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Remembering Stan Musial, among the best in baseball history as both a player and a person.

"Here stands baseball's happy warrior; here stands baseball's perfect knight."

| Commissioner Ford Frick, on Stan Musial Day, Sept. 29, 1963.

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The White Sox have a new GM, but the old one isn't going away.

In the midst of the World Series, the Chicago White Sox stole a sliver of spotlight for one fall afternoon with a front office shakeup that apparently actually happened a couple of weeks ago. The press release from the team announced the "promotions" of Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn, though in the former case the use of the term is questionable.

After the news hit, the White Sox held a press conference in the small auditorium where they have most of their notable events. Sports talkers in Chicago discussed the move on the radio. Bloggers weighed in en masse. The front page of the local sports sections had articles and pictures. On the national stage, the move was but a whisper relative to the Cubs' hiring of Theo Epstein last year, and by Saturday even in Chicago the whisper had faded and the spotlight had returned to the next Bears game. That's the reality of the White Sox in the local sports pecking order.

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Wherever he goes, Ozzie Guillen attempts to be the center of attention. And we give him exactly what he wants.

Pure as th' expanse of Heav'n; I thither went
With unexperienc't thought, and laid me downe
On the green bank, to look into the cleer
Smooth Lake, that to me seemd another Skie.
As I bent down to look, just opposite,
A Shape within the watry gleam appeard
Bending to look on me, I started back,
It started back, but pleas'd I soon returnd,
Pleas'd it returnd as soon with answering looks
Of sympathie and love; there I had fixt
Mine eyes till now, and pin'd with vain desire.
- Milton, "Paradise Lost"

No one knew it at the time, but the feeling had been circulating among us for weeks: The Ozzie Show was drawing to a close, and this September night, an innocuous Monday pregame before a meaningless late-season clash between the White Sox and Blue Jays, was to be the final performance.

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If you're fed up with overpaid and overprivileged athletes, the story of Jim Eisenreich might remind you why major leaguers matter.

In my story about Anthony Rizzo last week, I alluded to a personal rough patch that I've been going through. I got a lot of nice messages from readers, colleagues, and friends. Believe me, it was much appreciated.

The downturn largely kept me from the ballpark during June. Part of the reason for that was an incident just as I was falling into my funk, after a White Sox game in which Phil Humber was hammered and appeared to be in danger of losing his rotation spot. (He subsequently ended up on the disabled list.) After the game, the media hovered around Humber's locker waiting to grill him about his struggles.

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If Anthony Rizzo fails to fulfill expectations, an excess of media attention will be partly to blame.

As one who ordinarily dislikes slack moments, I tend to plan things down to the second. It's a practice that often leaves little margin for error and sometimes results in small mishaps. Because as much as you try, you can't fully allow for externalities. One of those is the Chicago Transit Authority, not a sturdy peg on which to hang a daily calendar. The online tracker for the trains is very accurate, but you want to leave a buffer, because the CTA has its externalities as well.

The day of Anthony Rizzo's Cubs debut, I did not leave enough of a buffer. I know that it takes me about six minutes at a steady pace to walk to the Argyle Station, and the tracker told me I had eight minutes. Nevertheless, there it was pulling into the station just as I approached the entrance. I sprinted up the stairs only to find the doors sliding shut and an unforgiving train operator at the helm.

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May 24, 2012 3:00 am

Inside The Park: About Big Threes in Baseball


Bradford Doolittle

Inspired by the top-heavy Tigers and Dodgers, Brad investigates how well NBA-style roster construction works in MLB.

Since the NBA playoffs are currently going full throttle, this seems as apt a time as any to explore a basic concept of roster construction from that league to big-league baseball. Of course, many of you will disagree with this necessity of this because you don't like the NBA. Some of you will deny the very existence of professional basketball. That's okay. Trust me, this is a baseball article.

The Inside the Park series is about stories, but sometimes there in no particular story angle to what otherwise seems like a fun idea for an article. That's the case here. During the offseason, and after the Prince Fielder signing, I read a number of analyses of the Detroit Tigers that described their roster as top-heavy. Insofar in that there is criticism in that observation, the issue is that such a team is going to be more vulnerable to an injury to a key player. When Victor Martinez was injured, Detroit was able to throw the GDP of a good-sized nation Fielder's way, but such an option doesn't exist once the season begins. If Fielder or Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander were to go down, the Tigers would be perhaps be sunk even give their tepid competition in the AL Central. They would likewise be more exposed in the event of less-than-elite performances by any of the aforementioned trio. In fact, that may be happening already.

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From Wrigley Field on Friday, Bradford bids goodbye to the Cubs' fragile former phenom, Kerry Wood.

Orson Welles used to say the key to playing a larger-than-life character was to give him plenty of advance billing before he actually appears on the stage or screen. Harry Lime becomes the most interesting character in The Third Man more than 50 minutes before Welles makes his dramatic entrance in the film. It was a little like that with Kerry Wood, whose ridiculous velocity, strapping build, and Texas background had him pegged as the heir to Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens before we ever saw him in Chicago.

Wood was the fourth pick of the 1995 draft, taken behind Darin Erstad, Ben Davis, and Jose Cruz Jr., and almost immediately there were problems. Less than a week after the Cubs drafted him, Mike McGilvray, his high school coach back in Grand Prairie, Texas, used him in both ends of a doubleheader in the state quarterfinals. Wood threw 145 pitches in the first game and 32 more in the nightcap. Grand Prairie won both games.

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Are teams asking the right questions about pitcher injury prevention, or are they just guessing along with the rest of us?

Thanks to Jerome Holtzman, inventor of the save, and Bruce Sutter, the first fireman used like a 21st-century closer, Chicago is quite literally the birthplace of the modern reliever. So it seems almost tiresome that in the Windy City, baseball news over the last week has been dominated by the vagaries of relief pitching.

Before last Friday's game against the Dodgers, Carlos Marmol sat hunched over in the folding chair in front of his locker, all by himself. No one was talking to the normally happy-go-lucky reliever, or even sitting nearby. We soon learned that Marmol was processing some bad news.

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April 12, 2012 11:15 am

Inside The Park: The Origins of an Innings Limit


Bradford Doolittle

Is the Nationals' great right-handed hope Stephen Strasburg really limited to 160 innings this season? To find out, BP goes straight to the source.

It’s Opening Day at the Friendly Confines, and another six-month party is on in Wrigleyville. Bill Murray is on hand to throw out the first pitch, but he's an improv guy, so he instead lights out around the bases and slides theatrically into home plate while flipping the ball to Kerry Wood. Beer, brats, and celebrities hamming it up—another Cubs season is here.

One guy is all business. Washington wunderkind Stephen Strasburg is getting ready for his first season opener at the big-league level. It’s been a long time coming. If you want to see a concrete sign that the Nationals have turned the corner as a franchise, there it is toeing the rubber on the mound at Wrigley Field, six-foot-four, a right arm like Zeus, only with a wider repertoire and better command.

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Adam Dunn's 2011 season was painful to follow first hand, but there are a few reasons for hope.

"He spent hours fretting whether to ask for help or wait it out. Some day the slump was bound to go, but when? Not that he was ashamed to ask for help but once you had come this far you felt you had learned the game and could afford to give out with the advice instead of being forced to ask for it. He was, as they say, established and it was like breaking up the establishment to go around panhandling an earful. Like making a new beginning and he was sick up to here of new beginnings. But as he continued to whiff he felt a little panicky. In the end he sought out Red Blow, drew him out to center field and asked in an embarrassed voice, 'Red, what is the matter with me that I am not hitting them?'"

| Bernard Malamud, The Natural

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We all know wins aren't a good way to judge pitchers, but we'd miss them if they went away.

"My choice for the front-runner is Welch, but I know a lot of people say Clemens. I know what Clemens has done for Boston, but now is not the time to change the rules. The guys who won it the last three years won the most games and had good stats. If Bob Welch continues to win at this pace, and he doesn't get it, something is terribly wrong with the judging."
| A's pitcher Dave Stewart, in a 1990 Sports Illustrated story on that season's Cy Young voting

Bob Welch had just won his 20th game when his Oakland teammate was asked about the voting, and it was just Aug. 17. It was his 13th season and the first and last time that the 33-year-old Welch would win 20 games.

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The Cubs finished fifth last season, and the White Sox finished third, but the moods of their respective fan bases don't mirror their showings in the standings

You don’t really meet a serious baseball fan, native to Chicago, who roots for both the White Sox and the Cubs.

This is the only two-team town in which I’ve resided, so I don’t know if there is a similar divergence in New York, Los Angeles, or the Bay Area. I have a Chicago friend who is a transplanted New Yorker—he loves the Mets but absolutely despises the Yankees and everything Derek Jeter stands for. (Winning?) My own mother lives in central Missouri and roots for both the Cardinals and Royals, which might not be quite the same thing but shows a certain generosity of spirit. Undoubtedly there are many in Chicago who root for both teams, who grew up in some neutral suburb or West side neighborhood and just like their baseball however they can get it. Those people, assuming they exist, are a decidedly silent minority.

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