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Archive for July, 2008

Chicago Bears Devin Hester Signs New Extension

Posted by sportsmaven on July 27, 2008

Thank the higher powers above that Devin Hester’s wobbly hamstring healed just enough for him to sign a 4 year extension for a reported $40 million dollars, with a guaranteed $15 million.  The contract also has another $10 million in incentives if Hester develops into a #1 receiver, for which he has the potential to accomplish.

(Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

(Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

Word on the street is that the Hester deal has all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed:

  • David Haugh from the Chicago Tribune reports that “Hester becomes the 10th Bears starter and fifth Pro Bowl player the Bears have signed to a contract extension this off-season. It is believed this new contract will make Hester the highest-paid return man in NFL history.”
  • David Haugh also reports that Hester is at the top of the list of recent Chicago Bears re-signed by Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo.
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times reveals that “[Hester’s] extension adds four new years for Hester meaning he is a Bear through 2013. He was under contract through 2009 and he is the first player with a four-year contract for the Bears to get new money after only two seasons.”
  • ESPN reports that “This [contract] was probably the most difficult one we’ve had to do and probably ever will do because we’re not only rewarding a special player,” Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. “If you look at it as a returner, we blew that [money total] out of the water. It was now looking at him as what he might be or could be as a receiver. That’s where the real difficulties were and a real challenge.”

Any way you look at it, it seems that Devin Hester is happy (and potentially $40M richer) and the Bears are happy (a difficult, challenging, but creative and fair contract).  Hester celebrated by catching a 40-yd pass from QB Rex Grossman in Sunday afternoon’s practice.  Seems as though the hammy is healed.

Other Devin Hester commentary:

  • Windy City Gridiron notes that “[Bears] check another off theirs list” with the Hester signing.
  • Matt Loede from Bearsgab.com notes that “We’ll see now with a lot more cash in his pocket if that hamstring suddenly feels better today”
  • AOL Sports Fanhouse reports that “virtually everyone things [Hester signing] is a good move.”

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Welcome To The Chicago Cubs, Rich Harden

Posted by sportsmaven on July 27, 2008

Somebody should have warned Rich Harden that life with the Chicago Cubs was about to get maniacally interesting for the pitcher from Victoria, British Columbia.  Western Canada is about as far away philosophically, as well as geographically, from the world of the Cubs, yet Rich Harden’s performance in America’s Pastime has been nothing short of spectacular — with maddening results.
Cubs P Rich Harden

Cubs P Rich Harden

Harden was acquired on July 8th, along with P Chad Gaudin for Cubs P Sean Gallagher, OF Matt Murton, IF Eric Patterson, and C Josh Donaldson.  Harden was Cubs GM Jim Hendry’s answer for the Milwaukee Brewers acquisition of P CC Sabathia the day before, and he was everything advertised and more.

After today’s start, Harden has been spectacular.  Three starts, 17 1/3 innings pitched, 30K’s 8 hits, 2 ER, 1.04 ERA, 0-1 record.  The Cubs are 1-2 in his 3 starts.  Harden is 5-2 with a 2.04 ERA overall.  The Chicago Cubs have wasted performances that have been absolutely dominant, so much so that they match up substantially to Sabathia’s performance as a Milwaukee Brewer.

Sabathia’s numbers are: 4 starts, 33 IP, 20 hits, 6 ER, 31K’s, 1.36 ERA, 4-0 record.  Four wins for Sabathia, none for Harden.  The Chicago Cubs have 59 games left in the season after today.  Harden will likely have 12 more starts if he stays healthy.  The Chicago Cubs badly need to take advantage of Harden’s dominance.  Only in Chicago, could a pitcher post the numbers that Harden has put up and have no victories to show for it.

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Chicago Cubs Season Turning Into A Circus

Posted by sportsmaven on July 27, 2008

The Chicago Cubs magical first half of the 2008 season has quickly turned into a circus-like  atmosphere for destiny’s team in the month of July.  The Cubs began the season with few distractions, allowing the team to concentrate on playing very solid baseball, leading to the best record in baseball for much of the first half of the season.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

As of late, a rash of off-field events have provided plenty of distraction for a team already bearing the weight of lofty explanations.  Those events include:

On the field, the Cubs have been less than stellar, posting a 9-11 record since July 1st.  The off-field issues may have played some role in that record, but on-field, the Cubs have been a different team as of late.  Some of the on-field issues include:

  • OF Kosuke Fukudome hitting .185 in July
  • IF/OF Mark DeRosa hitting .188 in July
  • IF Aramis Ramirez hitting .176 in July including an 0-28 stretch between July 12-22.
  • P Bobby Howry sports a 6.97 ERA in July, giving up earned runs in 3 of his last 5 appearances.
  • Scheduling: From June 10th, the Cubs played for 26 consecutive days, including a rained-out affair at the Hall of Fame on June 16th, their only “day off” in that span.  On June 29th, the Cubs played the ESPN Sunday Night Game of the week and then had to board a plane to fly to San Francisco to play a game the next night.
  • Since June 10th, the Cubs record is 20-21.  Coming out of the All-Star break, the Cubs play 20 game in 20 days.
  • NL loses to the AL in the All Star game for the 11th straight year, thus securing home field advantage for the AL team, not a good sign for NL contenders such as the Cubs who are substantially under .500 on the road (22-30).

The Cubs are certainly not playing with the same energy that they displayed in amassing the best record in baseball in the days leading to the All-Star break, looking game weary while grinding out a schedule with spans of 26 games in a row and now, 20 in a row.

The Cubs seem as thought they’ve forgotten that playing baseball is fun.  The hitters look less patient at the plate, swinging at pitches they took for balls earlier in the season.  The once-vaunted bullpen, considered a strength of the team, is in disarray, with the injury to Kerry Wood forcing nearly every other pitcher in the pen to new roles.  Jim Hendry is unsure whether to make any moves when considering that considering that when healthy, there could be more players than positions.  I don’t know if this is a one week slide or if it’s a longer term issue.  I don’t know the cure to what ails the Cubs.  I do know that as of today, the Cubs are tied with the Brewers for first in the NL Central and both teams appear to be moving in opposite directions.

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Chicago Bears Open Training Camp One Man Down

Posted by sportsmaven on July 23, 2008

The Chicago Bears have reporting to training camp in Bourbonnais with new hope, many question marks, and apparently down one man, as of 12:45am CST.  Bears first round draft pick OT Chris Williams, the man who in his first press conference as a Chicago Bear vowed not to be a camp holdout, is dangerously coming close to being the only camp holdout this season.

The Bears begin their first practice today at 3pm CST with or without their 6’6″ 315-pound tackle from Vanderbilt. With all the new faces on offense, arguably, the person that can least afford to miss any time in camp is Williams, but barring any last minute signings, it appears that Williams is on track to begin his Bears career in the same fashion as infamous Bears such as Rashaan Salaam, Curtis Enis, Cade McNown, and Cedric Benson.  All were camp holdouts at one time, all are now ex-Chicago Bears, serious blips on the radar of underachievers and malcontents.

Now I am willing to give Williams and his agents Pat Dye, Jr. and Bill Johnson the benefit of time in reaching an agreement with the Bears before that 3pm CST practice, but if that time arrives and there is no sight of Chris Williams, all bets are off.  The Bears were already facing an uphill battle with everyone in camp, but with one of their anticipated key contributors missing any camp time, this really sets the Bears offense back, not just one step, but two steps.  With no set WR rotation, a top RB that has yet to take a snap in the NFL, no clear cut starting QB and now a OL missing their top draft pick, the Bears offense is already in disarray before the first whistle of training camp is blown.

The Bears need to get off the bus running this season — for a successful running game will take the pressure off the question marks of QB’s and WR’s.  An unsettled line from day one hurts the running game.  It hurts the passing game.  It puts pressure on the QB’s and WR’s to make plays.  It adds pressure to the RB’s to make plays with uncertain blocking.   The OL is the key to the success of the Chicago Bears offense, and to the Bears season……somebody please explain this to Chris Williams before 3pm CST.

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White Sox Putting The “South” In South Siders

Posted by sportsmaven on July 22, 2008

The Chicago White Sox have been living on the edge all season and somehow still manage to be in first place in what appears to be a three team race for the AL Central Division title.  The Sox have had trouble hitting consistently all season, but their pitching, particularly their bullpen, has been nothing short of fantastic.  Recently, the Sox bullpen has struggled mightily.  In their last 10 games, the Sox record is 4-6.  The hitting still remains inconsistent, but now the pitching, which has been unsinkable savior of this ballclub, is suddenly showing signs of taking on water.  LHP’s Boone Logan and Matt Thornton have been outstanding this season, but in the last 10 games, they have been hit hard.  Logan gave up 3 runs in an inning on Monday, while Thornton gave up 2 late runs (1 inherited) in Sunday’s 8-7 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

On Saturday, Logan gave up another run and the combination of RHP’s Nick Masset and rookie Adam Russell gave up 5 runs in 2 innings of work, both innings logged by Russell.  Logan’s last 5 appearances, he has given up a total of 8 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings pitched, with at least 1 earned run each apparance.

With the recent struggles of Sox starters RHP’s Gavin Floyd, Javier Vasquez, and the recently disabled Jose Contreras, the most consistent starter has been LHP John Danks, with LHP Mark Buehrle returning tonight to break the most recent 3 game losing streak.  With RHP Bobby Jenks recently returned from a trip to the DL, the Sox can’t afford a lengthy let down in an AL Central race that looks like it will go down to the wire between the Sox, Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins.  All it takes is one bad stretch for the bullpen for the Sox to be on the outside looking in on that dogfight in the Central.

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