By Matt Spiegel-
(CBS) It’s been an eventful two weeks of paternity leave. For those with interest, I’ve been writing about the baby, here.
But in a serious show of disrespect, sports has not stopped and waited for my return. That’s crap. After all I’ve done for it, a national pause seemed in order. Nope. So things happened, stories broke, and I’ve had thoughts with no outlet. I offered occasional tweets on @mattspiegel670, but there were still times I was tempted to call in.
Instead, I give you seven thoughts I wish I’d had a microphone to express in the last two weeks.
I understand why Jerry Reinsdorf issued his well-crafted statement about Ozzie Guillen last week. Now, the 2012 Sox should never speak of him again.
Move on, and that includes all of us in the media too. Judge this bunch this year on what they are now, who they’re surrounded by now, if they’ve developed or changed, and what shows up on the field. Kenny Williams will and should be judged on whether he’s any good at the rebuild he’s been allowed to helm. It’s a serious baseball rarity for a GM to get to preside over the cleanup from messes he himself created, but here we are. No additional Ozzie Guillen context is necessary. I’ll do my part on Hit and Run Sunday mornings, and in this space.
That said, I find the Miami Marlins undeniably compelling. I’ll be interested in how the people we’re familiar with perform, and how that team in general responds to the influx of personality, talent, and cash. Are they good enough to battle the Phillies right now? And yes, I’ll be interested to see if Big Z and Ozzie works or not. Maybe Ozzie will stand up to him when he blows up in a way any number of Cubs through the years should have.
But none of that will have the littlest bit of relevance to the 2012 White Sox.
This Illini basketball team is threatening to be as frustrating and confounding as last year’s.
I’m over the breath of fresh air comparison to last year’s underachieving senior laden bunch. Now, how can this team be so maddeningly inconsistent? Is that just a Bruce Weber staple, no matter the mix? There was that brutal no show in a loss to Penn State. Brandon Paul is one night a dud, then one night a god, then back to badness, then very average. They don’t go to Myers Leonard enough when the match-up begs for it. Sam Maniscalco should not be your closer, as he was in the final seconds at Penn State. They’re a tourney team, but who knows what you’ll see in round one.
Somehow, Wisconsin’s basketball program the last few years masked the fact that Jon Leuer was going to be a pretty good pro.
Caught some of him on Friday night vs. the Bulls, and he has actual NBA game. Real shooting range for a guy that tall, which we knew about, but he’s also bulked up. He’s sturdy, smart, and capable. And, he put it on the floor for a couple dribbles successfully more than once. He was the second best Milwaukee Buck on the floor, three weeks into his NBA life. It makes you wonder if Bo Ryan’s system doesn’t take advantage of his talent enough.
At this moment, the Rip Hamilton signing looks worse and worse.
Especially if he is going to miss every third game with a thigh bruise, or a strained calf. We were sold, and I bought, on his endurance, speed, and physical shape, even though he has a ton of NBA miles on him. But a last minute scratch Friday, as he has been before, can’t work. Then on Sunday at the end of a short-handed game vs. Miami, the problem vs the Heat in the playoffs was still the problem. He was not the secondary scorer and/or creator the Bulls still desperately need, as Derrick was shut down by LeBron James.
There is little that compares in sports to the endurance needed to play a six-hour men’s singles final match.
Thanks to a well timed hungry baby, I caught about three hours of that Australian Open final between Novak Djokovich and Rafael Nadal. It was phenomenally good tennis, nip and tuck most of the way, on the heels of two weeks of competition, after each of them had played four-hour plus matches just two nights before. Maybe they’re all on EPO and other Lance Armstrong-esque endurance drugs, but my god, their fitness is absurd. To see them run and lunge and wail on the ball in hour six, at 1:30 in the morning in Melbourne was unbelievable.
The three greatest tennis players in the world right now all happen to be tremendous sportsmen and gracious combatants.
I’m not sure that’s good for the game’s popularity and growth necessarily, as people like their bad boys. But the rivalries and storylines amongst Nadal, Roger Federer, and Djokovich are richer for me because they respect the hell out of each other while trying desperately to win. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the moments in sports when excellence happens to come packaged with humility and kindness. (See Rose, Derrick).
The panicked, insanely aggressive Prince Fielder signing will be awesome short term, but presents real problems much sooner than you think.
The Tigers ought to win that division by a wide margin. They’ll improve by more games than the difference between Prince and Victor Martinez’ production would lead you to believe. And, everyone knows the last three or four or five years of that deal are going to be hard-pressed to bring full value. But there are immediate issues. Miguel Cabrera to third base, really? There’s enormous pressure on him now to lose weight/stay trim for mobility, and to stay mentally focused to make this work. I bet he plays more games at 1B/DH combined than he does 3B. It’ll end up a DH/1B rotation for the most part.
But what happens when Victor Martinez comes back in 2013? He’ll have two-years and 25 million remaining, while Miggy will have three years and 65 million left, and Prince makes 23 or 24 million per through 2020. How do all three of them see the field at the same time consistently? Prince is an underrated 1B, and Miggy is fine there. But V-Mart can’t catch anymore, and that was before the Achilles injury. Three guys, two positions, at about 58 million bucks. Call it a good problem if you want, but it’ll be a problem.
Okay, brain purged. Onward to this week’s happenings in the never ending news cycle.