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Is there a better week for the accomplished Chicago sports fan? True, the Bears are hibernating. But the Cubs, Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks will all be playing, the NCAA championship is tonight, and the Masters starts on Thursday.
The Cubs struggled on the road last week (2-4), but now they return to Wrigley, where they've yet to lose this season. The home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers begins at 1:20 PM.
Manager Dale Sveum has already demoted closer Carlos Marmol to setup man. This was after just five games, but there's a previous body of evidence. Marmol has a slider that lately has been breaking sharply over the outfield fence. The last straw for Sveum came on Saturday, when Marmol surrendered two ninth-inning homers in the Cubs' 6-5 loss to Atlanta. The new closer will be former setup man Kyuji Fujikawa, who set up Marmol Saturday by allowing three runs in the eighth.
Pitching hasn't been the Cubs' main problem so far. The team is hitting .175. But there's reason for hope this afternoon, because Milwaukee is also struggling, and no longer has Hank Aaron. Besides, it's the home opener, and there will be beer.
On the south side yesterday, Dayan Viciedo slammed a nonsinking sinker into the left field seats in the 10th for a 4-3 White Sox win. The team now hits the road tied for first at 4-2. The Sox supposedly were going to lean less heavily on the long ball this season, but they set the scoreboard off 11 times in this first week, scoring 15 of its 22 runs on homers. And the bullpen has been lights out. Closer Addison Reed is 1-0 with three saves, and the pen's combined ERA of 1.83 is best in the American League.
The Sox have a day off in D.C. today before three games with the Nationals. The team will gather in a big hotel room tonight to watch a young Michigan squad try to upend Louisville in the NCAA title game (8 PM Chicago time). Many an office pool is on the line: at the Reader, it's come down to social media wizard Gwynedd Stuart (Louisville) and political genius Mick Dumke (Michigan).
The Bulls lost yesterday and the Blackhawks won. We'll talk more about them when they finally finish the exhibition season.
Tiger Woods will be the favorite at Augusta National. I thought his resurgence this year was due to less knee pain, but the New York Times explained yesterday that it's far deeper than that. In the NYT story, performance coach Damian Vaughn explained that Woods's serial adultery and subsequent divorce had thrown his game out of whack. Vaughn hasn't worked with Woods, but he was happy to conjecture. "Tiger had to access what happened. He had to take his emotions, objectively observe them, accept them and then let them go. He had to forgive himself so he could return to using his mental power in a positive way.”
So, all you duffers at home, maybe the serial-adultery-self-forgiveness thing will help you with that slice.