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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen often comes under fire in the media for what he says to and about managers, players, and journalists alike. Guillen is certainly never afraid to speak his mind. He’s earned a reputation for being animated. (or some would say eccentric.) And the Sox play in the ALDS so far is enough to make anyone affiliated with the team go “eccentric”. My personal opinion? I’m proud that my Sox are led by somebody with a Borat like candor and Tony “Scarface” Montana like habits for adjective, verb and noun usage. I LOVE that we have a personality considered as “colorful” as anybody in all of sports. He’s even been parodied on Mad TV. His soundbites are even better in person as I recently had the chance to listen to him in the dugout and clubhouse on the same weekend that he trashed his office.

On his star player Carlos Quentin breaking his hand from hitting an inanimate object, and how he would (and did) handle simlar frustrating situations…

“I used to break everything down here. TVs. Pipelines everything. Cuz I’m not going to hit myself. I’d rather pay $500 to fix it…I’m not going to show emotion in front of my players, but I go into the office, I do what I have to do, I came back out I was normal.”

On his rules regarding players breaking things in the clubhouse…

“I’m not a babysitter. I can’t control that, but I tell them when you throw something make sure you don’t hit one of your teammates, cuz that will be a problem. There will be a fight, do whatever you want, but I was the worst player doing that. I used to break ping pong tables, tv screens. I cracked three different music systems. I destroyed the bath room during the first game in spring training.”

For more “Ozzisms” and a written quotation of his most infamous tirades (careful, this link contains language not fit for the kiddies) click here

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank
As the only person to work for both Chicago baseball teams as both a player and as a broadcaster, current White Sox radio color analyst Steve Stone is the foremost authority on Chicago baseball. Stone or “Stony” as he is nicknamed, has also done television broadcasts for ESPN and TBS and will become the Sox television analyst in 2009. Stony, also 670 The Score’s lead Baseball Analyst, is well known and loved for his baseball predictions, the high rate at which these predictions comes true, and the multitude of products that he has endorsed over the years. From 1983-97, Stone was the WGN color commentator for Chicago Cubs telecasts, working with Hall of Fame announcer Harry Caray for 15 years.

As a player, Stony won a Cy Young and The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year award in 1980.

I had an exclusive with Stony on Saturday night before the Sox-Indians game. Here’s what he had to say about the Cubs and their postseason prospects:

“They’re certainly capable of beating anybody, but I think they scored 17 runs, total against the Dodgers for the season. So the Dodgers are a team that can shut them down, not saying that they will, but I do think the Dodgers can create a more difficult match-up. And then probably the other team is Philadelphia. The first round is when you’re more likely to be knocked out by a team you’re actually better than. In 3 of 5 a lot more so than in 4 of 7. Although in 4 of 7 the best team doesn’t always win either.

On his bold predictions, and how often they come true…

This year when I said the Cubs would win their division by 8-10 games and most people in this city thought I was crazy, I stuck by that. They were actually up 11 before they took their foot off the gas pedal, but they could have pretty much won the division by whatever margin they wanted to because they were far and away better than anyone else in the division. I remember on June 11th when I did {ESPN’s} “Pardon the Interruption,” I said to Cub guy Mike Wilbon, I want to have it on record that I told you the Cubs would win the division by 8 and 10 games, because they are a far superior team to Milwaukee.

To read more from this interview Click Here.

To check out my blog, “Chicago Blue State” on the Washington Times website, go here.

For more Chicago sports analysis and discussion go here.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank As the only person to work for both Chicago baseball teams as both a player and as a broadcaster, current White Sox radio color analyst Steve Stone is the foremost authority on Chicago baseball. On September 13th, it was announced that Stone, a Ford C. Frick award nominee, will take over for Darrin Jackson as White Sox TV color analyst, signing a contract that will run through 2014. Stone or “Stony” as he is nicknamed, has also done television broadcasts for ESPN and TBS. Stony, also 670 The Score’s lead Baseball Analyst, is well known and loved for his baseball predictions, the high rate at which these predictions comes true, and the multitude of products that he has endorsed over the years. I had an exclusive with Stony on Saturday night before the Sox-Indians game. Here’s what he had to say about the White Sox:

“They’ve always had the ability to win this division, but we’ve seen at times they’ve also had the ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the bullpen hasn’t been getting the job done, it’s been an inconsistent offense, they just came off a bad road trip at 3-7, but this has always been a good team, not a great team.”

On how Chicago’s baseball summer of 2008 ranks all-time. I asked him to compare and contrast it with other seasons (like 1977) when both teams were in contention late into the year…

“I was player in the late 70s and as a player you tend to become myopic towards the team you play for. As a member of the South Side Hitmen in ’77 and ’78 I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what the Cubs were doing, because I was a White Sox player. When I played for the Cubs in ’74-76, I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to what the Sox were doing because I was a Cubs player. I know it would be a unique experience to have both teams in the postseason. They certainly are not making it any easier on this side of town. On the other side of town they have already clinched and are doing whatever they can to see the Mets in the first round.”

I’ll be back soon with his thoughts on the Cubs. To read more from this interview Click Here.

To check out my blog, “Chicago Blue State” on the Washington Times website, go here.

For more Chicago sports analysis and discussion go here.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank  As the back and forth of the White Sox AL Central race concludes this weekend, I’ve had more mood swings than Naomi Campbell and Lindsay Lohan combined. The “Hunt for Black October” roller coaster ride gives me so much tension and anxiety, that an outside observer might assume I was an AIG shareholder. On Thursday night, I left my house happy and confident with the Sox up 6-1 in the 5th inning. I attended the Stephanie Izard (Chicago Top Chef winner) Diva Series event at Madame Tartine downtown. It was a fun time partying with fellow Street Teamers Desiree Prieto and D.C. Crenshaw as well as hostess Sarah Vargo. But the party became a lot less fun (for myself anyway) when I found the television at the end of the bar and camped out to watch the Sox lose the biggest game of the season in extra innings at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. For some reason, following the game online with my brand new Smartphone made blown leads seem more calming. My text messaging back and forth with the Soxman fails to alleviate my anxiety. Getting into very mean sounding, but ultimately hilarious text message wars with the lead Twins writer of my site, Peter Christian is an enjoyable pastime, but it still doesn’t soothe my nerves.

On Friday night, I watched the Sox lose a home contest to the Cleveland Indians (and fail to recapture first place from the Twins who got blown out at home by the Kansas City Royals that same night) from the Press Box at U.S. Cellular Field. Coincidentally, there was a Tampa Bay Rays media guide laying near my seat in the press box. Given that Tampa is the team the Sox would most likely play in the postseason, I think this is more than serendipity. I think it’s a sign. Or at least I hope. In my next segment, I’ll tell you what manager Ozzie Guillen and the players themselves have to say about handling their pennant race stress.

For more Chicago Sports analysis and discussion click here.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank It’s one of the most shopworn cliches in all of sports (right up there with “we just need to step our game up the next level”) the game possesing a “playoff like atmosphere.” In this case, however, it’s true. Three games in the Metrodome for the division title. You knew it would come to this, like the 80s hairband Europe told us, “It’s the final countdown…do-do-do-do…dah-do-do-do”

Game One

Javier Vazquez, RHP (12-14, 4.32)  vs. Scott Baker, RHP (9-4, 3.69)

Baker has an awful ERA of 8 versus the ChiSox, but I would feel better if the Sox were throwing a lefty at the Minnesota lineup in two of the three games instead of just one. I don’t trust Vazquez nor the middle relievers these days, so I’ll say Twins narrowly win a slugfest here.

Game Two

Mark Buehrle, LHP (14-11, 3.87) vs. Nick Blackburn, RHP (10-10, 4.15)

Buehrle is a big game pitcher and I expect a masterful performance from him in this one. Jenks will nail it down and the Sox win it by a couple of runs in running time of two hours and change.

Game Three

Gavin Floyd, RHP (16-8, 3.84) vs. Kevin Slowey, RHP (12-11, 3.85)

Tough one to predict here. Two young pitchers who have keyed their respective team’s run for the postseason squaring off. Slowey shut out the Sox in his last Metrodome outing against them. I say both starters put in a gem and it later comes down to which bullpen blows it first. In extra innings, Twins win by one and take the series 2-1. Sox will be sitting 1 1/2 games up, magic # 3 heading into the final weekend.

For more Chicago Sports analysis and discussion click here.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank

I know things seem bleak right now for the White Sox. Injuries -MVP front-runner Carlos Quentin, All-Star Joe Crede and #4 starter Jose Contreras are all lost for the year- and losing three of the last four at home have whittled the division lead down to one skinny game and a half. However, there is still plenty of reason for optimism. The Southside’s #1 superfan, the Soxman, gave an inspirational speech on my site this morning addressing Sox Nation. I’m going to complement his emotional plea by expanding on some logistical points that he brought up.

-Only one series against a contending team remains. That would be the HUGE series in Minnesota the 23rd-25th. Should the Sox maintain their current lead on the Twinkies before that series, the pressure will be on Minnesota, not Chicago. With at least that margin, the Sox would only need to win one game of three to retain first place. The Twins will have to sweep the series or remain in second place.

-The Twins have issues of their own. Minnesota’s bullpen has been utterly useless down the stretch and blew another one today. Plus the Metrodome residents have just as much trouble winning on the road and about the same number of road games as the Sox. They also have 7 games remaining versus the AL East. Their record versus the division is an awful 9-19.

-Tevye sang in “Fiddler on the Roof” about how everything comes down to “Tradition! TRADITION!” Winning the Central depends on “execution. EXECUTION!” In 2005, the Sox used “Ozzie Ball,” a.k.a. “Grinder Ball” to win by taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes. This style is a derivative of the popular “small ball” and is built around the principles stressed by the famous “Oriole Way,” which made the Orioles a dynasty in the 60s and 70s. Yes, Baltimore was once actually a powerhouse- I’m not making that up.

-The Sox have been plagued by a lack of ability to execute and manufacture runs, best illustrated in the 15 inning win over the Angels on Saturday night. They blew golden opportunities to win the game in the 9th, 10th, 12th and 14th innings. However, in the 6th inning last night we saw September call-up Jerry Owens execute a perfect suicide squeeze as less-than-fleet-of-foot catcher A.J. Pierzynski sprinted down the third base line. That sixth and final run was the crucial tipping point for a one run victory. If they keep doing little things like that…we’ll see them in October.

-Every time the White Sox have lost first place this season, they regained it within a couple days or so. There have been numerous ties and lead changes in the AL Central, but the 2008 Sox have constantly shown: when they are down, it’s never for long.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank

On Tuesday night black and white come together as the Chicago White Sox will host “Chicago Blackhawks Night,” the signature event in the partnership between the Major League Baseball team and the Blackhawks of the NHL. I’ll be attending the festivities tomorrow night as the Sox fittingly take on the team (the Toronto Blue Jays) from the city where the Hockey Hall of Fame is. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of interesting post-game/event material to write about too. This night game, broadcasted on Comcast Sports Net, will feature special promotions before, during and after including: a pre-game party and parade for Blackhawks season ticket holders (more than a 1,000 of which purchased tickets to the game through a unique cross-promotion collaborated by both teams’ marketing departments) appearances by Blackhawks players and legends, a special outdoor television broadcast by White Sox announcers Ken Harrelson and Darrin Jackson from the Fan Deck above center field, and a rare mid-week post-game fireworks show.

The Hawks front office released this statement. “The Blackhawks are appreciative of the unique opportunity to showcase our product to White Sox fans,” said Jay Blunk, Blackhawks senior vice president of business operations. “The marriage of both brands creates a very unique template for cross promotion and marketing which we hope to maintain for years to come. The White Sox event and relationship is one more step in making the Chicago Blackhawks brand accessible 12 months a year.”

The Sox front office is excited too. “We are excited about Blackhawks Night at the ballpark,” said Brooks Boyer, White Sox vice president and chief marketing officer. “The Hawks and Sox are a perfect match in Chicago sports. With similar fan bases and visions, this partnership has been exceptionally successful in bringing two legendary Chicago sports brands together.”

I think I’ll have a wing-ding of a time! Get it? “wing-ding” like the hockey player position! Thanks I’ll be here all week.

For more Chicago sports analysis and talk go here.

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