Saturday, August 23

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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:


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)

Cubs Fri Aug 01 2014

Cubs Open Up Roster Spots With Deadline Trade

Cubs_200.pngIn all, 12 trades were executed on the day of the MLB trade deadline. A ton of big names are changing jerseys, including David Price (Tigers), Jon Lester (A's), Yoenis Cespedes (Red Sox), John Lackey (Cardinals), and Allen Craig (Red Sox).

The Cubs had already made their big pre-deadline move, sending Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland in exchange for a fringe starting pitcher and the A's top two prospects (Addison Russell and Billy McKinney -- who are both dominating with their new teams), and they look smart for moving early too. Though they traded their top two starters away, they easily got the best haul of prospects in return, especially compared to what the Rays got back for the Cy Young award winning Price. Hammel struggled so mightily in his first four starts in Oakland that Billy Beane got on the phone and traded his cleanup hitter for an ace starting pitcher, a move that basically pushes Hammel out of their playoff rotation, barring injury.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

White Sox Fri Aug 01 2014

Sox Trade Deadline: 26 Hours, 37 Minutes of Action

Sox_200.pngBoth Grantland and New York Magazine have run articles over the last few weeks that argue the NBA transaction periods (the trade deadline, draft and free agency period) have become more exciting and interesting to fans than the actual season, playoffs and championship. It's really hard to deny this, when Kevin Love trade rumors dominate ESPN every day.

This concept carries over a little into baseball, too. The offseason has a catchy nickname (the Hot Stove) and the trade deadline is a whirlwind of player movement. Nowadays, it's a whirlwind of rumors, conjecture and outright hoaxes, too. Here's what the last 26 hours and 37 minutes before the moment of yesterday's 3 p.m. deadline looked like from the White Sox's point of view. Well, mostly from their point of view.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Cubs Tue Jul 29 2014

The Process of Promoting the Top Cubs Prospects

Cubs_200.pngEvery time Theo Epstein or Jed Hoyer has a microphone or camera on them, they're asked when the Cubs will be promoting their top prospects. It's inevitable, considering the rampant success that guys like Kris Bryant have had all season, and Javier Baez is experiencing with a recent hot streak. Don't forget the man-child that is Jorge Soler, either.

The recent promotion and prosperity of Arismendy Alcantara has only added to the buzz of when the next piece of the Cubs future will be debuting at Wrigley Field.

The process, however, is not as simple as making a phone call and flying a guy to O'Hare. A lot more goes into the call-up of a prospect to the big leagues.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (2)

Fire Thu Jul 24 2014

In Battle of Disasters, Earthquakes Trump Fire

Chicago Fire soccerLast night's game was one rife with before and after. Frank Yallop, before becoming the head coach of the Chicago Fire, was the head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes. Marc Watson, before becoming the head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes, was Frank Yallop's Assistant Coach. Jon Busch, before becoming the starting goalkeeper for the Quakes, was the starting goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire. Before the game, both teams were struggling against irrelevancy in rebuilding seasons, with Chicago sitting 7th in the 10-team Eastern Conference, having managed only 20 points over 18 games; and San Jose sitting in 9th place in the 9-team Western Conference, having earned just 17 points in 17 games.

Both teams, however, have seemed not terribly concerned about the speed with which they arrive at the after of their current situation. And before tonight this game would have looked like a bit of a cakewalk for the Fire, traipsing into Buck Shaw Stadium and nabbing 3 points from a team on what had already been a 5 game winless streak. Add to that the loss of San Jose player Steven Lenhart, a late scratch from the lineup, and the team looked to be playing from the back foot even before kickoff.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)

White Sox Thu Jul 24 2014

White Sox's Quintana Earns Good Ratings

Sox_200.pngThough a late Royals push ruined it, and some managerial decisions by Robin Ventura overshadowed it, Jose Quintana had yet another fantastic outing for the White Sox yesterday afternoon.

Always a quality pitcher for the Sox, Quintana has raised his game to another level this season. The lefty starter has a 3.23 ERA and a 123 ERA-plus this season, both career highs. Just over the last month, Quintana has a 1.77 ERA and has held opponents to a .489 OPS in his last six starts. This has been big for a Sox team that's still lurking just under .500 and is searching for pitching from people other than Chris Sale.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

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