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!