Single tap lethal. That is the phrase Special Forces snipers use when they make a kill on the first shot. I got to thinking about that phrase as I read through RICK MORRISSEY’S column in the Tribune today. He has a lot to say about how Jay Cutler may not be the gunslinger people thought he would be. Which, all things considered, is fine by me. After all, Brett Favre has lost the same number of Superbowls as Rex Grossman.
I bet you never even thought about that, did you?
Anyway, let’s let Rick state his case since he does so better than I would.
For those of us who are Jay Cutler skeptics (this blogger included - ed), what has opened our eyes the last two weeks has not been his powerful right arm. Everybody knew the guy could throw the ball far.
The surprising thing has been Cutler’s ability to make the delicate pass. No one told us a cannon could dispense velvet projectiles. He has been so precise at times you get the feeling he could throw a football through a moving mail slot.
There are two explanations:
1. The offensive line has been shaky enough that most of the plays the Bears are calling involve three- and five-step drops by Cutler. That means shorter passes and better accuracy. It also means shorter distances for inexperienced receivers and less chance of route-running mistakes.
2. Somebody has gotten to Cutler, in a good way, and he seemingly has listened. Maybe the four-interception game in the opener at Green Bay was exactly the thing he and the Bears needed, if something so strange can be said.
How many points do I earn if I guess “All of the above”?
Yes, they have had to come from behind (insert Mariotti joke here) to win, but the fact that they did so and did so with poise is a nice change of pace around here. Let’s be honest, if the Bears were down by more than 8 in the 3rd quarter over the last few years you were flipping to the I Love Lucy marathon on MeTV! Now, you are planning on staying and watching. Now, for the first time in a long time, you know we have a chance every week. Rick breaks it down a little more for you.
OK, now the requisite qualifiers. The Bears have played only three games. They needed a fourth-quarter comeback to top a very beat-up Seattle team. They have won the last two games, in part, because opposing kickers each missed two field-goal attempts.
And we still might not get many real answers with the “streaking” Lions coming to Soldier Field this week.
But this is good. This is a start. The question is whether Cutler can be satisfied with himself if he isn’t bombing it down the field three or four times a game. If he can, there’s a chance the Bears can be very good in an up-for-grabs league. And one of the byproducts of being able to complete a high percentage of short and medium throws is that it forces defenders to get up closer on receivers. And that, in a perfect world, should open up the long ball.
Sort of hard to erase the Green Bay game from the memory bank, but the last two weeks have been just that for Cutler: a perfect world. Will he allow himself to establish residency there? It’s up to him.
In other news, the Cubs were FINALLY ELIMINATED from the post-season last night when the Rockies beat the Brewers 7-5 in 11 innings. Ryan Dempster’s complete game shut out went for naught other than continued proof that the Pirates aren’t a very good baseball team.
First off, and thanks to all who cared so deeply about this, I have found my pants. They were, obviously, right where I left them. However, for some reason I had left them in a kitchen cabinet. Not the first place I would normally look.
Secondly, my cat had surgery yesterday. It was an emergency thing and she is 15 years old. Suffice it to say we got lots of warnings from the vet. Nevertheless, she came out of it all with flying colors and was walking around this morning like she was queen of the roost.
Third, and more important than anything else I got, GORDON WITTENMYER (Sun Times) reports that Ryan Dempster’s daughter, Riley, is getting better.
Riley Dempster was born in Arizona just before the season began and within days was diagnosed with an often misdiagnosed form of DiGeorge’s Syndrome, a congenital birth defect that affected her ability to swallow and keep down food.
With his wife, Jenny, and toddler son Brady staying back in Arizona the first month of the season, Ryan’s early season involved commuting from Chicago to Arizona, crib-side vigils when possible, giving blood for surgical procedures and countless sleepless nights followed by mind-numbed starts for a team that was supposed to contend for a pennant yet couldn’t find its footing.
Riley has been home since June, has put on weight and is a happy, smiling baby, Ryan says. But she still needs her trache, and has more therapy and procedures ahead.
‘’She’s a fighter, man,’’ he says. ‘’She’s inspirational, watching her go through all she goes through.’’
Through it all, Dempster has missed starts only because of the freak toe injury he suffered in July falling over the dugout rail. And he’ll finish with more innings—maybe even the 200 he seeks—than anyone else on the staff.
‘’That’s a testament to him,’’ Rothschild said. ‘’I think other people might have just said I need a couple weeks, but that’s not his nature.’’
The Cubs season will end with either the Rockies winning a game of them losing one. Either way, Cubs fans have to feel good about their actual chances next year. The core they will be bringing in to start is a pretty good place to build from. In fact, I will ask only one wish for Cubs fans next year. No matter what, I wish that the team wins, loses or draws with the talent on the field and not due to any bizarre “Cubbie occurrences.”
What the hell, GO CUBS!
On the South Side, manger Ozzie Guillens’ delicate phrasing of his philosophies on teamwork and pride seem to have fallen on eager ears. His subtle and refined use of the English language will probably be used by T-ball coaches the world over to help inspire their teams through tough times. Just imagine parents eyes welling with pride as their kid’s coach says things like;
And I’m going to make it clear. It’s a bunch of (bleeps) out there ...
... like a piece of (bleep) with no pride, the way they (bleep-bleep) play, and that’s embarrassing.
... they’ve got to put their (bleep) together.
But getting your (bleep) kicked like that, then all of a sudden you’re .... that’s a bunch of (bleep)
I know I would be in tears.
Anyway, as noted, the Sox continued to play out the string and seem to have bought into the idea that these games count just as much as any others. SCOTT MERKIN (MLB.com) talks about one guy who still has pride, Mr. John Danks.
For the first time as a professional baseball player, John Danks finished what he started.
“We always had such strict pitch counts with the Rangers, and then I’ve been in the big leagues here and haven’t been the most efficient pitcher,” said Danks, after allowing just three hits in going the distance during a 6-1 victory over the Indians on Monday night at Progressive Field. The win was the second in a row for the White Sox (76-81), who began the final six games of the 2009 regular season on a high note.
“Danks always gives you a good game,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of the talented left-hander. “Maybe a bad one here or there, but he’s been very consistent.”
Monday’s outstanding effort did more than mark Danks’ first career complete game. By improving to 13-10 with one start remaining Saturday in Detroit, Danks set a single-season career high in victories.
In the process, Danks raised his 2009 innings total to 195 1/3, leaving him 4 2/3 innings short of another important target.
“I’ve set a goal—200 innings every year,” Danks said. “I’m getting close, so I’m going out there and trying to pitch an efficient inning, trying to keep us in the game.
“To go out there and get deep in the game, it feels good. I’m going to go out there and throw one more time against Detroit and hopefully it means something. Hopefully, the race isn’t determined yet and it means something.”
On the Bears’ front, fans still seem very confused. Half of them think the team should be 0-3 except for 4 missed field goals and the other half think they should be 3-0 and that there is some Green Bay Ref conspiracy that prevented that from being the truth. How about this? They are 2-1, a work in progress and could go either way. The season is still young. Live with it.
Yesterday was a fun day to be a Chicago sports fan. However, I find myself today with some very pertinent questions. First, and foremost, where are my pants? Granted that is not an average question for a middle aged, happily married, man. Yet, there it is. Somehow, between last night and today my pants seem to have gone a’wandering. My wife assures me that I had them on when we got home, but after that things get a little fuzzy. Oh well, such are the little things that keep my life entertaining.
Another question I have is this; when are the Bears going to get a legitimate running game? Yes, I know that the Seahawks had 8 men in the box for the majority of the game. But, still, some outside runs, extra tight ends for blocking, something, anything, would be better than watching Forte do the epic “Three yards and a cloud of dust” that epitomizes every high school football game. I am not blaming Forte here. Actually, the run plays that were called were insipid. That goes directly to the coaching. It is almost as if they have forgotten that they have this guy.
Nevertheless, the Comeback Kids (so christened in today;’s Sun Times) beat the Seahawks anyway 25-19. BRAD BIGGS (Sun Times) takes a look at the game.
Call it living dangerously if you must, but for the second straight week the Bears managed to win a game in the same dramatic fashion that they lost close contests a year ago.
That’s life in the NFL, where victories usually come down to a few plays here and there. Thinned out even more by injuries, but not nearly as depleted as the Seahawks, the Bears prevailed 25-19 Sunday at raucous Qwest Field.
With Seattle minus nine projected starters, the Bears took a bigger punch than they probably expected, falling behind 13-0 early in the second quarter. But as has been the case under Lovie Smith, it’s hard to put this group away.
The Bears didn’t play particularly well, even as they climbed back into the game. But just as they rebounded against the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers a week ago, they rallied to take control of the game in the second half and win on a Jay Cutler-led drive.
‘’I pride myself in that,’’ Cutler said after the Bears’ first victory in Seattle in 33 seasons. ‘’I want the ball in those situations, and I think the offense is starting to get a feel for it. The fourth quarter is where we’ve got to play our best, and I think we are right now.’’
Last week, Cutler directed a 41-yard drive with the clock winding down to topple the Steelers on a 44-yard Robbie Gould field goal with 15 seconds to play. It looked like this one could end in similar fashion as the Bears (2-1) took over on the Seahawks’ 29 with 5:12 to play and down by two.
Moving methodically, the Bears got a big break on second-and-7 at the Seattle 36 when the Seahawks were caught in a blitz, leaving Devin Hester in man coverage with Travis Fisher. Cutler hit him on a quick slant and Fisher collided with safety Deon Grant, leaving Hester a clear path to the end zone for the go-ahead score.
One kudo I must toss the Bears’ way is this; they are getting better and better each week at late game clock management. Hopefully, as teams become more aware of that Cutler guy hanging out with Olin, maybe they will open up the lines and let Forte get some yards. But, until then, what we have seen the first three weeks looks like what we are going to see all year. In other words, hang on, it is going to be a hell of a ride.
On Saturday, it was rumored that some of the White Sox players were watching college football during the game and had given up on the season. One could certainly question the team’s focus and Ozzie certainly did. In his post game press conference yesterday he clarified his rant sans profanities.
‘’The people we have in baseball now let players do whatever they want. My job is to teach the kids that’s not the way it’s supposed to be,’’ Guillen said. ‘’I never tell my players what to do or how to prepare yourself, but when you lose a game and all of a sudden you look around and they’re watching another thing, that means you are teaching the kids, ‘Don’t worry about it—this is the big leagues. If we lose a game, who cares? We’re out of the pennant race.’
‘’I’m old-school in the new era of baseball. I have to teach these kids this is not the way we should handle this stuff. If I let that thing go away, then I don’t have the power and the right to tell kids in the future what to do because it was like, ‘Well, two years ago, you let them do it.’ Anyone who is going to play for this organization will learn how to be a professional and how to handle things the right way.’’
Oh, and by the way, the Sox beat the Tigers 8-4. JESSE TEMPLE (MLB.com) fills us in.
One day after White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen threatened to destroy the clubhouse if football showed up on a TV in his clubhouse, some calm was restored to the South Side. Chicago received a three-run home run from Carlos Quentin and a solid pitching effort from rookie Daniel Hudson in picking up an 8-4 victory against Detroit. The White Sox took two of three games from the Tigers, closing the home portion of the schedule on a high note, with Hudson earning his first big league win.
The night before, Guillen had vented about what he perceived to be a lack of desire from his players, as they watched college football in the clubhouse following Saturday’s 12-5 defeat against the Tigers.
“It’s one thing about this game,” Guillen said Sunday. “Every day is a new day. The way they played today, that’s the way we should try to play every day. Obviously, every day it’s not going to happen. But we swung the bat pretty well today, we made plays and we pitched well. Everything went good for the fans.”
On the North Side, the Cubs lost 5-1 to the San Francisco Giants. Two things of note here. The Cubs are often called the most gay friendly park in America. Yet, as ELLIOTT HARRIS (Sun Times) notes, it will be the Giants who have the first ever Drag Queen sing the national anthem next Tuesday. Donna Sachet, a legendary performer in the Bay Area, had this to say to Elliott about the honor.
‘’When I tell a friend on the phone [about singing at the game], there is usually a long pause on the other end of the line,’’ Sachet said, ‘’And then they ask, ‘Donna, do they know?’ I reply, ‘I’m sure I’m not the first baritone to sing the national anthem at a Giants game.’’
Second, if you want to question why the Cubs did not do so well this year, last night was a microcosm of their season. Although, for those of you looking for some actual fire in the clubhouse, you might want to check in on rookie pitcher Randy Wells who was not pleased when he heard that Pienella called his pitching in September “a bonus”. CARRIE MUSKAT (MLB.com) has the details.
Wells doesn’t like the “bonus” baby tag.
“I hate that,” Wells said. “I’m not here as a sideshow or fill-in. I want to be part of the rotation next year. I hate that analogy. I’m here to pitch and I’m here to pitch for a long time. I don’t like losing. I hate losing. I hate walks. I hate cheap base hits. All that stuff is stuff for me to build off of and learn from and be better next year.”
Catcher Koyie Hill didn’t fault Wells. The right-hander made his pitches.
“He’s not a guy who’s going to overpower anybody,” Hill said. “He relies on execution and his location of his pitches. Randy doesn’t very often make mistakes above the waist. When he does, he leaves himself out there a little bit. Sometiems you just get beat. He made some good pitches today that were hit.”
The Giants loaded the bases with one out in the first and scored when Juan Uribe hit into a fielder’s choice, but Wells escaped without any further damage. Eli Whiteside smacked a pair of RBI doubles, connecting in the second and again in the sixth.
Cain (14-7) was tough and held the Cubs to three hits over eight innings. He’s now 5-2 in eight career starts against Chicago and has given up one run in his last 30 innings against the team.
“[Cain’s] delivery is free and easy, and boom, something nasty comes out,” said Bobby Scales, who hit an RBI triple in the ninth. “He’s really good. We faced four pretty good arms in this series and for us to come out with three wins, that’s pretty good. Tip your cap to that guy today—he’s excellent.”
Wells is working on reaching that same level. He was most upset about the Giants jumping out to an early lead and not being able to set a good tone.
“I haven’t used the excuse all year and I’m not going to use it now, but it’s a learning curve for me,” Wells said. “I’m the type of person who will learn and who will not make the same mistake twice. If I can take anything away from this year, it’s been a big learning process for me. I’ve learned how to pitch, I’ve learned how to manage games. Do I always do it? No, but that’s another thing I’ll learn from.”
He’s got one more start.
Well, I have taken up enough of your time today, so CLICK HERE TO HELP ME FIND SOME ANSWERS.
Let’s start with the good news. Last night the Tigers officially ended the White Sox season by beating the Cleveland Indians 6-5. Yes, they still have to play out the string, but now can focus on 2010 and take a look at filling a couple of nasty gaps. Their biggest concern will probably be lead off hitting followed closely by bullpen help. They have already informed the roller coaster ride named Octavio Dotel that he can look for work elsewhere. If they keep Pods, they are going to have to put him anywhere but center field. He is just too painful defensively. When a player makes you yearn for the Brian Anderson era, you know help is needed. Yes, Figgins is a free agent after the season and the Sox should have some salary room with the expected loss of Dye and having already removed Thome, Contreras and Colon from the payroll. With the rotating DH the Sox have planned, that leaves them a lot more clubhouse flexibility than they have ever enjoyed. Clearly, starting pitching is pretty much set and they have very viable options at closer, but that does still leave 6-7-8 as a problem. Oh well, it’s not my day to play GM, so we shall see what we see in the off season.
On the North Side, while not yet officially eliminated, the Cubs already made a major off season move by dumping perennial cancer Milton Bradley. It is too late to wonder what the hell Hendry was smoking when he had that dinner with Milty that prompted him to sign him, but whatever it was, let’s hope the stash is gone forever. Cubs fans are probably going to kill me for saying this, since many are already clamoring for the team to sign multiple free agents, but I don’t see this team needing that much. A tweak here or there and a lead off hitter and they are back in the game. Their pitching is solid, they have depth at a couple of positions and they got rid of Bradley. With Soriano being moved to the 6 hole when he returns that eliminates one major source of drama for the team. The outfield they have been playing since they dumped Bradley is one of the best defensive outfields in baseball. Add in Soriano’s bat and suddenly that team has room to move and can concentrate on the little things.
Keeping with our spirit of optimism today, JOHN JACKSON (Sun Times) looks at the Bulls’ prospects as they gear up for their next season. He likes their chances. As do I. I’ll let him explain why.
Still, with training camp set to begin today, many in the organization believe stepping up a level remains a possibility—if a few of the youngsters continue to grow.
Foremost on that list is point guard Derrick Rose, who had a splendid rookie season and was a near-unanimous choice as the NBA’s rookie of the year.
But as good as Rose was last season—16.8 points on 47.5 percent shooting and 6.3 assists—he spent a great deal of time deferring to his more experienced teammates.
This season, even though he doesn’t turn 21 until Oct. 4, there’s no reason for him to defer to anyone.
In fact, Rose being consistently more aggressive on the offensive end is one way the Bulls are hoping to make up for the loss of Gordon’s production—and that includes becoming the team’s go-to scorer at the end of games.
We certainly saw during Game 1 of the Boston series that Rose is capable of scoring in bunches and dominating a game when he puts his mind to it. Frankly, he was unstoppable, and the Celtics didn’t know what to do as the Bulls pulled off the 105-103 shocker.
While I wouldn’t expect Rose to match his gaudy numbers from that night (36 points and 11 assists) on a regular basis, I believe he can bounce back from a couple of off-the-court controversies in the spring and summer to average better than 20 points and seven assists—and make a serious push at becoming the Bulls’ first All-Star since the Jordan era.
Losing Gordon actually could accelerate Rose’s development because he won’t be worried about getting Gordon shots.
Add in one healthy Deng, some solid depth at center and the expected improvement of Noah, who looked very good in the playoffs, and this team might just scare the hell out of someone other than their fans.
Since the Bears impending game against the Seahawks has already been prognosticated to death, I am going to concentrate on the important stuff that the Bears are dealing with this week. Bears Defensive Tackle, ANTHONY ADAMS, fills us in.
We don’t have to come in on Mondays after a win, but I do. I come in at 8, 8:30 a.m. to run, get that soreness out of me. You have to. If I played 40 plays, I just got into 40 car accidents. You’ve got to come in and take care of your body: get in the hot tub, the cold tub, and stretch, lift, run. If you don’t do anything until Wednesday, it’s going to be bad for you.
In the film room, we make up lists for fines. Like (passing gas) is a $20 fine. If you fall asleep, that’s like $20. If you jump offside in practice and we see it on the practice film, that’s $20 and $100 for in the game.
Mark Anderson might be the worst (gas-passer) ever. He takes these protein shakes, so he smells like little babies do. He’s the worst at getting the fines and then saying he didn’t do it. I know he got that fine for that extra shove in the Steelers game. He wouldn’t let anybody see how much it was. We don’t get him (an extra fine) for that. When the league gets you, we leave you alone.
I don’t get fines for (passing gas). I leave outside the meeting room and do my dirt.
I had a brief visual of Mr. Adams having a litter box outside of the meeting room that will haunt me forever. Nevertheless, it is good to know that the Bears know how to deal with the important issues as well as figuring out how to stop their next opponent.
Let’s start by looking at the future. On Sunday our beloved Bears travel to the Northwest to face the Seattle Seahawks. Most every local prognosticator has Forte running for about 400 yards in the first quarter. And those are the conservatives.
The problem with that line of reasoning is that every NFL team, not residing in Detroit, has some sense of pride. Yes, the Seahawks got torched last week. Yes, they are banged up. But, assuming that they are just going to go out and leave running lanes open and wave the white flag is a bit of a stretch.
The Bears are two point favorites this week. So, go ahead, give the points and enjoy the game. But don’t plan on seeing insane ground numbers. Good? Yes. But not insane.
In unrelated news, Milton Bradley’s mom has finally shut up. In her absence, Milton (through his agent Seth Levinson) issued the following, kind of - sort of, apology.
“I chose Chicago as a free agent because I wanted to be part of finally bringing a championship to the Cubs’ fans. I expected to have a great season and I am deeply disappointed by my performance and the team’s struggles. I played every game with everything that I had and wanted to desperately win. My frustration and disappointment boiled over and I said and did certain things that I regret. In hindsight, I wish that I handled certain things differently and I apologize for those things that did not work out for the better.
“The air has been cleared and we all want to move on and look forward to better days.”
Quick, a show of hands from the people who believe that Milton even read that before his agent issued it ...... yeah, me neither. But, with the apology and his statement that he will not challenge the suspension, he and the Cubs can move on. In very different directions, it is hoped.
On the South Side, The Sox’ General Manager, Kenny Williams, took time to meet with the media yesterday for about half an hour. It is interesting to hear Kenny describe the team as underachievers. Neither I, nor DAVID HAUGH (Tribune) think this is fair. Since he is a highly trained professional and I am just a blogger, I will defer to him for my rationale.
Besides President Barack Obama, the only other guy who refuses to count the White Sox out of the playoff hunt sat in a dugout Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field and delivered a nonconcession concession speech.
Ken Williams wouldn’t call it that, obviously. But the competitive spirit you admire about Williams occasionally prevents the Sox general manager and reality from getting well-acquainted.
“If you’re asking me was I being honest and truthful when I said early in the season we could win this thing, then, hell yes, I believed that,” Williams said Wednesday before the Sox’s 8-6 loss to the Twins. “I still do, sitting here, knowing what the standings are.”
The standings say the Sox are in far worse shape than when Williams unfairly labeled them underachievers Aug. 17, the day they were two games behind the Tigers.
The 2009 Sox will be remembered as underachievers? Really?
Alexei Ramirez is finishing his first year playing shortstop and only two players at the position have made more errors than his 19. Ramirez usually is flanked by two rookies in third baseman Gordon Beckham and second baseman Chris Getz who both are prone to rookie mistakes. Left fielder Carlos Quentin, by Williams’ own admission, hasn’t been healthy enough to resemble the MVP candidate the Sox expected.
And since May the Sox primarily have used a guy in center field, Scott Podsednik, who covers ground as gracefully as Tom Delay on “Dancing With The Stars.”
Call the team Williams assembled imperfect. Unproven. Up-and-coming.
Add in the experiment with aging and injured pitchers in the 4 and 5 slots and you get what we got. Although, to be fair, no one saw them melting down as bad and as often as they did. As to the Cubbies, my guess is that when Lou says he would like a player like Raul Ibanez (which he said last year) he will get a player like Raul Ibanez and not another Milton Bradley.
Is there another? God, I hope not.
Let’s face it, there is more than enough disappointment for all Chicago baseball fans this year. All we can do now is cry in our beers and count down the days until pitchers and catchers report.
On a final happy note, the Fire have clinched a playoff spot and will be playing for the championship again this year.