Lost in the midst of everything LeBron James, is Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose.
Two weeks ago it seemed Rose was a popular fill-in for the shoes of Scottie Pippen to Chicago’s next Michael Jordan (LeBron). Then James went to Miami and the Bulls had to “settle” for Carlos Boozer.
Why in the world weren’t we talking about Rose as the next MJ? Because he was the point guard destined to average 20 points and 20 assists (to LeBron alone) a game? Because he’s only a second year player entering 2010-11?
Look, the Bulls didn’t get James, Chris Bosh, or Dwyane Wade. So instead of selling their souls like South Beach, they simply built what is shaping up to be a championship-caliber team—around Rose, not the big three.
Point guards generally aren’t the ones you look toward to provide that Jordan-esque dominance. Thing is, as K.C. Johnson of Chicago Tribune reports, Rose’s jump shot is not only improved, but a viable weapon that he has confidence in.
Pave the way for Rose to become Chicago’s new star…NOW.
Rose has the tools to be an elite superstar, at the same level of Wade, James, and Chris Paul (maybe not Kobe Bryant, yet). He has ball-handling skills, he’s basketball smart, and now has a complimentary supporting cast in Boozer, Joakim Noah, Kyle Korver and [possibly] J.J. Redick. Add to that Rose’s offensive abilities and a new, improved jumpshot to his arsenal.
So to do inventory on the Bulls’ possible starting five: They have two big men to rebound and play ‘D’ (Boozer and Noah), they [could] have two sharpshooters on the perimeter (Korver and Redick) and they have a point guard that can pass, dribble, drive to the basket (which he could do more of) and now shoot from distance. Then you can add in the bench depth of Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, James Johnson, Omar Asik (7’0″ 255).
Chicago’s average age is 25. Korver (29) and Boozer (28) are the only ones pushing 30. Rose is 21; Noah, Gibson and Deng are 25, Johnson is 23, and new center Asik is 24. With some generic number crunching, they still have $15-20 million left under the cap (Redick not included).
So what’s not to like about these Bulls? Sure it was disappointing they didn’t get James, Wade and Bosh but it’s not like they lost Rose in doing so. The 21-year-old point guard actually has the chance to establish himself as a Kobe (or MJ?) with this Bulls team.
Think about it.
If Rose has become the complete point guard (passing, shooting, and ball skills) he will rank with Paul as an elite point guard in the NBA. And what if the Bulls surrounded him with the perfect compliments this season (adding Redick looks more important by the day)?
If Rose can lead the Bulls to multiple championships in coming years (two or three?) he will have done it in an era of the NBA where a Phil Jackson and Kobe-led team threatened to 3-peat. An era where Boston (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen) and the Heat (James, Wade and Bosh) have “big threes” to contend with in the Eastern Conference. Don’t forget Orlando is still a force, too.
That’s something Kobe never had to overcome. Something Jordan never had to do.
Rose can cement his legacy as one of the all-time greats if he really has invented himself into an all-around player and NBA elite. He just needs to show it on the court next.
If he does, I’m fine with handing over the reins to Jordan (Rose), Pippen (Boozer), and Dennis Rodman (Noah).
Tomorrow night ends what has been a year of speculation surrounding LeBron James’s new home for basketball. So far the courtship has been relatively quiet and subdued when compared to the documentary cameras following Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
With that said the bloggers, Tweeters, journalists and seemingly everyone but grandma have had their “sources” and thoughts about where James is definitely going. My bet is 99.9 percent of those are false rumors and faulty sources.
The most interesting piece of evidence for LBJ’s destination came out today from Eric Mansfield, a news anchor for WKYC-TV in Cleveland. Mansfield did some good digging for a scoop and may have struck gold while digging through the Summit County tax records.
What he found, doesn’t necessarily point to LeBron’s new basketball destination, but at least his new CPA’s (Certified Public Accountant) destination—which is Chicago.
LeBron’s Akron home at 4157 Idlebrook has been under his name since 2003 according to documents and tax paperwork, for 2003 and 2004, had been sent directly to the superstar. The 2003 tax document via http://co.summit.oh.us/ can be seen below.
According to documents, in 2005, James turned over taxes to McCormack Advisors International, IMG Center at 1360 E 9th St. Suite 100 in Cleveland who handled James’s taxes for 2005, 2006 and 2007. The photo below shows the 2005 records with the new CPA company.
In 2008 LeBron’s information was transferred to c/o Kurt Schoeppler at the same building as the previous CPA. Schoeppler is listed 1360 E 9th St. Suite 860 and is currently LBJ’s financial adviser. Schoeppler personally handled James’s account in 2008 before the switch over to Chicago. Below is the 2008 document with Schoeppler listed.
In the final photo I have, from the 2009 documents you can see LeBron has moved his taxes to a CPA firm in Chicago, Weinberg Solheim Howell & Shain at 180 N. LaSalle Street. Changes were made to Chicago today (July 7) according to Mansfield’s Twitter.
So what does this all mean in the grand scheme of things?
Well, it could mean nothing. First off, the legal documents show the LBJ has at least changed where his taxes will be going. For what reason I don’t know. WSHS, according to The Atlantic, also does taxes for the Obamas.
So this could be sound financial advise from the President Obama, or just a simple move to a better CPA from his current financial adviser. It’s not like WSHS is an off-the-cuff firm that James’s financial people wouldn’t know about. If they’re good enough for the First Family, they’re good enough for King James.
As far as his basketball intentions the speculation that he is Chicago-bound has to be running rampant right now. I’ve never switched CPA firms, but it does seem like a hassle to do so, especially if you live and work in a different state.
Based off the legal documents, it would appear LeBron will proclaim Chicago as his new stomping ground. After all, wouldn’t New York, New Jersey/Brooklyn, and Miami have a similar firm (prestige-wise) that he could go to if he were in fact going to one of those three teams?
This is all coincidental for now, of course. The rumors continue to fly around about Cleveland, Miami and New York and this information hasn’t hit the real mainstream media yet (at least none that I have seen).
Fact is, only LeBron James knows where LeBron James will play basketball next year and we’ll know tomorrow at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN. The other fact we know is that James is moving taxes to a Chicago CPA.
So until further notice, hang tight Chicago and Cleveland. My bet is on one of you two.
Jim Hendry probably has the worst job in Chicago right now. If not all of sports.
Really, I mean it.
Stan Bowman has had to trade away some fan favorites from the Blackhawks, but he’s making right calls (in this writer’s eyes) and keeping a team in contention. He’s also coming off winning a Stanley Cup.
Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith pretty much know they have to improve or pack up their office at Halas Hall when 2010 wraps up.
The White Sox are now in contention and the Bulls’ front office has the most pressure, but the most reward. That being LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh or a combo of two of them.
Hendry though has a combination of all of them. He has to trade away fan favorites, deal with a headcase of a $45 million pitcher, deal with the pressure and he has no clue if this will be his make or break season with new owner Tom Ricketts.
So Hendry pretty much enters July with an overpaid, mediocre team and has to decide what parts to move by July 31. What he gets back or what the team does down the stretch could save his job, could get him fired, or it might not matter at all. Ricketts could have already decided to drop the ax or give him one more year.
With that in mind Hendry really has whatever leeway he wants in trades and trade value when you think about it. He could hang on and hope the team makes a sudden, miraculous turnaround; or take the best offer on the table.
Not being a baseball GM, I wouldn’t know what to officially do, but here’s my pecking order if the season ended tonight.
1. Trade Ted Lilly – Ted has more value right now than Derrek Lee and is actually the most replaceable with the depth the Cubs have accumulated in the minors. Being a lefty pitcher makes him easier to unload than a 34-year-old, scuffling, power first baseman especially when Adam Dunn comes on the market at a younger age (31), less money ($7.7 million) and a better season so far. Lilly could be an easy sell for the Phillies if they can’t land Dan Haren or Cliff Lee. Maybe the Cubs can get lucky and Ryan Howard will go down and they can package Lee and Lilly for a really good prospect—Domonic Brown, perhaps? Doubtful though.
2. Figure out the Carlos Zambrano situation – A set decision needs to be made ASAP on Big Z. Keep him, trade him, release him, waive him—something. It needs to happen and is a close second behind the Lilly deal. Odds are Zambrano won’t net much in return unless a team is desperate. The Cubs may have to eat a nice chunk of salary in the process. Releasing him is not the answer though. Do you really want to chance him reviving his career in St. Louis? I’d rather pay the $45 million and hope he does it here until a decent offer comes around. That and the Cubs will have enough salary to eat later on this list.
3. Fire Lou Piniella – It’s a move I think the entire baseball world knows will happen and has to happen. Lou has lost his team and that’s pretty obvious. Not his fault Aramis Ramirez is still struggling through last year’s shoulder injury and Derrek Lee is doing only slightly better. It is his fault though that with a struggling offense on the field he rotated Geovany Soto and Koyie Hill almost every other day. Soto won’t win a batting title but his offensive upside (and performance this year) makes it a no-brainer or Hill. It’s also Lou who seems to pick his lineup out of a hat (Tyler Colvin and Marlon Byrd leading off!?). The outfield rotation is out of hand to an extent as Xavier Nady make Alfonso Soriano look like a Gold Glove-caliber guy. Kosuke Fukudome is on pace for a career year (though you wouldn’t know because he’s a perennial ‘Lou’s Doghouse’ player like Matt Murton once was). Time for Sweet Lou to get closure, Alan Trammel to take over as interim and have a deal ready for Ryne Sandberg by November’s end.
4. Trade Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Silva – Carlos Silva, really!? Yes, really. Think scouts are fooled by his record and stats? Nope. Cubs would be better served to bait the hook with Silva’s fat contract and good start to 2010 and cast it into the trade waters before he realizes (and hitters do too) that he is, in fact, Carlos Silva. Fukudome is also a contract move. He’s owed about $13-14 million this year and next year but with Tyler Colvin emerging from AA mediocrity, it may be time to send Fukudome packing to Boston (or another outfield-deprived team) where he might actually A) get playing time and B) get some respect from his manager. Who knows what these two could net, but the Cubs need the room off the books.
5. Trade Derrek Lee – Putting my bias aside (huge D-Lee fan); Lee is the most irreplaceable guy on this team right now. Who else had the intestinal fortitude to stand up to Big Z’s tirade? Exactly. That aside, the Cubs’ best option at first is Xavier Nady after Lee. While his defense has struggled a bit this year, Lee has won them a lot of games with his glove. He’s also somewhat of an insurance policy entering the 2010 off-season. If they trade him and don’t have a legit starter going into 2011, the pressure is really on to land a free agent. If they keep him, they can let him test the waters while the GM chases after Adam Dunn (if he’s available) or the likes of another top-tier first baseman. If none are out, the Cubs have 15 days before Lee can test the waters to sign him and keep a solid corner infield tandem while they groom a replacement sometime soon.
6. Keep Alfonso Soriano – We all knew, the sensible ones at least, that Soriano’s red-hot batting average tear would soon go down. Even now, after a terrible June, he still sits at .279 with 13 home runs and 38 RBIs. His start was impressive; this current stretch not so much. The Fonz, though, is a good teammate, he does work at it and he is a productive threat out of the lineup. After dealing with a psycho in Big Z and Meltdown [Milton] Bradley, Soriano is somewhat of a breath of fresh air—and still puts up better numbers. And let’s face it, the $90+ million he’s owed will be near impossible to move unless he hits .300/30/100 by year’s end.
7. Don’t go “hog wild” in free agency – Going all-out has hurt the Cubs before (Soriano deal) and they’re in no position to do it this year. It’s obvious they need bullpen help. Go get it and don’t spend it on people named John Grabow or of similar talent/effectiveness. If you trade Lilly and Zambrano, look at a starting pitcher (it’d mean big money, but Cliff Lee would be quite an addition). Find some type of starting, legitimate first baseman (Adam LaRoche wouldn’t be a terrible start, nor would Adam Dunn since a Cliff Lee deal is highly unlikely). That should really be the extent. Re-sign Ryan Theriot. No more outfielders, please. And if you have to get a quality free agent; make it one, make it smart, and make it sensible. Groom the minor league guys and wait until you need that deadline spark to bring someone on (not another Nomar, please!) In other words, avoid everything the Cubs have done for the past four seasons.
There’s a strong youth movement in the Major Leagues right now with guys like Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward and Michael Stanton making their way into the big leagues.
I finally saw the Nationals’ phenom, Strasburg, pitch against the White Sox and decided to put myself up to a challenge. That challenge was to compile a team of 25 players (and a subsequent list of 15) to make up a team roster and a 40-man roster of players only under the age of 25.
This included a 10-man lineup (with DH), bench, a rotation and bullpen pecking order. I also took into account balancing lefties and righties in the order, bench and pitching while doing this.
Only a few loopholes were needed and stats are current as of June 21, 2010. To qualify a player had to start the season under the age of 25. For example, Evan Longoria turns 25 later this year and Daniel Bard turned 25 on June 25, but were 24 on Opening Day.
So without further ado, here’s the team of 25 under 25. Enjoy!
1. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age 23) – McCutchen is a rare combination of power and speed with the versatility to hit anywhere in the first four spots of the order, at least on the Pirates that is. In 176 career games he has 19 home runs, 40 stolen bases, 76 RBI, 119 runs and a .297 average. Through 68 in 2010 he has amassed seven home runs, 22 RBI, 45 runs, 18 steals, a .315 average and a .392 on-base percentage, putting him on track for impressive numbers on one of the worst hitting teams in baseball.
2. Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs (Age 20) – Castro is still a developing player both mentally and physically. Castro is the only player on this list born in the 1990s (he turned 20 on March 24) and 6’0″ and 190 pounds, he still developing his body. In just 40 career games he has hit .266 with two homers, 16 RBIs, a .323 OBP and a 20:13 K:BB. Castro is not a base stealer and as he adds more muscle that won’t change. He has more upside with his power numbers than speed, drawing comparisons to a young Edgar Renteria.
3. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays (Age 24) – Evan Almighty will turn 25 on August 7 and was probably the biggest non-Strasburg no-brainer on this list. Very few prospects come up and match the hype from season-to-season, but Longoria has done just that. In 347 games he’s mashed 72 home runs, 250 RBIs, a .283 average, .360 OBP, and 212 runs scored with 97 doubles. Showing signs of a career year in 2010, he’s hit 12 home runs with 52 RBIs, a .304 average and .382 OBP in 68 games this season, while putting the Rays in prime playoff position.
4. Jason Heyward, RF, Atlanta Braves (Age 20) – While Strasburg grabs the rookie hype, Heyward has been the most proven rookie of the 2010 class. He’s managed his struggles at the plate and through 66 games is hitting .264 with a .383 OBP, 11 home runs and 44 RBIs. For a power hitter, his 64:42 K:BB is surprisingly low, showing decent patience for a rookie slugger. He’s on pace to hit 26 homers and drive in 105, making him a sure candidate for NL Rookie of the Year.
5. Pablo Sandoval, DH, San Francisco Giants (Age 23) – Kung Fu Panda has slowed his pace from last year’s breakout season but hitting in San Francisco certainly hasn’t helped his cause. After hitting 25 home runs and driving in 90 in 2009 he’s struggled to just six homers and 28 driven in through 66 games and is on pace for a 15-70 season. A .330 hitter last year has fell to .280, which might be more realistic for Sandoval to reach every year. Regardless, Panda has shown little reason for us to doubt that this is just a slow start to 2010.
6. Jay Bruce, CF, Cincinnati Reds (Age 23) – Early career projections had Bruce at an unworldly pace of 40 homers a season. That was never realistic and he’s settled nicely into hitting a more reasonable 20-25. Bruce’s main issue in his previous two seasons was patience. He’s a career .246 hitter with a .318 OBP but has hit gone .265/.344 so far in 2010 without any lagging power numbers. He’s on pace to meet his previous numbers with 21 home runs and 60 RBIs. Career highs for Bruce in homers was 22 (2009) and 58 RBIs (2009), while seeing Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen steal many of his RBI chances.
7. Matt Weiters, C, Baltimore Orioles (Age 23) – The start to 2010 has been forgettable for Weiters, dubbed by Sports Illustrated as the “Next Joe Mauer” earlier this season. He’s struggled to a .223 average with five long balls, 21 RBIs and a .287 OBP. His K:BB is also 52:19. This is his first full season and playing in the brutal AL East has not helped his cause any but a breakout is still expected this season. He has the most experience of the three catchers on this list and that counts for something.
8. Justin Smoak, 1B, Texas Rangers (Age 23) – A switch hitting, powerful first baseman; what is not to love about Smoak? His average in his first big league season (.228) is lagging but he has bopped eight home runs and driven in 32. He also plays in Texas where practically anyone (even Milton Bradley) turns into a power hitter, only increasing his value while he’s there. At this point in the season, Smoak may be finding his groove, hitting .320 with two homers and eight driven in the last seven days, to go along with a .393 OBP.
9. Gordon Beckham, 2B, Chicago White Sox (Age 23) – Beckham has had one of the worst sophomore slumps in baseball history but don’t count him out; he’s still a top-tier second baseman. His 14 home runs in 2009 is more like what you can expect the rest of his career and his fielding woes should work themselves out. Don’t expect the another Robinson Cano here, but Beckham has the talent to become an elite middle infielder.
Buster Posey, 1B/C, San Francisco Giants (Age 23) – Posey’s flexibility as a first baseman and catcher make him a lock for this team. His hitting is behind that of Carlos Santana but his defense is better and on par with Weiters. His short-term numbers in the pitcher-friendly San Francisco have provided reason to believe he will be a top hitter.
Carlos Santana, C, Cleveland Indians (Age 24) – Santana is the best hitter of the three catchers and can slide in to the primary backup and DH role very easily. He has two home runs and eight RBIs in his first 28 at-bats with a 3:7 K:BB and a .393 average, proving to management that his call-up was the right call.
Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers (Age 21) – Numbers for Andrus are about on par with a .275 average, 19 stolen bags, no home runs and 20 RBIs. As I mentioned before, he’s more polished than Castro at this point but Castro has more upside at the plate. Defensively Andrus takes the cake, and remains a fine option in the middle infield on this team.
Michael Stanton, OF, Florida Marlins (Age 20) – Stanton is garnering comparisons to Ryan Howard, as far as his hitting goes. He’s hitting just .233 in 40 at-bats with a 19:4 K:BB , but has driven in nine runs. His extra-base hit numbers are low (one double, one triple, one home run) but his lone long ball was also a grand slam. He’s helped his cause by going 3-for-3 in steals for a guy who won’t be a future running attack at 6’5″ 240.
Justin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age 22) – Upton has had struggles in the early part of his career but his upside is still undeniable. This season he has been plagued by a 92:30 K:BB but has managed to slug 13 home runs and drive in 38 RBIs. For his career he’s a .269 hitter with a .348 OBP.
1. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals (Age 21) – Not sure what else I can say about this kid until he has to rebound from struggles. Strasburg had LeBron James-type hype coming into this season struck out 14 in his debut. He set a Major League record for Ks in a pitcher’s first three starts with 32 and sits currently with a 2-0 record with a 1.86 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, a .149 BAA, and a stellar 32:5 K:BB rate. Those five walks also came in one start, a winning effort against Cleveland.
2. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (Age 24) – As far as “right now” goes King Felix is the most polished of all the pitchers on this list. A 63-46 record is solid but still not an accurate picture playing with the dreadful Seattle Mariners. Hernandez owns a career 907:321 K:BB (97:34 in 2010) and boasts a career ERA of 3.44 (3.39 in 2010), a career WHIP of 1.27 (1.23) and a career BAA of .250 (.239). This year, on one of the worst teams in baseball, he’s 5-5 with two complete games and one outing where he went 8.2 innings.
3. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays (Age 24) – Price has had a breakout year so far in 2010 after battling control issues in previous years. The Rays’ ace lefty is off to a 10-3 start with a 73:37 K:BB, a 2.45 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and a .224 BAA in 91.2 innings pitched. This s a vast improvement from his career numbers, which now stand at 20-10 with a 1.28 WHIP, .231 BAA, 3.50 ERA and a 187:95 K:BB.
4. Tommy Hanson, Atlanta Braves (Age 23) – Hanson is a strikeout hound and viable future ace on any staff in the Major Leagues. Despite not making his first start until June last year he finished up as a top-30 pitcher and has gotten off to a 7-3 start in his second season. Like Price he still has on-and-off control issues but has 202 strikeouts at this point in his career, including 86 in 82.2 innings in 2010. His 3.38 ERA is just over his career ERA of 3.08, which has given him an 18-7 career record.
5. Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers (Age 24) – Gallardo has suffered a bit from the small market in Milwaukee, at least as far as name recognition goes. Gallardo is also having a breakout season with a 6-3 start with a 103:44 K:BB and a stellar 2.59 ERA. His BAA (.221) and WHIP (1.28) are still on his career average of .229 and 1.29 respectively but his walks are way down from his career 428:183 K:BB. In 66 career starts he is just 28-20 but is bound to move well ahead of the .500 mark.
LR: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age 22) – I know, I know, Kershaw is a starter but he gets loopholed into this. There aren’t really any strong lefties ‘pen guys and to address needs and matchups. Kershaw is a hard-thower with some nasty breaking stuff. His career win-loss (20-17), K:BB (388:191) and WHIP (1.32) doesn’t blow me away but his 3.33 ERA and .222 BAA does. He’ll mature and become a force to reckon with.
MR: Joba Chamberlain, New York Yankees (Age 24) – The heir to Mariano Rivera’s throne? Maybe. Joba amazed us all his first season with a super fastball and a wicked slider. His move to the rotation has possibly delayed his career from becoming great. His fastball bit and slider bite is returning which is a good sign. A 5.17 ERA so far this season isn’t though. I’ll take the 37:11 K:BB and 16 holds though.
MR: Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers (Age 22) – Feliz states a strong case to be the closer of this team. His career ERA (2.27), WHIP (0.82), and K:BB (76:18) are stellar. He’s matched those numbers this year with a 2.78/0.96/37:10 to go along with 20 of his career 22 saves. He’s done all this while playing with a team not known for pitching, and a ballpark known for hitting.
MR: Jhoulys Chacin, Colorado Rockies (Age 22) – Chacin is another starter but started this year in the bullpen for the Rockies, albeit for one game. That aside the Rockies’ youngster is a strikeout pitcher, racking up 71 in 66.2 innings so far in 2010. He’s 4-7 with a 3.51 ERA and a 71:32 K:BB, which is a vast improvement from his 13:11 K:BB in 2009. With control issues behind him Chacin is setting off to be a solid starter but with his strikeout potential (Carlos Marmol-like out of the ‘pen?) I’d take him in the bullpen. Especially considering the starting five on this team.
SU: Daniel Bard, Boston Red Sox (Age 24) – Bard turned 25 on June 25 but he started the season at 24. The Texan has established himself as Boston’s setup man to Jonathan Papelbon with 18 holds, a 2.06 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and a 42:12 K:BB to go along with three saves. He’s certainly become a commodity out of that bullpen and could be next-in-line to be the Red Sox new closer when Papelbon departs (or if he continues to digress at age 29).
CP: Drew Storen, Washington Nationals (Age 22) – Storen is Washington’s closer of the future and is off to a good start. He hasn’t been in many setup situations like Bard but in 19 innings, he holds a 1.86 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, a 14:9 K:BB and six holds. With Strasburg at the front of the Nats’ rotation, Storen is a good, young capper at the end and from the same draft class as the ace. Washington has a serious future on the mound, starting with Strasburg and ending with Storen.
HONORABLE MENTION - Matt Latos (22, SP, San Diego Padres), Mike Leake (22, SP, Cincinnati Reds), Jamie Garcia (23, P, St. Louis Cardinals), Billy Butler (24, 1B, Kansas City Royals), Austin Jackson (23, OF, Detroit Tigers), Alcides Escobar (22, SS, Milwaukee Brewers), Chris Perez (24, RP, Cleveland Indians), Pedro Alvarez (23, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates), Carlos Gonzalez (24, OF, Colorado Rockies), Gio Gonzalez (23, SP, Oakland A’s), and Neil Walker (24, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates), Michael Brantley (23, OF, Cleveland Indians).
TOP THREE ON THE WAY: Domonic Brown (22, OF, Philadelphia Phillies), Aroldis Chapman (22, P, Cincinnati Reds), and Bryce Harper (17, C/OF, Washington Nationals).
Chicago fans, I know it’s tough to trust a front office in this city, but I’m begging and pleading with you here—trust Stan Bowman.
Don’t trust him because his last name is Bowman or go with it because dealing guys off is the unfortunate task he has in his first full off-season.
No, trust him because he had as much of a hand in building this team as former GM Dale Tallon. Trust him because he knows hockey. He knows how this team was put together and how to carefully take it apart while leaving a repeat opportunity on the table.
Dealing Patrick Sharp or Kris Versteeg first, is not how you do that.Dustin Byfuglien was, unfortunately, the guy who left the Blackhawks with the most to lose if Sharp or Versteeg went first.
Byfuglien’s regular season numbers have never matched up with his playoff success. At 26, it is very easy to argue his best years are ahead of him. If they’re not? Then the Hawks dealt away a top-scoring center/winger with excellent penalty killing minutes in Sharp; or an aggressive, good shooter with Versteeg.
In sending off Byfuglien, Ben Eager, and Brent Sopel the Blackhawks now have a better chance of inking goalie Antti Niemi, defenseman Nicholas Hjalmarson, and forward Andrew Ladd to long-term deals; all who arguably were equally as important to Chicago’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2010 in some form.
Think about Niemi skipping town after 2011. Or where the Hawks would have been in Game 6 without Hjalmarson blocking every shot in sight (without a stick many of times, too). Big Buff was a playoff hero, but Sharp, Versteeg, Niemi, Hjalmarson and Ladd were also integral parts of the team that should have won the conference.
This isn’t the Cubs’ front office signing Alfonso Soriano. This is the Hawks securing Johnathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith (whose contract extensions created the cap fiasco). This is not the Bulls trading for Ben Wallace or letting Ben Gordon go (I could go on and on with bad Chicago front office moves). The move is frugal and it makes sense.
If Chicago can somehow find a way to stay under cap and keep Sharp and Versteeg, then fans should be very, very thankful for what Bowman did (especially when he buries Huet in Rockford).
This won’t be the same team with the same depth from 2009-2010, but it’s still shaping out to be a damn good team so far.
Rocky Wirtz and the Hawks have rebuilt before and they won a Stanley Cup. Now they’re forced, to an extent, to do it again. Like last time, the true Blackhawks fans need to stand by this management again.
Trust these guys, all of them (Rocky, Stan, Coach Q), they’ve done nothing to lose that trust yet.
Jerry Burnes: Alright, Ben, time to take a page out of the old Northern Star
book and debate! Today’s topic comes from all this NCAA expansion and
conference realignment, which for now has been minor, but the Big 12 is still teetering.
The question is, what will happen to Notre Dame if this conference Armageddon every happens in college football? Will they go to the Big Ten or stay as an Independent? We have some
different views and some agreements on this issue and since you’re the
visitor, I’ll let you bat first and lead-off this debate.
Ben Gross: Jerry, debating against you this fits like an old glove from
little league; you don’t know where it was hiding for all these years, but
it just feels so right. There’s no way that Notre Dame is going to join the
Big Ten, because there’s no incentive for the Irish to do so.
JB: “Feels so right,” I get that a lot, Ben. Guess you heard of my Golden Dome reputation. Get it…get it? Anyways, away from bad innuendo and back to Notre Dame. There’s plenty of incentive for the Golden Domers to join the Big Ten … 12. It just needs to swallow its pride and cave to the pressure!
BG: I present exhibit A — Notre Dame’s football schedule. This year the Irish will play seven at home, one at a neutral site and four on the road. In 2011 Notre Dame has six home games, one neutral game and four road games (It will be adding one more home or neutral game). And in 2012 it will have the similar home/neutral/away schedule as 2010 or 2011. There’s no way the Irish could keep this type of calendar if it joined the Big Ten.
JB: I’ve always believed that home or away, the best football team will come out on top a lot more often than not. Notre Dame’s reluctance to join a major conference shows they know their football team isn’t as good as advertised by NBC. Notre Dame isn’t what it used to be and joining a major conference, and winning that conference, will put more legitimacy back in South Bend than defeating Army and Navy on a yearly basis. How big would it be for them to walk into Ohio State’s horseshoe and beat them for the Big Ten (or Big 16?) title?
BG: It’d be huge! But why give away the advantage that Notre Dame holds right now? The Irish get to sell out their home field seven times a year — how else do you pay for Charlie Weis buyout? It’s not about proving how good they are. Notre Dame knows it’s not the 1940s anymore. It’s about being able to control their product in order to make it still seem valuable. Notre Dame doesn’t want to be forced into a conference to show that it can’t keep up with the likes of Ohio State, Texas and USC (partially because Notre Dame still requires freshman to take calculus). It’s all about control.
JB: Control they can still have. Right now Notre Dame has all the leverage in any Big Ten negotiations. They can take advantage of finally joining a conference while still hammering out a deal with Jim Delaney. Maybe it won’t let them use freshmen the way Ohio State and Texas do, but it would allow them to maximize their product by working out a way to keep their NBC deal, while also getting exposure on the Big Ten Network. Not to mention how little the Irish have gone BCS bowling. While they would have to split their profit when they go, they would also be a part of that sharing, in a conference that has seen two teams make the BCS in multiple years. That’s free money that isn’t there by remaining independent, making the BCS or not.
BG: As you said, right now Notre Dame has all the leverage. But once the Irish join the Big Ten they have nada, squat, zip, zero—no leverage. Leverage only works if you have something that someone wants. And the whole NBC situation just complicates everything. Would Notre Dame still get a portion of the Big Ten Network money, even though the football games are on NBC? And what happens when Comcast buys NBC from GE? If Notre Dame joins, they’re going to have to join all the way and I just can’t see the Irish doing that yet. Please explain to me what do the Irish lose by not joining?
JB: Glad you asked, Grossman. The biggest thing they have to lose is the most important thing. More important than money—recruits. If realignment goes how I think it will, Notre Dame will have no choice. Let’s just say the Pac-10 grabs the six Big 12 teams and the Big Ten decides to match them and go 16, so they grab Nebraska, Missouri, Rutgers, and Syracuse (possibly Kansas if ND passes up an offer). The SEC, not to be outdone, snatches West Virginia from the Big East, prompting Florida State, Miami, and Virginia Tech to head to the SEC. That leaves the ACC and Mountain West to grab what they want of the Big East and rest of the Big 12. With five “mega conferences” the Irish would have trouble competing. Think about it. Recruits could go to a lower SEC, Big Ten, Pac-10 school and play against the best of the best and prove themselves to scouts, the pros, and the rest of college football. If they go to ND, they play Stanford, Army, Navy, and Michigan State for one-third of the season. Let me catch my Zs.
BG: You got a point, Notre Dame will be an outside looking in, but isn’t that what the Irish are already? What it really seems to hurt is Notre Dame’s sports outside of football. Say the Big East does fall apart— the basketball schools form the “Catholic League,” while the football schools join the ACC. Notre Dame is then forced into the Catholic League for all its other sports. I mean playing against Marquette, Seton Hall, Georgetown and the like isn’t bad, but you’re missing UConn, Syracuse and some other good programs. But as long as the Big Ten, PAC-10, and the old Big 12 teams are willing to play Notre Dame, the football program is OK.
JB: Two parts here: They are on the outside already, but with five mega-conferences of possibly 16 teams each, imagine how much more hyped the recruiting wars are going to get. A low-life team in the SEC, Pac-16 and Big Ten will become a player in 3-4 star recruits. Don’t forget that Rutgers joining the Big Ten makes them more appealing and proven BCS winners in TCU and Boise State now become big players because they’re in an actual BCS conference. With no ties to a mega-conference, I don’t see how the Irish can keep their stock up to big recruits, based on the lore of the Golden Dome alone. Especially when someone could go just as close to home in the Big Ten or to a mid-level, mega-conference team that is funneling in bigger recruits than before. Recruits go where the talent goes and the talent is shifting to five conference it seems. 2: The “other” sports is where ND really gets the benefit of the Big Ten Network broadcasting more than just football. It keeps men’s and women’s basketball in a big-time, well-watched tournament that is televised on BTN. If they don’t see it in football through the BTN, they have the chance in the other sports whether it be basketball, baseball, softball, or whatever.
BG: I’ll agree with you on the Big Ten Network for the Olympic sports. But as for the recruiting, as long as schools from these major conferences are willing to put Notre Dame on the out-of conference schedule, and as long as Notre Dame wins those games, it will get the good recruits. Mississippi State, Colorado and Vanderbilt are not suddenly going to become Texas, USC and Florida. But the whole key is if these mega-conferences would still schedule the Irish. There’s some talk that the Big Ten and the Big East (or whatever remains of it) are telling Notre Dame “Join or we don’t play you.” If that’s the case, the Irish do need to give up their independence.
JB: I’ll conclude my argument by saying this: Notre Dame needs to make the decision best for its future. Not this year or next year but 5-10 years from now. In 5-10 years the mega-conferences will have formed and all but shut the Irish out if they haven’t joined one. I believe the Big Ten’s threat if they don’t join. That takes away key Michigan, Purdue, Michigan State rivals from ND’s schedule.
BG: And that’s where I differ with you. I think the next five years will be the hard years for Notre Dame if it doesn’t join these mega-conferences. But in the long run, the Irish will be smart not to join. Look at Big East basketball, the mega-conference is coming apart. In 5-10 years these super football conferences will either dissolve back into regional conferences that will work with Notre Dame, or there will be no conferences and everyone will be like Notre Dame. No matter what, the next couple of years will be interesting for college football.
JB: Indeed it will. And like it did earlier in the week, it all hinges on Texas. I would love to envision the Big 16 (not the Pac-16) with two divisions. West Division: Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois. East Division: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue. Now that’s a college football mega-conference!