This Week in Chicago Sports

White Sox

At the time of writing, the White Sox have this week been swept by the Angels and lost the first game of a series with the Astros, giving up 40 (!!!) runs in the process. That’s absolutely terrible. I don’t really want to even talk about this team this week, so I’m not going to.Instead, I thought I would briefly go through and highlight all the good things going on in the White Sox minor league system these days.

AAA Charlotte Knights

Michael Kopech: So far this season, Kopech is living up to every expectation. In three starts, he’s posted a 2.40 ERA over 15 innings pitched. His most recent effort came on Friday night when he struck out 10 in what was a loss for the Knights. Much like the starting pitchers for the White Sox, Kopech doesn’t seem to get much run support or backup from his bullpen. He’s now struck out 21 while walking just five. I originally didn’t think we’d see Kopech in the Big Leagues until the All Star break at least, if not later. However, with how much Miguel Gonzalez is struggling for the Sox, Kopech’s Major League debut could come sooner rather than later.

AA Birmingham Barons

Eloy Jimenez: After being injured since Spring Training, Eloy Jimenez made his 2018 regular season debut for the Barons on Thursday night, going 0-3 but driving in a run on a groundout and scoring once following a walk. Eloy is one of the most exciting prospects in all of baseball right now, and there’s been plenty of speculation that he’ll see time with the White Sox before the season ends. First things first, however, he needs to get is to 100%, be playing every day, and impress at the AA level. The way I see it, I hope he’s in Charlotte by the All Star break but don’t think there’s any need to rush him as quickly as it seems like a lot of fans want the Sox to.

High-A Winston Salem Dash

There has been a ton of buzz around the Dash lately, and with good reason. Top Sox prospects having been lighting it up lately, last week they won a game by hitting four home runs in the 8th then executing a suicide squeeze in the 9th, and Chris Paul (a Winston-Salem native) recently bought a minority stake in the team. At least the Sox have one exciting baseball team these days.Blake Rutherford: The White Sox #7 prospect has been killing it so far this season. Rutherford, who was acquired from the Yankees in the Robertson/Frazier/Kahnle trade last season, has a slash line of a .373 avg/.510 slg/.931 OPS. His best performance of the season may have been Thursday night when he had four hits and four RBIs.Luis Basabe and Miker Adolfo: Rutherford hasn’t been the only Dash outfielder turning heads so far this season, as Basabe and Adolfo both have batting averages over .330 and OPSs over 1.0. Aquired as a minor prospect in the Chris Sale deal, Basabe is having by far his best season of professional baseball. Much attention wasn’t paid to him in that swap, as Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech were also included, so if he develops into an MLB quality player that will be seen as a huge bonus. Adolfo spent the last couple of seasons in Low-A Kannapolis but has proven he more than deserves his promotion to Winston-Salem. His young career has been riddled with injuries, but if he can stay healthy perhaps he can finally put his talents on full display.A sad final note this week on the Sox. As you may have heard, White Sox relief pitcher Danny Farquhar suffered a brain hemorrhage after leaving Friday night’s game against the Astros. It was later discovered that an aneurysm in his brain had ruptured and caused internal bleeding. He is in stable but critical condition. Please keep Danny and his family in your thoughts and prayers. Here was the official statement from the Sox on Saturday afternoon:

Cubs

by Logan SpringgateThe starting pitching for the Cubs has not been pretty. When asked about getting longer outings from his starters, Joe Maddon said “It’s going to happen. I’m fully confident it’s going to happen. The starters are really good. There’s a lot to look forward to…” Could he sound any more like he’s trying to talk himself into that being true? Darvish got hit around in 4.2 innings against the Braves last Friday. In a game with some of the worst weather for any baseball game ever, Quintana gave up 7 earned runs in only 2.1 (!!) innings. Chatwood actually got 7 strikeouts, but gave up 7 walks as well in 4.2 innings. All this has added up to a staff ERA of 4.95. Lester continued his up and down start against St. Louis and threw 6 innings of nearly unhittable ball. I can’t bring myself to worry about Lester or Hendricks, but the other three have been nearly their worst-case scenario so far.All told, very few things have gone right for the Cubs so far this season, but they’re still .500. At least for now, it looks like Joe might be able to catch lightning in a bottle with Almora and Baez at the top of the lineup. Javy and Schwarber (.611 OBP last week) won’t be able to keep up the pace they are on for much longer, so other people will need to step up. Hopefully Rizzo is back to being healthy and the rest of the lineup can pick it up whenever Baez stops hitting .500 (like he did last week). The Cubs only played 4 games this week and I was super busy, so I don’t have all that much else to say, so here’s the craziest play from the craziest inning of baseball I’ve ever seen set to Yakety Sax.

Standing: 8-8, 4th in NL Central, 2.5 GB of PittsburghThis week: @Colorado (3 gms), @Cleveland (2 gms), vs. Milwaukee (4 gms)

Fire

The Fire won for the second time in three games on Saturday afternoon as they beat the New York Red Bulls 2-1, with goals from Aleksander Katai (an absolutely ridiculous volley that you should watch right now) and, of course, Nemanja Nikolic. Goalkeeper Richard Sanchez, who I’ve criticised plenty this season, earned his third-consecutive Man of the Match award, making 9 saves in the game (maybe I should lay off him for a while). The Fire slowly look to be getting their feet under them as head coach Veljko Paunovic figures out how to best utilize a roster that’s seen a lot of changes. What I really want to talk about with the Fire this week pertains to their stadium. It was announced this week that following the 2018 MLS Season, Toyota Park will be renamed Seat Geek Stadium.Now, I don’t necessarily have a huge problem with the name itself. StubHub already sponsors onoe MLS stadium (Colorado) and alliteration names of places is always nice I suppose. It’s certainly nowhere near the atrocity and insult that is naming something “Guaranteed Rate Field”…but anyway.

The announcement of the name change got me thinking about the real problem with this stadium: it’s location. Toyota Park is located in Bridgeview, IL. For those unfamiliar, it’s not particularly close to downtown Chicago:img_0899

Not only is it far, but it’s inaccessible by the ‘L’ train system, which ends at Midway Airport a few miles to the northeast of the stadium. To get there from the city, you would get off at the end of the train line then take a bus. Also, while it’s not a dangerous area, Bridgeview is far from the best. There’s no shopping, restaurant, or bar districts nearby; the stadium is largely off on its own.There have been other places suggested for the Fire to play, and I’ve got a few ideas of my own as well.My favorite alternative idea has to do with Chicago’s pitch to be the home of Amazon’s second headquarters, in which the city would basically give Amazon all of Goose Island (which yes, for non-Chicagoans is an actual island not just the name of the brewery that was founded on it). Part of the plan would see a new soccer stadium built on the property. The one issue I have is that the intent was for this stadium to be home to an expansion team in the United Soccer League (USL).Don’t get me wrong, I love that the USL is expanding as quickly as it is, and I love the idea of more soccer in Chicago. However, there’s simply no evidence that Chicago can support two soccer teams.While the idea of one day having two teams would be cool, I think we first need to make the most of the one we already have. Sure, the Fire building a new stadium’s makes Toyota Park obsolete, but I think you have to view that as a sunk cost at this point.Back in the summer of 2014 over 100,000 fans gathered in Grant Park to watch the US Men’s National Team’s World Cup games on a giant screen. If you cant get 100,000 people to watch a game on TV outside, you should without question be able to get 15,000 to go to an MLS match every week. The Goose Island location would be perfect, as it would make the Fire accessible to fans.There are bars scattered around Chicago’s North Side that are supporters bars for English soccer teams, but the Fire haven’t been able to channel that soccer passion. It’s so bad that the Chelsea FC bar in Chicago, the Graystone Tavern, is a fan bar for the Columbus Crew who are arguably the Fire’s biggest rivals.To me this speaks to a massive failure on the part of the Fire in terms of fan outreach. The team has a lot of work to do, and moving the team into the city would be a great first step. If they don’t and a USL team moves into this proposed location it would spell big trouble for the Fire.Another version of this idea: build the new stadium, move the Fire there, and put a USL team at Toyota Park.As for other places I think a new stadium would be great, speaking of islands there’s Northerly Island, formerly an airfield, there’s a huge piece of lakefront property on the island just south of the Adler Planetarium that I personally think would be great for a soccer stadium.Another idea would be to make use of the space in Washington Park, just north of Hyde Park originally proposed to host the Olympics when Chicago submitted a bid for the 2016 Summer Games. This would put another team on the City’s South Side and would only enhance the area surrounding Hyde Park and the University of Chicago.My most ridiculous idea would involve putting a stadium somewhere along the lakefront on the north side, maybe near Montrose Beach?Anyway, the point is that along with the games not being on TV this season the biggest thing holding the Fire back is the location of their stadium, no matter what its name is. If the Fire want to be a competitive player in the future of American soccer and ensure they stay relevant in an age of constantly growing competition, specifically from the USL, then they’ve got to make a move at some point. Literally.

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