baseball after being drafted in the 5th round of the 2010 draft. He probably would have chosen baseball anyway, but the Cubs gave him $100K to sign and another $500K to skip the NFL scouting combine. For $600K, I shudder to think what I’d do. He’s struggling a bit at High-A Daytona, but he was a project with a high ceiling when we drafted him and we can afford to let him learn his craft at his own pace. He’s athletic and was very durable in college while playing two sports. He’s gone from 5th round future to fast-track prospect making a name for himself in the organization. ETA….2014, maybe 2015

5. Trey McNutt, P The top pitching prospect in the system, McNutt, only 22, has two outstanding plus pitches…an overwhelming fastball and a big ol’ power curve that are almost major-league caliber as it is. Refining a 3rd pitch and sharpening his control a bit will be the keys for McNutt (yeah, you love that name) to make it as a starting pitcher in The Show. He is thought so highly of that the Cubs refused to include him in the Matt Garza trade and laughed in Boston’s collective faces when they wanted McNutt (don’t act like you’re not giggling) in compensation for Theo. Standing 6′ 4″, he’s an imposing figure on the mound and may even put a few more pounds on his 205 pound frame. We need more home-grown arms to compete, but McNutt is a good start. ETA…2013

Rocky Horror Live Cast Showing

Ok, off sports for a second. This past Friday night, I took my girls and two of their friends to the Arcada Theatre’s live cast showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. If you’ve never seen this, it’s a Bucket List thing, especially if you like rude, vulgar, offensive and colorfully dressed people who worship a movie that bombed like it was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. These goofs (said lovingly, of course) dress up in costume and act along with the movie in it’s entirety. But that’s not the fun part!! The fun part is the audience callbacks. During the whole movie, the dialogue in the movie is “answered” by the in-the-know members of the audience. Here’s a decent example of this. Gotta listen kind of close, but you can make out the callbacks.

The enjoyment level for virgins (Oh yeah, first-timers are called “virgins” and are marked with a lipsticked “V” on each cheek and some offensive words or artwork on foreheads or bald heads. Then, the cast tries to offend them pre-show. The guy who tried to offend me had the tables turned on him. Silly cross-dresser!!) depends on how good the audience is. It’s much more fun to hear everything crisp and in-time (My name is Janet. “SLUT!!”) rather than a bunch of people who aren’t into the flick. It’s very audience participatory-dependent for fun, because the movie itself pretty much sucks, which is why it bombed years ago. After the show, the cast is more than happy to pose for pics and shoot the proverbial shit with you. This is me and my boy, Frank. I think it’s a boy. I didn’t have the sack to look under it’s panties…

Bring your kids if you don’t mind taking a chance on scarring them for life. How can you, really, when it’s just a bunch of grown-ups prancing around in drag?

 

Find us on iTunes

  • 0:01 Lee Elia Rant
  • 2:00 Introduction and Propers/It’s Pat!
  • 4:30 Bulls/Derrick Rose Sad Face
  • 8:00 Happy Lee Elia Day
  • 9:50 The Ted Lyons Sunday Starter/General Baseball Notes
  • 16:50 NFL Draft
  • 26:50 Beer Breakage
  • 27:19 Wing Walker Beer
  • 28:30 Where are they Now? Black Jack McDowell
  • 32:14 The Slugging Konerko’s
  • 37:32 That Young Awful Cubs Team
  • 41:35 Breakage
  • 42:00 Tony Talks about his feelings/Hawks Eulogy
  • 53:30 Top Ten NFL Draft Busts

Hey there folks, we’re looking for your email questions for this week’s podcast episode, which we will be recording on Sunday. Topics we are discussing include the following:

  • NFL Draft results
  • Phil Humber, Jake Peavy, and the White Sox pitching staff
  • Cubs farm system
  • All time NFL draft busts
  • AL/NL updates (Matt Kemp really wants that MVP award)
  • Beer, what are you guys drinking these days?
  • Blackhawks eulogy
Please send us your questions and feedback and fill out the form below. Thanks, we love our fans!

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

I love the very beginning of baseball season for a multitude of reasons. Small sample sizes make for fun numbers, like guys with OBP’s lower than their AVG’s, players with more home runs than entire teams, guys who haven’t walked or struck out all year, the dudes that are on pace for 300 RBI’s, it’s great for nonsensical stuff like that. It’s also fun for identifying who actually watches baseball vs. who is a football fan and is just killing time complaining about things that don’t matter. To be clear for all you football fans, the MLB season is a 6  month (7 if your team is good) long odyssey that begins as nature wakes up from it’s slumber, thrives as the world around it gets greener and warmer, and finishes when the outside world dies. It’s cyclical, natural, and takes a long fucking time to complete. They play 162 games in a season. Some teams are gunning to win this year, some teams are caught in the middle of rebuilding and competing, and others are instituting a plan that revolves around youth and smart spending.

I’m talking to my fellow Cub fans. Yes, yes, Theo was hired this year, but as some ignorant White Sox fans are quick to remind me, he doesn’t play a position (BTW, White Sox fans, I’m aware of this. He doesn’t swing a bat nor throw a ball for the Chicago Cubs. I don’t need to be reminded of this). The team this year is awful. They told you they were going to be awful all off-season. They made no major moves, they acquired no impact talent, they did not change anything from last years squad that was also awful, really. So why are you so surprised about their struggles? Is it hard to watch? Yeah, nobody likes blown leads or bad fielding or an anemic offense.

“DEN WHAT DA FUCK AM I GONNA WATCH FOR TREE FUCKING MONTS UNTIL DA FOOTBALL COMES BACK AND DA MIDWAY MONSTERS OF HALAS HALL COME CRASHING BACK WIT DA VENGEANCE OF A TOUSAND MINI DITKAS?!?!?!?!?!”

I have no idea. I can’t help you.

“Good sir, if I may inquire, what shall I remain vigilant for this season on the North Side?”

Soccer, go back to Europe. Try again.

“Dude, they suck, is there anything that I can look for as a reasonable Cubs fan with realistic expectations for this year and the next three years?”

On the Major League roster there are a few players you should be watching for a myriad of reasons. I’ll be doing my best to update you guys on them as the season drags on, but for now, here’s my list.

  1. Starlin Castro – Nobody makes me say “That’s a great play,” and “That’s a dumbass play,” in the same game quite like Starlin.
  2. Marlon Byrd – If he manages to get his average up he will be a valuable piece to a team that’s in contention. Players with solid contact skills and good defense don’t fall out of trees these days. Could bring back an ok haul of prospects if a team decides to buy high at the deadline.
  3. Matt Garza – The goal is to either extend him because of the thin crop of FA starters in the coming years, or to bring back a better haul than you gave up to acquire him. I still think he ends up a Tiger.
  4. Darwin Barney – It’s debatable, but I think he might be on the Cubs the next time they are ready to compete. TheoCo (thanks Short-E) values defense a lot, and I think his bat might stick as a 2-hitter.
  5. Bryan LaHair – If his bat is legit, he can play in left and then you can have a 3-4 of Rizzo and LaHair. That’s awesome to think about.

Which brings us to who I think is the most intriguing Cub, Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs did the right thing and stuck Shark (Jeff’s rather unfortunate nickname) in the rotation. He had some interesting gains last year as a reliever, but if he was going to be worth anything to the organization, it was going to be in the rotation. As I stated before, I love small sample sizes, they’re fun, and when we talk about Shark’s numbers it’s in the tiniest of sample sizes, but dating back to last year he’s gained something valuable; the ability to miss bats.

See, dating back to his minor league days, Shark was always a bit of a mystery. He had good-great stuff, and a 98 MPH heater, but he never consistently posted legit prospect K/9 numbers.

His fastball was described as fast and straight, which is an issue. Major League hitters will time up fast if it’s straight, just ask Armando Benitez. Since 2011 however, his K rate jumped to 8+ and it looks like it’ll stay there. Begs the question, what’s different?

Well, this year he’s walking less people. His BB/9 rate is dramatically slashed so far this year, but we’ll get to that in a moment. The difference is that his stuff is just, better. Let’s look at his PitchF/X data for a second.

PitchFx tracks the movement and speed of pitches thrown. In this case it’s illustrating Shark’s improved movement on all of his pitches. SL=Slider, CH=Changeup, and FT=Two Seamer, something that is a relatively new classification and can be misleading. Before ’11, Shark’s slider wasn’t moving across the plate much, it was simply spinning and dropping with gravity. In 2011 however, that pitch improved, and it’s clear when you watch him. I don’t know for a fact if he improved his grip on the slider or if he just has a better feel for it, but it’s a real pitch now. It’s become a wipeout pitch. The Changeup has also greatly improved, even if he limited his use of it in 2011. This year it has legitimate drop  to it and it looks like it comes out of the same slot, with similar arm action, as his fastball. The Two-Seamer is a bit of a mystery, PitchFx did mis-classify this pitch as a regular fastball until around 2010, but it has live action and is a few ticks slower than his 4 seamer. All of his pitches have good movement on them, with his two fastballs being his best pitches. The slider is now a legit weapon and the changeup is coming along. That alone explains the uptick in strikeouts, but there’s also one more trend that appeared during spring training and has some people (myself included) optimistic about his future as a starter.

He’s walking less people.

Let’s go back to his Baseball Reference card

During Spring Training Shark walked 1 batter and struck out 16 in 20 innings of work. Spring Training stats are misleading sometimes, but I don’t think they were with Samardzija this year. His command has dramatically improved this year in limited innings. To properly illustrate that:

That’s shark in a nutshell. Drop in ERA, rise in K/9, cliff dive in BB/9 and a rocket trip in K/BB ratio.

Conclusion

He’ll probably have some missteps over the course of a long season, but the improved control and the improvement on the movement of his pitches are all reasons to be optimistic. Shark’s change in approach will raise his ceiling, the questions for the remainder of the year revolve around the durability of his arm, I think. Can he throw 150+ innings? Can he retain the gains he’s made in control? Can he be a dependable starter? I don’t know for sure, but I’m finally optimistic about Samardzija.