On the one hand it's hard not to conjure up a little sympathy for Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. Travel south about 15 stops down the CTA Red Line from the Addison station next to Wrigley Field and there sits another major league ballpark built for Jerry Reinsdorf with tax dollars from the kind people of Illinois. All Ricketts wants to do is spend some money to put up a more modern scoreboard inside a baseball stadium he already owns. Not to mention one that was privately financed. Almost a century ago, and not by him, but privately nonetheless.
On the other hand, Ricketts owns the Cubs (of course that could be a reason to pity him further), and suffice it to say that he had access to the $850 million or so needed to buy the Cubs (the purchase also included Wrigley Field and 25 percent of Comcast SportsNet Chicago). Ridiculous money will abrade sympathy.
And for someone who might need to court more public goodwill to help push through renovation plans for Wrigley Field — the centerpiece of which is a new JumboTron in left field — he's not grading out very high in charm. Said Ricketts at a City Club of Chicago event yesterday: "I'm not sure how anyone is going to stop the signs in the outfield, but if it comes to the point that we don't have the ability to do what we need to do in our outfield then we're going to have to consider moving." He later clarified his remarks: "We've always said that we want to win in Wrigley Field, but we also need to generate the revenue we need to compete as a franchise."
Here's the thing: That’s total crap. The Cubs don't need (more) money to compete.
In case you were busy because no one at the game of Celebrity you were playing could get Lark Voorhies, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Chris Paul scored his team's last eight points, including an acrobatic runner with 0.1 seconds remaining, as the Los Angeles Clippers edged the Memphis Grizzlies, 93-91, to take a 2-0 lead in their playoff series. "I don't know how he does it," Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said after the game. "Seriously. He seems to have a really good understanding of floor spacing and leadership. Is there like, a book he read? Because if so, could anyone tell me the name of it so I can throw it on my Kindle? It would be greatly appreciated."
The Chicago Bulls evened up their series with the Brooklyn Nets with a 90-82 win at the Barclays Center. The Barclays Center is not to be confused with Bar Clay Centre, also located in Brooklyn, which allows patron to both paint their own pottery and sample delicious Belgian ales. Team officials denied rumors that Nets guard Deron Williams, who went 1-for-9 in the loss, mixed the two up before the game. But afterward, there were a suspicious number of shoddily constructed clay trophies strewn about the Nets locker room with "Wurlds #1 PG," and "Chris My Paul," scrawled on them.
In case you were busy using an already awesome milk shake as the base for an even thicker and more decadent uber-milk shake, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman shot 6-under to share the opening-round lead at the Masters. Garcia, considered among the best active players to have never won a major, said afterward, "Oh, no, please don't notice I'm leading. I can't choke if I'm not in front. I had no idea my round would be good enough to put me on top. Please, don't even talk to me. Talk to Leishman! Just talk to Leishman! Why won't you just talk to Leishman?!" Garcia then ran into a greenside bunker at the fourth hole, attempting to bury himself in the sand.
The Bulls continued their streak-snapping ways, and Nate Robinson scored 35 points in Chicago's 118-111 win over the New York Knicks at United Center. New York came to Chicago on a 13-game winning streak. Knicks coach Mike Woodson was reflective after the loss, saying, "Oh, we laughed when Erik Spoelstra came in shouting, 'I'm out!' when the Bulls brought down his team's streak earlier this year. And we shrugged off his warning that they'd lay us low, as well. We were sure we'd remain kings of our castle, masters of our domain, lords of our manors. And yet here we are, sweaty, drained, and out of the winning streak contest ourselves."
Last year, Jason Motte was one of the best and most reliable closers in the game, racking up 42 saves, nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 2.75 ERA. He signed a two-year, $12 million contract in January, and was widely expected to have another big year banking saves for a playoff-contending Cardinals team.
We'll let the excellent news and analysis site Rotowire.com take it from here:
MARCH 23: Motte has what the club is describing as a "mild strain" in his right elbow that will keep him off the mound for at least a week as the team explores the severity of the injury and potential treatments, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. General manager John Mozeliak said Motte will "likely" start the season on the disabled list with the flexor strain.
In case you were out feeling agnostic toward piña coladas, but still got caught in the rain, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Kobe Bryant was en fuego, scoring 47 points as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 113-106. Bryant's big night overshadowed a stellar performance from Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard, who described going toe to toe as "really fun for a while, until things started to get, um, personal." When asked to explain, Lillard got very quiet. Bryant, when asked about Lillard's comments, said, "Kid's a kid, and when you're a kid, you're maybe not ready to see a grown man call another grown man who is wearing the same jersey he is some of the names I may have called some of the men who were wearing the same jersey I was. But if he didn't want to see that, then maybe those men who were wearing the same jersey that I was should maybe rebound, as they were expected to when some other men were traded for them this past offseason. The point is, we can stay quiet for the kids, but I say they gotta grow up sometime. Damian's a trouper. He'll be all right."
The Kansas City Royals completed a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins with a 3-0 win at Kauffman Stadium. The win keeps the Kansas City Royals atop the AL Central, and while the season is still young, it's never too early to prepare yourself for the consequences of a potential Royals playoff berth. In the event of a Royals playoff berth, you'll want to keep five gallons of purified water on hand for each member of your household. You'll also want to have cash on hand; remember, in the case of a Royals playoff berth, it's likely that the telecommunication systems we rely on in our day-to-day lives will fail, and you'll want to be prepared. While having a roll of duct tape handy in the case of a Royals playoff berth might help you build a makeshift shelter, you should not rely on it if a Royals playoff berth leads to unbreathable air conditions. Consider purchasing rated ventilation masks now. And when in doubt, an ounce of prevention can save a pound of heartache in the event of a Royals playoff berth.
On Wednesday, I covered 15 players with compelling backstories who've been invited to spring training with American League clubs. Per that article: "These are the NRIs, the non-roster invitees promised almost nothing — not a job, not a major league deal, nothing more than a chance to come to camp, overcome often astronomical odds, and somehow make the Opening Day roster."
The wildest day of this Hot Stove season featured the winter's biggest contract for a position player, an affordable two-year deal for a veteran starting pitcher, and a fierce, two-team battle for an underrated starter.
A few hours after the Angels' 11th-hour rush ended with a $125 million deal for Josh Hamilton, the buzz turned to a Cubs-Tigers tug-of-war for Anibal Sanchez. Multiple early reports had Sanchez headed to Chicago for five years and $75 million. But while Hamilton reportedly reneged on a promise to give the Rangers a chance to match any competing offer, Sanchez had no such reluctance, approaching the Tigers to see if they'd match the Cubs' proposal and keep him in Detroit and they did, signing the best remaining pitcher on the free-agent market to a five-year, $80 million contract.
The Baltimore Orioles were a bad team in 2011. Terrible, really. They won 69 games, finished last in the AL East, and allowed 152 more runs than they scored. If anyone other than Dan Duquette and the players' moms figured the O's could storm back, win 90-odd games, and make a run at the AL East title and maybe even a World Series, those true believers certainly kept their opinions to themselves.
Last year's Baltimore team — along with fellow sub-.500 clubs turned 2012 playoff entrants Washington, Cincinnati, and Oakland — offer hope for those teams already eliminated from postseason contention this year. With that in mind, let's take a look at the 16 teams whose playoffs dreams had been dashed as of Monday (i.e. not these guys), and see if we can find a candidate or two to be next year's Orioles.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Matt Ryan threw his 100th career touchdown pass and the Falcons defense harassed Peyton Manning into three first-quarter interceptions in a 27-21 win over the Broncos. "Each turnover has its own story that no one really wants to hear," Manning said afterward. He then paused, looked in every reporter's eyes, and said, "Actually, let's do this. Turnover one was a lonely girl with big dreams who wanted to escape the drudgery of life in her tiny Nebraska town. Her father was an undertaker, but she longed for more, so she joined a traveling circus. She found joy and she married a carnie, but late one drunken night she died while riding the zipper and they sent her body back to her father. INTERCEPTION. Turnover two was a lot like the boy in Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer." Poor kid, ragged people, bleeding winter, dead from boxing. INTERCEPTION. Turnover three was just a bad pass. WRONG. TRICKED YOU. Each turnover has a story, never forget that. Turnover three was the look my father gave me one October morning, age 8, when I said I wanted to become an artist. "I hate football, Daddy. I love paints and oils." Old Archie threw me in the back of our pickup truck, drove me out to the woods, and left me with nothing but a football for six days. It worked. I fell in love with that football and named it Godfrey. My artistic dreams died with the midnight howling of the wolves. INTERCEPTION. COME BACK, GODFREY. But Godfrey's gone."
As the European leagues get underway for their new season this week, Major League Soccer is entering the run-up to the playoffs. And with the transfer window still open, we took the opportunity to grab a European signing for a new column inspired by all aspects of the domestic game. This week, Graham Parker, who leads the Guardian’s U.S. soccer coverage and who has worked extensively with fans around the United States in doing so, becomes Grantland’s Designated Player.
The “designated player” rule originated in David Beckham’s arrival in MLS, where an exception had to be made to the salary-cap rules to bring him in. After Beckham’s arrival, the league gradually rolled out a policy in which teams can pay a one-off fee to have only a proportion of a player’s wages count toward the cap (they can carry up to three such designated players, or DPs). The slots tended to be used for European and South American imports, with somewhat mixed results. With that in mind, Graham would like it to be known he’s marginally cheaper than Thierry Henry and just as Irish as Robbie Keane.
Welcome to your Designated Player.
Each week I'll be lumbering up and down the keyboard, eating up payroll, averaging about one good performance in five, and discernibly out of breath by paragraph three. There'll be an occasional half-decent observation, a lot of ostentatious badge-kissing, and a strong suggestion that I've lost a yard or two throughout. Most of what I try won't come off, though it won't stop me from trying outrageous flicks of logic — and when it doesn't work I'll be standing hands on hips and shaking my head at the younger Grantland staffers (whose general mental agility, diligence, and grasp of local relevance make me look bad). Oh, and I may take winter off to do all this twice as well in England. You're welcome.
The Texas Rangers acquired Ryan Dempster from the Chicago Cubs for Single-A right-hander Kyle Hendricks and Single-A third baseman Christian Villanueva. And suddenly a Rangers-Braves World Series becomes a tantalizing prospect.
Last week, the Braves thought they had a deal for Dempster, with talented, young righty Randall Delgado headed to Chicago. But Dempster exercised his veto rights as a 10-year veteran with five years on the same team, saying he didn't want to go to Atlanta, and that his first choice was to go to the Dodgers. When L.A. balked at the rumored offer of dynamic Double-A right-hander Allen Webster, the Cubs audibled and struck a deal with Texas, just a few minutes before the 4 p.m. ET deadline. The Braves' loss is the Rangers' gain, and Texas might've given up less talent to make it happen.
Here are the most compelling matchups, stories, and personalities in Major League Baseball for the coming weekend.
10. Reality Cometh for One (BAL-CLE)
Now for this weekend’s metaphorical boxing match between two of the luckiest teams in baseball. In one corner, we have the Baltimore Orioles — 48-44, in a really good division, with a run differential of -55. In this corner, you've got the Cleveland Indians, standing 47-45 in a pretty good division, with a run differential of -36. Stick with me while I analyze these teams with some complex baseball terminology: They are total flukes. In games decided by two runs or less, the Orioles are 32-14 (first in baseball), and the Indians are 25-16 (good for fourth). But do they have great starting pitching? Nope. Do they have great bullpen pitching? Baltimore is pretty solid, but Cleveland is near the bottom. What about run-scoring from the seventh inning on? Again, average to below average for both. Average with RISP and two outs? Mediocre. All this means that both teams have been very, very lucky to stay above, and that both are due for bad times. If you get excited by regression, then you'll be riveted by this series, where cold, hard, statistical truth will dig its icy claws into temporary luck.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Roger Federer defeated local hero Andy Murray in four sets to win his seventh Wimbledon title, tying Pete Sampras's record for the most all-time titles. But the champion angered the crowd during Murray's emotional post-match speech when he kept leaning over with a dumb grin and urging Murray to "do the Braveheart monologue." Murray ignored him the best he could, but as he choked up while thanking the crowd, Federer could be heard off camera shouting "freeedoommmm!" and giggling.