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Sunday, July 21

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Bears in Five

Laying Blame Where It's Due
by Sean Cassidy, Herman Coats & Gabe Dixon of

One: Take Away The 4th Quarter, And The Bears Just "Kinda" Sucked
The Bears finished the first three quarters of Sunday's game with a 13-3 lead. By the end of the game, the score was 37-27 Lions. To call that final period a strange 15 minutes of football would be an understatement, as the Lions set a record for most points in a 4th quarter (34 for those who don't care for math) and the two teams combined for 48 total points, also a record. So what happened? Well, the Bear had held the Lions and their high powered passing attack scoreless for well over two quarters before the flood gates suddenly opened. Before long, a guy named Casey "Hester" FitzSimmons was running back an onside kick for a touchdown, squashing any hopes of a comeback. Was the D just out of gas? Probably. But it didn't help that the Lions suddenly decided to stop turning over the ball.

Two: Griese Hands
The "Brian is our quarterback" era for the Chicago Bears got off to a rough start this week, as our savior in waiting only proved he may have been better served with another week of holding the clipboard as opposed to entering live play. Three interceptions later Kyle Orton is sleeping with his cell phone under his pillow on vibrate all week. It wasn't all Griese's fault, though. Maybe the multiple dropped passes proved that Rex is still the receiving corps' quarterback. In retrospect, hardly anything was proven offensively on Sunday against the Lions, and unless we pull off the miracle of the first half, the term "overmatched on offense" is going to make more appearances than The Refrigerator at the refrigerator.

Let's recap: Peterson and Benson fumble. Fans blame Grossman. Berrian and Moose drop catches. Fans blame Grossman. LT throws a TD pass. Fans blame Grossman. Grossman wins game for Bears. Fans blame Grossman. Grossman throws INTs, he sucks. Griese throws INTs, he'll get better. I have a great idea — let's blame the person who actually makes this team suck. The Grover Cleveland of the Chicago Bears, our Offensive Coordinator on two non-consecutive occasions, Ron Turner.

Yes, Ron "let's have our crappy running back gain two yards on 3rd and 19" Turner. Congrats to Turner, whose team has four offensive TDs this year, one by OFFENSIVE TACKLE John St. Clair. This guy mostly escapes finger pointing in Chicago, but let it be known from the high places that he will not escape blogger scrutiny on this particular series of tubes.

Four: The Special People on the Team
One of a couple bright spots in the game was Devin Hester's second kickoff return TD of the season, this time a 97-yarder that seemed to go as much sideline-to-sideline as end zone to end zone. Other standouts included the kick defense which blocked two Jason Hanson kicks — a field goal attempt (Danieal Manning) and an extra point try (Israel Idonije). Brad Maynard was his usual steady presence, and may well be on his way to another "team MVP" award if field position continues to be as precious as it has been for both the offense and 2nd half defense thus far this season.

Five: Wisconsin Produces Cheese, Touchdowns
The Bears' sudden woes wouldn't be so difficult to stomach if our division rivals (including the Lions) weren't off to such a hot start. Brett Favre's tenured arm still seems to produce TDs at will and has boosted Green Bay to an undefeated record so far. The salt in the wound for Bears fans, though we probably brought it on ourselves, is that instead of Rex, it's former EIU guy Tony Romo that gets all the favorable comparisons to Old Man Packer. At least thank God that we didn't have to hear John Madden make those comparisons again this week. Ugh.

Pucks in Five

End of an Era at the Start of the Season
by Jeremy Piniak

Lost in the craze that is Cubs playoff baseball anticipation, the Blackhawks begin their season this Thursday in Minnesota. After a busy summer, including the team's first ever overall number one draft pick in Patrick Kane, the Hawks are riding a wave of optimism into October. Pucks in Five offers an in-depth look at the team's upcoming campaign.

One: William Wirtz, RIP
With the passing of Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz last Wednesday, an era in Chicago hockey history has ended. Many words have already been written describing the man's legacy in the past week, some positive and some negative. Wirtz was a hockey Hall of Fame member, and as a long-time member of the board of directors of the NHL, and had a profound influence on the game's growth. Unfortunately, in the past few decades, Dollar Bill's unwillingness to adapt to modern times has turned the Blackhawks into a perennial doormat, due to his refusal to broadcast home games and letting top stars leave town rather than pay market rate as salaries spiraled out of control.

Make no mistake. Wirtz was a hard-line, old-school stubborn owner, but he was not an incompetent one. Despite many decisions I didn't agree with, I know he was doing what he believed was best for the overall strength of the franchise. I can't fault him for not wanting to lose money on the team, especially seeing how necessary a salary cap became to keep the NHL viable. But it's disheartening to also see how much his policies have killed professional hockey in Chicago in the past decade. However, the one fact that jumped out of every word written on Wirtz was despite everything, his love of the Blackhawks was never in doubt. Here's hoping the Hawks honor him in the way he would appreciate most: by returning to being a perennial power.

Two: Prospect Preview
Patrick Kane. Jonathon Toews. If you're a Blackhawk fan and you haven't heard these names yet, you haven't been paying attention this off-season. After winning the draft lottery, the Hawks selected winger Kane as the number one overall pick of the draft. Combined with last year's number three pick of Toews, who after playing a year at North Dakota signed with the team this summer, the future in Chicago is something to look forward to. Both players are already being mentioned as possible Rookie of the Year candidates, the local and national press has been shining the spotlight brightly on these highly touted stars in the making, and an air of excitement can be felt in the United Center for the first time in a long time.

Besides the dynamic duo, the Hawks are also looking for forwards Jack Skille and Adam Burish and defensemen Cam Barker and Dustin Byfuglien to be contributors in the future as well. While Skille and Barker were sent to the minor-league Rockford IceHogs Monday, Burish will start the season on the NHL roster and Byfuglien may break camp with the Hawks as well, depending on an injury to defenseman Andrei Zyuzin.

Three: Putting the Biscuit in the Basket
With all the off-season focus on Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews, what's been forgotten is that while the Hawks are hoping to see solid contributions from both rookies, they're not being counted on to lead the team this season. If that happens, something this season has gone horribly awry. Last year's team suffered through a horrible offensive drought, as the Hawks were last in the league on the power play and scored an average of 2.38 goals per game, the second-worst average in the NHL. For the Blackhawks to be competitive in the upcoming season, it's as simple as this: they need to score more goals.

First on that front, Martin Havlat and Tuomo Ruutu need to put together a full, healthy season. Last year's team started a strong 4-2 as Ruutu recovered from a sprained knee. Then Havlat went down with a high ankle sprain and since-departed center Michael Handzus was knocked out for the season, and the Hawks' top line was short-circuited from the get-go, exposing a crucial lack of depth. To counter that, the Hawks signed Sergei Samsonov and centers Robert Lang and Yannic Perrault, none top-tier free agents but all capable of providing some scoring. Samsonov suffered through an absolute miserable 2006-7 campaign in Montreal, where he fell out of favor and was benched, but has point a game potential. Lang and Perrault are dozen-plus-year veterans who are being expected to chip in offensively while helping mentor some of the younger players.

The Hawks hope the veteran presence surrounding Kane and Toews will help expedite their growth and allow them to provide a complementary scoring punch, but the team needs to see dividends from their signings to be successful this year.

Four: Addition by Subtraction
The Blackhawks addressed their biggest need behind the blue line this off-season without signing a single player, by cutting ties with deadweight pylons Adrian Aucoin and Jassen Cullimore. Aucoin and Cullimore were overpriced, out of step, and dragging down the team's young D-men. Now, those youngsters will be asked to shoulder a bigger load, and the strength of the unit will depend on Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith's development. Both played solidly last year, but entering their third full seasons, the Hawks are looking for the duo to become solid first-liners. Also key will be the ability of James Wisniewski and Jim Vandermeer to bounce back from a torn ACL and broken leg that ended their 2006-7 campaigns early. The Hawks also brought in newcomers Andrei Zyuzin and Brent Sopel, two solid if unspectacular vets to buoy the defense's continued growth.

In between the pipes, the Hawks return Nicolai Khabibulin and backup Patrick Lalime. While Khabby improved after a disastrous first year with the Hawks, he still was only 30th in the league with a 2.86 goals against average. He's a streaky starter, but for the Hawks to make a playoff push, Khabby will need to earn his four-year, $27 million contract he signed when the lockout ended.

Five: Postseason Prognosis
So what are the team's playoff possibilities? As was shown last year, optimism in the off-season can get derailed in a hurry by a few key injuries. Combined with the ongoing youth movement and the large amount of roster turnover, there's no telling how GM Dale Tallon's moves will pan out. The team will be improved due to the amount of talent and stronger offensive depth, but the Blackhawks playoff push will rest solely on the defense and goaltending reaching its full potential. After finishing 31-42-9 last season, Chicago will need to win at least a dozen more games to be in the race come April. Maybe it's wishful thinking on my part, but I see the Hawks sneaking in as the eighth seed.

Cubs in Five

Pigs Fly Over Chicago
by Jeff Webber

Can the Cubs actually beat the Diamondbacks in the Division Series? Can this city's improbable World Series hope survive at least one round of the playoffs? You'd like to think it would be a matter of watching the best team win. But Cub fans know from the last century's worth of suffering that sometimes it seems to have more to do with dumb luck, billy goats and the particular type of grabby-handed dink sitting in left field on a given day. In that spirit, let's enhance the comparative analysis with a look at some more... tangential factors.

One: Who Gets the Ball?
Game one is tough to handicap: the pitcher with the most electric stuff in the NL (Carlos Zambrano) versus the NL's most reliable ace (Brandon Webb). Game Two is a close match, too: reliable veteran lefty (Ted Lilly) versus reliable veteran lefty (Doug Davis). Game Three looks good for us, with killer curveball specialist Rich Hill staring down rubberarmed also-ran Livan Hernandez. They've got maybe the most reliable closer of the 2007 National League in Jose Valverde, but we counter with maybe the league's most effective reliever of 2007, Carlos Marmol. Once you get past the top few names, though, Arizona's bullpen is deeper and more reliable. Give it to the Cubs for starting, the D-Backs for relief.

Two: The Way You Wear Your Hat
Have to give the edge to classic Cub pinstripes and that lovable little bear logo. 'Zona finally ditched the putrid purple and green sleeveless jerseys, but replaced them with a mundane red/black combo that makes it hard to tell who you're watching. Is that the Angels? The Indians? Wait, it's the "D-Backs"? Are they anything like the Diamondbacks? Who told them it was a good idea to put the team nickname's nickname on their shirts? Does this mean I can look forward to "Yanks" and "'Stros" jerseys? Next year's South Side jerseys could just say "Dead F---ing Last," since that's what we called them most of the year. Anyway... you have to think that whatever vestiges of past failures might come from wearing Cubbie blue, they're outweighed by pride in wearing the same colors as Sandberg and Williams, Santo and Banks. Meanwhile, Arizona's just happy to have sleeves.

Three: Gimme a D
Despite finishing 26th in the majors in runs scored, despite losing Randy Johnson, Orlando Hudson and Chad Tracy to serious injuries, and despite giving 33 starts to Livan Hernandez, the Diamondbacks came out atop their division. Much of that came from their young, athletic defense. Rookies like Chris Young, Stephen Drew, and Justin Upton may be inconsistent at the plate, but their sure gloves and strong arms keep them in the lineup anyway. Points to the Cubs for ditching Michael Barrett for more capable backstops. And hat tips to the continued excellence of Derrek Lee and to Soriano's amazing 19 outfield assists. But add in shaky vets like Ramirez and Floyd and it's a far cry from Gold Glove candidate Eric Byrnes and his agile, babyfaced cohorts.

Four: I'll Take Our Classic, Beer-Soaked Corporate-Named Ballpark Over Your Newfangled, Beer-Soaked Corporate-Named Ballpark
What you didn't think "Wrigley" was a corporate name? Ever chew gum? Anyway, the retractable roof, swimming pool, concourse hair salon and non-Aramark cuisine may give Arizona the edge on amenities, but none of that matters to the guys on the field. What matters to the guys on the field is the feeling they get, the atmosphere, and Wrigley's accumulated magic and 40,000+ drunk, rabid fans should make this one a no-brainer. Let the D-Backs fans swim and get a haircut. We'll be blitzed on Old Style and whooping with Ronnie Woo-Woo.

Five: Unquantifiable Juju
The Diamondbacks have been to the playoffs four times in the 10 brief years of their existence and have a World Series title in 2001 to show for it. The Cubs, um, have not been as successful. "We're due and they're not" may not be the best reason for a team to claim a championship, but let's hope it's more than enough mojo to muscle our way through the best of five first round.

Sox in Five

The Year That Wasn't There
by Steve Gozdecki

It hurts to look back, but I'll throw out a pseudo-review of your 2007 Chicago White Sox season nonetheless. And we'll also look forward to 2008, which should be at least a tad better than the mess we suffered through this year. It will be, right?

One: Kenny So Crazy!
Lemme get this straight... team wins World Series on the strength of its pitching, then goes out on a little spree that nets a nice number-two-type starting pitcher (Javier Vazquez) and a masher to man the DH slot (Jim Thome), in the process only subtracting the great glove, so-so bat of its center fielder. Team then fails to make playoffs despite a 90-72 record and decides to... have a quiet offseason despite some obvious needs in left field, center field, shortstop and the bullpen. With bullpen construction something of a crapshoot — remember that great '05 Sox pen? remember how bad it was the next season? — I can't fault the "Let's add a bunch of wild power arms and see if a few of them pan out" strategy of this past offseason, but counting on Scott Podsednik, Darin Erstad and Juan Uribe to give anything even close to average all-around production was a major mistake. The outfield situation hurts all the more when you consider that the team's current best outfielder, Jermaine Dye, is outclassed (on the field, at least) by former White Sox outfielders (and 2007 All Stars) Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee and Aaron Rowand. Oye!

Two: Sowing the Seeds
On some major league baseball teams, injuries and declining veterans are offset by talent coming up from the farm. For the Sox? Not so much. There's a belief among the fandom that the Sox have traded away a ton of minor league talent in recent years, but a quick think tells me that only rookie center fielder Chris Young — he of the 32 home runs and 27 stolen bases — would have been truly helpful out of the several dozen prospects the Sox have dealt over the past half decade. Meanwhile, only third baseman/left fielder Josh Fields shows significant promise out of the slew of players who made their major league debuts in a Sox jersey this year. Outfielder Jerry Owens showed flashes of Podsednik-ishness (great wheels, lousy on-base skills), infielder Danny Richar looked more like the guy that the Diamondbacks were all too happy to deal than the guy who put up some well-rounded stats in the minors for the first time this year, outfielder Ryan Sweeney looked overmatched, and only Ehren Wasserman looked like a keeper among the many relievers who were called up. Some of what went on with this team was downright embarrassing, like the 189 at-bats given to rookie utility man Andy Gonzalez, who posted a .185 average in those ABs. If ever a team needed to sign some free agents to make up for a barren farm system, it's this one.

Three: Let's Hold a Bake Sale!
Several people, most notably his wife and mother, cheered when the overrated AJ Pierzynski signed a two-year extension last week that extended his Sox deal through 2010. Others groaned, wondering just how the Sox can sign any decent free agents with so much money tied up in an aging core. The group of Pierzynski; pitchers Mark Buehrle, Javy Vazquez, Jon Garland and Jose Contreras; first baseman Paul Konerko; right fielder Jermaine Dye and designated hitter Jim Thome represents something in the neighborhood of $80 million in salary for 2008. Eight guys, 80 mil. That leaves something like $20 million for the remaining 17 guys who will be on the big club next year, assuming the Sox keep the payroll at $100 million. Those dreams of signing a Torii Hunter or Aaron Rowand? They may not come true, as Rowand will command something like $10 million per year and Hunter $15 million or more when they hit the free agent market next month.

Four: Garland Going?
The scuttlebutt seems to be that Jon Garland will be dealt this off-season. And it's probably not the worst idea — he's a youngish innings eater going into the last year of his contract, and thanks in part to the way he pitched in the 2005 post-season his brand has more value than the actual asset. But talk that he will be dealt for a pair of relief pitchers isn't what we should be hearing. Quite simply, as mentioned above, there's an element of chance around relief pitchers. The best are typically employed as closers — the rest come from the ranks of failed starters and those lefties who just never go out of style. Look across town for the best case scenario — the Cubs spent a mint to sign Bobby Howry and Scott Eyre before the 2006 season, and neither has been as good as they were before coming to town, with Eyre especially a frequent target of the fans' ire. If Garland nets a solid outfielder and/or shortstop, do the deal. But for more relief pitcher lottery tickets? Fuggetaboutit!

Five: We'll Cheer a Lot More in 2008 If...
• The guys batting atop the order get on base more
• Joe Crede is healthy
• Paul Konerko gets a few more hits than he did this year
• Starter John Danks shows improvement in his sophomore season
• The fifth starter — be it Gavin Floyd, Gio Gonzalez, Lance Broadway or some mystery man — has an ERA under 5
• Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye stay healthy and effective
• The hard-throwing lefties in the bullpen (Boone Logan and Matt Thornton) take a step forward and drop the ERAs by a run or more
• Uribe, Podsednik and Erstad are gone
• Josh Fields proves that his rookie season wasn't a fluke — dude could be the American League version of Adam Dunn!

Fire in Five

Oh No, Not Again
Steve Gillies

One: Make That How To Turn Nine Points Into Three
For the third time in three games, the Fire surrendered a 1-0 lead in the last 10 minutes, this time a marginal penalty in the 81st minute to Chivas USA. Clearly this is turning into a thing. Is it a fitness issue? Chad Barrett cramped after 60 minutes. That's pretty odd this late in the season (except sadly, it's not that odd for Barrett). Paulo Wanchope arrived midseason and still doesn't yet look match fit. So fitness could at least be part of it. Could it also be tactical? Back in the Dave Sarachan era, dropping too deep to protect a lead (or more often than not, a draw) was a hallmark of the Fire. The fact that the Fire managed more chances on goal in the 10 minutes after giving up the equalizer than they did the entire game makes me think they had more to offer throughout the game. More than anything though, I think it's an issue of belief. And after the miserable midseason run, you can't really blame the Fire for being a bit nervous with a lead in the last 10 minutes. It's certainly not a situation they got very used to.

Two: The Playoff picture
The good news is that thanks to losses from both Colorado and Columbus, the Fire still cling to that last playoff spot with a two point lead. It's tempting to cast a wistful eye at what might have been. The Fire could be very comfortable at this point, maybe even resting players like Blanco to keep them fresh for the playoffs. But I think we all expected it to be a tight race, and at least the Fire still have their destiny in their own hands. It could really be in their own hands if LA keeps winning and it comes down LA or Chicago. The final game of the season is between the two at Toyota Park. Think Beckham would tough it out for that game?

Three: Blanco's Popular in LA, Who Knew?
There were times during the broadcast of the sold out Fire-Chivas USA game where it sounded like the Fire was the home team. Those times, of course, happened to be when Blanco was near the ball. Sure the diving and the theatrical gestures at the ref get old fast. In fact, Blanco's reputation might have cost the Fire a penalty kick of their own during the dying minutes of the game. But if there's one thing I wish young American players would take away from Blanco's time in the US, it's the showmanship and the personality. That's what people connect to. Watching him send up a prayer to the heavens right before delivering the last corner kick of the game underlined the sense of drama that's missing from most players in the league. Of course, the only US player to betray a hint of personality in recent times just got booted from her team at the World Cup.

Four: Will Someone Marry Wilman Conde?
When he arrived in Chicago, Columbian defender Wilman Conde stated he wanted to play for the US National team. So far, he's looked very good in the center of the Fire's defense. More importantly though, he's looked good when Osorio has played him at left back. That's been a problem position for the US since the days of David Regis. I've seen enough to think we need to get him on the fast track to US citizenship. So if there are any single ladies out there reading, do your part for the US National Team's World Cup hopes. Marry Wilman Conde. He's a good looking guy, and despite a minor tiff with Chris Rolfe after DC United's goal last week, he seems very nice.

Five: Goal of the Week
It hasn't been a year of memorable goals for Chicago. This fact was underlined when Chris Rolfe's bomb against Dallas became only the first Fire goal voted Goal of the Week this year. But things are looking up now. I can't see anything beating Blanco's ridiculous free kick against Chivas USA. So the Fire should sew up Goal of the Week two weeks in a row. It's not much consolation, but at least before we blow our leads we're gaining them in spectacular fashion.

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Jeremy / October 2, 2007 8:06 AM

Just to note (Re: Cubs):

Aramis Ramirez was 3rd in fielding percentage among NL third basemen (.972)

Cliff Floyd was error-less for the year (79 games).

I'd hardly call that shaky.


Nuke LaLoosh / October 2, 2007 11:20 AM

Hey, Bears in Fivers:

Tony Romo is a former standout from EIU -- that is Eastern Illinois University, in Charleston, Illinois -- not NIU.

Eastern even has a site on this here new-fangled interweb!

Other standout alumni of EIU include (depending on your definitions of "standout" and your definition of "alumni"):

two-term Illinois Governor and GOP politico Jim Edgar;

no fewer than three NFL coaches: Mike Shanahan, Sean Payton, and Brad Childress;

zoologist/zookeeper, Joan Embry;

at least two world-class actors: John Malkovich (though he left after 2 years and finished his degree at ISU), and Joan Allen;

Burl Ives (did not graduate -- we always heard he was asked to leave for low grades, but maybe he left on his own);

thousands of excellent grade-school and secondary-school educators, most of whom are working very hard right here in Illinois;


my savvy and well-dressed older brother;

my Dad, who is a great guy.

Kindly show a little respect for my little alma mater.

Andrew / October 2, 2007 1:04 PM

Nuke: Fixed. EIU indeed.

Jeff Webber / October 2, 2007 10:26 PM

Re: Ramirez & Floyd's fielding

You can't drop what you never get to in the first place. Floyd's Range Factor was a godawful 1.53, *easily* the lowest for any player in the majors who with 20+ games in right field (where Floyd spent the bulk of his time). According to his Zone Rating, Floyd only even made plays on 86% of the fieldable balls that were hit his way, horrid for a right fielder.

Ramirez, well... I might have given him a raw deal. He was simply mediocre this year (.780 Zone Rating, 2.87 Range Factor) rather than his usual crapulent. What's more, his range, while still markedly unimpressive has improved slightly each of the last three seasons. Is he repeating the trick Wade Boggs pulled off--quietly turning into a solid fielder years after cementing a rep as a stone glove? We'll see.

The thing to remember is: errors/fielding percentage only reflect how many plays a guy tried to make and botched in the opinion of official scorers. They tell you nothing about how many balls a guy gets to.

Jason Bartlett of Minnesota, for instance made 26 errors, more than any other shortstop in the bigs (for a .960 fielding percentage). But he led the AL in Zone Rating and was 3rd in Range Factor. Edgar Renteria had a seemingly more impressive 11 errors (for a .977 fielding percentage). But if Bartlett's making an extra half play *per game* aren't you better off with him getting to an extra 80-something balls a year, even if he drops a dozen or so of those?

Nuke LaLoosh / October 3, 2007 3:39 PM

Mr. Webber:

A well-reasoned argument about the overlooked "range-factor."

I think defensive execution will make a big difference between winners and losers this post-season.

I have always thought that a frequently-overlooked reason the 2005 Pale Hose did as well as they did had to do with the fact that they had really fine defenders at each of the "skill" positions. Their starting pitchers did not have to strike out 8-10 guys per game to get a W.

A talented up-the-middle defense and a nice hot-corner glove man can really gave pitchers some room to breathe.

Does that last sentence seem lewd?

Anyway, over the course of a 162-game season, errors don't count for much -- home runs tend to balance out poor fielding over time.

In a single series, however, especially a short one, a single error here or there -- or, worse yet, a ball that a slow-footed infielder lets dribble through, untouched -- is costly.

See, e.g., the defensive lapses of the Detroit Tigers pitching staff in the fall classic in 2006; the bobbled (should-have-been a double play) grounder by Alex Gonzalez during Game 6 back in 2003. BTW, I'm almost certain Gonzalez had the highest fielding % of any shortstop during the regular season . . . but that one play . . . oy vey!

Enough about the past. To the future!

Go Cubs!

(BTW, I am going on record as not liking the "Go, Cubs, Go" theme song they play at the end of each win. There, I said it. )

Nuke LaLoosh / October 3, 2007 4:20 PM

Sox in Fivers:

If Josh Fields is the second coming of Adam Dunn, why would you want a healthy Joe Crede? For trade bait?

How much is JC owed next year, anyway?

Michelle / October 4, 2007 5:03 AM

Steve, what was your favorite moment of the Luis Terrero era? Nuke, after Crede's season was cut short and the Sox' little Porsche in the outfield broke down a few times Fields was inserted in left field.


About the Author(s)

Sean Cassidy, Herman Coats and Gabe Dixon are the hosts of, the best and brightest Bears podcast, part of the Chicago Sportscast Network. Now with perfect pronunciation of "Adewale Ogunleye" one of the hosts anyway. Go listen. Send comments to

Jeremy Piniak grew up watching hockey on all levels and is a lifelong Blackhawks fan who, inexplicably, still has hope that Bill Wirtz will once again provide Chicago with a championship hockey team and broadcast home games on TV, though he still mourns the destruction of Chicago Stadium. Every week he'll bring you five talking points on the state of hockey in Chicago (including, when possible, the minor-league Wolves and Hounds). Send comments to

Jeff Webber spends hours and hours every day taking in every printed, spoken, and broadcast word he can find about the Chicago Cubs, and each week till the end of the season he's boiling them down into five simple crib notes you can use to stay on top of any watercooler or corner bar Cubs discussion. Send comments to

Steve Gozdecki has been a White Sox fan his entire life, with the exception of an ill-advised flirtation with the 1984 Cubs in the days when his town wasn't wired for cable. Because he swears by the work of the "baseball outsiders," who believe that statistical analysis trumps old truisms like subjective evaluation and team chemistry, he found himself pleasantly surprised when the Sox won it all last year. Each week through the season, Steve will bring you five crucial talking points you can use the next time someone says, "Hey, how 'bout them Sox?" Send comments to

Steve Gillies has been a Fire fan since he stood in a torrential downpour while the Fire beat New England 6-0 and he realized watching American soccer games in person was a lot better than watching European football matches on television. Each week he'll give you five things to talk about if you happen to get cornered by one of those soccer people at a party. Send comments to

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