Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Tables Turn Quickly on El Duque...

In complete command for five innings, wheels suddenly fall off for Orlando Hernandez, allowing five runs in the sixth. Rangers never look back, winning 9-2.

Indians fall to Detroit, lopping another digit off the Magic Number which sits at...


NOTE: Yes, the countdown has stalled. Fear not. We will return tomorrow with reasons 4,3, & 2 before the #1 Key to the Irish Season on Friday morning before I roll out for Pittsburgh!


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Kid is Alright

Okay, so he looks a little like Dumbo with those big flappers for ears. But Brandon McCarthy can flat-out pitch, tossing 7 2/3 shutout innings as the Sox split the doubleheader in Texas.

Indians game was washed out, leaving the Magic Number at...



Monday, August 29, 2005

#5 - Media Black-Out

On with the Countdown...

Ever since he became head coach, Charlie Weis seems to have been everywhere and nowhere. The media is clamoring to get a piece of him 24 hours a day, and he'll give them as much information as they want...45 minutes at a time.

Tyrone Willingham & Bob Davie had waht could be classified a distant relationship with the Notre Dame Press Corps, and Weis made headlines by effectively ripping the media at his first press conference on January 7 as overzealous gossip-whores (naturally, he was a little more succint than I am).

Point being, there will not be any two-hour marathon discussions about the 2004 season. No treatises from anybody in the program on the differences between Weis and Willingham, other than the occasional company line of, "We have a brand new slate now."

Weis is gonna give you what you want for however long he feels like it and then go back to work. Already he's moved the weekly coaches' conference from Monday to Sunday so the first day of the week is completely his for game-planning purposes. He's taking the job very, VERY seriously and doesn't want to spend any more time being a "media darling" than he has to.

If the players follow his lead, Notre Dame ought to be a fine example of a tightly-run ship that remains solely focused on winning the next game. Not the next five or the next championship, but winning every game. Yeah, that silly "one-game-at-a-time" philosophy is old-fashioned, but it also wins football games.

And Weis is embracing the most precious commodity Notre Dame has, its unparalleled alumni network. No other program is gonna get Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Tim Brown, & Chris Zorich to stand in the snow for two hours as honorary coaches of its spring scrimmage. In the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, here was Weis' report on a dinner meeting with some other guy who won a few games on the ND sidelines:

Before Charlie Weis opens the 2005 season and his career as Notre Dame’s head football coach Saturday night at Pittsburgh, what else would he do? He ate dinner with Ara Parseghian on Saturday night.

And during the course of the meal, it could have been a freshman undergraduate class for him at Notre Dame all over again.

“I did a lot of listening,” Weis said Sunday at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex where he unveiled the Irish’s opening-week depth chart. “…The most important thing you have when you talk to people who have done it before, he’s actually won a game here before. I’m 0-0. He’s won a few games here before, last I checked.

“Just hearing his approach from his first year when he got here to the last year before he left was an educational experience and how he approached the game and all the little sidebars that go with being the coach of Notre Dame.”

Charlie Weis grasps that he doesn't need to apologize to anybody for being at Notre Dame. This was an underachieving football team last season, despite what those idiots at ESPN would have you believe. According to Lee Corso, Notre Dame will open the season 0-6, a start that would include losing to a Washington team they beat 38-3 last September.

Until further notice, Weis should just keep on doing what he's doing, and keep the media at arm's length...or maybe longer.


Sox are Texas Toast

7-5 Rangers, with the Sox recieving an F on defense. Mark Buehrle struggled early and wasn't helped by FOUR infield errors, three by Tadahito Iguchi alone. Some late noise is made with the bats, but they fall anyway.

Indians win another pitcher's duel, 10-8 over the Tigers, keeping the Magic # at 26 for a third day and cutting the AL Central lead to 7 games.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Garcia Can't Go Home Again...

Sox win a West Coast series for the first time since Charlie Comiskey owned the team (at least it SEEMS like it's been that long), but lose the finale ugly, 9-2.

Ken Griffey says he's not coming. We don't need him. End of discussion.

Indians win, stalling the magic number at 26. Lead in the Central at 8 games.

And tomorrow.....

Heeeeeeeee's Baaaaaaaaack!


Depth Charged...

After 8 months of planning and strategizing, it has finally arrived for Charlie Weis: his first official Game Week as the head coach of Notre Dame.

At a press conference today Weis unveiled his final determinations for the "two-deep" against the Panthers and his willingness to shake things up continued to be displayed. To begin with, partly because of numbers and partly because they've impressed Weis, 8 freshman cracked the chart at some position - both Mike Turkovich and Paul Duncan at the tackle spots behind Ryan Harris and Mark LeVoir respectively, plus Kyle McCarthy and David Bruton at free and strong safety after Tom Zbikowski and Chinedum Ndukwe. One name that hadn't been on anybody's radar, wideout David Grimes, goes into Pitt as the top punt returner. DJ Hord, the more heralded frosh WR, will be in the mix on kick returns. DT Pat Kuntz, LB Steve Quinn, FB Asaph Schwapp, as well as redshirt freshman Ronald Talley & Justin Brown (DE) and Anthony Vernaglia (LB) also appeared as part of Weis' initial lineup.

The biggest "surprise" came on the offensive line, where John Sullivan is technically listed as second-string at center behind Bob Morton, shifted over so Dan Santucci starts at left guard.
Weis said:
We look at that, as an offensive staff, that we have four players that are starters. I could not list it that way. Between (Dan) Santucci, (Bob) Morton, (John) Sullivan and (Dan) Stevenson, we have four guys to man those three spots inside. You will see in the game against Pittsburgh all four of those guys playing in those three spots.

Makes sense considering earlier statements about countering the depth issue on the line by rotating guys into different positions.

Weis' depth charges lead us straight to point #6 in the countdown:

#6 - Youth is Served?

David Bruton

Don't be fooled by all that experience returning on the offensive side of the ball. This is still a very young football team, learning the second system in four years (for a few, the third in five). And over on defense, even with two returning starters plus plenty of others with game experience, how well can they perform remains an open question?

At the least, Weis' first lineup shows the Irish heading in the direction which turned around other recent struggling programs - get 'em and play 'em. That might not translate into a first year bonanza of wins, but it keeps the Irish well stocked for the future. At USC and Virginia in 2001, Pete Carroll and Al Groh (two other former pro coaches) basically threw caution to the wind and plugged in freshman and sophomores and redshirters whenever they felt it was necessary. If you're good enough, get your butt out there and play. Neither coach had a terribly successful first season (Carroll, 6-6; Groh, 5-7) but the players from those first seasons formed the nucleus which produced top 25 units down the road...oh, and back-to-back national champions at USC, that too.

So what can we expect from the young Fighting Irish? Well, don't expect an Adrian Peterson or Ted Ginn to emerge automatically from this unuheralded recruiting crop, but by the end of the season, who knows? Point is Weis is moving things in the right direction by putting them on the field as soon as he thinks their ready, not according to some time chart which says players are only capable of handling college football in their junior season. Those days are gone; look at any of the top programs and what you see is primarily a never-ending youth movement. Even at USC, with the new crown prince of "Stay in School", Matt Leinart, kids who are only a year (or a few months) out of high school are all over the field.

So while veterans like Brady Quinn and Brandon Hoyte will help determine the fate of the 2005 Irish, the direction of the Irish program could well hinge on what is happening two and three rungs down the depth chart.


Saturday, August 27, 2005

#7 - Exorcising The Demons

Speaking of excise, I'm sure the Indiana Excise Police think they're real cool after what they did last night. Trust me, they're not.

On with the countdown...

#7 - Turning The Page

Change is the watchword of the Notre Dame program these days, and with good reason. From the spruced up exteriors of Notre Dame Stadium (celebrating its 75th year), to the brand-spanking new $21.5 million Guglieliemo Athletic Center ("The Gug" as it is known on campus), as well as a few minor tweaks in the coaching staff.

The new look comes at a perfect time for the Irish. They needed a snappy change of direction on a wholesale level, and they've certainly got one. Players have openly talked about the clean slate Charlie Weis brings to the program.

In the end, that could be the most important factor as the Irish prepare for the first year of the Weis regime. The turmoil of the Ty Willingham firing as well as two horrible losses last season (Pitt & BC by a combined four points) as well as an embarrasing one (BYU) and three humiliating blow-outs (Purdue, USC, and Oregon St) took a lot of life out of the Irish. Weis' and his style, which although nobody has come out and said it is truly the Anti-Ty, are the adrenalin shot everybody associated with Notre Dame needed.

A telling moment about Ty Willingham's style came after the 2003 debacle of a final game at Syracuse where the Irish were crushed 38-12. Lineman Jim Molinaro caustically remarked in the locker room, "This team forgets too easily", a subtle dig at Willingham's ridiculously even-keeled, emotionless demeanor which seemed to be rubbing off on players who seemed willing to get pounded week after week. Weis won't be letting his players forgot anything easily; as he told us students when he came to Dillon Hall, he'll take all the heat when the cameras and mics are on him...but as soon as the doors close behind him, "that's when I share the wealth, so to speak."

The Irish program has turned a new page, and playing with a demeanor which reflects that will serve not only the 2005 unit but many others to follow.


Friday, August 26, 2005

Iguchi and Anderson Lift Sox...

5-3 in 12 innings out in Seattle, keyed by the first two home-runs of Brian Anderson's major league career and a 12th inning shot from Tadahito Iguchi.

Anderson recieves pie-in-the-face during the postgame interview.

Magic #: 28


Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Big, I mean BIG news out of Southern California today. No, not the rolling blackouts.

....No, not the whole "we-hate-Schwarzenegger" thing.

....No, not another Michael Jackson arrest.

No, the big news is the shocking revelation that Matt Leinart, as a star athlete, will be taking an easy course in order to fulfill his degree requirements at USC. I suppose we could all give Leinart crap for this, but he's already one step ahead of USC's last Heisman winner, Carson Palmer, who was at USC for 5 years and still never got a degree.

Or maybe it's just the nature of the class. I mean, we're all used to seeing star athletes take things like Sports Management and Aquatics and Introduction to Music.......but Ballroom Dancing?

Maybe we've all just expected too much. When Leinart spurned the NFL millions, we figured he was striking a blow for the idea that it's okay to stay in school and do just "one more year" of work like the other 15,000 kids who won't be set for life the instant they graduate from SC. Apparently he's just tossing the pigskin around and learning how to do the rhumba.

The Big Man at Practice...

Okay, so it wasn't the most inventive of cheers - "1, 2, 3 - GET BETTER!!!" - but the Irish broke from their huddle following a team address from Father John I. Jenkins, new University President, fully aware of the number one expectation this year.

Can't you imagine the conversation going something like this....

"Boys, I really stuck my neck out there, took a lot of S*&T, in order to get this Weis guy as coach. So I expect to see an 8 or 9 win season right away. Otherwise, you're going be seeing some personalized tuition increases."

Read Jason Kelly's column on the visit and other goings-on at practice here.

Eight days and counting, taking us directly to -

#8 - Putting the Special Back in the Teams

Charlie Weis won a hearty round of applause at a Q&A with Notre Dame students in mid-February when he announced his desire to completely overhaul the Irish special teams unit. "I thought [they] stunk", was one comment which drew particular raves.

So what's his grand plan? For starters, everybody better be damn ready to cover punts and kickoffs. No longer is this going to be a job for the walk-ons and fourth-stringers alone (although several of them are quite good at it and have been singled out for praise during camp; Weis even awarded a scholarship to Casey Cullen, who will serve as long-snapper and maybe see a little O-Line action). But Weis is unafraid to plug his best athletes into the coverage and return units.

Weis stated numerous times in interviews that one of the fastest ways to get better on the whole is to play excellent in the special teams coverage. As we've seen in the past, it's an often overlooked element of the game which can still determine the outcome. Weis' reasoning makes perfect sense. Last season the Irish managed about 19 yards per kick return. Imagine if they bump that up to 23. Generally when you return kicks you're anywhere from 5-10 yards away from the goal-line, so all of a sudden the Irish are consistently starting near or past the 30 yard line. It's one less first down that has to be made on offense. It opens up the field, and if the offense stalls the punter is suddenly much better situated to pin that opposing team inside their own 20. You can bet the Irish will be needing to win the field-position battle against nearly all of their opponents.

Travis Thomas has become the poster-child for Weis' special team makeover. Expected to finally "arrive" last season, the redshirt sophomore opened up his Notre Dame career at running back by fumbling on the very first play from scrimmage against BYU. The ball-control problems weren't as horrific as everyone made them out to be, but multiple fumbles when you carry only 25 times for the season is gonna follow you.

Rather than accepting his predicament, Thomas redoubled his efforts and is now the Irish special teams captain for the season opener next week at Pittsburgh. To hear Weis speak about him is to know that the head coach has found "his kind of guy" to lead the coverage units: "“He’s an offensive running back with a linebacker mentality,” Weis said. “And he plays that way. There have been very few times I have seen offensive players excel in special teams.”

High praise from a man who comes from working with the best special teams unit in all of football.

Thomas was often criticized for fumble-itis,
but now he leads the unit Charlie Weis says can
lead to a quick Irish revival.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

#9 - Laying Down the Laws

ND-Pittsburgh is just 9 short days away, and I might be getting tickets. In the meantime, the countdown continues...

#9 - Laying Down the Laws

In this case, Trevor Laws.

The defensive side of Notre Dame's superb Minnesota lineman pair (offensive tackle Ryan Harris being the other), Laws is a pure athlete who played a mainly reserve role on last season's defense. With Greg Pauly graduated, it now becomes the chief duty of Laws and Derek Landri to pace the interior of the Irish run defense in the 3-4 scheme of defensive coordinator Rick Minter.

The Irish were outstanding against the run last season...sort of. I mean, when you're the second-worst pass defense in the country, how much do you really need to worry about your opponents trying to run the ball? And the Irish encountered plenty of teams with a "pass-first" mentality: USC, Purdue, Stanford, Pittsburgh, just to name a few. So in that context, ranking in the top 10 against the run isn't all that impressive.

But the role for which Minter is grooming his lineman is not to think about stuffing Reggie Bush while hanging the secondary out to dry against Matt Leinart. Much like Weis' offensive scheme, Minter's designs center on outstanding line play to free up his linebackers, in particular the LB/Safety hybrid position known as the "Apache" linebacker.

"We looked at South Carolina film," Laws said on media day. "They got after them in that 30 front and those blitz pressures worked really well. The way we run it, it's more of a passing defense and a blitzing kind of thing. I'm going either way and they're bringing linebackers a lot."

Put another way: Laws needs to step it up not only to protect the run but open the Irish's main weapon against the pass. Every position is important, but how well the more conditioned Laws handles being in on every play as part of both aspects on defense will go a long way towards erasing those 5-TD performances by a "household name" like Tyler Palko.


Bizarre Game Goes Sox Way...

Tales from the Crypt...another fantastic start from Sox starters, this time Jon Garland. In line for his 17th win. Yet another bizarre late-inning miracle keeps the Twins alive. But these are the 2005 Sox. Geoff Blum takes advantage of some ineptitude at third base and avoids the tag in the 10th, then scores the winner for a 2-1 Sox victory.

Bobby Jenks continues to bring the heat, picking up his first save by striking out the last two batters.

MAGIC #: 29 -- Updated 7:52, Cleveland leading Tampa Bay 11-4. Unlikely to see that number drop again tonight.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Buehrle Brings the A+ Game

He said he could feel things were about to turn against Minnesota after a recent stretch of bad luck.

Eight innings, six strikeouts, no walks, one run. Not a bad day at the office.

Politte, Marte, and Hermanson made it a little interesting there in the ninth, but a 6-4 win goes in the books as a win. Ask a racer. Ask any real racer. It doesn't matter if you win by an inch or a mile. Winning's winning.

And with an Indians loss at Tampa Bay...

MAGIC #: 30


That Was Weird...

To my personal "There's Something You Don't See Every Day..." file, I add this: walking through the lounge in DeBartolo Hall today, I came across Ryan Harris. Asleep. Sprawled out over six or seven chairs. Visions of pancake blocks dancing in his head, no doubt.

This provides a nice segue to the key #10 in our countdown...

#10 - Getting Offensive on the O-Line

The Irish starting five of Harris (LT), Bob Morton (LG), John Sullivan (C), Dan Stevenson (RG), and Mark LeVoir (RT) enter their second season as a collective unit and, for everyone except Sullivan, their third year of consistent playing time.

But even with so much experience and continuity on the offensive line, the Irish running game has remained stagnant. Three years ago, a vaunted 2002 unit which produced FOUR NFL Draft picks produced an average of only 139 yards per game on the ground - far below the standard for a program which built its reputation on powerful, grind-it-out football.

With Charlie Weis' revamped offense now in the fold, the pressure will be on the big five up front more than ever. Not only because they need Darius Walker to follow-up his excellent freshman season at running back, but because Weis' passing game will never get off the ground without them. The continuing evolution of Brady Quinn depends on the performance of his offensive line. Weis has talked often about how the five offensive lineman are the most important pieces of the offense, since they are the only ones (other than Quinn) who will be on the field for every play.

And not to pile on or anything, but looming even larger than the quality of blocks and running lanes will be their health. With the departure of John Kadous (who apparently is back at the University but no longer playing football...don't ask me to explain) and the transfer of Chauncey Incarnato, the Irish are perilously thin along the line. Their best options for rotating players in will be seniors Dan Santucci & Brian Mattes, who have a combined 88 minutes of career playing time (in contrast, the least experienced of the starting five is Sullivan with 367 minutes). After that it's true freshman Paul Duncan and Michael Turkovich, as well as scarcely used seniors James Bonelli and Scott Raridon.

Weis says he's not concerned because several of his players, most notably Morton and Harris, have already played multiple line positions in college. "If you don't have flexibility within your own players, then it's a legitimate problem," he told the media last week. "But as long as you have a guard that can play right guard or left guard; a center that can play guard; a tackle that can play left or right; you have more numbers than it appears on the hoof." Even so, one major injury on the offensive line has the potential to send a shockwave through the entire Irish offense.

Ultimately, though, all five have a keen understanding of the task ahead, particularly fifth-year players Stevenson & LeVoir. Weis stated from the moment camp opened he was tired of seeing the o-line wait for the game to come to them. He wants a hard-hitting, defensive end mentality to attack the opposition from the offensive side. I suppose what he's looking for could best be described as..."nasty" (yeah, there, I said it). And if the offensive line reflects Weis' stated goal of a hard-working, intelligent, nasty football team, everybody at Notre Dame will like what they see.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

One-Hit Heartbreak

Say it ain't so!!!

Garcia pitches a fantastic game only to lose a no-hit bid in the eighth...a solo homer to Jaque Jones. 1-0 Twins.

Magic #: 32


Hedging Bets...

The Vegas King-Makers have laid the odds on Charlie Weis' first game. The Irish enter as the underdogs against the Pitt Panthers, -3.5. Fair or unfair? Who gives a S&*T!!! Either you win or you lose...of course, easy for me to say since I don't gamble.


#11 - Big Things from Big Mo

Continuing the countdown of 12 Keys to the Irish Season...

11 - Big Things from Big Mo

No, not MO-mentum, although a little of that always helps.

In this case, we're talking about the Irish's Big Mo, Maurice Stovall, a super-talented wideout who came to Notre Dame three years ago as one of the headliners of Ty Willingham's first recruiting class. Suffice to say, he has not always lived up to the grand expectations his signing produced, and maybe the whole "next Randy Moss" tag was unfair in the first place.

But nobody has been a bigger critic of his inconsistent play than Stovall himself. He's as mystified as every Irish fan at how he can put up a 10-catch, 171-yard game against Purdue in 2003 yet finish with just 22 catches for the whole season. And unlike chatterbox & fellow wideout Rhema McKnight, Stovall carries himself with a very quiet persona. That might be giving off the appearance that he's satisfied. Far from it.

For his senior campaign, Stovall dropped weight and trained hard to improve his durability, seeking to avoid the nagging leg problems which kept him out of action for three games and limited his effectiveness in numerous others. How well he can take advantage of his size and speed - runs the 200 Meters in 23 seconds - could well determine the fate of the Irish recieving corps. Much like the Patriots' system, Coach Weis expects every player he might send onto the field, from Stovall & McKnight to little-used Chase Anastasio to walk-on Rob Woods, to be a threat.

One guy who's already impressed with the leaner, meaner Stovall is the one who stands to benefit the most: Irish QB Brady Quinn. "You see him still blowing by people or coming out of his cuts, even late in practice when we're in team periods or individual drills that just kind of wear you down," Quinn said. "He's still pumping and still going."

Stovall could finally see his potential born out in his final year, and if that produces results anything close to the 2002 season of Arnaz Battle, every Irish fan will be smiling.


Monday, August 22, 2005

12 Days of Irish Football

Damn was it a nice day in South Bend. 75 degrees, a light cool wind blowing, plenty of shade and sun, no humidity. It almost made me think I was back in L.A.

Anyway, with the Sox taking an off-day to travel to Minnesota, the attention shifts to Irish football. Charlie-Ball makes its debut in 12 days at Heniz Field. Between now and then, a look at the 12 most important things for Notre Dame to focus on this season, in my humble opinion.

12 - Expect the Unexpected

One thing which consistently bugged the hell out of people was how ridiculously easy it was to decipher a Tyrone Willingham game plan. It's not like his schemes, particularly on offense, never worked - it always seemed like Willingham was confident it would work the whole game. Much is made about "halftime adjustments", but the fact is the Irish weren't making any while their opponents were.

Weis' approach by nature is to have a new plan ready for each week. It is time to get out of a mindset that one style of play is what defines Notre Dame football. WINNING is what defines Notre Dame football. If it means running a three-tight end set one week and not using that set on the next two opponents, fine. If it means using Cover 2 exclusively against Michigan State and then putting out an 8-man front against Washington, fine.

Weis built a reputation as a superior game-planner in the NFL. The Irish need that x-and-o savvy. Make thier opponents as uncomfortable as possible. Expect the unexpected.

In related news, stud running back recruit James Aldridge - one of 12 verbals Weis has already secured - did his business in the first quarter of his Merrilville team's 82-0 spanking of East Chicago Central. Read more here

SOX WATCH - No game tonight of course, and Cleveland just put up 7 in the 7th to pretty much bury the D-Rays. Lead at 8 games, Magic # remains 32.


Sunday, August 21, 2005


Sox break out the big lumber against the Big Unit and win 6-2.

So for all those out there wondering, "Would they ever win again?" The answers is yes. Yes they will.


Saturday, August 20, 2005

5-0 Yankees

White Sox losing train now seven cars long. Lead in the AL Central at 9 games.

Nevertheless, panic has hit the streets I'm sure in White Sox Neighborhood (yeah, we're just not big enough a fan base to be called a "Nation". Maybe someday.)

Maybe if this skid had happened in mid-May, when the Sox lead the division by only a couple of games, it would have been shrugged off as just another one of those misleading Sox seasons which was inevitably going to crash down by mid-July. Now, with the division seemingly clinched a week ago, even a hint of a sluump sends every Sox fan into a tizzy, wondering if the most spectacular of all baseball collapses is at hand.

I would agree that for the Sox to fail to make the postseason at this juncture would represent a catastrophe unrivaled by almost any in baseball history - perhaps the 1964 Phillies, losers of 10 straight to close the season and miss despite leading by 6 1/2 with 12 to play would be the topper.

The calls for Ken Griffey, Jr. become louder. Can Kenny Williams reach deep enough into his pockets to make Reds owner Carl Lindner swallow his pride and admit the Hometown Hero will never lead Cincinnati to greatness?


A Happy Place for Sox Fans

As if an outstanding starting rotation and above-average defense (though you would never guess that based on this week) weren't enough to get Sox fans to calm down, Tribune columnist Rick Morrissey provides the best:

You're a White Sox fan, your team is 30 games above .500 and, as it awaits the Yankees' lone visit of the season, you're acting as if what defines this club is the current five-game losing streak and not all the winning that came before it.

Get a hold of yourself, man. Snap out of it, lady.

I don't like saying this, but you're forcing me to: You're acting very Cub fan-like. You're acting as if the cosmic forecast calls for sunny skies most of the season followed by an F5 tornado in October.

Mama said there'd be days like this and Sox manager Ozzie Guillen says there are stretches like this. He's right. It's a long, tough season. John Wayne wasn't as tough as a major-league season.

But some of you don't want to hear that. You've spent the season looking for imperfections. You're the kind of people who see Maria Sharapova and wonder why her hem is uneven.

This paranoia, quite frankly, belongs on the Northside. Although this 4th inning against the Yankees which has featured a botched double play, a blown hit-and-run, and a balk on Orlando Hernandez - second balk called against Sox pitching in three games - is a little unsettling.

And as for Junior?

All of this doubt and fear has coalesced into the Great Savior, the man who will make everything right, the guarantor of the first World Series title since 1917. I speak here of Ken Griffey Jr. (all kneel please).

Griffey is having a very good year for the Reds (.290, 29 homers, 85 RBIs in 113 games), but somebody should probably point out that in the previous three seasons he played in 83, 53 and 70 games because of injuries. And you want to invest millions of dollars in him for the stretch run and years beyond? That sounds very Cub-like too.

Again, where is your faith? This team is built on pitching and energy, not on a monster offense. The Sox are tired but so is every other team at this point in the season.

Never mind that the Sox managed to go 74-44 without him.

Game update: Yankees 3, Sox 0, Bottom of the 4th


3-1 Yankees

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Or perhaps everybody is too caught up in the current skid to notice that the Sox division lead is bigger now than it was at the All-Star Break.

Do I hear a Junior, Griffey trade in the works?


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Gameday Eyes Smile on the Irish

ESPN College Gameday has announced that Chris, Kirk, and Lee will travel to Pittsburgh to highlight the Sept. 3 prime-time debut of Charlie Weis, proving once again that ESPN is like that obnoxious boy in the fifth grade who picks on the hottest girl in school. Why? Because he can't get enough of her.

I wonder how that Panther head will fit on Lee Corso...



The Sox lead the AL Central by 10.5 games with 44 games left. And all of Chicago Southside is gripped with...FEAR?!?

Yes, the Pale Hose played an ugly series in getting swept by the Twins, with all three games eerily reminiscent of last season's three-game sweep of late July, one that completely deflated the Sox and sent them into a spin from which there was no recover sans Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez.

And the Sox ARE 12-15 in their last month.

Yet to hear some tell it, such as Sun-Times columnist Greg Couch, worry should be the watchword of the day for any level-headed Sox fan:

I think the Sox have gotten a little lazy. The air warmed up at Sox Park, and the balls started flying, and the Sox never really were that good at smallball, at scratching out ways to get on-base, in the first place. Then, there's that big, fat division lead.

Um, YEAH! Over 162 games even the most infallible of teams look tried, cranky, sluggish. Take the '98 Yankees, winners of 114 games. In late August/September they went a pedestrian 9-12 before reeling off 7 straight to close the season (4 of those wins being over the pathetic, expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays).

Maybe lazy is the wrong word, but it has to be hard to keep your edge, hard to to keep fighting when the fight is already won.

To me, they just sit back, count on their wonderful starting pitching and swing for the fences. It's hard to battle out a long count, to foul off pitches until the right one is there to poke a single to right, to draw a walk.

Until you clinch the title, the fight is NOT won. If one manager understands that, it's Ozzie Guillen.

Can't draw walks? Always swinging for the fences? I was at the game on Tuesday night - Juan Uribe, of all people, drew a key walk when basically everybody in the ballpark was expecting him to strike out. And when you're going up against Brad Radke and Johan Santana, you have to recognize those two combined have issued only 49 walks all season.

Can we get the trading deadline back? By the eighth inning Wednesday, with the Sox into their 17th consecutive inning without a run, a group of fans started chanting, ''We want Jun-ior,'' and clapping.

The rumors don't go away about Ken Griffey Jr., who had cleared waivers. The Sox were talking to Cincinnati about him, and please let them be talking again. Give up anything imaginable, because he's a lefty and he gets on base.

But if that's not going to happen, maybe there is someone out there available who just is a professional hitter, who makes contact every time up. If that's what these Sox are supposed to be, then let's at least see some evidence.

Couch might have a point about the Sox needing another dangerous bat in the lineup - because they do. Frank Thomas' absence, despite the admirable performance of Carl Everett, hurts the Sox more than they or others care to realize. And it's not as if St. Louis poisoned the clubhouse chemistry by bringing in Larry Walker. If a deal not involving a player named Rowand, Podsednik, Buehrle, Garland, or Garcia comes up, why not make that move?

Even so, Couch represents the classic mode of Sox fan thinking, and I myself am guilty as well. We automatically marry to the worst possible scenario. There is no middle ground. At this point it might be well worth remembering that the 2005 Sox, who gave up not only Magglio but Carlos Lee, were supposed to be clawing with Cleveland for second while the Twins ran away with the Central.

But the time is now past for all rational thought. With the playoffs so real a possibility this late in the season, all the fans can think about it is the World Series, since most them were either infants or not alive the last time one was played at the corner of 35th & Shields. As Sox fans, we're only a rung or two below Cubs followers on the desperation latter.

But if I have to go Baghdad Bob when I say this, I will - THERE IS NO PANIC BUTTON. You can slug your way to a division title, which is what the Red Sox are currently trying to do. But you PITCH your way to championships, which is what the BoSox did a year ago behind stellar starting and bullpen work. The Sox have the best top three of any possible playoff rotation - Buehrle, Garcia, & Garland - plus Orlando Hernandez, who moves to a different level in October.

But even a valiant effort, or a trip to the ALCS, will leave all feeling bitter about how Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams blew it...again. With the Sox having enticed their fans with the promise of the AL's best record, doing much better than expected is no longer satisfying.

Now it's Win (the Series)...or die trying.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

NCAA buys NIT...

Now EVERYBODY gets to go to the NCAA Tournament in March...only not really.

NCAA purchases NIT for $56.5 million to end legal fight
By JIM O'CONNELL, AP Basketball Writer
August 17, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) -- The NCAA owns college basketball's postseason. Really.

The organization that made March mad with the 65-team national championship tournament, purchased the rights to the preseason and postseason National Invitation Tournaments as part of a settlement that ends a four-year legal fight between the two parties.

The 40-team postseason NIT, which is a year older and was once the bigger event, will now be run by the NCAA.
But who will select which teams get to play in what is truly the grand-daddy of all postseason basketball tournaments? NCAA President Myles Brand...

Brand said the committee which selects and seeds the field of 65 will not be involved with the postseason NIT.

Oh. So, basically, once you've been screwed by them, earn the lucky consolation prize of a place in the official loser's bracket of March Madness.


Max Schrek For President?

What's crazier, the fact that somebody put this together or the fact that on some bizarre level, Christopher Walken for President makes a tiny shred of sense?

Walken Presidency Site a Hoax



T.O. Back in Camp

I can't be the first person to have difficulty taking this guy seriously.

What we have here is Failure to Communicate...


Buehrle Can't Stop the Bleeding...

...5-1 Twins. The Twinkies will brag about the number 3, as in a three-game sweep over the Sox, but only one number matters:


As in the number of games they are STILL behind.

Indians lost, cutting the Sox Magic # to 33.


Sox-Twins Go A Full 15 rounds

Like two heavyweights, the White Sox and Twins punched and prodded each other through an astoundingly brutal 15 innings, neither able to knock the other out. I should know, I was there, enduring the longest game in Comiskey Park (NOT U.S. Cellular Field) history in hope of a White Sox winner.

To call losing this contest a disappointment is understating it. Against a hated rival, these sorts of games can eat away at a team. Luckily for the Sox they retain a comfortable 11 game lead on the Indians and 13 games on the Twins in the race for the AL Central with 45 games to play. Still, it would be nice to see the Sox reassert their winning ways against quality competition, like they were a week ago in the Bronx.

There were some standout individual moments, however. Bobby Jenks, who was mentioned in this week's Podcast, brought the heat to the tune of consistent 98 MPH fastballs and a devestating curve in the high 60s. He tossed three scoreless frames while striking out four. Brian Anderson, the fill-in for Scott Podsednik, collected his first two major league hits in his debut, including a crucial single to extend a seventh inning rally.

Anderson looked to have made his first run scored in the majors a game-winner, coming home on Timo Perez' RBI-double to give the Sox a 4-3 edge. Bring on Dustin Hermanson, converter of 30 out of 31 save chances. And bring on the creation of the Podcast Jinx, I suppose...not 24 hours after I sounded off (to nobody) that it may be a good idea to give Hermanson an extended vacation on the DL and let Jenks grow into his future position, Hermy gives up a tying solo homer. 7 innings later, the Sox walk away 9-4 losers.

That one hurt. It hurt bad.

The magic number remains at 34. And if nothing else, tonight did convince me that this Sox team does indeed have reason to make the Ken Griffey, Jr. deal. This article from the Tribune does a good job explaining:

Even though the Sox have the division all but won, it doesn't mean Williams is giving up his infatuation with Griffey.

Why does Williams want Griffey, who makes $12.5 million a year and is 35 years old, even though it would cost him two principal prospects in outfielder Chris Young and first baseman Casey Rogowski?

Griffey's big bat would replace that of Frank Thomas, who is gone for the rest of the season and perhaps forever. And Griffey bats left-handed, where the Sox believe they are short because Carl Everett's average is hovering around .240 from that side of the plate.

Plus, Griffey would allow the Sox to have a rotating outfield/DH system, which would keep Podsednik, Everett, center fielder Rowand and right fielder Jermaine Dye all fresh. The Sox also have no reason to believe Griffey would invoke his no-trade rights to block a deal. But Cincinnati's reply to the Sox's trade proposal has been silence.

We'll have to wait and see. Mark Buehrle takes the bump tonight in what is as much of a "must-win" game as a team can have when it leads by double-digits in late August. For morale if nothing else, a win will be huge.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Brian Anderson Arrives...

The newest "Outfielder of the Future", following in the footsteps of Jeff Abbott and Joe Borchard, Brian Anderson just might be one to deliver the goods. We'll see a bit of him in action first as a replacement for Scott Podsednik and later into September as well...

Click here to read more


Sunday, August 14, 2005


This is only as test. This blog post will self-destruct in 10 seconds...9...8...7...