Blog Archives

The Wake-up Call Podcast

To listen to the commercial-free broadcast of today’s show on www.sportstownchicago.com you can click here http://snd.sc/LCV8g1 where I give you my take on the highly anticipated Cubs debut of Anthony Rizzo.

The impact of the Kevin Youkilis trade for the White Sox and what he means to their division title aspirations.

And last but not least, the death of the BCS with the news of a 4-team playoff format beginning in the 2014 season.

The Cubs Future is Present

Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo struggled as a Padre last season hitting just .141 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that our long national nightmare is over and Anthony Rizzo is making his Cubs debut Tuesday night at Wrigley Field the pressure is on for him to live up to the lofty expectations.

Burdened with the task of saving the Cubs and rising from the basement of the National League is no small feat for the 22- year old first baseman. Having raked in the minor leagues to the tune of a .343 average with 23 homeruns in 70 games, many Cubs fans are expecting the second coming of Albert Pujols.

Thus is the life of a prospect in the Cubs organization.

An organization that has failed to produce a successful Major League hitter since Mark Grace came to the show 25 years ago.

Corey Patterson, Bobby Hill, Hee- Sop Choi, and Felix Pie are a who’s who list of recent flops that failed to live up the soaring expectations that preceded their call to the big leagues.

Throw in a litany of failed first round draft picks such as Louis Montanez, Ryan Harvey, Ben Christensen, Brooke Kieschnick, Earl Cunningham, and Derrick May, and you see how Cubs fans have seen their share of flops, busts, and disappointments before.

I have been preaching patience when it comes to Rizzo, and there is a contingent of the fan base that realizes he needed more seasoning with the Iowa Cubs based on his failures when called up with the San Diego last year. He hit .141 with the Padres last season with a single homerun.

With the Cubs in year one of a massive rebuilding mode it didn’t make sense to rush Rizzo and risk the potential long-term damage an early promotion can do to a player’s confidence, (Corey Patterson). A revamped hitting approach for Rizzo, one where he lowered the starting point for his hands, and led scouts to believe a more polished and refined Rizzo will not experience the same struggles he had as a Padre.

Fans of the Cubs will be happy if Rizzo shows continued development and provides a spark to a club that has been struggling to find many bright spots in a season that sees the club languishing in the cellar of the National League Central with a record of 25-48, the worst in the Major Leagues.

The Cubs career for Rizzo begins with a start at first base against the Mets as Cubs cross their fingers and hold their collective breath hoping to witness a new face of the franchise, and not the next in the long chapter of unrealized potential among former Cubs prospects.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Cubs draft Albert Almora

The Cubs front office has been preaching the importance of the MLB Draft for the past few weeks, and when Theo Epstein took over as President last fall his mandate was that the Cubs will be a consistent winner built from successful drafts and player development.

On Monday night, the Cubs took the first step towards fulfilling that mandate when the Cubs drafted Florida prep outfielder, Albert Almora with the sixth overall pick in the MLB draft.  Long on the Cubs radar as Theo’s scouting department have watched Almora blossom with Team USA, having been named the MVP in the under-18 Pan Am Games this past summer.

When the Cubs were on the clock presumptive top pick Mark Appel, the power pitcher from Stanford, was still on the board and I had wondered if the Cubs had seen enough of the right hander to be swayed from taking their guy Almora in favor of the polished pitcher.

I would have liked to been in the Cubs war room when they were making their pick to see if Appel was considered, or if they had their mind made up when they woke up that morning.  Nevertheless, Almora is a potential All-Star centerfielder with high character and a good feel for the game.

At 6’2’’ and 170 pounds, Almora figures to add some muscle to his frame and fill out as he makes his way through the Cubs minor league ranks and the early comparisons on him are to that of Baltimore Orioles centerfielder, Adam Jones, who has the Orioles battling for AL East supremacy.

Labeled a five-tool player by experts, and possessing a smooth swing and great hand-eye coordination the sinewy outfielder can hit for 25-plus homers while using his incredible instincts and body control to cover a ton of ground in center field. His arm will be a weapon that opposing runners will have to be made aware of before trying to go from first to third on a single or attempting to score from first on a double.

Almora will be the answer to a trivia question years down the road when people ask who about the first player drafted under Theo Epstein’s watch in Chicago.

Now the Cubs will have to face questions from their fans about why they did not take Mark Appel, whom many had pegged going first overall to the Houston Astros.  He went two picks later to the Pittsburgh Pirates, so the Cubs will be reminded often whether or not they made the right decision taking the precocious prep bat versus the polished power pitcher.

Theo Epstein and Cubs fans are hoping the play of Almora makes the decision to draft him sixth overall look like a no-brainer rather than the second coming of Corey Patterson.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here.

Trading Starlin Castro

English: Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs wa...

English: Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs waits to bat in 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rumors that Theo Epstein and the Cubs were shopping Starlin Castro in a trade swirled amid a USA Today report that the club is shopping everyone on the roster with the exception of Jeff Samardzija.

My initial reaction to this article was shock, because I don’t think Theo Epstein would be that foolish to trade a shortstop that is the only legitimate bat in the lineup and represent the very player that Epstein should be building around.

At 22 years old and under team control until 2017, trading Castro should not even be a consideration for a team that needs more players of his ilk to contend in the National League Central division.  Trading him for a bundle of prospects would further alienate a fan base that’s grown tired of waiting til next year.

Having made his ML debut just over two years ago Castro has already eclipsed 400 career hits while hitting over .300.  Far from a finished product he has started to drive in more runs, he is tied with Boston’s Mike Aviles for the lead among shortstops in runs batted in with 32, and is on pace to steal over thirty bases which would eclipse his career high of 22 set last season.

His defense is a work in progress as he has been prone to errant throws and mental lapses, but that’s just par for the course in the developing of a 22- year old in pro sports.

The closest thing the Cubs have to an untouchable, if there is such a thing in pro sports today, is the All-Star shortstop that should be patrolling the left side of the Cubs infield for the next decade and will be a fixture in the line-up when the Cubs are back on top.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here.

The Sports Corner

With a décor fitting of an upscale restaurant The Sports Corner does not look like your typical sports bar from the outside.  That’s just fine with the people at the Sports Corner, located at 952 W. Addison Street in Chicago, because people have been piling in since the location was revamped a few years ago.

Offering plenty of outdoor seating to soak up the sun on a glorious Chicago summer day patrons can sip on a frosty cold beer before they make it across the street to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, for an afternoon matinee.

You don’t need to have tickets to the game to come to the Sports Corner however, because the atmosphere outside the park on game days is electric and you can watch on one of the many televisions inside the bar while you sample their everyday specials and every Wednesday is trivia night.  During trivia night you can take advantage of $10 domestic pitchers, $15 import pitchers, and $5 Ketel cocktails.

To learn more about The Sports Corner Bar & Grill, schedule a private party, or peruse their everyday specials, visit their website here.

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake Up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here. And read more of Patrick’s blogs here.

The Cubby Bear

The Cubby Bear

The Cubby Bear (Photo credit: voteprime)

The next time you’re taking in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field you need to step into The Cubby Bear for their daily specials and live music.  Live music emanates out of this establishment right next to the historic ballpark that’s home to the Cubs and has live music playing nearly every Friday and Saturday night.

The musical acts range from local bands playing original work to cover bands to the likes of George Clinton who just played the venue May 10th to Ziggy Marley who will bring is act to 1059 W. Addison July 2nd.

If live music isn’t your thing, then have no fear, because the Cubby Bear has a menu that will make everybody’s stomach growl and mouth salivate.

For starters you need to try their award winning bacon wings that you can drown in ranch or bleu cheese dressing if you can’t take the heat. The appetizers don’t stop with the wings as they offer mozzarella sticks, mac and cheese bites, nachos, and more.

The appetizers are enough to fill you up, but be sure to leave room for their variety of mouth watering burgers. I recommend the half- pound cheddar bacon burger with the Cubby Bear garlic fries. In addition to the variety of burgers, this Cubs fan hangout features, sausages, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, bbq pork, Italian beef, and the best smoked brisket you’ll find in Illinois.

Whether you’re stopping in before, after, or during the Cubs game, scheduling a private party, or just want to see some of the best live music in the city, then the Cubby Bear is the place to be. You can also check out their Lincolnshire location at 21661 N. Milwaukee for the same great food and hospitality at their Chicago location.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and former football player from Chicago and is the host of “The Wake Up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. View his show’s website here. And read more of Patrick’s blogs here.

Chicago’s “All-City” Pitching Staff

Matt Garza

Matt Garza (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my blog Friday I wrote about the “All-City Lineup” today I will compile a five man starting rotation and a six man bullpen.

Starters

Ryan Dempster – The number one starter for the team despite not recording a win. Not entirely his fault though as he sports a dazzling 1.74 era and a whip of 0.97. Hitters are hitting a meager .196 off him and carries 4:1 k/BB ratio. The Cubs opening day starter should have four wins on his resume this year if not for absolutely no run support.

Jake Peavy – Reverting to the form he displayed during his Cy Young campaign in 2007 as a member of the San Diego Padres and looking like the pitcher White Sox General Mangers Ken Williams once traded four pitchers for. 4-1 with a 2.65 era and more importantly has gone atleast six innings of seven of his eight starts.

Matt Garza – In his second season as a Cub, Garza has pitched better than his 2-1 record would suggest. His 2.58 era has kept the Cubs in many games while the offense tried to give him some run support. Garza is plagued by the similar anemic offense that has yet to give Dempster much support when he is on the mound, and could easily have twice as many wins as he currently has if not for a lack of support.

Jeff Samardzija – The former All- American wide receiver for Notre Dame has found a home in the starting rotation after working out of the bullpen the last few years. He is tied for the team lead with four wins and strikes out more than one batter per inning with a nifty era of 3.00. His future is bright and is one of the hardest throwing starters in the entire National League.

Chris Sale – Tied for the team lead with Peavy at four and an era under three for the young lefty earns him a spot on the “All-City” staff. While the Sox aren’t sure if he is a starter or a closer, the rotation needed a lefty to round out the staff and Sale gets the nod over Paul Maholm of the Cubs. Sale has a high ceiling if he can stay healthy.

The Bullpen

James Russell and Raphael Dolis – The Cubs have had a great deal of problems finding a reliable arm to turn to in late inning pressure situations, and while each has had their down moments, they also represent the two best the Cubs have to offer. Russell has a 1.06 era and hitters are batting only .208 off of Dolis thus far on the season.

Nate Jones, Jesse Crain, and Matt Thornton- The rookie Jones has been a pleasant surprise to the Sox and his 1.37 era is evident of that. Crain has just nine innings under his belt this season but hitters are hitting below the Mendoza Line off his pitches, so he earns the spot. The final set-up man job goes to Matt Thornton despite his three blown saves out of necessity and the lack of quality arms to choose from.

The Closer

Addison Reed- Young and inexperienced, but has a lot of talent in his arm and has the ability to strike a hitter out which is essential to success as a late inning reliever, especially a closer. Reed is a perfect four for four in save chances this season and could be a good one for a long time on the Southside.

The bullpen on both sides of town has had it’s fair share of turnover, but combined into one super pen, it actually looks pretty solid on paper. Let me know what you think and how yours would look.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard sports fan and former football player from Chicago. Patrick is a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks and is an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC. Patrick is the host of “The Wake Up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. View his show’s website here.

Baseball’s Civil War in Chicago

For as long as there has been two professional baseball teams playing in Chicago the two sides have despised each other that would make the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s proud.

As the City of broad shoulders prepares for another Civil War between the Cubs and Sox, I have already grown tired of the sophomoric and ignorant stereotypes that both fan bases throw back and forth at each other.

I have often found it humorous for one to be a fan of both teams, and I have yet to wrap my brain around having two favorite teams in any sports. However, is it possible to be a Cubs or Sox fan and not have the urge to throw the same tired insults at the other team, their fans, and their ballpark?

Denigrating one team does not make your team superior, it makes you look foolish.

I am a Cubs fan and support them through good times and bad. In many ways it is a marriage and as many times as I get disappointed or angry with the team, I always come back to them and believe that next year is right around the corner.

I am as loyal as they come concerning the supporting of my team. This is something that many Chicagoans pride themselves on. This trait is what makes Chicago fans the greatest in the world. This is not a biased opinion.

This fact is backed by my viewing Yankee fans boo Derek Jeter, Philadelphia fans boo Santa Claus, Los Angeles fans lose a football franchise on more than one occasion, and countless other cities struggle to fill their stadiums and arenas. Have you seen the empty seats in Miami during Heat games and the thousands of empty seats in Atlanta during the Braves decade of dominance in the ‘90’s?

This series brings out the worst in Chicago fans and a sample of what you will hear in any bar this weekend will go like this:

Cub fan: “The White Sox fans don’t care about their team and that’s why they can’t sell out their stadium.”

Sox fan: “Sox fans are just smarter and we don’t support a bad team unlike Cub fans who just go to Wrigley to get drunk. They don’t even pay attention to the game.”

Cubs fan: “At least our park is a historical monument and full of history and beauty unlike that monstrosity named after a phone company.”

Sox fan: “Well our park is clean and you don’t have to worry about concrete falling on your head or walking a mile to use the bathroom.”

Cubs fan: “No but the umpires and first base coaches need to worry about being assaulted.”

Sox fan: “Well your announcers are awful. All Ron Santo did was moan and groan. He was just a fan in the booth.”

Cubs fan: “Have you heard Hawk Harrelson?!”

Sox fan: “At least we won a World Series.”

Cubs fan: “That’s right; you have now won as many as you’ve thrown in the last 100 years.”

Tell me how many times you have heard this exact conversation?

I am willing to bet the answer is far too many.

My plea for Cubs and Sox fans this weekend is that we all get along. I pray no fights break in or around the stadium. The past few years have seen an increase in hostility, aggression, and drunken belligerence. Let us remember this is the city that brought us affable and players who personified class in guys like Ernie Banks, Luke Appling, Ron Santo, Minnie Minoso, Ryne Sandberg, and the man in the White Sox dugout this weekend, Robin Ventura among many others.

For three days I urge the fans of both sides to represent the best the city has to offer and not act like Albert Belle and Milton Bradley.

I am rooting for three well played competitive games and if the Cubs lose Friday afternoon, you better believe I will have my Cubs gear on for Saturday night’s game under the lights.

You will not see me bashing the White Sox if they beat the Cubs in every game this year, sure I will be disappointed, but more than if the Cardinals came into town and swept the series. That is the team’s real rival. I would think the best White Sox fans would agree in the same vein agree that they are more concerned with gaining ground on Detroit and Cleveland in the standings.

I am concerned about the fans on both allegiances that do not recognize this fact and have a distorted sense of reality. These are the fans that participate in conversations like the one I wrote about earlier and get tossed out of games and bars for engaging in buffoonery.

Both have great fans but it is the clowns to the left and jokers to the right who ruin it for the true fans.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard sports fan and former football player from Chicago. Patrick has been a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks from birth and is an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC. Patrick is the host of “The Wake Up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. View his show’s website here.

Chicago’s “All- City” Lineup

This year’s first edition of the Cross-town Classic between the Cubs and White Sox finds both teams battling inconsistency as the Cubs find themselves in last place and the Sox looking up at the Tigers and surprising Indians in the American League Central.

Each team has had their fair share of surprises and disappointments six weeks into the season while trying to establish an identity under their rookie managers all the while facing the pressure from a rabid fan base desperate for a winner.

I’ll take a look at the roster of both teams and form the ultimate “All- City” roster. No doubt some fan favorites will be left off the list and with the games in Wrigley Field this weekend, a designated hitter will be absent from the roster.

This will be a two-part series with the lineup unveiled today and the pitching rotation to be announced Saturday. In addition, the decision who will be managing the roster will be announced Saturday.

With both teams struggling to varying degrees at the back end of the bullpen, the toughest decision may be who gets the ball in the ninth inning.

First Base: Bryan LaHair

The 29-year-old is finally getting a chance to show what he can do in the Major League level after dominating in the minor leagues. His numbers are strikingly similar to Paul Konerko who is having a fine season himself hitting .362, but LaHair gets the nod due to a higher on base and slugging percentage.

Second Base: Darwin Barney

Barney gets the start even though he isn’t lighting the world on fire hitting .264, but Gordon Beckham is hitting below the Mendoza Line and not hitting for any sort of power.

Shortstop: Starlin Castro

A slam-dunk choice to be the city’s shortstop and should be on the “All- City” roster for years to come, but how many more at shortstop? His defense has been an issue, where his counterpart Alexei Ramirez excels. However, Castro’s 49 hits, 12 stolen bases, and a .322 batting average vault him ahead of Ramirez.

Third Base: Ian Stewart

Much like second base, this position is a weakness on both sides of town. After the departure of Aramis Ramirez to Milwaukee via free agency, the Cubs traded for Stewart who is hitting only .200, but has shown some pop in the last week. The Sox Brent Morel has essentially been an automatic out at the bottom of the Sox lineup hitting to the tune of .177 with a paltry .195 slugging percentage.

Left Field: Dayan Viciedo

If you told me that Viciedo would get the nod over Soriano in March, I likely would have told you Viciedo would be having a great start as a first year starter in Chicago. However, he gets the call due to Soriano’s rapid decline more than outstanding offensive statistics. Viciedo is hitting with more authority than Soriano, six homeruns to only two, even though the RBI’s aren’t there for “Tank” quite yet. He will not be a colossal defensive liability either that Soriano presents.

Center Field: Alejandro De Aza

Tough call here over Tony Campana. After taking over for the traded Marlon Byrd, Campana brought the speed element to the top of the Cubs lineup and his nine stolen bases and presence on the base paths has added a dimension lacking in the Cubs lineup for years. His energy sparks his teammates, but De Aza gets the start for his larger body of work and ability to drive in a run with a little more pop in his bat. Toughest call yet in the “All- City” lineup and one sure to generate some outcry from Cubs fans.

Right Field: David DeJesus

The free agent signee leads the Cubs in runs scored with 22 more than double the output of Sox right fielder Alex Rios who still hasn’t shown the ability to hit for power with one home run on the year. DeJesus has one as well, a pinch hit grand slam, but as a leadoff hitter he is paid to get on base, not hit for power, but he has done both better than Rios with an OPS nearly 50 points higher.

Catcher: AJ Pierzynski

Much like the shortstop position, picking Pierzynski over Geovany Soto is a no brainer. He is hitting .299 compared to Soto and his .161 avg and has 26 RBI to Soto’s six. Case closed.

Final tally has five Cubs and three White Sox on the eight man lineup. The toughest calls were De Aza over Campana and LaHair over Konerko. No designated hitter means Adam Dunn is left out of the “All-City” lineup despite his strong comeback year,

What do you think? How does your lineup look?

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard sports fan and former football player from Chicago. Patrick has been a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks from birth and is an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC. Patrick is the host of “The Wake Up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. View his show’s website here. And read more of Patrick’s blogs here.

Cubs Potential call up of Anthony Rizzo

On my radio program, The Wake Up Call on www.sportstownchicago.com yesterday morning, I discussed the likelihood of a call up of Chicago Cubs top prospect Anthony Rizzo.  The first baseman was acquired in an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres for the former first round draft pick Andrew Cashner, and reunited him with Theo Epstein, the man who drafted him in Boston.

Rizzo struggled mightily during a late season call up with the Padres last season and the Cubs front office has to be concerned of rushing him back to the big leagues.  In 153 at bats last season, Rizzo hit just .141 with one home run while accumulating a scant nine RBI’s.

Having success at the triple a level does not guarantee success in the Major Leagues as many hot-shot prospects that flamed can attest, but with Bryan LaHair playing like an All- Star a spot does not exist on the roster for the 22 year-old lefty slugger.

Calling him up now would be a disservice to the promising career of Rizzo.

To listen the podcast from the broadcast and get my thoughts on a potential call up of the slugging first base prospect, please click here

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard sports fan and former football player from Chicago, the greatest city in the world. The home of deep dish pizza, the greatest skyline in the world, and the best sports fans in America.  Patrick has been a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks from birth and is an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake Up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. 

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