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Monday, December 18

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Tailgate

Basketball Wed Jun 29 2011

Smashing Pumpkins and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Two Great Tastes That Go Hamfistedly Together?

Via the fine folks at the AV Club Chicago, comes word of the always mercurial Billy Corgan teaming up The Smashing Pumpkins with one (occasionally mercurial/petulant) Lew Alcindor, aka: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Continue reading this entry »

Brian Lauvray

White Sox Wed Jun 29 2011

What Part of 'All In' Do the Sox Not Understand?

Thumbnail image for white sox.gifHaving a manager who stands behind his players is usually a good thing. Lately, though, Ozzie Guillen's fierce loyalty seems to be hurting the White Sox more than helping. He has remained stubborn with his feet firmly planted in the ground, and in third place, while his team sinks to 38-42.

Adam Dunn has 100 strikeouts in 67 games this season, but the team has no choice but to wait for him to get his groove back and that could take a while.

With every strikeout Dunn seems to be sinking deeper and reacting a lot slower. His batting average has now hit .173, and a dismal .126 at home. Most alarming, the strikeouts, which are par for the course with him, have not been accompanied by his customary 40-home run power. He's got seven homers now as we near the all-star break.

So while Ozzie is correct in saying Dunn is paid too much to sit and the Sox have to keep putting him out there, the same doesn't have to be said about other players.

Continue reading this entry »

Lauren Camplin

Cubs Wed Jun 29 2011

Fourth Outfielder Shines as Cubs Bright Spot

Thumbnail image for cubs.gifThe Cubs have been pretty dismal this season. After losing both ends of a doubleheader Tuesday against San Francisco, they have eight losses in 11 games and a 32-48 record, the second-worst in baseball.

But let's talk about one of the bright spots: Fourth outfielder Reed Johnson has been stellar since returning to the North Side after a year with the Dodgers.

Starting 20 of Chicago's 80 games this season, the nine-year veteran has a .337 average with a .382 on-base percentage, four home runs and 22 RBIs.

It would be interesting to see if Johnson was able to keep up this pace if he was playing every day. (He has 110 plate appearances; the team's healthiest regulars have 300 or more.) The opportunity for more playing time presented itself after Marlon Byrd got hit in the face with a pitch five weeks ago, but Johnson also has been banged up this season.

Johnson's per-game production, combined with his hard-nosed defense, might be all-star worthy if he played every day, but it's his attitude and work ethic that really stand out. Numbers aside, he plays the game the right way and gives it 100 percent every time out there.

Continue reading this entry »

Brian Livingston

Force Tue Jun 28 2011

Force Football: For the Love of the Game

Photos, video and text by Lauren Camplin and Ali Trumbull

They refer to themselves as the "Band of Sisters". They're teachers, singers, police officers, full-time moms and nurses.

Despite differing backgrounds, the group of over 60 women come together every week for the same reason -- to play tackle football for the Chicago Force.

"We have a camaraderie with one another and that was one of the reasons why I came back because I missed the team and I missed being around my band of sisters," said offensive lineman Rosalyn Bennett.

Formed in 2003, the Chicago Force joined the Women's Football Alliance after spending eight seasons with the Independent Women's Football League.

"The new league is an opportunity to play different competition," said George Howe, the team's director of media relations. "We were looking for new challenges after playing the same teams for eight years."

The league is not to be confused with the well-known Lingerie Football League's Chicago Bliss. The WFA women wear full gear and play tackle football. This can come as a shock even to those trying out for the team.

"Seeing what it takes to run a team was a shock to my system," said Samantha Powell, the head of gameday operations. "I had no idea all the moving parts of an offensive team and coaching staff, defensive team, special teams, special plays."

While many of the rules in the league mirror those of the NFL, there are strong differences between the two besides gender. The players in the Women's Football Alliance have to pay $600 to play on the team in order to cover expenses. Some women have multiple jobs along with being on the team.

Continue reading this entry »

Tailgate

Blackhawks Sun Jun 26 2011

Hawks Continue Retooling With Draft-Day Trades

Thumbnail image for blackhawks.gifThe Blackhawks added 11 youngsters in the NHL entry draft this weekend, including four of the first 43 picks, but it was a pair of departures that had Chicago fans buzzing.

Two more members of the 2010 Stanley Cup-winning team were sent packing: Brian Campbell, traded to the Florida Panthers for undistinguished winger Rostislav Olesz; and Troy Brouwer, traded to the Washington Capitals for a first-round pick.

GM Stan Bowman didn't get much in return, but he was mostly just trying to clear some money under what's expected to be a $64 million NHL salary cap next season. Tribune beat writer Chris Kuc explains:

The trade of defenseman Brian Campbell and his anchor of a contract that carried an annual salary-cap hit of $7.1 million along with the deal that sent winger Troy Brouwer -- who was due a substantial raise from his salary of $1,050,000 -- has taken the financial shackles off Bowman. He has had very little wiggle room under the cap since taking over for Dale Tallon as GM in 2009 and now has around $14 million to spend as he retools the roster of a team that is one season removed from winning the Stanley Cup.

Chicago reunited Campbell with Florida's Dale Tallon, who as Blackhawks GM in 2008 signed the defenseman to an eight-year, $56.8 million contract that has been tough to live up to.

Any true assessment of the trades will have to wait until we see what the Hawks do with the money they've freed up -- the NHL free agency period officially opens Friday -- but the initial reaction in many corners is skeptical at best.

Continue reading this entry »

Jim Reedy

Bulls Fri Jun 24 2011

NBA Draft: Bulls Make Small But Savvy Moves

Thumbnail image for chicagobulls.pngThere wasn't much reason to get really excited about the Chicago Bulls heading into the 2011 NBA Draft last night:

• They didn't have any high picks: After posting the league's best regular-season record, they owned the 28th pick (from Miami), their own 30th pick and the 43rd pick (from Utah).

• The talent pool was universally regarded as shallow.

• Nearly all their roster spots and probably all the spots in their regular rotation are already taken for next season (whenever that happens).

• They didn't need two more guaranteed, first-round contracts, with nine guaranteed deals and $65 million already on the books for next season.

Given that background, the Bulls actually did quite well last night.

They used the 30th pick to draft Marquette's Jimmy Butler, a 6-foot-8 defender with decent all-around skills who could be especially useful defending wing scorers (e.g., LeBron James, Dwyane Wade). He's another good guy and hard worker who will fit right in with Tom Thibodeau's current group.

They packaged the 28th and 43rd picks and cash to move up to No. 23 and select Nikola Mirotic, a skilled, 6-10 shooter who was voted the best young player in Euroleague this season. At 20, he just signed a five-year contract extension with Spanish power Real Madrid, but that's fine because Chicago doesn't have room for him right now anyway.

The bottom line is these Bulls will go as far as Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah and Luol Deng can take them. The latter three are all already making $12 million or more per season, and Rose will join them after next year.

Adding a playoff-caliber shooting guard would be nice, but it's far less important than Noah playing with more consistency and Boozer earning most of his $75 million contract. And of course, there was no such shooting guard in this 2011 draft, much less near the end of the first round.

Continue reading this entry »

Jim Reedy

Fire Fri Jun 24 2011

Could a Foreign Import Help the Fire?

Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgFollowing another scoreless draw Wednesday against Real Salt Lake, last year's MLS champions, the Chicago Fire can draw the usual conclusions: great defense in earning yet another shutout and they're still undefeated under interim coach Frank Klopas.

On the other hand, that undefeated record is 1-0-4, hardly much to get excited about. Worse, three of those games have been scoreless draws. While it's great that goalkeeper Sean Johnson and his defense are padding their stat sheets, the fact is that even in a generous league like MLS, tying all your games doesn't get you into the playoffs.

So how can the Fire improve their station?

The vagaries of MLS player allocation and roster construction are unlike every other American sports league (and unlike European soccer leagues, too), but the idea is MLS rosters are meant to be roughly equal. There is a salary cap, there's a draft, and player contracts are even negotiated by the league instead of individual teams.

But in 2007, the league instituted a rule that can give teams an advantage if their owners are willing to spend extra money.

The Designated Player Rule, nicknamed the Beckham Rule after the player it was created for, allows teams to keep two players on their roster, pay them whatever they want, and have only a portion of their salaries count against the team's salary cap.

Continue reading this entry »

Colin Hettinger

Cycling Fri Jun 24 2011

Local Race Attracts National Competition

ggp_resize.jpg

Racers come into a turn in last year's Glencoe Grand Prix / Photo: Ed White

Saturday marks the fifth annual Glencoe Grand Prix. It is the Illinois state criterium championship and one of two Illinois races on USA Cycling's 2011 national calendar. Last year pro riders from eight countries lined up at the start while high-level amateur racers from across the country came out to compete alongside them.

Races kick off at 7:15 a.m. and run all day. The pro 1/2/3 women start at 4 p.m. and the pro 1/2 men close out the night with a 6 p.m. start. For the full schedule, click here.

The village of Glencoe always strives to make the race a family affair, putting on free one-lap kids races at noon and hosting an all-day block party with food, beer and music. Spectators pack the start/finish to watch the pros sprint to the line and fill Triangle Park for the "King/Queen of the Hill" competition. Racers can accrue points mid-race for being first to the top of a short hill in the 1.3-mile course loop.

In addition to tomorrow's race, Team TIBCO will be hosting a free women's race clinic and preview of the course this evening from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information on the clinic and tomorrow's race, click here.

Eleanor Blick

Baseball Thu Jun 23 2011

Sox Hold Off Cubs For Another One-Run Win

This was one of those games Cubs fans will point to when they bemoan their team's lack of clutchness, clutchosity and clutchitude.

Thumbnail image for cubs.gifThumbnail image for white sox.gifIn the sixth, the Cubs scored twice to get within one run of the White Sox but left the bases loaded.

In the eighth, they got pinch runner Tony Campana into scoring position with no outs, but Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton held the dike, inducing a ground out and two strikeouts.

That set the stage again for Sergio Santos, who dazzled the North Side visitors for the second night in a row. He threw 11 pitches, nine of them strikes, to retire the side in order for a 4-3 win and his 14th save, befuddling Starlin Castro, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena.

If you missed it:

dont stop sign.jpg-- Jake Peavy got the win in his return from the disabled list, pitching 5 1/3 decent innings before stumbling in the sixth as the Cubs scored their second and third runs. He didn't have much -- will he ever again? -- but he's a pro.

-- Another home run for Pena, his fifth in seven games, and this one showed a bit of opposite-field power, going out to left-center. A very good sign for the Cubs.

-- Another successful squeeze bunt by the Sox, this time with Brent Lillibridge scoring A.J. Pierzynski, who had tripled(!) in a pair of runs, to push the lead to 3-0 after four.

-- Let it not be said the Cubs are incapable of getting a hit when they need it: In the top of the fifth, Castro followed Kosuke Fukudome's two-out double with an RBI single to center field.

-- Briefly, on that subject: The Cubs have less of a problem getting Big Hits in Clutch Situations than they do simply getting hits in any situation. Most great lineups aren't magically "clutch" but generally just create so many scoring chances that enough of them pay off.

Continue reading this entry »

Jim Reedy

Blackhawks Wed Jun 22 2011

Say Cheese

Yes, that's Patrick Kane, in full Colorado Avalanche regalia, getting his picture taken years ago with Joe Sakic. He's featured several times in our favorite new single-serving Tumblr blog, NHL Players as Kids.

It's pretty much what it sounds like.

They've got a bunch of Blackhawks: Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, Troy Brouwer and a gloriously Slovakian-looking Marian Hossa.

To your right is Toews, looking adorable in his holiday best.

If you're wondering, Kane grew up in Buffalo. I'm not sure why he would be dressed in Avalanche gear. (I think his hat says "Sakic"?) But hey, they were really good in the late '90s.

Jim Reedy

Baseball Wed Jun 22 2011

Sox Push Past Cubs to Win a Wet One

A rain delay of 1 hour, 44 minutes washed out a good portion of the crowd last night at U.S. Cellular Field, but those who stayed late on a school night saw the White Sox push past the Cubs for a 3-2 win.

Thumbnail image for cubs.gifThumbnail image for white sox.gifIf you missed it:

-- Paul Konerko and Carlos Pena traded home runs again, continuing Pena's power surge (four homers in his past six games) and Konerko's even hotter streak. The Sox captain has 11 homers in his past 18 games, along with a .446 batting average, .512 on-base percentage and .986 slugging percentage.

-- The Sox bullpen was called into action in the sixth inning after the rain delay knocked out Mark Buehrle, and it delivered, protecting first a 2-2 tie and then a 3-2 lead after Brent Morel's seventh-inning sacrifice fly. Jesse Crain was very good, Matt Thornton got two outs and Sergio Santos was at his filthy best, earning his 13th save.

Santos retired all four hitters he faced. He struck out three of them, including Aramis Ramirez with two on and two out in the eighth. He threw 15 pitches. Fourteen were strikes. Thirteen were sliders. He's developing into a pretty great closer.

-- Starlin Castro showed why Cubs observers are so high on his defensive potential, making two great plays on slow rollers that required a barehanded scoop and sidearm throw in one motion.

-- Juan Pierre did something useful for once, giving the Sox a 2-0 lead in the third with an RBI squeeze bunt with no outs. Alex Rios scored easily from third and Morel moved over to second.

Here's how our partisan critics saw it:

Brian Livingston on the Cubs:

The rain delay helped the Cubs by getting rid of Buehrle, but it also might have broken the momentum they were building during that sixth inning threat. Also, don't pitch to Konerko anymore. He's torched them twice now. It appears they didn't learn anything from pitching to Albert Pujols and getting burned.

Jenny Zelle on the Sox:

Offense + lights out bullpen performance = What we should have been seeing from the White Sox all year. Buehrle did his job, as always, but Crain and Santos were just plain nasty with all-star-worthy performances. The Sox offense still under-performed, based on what they could and should be doing, but they were lively enough to get the W. Hopefully, this one serves as a confidence-builder going into Wednesday's finale.

Jim Reedy

Baseball Tue Jun 21 2011

Sox-Cubs Game Feels Wilder Than Usual

mr comiskey.jpg

Mr. Comiskey would not approve / Gapers Block file photo

Our own Jenny Zelle was in her usual seat at U.S. Cellular Field last night, rooting on the White Sox as they hosted the first of three games against the Cubs. Last year she attended about 50 Sox games, and she's been to 20 already this season.

But what she saw at the park last night was different: a highly unusual level of drunken "madness" in many fans that was at best embarrassing and at worst dangerous for fans just trying to watch a baseball game in peace.

She emailed us this story:

We entered the park right after the gates opened and things were pretty mellow until the game started, when all the already immensely drunk people poured in.

Our section (along the 1st base line, right field) does not have a lot of [season-ticket holders], so we often get out-of-town fans -- we had a lot, and they were all either wasted when they came in, or were hammered by the 7th.

There was exactly one sober Cubs fan in our section and he was horrified at the behavior of his fellow fans. Of course, he was in from Pittsburgh and had brought two friends with him, they were all stunned at the level of intoxication from the start of the game. [My husband] Jeff and I spent a lot of time assuring them the park was never like it was tonight.

There was a large group of Cubs fans sitting across the aisle from us that were dangerously drunk when they came in. A number of beer vendors refused to serve them, but they kept getting beers.

Three of the guys were running up and down the stairs, chasing women and vendors. At least 10 people (that I saw or spoke with) texted or went to security to report them, including a couple of Cubs fans, but they weren't tossed until late in the game as they kept changing seats.

I went to have a cigarette and saw a group of male Cubs fans repeatedly surround women and "woof" and make sexual noises at them as they tried to make their way up the ramp. I ran and got security, I'm not sure what happened to them, I didn't stick around to see it.

I also saw security toss two Cubs fans out of the bullpen bar. I asked them how it was going and they said "It's been like this all night."

Two sets of parents in our section removed themselves and their children by the 7th as the atmosphere felt "unsafe" and "uncomfortable" to them.

There were a lot of Sox fans that were annoying (getting up with the ball in play, grrr), but not one, not a single Sox fan responded to any of the Cubs fans taunts. I was pretty proud of them, everyone kept their cool in a carnival-gone-wrong atmosphere. Sox security was also pretty calm, as were the guest services people.

I think the park handled it well, but I don't know the extent of what went on. In Ozzie's press conference, he said it felt like another game to him but that he'd heard about a bunch of fights and that security probably would not agree with him.

Just icky. Hoping Wednesday is better, the park felt wrong last night.

I followed up today with a few questions:

Q: This vaguely predatory drunkenness you describe does not sound fun. Did it seem outright sinister or was it just playfully dumb antics?

Jenny: That scared the shit out of me. I ran for security. I am tiny, so to me, it seemed menacing, but I wasn't being surrounded. I have *never* seen anything like that before. I just couldn't believe I was seeing that at Comiskey. I don't personally know any Cubs fans even remotely that vile. The guys chasing vendors sucked too.

Q: Were they young men in their 20s and 30s?

Jenny: Mid- to late-20s. And by the way, a friend in Section 534 just told me some drunken Cubs fans got hauled out of the upper deck too. ... There was tons of stuff being thrown off the upper deck, which we normally don't see. ... This really was the roughest crosstown crowd I have seen yet. Maybe Cubs fans know nothing is happening this season and took out their frustration? Sox staff clearly worked hard to keep things under control. It was just soooo drunk. I was so embarrassed by what I saw.

Jim Reedy / Comments (5)

Windy City Rollers Tue Jun 21 2011

Fury Are WCR 2011 Home Season Champs

Fury champs

The Fury celebrate their win over the Manic Attackers / Photo: Gil Leora

The Windy City Rollers are feelin' the Fury. After a battle royale against the Manic Attackers at Saturday night's Ivy King Cup championship bout at the UIC Pavilion, the team took home the coveted award. The win concluded a spectacular season for the Fury. It also marked their fourth time as league champs (previously winning in '05, '06, and '10).

From the game's get-go, the Fury grabbed the lead and refused to let go, seizing lead jammer status and maintaining a very fast pack. That's not, however, to say it was an easy fight. After the first few jams, the score inched along as the Manics held their contenders at bay. There were some amazingly tight races between the Manics' Beth Amphetamine and the Fury's Kola Loka, as both skaters strove to get to the pack first.

While the Manics offense was tight -- star blocker Bork Bork Bork was the team's reliable Zamboni, clearing a path for the jammer -- their defense lacked consistency. Oftentimes they were seen stacking the back of the pack and leaving the front to the Fury, much to the chagrin of the Manic jammers, who would come to a screeching halt as soon as they hit the wall of blockers. By halftime the score was in the Fury's favor 64-39. Despite some amazing 14-point gains by the Manics, in the end they were no match for heavy blocking from the Fury's Sargentina and power jams by Ska Face and Kola. Once again, the league's streetwise skaters took the championship, 121-77.

Kara Luger

Baseball Tue Jun 21 2011

Cubs Start Crosstown Series With a Win

Nice win for the Cubs last night at U.S. Cellular Field, as they stiffened after the White Sox scored three in the first inning and rallied for a 6-3 win in the first of six games between the crosstown rivals over the next two weeks.

Thumbnail image for cubs.gifThumbnail image for white sox.gifIf you missed it:

-- Three of the first four Sox hitters scored, but Carlos Zambrano recovered after allowing a two-run homer by Paul Konerko and shut them down the rest of the way, going eight strong innings. Great news for a Chicago media corps that had already pre-written their sidebars and columns looking back at his tirade during last year's series.

-- Big nights for Starlin Castro, who tied the game with a two-run, two-out single in the third and a solo homer to lead off the sixth; and Carlos Pena, who put the Cubs in front with a three-run homer that capped a four-run sixth and chased fading Sox starter Gavin Floyd.

-- Ozzie got himself thrown out screaming and hollering about a call the umpire actually got right. Alexei Ramirez hit a ball nearly straight down, a few inches in front of the plate, and Geovany Soto picked it up before it rolled foul, then tagged Ramirez out. Ozzie took this as a personal affront, bursting from the home dugout in righteous fury, and umpire James Hoye quickly gave him the heave. Ah, the joys of Ozzie's mood swings when he's managing a losing team ...

Here's how our partisan critics saw it:

Brian Livingston on the Cubs:

It was a quality outing from Zambrano. He really settled in nicely after giving up that home run to Konerko. On a night when the bullpen could use a day of rest, Z took care of business and his offense battled and got the job done.

Jenny Zelle on the Sox:

This was their game to lose, and the Sox did. It felt like the offense made an effort, but again, they left too many runners in scoring position, runners that would have made a difference.

That being said, I have to look at Ozzie for this loss. Floyd's self-admitted biggest problem is losing his focus, and he was clearly losing it this time. He had a rough start, which really showed in the fourth, but he managed to fight back and make it through the fifth.

Ozzie's mistake in the game was leaving Floyd in after the home run from Castro to start the sixth. Floyd was nearing 100 pitches at that point and clearly was no longer effective, but Ozzie left him in and minutes later, he gave up a single, then walked a batter before giving up a three-run bomb to Pena.

Jim Reedy

Fire Tue Jun 21 2011

Road Results Have Fire Moving in Right Direction

Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgSince last we checked, the Chicago Fire have been moving in the right direction with a pair of road results, earning a 1-0 rare win at Columbus on June 12 and a 1-1 draw at New England on Saturday.

Good momentum as they return home to Bridgeview this week, welcoming Real Salt Lake on Wednesday and the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.

The win in Columbus was Chicago's first since March 26, ending a club-record winless streak that had stretched to 11 games. It was the first win since technical director Frank Klopas took the coaching reins three weeks ago, and especially impressive considering how well Columbus is playing this year.

They did it with a dramatic goal in stoppage time and another strong defensive performance, extending their shutout streak under Klopas to three games, following two previous scoreless draws.

Continue reading this entry »

Colin Hettinger

Baseball Mon Jun 20 2011

Why I Love the White Sox (and Hate the Cubs)

Editor's note: With the crosstown rivalry resuming tonight at U.S. Cellular Field, we asked Cubs fan Brian Livingston and Sox fan Jenny Zelle to account for their passions. Here's what Jenny had to say:

Thumbnail image for white sox.gifI was raised a White Sox fan in hostile territory among Cubs and Cardinals fans, so I'm what you might call "devoted," bordering on "obsessed." Historically, Sox fans have been born into it, but I'm seeing more and more Cubs fans crossing over to "Sox Town."

Why would they do it? Well, there's a lot to love about the Sox.

1. I like to watch baseball games. Yes, at U.S. Cellular Field. I pay attention to what is happening on the field. That is my primary objective when I head to a game and at a Sox game, I am typically surrounded by like-minded people. The game is the reason for being there, not the party.

Some fans say U.S. Cellular Field is "soulless," but the White Sox have spent a lot of money improving the fan experience since it first opened and it's a terrific place to watch a game. This year alone, there's a new restaurant across from the park, an expanded food selection (check out the Flautas stand at Sec. 122) and a hugely improved choice of beers. Personally, I like having clean and plentiful bathrooms to use and the fact that the Sox don't have a rat infestation in their dugouts, but maybe that's just me?

2. I like winning. Sure, the White Sox had a long dry spell, but they typically intend to win and make an earnest effort to do so, with the Sox spending about $126 million this year to try and make it happen.

I realize it's a business and all, but the White Sox care about winning and they care about the fans. Jerry Reinsdorf responds to letters from fans, as I learned this off-season when I sent him a note. I received a very gracious response and it let me know that my thoughts meant something.

Continue reading this entry »

Jenny Zelle / Comments (5)

Baseball Mon Jun 20 2011

Why I Love the Cubs (and Hate the White Sox)

Editor's note: With the crosstown rivalry resuming tonight at U.S. Cellular Field, we asked Cubs fan Brian Livingston and Sox fan Jenny Zelle to account for their passions. Here's what Brian had to say:

Thumbnail image for cubs.gifFor me, the Cubs represent family. My grandfather was a Cubs fan, which made my mom a Cubs fan, which eventually made me a Cubs fan. There is little doubt in my mind when I have kids they will be Cubs fans too.

I love the Cubs because of the history and tradition that surrounds them. Guys like Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Andre Dawson and Kerry Wood are why I love the Cubs. They are what Cubs baseball is all about.

Sometimes it is hard loving something that doesn't always love you back, but regardless, I will never stop being a Cubs fan. I've been a fan since day one and I will continue to be a fan of this team, win or lose, until my time is up.

I might as well be a junkie because I'm addicted to the Cubs. Simply put, they are my bliss.

On the other side of town ... well, I don't really hate the White Sox. They play each other six times in a 162-game schedule and aren't even in the same division. If anything I'd say I hate the St. Louis Cardinals most, followed by the Marlins, Padres, Mets and Yankees. The Sox aren't even in my top five.

But that doesn't mean there aren't some Sox things that aggravate me, starting with their fans.

I'm sure Sox fans feel the same way about the Cubs, but what I can't stand are the ones who go out of their way to hate on my team. I can understand if we were playing each other all the time, but most fans seem to care more about hating the Cubs than loving the Sox. I like to call it Little Brother Syndrome. Sad, really, considering they won a World Series six years ago but their focus remains on the Cubs.

Continue reading this entry »

Brian Livingston / Comments (9)

Cubs Mon Jun 20 2011

Cubs Defense Continues to Disappoint

soriano johnson lost in ivy.jpgAlfonso Soriano and Reed Johnson search for A-Rod's ninth-inning double / Tribune photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo

Before we plunge headlong into the first of three Cubs-Sox games this week, let's not let last night's events at Wrigley Field go without comment.

While the White Sox were righting the ship with a second straight win in Arizona -- this after a Friday loss that stripped bare all the drawbacks of stewardship by a 75-year-old owner who consistently trades two marshmallows tomorrow for one marshmallow today -- the Cubs were busy falling apart on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.

Specifically, the sons of Tinker to Evers to Chance were an absolute mess in the field, losing 10-4 in the rubber game against the Yankees thanks to a host of defensive mistakes.

Oh, of course, the Cubs officially committed zero errors. It was the kind of performance that drives home the singular uselessness of that subjective statistic. But what the standard box score obscured was nakedly visible to anyone who watched the game, including ESPN's sterling broadcast trio of Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine: This is an awful defense.

More precisely, that was an awful defense last night. We'll cut the Cubs an inch of slack because they had a few backups in there, what with Mike Quade panicking at the sight of Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia and benching all of his left-handed hitters.

But most of the problems came from the regular starters. They are the reason the Cubs have the fifth-worst defense in baseball, according to the Ultimate Zone Rating calculations at Fangraphs.com.

They, primarily, are the reason we saw the following cavalcade of mistakes last night:

Continue reading this entry »

Jim Reedy

Baseball Fri Jun 17 2011

Sox & Cubs Picks Take the Stage in Omaha

omaha wallpaper.jpg

By Jason Csizmadi, DangerGraphics.com

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for white sox.gifThumbnail image for Thumbnail image for cubs.gifAs the College World Series begins this weekend in Omaha, the eight teams still alive include six players picked by the White Sox and Cubs in last week's First-Year Player Draft.

The White Sox drafted a trio of Cal stars -- pitcher Erik Johnson, shortstop Marcus Semien and catcher Chadd Krist -- as well as Texas A&M pitcher Brandon Parrent and Virginia pitcher Cody Winiarski. The Cubs will have only one draftee in the College World Series: Texas pitcher Andrew McKirahan.

All the games will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2.

RHP Erik Johnson, Cal
Bio - Stats - Drafted in the 2nd round by the Sox

Cal's pitching has been the team's biggest strength and Johnson (7-4) is the poster child. He has a 2.91 ERA, 100 strikeouts and 54 walks in 102 innings this season. He made notable contributions in his last appearance in the Super Regionals, pitching six solid innings and allowing two runs on three hits. Look for his power pitching and consistency in Sunday's opener against a tough Virginia offense.

SS Marcus Semien, Cal
Bio - Stats - Drafted in the 6th round by the Sox

Semien had a slow start this season, though the Pac-10's pitching talent could have contributed to his struggle. He is known more for his defensive capabilities but has his average at .277 heading into the weekend after hitting .328 last year. He helped win Game 1 of the Super Regionals last weekend with a three-run home run.

Continue reading this entry »

Lauren Camplin

Bicycling Fri Jun 17 2011

Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein Meets Chicago's Bicycle Community

by John Greenfield

Today's Bike to Work Week rally in Daley Plaza was inspiring, a far cry from last year's lackluster event, thanks to big plans for bicycling from new mayor Rahm Emanuel and forward-thinking transportation commissioner Gabe Klein.

In 2010 Chicago's efforts to become a world-class bike town had stagnated. The city had installed over 100 miles of bike lanes and over 10,000 parking racks, achieved bike access on transit and educated multitudes about safe cycling, but we seemed to be resting on our laurels. Meanwhile other U.S. cities were pioneering car-separated bike lanes, automated bike sharing systems, on-street parking corrals, traffic-calmed "bike boulevard" streets, car-free "ciclovia" events and more.

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Tailgate / Comments (5)

Cubs Fri Jun 17 2011

Fighting Words: Don't Call Wrigley Field a Dump

Thumbnail image for cubs.gifIt must be that time of year, because everyone is piling on Wrigley Field.

Surprisingly it didn't start with Ozzie Guillen or any member of the 25-man White Sox roster. This time it was MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons, during an appearance last week on WSCR-AM 670:

"The problem that [owner Tom Ricketts] has, and the Ricketts family has a serious issue, is they're going to have to understand it's not only rebuilding personnel. They got to make that ballpark livable. It's a dump, Wrigley Field. They're going to have to spend $200-and-something million on re-renovating Wrigley Field, do what the Boston owners did with Fenway Park. And the investment is far greater than, I think, maybe they realize. The amount of work that Wrigley Field needs ... there's a ton of money that has to go into rebuilding that place."

I respect Gammons as a writer, but he's off touch on this issue.

I think what people forget is that Wrigley isn't meant to be flashy, with all the bells and whistles that all the modern parks have. Wrigley is an antique. That's what makes Wrigley Wrigley.

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Brian Livingston / Comments (1)

Chicago Fri Jun 17 2011

Weekend What To Do: Nike Says "RUN" + Yanks Invade Wrigley

LG#3.jpg

You're forgiven for not necessarily knowing that it's already June. Chicago's weather has been manic enough to confuse your therapist. Anyway, what with it already being the third week of June, you might be a little behind on your Chicago Marathon training. Fret not, those nice folks at mom-and-pop shoe store Nike are hosting a marathon running boot camp at Soldier Field all day tomorrow. Running specialists (*Note: just really good runners) will be guiding group runs out of the Bears' home and down the Lakeshore Path beginning at 6:30 a.m. Additionally, Bears wide receiver and all-around nice guy Earl Bennett will be in the hizzy dropping tips on running and probably talking about the (pictured above) Lunar Glide 3s which will be dropping the first week of July.

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Brian Lauvray

White Sox Fri Jun 17 2011

Sox Staggering After Another Twins Sweep

Thumbnail image for white sox.gifAfter getting swept in two games in Minnesota, the White Sox are 0-4 against the Twins this season -- they've lost 28 of their past 35 meetings -- and 5 1/2 games out of first place.

But the Twins' current 11-2 surge isn't the biggest of Chicago's problems. If the White Sox want to make a serious run in the AL Central, they'll need to fix some key issues.

It's no secret that the White Sox are struggling when it comes to producing runs with guys in scoring position. In Thursday's 1-0 loss, they left 12 men on base. They had a chance to score early in the second inning with Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski on first and third and only one out. They failed to score, and in the next inning Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer hit a solo home run, the only run of the game.

This seems to be a concerning trend. Not only do the White Sox have to worry about leaving men on base, they have to consider the confidence the other team gets from Chicago not scoring.

It's hard to place the blame on one person for their offensive struggles. Looking at the heart of the order, though, is the most obvious conclusion. Players like Konerko, Pierzynski and Carlos Quentin have been hitting well and getting on base, but Alex Rios and new import Adam Dunn haven't been getting runs in.

While Dunn has been playing better, the two have not produced nearly as much as they should. Dunn still is hitting .185, which is bad even by his low-average standards. Rios is 5 for his last 34 after Thursday's 0-for-4 performance. And Gordon Beckham hasn't been the answer, either.

The weather during the Minnesota series didn't help, with the Sox unable to get on the field for batting practice four straight days.

The team looks mentally beat down and frustrated even when they get hits. If players like Rios and Dunn don't step up more consistently and find their groove, the Sox will be stuck in an offensive rut for a while.

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Lauren Camplin

Bandits Fri Jun 17 2011

Bandits' Grand Opening Night in New Stadium

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Opening night from the third-base stands / Photo: Veronica Arreola

By Veronica Arreola

Opening night for the Chicago Bandits, Chicago's professional softball team, was a pitchers' duel between Bandit Monica Abbott and the USSSA Pride's Danielle Lawrie. After a picture perfect first inning, an errant throw by Abbott in the second led to the Pride getting on base. Thankfully she was saved by a clinic-worthy cutoff throw to home to keep the game scoreless. The duel resumed and continued until the bottom of the seventh, when the Bandits skillfully moved Megan Wiggins, who led off the inning, around the bases, capped off with Caitlin Lever's shot to right field to bring Wiggins home. The crowd erupted in a roar to signal the end of the game.

This was also opening night for Rosemont Stadium, the new permanent home for the Bandits. Having attended Bandits games in Lisle and Elgin, where they were visitors using college fields, the news of a permanent home field was much welcomed. Not only do fans know where to find the Bandits in coming years, but the place is beautiful. The field is lush and well maintained. The stadium is configured to keep the sun out of fans' eyes (except those in the outfield bleachers) -- and as my husband pointed out, right in the eyes of first base. Even though the stadium is located next to O'Hare, the parade of planes didn't take away from the atmosphere. Located just off of I-294 just west of the Rosemont Theater and close to the Rosemont Metra station, it is a welcome addition to the area. The field is so new that Google still does not have it listed, so be sure to check out the Bandits' stadium page for directions and a map. Single game tickets range from $9.75 to $13.25.

Disclosure: Veronica Arreola was an invited guest of Bandits at this game.

Tailgate

Cycling Wed Jun 15 2011

South Side Riding With Major Taylor Cycling Club

major taylor ride.jpg

Bobby Mitchell, Elihu Blanks and DeWayne Ferris (left to right) fix a flat tire / Photo: Christopher David Gray

By Christopher David Gray

I pulled my red Montgomery Ward cruiser bicycle up the stairs at the 79th Street Red Line station on a Saturday morning last month and hit the road.

I pedaled down quiet streets past Simeon Career Academy and west on 83rd Street, to the Dan Ryan Woods in Auburn Gresham and the start of the Major Taylor Trail.

The air was cool but not cold and I didn't pass another cyclist in three miles.

The Major Taylor Cycling Club awaited me at a parking lot in the Dan Ryan Woods, checking tires and equipment for a 14-mile ride to the southern city limits and back. The group of mostly black cyclists formed three years ago and remains one of the few of its kind on the South Side.

"We're trying to heighten our visibility so people are aware of us," said Peter Taylor, one of the core members of the club.

In February, the Chicago Department of Transportation released its first bike count survey, based on data collected in 2009 at 26 sites around the city.

The data showed some impressive cycling statistics: 14 of the locations had more than 200 bikers a day, and on one stretch of Milwaukee Avenue, 22 percent of all vehicles were bicycles.

But on the South Side, the statistics painted a much different picture. Not a single location south of north Bridgeport had more than 200 cyclists a day, and the nine lowest rider totals were all on the South Side, with fewer than 60 cyclists a day.

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Tailgate

Basketball Wed Jun 15 2011

Jordan Replies to LeBron

This was posted on YouTube last year, but it couldn't be more timely this week: A mashup of LeBron James' "What Should I Do?" and Michael Jordan's "Maybe It's My Fault" commercials.

Andrew Huff

White Sox Tue Jun 14 2011

White Sox Look to Gain Ground in Minnesota

Thumbnail image for white sox.gifEleven games under .500 less than six weeks ago, the White Sox suddenly stand at 33-35, four games out of first place in the AL Central, as they head to Minnesota for a three-game midweek series with their closest rivals.

The Twins have been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball, with a 26-39 record that's worse than everyone except Houston. Yet they are one of the hottest teams right now, riding an 8-2 streak by sweeping Kansas City and winning series against Cleveland and Texas.

The White Sox are looking for revenge after losing both games in an odd two-game series against the Twins in early May. One of those losses resulted from a no-hitter by Francisco Liriano against a struggling White Sox offense. This time around, the offense won't be desperate for a spark.

The White Sox have homered in a season-high 10 straight games. Paul Konerko is batting .457 with six doubles, six homers and 14 RBIs in a 12-game hitting streak. Carlos Quentin is hitting .320 with nine homers and 24 RBIs in his past 21 games. Adam Dunn, who has taken heat for his lackluster performance this season, broke his 0-for-12 streak with runners in scoring position in Sunday's win against Oakland.

On the other side, Twins left fielder Delmon Young has eight runs, six RBIs and a .314 batting average in his past 10 games. June has also been a strong month for the Minnesota bullpen, which has allowed only three earned runs since the beginning of the month.

Lauren Camplin

Cubs Tue Jun 14 2011

Dempster, Barney Help Cubs Edge Brewers

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for cubs.gifAfter losing nine of their past 11 games, including a 2-8 road swing through St. Louis, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, the Cubs are back at Wrigley this week to host the red-hot, first-place Brewers and the 27-time world champion Yankees.

But they got the homestand off on the right foot Monday night, riding Ryan Dempster to a 1-0 win.

Dempster, who was brilliant last time out against Cincinnati, picked up where he left off with seven shutout innings, striking out seven and surrendering four hits.

But Milwaukee's Randy Wolf matched him pitch for pitch, and it was up to the bullpens after seven.

Finally, the Cubs got on the board in the bottom of the eighth when Darwin Barney scored from third on Aramis Ramirez's grounder to second. Mike Quade sent Barney on contact with one out, and the rookie slid headfirst past the tag of Jonathan Lucroy.

(Recent videos from MLB.com are not embeddable, but you can view the play at their site.)

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Brian Livingston

Windy City Rollers Mon Jun 13 2011

Windy City Rollers' Set for Ivy King Cup Championship

wcr logo2.jpgAfter a grueling season, the Windy City Rollers are ready to kick it Thunderdome style. At the Ivy King Cup Championship this Saturday, June 18, two teams enter; only one team leaves (or rather, leaves with the coveted cup). This year, it's down to The Fury and the Manic Attackers, two teams who are maintaining their reps as hard-to-beat skaters.

At last month's May 21 bout, we saw The Fury beat Hell's Belles by 36, while the Manic Attackers gave the Double Crossers a sound spanking, beating them by 200. The Fury has enjoyed a particularly victorious season, currently standing 6-0. The Manics, however, have been maintaining more of an even keel, finishing out the regular season at 4-2.

With both teams largely with veteran skaters at the helm, there weren't a lot of surprises as far as stats. The Fury's star jammers include Kola Loka, who has scored 326 points this season, followed by Ska Face (213), and Jackie Daniels (111). Leading Fury blockers include Ol' Drrrty Go-Go, Sargentina, and Tori Adore.

Meanwhile, the Fury better watch out for Manic jammers Zoe Trocious, who has scored 240 points so far this season, followed by Beth Amphetamine (146), and Ruth Enasia (116). Providing both offense and defense are star Manic blockers Bork Bork Bork, Tamikazi, and AliSin Chains.

I'm not going to attempt extending this Mad Max metaphor any further (that way, everyone can be Tina Turner), so suffice to say it'd be in your best interest to attend the championship on Saturday at the UIC Pavilion (525 S. Racine Ave). The bout kicks off at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $20. Grab yours online or at the door.

Kara Luger

Cycling Mon Jun 13 2011

On the Right (Cycle) Track?

Chicagoans sound off about the new car-separated bike lanes on Kinzie

by John Greenfield

Richard M. Daley had a widespread, if somewhat undeserved, reputation as a bicycle-friendly mayor. But with Rahm Emanuel in power, along with progressive new transportation commissioner Gabe Klein, it looks like there's going to be a sea change in the way the city pushes pedaling.

Emanuel's Chicago 2011 Transition Plan includes three bold, possibly unrealistic, bike goals. But it's refreshing that the City is finally making big plans that have, to paraphrase Daniel Burnham, magic to stir cyclists' blood.

The mayor's bike proposal, obviously influenced by transition team member Randy Neufeld, former director of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, calls for expanding our anemic automated public bike sharing system from only 100 bicycles to thousands of vehicles. The mayor also promises to build the Bloomingdale Trail, a 2.65-mile elevated rails-to-trails conversion on the Northwest Side within his first term, although it's taken two years just to get the design contract approved and the price tag for the trail is estimated at $50-70 million.

The third goal may be the least realistic but most exciting, and there's already rubber, nay bike lane paint, on the road. Rahm has pledged to install 100 miles of European-style "cycle tracks," bike lanes that are physically separated from cars by medians, parked cars and/or posts, within his first four years in office. This would require a lot more money than is currently spent on striping eight miles of conventional bike lanes per year, and it would involve taking away travel lanes and parking spaces from automobiles.

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Tailgate / Comments (7)

Cycling Mon Jun 13 2011

Bike to Work Week is Here

Chicago's annual Bike to Work Week is all geared up for five days packed with appreciation for bicycle commuters throughout Chicagoland. The week-long event is designed to promote bicycle commuting and encourage new riders.

It is hosted by the Active Transportation Alliance and the City of Chicago with help from many area organizations. This year over 400 companies are participating in the Bike to Work challenge, all competing for the highest percentage of employees to bike to work.

Every morning this week starting at 6:30 a.m., riders can stop for coffee, snacks, chain lube, air and other goodies at several Bike Pit Stop locations throughout the city and at suburban Metra stations. From one of this morning's Pit Stops at Ciclo Urbano in Humboldt Park to one of Tuesday's Pit Stops at Blue City Cycles in Bridgeport to Thursday's Pit Stops at the north and south ends of the Lakefront Trail, riders all over should be able to find a Pit Stop on or near their route to work.

This year riders also have the opportunity to freshen up in the morning with complimentary showers at six Fitness Formula Club locations. For a full list and map of Bike Pit Stops and shower information, click here.

Daily Bike After Work events like movie screenings and drink specials round out the evening commute, and the week culminates with a Bike to Work rally Friday morning at Daley Plaza. Rides can meet up at four local Caribou Coffee locations to ride to the rally in groups. For more information about the week's events, click here.

Eleanor Blick

Fire Sun Jun 12 2011

Fire Disappoints With Another Scoreless Draw

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The Chicago Fire were on the road Thursday night in Kansas City as Sporting KC played their first game in their new stadium, Livestrong Sporting Park, drawing the Fire 0-0. Despite an active, end-to-end game, the only chance that found the back of the net was an offsides finish by Kansas City's Graham Zusi. Chicago's best chance came late, as Sporting's substitute goalkeeper Eric Kronberg spilled a shot that Orr Barouch rattled off the crossbar.

The team formerly known as the Kansas City Wizards have undergone a total overhaul, changing the team name, badge and colors, capping it all off with a brand new, $200 million soccer-specific stadium. It wasn't completed in time for the start of this MLS season, however, and they've started the season with MLS' longest-ever road trip, playing their first 10 games away from home.

This is a big reason why they're now 1-6-4, right in the bottom of the conference alongside Chicago's 1-4-8 record. But they're a young team, with a few young college stars and a striker in Teal Bunbury who has the U.S. National Team in his sights, and who has in fact been good enough to get a few looks from U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. Ten games on the road is hard, and their youth should provide a few valid excuses for why head coach Peter Vermes' team is one of the league's worst.

But Chicago's Frank Klopas, in only his second game as interim head coach, is surely starting to search ever harder for a way to turn his team around. Their only win this year came against this similarly weak Sporting KC squad in Toyota Park, and being unable to score yet again despite having a man advantage for 30 minutes does not reflect positively on his team's offensive ability.

In the 67th minute, Kansas City starting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen used his hands outside the 18-yard box on a long ball meant for Dominic Oduro (whose speed was on full display, one of the few obvious weapons Chicago brought to the pitch). Rushing out to try and beat Oduro to the ball, Nielsen simply reacted as a goalkeeper would when the Fire winger got first touch and tried to float it past the onrushing keeper. But as the last man back, he was sent off with a straight red card, forcing the backup to enter the game in place of Bunbury.

It's true that Kansas City was pumped up for this game, and holding the hosts to a shutout is again a great defensive improvement upon their previous games. If both teams had played 11v11 for 90 minutes (and an unheard-of *nine* minutes of stoppage time!), perhaps it would be enough to feel good about. But playing a man up, with a backup goalkeeper that was sent in cold and unexpectedly, you would hope Chicago could find a way to manufacture the win.

Alas, it wasn't to be, and now Klopas must turn his attention from the back line to his attack as the Fire head to Columbus, Ohio, for Sunday's matchup against the much better Crew, currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference.

Colin Hettinger

Cubs Thu Jun 09 2011

Success! Dempster Helps Cubs End 8-Game Skid

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for cubs.gifOh, happy day! The losing streak is over!

The Cubs salvaged the last of three games in Cincinnati on Wednesday afternoon, winning 4-1. If ever they needed a quality outing from Ryan Dempster, it was now. And it almost didn't happen because the right-hander was experiencing hip pain during his warmups.

Dempster gutted it out and pitched his tail off. He went six strong innings with one earned run and struck out eight. Things were dicey in the first inning when the Reds loaded the bases, but he came out of it unscathed.

As usual, it then fell to the offense to back up their starter. Carlos Pena got the Cubs on the board with a two-run homer in the fourth after a crucial Reds error allowed the inning to continue. Aramis Ramirez followed that with a solo homer to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead. They would later add another run in the seventh after Reds reliever Jose Arredondo balked with runners on first and third.

The bleeding has been stopped, but there are still many problems that surround this team. Sure, the win was nice and it shifts the focus for at least 24 hours, but the road trip now heads to Philadelphia for four games before the Brewers and Yankees come to Wrigley next week. At 24-36, the Cubs' issues aren't going to be solved overnight.

Brian Livingston

Cubs Tue Jun 07 2011

Zambrano Outburst is Least of Cubs' Problems

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Carlos Zambrano / Tribune file photo

The Cubs started off their road trip on a sour note by being swept by the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend. This prompted Carlos Zambrano to go off on his teammates Sunday after Carlos Marmol blew the save en route to a second straight extra-inning loss.

"We should know better than this. We play like a Triple-A team," Zambrano told reporters in the clubhouse. "This is embarrassing. Embarrassing for the team and the owners. Embarrassing for the fans. Embarrassed -- that's the word for this team."

Zambrano specifically blamed Marmol for throwing Ryan Theriot a fastball slider the former Cub turned into a game-tying double: "We should know that Ryan Theriot is not a good fastball hitter."

Some in the Chicago media, particularly the Tribune's David Haugh, ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski and ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine believe action needs to be taken against Z for his outburst.

But I think they couldn't be more wrong.

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Brian Livingston

Fire Tue Jun 07 2011

Scoreless Draw is Step Forward for Fire

Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgThe Chicago Fire took their first step forward under interim coach Frank Klopas on Saturday night at Toyota Park, managing a scoreless draw with the Seattle Sounders. Despite the positives that can and should be taken by shutting out one of the better attacking teams in the league, at the end of the day their lack of offensive output means another missed chance at taking three points -- something they've done only once this 1-4-7 season.

I'll leave the American frustration with tie games -- especially 0-0 ties -- for another time. But with a new coach at the helm, this draw is more helpful than most, even as it extends the winless streak to 10 games.

At the very least, this wasn't a loss. It keeps the team treading water while allowing the coaches the chance to evaluate an entire 90-minute performance and look for measurable signs of progress. In that vein, Klopas has to be happy with a few things he saw Saturday night.

Like a coach under the gun should, he first focused on shoring up the defense. Yes, the Fire are doing far too much tying and not enough winning, but the last thing you want to do is go all-in and play a high-risk game of strong attacks and weak defense. Better to keep the ship afloat with an emphasis on preventing goals and have confidence that your offense will provide enough.

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Colin Hettinger

Cubs Thu Jun 02 2011

Cubs Sink to 5th Loss in 6 Games

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for cubs.gifThe Cubs opened this nine-game homestand by winning two of three against the struggling New York Mets. They scored 24 runs in those games. In the six games since, they have scored 16 runs. Aside from lack of run production, the injury bug has begun taking its toll on the Cubs.

They currently have six of their starters on the disabled list. Alfonso Soriano is the latest victim. He strained his quad running out a grounder to first on Monday afternoon.

The Cubs started off Wednesday's game favorably against Houston's Brett Myers, who for all intents and purposes should be on the all-time Cubs killers list. Kosuke Fukudome hit a solo home run to give his team the 1-0 advantage.

It would be short-lived as the Astros would answer back in the top of the second with a solo home run by Jason Michaels. Houston scored two more in the seventh to take a 3-1 lead and secure a sweep of the Northsiders.

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Brian Livingston

Fire Wed Jun 01 2011

Fire Moves Forward With New Coach

Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgWith a third of the MLS season gone and the Chicago Fire still only at one win, head coach Carlos de los Cobos was let go Sunday. De los Cobos was coach for just over one season, with last year's campaign only the second time the Fire didn't make the MLS Cup Playoffs since their creation in 1998.

This year, Chicago (1-4-6) finds itself eighth among nine teams in the Eastern Conference with nine points. Even in MLS, with a playoff system renowned for its guest-list generosity, the current standing is becoming too big a hole to climb out of. As a result, club technical director Frank Klopas has stepped in as the interim head coach.

So how did the Fire get to this point? Actually, they're not playing that poorly, at least on the whole.

The six draws should make it clear that they're playing competitive soccer, and so far in the season, they've only lost one game by more than one goal. They've also only been shut out once, in a 0-0 draw against MLS newcomers Vancouver.

Simply put, they're scoring plenty of goals, but have yet to find the defensive prowess to get those tallies to stand up.

But a franchise with the Fire's history of success has high expectations. As a team that started out winning the U.S. Open Cup and the MLS Cup in their first year, the bar has always been set high for the Fire. Repeated playoff appearances cemented that as not just a goal, but an expectation, for any coach that had the reins.

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Colin Hettinger

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