Chicago Sports Inside and Out – The Chicago Sports Maven

Bringing Chicago sports to the world!

Posts Tagged ‘ESPN’

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.”

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Chicago Cubs Run Into A Mid-Season Rut

Posted by sportsmaven on June 30, 2008

No doubt, so far in the 2008 season, Chicago Cubs fans have been treated to great baseball above and beyond any fathomable expectations. The Cubs entered June with the best record in baseball and have played most of the month of June with that same label, but as June comes to a close, the Cubs are limping to a well deserved and needed break for the 2008 All-Star game at Yankee Stadium in New York.

For the first time this season, the Cubs are facing adversity. The Cubs have played so well that even fickle fans have been spoiled by the lengthy and meaningful success the Cubs have enjoyed so far this season. Their season long dominance at Wrigley Field has provided a sense of dominance in the somewhat weak National League, but injuries are starting to pile up and it’s beginning to take it’s toll on the Cubs dominant run.

When RF Alfonso Soriano went down with a broken hand in the Braves series, all was not lost, as the Cubs lost Soriano earlier in the season and responded as though he was never missed in the lineup. But with this injury plus injuries to RHP Carlos Zambrano, CF Reed Johnson, LHP Scott Eyre, and nagging injuries to CF Jim Edmonds and RF Kosuke Fukudome, the Cubs are finding that all is not well on the “It’s Gonna Happen” bandwagon.

During this weekend’s Sox series, the Cubs started an OF of a mis-cast RF Eric Patterson, injured CF Jim Edmonds, and just returned from injured RF Daryle Ward. The White Sox ran on Patterson all day on Friday and he has yet to see the lineup since. RHP Ryan Dempster also picked a bad time for his worst outing of the season, and P’s Sean Gallagher and Sean Marshall couldn’t stop the bleeding.

The Cubs can’t seem to shake the pesky, smoke and mirrors miracle of the St. Louis Cardinals, now only 2.5 games ahead in the standings. The Milwaukee Brewers are also sneaking up, moving to 4.5 games back. The Cubs played the Sunday night prime time game on ESPN tonight and now have to fly all night to San Francisco to start a 4 game series with the improving Giants (fortunately missing on all world Giants starter RHP Tim Lincecum) and a July 4th weekend series in St. Louis with the Cardinals.

I though Cubs manager Lou Piniella actually did a great job of reminding the Cubs and the fans that although the Sox series has serious emotional hooks in a north/south divide, that this series was one of many series over the course of a full season. Piniella elected to juggle his starting rotation a little, but rested key players such as 2B Mark DeRosa, Kosuke Fukudome, and C Geovanny Soto over the weekend, with the implicit message that the season isn’t won in June by overextending regulars in an interleague matchup that is more glitter than substance.

With Reed Johnson and Carlos Zambrano due to come back this week, and Alfonso Soriano healing very quickly, reinforcements are on the way. With the All-Star break in less than two weeks, much needed rest will soon follow. Once the Cubs are back to full strength, the cream should rise to the top again in the National League. Lets not panic just yet…..

Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

What Will The Chicago Bears Do In The 2008 NFL Draft?

Posted by sportsmaven on April 26, 2008

There have been countless mock drafts, endless expert analysis and general watercooler, beer garden, happy hour sports conversations on what exactly the Chicago Bears will do with their draft picks in today’s NFL Draft. The consensus? Nobody knows exactly what the Bears will do…..and that’s exactly the way that Bears GM Jerry Angelo likes it.

ESPN’s expert NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper thinks the Bears will go with a offensive lineman, specifically Vanderbilt OT Chris Williams. Todd McShay from Scouts, Inc is going with Boise State OT Ryan Clady (personally, I think he’ll be long gone by pick 14). Fox Sports analyst Jay Glazer has the Bears picking Illinois standout RB Rashard Mendenhall. And finally, the guru of all mock draft analysts, the most accurate mock draft expert, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning Star has the Bears choosing Virginia OG/OT Branden Albert. Other late circulating rumors have the Bears entertaining trade offers and the possibility of moving down in the draft (which is real, since Jerry Angelo seems to prefer that strategy over all others.)

One thing is certain about this draft: This is a make or break draft for Jerry Angelo. He has to hit big in this draft and he has to hit big with picks on the offensive side of the ball. The Bears have many holes to fill: OT, OG, WR, RB, possibly QB. The Bears need at least 2 starter grade picks out of this draft and and probably 4-5 major contributors in order to compete in the NFC this coming season.

The NFC will be a vastly improved conference this coming season, and in particular, the NFC North Division. The Minnesota Vikings look drastically improved with the addition of WR Bernard Berrian to strengthen the offense and DE Jared Allen to a underrated defense, the Detroit Lions look to make a step up from last season if they play their draft cards correctly and the Green Bay Packers are the reigning division champions, who many feel will drop off after the retirement of QB Brett Farve. (I believe the Packers will be in contention for the division title all season long.) In addition, teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Seattle Seahawks are bulking up to compete for the NFC crown.

The Bears hold 11 draft picks and 4 of the first 100 picks. The Chicago Tribune ranked the top GM’s in the NFL in terms of draft picks that went on to become starters in the league. The top GM was, surprisingly Arizona Cardinals GM (and former Bears Director of Pro Personnel) Rod Graves. The Bears Jerry Angelo made it into the top 10 at #10, mostly on the strength of his defensive picks. Offense has not been good to Jerry Angelo draft picks, which puts even more pressure on hitting this draft big. The Bears need playmakers, explosive players, football players, not combine gym rat types. Jerry Angelo stated this week that this was a 10 man draft at the top, which is not good if you hold the 14th pick. While I don’t envision Angelo trading up, it wouldn’t surprise me if he traded down. The OL pick in the first round seems to be the majority opinion in mock drafts and analyst opinions. Which means that it’s most likely Chris Williams. 2nd round RB and third round WR/OL. After that, it’s more of a crapshoot, which makes predictions a waste of good time. Good luck, Jerry Angelo……you’re going to need a lot of it.

By the way, some of the players I like in this year’s draft that I would be thrilled to see the Bears pick:

RB – Rashard Mendenhall, James Stewart, Ray Rice, Matt Forte

WR – Mario Manningham, Malcolm Kelly, Eddie Royal, James Hardy, Jordy Nelson

OL – Ryan Clady, Branden Albert, Chilo Rachal, Duane Brown, Anthony Collins, Chris Williams

QB – Chad Henne, Joe Flacco, Dennis Dixon

Safety – Tom Zbikowski

DT – Marcus Harrison, Pat Sims

LB – Jordon Dizon, Xavier Adibi

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Musings On The Chicago Bulls and the NBA

Posted by sportsmaven on April 21, 2008

The NBA playoffs started this weekend and noticeably absent are the Chicago Bulls. While the best teams in the NBA begin the “money” season, teams like the Milwaukee Bucks hire disciplinarian coaches like Scott Skiles. Other teams like the Chicago Bulls are holding their off season team meetings and wondering what to make of the mess of a wrecked season.

In the NBA, like other major professional sports leagues, teams win with a combination of athleticism/talent and desire. With talent and desire, you are the San Antonio Spurs or the Boston Celtics. With lack of athleticism/talent, but an abundance of desire, you can be teams like this year’s Philadelphia 76ers and in the past, teams like the Chicago Bulls. Teams with neither talent or desire become the Memphis Grizzlies or the New York Knicks.

What exactly happened with the Chicago Bulls this season? The Bulls were a team with little talent but with great desire. They worked, hustled, played defense according to the gospel of John Paxson and Scott Skiles. It brought the Bulls 49 wins last season, a playoff series win against the rapidly aging Miami Heat, and a heated playoff series loss to the Detroit Pistons. Entering this season, the Chicago Bulls had a high draft pick, compliments of the New York Knicks and all their starters returning from last season’s successful run. Many picked the Bulls to win the Eastern Conference and advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since the Michael Jordan era.

Then, two things happened that led to the downfall of this year’s team. First, Bulls GM John Paxson knew that he needed a superstar talent to lead this team. Every successful team in the NBA, short of the Detroit Pistons, have a superstar player, a team leader, the guy that will take over in crunch time of a game and impose the will to win on his teammates. Paxson missed badly on acquiring C Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves and whiffed a couple of times on trades for C Pau Gasol. Paxson had drafted some very nice complementary players from solid, winning college programs after cleaning up the mess left by previous Bulls GM Jerry Krause, but none had proven to be the superstar, athletic talent that teams require to compete in the upper echelon of NBA championship contenders. Paxson correctly determined that he needed to acquire that superstar player, and as timing would have it, during the NBA pre-season, Kobe Bryant, arguably the best player in the NBA was vocally unhappy with his situation and publicly stated he desire to get out of Los Angeles. To his credit, Paxson inquired about the availability of Kobe Bryant and rumors ran rampant over the airwaves. Bryant was sure to be traded, as there has been no love lost between Bryant and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, supposedly Jackson had enough with his moody star player. The table was set for a blockbuster deal with prime players identified from the Bulls being some combination of Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich, and Ben Wallace. Luol Deng and Ben Gordon were also offered what each player considered lowball contract offers going into the preseason, but combined with the trade talks, led to a bad taste in every player’s mouths. In the end, the teams never came to terms on players and the deal fell through as the season began.

The second thing that happened was most likely residual from the events above, for some reason, most every player on the Bulls had stopped responding to the playing and coaching style that brought great success to the Bulls. The Bulls stopped hustling for loose balls, stopped playing hard nosed defense, lacked hustle, with team play virtually non-existent. Both Deng and Gordon admitted that the Kobe Bryant trade rumors plus the perceived lowball contract offers affected their play. Each played as through they had to individually prove they were worth not only bigger contracts, but to justify not being traded for Bryant. Their play dropped off dramatically, along with the other potential players in the trade, Kirk Hinrich, Ben Wallace, and Tyrus Thomas and the fate of Coach Scott Skiles and the Chicago Bulls was sealed.

So where does that leave the Bulls now? John Paxson had two of the most difficult tasks to complete in last year’s off-season. He needed to find a superstar, talented player and needed to move Ben Wallace and his albatross contract. Paxson was successful in unloading Wallace to the Cleveland Cavaliers after this season was lost, but has been glaringly unsuccessful in getting that superstar athletic stud talent, and without the high draft picks that can yield that player in the NBA draft. If the Bulls get lucky to land one of the top 2 picks and be in a position to get C Michael Beasley or G Derrick Rose, they can still leverage a combination of Larry Hughes, Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, or Drew Gooden to land a second superstar type player to fuel their rebuilding process. The Bulls need athletic, talented players that have the desire to compete and win every night and need to complement those players with a supporting cast of complimentary players. Right now, they have the complimentary players, but they still lack the superstar.

The Bulls also need a coach that will bring the team spirit back, a coach that can get the players to buy into the team concept once again. Rick Carlisle is available, as is Larry Brown as well as a slew of other ex-NBA coaches that work for ESPN, TNT, or any other network that employs ex-basketball coaches. This offseason is mission critical for GM John Paxson. If he doesn’t get it right, his next moves will be as ex-GM of the Chicago Bulls.

Posted in Chicago Bulls | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Chicago Cubs Fall to Astros in 10; Patterson Makes Debut

Posted by sportsmaven on August 7, 2007

One thing I can say about last night’s game — Eric Patterson does look like his big brother, Corey.  And he got the bunt down, which is also nice.  He also turned a routine out into a close play with his speed out of the batters box.  Now lets see what he does tonight as a starter.  I will say that Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella has no fear in throwing the guys from the Iowa Express right into the mix with starting assignments and appearances in key, potential game changing situations.  This is a clear departure of the Dusty Baker regime, where guys like Neifi Perez would steal valuable time away from the development of younger players (how did Dusty miss out on Ryan Theriot?)

Derrek Lee in a Cubs Loss to Houston Astros

(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

The Chicago Cubs lost another 1 run game last night to a Houston Astros team that is on life support.  Their bullpen is about the worst in the National League, and their starting lineup would hardly scare a good little league team.  The game wasn’t over for a minute before both Bob Brenly and Dan Pleasac of Comcast SportsNet were already throwing out the excuse that the Sunday night ESPN game forced the Cubs to arrive late in Houston, thus they didn’t get enough rest.  Jim Hendry echoed the same in a Chicago Tribune interview.   Better have gotten your rest tonight, boys because you have to win this series….

Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »