In 2005 a team from Texas went to its first World Series and faced a scrappy team that most people were predicting to fail. In 2010 a team from Texas is playing in its first World Series and facing a scrappy team that most people were predicting to fail. In 2005 Juan Uribe and Aaron “Crash” Rowand became legends with their play on the national stage. In 2010 Juan Uribe and Aaronn “Crash” Rowand are becoming legends with their play on the national stage. In 2005 the scrappy team won the first two games at home and went on to sweep the team from Texas. In 2010 the scrappy team won its first two games at home and .... well, that final chapter hasn’t quite been written yet.
Oh, and Ozzie Guillen is, once again, involved. In 2005 he was the manager of said scrappy team and in 2010 he is the announcer for the scrappy TV network.
As PHIL ROGERS from the Tribune reports, we’ve been there, seen that. As PHIL ROGERS from the Tribune reports, we’ve been there, seen that. As PHIL ROGERS from the Tribune reports, we’ve been there, seen that. As PHIL ROGERS from the Tribune reports, we’ve been there, seen that.
Different time. Different team. Familiar feeling.
Juan Uribe and Aaron Rowand are up to their old tricks, this time with the Giants. The two, of course, were White Sox teammates in 2005 on one of the most remarkable postseason teams in baseball history.
Uribe, Rowand and the unusual cast and crew of strong-armed pitchers and role players surrounding them have given the Giants a 2-0 edge in a World Series that Rangers’ fans had awaited for 39 seasons. This is eerily similar to ‘05, when the White Sox won two at home before going to Houston, where the Astros were involved in their first Series in their 44th season.
Rowand, whom White Sox general manager Ken Williams traded to get Jim Thome one month after the victory parade, knows it’s too early to celebrate anything.
“You don’t change anything in your mindset,’’ he said after a pinch-hit, bases-loaded triple added an exclamation point in Thursday night’s 9-0 victory. “There’s a reason the Texas Rangers are playing in the World Series. We have to keep our foot on the throttle and keep pressing forward.’’
Uribe, whom the Giants originally signed to a minor-league contract after Alexei Ramirez supplanted him in Chicago, has emerged as a two-way force. Rowand, signed to a $60-million contract as part of the post- Barry Bonds initiative, lost his starting job to the late-blooming Andres Torres but has remained a respected contributor.
Neither Uribe nor Rowand have been the fixtures they were on those White Sox. But along Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell and Edgar Renteria they epitomize a team that has the exact right guy manipulating the roster.
No manager has gotten more victories for less money the last 15 years than Bruce Bochy, who learned to improvise while guiding the Padres to the 1998 World Series. He’s constantly tinkering with his lineup and finding ways to get the most from the talent he has been given.
Bochy has called the team that stands two victories away from a World Series parade “castoffs and misfits,’’ and the players smile at that idea. The manager is uncomfortable with the thought he has much to do with what happens on any given night.
“It’s the players,’’ he said. “When they do well, I feel great for them because it’s not easy for some of these guys who aren’t getting playing time on a consistent basis, whether it’s a (Nate) Schierholtz or (Travis) Ishikawa or Rowand, Edgar … I just feel good they’re doing something to help contribute. … They check their ego at the door and they’ve stayed ready. They’ve been working hard in case they did have a chance to do something.’’
Bochy praises the 34-year-old Renteria for “playing like he did 10 years ago.’’ But you only have to go back five years to find Rowand and Uribe on a similarly thrilling October ride.
Between the ‘05 White Sox and the ‘10 Giants, Rowand and Uribe are 20-4 in the postseason. They’re an incredible 6-0 in World Series games and are playing in their sixth postseason series together without ever knowing the stress of an elimination game.
How many players ever have known more big-game joy than Uribe?
For the White Sox, his defense at shortstop was a major key, including a pair of electrifying plays late in Freddy Garcia’s 1-0 victory in the clincher. Bochy has shifted him to third, where he has displaced the disappointing Pablo Sandoval, and repeatedly he’s pouncing on grounders and slinging side-arm fastballs to first base, the throws barely beating runners.
Giants fans serenade him with cries of “Ooooh-ree-bay! Oooo-ree-bay! Oooo-ree-bay!’’ He takes it all in, and expresses himself best with the huge smile he wears on his face.
What’s not to smile about?
One other thing, the Giants are without their legendary slugger, Barry Bonds. The Sox were without their legendary slugger, Frank Thomas. Of course, the comparison between those two starts and ends right there. After that Bonds isn’t worthy of sniffing Thomas’ jock.
For your Northside die hards, you’ll be pleased to know that the EX-CUB FACTOR doesn’t really apply this year since both teams have two and are only playing one.
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I’m a silly Billy. Silly, silly silly. I keep maintaining these silly notions about a football team having to score points to win. I keep thinking that watching the quarterback lie on his back and count stars is a bad thing. Like I said, I’m a silly Billy.
I have other silly thoughts as well. Some of them involve penguins.
But, today, I found out that the Bears can still be contenders, even without an offense, as long as they have a solid defense. I guess this will work as long as the defense scores 21 points game. But, that’s silly thinking, obviously. The Bears don’t need points. They don’t need a reliable offense. All they need is defense and all the other teams will magically fall away.
How did I find out that I was a silly Billy, you might ask? Well, I’m glad you did. BRAD BIGGS at the Tribune told me so.
As the Bears roared out of Halas Hall Thursday afternoon with a weekend pass, they did so with the knowledge their lead in the NFC North could grow before they gather again Monday.
The Bears (4-3) hold an edge over the Packers (4-3) atop the division by virtue of having beaten them already. While the Bears rest up over the weekend, the Packers and Vikings (2-4) will get a look at the difficult part of the schedule that lies ahead.
The Packers visit the Jets and the Vikings play the Patriots in New England. Facing the AFC East clubs will be no treat for the NFC North this season, but if the Bears are going to be a contender a month from now, it will be because of their defense.
How much better their offense got during two practices this week when there were no team drills remains to be seen. Basically, it amounted to a week off work for quarterback Jay Cutler, and the embattled offense must make significant strides in the second half so it at least isn’t beating itself Sundays.
The defense, on the other hand, is in prime position. The Bears rank fourth in the efficiency ratings Fox analyst Troy Aikman has devised, a comprehensive evaluation that goes far beyond yards allowed. The Bears are second in points allowed, first on third down and fifth against the run.
Rod Marinelli has fit the role of coordinator well as the Bears’ third in as many seasons. You never would think this is a first for him in the NFL.
“I’ve had a pretty good feel of it, but most calls work when they’re well executed. That’s the coach and the player working together, day-to-day drill work and fundamentals,” Marinelli said. “It’s something I enjoy.”
Besides Marinelli’s presence in a more prominent role this season, why is the defense clicking after sliding since Super Bowl XLI? Here are three reasons:
•Safety was a major concern entering this season because when the Bears were blistered last season it was in games where they allowed a bounty of big plays.
Danieal Manning and Chris Harris haven’t been perfect by any stretch, but they have been steady and opponents haven’t feasted on the secondary. Add in the steady play by cornerback Tim Jennings, a free-agent addition in March, and a group no one expected a lot from quietly has gone about its business.
If rookie Major Wright can make a mark in the second half, things could get better.
•Few would have predicted the Bears defense would be looking so good after seven games if Julius Peppers had only two sacks, but it has.
That’s because Peppers has rubbed off on those around him. Israel Idonije has a career-high 4 1/2 sacks and while Peppers doesn’t have flashy statistics, he has been relatively consistent and offenses have had to plan around him. Bears’ opponents have a passer rating of 69.2, second-best in the league.
Yes, there is concern here as complementary roster moves indicate, but the pass rush has done its job even if the sack numbers aren’t what were envisioned.
•As much of an effect the addition of Peppers has made, the strength of the unit still lies at linebacker, where Brian Urlacher isn’t playing like he’s 32. Lance Briggs should come back next week healed up from his sprained left ankle and Pisa Tinoisamoa has been what the Bears figured he would be a year ago. The linebackers have been solid in maintaining gap discipline and the scheme is working again.
The franchise certainly is accustomed to the defense carrying it. But that was when the offense at least could run the ball with consistency. We will see if this offense can evolve.
See? All my worries were silly. There’s plenty of football left for the offense to “evolve.” The Bears are in first place because they deserve to be, and that is where they’re gonna stay. Any comments to the contrary are hereby, officially, labeled “silly.”
When I read the various blogs and professional columns, it becomes clear that I live in a world full of silly Billies. No one seems to have noticed that offense is a luxury the Bears can do without. Silly people keep worrying about silly things like the offensive line - boy, is that ever an apt term - and the play calling and the lack of execution and the fact that Jay Cutler looks, and sounds, like he has Asperger syndrome.
Those are silly things to worry about.
While I’ll readily admit that the defense has been solid this year, and that I have been pleasantly surprised by Marinelli, safeties and punters don’t win games. At least not often enough to game plan for it.
And, yes, I do get the fact that Mr. Biggs was looking for any sort of silver lining and found one.
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Over the rainbow, he is crazy.
Bars in the window.
There must have been a door there in the wall.
For when he came in.
Over the rainbow, he is crazy.
The evidence before the court is incontravertible.
There’s no need for the jury to retire.
In all my years of judging I have never heard before,
Of someone more deserving of the full penalty of the law.
The way you made them suffer,
The exquisite fans and Cutler,
Fills me with the urge to defecate!
No, Judge, the jury!
Since, my friend, you have revealed your deepest fear,
I sentence you to be exposed before your peers.
Throw him out of Halas Hall
with apologies to Pink Floyd
While there’s something to be said for being so delusional that you can smell colors and hear scents, after all the desire to do so fueled a large part of the 60’s, it becomes problematic when you’re trying to operate heavy machinery. And make no mistake about it, the Bears are the humanoid equivalent to heavy machinery and Mike Martz is a primary operator of same. The Sun Times very own, NEIL HAYES, was forced to sit - gape jawed, I’d imagine - through the demented ramblings of the Bears’ offensive, and I mean that in the vilest sense of the word, coordinator.
Mike Martz said several Bears turned in exceptional performances in Sunday’s maddening loss to the Redskins. He’s convinced the offensive line is on the verge of radical improvement, that Jay Cutler’s confidence continues to soar despite the four interceptions he threw Sunday and the relentless beating he has absorbed.
He doesn’t blame the receivers for any of those interceptions and remains as committed to the running game as ever.
It might be reassuring to hear the offensive coordinator speak so glowingly about the Bears’ crushingly disappointing offense if not for his growing credibility gap. Since joining the Bears, Martz has gone out of his way to raise the stakes by continually gushing about his quarterback, receivers, running backs and even his offensive line.
The problem is, the offense has performed far below expectations through the first seven games, and when asked for reasons why, it’s almost impossible to get a straight answer.
When asked Wednesday if he’s surprised his offense hasn’t performed better, Martz delivered a filibuster.
‘’Anything about any offense is about the discipline of what you do,’’ he said. ‘’When you’re inconsistent, there’s a discipline breakdown technically similar somehow. It just takes one. Offensively, if there’s a breakdown, if there’s just one guy, it’s going to show up somewhere. We’re getting way better at that.’’
During his introductory news conference, Martz said, ‘’We will be hitting on all cylinders on opening day, I can promise you that.’’ But here it is Week 8, and we’re still waiting—in part because Cutler still is struggling to make the most fundamental adjustment that every quarterback in Martz’s system must make.
He’s still struggling to throw to a spot on the field rather than an open man. The lack of protection he has received and the fact that his receivers haven’t always been where they are supposed to be have complicated the problem.
Martz came close to admitting as much Wednesday, which is significant because he admits so little.
‘’Initially, before the injuries came in, [Cutler] had clean feet in the pocket and you could see him getting the ball out in good time,’’ Martz said. ‘’Then he had to move around a little more than we would want, but that’s what I like about this last game. He had a lot of clean pockets in there. There were some really good things that happened with him in there.”
Cutler said before the season that throwing to a spot was by far the most difficult adjustment he will have to make. On Wednesday, he said it’s a skill he’s still trying to develop.
‘’It’s always going to be a process, not only for me, but also for the receivers,’’ he said. ‘’They’ve got to be at the right spot at the right depth at the right time against the right coverage. There’s a lot of variables involved, and it’s a process. We’re still going through it.’’
It’s impossible to minimize the difficulty in the transition Cutler is trying to make. He’s not like Kurt Warner, Trent Green and Jon Kitna, who all excelled under Martz. Those quarterbacks needed Martz and his system more than Martz needed them. None of them had Cutler’s arm strength, which allows him to wait until the last moment to deliver the ball.
And none of them had been voted to a Pro Bowl before being asked to change their entire approach to the game.
‘’It’s a different philosophy,’’ backup quarterback Todd Collins said. ‘’I remember in 2001 when I started learning the offense. It was hard. The coaches are always on you to get rid of it sooner, sooner, sooner. I remember asking myself, ‘How can I throw it sooner? The guy’s not even looking.’
‘’I played under other coaches who don’t agree with the philosophy of throwing it before the guy is out of his break. They think you should pick up his angle and see where he’s going. It takes a tremendous amount of trust between you and the receiver. If he’s not in the right spot in the right time, it’s on him. But at times it can make the quarterback look bad, too.’’
Since he arrived, Martz has showered praise on Cutler about everything from his arm strength to his competitiveness to his soaring football IQ. If Cutler mastered his offense quicker than expected, as Martz claimed again and again, how can his four-interception performance against the Redskins be explained? If the receivers weren’t to blame, as Martz claimed Wednesday, why did Johnny Knox not maintain inside position on DeAngelo Hall to prevent one interception, and why did Devin Hester not come back to the ball to prevent another?
Bears fans deserve straight answers—and the truth is, Cutler and his receivers still are struggling with the basic fundamentals of this offense.
If they don’t figure it out soon, the second half of the season will be just as perplexing as the first. And at this time next year, they’ll likely be trying to master a new offense for the third straight year.
To be fair, I could care less what the coaches say to the media or fans. What I do care about is the fact that Martz coaches this team likes it’s in his fantasy league and not the NFL.
For a reasoned rebuttal to Mike Martz’ unbelievable utterances, I turn the floor over to BRAD BIGGS at the Tribune.
No one seemed interested in embracing the cold facts — this offense is in worse shape than it was a year ago. After seven games, nearly half the season, the Bears rank at or near the bottom in many crucial offensive statistics. They’re 32nd on third down, 32nd in sacks, 32nd in interceptions, 31st in the red zone, 30th in yardage, 29th in rushing, 29th in passer rating, 27th in time of possession, 26th in points and so on. It’s a cavalcade of offensive meltdowns.
The Bears cannot score from the 1-yard line, or at least they haven’t in 10 tries. They set an NFL record with nine sacks allowed in one half. Cutler tied another record by throwing four interceptions to the Redskins’ DeAngelo Hall.
They’re not just failing. They’re failing spectacularly. They’ve converted 5 of 53 third downs since halftime of the Green Bay game Sept. 27, the last time they played winning football against a decent opponent.
Bring back John Schoop?
Admit it, you’ve seen the same games we have. You’ve felt the same frustrations we have. You believe, as we do, that Timothy Leary must have spiked the Gatorade from beyond. There’s no other excuse for this mess.
Our fan favorite, Big Star, has already started a thread, so CLCK HERE TO TASTE THE SOUNDS.
It’s a lazy Hump Day. The trees on my block, which needed trimming anyway, are much thinner today thanks to the Cyclone That Ate Chicago.
In other whimsical news, there were almost 100 requests from “people” wanting to be new members today and not one was from a real person. I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure Barack Obama knows how to spell his name and that Sarah Palin doesn’t actually live in Russia. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.
One of the fun things about this blog is that, occasionally, we give people (the real ones) something to talk about. Other times, we don’t have to do much at all since all the talking points are there for the taking. Today is one of those days.
AARON GLEEMAN from MSNBC reports that Ryne Sandberg could be coaching in Chicago after all. For the White Sox.
Ryne Sandberg was passed over for the Cubs’ managerial job, but perhaps the Hall of Famer could end up coaching in Chicago after all.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen praised Sandberg during a radio interview today and seemed open to the possibility of Sandberg joining his coaching staff if third base coach Joey Cora leaves to take the Brewers’ manager job.
Here’s a Guillen quote from the interview, via the Chicago Tribune:Sandberg is a great baseball man and I don’t know him personally, but you need to hire a coach to help you win games. I say Ryno, after so many years playing in the big leagues and managing for a few years in the minor leagues, I don’t see why not, to help you as a bench coach.
Sandberg was named Pacific Coast League manager of the year at Triple-A this season, but said after finishing runner-up to Mike Quade for the Cubs’ job that he planned to pursue a big-league gig for 2011. If nothing else, spending a season as Guillen’s right-hand man would give Sandberg plenty of material if he ever wanted to write a book. Or if he ever wanted to go insane.
Actually, I know a couple of people who know Sandberg well. They think that he would fit in perfectly with Ozzie. While his personality is different, both men are baseball lifers and both are firm believers in pitching and defense. They’re also quite fond of winning. It could be a very good match.
No, not that “C” word, the other one; “Contraction.”
But there’s enough of an argument here for Bettman to put contraction on the table. Owners of prosperous teams would love it — they wouldn’t have to subsidize small-market teams and could keep greater shares of TV and advertising dollars. It would also put Donald Fehr, the incoming executive director of the NHL Players Association, in a tough spot. Should he fight to keep jobs or for overall stability? Or can both exist?
The nice thing about hockey’s current woes is that, in places like Arizona, you and a group of 20 friends can just walk up to the gate and get good tickets about 5 minutes before the puck drops. That bad thing about that is that, except for your 20 friends, you’re pretty much all alone. Of course, anything that makes Donald Fehr uncomfortable has to be a good thing so we’ll see how this all plays out over the next year.
But, the best talking point of them all comes from the Sun Times very own, SEAN JENSEN. He wants the Bears to dust off the Rex Grossman playbook to save Cutler’s life.
During a bye week, NFL teams rewind recent game tapes and review what went right and wrong.
The Bears, though, should dig deeper into their archives and study their NFC championship season from 2006.
‘’If offensively they took the mentality of maximizing each possession and minimizing the damage and embracing tight games and not being afraid to play in a safer manner, they can win more games,’’ said former quarterback and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, who led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl ring.
Trading for quarterback Jay Cutler before last season and hiring coordinator Mike Martz before this season ramped up expectations for the Bears’ long-suffering offense. There have been skeptics, but the pairing of Cutler and Martz largely was hailed as a potentially potent one.
Through seven games, though, Cutler and Martz are fortunate—especially with elections coming up—that they aren’t subject to any approval ratings.
The Bears’ offense is ranked 30th in the NFL, Cutler’s 84.1 passer rating is 21st in the league and the litany of problems is overwhelming. The Bears are last in third-down efficiency and sacks allowed and second-to-last in percent of passes intercepted.
It’s clear Cutler and Martz are pressing and trying to fulfill grandiose expectations. But perhaps coach Lovie Smith should dust off the Rex Rules by insisting that the offense focus on protecting the ball, running the ball and not being afraid to put itself in punting situations.
There you go Bears’ fans, your only hope for success is for the Bears to emulate Sexy Rexy. If that doesn’t make you bust out the Vodka and Draino cocktail for breakfast, I don’t know what will.
As for me, I’ve pretty much written off the Bears season this year and am looking forward to the 2011 campaign for world domination.
Or 2012. Maybe 2013 .....
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