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Bears Fri Aug 29 2014

Projecting the Final Bears Roster

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngIt's taken a full training camp and four excruciating preseason games, but the time has finally come to lock in the roster and prepare for real football starting next Sunday. Per NFL rules, teams must make their final cuts and get down to the mandatory 53 players by Saturday at 3 p.m. Most teams don't wait that long, however, and will likely start giving players their walking papers before meetings and practice today to give them a head start on trying to find work elsewhere.

The Bears are a little unique in the way they treat their final preseason game, in which no starters or primary backups wear pads, followed by other roster locks suiting up only in case third stringers get hurt. It does give us major insight on what the team is thinking roster-wise, but also raises some questions on why young players aren't getting valuable reps.

Here's what the Bears roster will most likely look like after final cuts are made:

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bears Thu Aug 28 2014

Roster Battles Remain for Bears in Preseason Finale

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngThe final preseason game is always a difficult one to watch for most fans. Very few starters take so much as one snap for either team, and the entire spectacle feels like the NFL in slow motion. A dress rehearsal is the perfect comparison.

But there are still guys at the bottom of the rosters that are trying to make the 53-man roster or the 10-man practice squad. The game means everything to their future livelihood. The roster currently sits at 75 players, and the last 22 cuts have to be made by Saturday at noon. Here's a position-by-position breakdown of the battles that will be the central focus of tonight's action.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

White Sox Wed Aug 27 2014

Defense, Pitching Plagues White Sox

Sox_200.pngThough they are a small market, down-on-their-luck team, the Kansas City Royals are atop the American League Central division at the moment and appear to be on their way to a playoff spot. The Royals haven't gotten much offense this year, but they've ridden the defense and pitching they have for all that it's been worth.

The White Sox have been the anti-Royals this year.

Of course, these are teams in different phases. The Royals are built around competing for a postseason spot this year after winning 86 games in 2013; the Sox are retooling on the fly and improving on a 63-win season last year. But it is notable that defense and pitching have been such difference makers for these two teams this year -- in the negative sense for the Sox.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Cubs Tue Aug 26 2014

Hip Hip, Jorge! Cubs Call Up Soler

Cubs_200.pngJorge Soler was going to need September at-bats anywhere he could get them because of hamstring injuries that sidelined him earlier in the summer. And with Iowa all but eliminated from the playoffs after a rough stretch of baseball the last two weeks, there was only once place to go: Chicago. Soler was already on the 40-man roster -- requiring no extra hoops to jump through or roster implications delaying his promotion to the majors (as we're seeing with Kris Bryant to some degree).

He's a physical specimen, listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, but the one thing that has put him on the fast track is his plate discipline. Sure, he's hit for a high average with great power, but the front office is interested in complete hitters. Soler qualifies, drawing 33 walks against just 48 strikeouts in his 62-game season thus far in 2014. In his two-and-a-half seasons in the minor leagues, he's finally reached the 600 at-bat total, which is comparable to a full, healthy season at the major league level. His triple slash line: .307/.383/.551 with 28 homers and strikeout-to-walk ratio well below 2.0.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Baseball Tue Aug 26 2014

Jackie Robinson West Parading Through Chicago

After a kings welcome upon their arrival back at Midway Airport, the Jackie Robinson West little league team will get the full champions treatment with a Wednesday parade through Chicago.

The festivities will kick off at 9 a.m. at their home field of Jackie Robinson Park, located at 10540 South Morgan Street, with a neighborhood celebration. Starting at 10 a.m., the team will take off on their parade route north through the city and end at Millennium Park around 11 a.m.

According to the mayor's office, here's a full rundown on the parade route and recommended gathering areas:

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

White Sox Fri Aug 22 2014

White Sox End Era, Trade Gordon Beckham

Sox_200.pngFor at least the last two years, the White Sox waited for Gordon Beckham to break out offensively. It never happened.

Beckham was traded to the Angels for a modest package: a player to be named later or cash. He won't be filling any pressing need for the Angels, as they already have Howie Kendrick at second base and David Freese at third, Beckham's secondary position. He'll come off the bench, because not starting won't diminish his value.

Over the last five seasons, Beckham gradually became more and more disappointing and speculation of his exit became increasingly rampant. The eighth pick of the 2008 draft, Beckham was actually an impact player as a rookie, where he manned third base and accumulated 2.1 WAR in 2009. From there, he progressively got worse, roughly - 0.7 WAR in 2010, then 1.2 in 2011, 0.8 in 2012, 0.8 last year and 0.3 this year.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

White Sox Wed Aug 20 2014

A Brief Interlude For Moises Sierra

Sox_200.pngFor the White Sox, this year is all about Jose Abreu. And if it isn't about him, it's about Chris Sale.

Adam Eaton is making his name known with a strong first season in Chicago. Jose Quintana is having another quality campaign. Paul Konerko is in his last go-round, Adam Dunn is doing Adam Dunn things and Dayan Viciedo still has that hot stretch every so often that reels folks in. Alexei Ramirez is an All-Star, Carlos Rodon is in Triple-A, the bullpen stinks and Hawkeroo still homers it up.

One person that hasn't gotten much attention this season? Moises Sierra.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Fire Mon Aug 18 2014

Chicago Fire: On The Essence of Support

GB fire icon.pngIn my travels and experiences outside our shared shores I have stumbled upon a curiously cross-cultural drink that is, well, anything but cultured. To put it more acutely, it is something uniquely high and low class all in one go; the kind of proposition at which you might laugh or wrinkle your nose. At least until quaffed, when it washes over you in a giddy rush. This potable chimera goes by a host of names across a swath of countries: most famously it is called kalimotxo in Spain; bambus in Croatia and the Balkans; jote in Chile; and something quite ribald (which I dare not write here) in German. It is a drink so simple, made of equal parts of two liquids so common, that it is a shock it doesn't have more traction here stateside. I'm talking about the combination of red wine and Coca-Cola.

Call it what you will, but this blend, which I am loath to dub a cocktail, combines pleasures of both youth and adulthood into something sublime. Yet the entire time you're intimately aware of the components, they never transcend their original state, but then, they aren't supposed to. This is not a beverage particularly interested in subtlety. It is a party drink, to be enjoyed among friends and shared; to spread good feelings to those around.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)

Bears Mon Aug 18 2014

Weems Out, Holmes In During Bears' Receiver Carousel

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngThough he had a rough game last Thursday against the Jaguars, one bad preseason performance for an established veteran like Eric Weems typically isn't enough to merit a release. But that's precisely what the Bears did, cutting ties with the diminutive veteran and bringing in Santonio Holmes for what is essentially a two-week tryout.

With Marquess Wilson sidelined for a couple of months, the Bears had multiple wide receiver spots open, and guys that contributed positively on special teams would likely get the first nod. The kick return fumble last Thursday was a terrible start for Weems. On the non-fumbled returns, he showed very little burst and speed, failing to reach the 20-yard line on every attempt. Though he did contribute a fantastic down-field block for a teammate on offense, he also had some sort of miscommunication with Jay Cutler on one play that infuriated the QB, and in hindsight of his release, was likely Weems' fault.

Weems had been a part of Bears special teams unit that was wildly successful under former coordinator Dave Toub, with Devin Hester as the feature star in the return game. In that system, Weems could focus on blocking, covering kicks, and fielding a kick or two during the games opposing coaches decided to pooch it to one of the other ten players on the kick return team. With both Toub and Hester now gone, Joe DeCamillis was relying on Weems to shoulder the load. He simply couldn't do it, and the team was obviously fed up.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bears Fri Aug 15 2014

Unit Breakdowns of Second Bears Preseason Game

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngThe main focus for tuned-in fans in last night's preseason tilt against Jacksonville was most likely the performances of the backup quarterbacks on the offensive side, and the linebackers from the defense. But focusing on just those two positions feels like beating a dead horse, and leaves out other battles that are just as compelling, though admittedly not as sexy.

Here's how each positional group fared in week two of the preseason:

Quarterback

Jay Cutler's numbers against the Eagles last week were fantastic, but his footwork was brutal in the re-watch. He cleaned all that up this week, and had a dynamite performance aside from a miscommunication with Eric Weems and missing a wide open receiver on third down in the first possession. His touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall was downright dirty, drawing defenders the wrong way with his feet and eyes, and drilling an off balance strike to the back of the endzone.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Fire Thu Aug 14 2014

Chicago Fire: A Study of Joy and Pain

Chicago Fire soccerIt has been a week of ups and downs for our fair city's professional soccer club. Last night the Fire traveled to Tukwila, Washington to take on the ascendant Sounders in the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, a contest that has long been Chicago's specialty of winning. The club will unfortunately have to wait for next year's tournament, having been knocked out in stupefying fashion by the Sounders. Seattle need only capture the trophy once more to tie the Fire as the most dominant MLS team in the history of the Cup, having won it four times since 1998.

But before we get to the breakdown of that game, let us look back to Sunday night's home game, where the Fire took on the visiting Red Bulls of New York.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (2)

Bears Mon Aug 11 2014

Linebacker Unit is the Bears' New Defensive Weakness

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngAfter a disastrous season from the defense, Bears general manager Phil Emery knew he'd have to rebuild the unit on the fly. The second highest scoring offense in the NFL isn't young enough to wait multiple years while the other side of the roster is constructed from scratch.

The GM brought back his Pro Bowl-caliber corners in Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman along with drafting Kyle Fuller in the first round as the long-term heir. And though he didn't spend much money at safety, the Bears will more than likely start the season with three new players out of the four they typically roster on game day. Adrian Wilson and Ryan Mundy have been solid in camp (and in Friday's preseason tilt), and rookie fourth rounder Brock Vereen has made a few plays as well.

In an effort to fix the defense by upgrading a pair of positional groups, Emery went after some of the best defensive linemen on the market. A unit marred by injuries and ineffectiveness in 2013, the Bears spent most of the post-Cutler money on veterans who can get to the quarterback. Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, and Jared Allen all fit that bill, and are also dependable in the run game. The front office didn't stop there, though. In the second and third rounds of the draft, the team added Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton to mix. Though you hope injuries never happen, the Bears should be able to withstand a pulled muscle or two up front this year without falling off a cliff talent-wise.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (1)

White Sox Fri Aug 08 2014

Eaton's Value Emerges for White Sox

Sox_200.pngJose Abreu has the American League Rookie of the Year award wrapped up. Though some other first year AL guys are in the running, only New York's Masahiro Tanaka had a chance, and he'll miss half the season. Abreu has been fantastic all year, leading the league in home runs and RBIs. He's even getting some MVP buzz.

But by WAR, Adam Eaton has been just as valuable to the White Sox this year.

Both have 3.8 Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference, which lead all Sox position players (Chris Sale has a 4.7 WAR). While Abreu has a superior offensive WAR, with 4.2 to Eaton's 2.7, Abreu has actually cost the Sox on defense. The first baseman has a -1.0 defensive WAR, while Eaton has been worth a team-high 1.5 wins out in the field. Additionally, Eaton has added 2.5 Wins Above Average, which is more than Abreu's 2.3.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Cubs Tue Aug 05 2014

Call Up & Break Down: Javier Baez Comes To Chicago

Cubs_200.pngIf the Cubs waited until next spring to add Javier Baez to the 40-man roster, the decision would've been understandable. They would've had an open roster spot to use on either a Rule 5 protectee or a free agent during the offseason, along with an easier possibility of pushing Baez's free agency off until 2021.

Shortly after the Cubs traded James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio to the Braves for a prospects, Jed Hoyer was asked if Baez would be called up to take Bonifacio's spot.

"We're not going to change our timetable on any of our prospects based on a moves we made at the big league level," Hoyer said. "When we feel like they are ready to contribute, we'll do that."

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Fire Mon Aug 04 2014

Chicago Fire Jonesing For Real Designated Player

Chicago Fire soccerEarlier this week, supporters of the Chicago Fire felt an unfamiliar frisson of anticipation rush through their collective consciousness. It was a startling moment, rippling goose-flesh and drying saliva among many in the Greater Chicago Area. It all started with a tweet from MLS Transfers, quoting Alexi Lalas, which indicated that a deal was in the works to bring US Men's National Team star Jermaine Jones to the Fire. That this information was leaked less than 30 minutes before Chicago's Wednesday clash with the Vancouver Whitecaps -- a tepid 0-0 draw unable to provide even a modicum of intrigue -- seemed a calculated move, overshadowing the inaction on the field and sending tongues a-wagging. The number being tossed around was in the range of $3 million, a relative steal when a player of his caliber is concerned, but also a sign that owner Andrew Hauptman was serious about opening the vault door for the right player.

Jones, one of the biggest surprises on the US squad at the 2014 World Cup, would be the creative spark that the Fire currently lack in the midfield, bringing a ferocious competitive nature and real athleticism. As well he would be salve on the wound that came two weeks earlier when the Fire missed out on bringing DaMarcus Beasley back home, seeing him instead don the orange of the Houston Dynamo.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (1)


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