Stuck in the Middle with A.J.

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Since the Bulls made a decent run in the NBA Playoffs (I’ll have some thoughts on the Bulls heading into the offseason after Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery), I haven’t had the opportunity to focus on baseball too much yet. Fortunately, I didn’t have much time to sulk over the Bulls’ ugly performance last Thursday to be closed off by the Pistons since Chicago’s city baseball series was rekindled on Friday. Needless to say, this past weekend’s crosstown series between the White Sox and Cubs at Wrigley Field was a display of how shaky both of the bullpens in Chicago are at this point. As your resident White Sox fan, witnessing A.J. Pierzynski deal the crushing blow to the Cubs with a grand slam on the one-year anniversary of Michael Barrett’s cheap shot on the South Side catcher was sweet justice. Of course, all of this was in the wake of Ozzie Guillen’s insane and profanity-laced phone call into the Mike North show on Friday in an argument over A.J.’s playing time. Other than Jim McMahon and Dennis Rodman, I can’t think of any other Chicago athlete that’s been involved in as many controversies as Pierzynski – it’s a serious constant here. Some other random thoughts from another wacky city series:

  • I was taken aback by the sight of Emperor Palpatine calling the game in the WGN broadcast booth on Sunday, but I then realized that it was Hawk Harrelson in a black hooded sweatshirt.
  • In the battle of the pitchers involved in the latest trade between the Sox and Cubs, those being David Aardsma and Neal Cotts, there were no winners but a lot of losers.
  • Good sign for White Sox fans: the team is batting an atrocious .223, with Paul Konerko hovering around the Mendoza line, yet this team is still a game over .500. The greatest strength for the Sox coming into the season was supposed to the offense and even though that hasn’t happened so far, Konerko is going to come around, particularly with Jim Thome getting back into the lineup. So, the fact that the Sox are keeping pace in spite of some absolutely horrendous offensive stats is a very good thing.
  • Bad sign for Cubs fans: Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis have a combined 9-3 record and ERAs under 2.80, yet the team is still a game under .500. As a consummate fantasy baseball player, I know all about the statistical histories of Lilly and Marquis – eventually, they will both royally suck. Therefore, the fact that the Cubs aren’t over .500 when their two shakiest pitchers have unexpectedly pitched out of this world is a very bad thing.
  • I’ll say something nice about Bud Selig for once: his push to start interleague play has been a fantastic development for baseball even though plenty of people criticized it when it was initially implemented.
  • Of course, I’ll quickly qualify the preceding statement with the following criticism: the two unchallenged marquee interleague matchups are the White Sox – Cubs and Yankees – Mets (no others come close in terms of intensity and interest), so why do these two series take place at the exact same time every year? The NFL and NBA do everything that they can to schedule their marquee games in a balanced manner so that there’s maximum national exposure for those matchups, yet Major League Baseball always schedules the Chicago and New York intra-city series on the same two weekends every season for no good reason. Maybe it’s just me, but I would think that the nationwide Fox and ESPN audiences would want the opportunity to watch both of these intense rivalries as opposed to only one of them or, say, some “exciting” Giants – Mets or Braves – Padres games (both national telecasts on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball in the next few weeks). This seems as simple as moving Opening Day to the first Sunday in April so that it doesn’t conflict with the NCAA Tournament Championship Game and the average fan can spend the whole day watching games without having to miss work or school, but common sense hasn’t ever been one of Bud Selig’s strongest attributes.

Anyway, this wasn’t the best weekend for Sox fans, yet it at least ended on an uptick. Fortunately, the White Sox get another shot at the Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field in a month.

(Image from Chicago Tribune)