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Tuesday, December 1

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Cubs Thu Nov 12 2015

Names to Watch in the Cubs Free Agent Extravaganza

Chicago CubsMaybe the best thing about the 2015 Cubs was their versatility. Nearly every non-catcher position player on the team played multiple positions at one point or another. It made for weird lineups and some raised eyebrows at times, but it was a fantastic way to keep the rookies on their toes.

That same versatility allows the Cubs to go in whatever direction presents itself going forward. If someone makes a play at Jorge Soler, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer know they have options. Kris Bryant could play right field, or even Chris Coghlan could do it for a year while Billy McKinney continues his development. If a Starlin Castro deal presents itself, Javier Baez can play second immediately and be at least league average simply from his defense.

All options are available, but expectations need to be maintained. The Cubs already have roughly $110 million earmarked for the players signed for 2016. That includes realistic raises for all arbitration and pre-arbitration players. It's unlikely the team goes out and dumps $40 million in first year salaries to free agents. The boatloads of money for spending are still years away when the Cubs start their own TV network.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Wrestling Wed Oct 28 2015

Freelance Wrestling Showcasing Talent Halloween Eve

When I mention to friends that I still watch and very much enjoy WWE and pro wrestling, I get the snide remark of "you know it's fake right?" This used to drive me crazy, but I just shake it off and say, "you know that Game of Thrones is fake right?" Professional wrestling is entertainment and a great show. It's a mix of stage theatrics and pure athleticism that I will never achieve in my lifetime. There are many independent wrestling organizations throughout the country, but Chicago is home to a local organization, Freelance Wrestling.

Nick Almendurez wears many hats for Freelance. He is the founder, owner, matchmaker, social media guru and even a talent, going by the ring name Marvelous Matt Knicks, who is part of the tag team the Four Star Heroes with Chris Castro. Freelance has a show coming up on Friday, October 30 at The Abbey Pub, "Walk Among Us". Almendurez was nice enough to chat with me to give an insight into how a wrestling show is set up and what fans can expect to see on the 30th.

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

Bulls Mon Oct 26 2015

Bulls Ushering in New Phase with Court Redesign

BullsThe Chicago Bulls have rarely strayed from their roots. Throughout their 49-year existence, they have maintained the same design, color scheme, and logo for their franchise. There have been some tweaks here and there, but if this gif is any explanation, they are quite confident about how their logo looks. But for the 2015-2016 season, the team has decided to deviate from the norm and introduced a new court design in September. The new floor is a great mix of old- and new school and still prominently features the bull logo in the middle.

Let's first take a moment to appreciate the Bulls logo. The standard bull design is a classic that isn't too cartoonish or intense on the eyes. There may be some hometown bias, but the national pundits have praised the logo over the years.

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

Cubs Thu Oct 22 2015

The End is Just the Beginning for the Cubs

Chicago CubsThe feelings come at different times when your favorite team loses in the postseason. Some people spot the signs early and prepare themselves for what's to come. Others don't see it until the last possible moment, and they move quickly through five universally known stages of grief.

Everyone is entitled to feel the way they want. Your way isn't wrong. Neither is mine, and we certainly don't have to agree on it. In the end, we'll all end up in the same place: flipping on the television on April 5 when the Cubs open up the 2016 season against the LA Angels.

Kyle Schwarber will continue to play in the outfield (and also at catcher). Jorge Soler too. Kris Bryant will be at third, Anthony Rizzo at first, and Joe Maddon will have his hands on the controls in the dugout. Nothing is wrong with these guys. They ran into a buzzsaw of a pitching staff, filled with guys who throw 95-plus with movement and precision. If they weren't hitting the corners, the series would've probably been different.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Cubs Mon Oct 12 2015

Cubs' Corner Outfield Spots a Daily Decision

Chicago CubsJoe Maddon's sole focus is to put the Cubs in the best position to win every single game. He's had that mindset since the April 5th season opener against the Cardinals, and hasn't strayed from it since. For the most part, he builds what he considers the strongest offensive lineup against the opponent's starting pitcher. The goal is simple: get a lead in the first six innings, and gradually maneuver into a lineup that is more defensive oriented to give the bullpen the best chance at holding the lead.

This also means that nobody's spot in the lineup is safe. Though Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are going to be on the field everyday, they have no idea until the lineup card is posted in the clubhouse where they'll be hitting. And for Bryant, he has no idea where he'll play positionally. The only person who knows where they're fielding and batting every day is Dexter Fowler, who has started all but three of his 149 games as the leadoff hitter playing in center.

The biggest question going into every game recently has been who's flanking the steady Fowler in the outfield. Is Kyle Schwarber in left field, or is it right field tonight because Pittsburgh is a notoriously hard place for a hitting-focused left fielder? Is Chris Coghlan in the lineup, or is Maddon going to buck the lefty hitter/righty pitcher matchup to get Jorge Soler's powerful bat in the order?

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bulls Wed Sep 30 2015

Analyzing the Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler "Beef"

BullsYou don't have to be best friends with your co-workers. Better chemistry can help long meetings go by quickly or an assembly around the water cooler to be more jovial, but the goal of any business and the responsibility of any co-worker is to get the job done.

In the realm of professional sports, that feeling can be a bit different. We forget that playing sports is a full-time job. Players may get hefty contracts or lavish endorsement deals, but this is still their 9-to-5 gig. And chemistry plays an integral part in how a team thrives. We have witnessed teams succeed when there is a good clubhouse and awed at the tire fires of bad chemistry. For the Chicago Bulls, there may be a bit of turmoil brewing between their top employees.

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

Bears Tue Sep 29 2015

Ryan Pace Purging Phil Emery's Mistakes

Chicago BearsOne could spend hours dissecting mistake after mistake that Phil Emery made as general manager of the Bears. It would be days had he been around as long as Jerry Angelo was, but in just three years, Emery took a middling team on the brink of the playoffs and slammed the organization straight into the septic tank.

The Bears are the worst team in the NFL because of multiple, consecutive, failed drafts. Nearly a decade's worth of players drafted with such high expectations are either on another team or gone from football completely. Ryan Pace knew this coming in, and he's doing whatever he possibly can to turn the page.

Yesterday afternoon, the Bears dealt free agent bust Jared Allen and second-round flop Jon Bostic, to Carolina and New England respectively, for a pair of sixth-round picks. Both are 4-3 players trying to fake it in a 3-4 scheme (or, if you're Bostic, just trying to actually participate in a football game), and the Bears should be thrilled to get anything for them.

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Bears Fri Sep 18 2015

Long's Move to RT More About Bushrod than Leno

Chicago BearsThe worst kept secret in Chicago was revealed when the Bears lined up in pregame warmups against the Packers last Sunday. Instead of being sandwiched between Will Montgomery and Charles Leno, All-Pro right guard Kyle Long slid out to play right tackle in an effort to solidify a spot that has plagued the Bears' offensive line the last two seasons.

With Jordan Mills cut and Leno struggling mightily, John Fox was mum on Long's role the entire week leading into the Bears opener. Though the coach probably thought keeping the lineup card a secret would afford his team some minimal advantage, he was grossly mistaken. Taking the best player on your team and moving him to a position he's never played in live action before is more damaging than tricking the opponent.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

White Sox Thu Sep 10 2015

White Sox Look to Farm for Extra Help

SoxWith the exception of a few long balls and a sea of red Ks, there hasn't been too much to be proud of on the South side. The White Sox came into the season with high expectations and the club has been one of the league's biggest disappointments. This seems to be the Sox MO the past few years and it may be time to give the kids a shot. Pumping in some talent from the farm could give the club a shot in the arm and give them a better idea of what direction to go next year.

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

Baseball Mon Aug 31 2015

Spoxing for Charity Event at Wrigley Field

Chicago CubsIn his short time since becoming manager, Joe Maddon has made quite the impression with the Chicago Cubs fanbase and the city of Chicago. The team has defied expectations and is in contention for the playoffs, way ahead of schedule. And if the recent pajamas day after Jake Arrieta's no-hitter is any indication, the team is having a whole lot of fun along the way.

But Maddon's reach has extended beyond the clubhouse, as he likes to give back to the community with various charity events. One of those events will be occurring Thursday, Sept. 3 at Wrigley Field. The Cubs manager and his wife Jaye will be hosting a "Spoxing for Charity" event from 10am to 4pm inside Gate F at the Friendly Confines. This unique sport has become that latest trend in the fitness world.

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

Cubs Tue Aug 25 2015

Jorge Soler Improves Cubs in the Short-Term

Chicago CubsLong-term injuries suck at any time during a competitive season, but they hurt even more when the Cubs are weeks away from potentially securing their first playoff appearance since 2008.

I've been in the extreme minority believing that Jorge Soler will eventually be the best hitter out of the Soler, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell group. And who knows, ten years from now we may be laughing at how we ever thought the other youngsters were better than him, but it's going to be awfully difficult for Soler to eclipse his teammates when he's on the disabled all the time.

The oblique injury Soler suffered on a throw during Sunday's series finale against Atlanta will lay him up for at least a month, and possibly for the season depending on the severity. Tommy La Stella suffered the same injury in April, and he's now just returning to the majors after a major setback during rehab.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bears Mon Aug 24 2015

Kyle Fuller is Struggling to Keep Up

Chicago BearsThree games into the 2014 regular season, everyone thought the Bears were on track to having a Pro Bowl cornerback. Kyle Fuller was playing fast and instinctive, and making former GM Phil Emery look brilliant for scoring big in the first round of two consecutive drafts. Unfortunately, the level of play Fuller showed against San Francisco and New York didn't last.

Over the remainder of the season, Fuller struggled mightily. Pro Football Focus graded him positively in just two games following his magnificent weeks two and three, and those came against and Atlanta team that dropped a ton of passes, and a Minnesota team that lacked anything resembling a playmaker at wide receiver. Fuller finished as the second-worst corner in the NFL.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bulls Fri Aug 14 2015

Highlights of the Chicago Bulls 2015-2016 Schedule

BullsLike opening up gifts on Christmas Day, the release of the NBA schedule is an anticipated day for all basketball fans. This year's excitement was a bit different than year's past because of the crazy offseason that occurred. There was plenty of hype for each top free agent, but the brunt of the signings were done after the first day of free agency.

That whirlwind period was pretty exciting for basketball fans, but it came and went in a snap. That is why this year's schedule unveiling had many fans waiting on pins and needles to see who the Bulls were going to play. This year's schedule offers some exciting new opponents and rematches with heated rivals. Here are a few games to set your DVR for.

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

Bears Wed Aug 12 2015

Tips for Watching Bears Preseason Opener

Chicago BearsDid you know the Bears open up their preseason on Thursday against Miami? Me neither.

Outside of the "OH MY GOD WHAT'S WRONG WITH KEVIN WHITE" story lines at Bears camp, it's been pretty low key. The offensive unit is almost entirely the same minus loudmouth Brandon Marshall spread out wide, and the defense is loaded with players that either sucked in the 4-3 defense a season ago, or a new guy whose name you don't know.

That means it's time to reacclimate yourself with Bears football. Marc Trestman is gone, replaced by the universally respected John Fox, who's been to the Super Bowl on a few occasions, but has yet to bring home the Lombardi Trophy as the head honcho. Don't expect that to change anytime soon.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Cubs Mon Aug 10 2015

Optimizing the Cubs' Defense

Chicago CubsKris Bryant is an average third baseman. Starlin Castro is below average at shortstop. Kyle Schwarber is pretty bad at catching. Jorge Soler is brutal in right field. All these guys have, can, or will hit at the Major League level, but defense is more or less a skill that stays relatively consistent throughout a player's trip through the minors and into the majors.

As a hitter, a tweak in stance, swing, or approach can catapult a player into a superstar (see: Bautista, José) in the matter of months. As a fielder, it takes reps. Thousands upon thousands of ground balls or fly balls off a fungo bat and in live game action is the only way to improve on top of natural ability. Even then, one might only become incrementally better defensively.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

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