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SportsMonday: Box Scores Are Back

The Bulls rolled on and the Blackhawks bounced back in a big way again on Sunday. It was great to check out the highlights and read the gamers early this morning. But the highlight of the first few hours of my day was the first box score of the spring, the one that detailed the Cubs' exhibition opener.

The North Siders suffered a 12-10 defeat against Oakland at good ol' Hohokam Park in Mesa. The classic top line of the box showed the A's pulled it out with two runs in the top of the ninth.

Leading off for the Athletics was Coco Crisp, a speedy outfielder who has been in the league for a while and played for several different teams. He drew a walk and scored a run but otherwise was hitless in three at-bats.

I barely recognized anyone in the rest of the lineup. The A's have come a long way since Moneyball . . . a long way further into obscurity.

But we may be hearing about one A in particular in the near future. First baseman Brandon Allen crammed a week's worth of offensive production into two innings, bashing a grand slam in the third inning and clearing loaded bases again with a double his next time up.

When I scanned down to the pitching, there was a familiar name at the top of table for Oakland. Former White Sox Brandon McCarthy took the hill and gave up three runs in three innings of work. As a sportswriter, I'm pleased to just spend a moment or two contemplating the fact that I should probably go back and write "(two earned)" after the "three runs" in that last sentence. Nah, it's just spring training.

As far as the pitching went for the homestanding Cubs, they at least scored a decisive victory in the first three innings. Rodrigo Lopez tossed a couple scoreless frames to start the game and Carlos Marmol came on to pitch a shutout third to close it out.

Then the rest of the staff went to work and the next thing you knew, Allen had had the game of his life and the Athletics piled up the runs.

A first glance at the Cubs' lineup reveals Alfonso Soriano in the leadoff spot. Though he has threatened to consider Soriano for the leadoff spot, new Cubs manager Dale Sveum said before the game that he merely wanted Sori to get couple at-bats as quickly as possible and then exit the game at the earliest possible time.

This is usually where I insert my reminder that spring training games, just like NFL preseason games, do not matter. Everyone is so excited that the sport of the season (baseball in the spring, football in the fall) has returned that they end up trying to give meaning to the meaningless. Let's see where Soriano and his aggravatingly bad on-base percentage is batting on Opening Day before we start questioning Sveum's sanity.

No one else did much of anything in the top two-thirds of the Cubs' lineup but back-up catcher Welington Castillo smashed a solo home run in the eighth spot and, one spot above him, second basemen Darwin Barney and Adrian Cardenas finished with two and three RBI respectively.

A little further down there was bad news for Barney and new right fielder David DeJesus. Their at-best questionable base-running would have escaped detection in the box scores of my youth but the modern-day expanded box score shows they both managed to get picked off first by Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki. A later scan of the game story revealed they even managed to get picked off in the same inning. Nice.

(Sveum put the traditional spin on the miscues - pleasure at his players' "aggressiveness" on the basepaths. Ugh.)

The box score wasn't the only small print to peruse on this Monday morning. A quick glance at the NBA standings shows that the Bulls are the only team with 30-plus wins.

And elsewhere we learn that Ray Emery, who it must be said is now the Hawks' starting goalie (up and down youngster Corey Crawford, who played well for long stretches last year, is back on the bench), saved 96 percent of the shots on net (23 of 24) to back-stop the Hawks' huge 2-1 victory at Detroit.

But today, let's hear it for the return of the box score.


Comments welcome.

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