Jun 22, 2020

The Bears will never be on Hard Knocks + saying goodbye to pitcher homers

Good morning, frents …

I’m currently writing this after two tallboys from Hop Butcher (Elder Secrets FTW) and a New York strip the length of a pitching rubber. Hoping all the dads on my mailing list had as nice a Father’s Day as I did.

Now let’s hope for a great week ahead.

No Bears? No sense in bothering

Is anyone else done watching Hard Knocks?

The longtime HBO reality series announced last Thursday it would be focusing on both the Rams and Chargers this August, the first time the show has ever featured two teams in the season.

It’s an understandable move. Both teams are still struggling for a foothold in the country’s second-biggest market, there are season-ticket packages to (eventually) sell and the uncertain length of this year’s preseason might make two squads a necessity if they want to fill five episodes of programming.  LA presents a logistical convenience.

Still … yawn.

I say that as a Bears fan who knows we stand virtually no chance of seeing HBO’s cameras prowling Halas Hall and will instead have to settle for a Rams team that wasn’t that interesting before they gave a small nation’s GDP to Jared Goff and Todd Gurley, plus a Chargers franchise that’s about as anonymous as they come these days.

Hey, it’s not like the Bears don’t have a quarterback battle that would be gripping TV (for this sort of show, anyway), a handful of elite players on the defensive side of the ball and a GM-coach relationship that might prove dramatic if placed under the the spotlight of HBO’s cameras.

I know, I know. COVID-19 makes this a tough year. NFL Films isn’t going to put up a crew at the Holiday Inn Express in Vernon Hills (or any other NFL city far from NYC or LA) with all the uncertainty out there.

Plus the Bears didn’t even make the list of teams that could have been “forced” to be on the show. They’ve made the playoffs within the past two years (though that waiver apparently didn’t get the Rams and Chargers off the hook.)

The Bears, though, haven’t made it a secret they’ll need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the show.

“If we’re never on it, that’s just fine with us. Nothing new there.” George McCaskey said on The Score in 2016. “There’s an intrusive element. When you’re telling a kid that his life’s dream has ended, at least as far as your team is concerned, we think that should be a private thing.”

I can’t imagine any producer sees that quote and ever picks the Bears in the future. We saw how boring the Raiders’ appearance was last summer with Jon Gruden stonewalling the cameras at every point he could. (Oh, the irony.)

It’s disappointing, especially since Midwestern fans and those looking for deeper insights from the game’s greats have been overlooked by the series for almost the entire run. No NFC North team has ever been picked; the best quarterback featured was either Tony Romo or Matt Ryan.

You can only watch the underdog making or not making the team so many times so it’ll take the Bears being selected to ever get me to tune in again.

But there’s no way I’m getting my hopes up.

*Here’s a list of teams that have been featured on Hard Knocks: Ravens, Chiefs, Cowboys (2x), Bengals (2x), Jets, Dolphins,  Falcons, Texans, Rams (2x), Buccaneers, Browns, Raiders and Chargers.

No more pitcher homers?

Baseball is still fighting amongst itself as coronavirus complicates things further.

But if and when the sport does come back in 2020, it seems likely the universal DH will come along with it. That led Al Yellon of Bleed Cubbie Blue to look at some of the hitting “lasts” by Cubs, a survey that included what might have been the team’s last pitcher home run.

I drilled a few layers deeper and here’s the list of the last five Cubs pitcher homers:

  • Jon Lester — 7/13/19
  • Cole Hamels — 9/24/18
  • Jon Lester — 7/1/18
  • Jon Lester — 8/1/17
  • Mike Montgomery — 7/19/17

And here’s the list of the last five White Sox pitcher homers. Only three true pitchers have homered for the Sox since the DH was instituted in 1973 and interleague play began in 1997:

  • Anthony Ranaudo — 7/27/16
  • Alexei Ramirez — 9/15/15*
  • Mark Buehrle — 6/14/09
  • Jon Garland — 6/18/06
  • Steve Kealey — 9/16/71

*This one doesn’t really count, but it came up in my Baseball-Ref so I thought I’d share it.  Ramirez hit a homer in the seventh inning as a shortstop, then pitched a scoreless ninth in a 17-6 loss to Oakland. David Ross did something similar for the Cubs earlier in the 2015 season.

Addison Russell signed a one-year deal worth $500K with the Kiwoom Heroes of the KBO over the weekend. Russell, 26, had been cut by the Cubs in December and had yet to sign with another MLB club. This is probably the last we’ll hear from him until stories on why he and Aroldis Chapman aren’t being invited to Cubs Conventions 10 years from now.

• The Cubs and first-round pick Ed Howard came to a quick agreement on a contract. The South Side native agreed to a $3.75 million bonus, which is in line for the 16th pick slot.

Have a link for Midway Minute? Email me!

Shannon Ryan on how Notre Dame’s first Black coach in any sport is using her new platform. (Tribune)

Jim Boylen, Wendell Carter and other members of the Bulls org took part in Friday’s Juneteenth march in Grant Park. (NBC Sports Chicago)

Northwestern basketball landed a good recruit from Indiana on Father’s Day. Brooks Barnhizer is a small forward ranked the 149th best prospect in the country. (Inside NU)

Ben Pope on how the Blackhawks’ free agents to be are handling the  3-4 month delay in hitting the open market. The crop includes Corey Crawford, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome — (Sun-Times)

The Sky’s Gabby Williams tells Madeline Kenney the WNBA’s return feels a bit rushed. (Sun-Times)

Former CBS broadcaster Megan Mawicke isn’t wasting any time heading into her next chapter. Best of luck, Megan! (Chicago Agent Magazine)

• Finally, shout out to the fathers of Zach LaVine and Shawon Dunston, who were behind two great Chicago athletes — and two of the best piece of Father’s Day content I saw yesterday.

Thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter. Go out and have yourself a Monday.

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk
Kevin is the founder of Midway Minute.

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