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The best thing about living in a big sports town is when the current seasons stink, there are always the off-seasons. And if fans can't summon optimism about their teams in the off-seasons they should consider a new hobby - knitting perhaps, or crossword puzzles. It is tough in this day and age of sports radio blowhards competing daily to see who can come up with the most bitingly cynical sound-bite (and trying to convince people that the only smart sports fans are the ones who snappily put down most of the folks affiliated with their favorite teams). But the smart (and happy) Chicago sports fan finds ways to accentuate the positive, especially when his team isn't actually playing games.

And yes, I have met with Pollyanna on several occasions and consider her a close personal friend, but she does not exert undue influence on my decision-making no matter how much she may have donated to my campaign. So where was I? Oh yeah, there is no way baseball fans shouldn't be looking at the bright side in January.

Doesn't this White Sox off-season feel a little like the one that led into the 2005 march to glory? I know the bottom of the rotation is shaky, to say the least, but who knows who they may get for Joe Crede when he proves his back is 100 percent in spring training. What's that, you say? Crede's back might just as well act up again, making him impossible to trade in this, his last pre-free agency season? Yes it might. And you might be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow. Lighten up would ya? And the Cubs, well, they signed Fukudome! And Jon Lieber is back, and it seems to have occurred to them that Alfonso Soriano isn't a lead-off hitter, even if they haven't found a replacement yet.

Moving right along to notes, some related, some not so much:

* In order to fill that void, the Cubs were reportedly close to trading for Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts. When asked about Roberts having been named in the Mitchell Report, Jim Hendry said that would not cause him to rule out trading for Roberts. Really? So is Jim saying he buys Roberts' whole, OK, I'm caught and therefore I'll admit to illegal drug use, but "I only did it once," defense? That doesn't strike me as a great sign.

* One thing I would like to see the White Sox do is go ahead and embrace their South Side-ness. I love the fact they picked up Nick Swisher, who was a big part of an "anything goes" sort of clubhouse in Oakland. Swisher cut his long hair last year as part of the "Locks for Love" program that encourages people to donate the raw materials for lifelike wigs for people going through chemotherapy. He should be encouraged to bring that hair back. Of course, the current White Sox won't do that. They've even instructed players to trim long hair on several occasions in recent seasons. People, the White Sox are not the Yankees, for goodness sake. I'm not saying everyone has to grow a mullet, but in the name of Oscar Gamble, let's have at least a few guys who let it all hang out.

* On, the clock counting down the moments "until pitchers and catchers report" clicked under 17 days, four hours early Monday. If we can just hang in until then we'll be OK, right? Wrong. Unless we're traveling to Florida or Arizona next month, isn't the fact that spring training has begun and we're still stuck up here in frigid Chicago with a whole lot more February left in front of us all the more depressing?

Oh by the way, there are far better places to revel in the spring training experience than Mesa. I was down a couple years ago to see the Cubs and while we had fun, there were flat-out way too many people around (it was tough to get good seats, the traffic and parking situation was aggravating, etc.) Much better was a half dozen years prior, when I went with my wife to visit her grandmother in Ft. Lauderdale. One afternoon we took in a Montreal Expos exhibition game at their nearby complex and it was sweet. We purchased great seats 10 minutes before the first pitch and reveled in all sorts off good, basic baseball stuff. So, if the Expos still existed, you'd know where to go.

Clearly, that's enough baseball stuff. How about those current Chicago sports seasons . . .

* I think the main reason Denis Savard gave in to the dark side after the Hawks' 1-0 home loss to Columbus last week (he apparently ranted about certain unnamed players' lack of heart and toughness for more than six minutes, an unprecedented stream of negativity from a coach who is usually Mr. Positive) was that he has realized the squad still isn't there, still isn't a real playoff contender. Jonathan Toews' injury has certainly hurt, but hockey teams always have to do without prime contributors for long stretches. In fact, teams are often better off if key players miss significant stretches but manage to recover in time to be at their best in the playoffs. The additional rest pays off, as does the smaller number of nagging injuries when there is a significant break in the action.

* At least the Bulls played a bit better defense in their last two setbacks, against the Bobcats and Suns. First and foremost this team needs to re-establish that at least it will go hard most every night - like it did the last few seasons. Then it can worry about a few wins. But the Bulls just don't have enough firepower with Deng and Gordon on the bench with injuries.

Speaking of which, isn't it an amazing coincidence how losing teams always seem to have more players sitting out longer with injuries. Guys came back in a hurry from all manner of physical difficulties during the Bulls glory years in the 90s; heck, they did it the last few years as well. But the season starts to go south and it is so much easier to take another game or two to make absolutely sure an injury is completely healed.

* Has there been a worse basketball season in Chicago, or for that matter all of Illinois, in the last quarter century or so? It isn't enough that the Bulls are the most disappointing team in the NBA; DePaul continues to scuffle along, Loyola and Illinois-Chicago fail to inspire, and the local Big 10 teams, yikes. I watched Northwestern lose to Brown last month. Coach Bill Carmody should have resigned that evening - at least he would have been spared what has been an absolutely lifeless (and winless) Big 10 campaign. And Illinois is perhaps worst of all.

But remember, just 24 days, two hours, 15 minutes and 45 seconds until designated hitters report.


Jim Coffman brings you SportsMonday every . . . Monday.

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Posted on Sep 21, 2020