Sunday, July 3, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
If there really is no gain with no pain, then the Blackhawks have absolutely nothing to worry about. But on the surface it appears that injuries ( C Dave Bolland, D Brian Campbell, LW Patrick Sharp ) are the Hawks' biggest obstacle in defending the 2010 Stanley Cup.
With leading scorer Patrick Sharp ( X-Factor ), and C Dave Bolland out with injuries, the Blackhawks are missing a combined total of 49 goals on the season. Although it goes without saying what the Hawks miss without D Brian Campbell, but for merits sake I must state: 2nd in the NHL in plus/minus ( 28,) also the key defenseman in the Chicago Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup campaign. Since the last half of last season, into the playoffs, and this season, Campbell has been firing the puck more, something that will be missed in his absence.
Wingman and X-Factor Patrick Sharp is playing at minimum Blackhawks MVP hockey, leading the team in goals and offensive point shares, he is in the top 3 in most scoring categories. Since losing both Sharp and Campbell, the Hawks have gone 1-1, tallying only two goals total. With Coach Quinneville still figuring out which goalie out of the combination of Crawford/Turco works heading into the final eighth of the season, giving up 6 goals and only scoring two isn't going to aid the injury woes the Blackhawks now face heading into playoff positioning.
Other significant injuries that will have an effect on this season is:
- D Duncan Keith - hand/finger injury, hit with a shot during the 3rd period of the Hawks win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Mar. 7 in Toronto. He missed the rest of the game and the next practice, but appeared to be fine the next game. It should also be noted that in the last 10 games, Duncan Keith has a plus/minus of -2, going -5 in the games since the injury. He also appeared to favor his shin/ankle a few games prior against the Phoenix Coyotes.
- Blackhawk staple defenseman Jordan Hendry went down with a season ending knee surgery in February. Ultimately, leaving Stan Bowman and front office officials scrambling to seamlessly insert a compatible piece to the championship defense. Eventually acquiring D Chris Campoli from the Ottawa Senators. It should be noted that according to blackhawks.com, that Jordan Hendry successfully underwent surgery to repair his ACL tear. Grave thanks to Blackhawks Head Team Physician Dr. Michael Terry.
"As I See It," the recent injuries to the Blackhawks aren't anything of immediate concern. I still believe that the goalie position is in need of some attention. Corey Crawford would be the best pick going into the playoffs. Giving the Blackhawks the youthfulness that helped propel them through the playoffs, Turco could always be available to stop bleeds.Bottom line, with Kaner and Toews on the ice, I'll put my money on the Hawks.....again!
Posted by Curtis Shaw Flagg at 10:49 PM
Thursday, March 17, 2011
If the Mayans were football fans, then they were right on the money when they predicted that the world would end in 2012. They just forgot a minor detail. They meant that there would be no NFL football. At least for golf that is a good thing. But for the millions of people that are willing to skip a days work, mortgage their homes for tickets, and fire people for wearing team ties at work, this is epic.
For Bears fans coming off a NFC Championship high, it's downright confusing. If there isn't any football next season, how can we set our expectations unreasonably high and declare this Jay Cutler's hot seat season prematurely. How can we prepare to criticize the finale of the "Decade of Lovie?" To be honest, NFL and Bears fans alike have no clue what is in store for the next couple of months in the NFL.
Recently, the Bears took out an ad in the local papers assuring the fans and the city that despite the labor disputes, they are working steadfast in preparing for another Super Bowl run in 2011-12 season. This starts with the current focus being on the only thing still recognized under the last CBA. The NFL Rookie Draft. For Bears fans this should be a reason to celebrate. Throughout GM Jerry Angelo's tenure with the Chicago Bears, his mantra has remained the same, get stronger and add depth through the draft. Draft, draft, draft...
Some skeptics would point out that there have been significant hits and misses in Angelo's recent history. Most of which would be the dumping of almost an entire draft class of 2009 and 2007. Angelo has however undoubtedly made some splashes that have contributed significantly to the Bears organization in late rounds. Most notably being Devin Hester, Lance Briggs, and Daneial Manning with picks in the second round or later. That is some pretty big splashes. To the contrary, 35% of Angelos's picks are still on the roster, that's 25 players out of 77 that Angelo has drafted not counting the recently departed Tommie Harris (1st round).
|No More Drama...|
Questions to Jay Cutler's toughness and loyalty surfaced after he was knocked out of the second half with what appeared to be at the time a sprain of a ligament in his leg. It would later discovered that Cutler tried to reenter the game early in the 3rd, but could not apply significant enough pressure to play on competitively. So he sat in the corner with a look of neither disappointment nor dejection. To his defense, he couldn't possibly withstand much more of the punishment he suffered during the regular season carried into the postseason, when issues such as protection should be corrected before entry.
So as we look forward to this season's upcoming NFL Draft, we focus on the O-Line, Wide Reciever, and Secondary positions assuming the roster stays as it stands..
- Mike Tice recently made a trip to the University of Florida to sample the latest crop of O-Linemen. Angelo has typically favored U of F players in the draft, making such picks as Alex Brown, Rex Grossman, and Major Wright to name a few. The current object of his affection is 6'5'', 303lb center Mike Pouncey, the twin brother of Maurkice Pouncey of the Pittsburgh Steelers. With the future of Bear's vet and O-Line staple Olin Kruetz in limbo, Pouncey could potentially fill the void at center left by Kruetz. Roles in all other line spots could be up for grabs depending on what Tice and Co. see in Pouncey in upcoming workouts.
- Some of the other linemen that could be available to Chicago are Marcus Gilbert, a more realistic option to obtain. Gilbert is a natural guard, with the versatility to play tackle or guard. Also on the boards to go is Carl Johnson, who played multiple positions on the O-Line at UF.
So according to the front office officials at Halas Hall, the primary focus during the lockout is to stregthen through the draft. Hopefully players and ownership can come together before the start of the season so we can get a chance to see how the rookies work out. But you can wish in one hand....
More lockout information coming soon....
Posted by Curtis Shaw Flagg at 2:41 PM
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
|Still the Champs....|
In the last edition of "As I See It", we broke down the playoffs picture as it is concerned in the Eastern Conference. Today we will look at the Western Conference as it stands for the playoffs, and what that means for the Chicago Bulls.
The Chicago Bulls have fared well in the West this season. Posting an 18-7 record against the Western Conference teams. They have not only dominated, but also beat the teams that matter the most. Having at least one win against the top three teams in the west. Playing a more uptempo style against Western Conference teams, the Bulls are shooting a higher field goal percentage (46), despite taking more shots in fewer games compared to the East.
To the contrary, the Bulls have suffered a significant drop in defense against the west. In every statistical category the Bulls have a drop in production against teams in the west coast. Mostly, due to the up and down style of play. Which in part strays from the hardnosed halfcourt defense that Coach Thib's loves.
All in all, I feel confident in saying that I believe the Bulls could best any team in the West, except the Lakers and Spurs currently.
With that being said, let's break down the Western Conference playoff situation. Of course, if the playoffs were to start today ( I know, I know.....)
- San Antonio Spurs
- Dallas Mavericks
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Denver Nuggets
- New Orleans Hornets
- Portland Blazers
- Memphis Grizzlies
To speak bluntly, anything after Oklahoma City is a Cinderella. After this recent summer's changing of the guard, as it concerns to matching up with L.A., players abandoned ship and headed East to build a new super conference. Leaving Denver, Phoenix, and Utah looking to rebuild to contend the bottom half or the seating.
Let's break down each team as they stand up to the rest of the NBA realistically to win the NBA Championship:
San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs have proved that old dogs not only learn new tricks, but they teach the young dogs how it's done along the way. Sitting at an NBA best 54-12 and dominating against all divisions. Adapting a more uptempo style of play and decreasing veteran and future HOF'er Tim Duncan's minutes subtly and effectively have made them the most dangerous team to upset L.A.'s throne. Only leading the NBA in one category ( 3-point percentage - .401, ) the Spurs are still using what made them great by when slowing down to a half court set, they make other teams make the mistakes and capitalize.
San Antonio without a doubt is the most playoff tested team in the NBA. Approaching their 14th straight playoff appearance and seeking a 5th NBA Championship in 12 season, Vegas and the NBA alike can't overlook the Spurs.
|Last chance for Dirk?|
I wouldn't be surprised if they made the Western Conference Finals depending on the seating breakdown. If they have to play L.A. or San Antonio to get there, then I see another great season down the tubes in an early round again for Dallas.
Los Angeles Lakers
The 2-time defending NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers. Are a 3 seed. Seems on the surface that they do not appear to have the same caliber of hunger that propelled them past Oklahoma City, when it seemed as if their chips were down. And even more the perseverance that outlasted a gritty Boston in seven games for it's second back-to-back NBA title.
You could also chalk it up to boredom, looking at the fact that they went 57-25 en route to title #2, going 12-10 in the final two months leading into the playoffs. With a rejuvenated Andrew Bynum, a consistent domination on both sides of the ball from Pau Gasol ( 18pts, 10reb, 1.6bpg, ) the length and versatility of X-Factor Lamar Odom, Zen-Master and Daniel-son puppeteering from Phil and Kobe, and trying to get Ron Artest to do his best on court Dennis Rodman impersonation, the Lakers can make the regular season an afterthought with another championship. Much like last season.
As I See It, the Lakers are still the team to be beat in the NBA. Period.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Which segway's nicely into the 5th seed, the Denver Nuggets. Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard at least a aesthetics of the Melo' drama that stunk up the NBA until after the all star break when he was traded to New York for Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Timofev Mozgov. Losing their perennial scorer and the most underrated point guard in the NBA, Denver to the outside seemed to be doomed to slide out of playoff contention and into rebuilding oblivion. Not the case, the Nuggets have gone 7-2 since trading Melo away and are the scariest team for anyone to face in both the first and second rounds.
P.S. Do you think that Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson aren't getting a kick out of playing with each other? And George Karl HATES superstars, this might just be a blessing in disguise...
Bottom of the Heap...
- The New Orleans Hornets would be the most scrutinized team in the NBA if they win past the second round. Partially because they have no team, and the other is they are owned by the NBA. Point Guard Chris Paul is undoubtedly on his way out of N.O. in this upcoming free agency period and the status of the franchise in general could quite likely be in jeopardy. But a miraculous playoff could change all that.
- The Portland Trailblazers have been the most heartbreaking story in the NBA for the past decade. Seeming to be annually plagues by injury and missing expectations, doubled by busted draft picks and being burned by the picks they missed. But for some reason throughout all it's adversity they seem to be somewhere around the helms of playoff contention consistently. The declining physical health of All-Star guard Brandon Roy, with the burst onto the spotlight of replacement Wesley Matthews, plus the acquisition of double/double machine Gerald Wallace, makes the Blazers the most confusing team in this playoff race. As I See It, the Blazers should comfortably assume the 7th seed in the West and exhaust either the Lakers or Mavericks before making an early exit.
- The Memphis Grizzlies are young and talented. They are not a complete basketball team however, depending on 1-on-1 play and hoping Z-Bo picks up the garbage. They will more than likely play the Spurs in the 1st round. So the story for the Grizzlies pretty much ends there.
As I See It, the west will shake down traditionally. The Spurs will play the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers will win in 7. Come in an emotionally and physically drained team against a young and hungry Chicago Bulls team. They take it to six games, and Phil Jackson will be hoisted by his own petard when the team he won his first six titles with ( Chicago ) takes his second sixth away.
All in all, greatness is made in the postseason. The Bulls have yet to prove worthiness of beating L.A., not even San Antonio. But by the way they have played both teams this season and the way the seating seems to be playing out in the NBA, it's not a far fetch to say this might be the series that gets dealt. You might say it's a dream, but it's the most realistic dream that has yet to end. Keep holding good teams to low scoring and that's all the recipe you need to win in April.
As Charles Barkley said best.. " I may be wrong, but I doubt it!"
Posted by Curtis Shaw Flagg at 9:51 AM
Thursday, March 3, 2011
It is that time of year ladies and gentlemen, the time where the line in the sand gets drawn. Seeds are planted and champions are grown. Playoff positioning. None other like that in the National Basketball Association. Undoubtedly no other league has a better postseason. In each series teams that fans salivate over meeting in the regular season battle it out to a maximum total of 7 games and at least 4 games. I'm getting goosebumps writing about it!
So let's take a look at this year's Chicago Bulls playoff situation. It can be comfortably assumed, that given their current Conference standings that they will make the playoffs. As reported, the Bulls have found their missing link for depth at the shooting guard position with signing 6'7'' SG Rasual Butler, bought out by the Los Angeles Clippers after the trade deadline.
If he shoots at anything near the same percentage as he has in seasons past, than the addition of Butler to the Bulls roster instantly makes them Finals contenders. Coach Tom Thibideau has already expressed to Butler what his intentions are for him on the team-- wait for your opportunity and seize it. With Thib's emphasis on defense, the added length at the 2 spot with flexibility to play the 3/4, and the Bull's opportunistic position in the Eastern Conference standings, Butlers role could pay huge dividends in the push for playoff seeding. Matching up with the long Lakers and big Celtics
If the playoffs were to start today (a reference I usually care not to address..) this is how the matchups would look:
- Boston Celtics
- Miami Heat
- Chicago Bulls
- Orlando Magic
- Atlanta Hawks
- Philadelphia 76'ers
- New York Knicks
- Indiana Pacers
The Boston Celtics have traded away their junk-yard dog post presence in Kendrick Perkins, and sparky Nate Robinson, for Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic. Looking to get bigger for a potential matchup against Orlando ( Dwight Howard, Brandon Bass, ) or a rematch against the Lakers ( Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom.) It has yet to be written if that move strengthened the No. 1 defense in the NBA, but essentially the move was made primarily for the playoffs and secondarily for playoff seeding. They currently hold the series advantage against the Bulls at 2-1. In the entirety of those games there is only a 6 point differential between the scores. With both teams the top 1 and 2 defenses in the NBA, the Boston Celtics are undoubtedly the Chicago Bulls biggest foe in the playoffs besides the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference.
The Orlando Magic have been there, done that. They have been to the NBA Finals, only to lose to Lakers for their first taste of post-Shaq championship blood. They have done the playoff fight, only to fail at the grail. They are without a doubt all in this season with Dwight Howard on the tail end of his contract and observing the current climate of the NBA, with CBA's looming and stars teaming up. To win now is an understatement, so the Magic have rebuilt. Unlike the Celtics the Orlando Magic went for perimeter scoring, bringing in former Magic F Hedo Turkoglu, and swingmen G Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas. Making the Eastern Conference one of the deepest its been in recent years.
Exit Philadelphia and Atlanta, enter The New York Knicks. That's right, the New York Knicks are playoff contenders. It almost sounds naughty coming off the tongue. Feels like you should wash your mouth out with soap. But with Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire headlining the Big Applegangers at Madison Square, it will be the hardest three games a team will have to win away in the second round.
If the Knicks get anything resembling Galinari and Felton as a supporting cast in Landry Fields and Anthony Carter, then they will definitely be on upset alert when teams like Miami, Orlando, and Boston come up in the first or second round. New York should settle in nicely at the fifth seed, playing the likely loser of the first seed battle between Boston, Miami, and Chicago.
|The NEW York Knicks|
This is looking to shape up to be one of the greatest NBA playoffs in history. And looks to create future rivalries for years to come. The Beasts in the East vs The Black Mamba's quest for 6 kills. The newly built Knicks and the quest for a reemergence of the Garden, the ageless Spurs and their modernized uptempo system, the new playoff look Thunder and Kevin Durant's catalyst into NBA supremacy.
Through all this pressure the Bulls have remained unaltered. Beating the NBA's best and proving that they should be feared in the postseason. But at the end of the day we all know what talks, and what walks. So stay tuned to see how this one shapes up!
Posted by Curtis Shaw Flagg at 8:38 PM
Monday, February 28, 2011
"As I See It, anyone can be an Ace: Attitude + Commitment = Excellence"
- Curtis Shaw Flagg
In the case of the Chicago Cubs, it's paid in spades for this upcoming season. Plagued with poor run production, the starting pitching rotation last year for the Cubs did not manifest. Despite the tutelage of pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Since removed from the team and coaching with the New York Yankees ( go figure, he's a good coach,) Larry once honed the skill and talent of pitchers Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells, Ryan Dempster, and most notably Carlos Marmol and his control issues. He unfortunately didn't get the opportunity to get a real angle of continuity with recently acquired starter Carlos Silva, who did as notably start the season 8-0 before losing a 1-2 pitchers duel to the White Sox.
|Marmol had 38 saves and .255 ERA in 2010|
That pitching staff is the reason for this entry. To be technical, there are 4 Aces: Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Silva, and recently acquired ALCS MVP Matt Garza from the Tampa Bay Rays. All four of these pitchers could headline a major league team. Carlos Zambrano for the past few years has been the Cubs No.1 pitcher until only a few weeks ago, when Mike Quade made a bold decision to start Ryan Dempster winning 52 decisions in the past 7 seasons. Carlos Zambrano won over 90 decisions in his previous seven seasons, but has been struggling with anger issues and disruptions internally within the organization and was flat out getting hammered in tight stretches.
If the starting rotation were based solely from last years statistics, then the order would be as follows: Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Silva, Randy Wells. With James Russell and Sean Marshall the only two left handed pitchers with serious consideration on the outside looking in. They will essentially battle for mop-up time, and be on call in case one of the 5 starters goes through a slump, or to balance out the rotation with both right and left handed pitchers.
As I See It, the starting rotation should go as follows taking into consideration both right and left handed pitchers:
- Carlos Zambrano
- Matt Garza
- Ryan Dempster
- Sean Marshall
- Carlos Silva
- Carlos Zambrano will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest Cubs pitchers before he hangs up his jersey. He will also go down as one of the most notorious. But whether he is jousting with Derek Lee in the dugout, giving the "Green Street Hooligan" to the water cooler in the dugout, or screaming with himself in the dugout, he always competes at his highest level no matter the circumstance and demands the same from his team. In his 10 years of service with the Cubs, Carlos has only had 2 losing seasons, pitched a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers and has been a staple ace yearly for the Cubs ballclub. Hands down No. 1 pitcher in Chicago.
- It gets a little more tricky from here, Carlos Silva has the track record for success playing in the National League posting a 18-7 record while playing for teams in the NL. Matt Garza however, has been more productive in his respective league as of recent. Matt is 34-31 in his past 3 years in Tampa, including that 2008 ALCS MVP Award. Matt Garza is bringing proven post-season success to a team that is in desperate need of good successful leadership. The No. 2 spot should suffice for the right hander going into his first campaign on the Cubs mound. How the cards fall after that is up to him and Zambrano's play.
|Look out for Kerry Wood to have a big-time reunion in the Cubs bullpen|
- Ryan Dempster has to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the Chicago Cubs. Beyond his behind the scenes prankster antics and propensity to goof around the ballclub. Ryan's consistent production seems to almost go unnoticed to the masses, since his transitions from the relief role into a full time pitcher. Since becoming the Cubs starter RD has posted a 43-27 record with a 3.49 ERA. And still he slips to the 3 spot, and to that degree he gets more grandeur for the fact that he fully accepts whatever position is given to him. What makes him intangible is his ability to perform no matter where he starts. I look for Dempster to 16-6 in the 3 spot this season. That would be statistically his best record to date.
- Sean Marshall is the affirmative action candidate for the left handed minority of pitchers for the Cubs. Building off a decent end to last season, which included his last start, where he shut out the San Diego Padres 1-0. The next viable candidate would be James Russel, a second year Cub and promising left handed pitcher. My eye tells me that he has some weight issues to overcome, and in turn will help with his power and health. As I See It, the best possible strategy with the lefties is for Riggins and Quade to use Marshall initially for his experience and to get early legs. From that point sporadically mix in Russell, given the matchup to let him get loose for the second half. Depending on performance, if James is giving the team the better chance of advantage against right handed hitters, he finishes the job( See: Net Gain: Antti Niemi. )
- Carlos Silva is the dark horse in this race, losing the fourth spot to Sean Marshall on strategic technicality. Silva started out the season 8-0, looking more like the 2004 version of himself. Plagued with critical health ailments and minor injuries throughout his career, he is unfortunately too risky to rely on as a No. 1 - 3 starter. Barring any significant injuries, Silva could possibly be the best pitcher in the Cubs rotation.
Last season the San Francisco Giants proved that pitching truly can win championships. Tim Lincecum & Co. stopped a hot offensive team in the Texas Rangers with shutouts of 4-0, 3-0. To put it in lamen, Game 5 of the World Series--three batters get a hit--one batter gets a run. Can't name many times that a team with echelon of pitching that would lose in those situations. Carlos Zambrano is not only capable of throwing a shutout, he can make you hitless, throwing a no-no in Miller Park. Matt Garza pitched his no-no in July of '06 against a frequent Cubs' opponent in the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Only time will tell what we will see from Andrew Cashner and James Russel. The remaining touted talent on the defensive side of the field. With enough talent to rival the Yankees and Giants. With chemistry and a the right amount of pressure to win from skipper Quade, the Cubs are capable of skipping a rebuilding tenure and jump right back into winning. The current Cubs roster is capable of 95 wins. It is up to them to play like Chicago deserves for them to.
But only with run support...
Posted by Curtis Shaw Flagg at 6:28 PM
Thursday, February 24, 2011
|Part of Speech:||n|
|Definition:||a hard-to-describe influence or quality; an important element with unknown consequences|
In the game of basketball, there are 12 players to a team. There are 5 main positions: Point Guard, Shooting Guard, Small Forward, Power Forward, and Center. Each position is just as critical as the next to the overall success of the team.
Derrick Rose is the Chicago Bulls greatest strength in furthering themselves deeper into the playoffs. Potentially contending for the Eastern Conference Championship and NBA Championship, but that is for a later conversation. The current Bulls roster consists of 3 Utah Jazz displacements, team veterans Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah. Kurt Thomas and rookie Omer Asik round out the signings by front office.
Then there is Brian Scalabrine, spending the last 5 seasons in Boston with the Celtics alongside coaches Doc Rivers and Thibideau. Scalabrine brings to the team a comfort level for Thibs' system that is binding to the teams chemistry in the most important part of their make-up. Practice. Just ask coach Thibs, practice is just as important in the game and the biggest guidance the players can get is from their peers.
Scalabrine essentially is an extension of Thibs system. He helps the team to advance their familiarity with the defensive emphasis that Thibedeau demands from his players. Scalabrine is more than just another player filling the roster, he is the true definition of a player coach. With players like Omer Asik he provides a convenient example to follow for someone who has trouble adjusting to the speed and detail of NBA basketball.
It is rare to find players that are willing to assume roles that are not glorified. The lunch pail and hard hat style. That is the style that Brian embodies. In games played this year he is shooting .571, and eight rebounds, not MVP numbers, but definitely not an impediment to the team.
As I See It, while the rest of the season unfolds, the key to keeping the team in sync with the vision of Tom Thibideau is Brian Scalabrine. He adds another coach to the staff, another mentor for some of the younger nucleus of players.
I would like to thank everyone who has read the "As I See It" season one series of blogs. Check in when "As I See It" season 2 starts up with more X-Factor series and the 1st Annual Chicago's Finest Awards ( The Windy's! )
Can't wait for the next half of Bulls/Blackhawks and the beginning of Spring Training for the Cubs/White Sox. See you then!!
Posted by Curtis Shaw Flagg at 8:56 PM
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
|1919 "Black Sox" logo|
My hatred for the White Sox runs deep, dating back to the late 80's where I wasn't allowed into a game at Comiskey Park. I then went to Wrigley Field and watched an exciting matchup between the Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Giants. The Cubs did not win that game. I am also saddened to inform you that I have never witnessed a Cubs win at Wrigley in 25 years of living on this planet. I feel as though I am a jinx, but I guess there have been many more before me.. Which brings me to my crossroads..
As I mature into a fully blossomed adult, I ponder the things I once impassioned as a adolescent. My hatred for the White Sox topping the list next to dentist visits, and vegetables. The Green Bay Packers also made an appearance on a list or two, but with the White Sox, living in Illinois you had to choose sides. You couldn't be on the fence, because then you were just being a wuss and trying to please everyone, or you just didn't know or follow baseball. So choose a side and be willing to bleed for it. Last time I cut myself, it was red and science says my blood is blue until oxygen hits it. The theory is simple, and factual.
I am a Cubby, a Northsider. I have cried the tears of disappointment, and jubilant in the cheers of victory. Unfortunately, I have not experienced the joy of a World Series victory. When I think about what I love about the Chicago Cubs, I think of loyalty and Ron Santo, I think of the desire of team play and Ryen Sandberg, I think of Ernie Banks and I also think of Old Style and Harry Carey.
Recently, the alcmosphere of Wrigley Field brings the breed of beer guzzling time wasters that look at a game at Wrigley as an expensive frat party, that has a baseball game playing in the background instead of Jack Johnson....Sorry to let that one slip, but the reality is that before the Dusty Baker years, the Cubs' were not expected to win. They were actually marketed to lose. You remember, the 'loveable losers'. Made me want to vomit. I blamed Bartman for a about 6 hours on Oct. 14th, then I realized that the play wasn't the game winning home run, or even the game scoring play period. Instead, the Cubs go to pieces. Rather than closing the game out they produce a comedy of errors and slide to an 8-3 defeat with six of the runs being unearned. They eventually go on to lose the series and not reach the World Series.. I play that scene out with every mediocre season and early playoff exit. So to say the least I am a Chicago Cubs fan
For almost 25 years the Chicago White Sox have never interested me. Believe me when I tell you that the sight of the logo to the pinstriped jerseys destested me. Micheal Jordan even lost cool points when he bore the jersey of my most hated team, but recently something has started to change. Maybe it is my love for Chicago. All things Chicago. For so many years I have went out of my way to neglect a team that has brought the city just as much glory and pride and actually not as much shame ( Well let's not forget the Black Sox. Also I never got why they had to call it "Black Sox" anyway...) only a few hiccups. We have alot in common, the Sox, and Cubs. We have had our share of curses, our share of embarassing moments, and our pride of Chicago.
So today I say that I respect the White Sox, I do not like the White Sox. I will not root for the White Sox. I smiled a smile of pride when they won in 2005, that was for Chicago. This is what; as a fan, keeps sports alive. The rivalry, the bitter dislike, the competition, the savors of victory and the privilege of bragging rights. We as Bears' fans lost them to Green Bay this past month. I feel a bit of the air out of the city. That is completely natural in sports, it is also neccesary. So for me to bury the hatchet is a bit of a leap, I guess I needed it to suck you in to my column! Let's say I'm digging the ditch...
Posted by Curtis Shaw Flagg at 6:35 PM
I can't wait for the playoffs....
I can't wait for Jo' to get back, hopefully before the All-Star break...
I can't wait for the Chicago Bulls to look like the contender that we all know that they are...
Bart Scott said it best.....
"Can't Wait" for Jo' to get back...
- When Joakim Noah went out against the Toronto Raptors, the Bulls were 18-12. Carlos Boozer was just getting back after missing the first three months, and the team was finding its niche. Defense is the Chicago Bulls identity, youthful vigor is the fuel that makes them go. Without Joakim Noah, the Bulls lack that intensity in roves. It is without a doubt what intangibles Joakim Noah brings to the team. His stats speak for themselves, averaging a double/double daily in both points and gaudy rebounding numbers. It is his intensity on the defensive end, his energy on the court despite suffering through any kind of pain or adversity, being booed or otherwise. It is those things rather, that motivate him to play at an even higher level. Game 6 vs the Boston Celtics in the 2009 NBA Playoffs was Noah's coming out party. Displaying the heart and relentless effort and hustle that have now become the staple that identifies who Joakim Noah is as an athlete, teammate and representative of the Chicago Bulls.
- After Carlos Boozer came back after injury on Dec. 1, the Bulls were 7-2 leading up to Noah's injury. All wins were consecutive wins, including a 88-84 win against the L.A. Lakers. The Bulls have gone 16-7 in Jo's absence. The biggest flaw in the time spent without Joakim Noah isn't that he is desperately needed back, but rather the need to find some competency at the 2-guard spot. The offense has stalled without any significant production from the position. In recent games it seems as if defense has had to take a backseat to compensate for the lack of any offensive consistentcy. Derrick Rose has had to pick up a significant amount of offensive slack and has suffered substantially on the defensive side of the ball. Keith Bogans is scoring 3 points per game, but only shooting the ball about three times per games. With Noah's return, and his newfound conviction to the offensive end, that should take alot of the slack off of the shooting guard position in the half court game. Working the ball from inside out with two legitimate offensive front court players will make it easy for Derrick and Keith and even Deng. The Bulls pick & roll game could be the most dangerous in the league if Noah and Boozer can continue to learn to play with each other and Derrick becomes more comfortable distributing and not having to take over the game offensively. Derrick Rose's ppg has increased significantly in the both Boozer and Noah's absence. Look for it to drop with them both back healthy, hopefully that does not affect his MVP chances, as long as his assists improves and he continues to be the leader of the team. Improvements statistcally on the defensive end couldn't hurt either..
- I think it is safe to say that we will not see neither the Miami Heat nor the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs this year. That is great considering the fact that the last two seasons we have lost to both the LeBron James Caveliers ( James' now with the Miami Heat ), and the Boston Celtics in that epic first round battle ( Boston has reloaded in the front court adding Jermaine and Shaquille O'Neal ) that has them tagged playoff rivals. So the emotion can be saved for later on the playoffs, we might just get the opportunity to see the Bulls best an unworthy lower seed ( Charlotte, Orlando, Philly, Indiana ) and move into the second round of the playoff. That should be all the motivation that the young Bulls roster needs to propel them into a deep playoff run. There is an ample amount of Bulls playoff experience; Coach Thib's won a NBA Championship in Boston with Brian Scalabrine, and every other Chicago Bulls player outside of rookie Omer Asik, has saw minutes in the playoffs. The most significant x-factor being 15yr veteran Kurt Thomas, playing in over 89 games and starting 44 playoff games averaging 5 pts and 5 rebounds, he provides the exact experience and leadership in the front court that the likes of Boozer, Noah, Gibson, and Asik will need on their journey to the Eastern Conference and NBA Finals.
- The starting rotation of Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, and Keith Bogans doesn't exactly sound like a 30 Rock style cast to take into the playoffs, comparing to the likes of the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, and L.A. Lakers. But one things that all the above teams can tell you about the Chicago Bulls is that they are dangerous. Not Atlanta Hawks 3,4 seed upset dangerous, no they are play up to or down to anyone's skill level dangerous. For better or worse. But the one constant that sticks more than any is the staple that this can easily be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, given that they improve in the shooting guard position. Regardless if they trade of sign anyone at the 2-spot, with a healthy Noah back into the lineup, the Bulls are a threat to challenge any team in the NBA. They have already beat the defending champ Lakers, the Miami Heat, and bitter rival Boston Celtics, all without completely healthy parts. The resume is still being written, but thus far it is safe to say that the playoffs can't come soon enough. Can't wait.... But first things first, Joakim Noah gets healthy and rejoins and hungry Bulls team looking to prove " Why can't we be NBA Champions?"...
Posted by Curtis Shaw Flagg at 10:08 AM
Friday, February 4, 2011
Cristobal Huet and Antti Neimi were both given ample spells at the position last season with the Blackhawks. Annti Neimi was a free agent acquisition from 2008, with little to show for that season, it was trial by fire in the 2009-10 Stanley Cup campaign for the rookie. He responded astoundingly with .912 save percentage and maybe even more beneficial, gained the unfettered trust of the coach Joel Quinneville. So much that Coach Q called on him to tune up the last eighth of the regular season and made a statement with starting Neimi for the playoffs.
Although Huet contained the veteran experience and track record of excellent goaltending ( averaging just over .910 save percentage with both the Capitals and Canadiens before signing with Chicago ), Neimi seemed to provide the team with that youthful trepidation that seemed to identify them all through the season.
The ability to utilize the two goalies throughout the duration of both the regular season and playoffs proved to be of precedence to the Hawks. The strategy may not have been clear in the beginning of the season. Huet was playing admirable hockey through the first half, saving about .875 with two shutouts.
|Neimi with Blackhawks|
To all of Chicago's advantage, it payed off in spades... Cristobal gave Blackhawks' fans just what they expected in Game 1 of the 2009-2010 NHL Playoffs with a 20 minute shutout of the Vancouver Canucks to stop the bleeding in a 5-1 rout. The rest of the way Neimi provided enough stability to help the offense, averaging just under 2.5 goals against per game. The Blackhawks of course, went on to win the 2010 Stanley Cup.
Fast forward to 2010-11 season. Cristobal Huet...gone. Anti Neimi...gone. Insert Corey Crawford ( 17-13 lifetime with Chicago ), and Marty Turco ( 2.8 goals against playoff avg ). To Stan Bowmans credit, thus far getting rid of Huet and Neimi seemed like a boy band factory replacement with Crawford and Turco. Even though the Blackhawks are in 9th place in the Western Conference and only six games back to the Canucks, things are looking about as good as it can get for Chicago.
Patrick Kane has missed significant time and Marty Turco had an injury spell as well, giving Crawford the time to acclimate himself as the Blackhawks defender in preparation of the playoffs. If we were doing a comparison to the team of old. We are in trouble on paper with a 27-20 record to date and third in the Central Division. Last years Blackhawk's squad was 37-20 through the break. So I am definitely optimistic about the future, I'm just not drinking the Kool-Aid yet..
With Marty Turco coming back off injury, the Blackhawks look to be in great shape to challenge Vancouver in the Central and position themselves for a repeat at the Cup. If Coach Q looks to keep tradition, look for Turco to wrap up the last half of the season and Crawford to spell occasionally. Don't be suprised though, if Crawford gets the call in the playoffs, regardless of how efficient Turco defends, just as long as his goals against doesnt significantly increase.
Posted by Curtis Shaw Flagg at 5:06 PM
Thursday, February 3, 2011
|Wrigley Field 1945|
October 6, 1945 - The Beginning of Da' Curse of the Billy Goat.
William "Billy Goat" Sianis and his pet goat Murphy were allowed into Wrigley Field for the fourth game of the 1945 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Detroit Tigers. Sianis and the goat made it onto the playing field before ushers intervened and led them to the grandstand aisle. Billy Goat Sianis maintained that he had two $7.20 box seat tickets and that there was no disclaimer preventing him for using a ticket for his goat. After a short argument, Sianis and the goat were allowed to occupy the seats for which he had tickets. Nevertheless, they were later ejected at the command of Cubs' owner Philip Knight Wrigley due to the animal's objectionable odor. Sianis was furious over the ejection and placed a curse on the Cubs that they would never win a National League pennant or play in a World Series game at Wrigley Field. The Cubs lost game four and eventually the World Series. Sianis sent Wrigley a telegram that read, "Who Smells Now!"
October 14, 2003 - Cubs collapse five outs away from the World Series.
Five outs from winning their first National League pennant since 1945 and going to the World Series, the Cubs blew a 3-0 lead in the eighth inning when the Florida Marlins scored eight runs. The collapse began after a Cubs fan (Steve Bartman) unintentionally hit the foul ball with his hand as Moises Alou was attempting to catch it. The Cubs lost the game that night, and the series the following night.
Short on Wrigley Field:
Known as ‘The Friendly Confines,’ the stadium was built in just six weeks in 1914 for $250,000. It was first the home of ‘Lucky Charlie’ Weeghman’s Chicago Whales of the Federal League and, had a capacity of either 14,000 or 20,000. I could not find a definitive answer on the maximum capacity.
After the Federal League folded, a group that included Weegham and chewing gum company owner William Wrigley Jr. bought the Chicago Cubs of the National League and moved the club to the park. When Wrigley gained the controlling interest of the Cubs in 1918 the stadium was re-christened Wrigley Field.
The most prominent feature of Wrigley Field is its ivy-draped outfield walls.
The iconic ivy vines were first planted in 1937 by Bill Veeck, whose father was the president of the Cubs at the time and who later created such promotions as 10-cent beer night and Disco Demolition Night. As the baseball season opens in late spring, the ivy on the wall has yet to bloom and is a mere maze of vines. But as the season progresses the ivy grows thick and green to, among other things, protect outfielders from Wrigley’s inconspicuous brick outfield wall. Batted balls get lost in the ivy on occasions and the result is a ground-rule double.
In addition to the Cubs, Wrigley Field also was the long-time home of the Chicago Bears. The NFL team played its home games at Wrigley from 1921 to 1970 before relocating to Soldier Field.
The history is there, the memories for better or worse are as well. So you ask "Why the Case For A New Wrigley Field?"
The answer is simple. It is time. The second oldest ballpark has more flaws than competitive advantage. For a city that expects success from its teams, it does nothing to help with their competitive advantage. The wall is dangerous, the conditions for fans are deplorable. The neighborhood makes the field, the field no longer makes the neighborhood.
People like Wrigley Field, because nowhere in the United States can you find a Major League ballpark entrenched in a living, working, everyday neighborhood. Plus, you can walk outside, throw a tennis ball and hit at least 4 bars in any direction.
The name doesn't have to change, even the ivy can stay the same. Everything else must go. New field, new accommodations, new architecture, new placement for sponsors ( so fans wont have to spend more to come to a new ballpark ). Even Chicago Stadium changed to the United Center, and the Chicago Bulls were actually winning NBA Championships ( that's a tradition to hold on to.)
Although the Chicago Bears used to play at Wrigley, the field has been altered since the 70's.
In conclusion, I guess I am not asking for a billion dollar Jerry Jones style ballpark. I want my baseball team to not have to worry about concussions from a brick wall in the outfield. I would like for the Cubs to expand revenue by being able to hold multiple sporting events at it's venue. Bringing more attention and recognition both supportive and fiscally to the city of Chicago. Also, being a Cubs fan there is nothing sweeter than diverting all attention away from the Southside.. Enough said.
No matter what you do to Wrigley Field, Wrigleyville will always be there. But on the bright side, no matter how the new field is constructed, if it ever happens. The bleacher seats can always stay the same!
P.S. When you build a new field, get rid of the yuppies with the old seats... Don't shoot the messenger, I only speak for city. Also As I See It, the only way to rid the curse of the goat is to destroy the field on which they stood. Im sure you agree with that. (See: U.S. Cellular Field)
Posted by Curtis Shaw Flagg at 11:22 AM
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
1. Fearless and daring; courageous.
2. Requiring or exhibiting courage and bravery.
3. Unduly forward and brazen; impudent
4. Clear and distinct to the eye; conspicuous
This blog will be a combination of all 4 definitions. The imagination can run wild sometimes, but combined with research and evaluation you get Bold Statements.
- The Chicago Bulls will win the 2010-2011 NBA Championship, beating Atlanta, Orlando, Boston, and eventually the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Derrick Rose will of course, be the Finals MVP averaging over 30 points per game, 10 assists and a hair under 6 rebounds. Carlos Boozer will struggle to find his way through first couple rounds and Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Kurt Thomas, with his veteran leadership pick up the slack on both ends of the floor. Ronnie Brewer replaces Keith Bogans as starter for the first round of the playoffs and starts from thereafter. The Miami Heat take the Orlando Magic to seven games but fall. No front court presence...
Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose battle wills exchanging great play after great play, at times they appear to jaw and fight amongst each other. Rajon Rondo finally gets under Derrick Rose's skin and Rose gets a rare technical foul in the playoffs. That only fuels Rose's fire as he tears into the Boston Celtics defense leading all scorers in scoring in every game of the NBA Finals. Rondo also establishes himself as one of the leagues elite point guards, as he matches Rose with remarkable numbers averaging a double/double in both points and assists.
Joakim Noah and Kevin Garnett both get technical fouls; due to a shoving match in game 5 that threatens suspension, when they each get ejected after getting into another shoving match shortly after during the same game. Paul Pierce tries to play in Game 6 but cannot go the full length due to knee problems. People start asking 'Cutler'-like questions about his sincerity when it is obvious that the Bulls team defense proves to be too overwhelming for the older, more experienced Celtic team.
The Bulls hold Boston to its lowest scoring game in Game 5 going up 3-2, inspiring a memorable Game 6 in the United Center as the Chicago Bulls advance to the NBA Finals and beat the Los Angeles Lakers in six games to win the NBA Championship... Bold indeed. Possible...quite!
2. The Chicago Cubs will play the Chicago White Sox in the World Series ( Also see, "Break In Case of Cubs World Series .) Both teams made significant moves in the off-season to shore up in positions that showed need for improvement. This could potentially be the catalyst to another great spotlight for the city to shine. Chicago can't lose either way in this one!
The Chicago Cubs/White Sox are both hoping that the acquisitions this off-season will help push them into the playoffs. The White Sox successfully kept ahold of Paul Konerko, while adding legitimate power with 1B Adam Dunn. Kenny Williams also pushed the button on extending Alexei Ramirez in recent weeks. The pitching rotation is still in identity crisis mode, with no significant additions and the departure of Freddy Garcia (12-6, 4.64 ERA).
Jake Peavy needs to be the ace that the front office expected him to be when they signed him last season. Barring that injuries wouldn't keep him from another 19-6. 2.54 ERA season that he compiled with the San Diego Padres before signing with the Sox. A healthy Peavy will undoubtedly give the White Sox the rotation necessary to compete with Minnesota and Detroit next season in the reloaded AL Central. Comparatively, the White Sox have a better total roster top to bottom than their crosstown counterparts. But stacked teams do not always equal championships ( See: San Francisco Giants, 2004 L.A. Lakers ).
The Cubs however, have a better nucleus of elite talent. Alphonso Soriano, Matt Garza, and Carlos Pena all bring significant playoff experience to the team, but that does not scratch the surface of All-Star caliber talent. Playing to expected potential has been the crux of the Cubs woes during recent seasons. Remarkable seasons followed by blockbuster signings were consistent practice.
Unfortunately, those signing were immediately followed by lackluster performance and underachievement. Alphonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Marlon Byrd, Kosuke Fukudome, and Rookie of the Year Geovanny Soto all have been touted as an undoubted World Series group. Both teams scrap through tough divisions to come out victorious and meet in a classic battle for Chicago!
This will go down in the history books as the best World Series in recent years. The Chicago Cubs win their first World Series in over a century and the city of Chicago turns inside out. Safely... This my friends, is the season all this manifests. Just know you heard it here first!!!
More Bold Statements to come as the year goes on.....
This will go down in the history books as the best World Series in recent years. The Chicago Cubs win their first World Series in over a century and the city of Chicago turns inside out. Safely... This my friends, is the season all this manifests. Just know you heard it here first!!!
More Bold Statements to come as the year goes on.....
Posted by Curtis Shaw Flagg at 7:08 AM