Bears Pace, QB Collector

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The Chicago Bears and General Manager Ryan Pace have been panned for a supposed bungling of this year’s NFL Draft. Trading away 2017’s third overall pick along with the third and fourth round picks and a 2018 third-round selection to move up just one spot for Mitch Trubisky was a price not worth paying, say the experts. Choosing tight end Adam Shaheen from unknown Ashland in round-two was an unnecessary gamble while Alabama safety Eddie Jackson has promise and character but comes with too much injury risk. And, critics suggest, running back Tarik “The Human Joystick” Cohen and offensive lineman Jordan Morgan filled lesser needs for a team lacking pass rushers, wideouts and secondary playmakers. Ryan Pace believes those choices take the Bears roster in the right direction, despite ridicule from both fans and analysts around the country. 

The Chicago Bears Super Bowl odds are, unsurprisingly, not good. Only five teams–the Bills, Rams, Jets, 49ers and Browns–have worse chances at winning it all next season. On paper the Bears roster looks incomplete. The draft failed to shore up a defense that ranked twenty-forth1 in points allowed per game last season. It also didn’t add proven playmakers to an offense that ranked twenty-eighth2 in points scored per game. So what did the Bears draft accomplish? It took laser-focus aim at solving the most difficult challenge an NFL team faces–finding a franchise quarterback.

Critics look at the Bears roster and see redundancy with two potential starters at the QB position, former Bucs hurler Mike Glennon and the rookie from North Carolina, Mitch Trubisky. How could the Bears pay Glennon $45 million over three years and then, just weeks later, draft his eventual replacement as their top choice? Well, giving up valuable mid-round draft picks to jump up one pick and snag an unproven quarterback seems short-sighted. But Pace’s moves are just an acknowledgement of what Bears’ fans have demanded for decades, find a true franchise quarterback to lead the team.

The National Football League clubs with the best chances of a Super Bowl championship next season all have franchise-level QBs. The Patriots and Tom Brady. The Packers and Aaron Rodgers. The Seahawks and Russell Wilson. The Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger. Even the Cowboys and Dak Prescott look like a long-term match. As Ryan Pace and the Bears front office look towards the future they know it all hinges on finding a blue-chipper at the QB position. Is it Mike Glennon, an unproven, relatively unknown quarterback who’s being paid like an unequivocal starter? Or is it Mitch Trubisky, a one-year starter at UNC, a school not known for its powerhouse football program? It actually doesn’t matter.

As long as one of the two quarterbacks pan out Ryan Pace cements himself as a front office executive worthy of the lofty title and hefty salary. By signing a starter and subsequently drafting another starter the Bears will live-and-die by this premise: find the star quarterback and then fill in the gaps around him.

Ryan Pace isn’t going to play it safe with his crack at the Bears rebuild3. “If we want to be great, you just can’t sit on your hands. There are times when you’ve got to be aggressive. And when you have conviction on a guy, you can’t sit on your hands. I just don’t want to be average around here. I want to be great and these are the moves you have to make.” Pace’s front office career will either thrive or fizzle once this story plays out but, if nothing else, Bears fans should respect a franchise builder willing to take a risk on finding the piece that matters most in sports.

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The 2017 World Series Champs

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With the 2017 Major League Baseball season under way it’s time for Cubs fans to start thinking about the season ahead. It’s hard, I know. Last fall brought with it everything a die-hard fan could want complete with a nearly unfathomable storybook ending. But the Cubs have found their way to 2017, we should too.

A look at the World Series odds point to another Chicago Cubs World Series title in 2017. The lineup is stacked with star hitters, defensive wizards scatter the field and, with Jake Arrieta and John Lackey back for at least one more season, the pitching staff is armed for dominance. But don’t kid yourself Cubs faithful, there are legitimate contenders across the majors looking to dethrone the champs.

In the National League the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals, New York Mets and San Fransisco Giants will all try to bring down the reigning champions. The Dodgers return basically the same team that won ninety-one games along with the NL West last season. With Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen starting and closing out games, respectively, again this season the Dodgers won’t go down without a fight. If their pitching staff stays healthy in 2017 the Nationals will be hard to beat come October. Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer along with Geo Gonzalez and Tanner Roark can match up against almost any staff in the league. Will the Mets have the offensive fire power to keep up with their NL competition? If Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Neil Walker bring the same level of power to the 2017 season they’ll certainly stand a chance. Out of the National League elite, the Giants have the best chance at getting to the World Series. Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija combined for forty-five wins last season. That troika, plus Matt Moore, have the pitching talent that pairs well with an offensive collection of consistent performers.

Tough competition lies within the ranks of the American League where the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox will compete for the AL pennant in 2017. Last season’s pennant winners aren’t too happy with how their 2016 ended. The Indians pitching staff, lead once again by Corey Kluber, will bring the same talent and intensity to 2017 that they did last season. And look out for shortstop Francisco Lindor to carry the offense and challenge for an AL MVP award this summer. The Astros finished third in the AL West last season–expect Houston to leap to the top of the AL West this year. Why? They’ve surrounded young talent–Carlos Correa, George Springer and Jose Altuve–with vets like Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann to form a poised, prepared lineup that will win a lot of games this season. There’s no doubt that the lineup will look strange without David Ortiz in the DH spot but Red Sox Nation is excited about another year of Jackie Bradley and Mookie Betts roaming the outfield. And with the offseason trade for former-White Sox ace Chris Sale the Red Sox have piled more talent onto a pitching staff that already boasts David Price and Rick Porcello. Speaking of the White Sox, do the South Siders stand a chance in the American League? No way but that’s alright. For the first time in a long time White Sox brass is allowing themselves the space to rebuild the right way so they can challenge for a World Series ring again in the near future.

So which club will win the 2017 World Series championship? Winning back-to-back championships is a Major League Baseball rarity–the Yankees did it way back in 2000. But the World Series odds just make too much sense going into this season. With a deeply talented lineup the Cubs will win the NL Central by double-digits. Joe Maddon will have the luxury of resting pitchers and moving position players in-and-out of the lineup leading up to another fall playoff run. Maddon’s ability to play with all the pieces of the chessboard that Theo Epstein collected will prove too much for the rest of Major League Baseball.

RE: Addison Russell Planning to Become Next Cubs Superstar

As Patrick Mooney suggested in this past week’s CSN Chicago article the Cubs have a shortstop that, believe it or not, has the talent to outshine everyone he shares a diamond with.

The start of spring training is a reminder that Russell has still only spent one wire-to-wire season in The Show. He turned 23 last month and has already become a World Series champion, the youngest player in franchise history to start an All-Star Game and the first Cub shortstop to reach 95 RBI since Ernie Banks in 1960.

Addison Russell is so young, has so much potential and, with that World Series grand slam, is proving to play big when it matters most. I’m excited for the evolutions of Bryant and Rizzo. I’m intrigued by the potential of Baez. And watching Schwarber swing a bat never gets old. But I’m most hopeful about Russell and how far his demeanor, bravado and big-time talent will take him over the next few years.

RE: Bulls still waiting for young players to step forward

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The Chicago Bulls young core–the ones John Paxson and Gar Forman sold us on as the organization’s future–are floundering with no signs of bounce back. The inconsistent team performances tie directly back to the lack of contributors beyond Jimmy Butler, Dwayne Wade and a couple of other veterans. The Daily Herald’s Mike McGraw sheds some light on a couple flailing Bulls.

The two obvious choices are McDermott and Nikola Mirotic. McDermott continues to show some good signs. In Tuesday’s game, LaVine tried a few times to take McDermott one-on-one and wasn’t always successful.

McDermott has been back for just three games after missing 11 with a concussion, but he should be making more of his impressive offensive skills. McDermott’s 9.9 scoring average and 31-percent shooting from 3-point range might be the most obvious spot where the Bulls could receive some rapid improvement.

Mirotic’s peaks and valleys are difficult to accept. In the last nine games, he’s averaged 6.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, shot 34.4 percent overall and 20.6 percent from 3-point range. There’s no way to put a positive spin on that stat line.

Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott will never emerge as the next crop of Bulls stars. Without a dramatic turnaround the pair of twenty-five year olds are headed down a similar path–inconsistent role players that toil away on the middle of a good team’s bench. What that means for the Bulls is nothing good. Fans will look to GarPax to draft, sign and trade for stars to compliment Jimmy Butler, the team’s next great hope.

RE: Cubs Add Wade Davis With Singular Goal In Mind—Repeating As Champions

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It’s hard to replace a guy like Aroldis Chapman. Few pitchers have the arm strength, overwhelming delivery, spot-on accuracy and imposing stature to match the former Cubs’ closer. With the addition of Wade Davis the Cubs have added a reliever that might just come close. Bruce Levine, of CBS Chicago, gives us some great perspective on what Wade Davis has already accomplished and how he’ll fit into the mix come next spring.

Davis has been arguably the best reliever in baseball over the past three years, a stretch over which he’s compiled a 1.18 ERA and allowed just three homers. For his career, Davis sports a 0.84 ERA in 32 1/3 postseason innings.

With Davis ready to close in 2017, the Cubs can bring 25-year-old reliever C.J. Edwards along under less scrutiny, keeping the training wheels on for one more year before anointing him closer.

The Cubs are now really deep with talented right-handers in their bullpen. In addition to Davis and Edwards, they have reliable veterans in Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm.

Adding Wade Davis to the Cubs’ bullpen for one-year makes a lot more sense than paying $86M to Aroldis Chapman or $80M to Kenley Jansen. He’s a two-time All-Star that is already seasoned for the postseason. It works on so many levels.

RE: Chris Sale Traded to Boston

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Last week the Chicago White Sox’s turned up the volume on their rebuild trading Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox for Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz. Nick Schaefer of South Side – Baseball Prospectus gave us a quick breakdown of the Sox prospect haul. Here’s a couple tidbits.

Depending on whom you ask, Moncada is somewhere between the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball to anywhere down to 10ish or so. He has massive tools — power, speed, etc. — but has had barely any time at Double-A or Triple-A, so I would hope the White Sox give him most of 2017 in the minors. He’s been playing primarily third base, but his natural position is at 2B… 

Kopech is a flamethrower in the low minors who sits touching triple digits and has popped 102-103. His change has evidently improved to go along with his low-90s slider that may be a plus pitch. The question here is “starter or reliever?” because the guys who throw this hard are overwhelmingly unable to hold up as starters. Our prospect team has him as a reliever.

Whether Moncada and Kopech turn into All-Stars, average starters or big-time busts it was time to trade Chris Sale. The early analysis around the league suggests Rick Hahn brought back a nice package for the sometimes moody, always amazing Chris Sale. Let the rebuild begin!

RE: A bad last drive and amnesia about Jordan Howard doom Bears

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The Chicago Bears (3-10) lost again. This time to the NFC North leading Detroit Lions (9-4). The surprise isn’t that they lost–that’s commonplace for a team who’s wandering through a lost season. As Rick Morrissey writes in the Chicago Sun Times it’s the lack of offensive vision that has fans shaking their heads.

…what was Loggains thinking? Howard averaged 6.6 yards a carry Sunday. He had runs of 28 and 31 yards. The Bears were not fighting to come back from a huge deficit. They didn’t need to throw the ball 32 times (to 17 runs). Loggains continues to forget about his best weapon, choosing instead to put the game into an inexperienced quarterback’s hands. That’s fine if you’re trying to put yourself in the best position in next year’s draft but not so fine if you’re trying to win football games.
Loggains looks like he has preconceived ideas of what an offense should look like rather than two eyes that can see the obvious in front of him. And where is head coach John Fox, old blood and guts, yelling into his headset for Loggains to knock it off already and run the football?

Jordan came into the game with five 100 yards games this season. He rushed for more than 100 yards in all three of the Bears’ victories. He finished with 86 Sunday. Give him 10 more rushes and maybe he breaks another big gain. And perhaps we’re discussing a Bears victory right now. With 3:17 left in the game, three timeouts left and only a field goal needed to tie, the Bears started their last drive with seven straight passes. Jordan Who?

Your quarterback is journeyman Matt Barkley. Your receivers are second and third stringers that drop an unrespectable number of passes. Your running back is breakout sensation Jordan Howard, a rookie that’s top-ten in all major rushing categories. None of those facts suggest you should throw the ball nearly double the number of times you run it when the game is well within reach. John Fox is a run-first, run-second, throw-if-you-must kind of head coach that, for some reason, has allowed his new offensive coordinator to call plays that fly in the face of logic. Inexcusable.