Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cubs Sign Fukudome

The Chicago Cubs have reportedly agreed to a four year deal with Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome ("ko-SUE-kay foo-koo-DOUGH-may") worth somewhere between 48 and 50 million dollars.

If Fukudome plays as advertised, he will provide the Cubs with some much needed stability in the outfield, and the left-handed bat they have been searching for. Scouts have described him as a cross between Ichiro and Matsui, a guy who can hit for power and average. He is considered an above average fielder with a good arm and will most likely find himself in right field whent the season begins.

Twelve million per season for a guy that has never even had an at-bat in the majors may seem like a lot of money, and a big risk. After all, nobody really knows how his game will translate to MLB. However, his numbers in the Japenese league are quite impressive, boasting a .305 average, .397 OBP, and a .543 slugging percentage for his career. If Fukudome can replicate these numbers in MLB, he will be well worth the money and could be a key piece of the puzzle for the Cubs in 2008.

Adding Fukudome certainly solidifies the corner outfield positions for the Cubs, with center field still up in the air. Cubs management continues to be optimistic about Felix Pie who has done little in his few short stints in the majors. However, at only 22 years young, the jury is still out on Pie and he has time to develop into the player the Cubs hope he will be. As spring training approaches we will post previews of both the Cubs and White Sox, so stay tuned!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bye Bye Playoffs

In a game which showcased anything and everything that has gone wrong with the Bears this season, Chicago took another defeat at the hands of the Washington Redskins on Thursday night, dropping to 5-8 and virtually shredding any last playoff aspirations. Injuries, penalties, inconsistent QB/RB play, mediocre blocking, giving up 3rd and Long conversions on defense etc; It wasnt pretty!

Grossman was the first to go down after being sacked from his blind side and landing awkwardly. MRI came back to reveal just a sprain, but it is unlikely he will play again this season. That opens the door to the biggest question of the upcoming off season: who will start at QB for the Bears next season? It's blatantly obvious that Griese is a back-up quarterback and should return in that same role. I believe the Bears should definiltey give Kyloe Orton some playing time over their last 3 games. Although they aren't yet mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet, it is highly unlikely they will find a way to get in. With Grossman out and Griese's status as a back-up pretty certain, it's time to see what Orton can do.

The Bears have a lot of question marks when looking forward to 2008 at several key positions. David Haugh, the bears beat writer for the trib, reviewed many of the obstacles facing the bears for '08. Once the season comes to an official close, we here at Chicago Sports World will break down the entire Bears team by looking forward to '08. For the time being, lets see if they can finish the season on a postivie note and get back to .500!! Hard to beleive at this time last year, we were getting ready to celebrate a division title and first round playoff BYE on our way to the superbowl...

Monday, December 3, 2007


On an afternoon where the Bears really could have put themselves in the middle of the wild card chase, the Giants unleashed a fourth quarter come-from-behind victory in what is probably the most frustrating loss for the hometown Bears this season.

The Bears were thoroughly in control of this game for the better part of three quarters. However, the ineptitude of the Bears offense in the second half kept the Giants in the game and begged the defense to bail them out. Although the Bears defense was unable to come up with a stop on the Giants final two drives, it’s hard to fault them after forcing four turnovers and repeatedly handing the ball back to the Bears offense in good field position.

Offensively for the Bears, it was a tale of two halves. The no-huddle seemed to work perfectly in the first half, keeping the giants back on their heels and allowing the bears to march down the field. Grossman was 17-26 for 218 and a TD in the first half along with one HUGE drop by Devin Hester that almost for sure would have gone for an 82 yard TD pass. Imagine seeing Grossman first half numbers looking something like: 18-26 for 300 yards and 2 TD's. That would certainly be an eye-opener for anyone seeing that come across a ticker!

However, the second half was a completely different story as the Bears went away from the no-huddle, Grossman went 8-20 for 78 yards, and the Bears offense was only able to muster 3 points. The Bears seemed to have a completely different offensive scheme in the second half, as they went to a huddle-up offense, a lot of tight formations, and consequently a lot of third and long situations. Penalties and few big losses on sacks also haunted the Bears in the second half and helped to stall several opportunities the Bears had to put the Giants away.

Grossman has certainly thrown the ball a lot better over the past few weeks, but it is still difficult to determine exactly what Ron Turner is trying to do with the offense. The Bears just do not have the personnel at this time to line up in a tight formation and run the ball right at defenses. The most consistent they have looked this year has been recently while in the no-huddle scheme. This scheme has allowed the bears to keep defenses spread out and back on their heels which has even helped to open up some running lanes for Adrian Peterson. It will be interesting to see how Turner decides to attack the Redskins, one sport one of the better defenses in the league.

The loss most likely kills any hope the Bears have at making the playoffs this year and that opens the book for several other issues the Bears will have to address over the off season... probably best to leave those for another post!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

We've Got Wood!

Kerry Wood and the Chicago Cubs agreed to terms on a 1 year, $4.2 million dollar deal on Monday, apparently turning down numerous multiyear offers in other cities. After shoulder problems side-lined him for much of last season, he returned to the bullpen and pitched 24 innings yielding a 3.33 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. Wood has only pitched roughly 100 innings in the past 3 seasons due to injury problems, so the Cubs are hoping he can stay healthy and be a consistent righ-hander out of the pen. Part of the contract includes an estimated $3 million in incentives based on number of games finished.

Wood is expected to compete for the team's closer role when spring training begins, with Bob Howry and Carlos Marmol's names also mentioned as potential candidates. Last years closer, Ryan Dempster is expected to slide in to the #4 spot in the starting rotation, leaving Piniella with several options on organizing his bullpen.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Season Ends for Ced...

It’s official. Cedric Benson will miss the remainder of the season with an injury to his lower left leg that will require surgery. Adrian Peterson will move into the starting spot with rookie Garret Wolfe backing him up. The Bears have been injury plagued this season and this is another tough blow for a team trying to fight back into wild card contention.

Benson's injury couldn't have come at a worse time for his progress, as he seemed to be turning the corner a bit over the past two weeks after a really tough start to the season. Benson's performance this season has been under heavy criticism from fans/media especially with the circumstances surrounding Thomas Jones' departure this past off season. There has certainly been plenty of speculation surrounding the Thomas Jones/Cedric Benson situation despite the fact that it can be justified by pure economics. I believe the Bears actually made the correct move by not re-signing Jones to a long term deal, but you can easily make a case against that decision as well.

Regardless of anyone's thoughts on Benson/Jones, the future of the Bears starting RB job certainly has some question marks. Benson signed a 5 year deal in 2005 and has yet to finish an entire season without an injury. Benson has two years remaining on his contract, expiring at the same time as the extension Adrian Peterson signed last year carrying both backs through the 2009 season. Although I’m not sold on Cedric Benson being the Bears future at RB, I’m also not convinced that he clearly is not the answer. Benson hasn’t had an impressive year running the football, however, I’m not sure most RB's in the league would have great numbers this year on a Bears offense that has shown poor offensive line play, bad play calling, and inconsistent QB play, allowing defenses to stack an extra man in the box to defend the run. Therefore, I don’t feel as though I have a great body of work to analyze the type of RB Benson is capable of being.

With all of that said, there will certainly be speculation in the off season of what direction the bears should go in at RB. Draft? At this point, I don’t think the Bears should spend a 1st round pick on a RB, unless a Darren McFadden is on the board! If the Bears truly want to go in another direction at RB, why not trade for a capable and proven NFL back. Chester Taylor is a guy that comes to mind for me. Although he has a few years left on his contract, I certainly don’t see him wanting to sit behind Peterson who has already shown flashes of greatness during his rookie year.

Bottom line is that this is a tough break for Benson, who seemed to be running better the past couple of weeks on a team that could really use a solid running game for the final playoff push.

Thank YOU Devin Hester!

In what turned out to be one of the more exciting week 12 games, your Chicago Bears improved to 5-6 and still have a shred of hope for a potential wild card berth. Once again Devin Hester and the special teams unit came up huge with two touchdowns and a blocked punt, keeping the bears in the game when it seemed as though the offense would be lucky to cross the 50 yard line! Give Rex and offense some credit though, as they looked very sharp when it mattered most with a 12 play 65 yard drive over 2:30, scoring the tying touchdown with only 28 seconds remaining.

It's safe to say that Rex Grossman threw the ball fairly well yesterday, despite modest numbers of 17-33 for 193 yards with 1 TD/INT. Grossman also displayed a lot of poise during the final three minutes of regulation while running the no huddle and moving the bears right down the field. I will stick with the compliments here and not mention his two lost fumbles... ok so I did mention it!

Despite the positive outcome of Sunday's game, the Bears looked, for the most part, as mediocre and inconsistent as they have all season. We still have not seen them string together 4 solid quarters of football in any one game. With 5 games left to play (Giants, Redskins, Vikings, Packers, Saints) the Bears need to find a way to string together some consistent football without the big mistakes (turnovers, penalties) if they have any hope at all to squeak into the playoffs. At first glance, the Saints/Vikings games look to be the easiest out of the 5 games remaining. However, the NYG come to Soldier field next week having dropped two of their last 3 games and not playing well at all. These last five games are even more relevant when considering that the Giants have the lead for the first wild card spot right now, while the Redskins/Viking/Saints all currently share the same 5-6 mark where the Bears are at. The Detroit Lions after starting the season at 6-2 have now dropped 3 straight and are staring at 5 tough games to finish off the season (Vikings/Cowboys/Chargers/Chiefs/Packers). Therefore, the Bears control their own destiny to some point and are certainly still alive in the playoff chase.

The big question now is... can the Bears find some way to sustain a 4/5 game winning streak?

I gotta Have More Cowbell!