This Week in Chicago Sports

White Sox

At the time of writing, the White Sox are in a rain delay of the second game of this weekend’s Crosstown series with the Cubs. After the Cubs’ 11-2 win yesterday in which Carson Fulmer lasted just 1 ⅔ innings in which he gave up five earned runs, and two Sox errors led to four unearned runs I’m not upset that today’s game may not happen. You can’t lose if you don’t play.

Looking back over the course of the week, I don’t have any more good news to share. The White Sox lost every game they played, losing their last two to the Twins before being swept at home by the Pirates, a game of which I, and maybe a few hundred others, attended:sox vs pirates

At 9-26 the Sox are off to their worst 35 game start in franchise history, not exactly what I was hoping for when I thought they would win 75 games this season. At this pace the Sox would only win 42 games this season, a winning percentage of 25.7%. The Sox worst ever season was in 1932 when they won just 32.5% of their games. In the history of baseball, five teams have finished with a winning percentage equal to or worse where the Sox are right now, the most recent being the Mets in 1962. That is not a group the Sox will want to join.

It’s important to keep perspective that 1) this is a rebuild still in its early stages and 2) we have a lot of injury issues right now. Yoan Moncada and Avi Garcia will be back, the team will get (a little) better; this is going to take some time.

The worst injury news this week concerns prospect Jake Burger, who re-tore the achilles he originally tore in spring training. He had surgery again to repair the tear and will have to start his rehab over. This likely means he will miss spring training next season.

It’s easy to say the White Sox quantity of prospects is their best asset, but it’s unforseen stuff like this that can cause problems. I certainly wish Jake all the best and a full recovery.

The one piece of good news with the Sox this week, as usual, concerns a successful prospect.

At the time of writing, Eloy Jimenez is now on a 15 game hitting streak and has 7 homers, 24 RBIs, a .333 average and an OPS over 1.0 through 24 games played for AA Birmingham. Get that man to AAA now (and then to the Sox as soon as possible, they need the help).

Standings: Do I really need to fill this in? We’re in last.

This Week: Finish the series with the Cubs (2 games), at Pittsburgh for 2 games, then a four game series at home against Texas

 

Cubs

By Logan Springgate

The Cubs spent last weekend getting swept out of Busch Stadium in a 3 game series with the Cardinals. I brought up some of the Cubs’ offensive struggles last week and they continued in St. Louis last weekend. By the end of that series, the Cubs had scored 3 runs or less in 10 out of 11 games. I was actually at the Friday night game at Busch Stadium (I hate the Cardinals, but it’s a really beautiful stadium. See the end for a picture.). I love baseball. I love a pitcher’s duel. I love a slugfest. Last Friday was none of those things. Mikolas dominated the Cubs hitters who barely got the ball out of the infield and Quintana struggled again. The rest of the weekend was much of the same as the Cardinals walked off in extras on back-to-back nights Saturday and Sunday. I was dreading writing this week as it looked like the Cubs were back to their up-and-down, .500 ways, but now…

…it sure seems like home cooking and bad pitching is just what the doctor ordered because the Cubbies came home and their offense exploded. I was also at Wrigley for the Cubs four homer, 14 run dismantling of the Miami Marlins on Monday night. Hendricks was absolutely dealing and he went 8 full innings on just 98 pitches with no walks. Hendricks has been easily the best and most consistent Cubs starter this year and I’m really happy to see Joe giving him a longer leash than he used to. On the other side of the ball, the Cubs bats got to Jarlin Garcia who had been leading the NL in ERA coming into the game. Ian Happ became the first Cubs switch hitter to hit home runs from both sides of the plate since Dioner Navarro in 2013.

With Yu Darvish on the DL, Jen-Ho Tseng was exactly what the Cubs needed him to be: not disastrous. Tseng really hasn’t been very good (read: he’s been terrible) at Iowa (AAA) this season (0-4, 8.04 ERA), but between his 2 innings and Hendricks giving the bullpen the night off on Monday, the Wrigley Field Dance Crew (aka the relievers) held off Miami’s Quad-A team and the Cubs bats worked past Tseng’s 3 earned runs on Tuesday. There’s not a whole lot to say about this game except that during a benches-clearing incident, Kris Bryant decided to tickle former Cub Starlin Castro. No really, there’s video on Twitter or ESPN or wherever you like to get your baseball video.

On Wednesday, Quintana actually looked pretty good. He pitched six innings, walked two, and gave up no home runs. It was by far his best start this season against a team not named Milwaukee. Meanwhile, the Cubs scored early and often, hanging 9 runs on Wei-Yin Chen in the first 3 innings before they chased him out of the game. Bryant hit his 100th career home run on the three-year anniversary of his first major-league homer. It also broke Ernie Banks’s record (500 gms) as the fastest Cubs to 100 homers at just 487 games. Bryant is hot right now which is great, but I’m more excited about the other half of Bryzzo. Anthony Rizzo went 3-5 with a home run in the game and finally dragged his batting average above the Mendoza line. Intellectually, I knew that Rizzo would come along eventually, but it’s nice to actually see it.

Random Notes:

–        The Cubs crushed the White Sox on Friday afternoon and Willson Contreras hit for 12 total bases, tying a Cubs catcher record. I could go on for a while about this game, so I think I’m just going to save it for after the series is over.

–        Bryant’s power has come back in a big way. On top of hitting five home runs in the last 8 games, he’s also slashed .333/.436/.909 during the same period. I was worried about him getting too focused on plate discipline before the year started and it looked like my concerns were validated until the last week and a half.

–        Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis hit home runs from both sides of the plate in a single game 11 times during his playing career. Ian Happ has his work cut out for him if he hopes to even approach that.

P.S. due to lack of enthusiasm, The Happening has been postponed. Return date TBD.

Standing: 20-15, 4th in NL Central, 1.5 GB of St. Louis

This week: vs. White Sox (2 gms), vs. Atlanta (makeup game), @ Atlanta (3 gms)

 

****BASEBALL NOTE******

We’re going to probably be doing a Slack chat (or something similar) sometime early this next week reviewing the White Sox vs Cubs series. Stay tuned to the relevant social media profiles (@soupweek_blog @alex_s_campbell @loganspringgate) for more info about that over the next couple days)

*******************************

 

Fire

The Fire won a nail-biter Thursday night at Toyota Park against the Montreal Impact, as they got an 89th minute winning goal from an unexpected source: defender Kevin Ellis (who was aided by a significant deflection off an Impact defender) to win the game 1-0. Highlights here.

The win leaves the Fire three points out of the playoff places. They take on the Crew in Columbus later today (Saturday).

There’s been plenty of news off the field for the Fire this week. The rumors about the Fire attempting to sign former Spain, Liverpool and Chelsea and current Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres took a turn for the worse. First, he reportedly wanted a salary of $4 million (via Sports Illustrated’s @GrantWahl) which is both a lot for an MLS contract and difficult for the Fire to accomodate given they already have three players making seven-figures: Bastian Schweinsteiger ($6.1 million), Nemanja Nikolic ($1.7 million) and Aleksandar Katai ($1.14 million).

There were then rumors that Torres would instead be going to the Montreal Impact, but those were squished Thursday by this statement from Impact manager Remi Garde:

So who knows what’s happening. There’s also the ridiculous idea out there that Steven Gerrard, who has just been named manager of Rangers in Scotland, is going to try to get the late 2000s Liverpool band back together by signing the likes of Torres, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, and Martin Skrtel. Torres won’t be playing for Atletico next season, that’s literally all anyone knows at this point.

The other big off the field news this week was the announcement that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has purchase a United Soccer League (USL) expansion franchise (really he’s purchasing the opportunity to have a team, it doesn’t actually exist yet) and insteads to build a new soccer stadium in the Lincoln Yards development on the northwest side of Chicago.

While this would be an ideal place for a downtown soccer stadium, the idea of a USL team moving in there would be bad news for the Fire. One idea that I really like is you have the Fire play in the new stadium and the USL team play at Toyota Park. However, if Ricketts is just buying a USL team that wouldn’t make sense because whichever team were to play in Bridgeview would struggle. One solution to this is that Ricketts could buy the Fire, which there’s been no indication that he’s going to do. I’ve said before that in principle I’m all in favor of more soccer in Chicago, but it will be interesting to see how these plans develop and what it means for the Fire.

 

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