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Top 10 Moments In Chicago Sports In 2008

Posted by sportsmaven on January 17, 2009

The new year has already started and amidst the resolutions, fresh starts, diets, and new beginnings comes the ever reverent look back at the year that has passed.  The year 2008 was a banner year for Chicago sports, as three teams won their prospective division titles, and one, the Chicago Wolves won a championship.  There was good, bad, ugly, and everything in between for Chicago sports fans.  So, lets take a look back on the Top 10 Moments in Chicago Sports in 2008 (in no particular order):
Bears use goal line stand to beat the Eagles 24-20

Bears use goal line stand to beat the Eagles 24-20

Bears goal line stand against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4 — The Chicago Bears were leading the Philadelphia Eagles 24-20, Eagles had first and goal from the Bears 4, 5:40 left in the game.  Eagles run RB Cornell Buckhalter off right tackle for 3 yards.  Second and goal was a handoff to FB Tony Hunt for no gain.  Third down was back to Buckhalter to the right for no gain.  Eagles call a time out and decide to go for it on 4th down.   Buckhalter again off left tackle, this time, stood up by RE Alex Brown of the Bears for no gain.  Game over.  Bears win.

Zambrano hurls a no-hitter.

Zambrano hurls a no-hitter.

Cubs RHP Carlos Zambrano throws no-hitter against the Houston Astros on Sept. 14th —  The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros waited two long days to find out where they would be playing their key late season series against each other.  Houston was being devestated by Hurricane Ike and MLB moved the Astros to “neutral” Miller Park in Milwaukee to face the Cubs.  Zambrano brought his “A” game with him to “Wrigley North”, shutting down the powerful Astros lineup, striking out CF Darrin Erstad swinging for the last out of the first Cubs no-hitter in 36 years.

Chicago Cubs Win 2008 NL Central Division

Chicago Cubs Win 2008 NL Central Division

Cubs win back to back NL Central Division titles — The Cubs began the 2008 season with one of it’s goals to win the 2008 NL Central Division title, as well as seeking their first World Series appearance since 1945 and first World Championship since 1908.  Alas, the Cubs could only slay one 100 year drought, as they won an NL-best 97 games en route to the 2008 NL Central Division title for their  first back to back division titles since 1908.  A quick sweep in the NL Divisional Series by the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers dimmed what was to that point, a most magical season for the North Siders.

chicago white sox win 2008 al central division title

chicago white sox win 2008 al central division title

White Sox win 3 elimination games in a row to win the AL Central title — The Chicago White Sox looked dead in the water, losing  4 of their final 5 games to the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians, coughing up a 2.5 game division lead and falling 1/2 game behind the Twins with one game to play.  The final game of the Cleveland series and the regular season was a must win game with Mark Buehrle on the bump, the Sox beat the Indians to force the Monday afternoon post-season makeup game against the Detroit Tigers.  The Sox win the makeup game against the Tigers, forcing a one game playoff game against the Twins for the AL Division title, this time, in Chicago.   The Sox, behind a masterpiece by LHP John Danks, beat the Twins 1-0 and claim the AL Central Division title, winning three elimination games in a row.

derrick rose drafted #1 by chicago bulls

derrick rose drafted #1 by chicago bulls

Chicago Bulls win the 1st pick in the NBA Draft and the right to select PG Derrick Rose Chicago Bulls GM John Paxson had to work wonders to undo all the bad karma and decision-making by Bulls brass in the post-Michael Jordan/Phil Jackson era, but by sheer luck,  one of those bouncing ping-pong ball went red, and the Bulls, with a x% chance, landed the #1 pick in the 2008 NBA draft.  Around the same time, a young freshman PG from Chicago was leading his one-loss  Memphis Tigers team to the 2008 National Championship game against the Kansas Jayhawks.  The Jayhawks win the title, the young freshman forgoes his eligibility and declares eligible for the NBA Draft and the prodigal son returns a hero.

The City of Chicago becomes a finalist for host city for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games — Chicago survived the US bid process to emerge as the US entry for host of the 2016 Olympics.  Election Night provided the world a glimpse of what Chicago 2016 could be as Grant Park served as the world’s stage for President-Elect Barack Obama’s election night speech.  Chicago is President Obama’s hometown and can be in prime position to be named 2016 host, but it can’t rest on that momentum as concerns about finances, transportation infrastructure, and sports facilities still shroud Chicago’s Olympic bid chances.

Youngsters lead the resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks

Youngsters lead the resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks

The arrival of a young and resurgent Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, who finished  the 2007-08 season very strong and opened the 2008-09 season even stronger — the Chicago Blackhawks under owner Bill Wirtz became the city’s red headed stepchild of Chicago professional sports.  Even the minor league AHL hockey team, the Chicago Wolves, were outdrawing the Hawks in attendance.  Things couldn’t have been any lower, and then, Bill Wirtz died.  Bill’s son Rocky took the team over and his first move as team owner was to steal marketing genius John McDonough away from the Cubs, hiring McDonough as his new team president.  A change in coaches (Joel Quenneville in, Denis Savard out), a #1, and #3  draft pick later, youngsters C Jonathan Toews and RW Patrick Kane lead a marketing and on-ice resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks.  High point to date, a team best 9 game winning streak leading into the 2009 Winter Classic against the Detroit Red Wings.  The game resulted in a loss for the Blackhawks in the standings, but was a HUGE win for the Hawks in prestige and heritage.  A vintage Original Six team is reborn.

Chicago Bears Matt Forte leads Bears ground attack

Chicago Bears Matt Forte leads Bears ground attack

Bears hammer Indianapolis Colts on national TV in the season opener, marking the coming out party for Bears RB Matt Forte and ruining the home opening of the Colts new Lucas Oil Stadium — The Chicago Bears were playing on national television.  They were also playing the mighty Indianapolis Colts on the road in the Colts brand spanking new stadium.  The Bears have traditionally been nothing short of horrible in nationally televised night games and this was Sunday Night Football on NBC.  And QB Peyton Manning, coming off a knee injury, was planning on starting this game. The Bears were doomed, but fate forgot to mention that to this Bears team, lead by a resurgent defense and the nimble running of rookie RB Matt Forte, the only Bear to eclipse 100 yards rushing in his first ever game (123 yards), the Bears down the mighty Colts 29-13.

QB Juice Williams leads Illinois to 2008 Rose Bowl

QB Juice Williams leads Illinois to 2008 Rose Bowl

The University of Illinois football team plays in it’s first Rose Bowl since 1984 — In 2001, the University of Illinois football program was reaching it’s pinnacle capped by a Big Ten Conference Championship and an appearance in the 2002 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.  Two short years later, the Illini hit rock bottom, going 1-11, eventually firing coach Ron Turner and hiring master recruiter Ron Zook as his replacement.  In year 3 of the rebuilding process, the Illini found themselves with a 9-4 record, stunning #1 Ohio State on the road in a 28-21 victory that propelled the team to it’s first Rose Bowl in 24 years.

Chicago Wolves win the 2008 Calder Cup Championship

Chicago Wolves win the 2008 Calder Cup Championship

Chicago Wolves win the 2008 Calder Cup Championship, bringing a hockey title back to Chicago — The Chicago Wolves AHL hockey team beats the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-2 bringing the Calder Cup back to Chicago.  It is the 4th title for the Wolves in their 14-year history.  Soon after, Wolves Coach John Anderson is promoted to coach the parent team, the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers. The Wolves dip into a famous Chicago hockey family, tapping Don Granato as their new head coach.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Fighting Illini | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Something Special In The Air In Chicago

Posted by sportsmaven on September 30, 2008

It almost didn’t happen.  Two series ago, the Chicago White Sox were left for dead.  They went into Minnesota to play the badly limping Twins, armed with a 2.5 game lead and left down by .5 game with 3 to play.  At least they were home and playing a Cleveland Indians team that was playing out the string in a disappointing season.  The Twins were doing their part, losing the first two games of their final series against an all of a sudden very tough Kansas City Royals team, but the Sox kept throwing the generosity back, losing their first two games as well.  Then, the first break came.  Indians LHP Cliff Lee, the probable AL Cy Young Award winner and 22-game winner was shut down due to a stiff neck.  The next break came in the form of a clutch outing by LHP Mark Buehrle on Sunday to extend the season.  The third break was facing RHP Freddy Garcia (who so happens to be married to Sox manager Ozzie Guillen’s wife’s niece) and the Detroit Tigers at home.  The break after that was Garcia pulled from the game in the 6th inning after shutting down the Sox, only to be followed by 2B Alexi Ramirez’ grand slam to win the game for the Sox.  The biggest break of them all?  Hosting a one game playoff for the AL Central Division title at home against Minnesota.

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

The local Chicago media has been focused on a dual Cubs/Sox playoff presence for most of the baseball season.  Both teams were in 1st place in their respective divisions for most of the season.  TBS made a huge mention of this fact tonight on their television broadcast, as well as the fact that it has been 102 years since both the Cubs and the Sox made the post-season in the same year.  Nobody else mentioned the fact that in the same city theme, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers also made the playoffs this season.  Little coverage, little play anywhere for that story.  Since 1901, the White Sox have made the post-season 10 times, in 2008, 2005, 2000, 1993, 1983, 1959, 1919, 1917, 1906, and 1901.  In the same timeframe, the Cubs have made the post-season 16 times, in 2008, 2007, 2003, 1998, 1989, 1984, 1945, 1938, 1935, 1932, 1929, 1918, 1910, 1908, 1907, and 1906.  The last time both the Cubs and Sox make the playoffs in the same year?  That’s right, 1906.  In contrast, the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s have made the playoffs in the same season 5 times since 1968.  The New York Yankees and New York Mets have shared post seasons three times since 1969 and the Dodgers and Angels have done it twice since 1961.

There have been 17 intracity World Series matchups in baseball history.  The Yankees and Mets played each other in the 2000 World Series, dubbed the Subway Series.  In 1989, the A’s swept the Giants in the Bay Series, marred by a devestating earthquake.   Then it’s the Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956 and 1955, 1953, 1952, 1949, 1947, and 1941.  In the middle, the St. Louis Cardinals vs. St. Louis Browns in 1944.  Before that, it’s the Yankees again vs. New York Giants in 1951, 1937, 1936, 1923, 1922, and 1921.  Chicago Cubs vs. the Chicago White Sox?  Once, in 1906.

I don’t know if this will be the year for the Chicago match up for the ages, but something special is in the air in the Chicago baseball world in 2008.  Lets hope that it’s not another century before this happens again.

Posted in Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Do The Chicago Cubs Own Destiny? Only Time Will Tell…

Posted by sportsmaven on September 25, 2008

Hardly a day goes by before someone spouts an opinion about who our beloved Chicago Cubs should or should not want to play in the playoffs.  Just this evening, I had a conversation with my wife, her cousin, and a couple of other well informed sports theorists on the merits of each team the Cubs may have to face in the upcoming playoffs.

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Like many others, I was initially caught up in the popular debate.  I originally wanted the Cubs to face the New York Mets in the NLDS, as the Mets provide a very favorable matchup for the Cubs.  Anyone, but the Philadelphia Phillies, I thought.  After the Cubs, the Phillies were the most complete team in the NL this season and played the Cubs very tough this season.  Then I jumped on the Los Angeles Dodgers bandwagon, Manny Ramirez included.  The Dodgers were less imposing, offensively challenged, and in the weakest division in Major League Baseball, the good old National League West division.  Ripe for the picking.

The Milwaukee Brewers?  Won’t have to even think about facing the Brewers until the NLCS, that is if they secure the NL Wildcard.  That bullpen, the streaky offense, did the Brewers ride CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets into the ground in their push to the playoffs?

Amidst the thinking of the various scenarios and how they would potentially play out, another scenario popped into my little head, like a great rush of fresh air.  It seemed almost too simple to comprehend, as though simplicity eliminated the potential of this concept to be with merit.

Really, it doesn’t matter who the Cubs play in the playoffs.  There are no Pittsburgh Pirates or Washington Nationals in the playoffs.  Every team that makes the playoffs is an excellent quality team.  Each playoff team has it’s flaws, some more than others.  The playoffs are seldom about the best team during the season, but rather, the team playing the best when the playoffs happen to be played.  It’s a crapshoot – the team with the hot hand has the best chance of going all the way, first to win 11games wins it all.  It means that the Brewers or Dodgers have as good a chance as the Cubs in winning a World Series.  It means that the Chicago White Sox or  Minnesota Twins have as good a chance to win it all as the Tampa Bay Rays or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Network analysts, newspaper sports columnists, Peter Gammons, Ken Rosenthal and other baseball talking heads get paid to spin their most favorable matchups for each playoff team, to analyze favorites and make predictions based on the results of a 162 game season.  It’s even vogue to pick a dark horse, playing on past runs of underdog wildcard teams such as the St. Louis Cardinals, who won 83 games en route to a unlikely World Championship in 2006 over a 95 win Detroit Tigers team.

The team that will win the 2008 World Series will be the team that plays unified team baseball, puts it all together at the right time, catches lightning in a bottle to ride a hot streak that lasts for a month, a team that powers through the 11 wins necessary to be called World Champions.  Destiny has already chosen the 2008 World Series Champion.  The only question remaining is if destiny has chosen the Chicago Cubs, or do the Cubs have the balls and heart to go out and get their destiny?  Come October 30th, we’ll all know the answer to that question.

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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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The Chicago White Sox Are The Surprise Team In AL Central

Posted by sportsmaven on April 22, 2008

The surprise team in the AL Central this season is the Chicago White Sox. After a dismal 72-90 season in 2007, the Sox were picked no higher than 3rd place in most prognosticators division rankings for 2008. The Sox are certainly hitting the ball, with a solid offense led by Joe Crede, Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome and newcomers Nick Swisher and Carlos Quentin.

While the Sox were expected to be strong offensively, the true surprise for this team has been the solid performance of the pitching staff, especially the starters. Going into 2008, Mark Buehrle and Javier Vasquez were expected to be staff leaders. The back half of the staff has been led by a recent resurgence from Jose Contreras, who had his best outing since the World Series season of 2005 in his start on April 16th against the Baltimore Orioles, hurling 7 innings of 1 run ball with 6 strikeouts.

Gavin Floyd and John Danks have been the most surprising, with Floyd taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning of his start against the Detroit Tigers on April 12th. Floyd is 2-0 with a 1.40 ERA and improving by leaps and bounds as this season progresses. John Danks has also been fantastic, with a 2-1 record and a 3.04 ERA. Danks currently has a 14 2/3 inning shutout streak, and outside of a 2 1/3 inning, 7 run outing against the Minnesota Twins on April 9th, his ERA would be a sparkling 0.14 (1 earned run in 21 1/3 innings pitched)

If the Sox continue to get quality pitching, they can dominate a AL Central Division that suddenly appears to be much weaker than anticipated. The Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians have huge pitching problems that may not work themselves out. While Sox pitching continues to dominate AL Central play, the teams considered the strong horses of the division are fading early, providing the Sox a great opportunity to open up a formidable lead in the early part of the the 2008 season.

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