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Friday, September 4

Gapers Block

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Baseball Mon Aug 31 2015

Spoxing for Charity Event at Wrigley Field

Chicago CubsIn his short time since becoming manager, Joe Maddon has made quite the impression with the Chicago Cubs fanbase and the city of Chicago. The team has defied expectations and is in contention for the playoffs, way ahead of schedule. And if the recent pajamas day after Jake Arrieta's no-hitter is any indication, the team is having a whole lot of fun along the way.

But Maddon's reach has extended beyond the clubhouse, as he likes to give back to the community with various charity events. One of those events will be occurring Thursday, Sept. 3 at Wrigley Field. The Cubs manager and his wife Jaye will be hosting a "Spoxing for Charity" event from 10am to 4pm inside Gate F at the Friendly Confines. This unique sport has become that latest trend in the fitness world.

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

Cubs Tue Aug 25 2015

Jorge Soler Improves Cubs in the Short-Term

Chicago CubsLong-term injuries suck at any time during a competitive season, but they hurt even more when the Cubs are weeks away from potentially securing their first playoff appearance since 2008.

I've been in the extreme minority believing that Jorge Soler will eventually be the best hitter out of the Soler, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell group. And who knows, ten years from now we may be laughing at how we ever thought the other youngsters were better than him, but it's going to be awfully difficult for Soler to eclipse his teammates when he's on the disabled all the time.

The oblique injury Soler suffered on a throw during Sunday's series finale against Atlanta will lay him up for at least a month, and possibly for the season depending on the severity. Tommy La Stella suffered the same injury in April, and he's now just returning to the majors after a major setback during rehab.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bears Mon Aug 24 2015

Kyle Fuller is Struggling to Keep Up

Chicago BearsThree games into the 2014 regular season, everyone thought the Bears were on track to having a Pro Bowl cornerback. Kyle Fuller was playing fast and instinctive, and making former GM Phil Emery look brilliant for scoring big in the first round of two consecutive drafts. Unfortunately, the level of play Fuller showed against San Francisco and New York didn't last.

Over the remainder of the season, Fuller struggled mightily. Pro Football Focus graded him positively in just two games following his magnificent weeks two and three, and those came against and Atlanta team that dropped a ton of passes, and a Minnesota team that lacked anything resembling a playmaker at wide receiver. Fuller finished as the second-worst corner in the NFL.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bulls Fri Aug 14 2015

Highlights of the Chicago Bulls 2015-2016 Schedule

BullsLike opening up gifts on Christmas Day, the release of the NBA schedule is an anticipated day for all basketball fans. This year's excitement was a bit different than year's past because of the crazy offseason that occurred. There was plenty of hype for each top free agent, but the brunt of the signings were done after the first day of free agency.

That whirlwind period was pretty exciting for basketball fans, but it came and went in a snap. That is why this year's schedule unveiling had many fans waiting on pins and needles to see who the Bulls were going to play. This year's schedule offers some exciting new opponents and rematches with heated rivals. Here are a few games to set your DVR for.

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

Bears Wed Aug 12 2015

Tips for Watching Bears Preseason Opener

Chicago BearsDid you know the Bears open up their preseason on Thursday against Miami? Me neither.

Outside of the "OH MY GOD WHAT'S WRONG WITH KEVIN WHITE" story lines at Bears camp, it's been pretty low key. The offensive unit is almost entirely the same minus loudmouth Brandon Marshall spread out wide, and the defense is loaded with players that either sucked in the 4-3 defense a season ago, or a new guy whose name you don't know.

That means it's time to reacclimate yourself with Bears football. Marc Trestman is gone, replaced by the universally respected John Fox, who's been to the Super Bowl on a few occasions, but has yet to bring home the Lombardi Trophy as the head honcho. Don't expect that to change anytime soon.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Cubs Mon Aug 10 2015

Optimizing the Cubs' Defense

Chicago CubsKris Bryant is an average third baseman. Starlin Castro is below average at shortstop. Kyle Schwarber is pretty bad at catching. Jorge Soler is brutal in right field. All these guys have, can, or will hit at the Major League level, but defense is more or less a skill that stays relatively consistent throughout a player's trip through the minors and into the majors.

As a hitter, a tweak in stance, swing, or approach can catapult a player into a superstar (see: Bautista, José) in the matter of months. As a fielder, it takes reps. Thousands upon thousands of ground balls or fly balls off a fungo bat and in live game action is the only way to improve on top of natural ability. Even then, one might only become incrementally better defensively.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

White Sox Thu Aug 06 2015

Samardzija Falling Short of Expectations

SoxAn ace is supposed to be the most dominant pitcher of a rotation. The head honcho, the anchor, the big cheese, the trendsetter. This position on the pitching depth chart is supposed to be the one fans won't sweat about when they read the day's pitching probables. The number one starter serves the role as stop gap, but he can also help tutor the other starters in the rotation and set the mood for everyone else by being dominant every five days. The Chicago White Sox have had plenty of top dogs in their rotation.

Wilson Alvarez provided mediocre, but dependable starts in the '90s. The late Billy Pierce held it down while opposing legendary lineups. And Mark Buehrle was always a sure thing, logging 200-plus innings in every year he was a full-time starter for the Sox.

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

Fire Fri Jul 24 2015

Chicago Fire: On The Trap of Nostalgia

Chicago FireOver the past month I spent several weeks doing my legal duty to the county of Cook, serving as a member of a grand jury, and it got me thinking about the power of nostalgia. Moreover—not to put too fine a point on it—I have been considering just how worthless a thing fond remembrance truly is.

This feeling occurred to me while sitting at home one evening, roughly halfway through the five weeks of my empanelment. Rather innocuously and without provocation, a curious little thought surfaced amid the turbid waters of my mind. When my time on the jury came to a close I'd have to go back to my regular life, at which time all of the facets of the jury experience that I had initially seen as limitations I'd soon grow to miss. For instance, the individually wrapped donuts we were provided daily. They felt like an outsider's closest approximation of the pastry if they'd been armed with only the most rudimentary description: that it was round, and that you were supposed to hate yourself for having eaten it. But all the same, I found myself taking a curious liking to them, along with the other assorted food service oddities that we were presented with daily.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (9)

White Sox Thu Jul 23 2015

The White Sox Shortstop Dilemma

SoxThe White Sox's busy offseason had them pegged as the dark horse favorite for a Wild Card spot and fans we're excited for 2015. But General Manager Rick Hahn did not address the Sox's real issues: the infield, particularly what the future holds for the shortstop position.

The Sox have had some spectacular players man the double play combo over the years. Ozzie Guillen, Ray Durham, Steve Sax, Tadahito Iguchi, hell they even have bronze statues commemorating those positions. Nothing should be taken away from these players, but those current bronze statue incarnations frankly stink.

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Chris Zois / Comments (1)

Baseball Fri Jul 17 2015

If Loans Were Legal, Who Would Cubs/Sox Target?

By Mike Chamernik & Chad Ruter

cubs-sox (1).jpg

The only way to advance a sport is to tinker. Baseball isn't perfect. Neither is football, basketball, or soccer. To improve, new ideas need to be tested. In 1879, it took nine balls for a hitter to get walked. By 1887, the leaders of the sport had regulated it down to just five.

Strike zones have changed over time too. If an idea flops, you can always revert back to the old ways. The NBA moved in the three-point line for three seasons in the mid-90s before moving it back to its original 23 feet, nine inches. Trial and error leads to progress. The rules of these sports are not sacred. The DH will come to the National League in the next 25 years, and so will an automated system for the calling of balls and strikes. Don't fight it; resistance is futile.

So when Bill Barnwell of Grantland came up with the idea of implementing a soccer-style loan system in MLB, it's hard to understand why the league wouldn't consider it. It has the potential of putting the game's greatest players who are stuck on terrible teams right in the thick of races. And the best part is their original team doesn't lose them for good.

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Tailgate / Comments (0)

Cubs Wed Jul 15 2015

What's Realistic for the Cubs at the Trade Deadline?

Chicago CubsFor the first time in the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer tenure, the Cubs are in position to buy at the deadline. But just because they're currently sitting in a playoff spot, doesn't mean they'll sell off their deep stable of prospects to make a run in 2015.

It also takes two to tango. You might want David Price, but he's not available despite the Tigers being 3.5 behind in the wild card and their best player on the shelf for the next six weeks. Their owner is old and wants a ring before he croaks. Crazy trade ideas get bantered about all the time, but they seldom (if ever) come to fruition. Stephen Strasburg isn't getting dealt for Mookie Betts.

The Cubs have been rumored to be in the market for the holy trinity: starters, relievers, and hitters. Every team could use a guy from each of those groups, right? But if we know anything about the Cubs front office, the move will be calculated. They know the young hitters that make up the majority of their lineup aren't close to peak yet, and pulling out the stops for 13 starts from a pitcher that's going to be a free agent in November doesn't make much sense when looking at the big picture. And before we get started, nobody is giving up a stud player for Albert Almora. Sure, he was the Cubs' top prospect once upon a time, but he's struggled as he's moved up through the minors because of real difficulties with plate discipline and consistent power. Teams aren't interested in struggling prospects unless they're getting them at a discount.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (1)

Bulls Fri Jul 10 2015

Summer League Heating Up for the Bulls

BullsWithin a span of 12 hours, the Chicago Bulls completed their offseason. I don't want to take anything away from Aaron Brooks illustrious 10-year career, but the pomp and circumstance during this year's offseason was done the minute Jimmy Butler agreed to come back to the Windy City. For us Chicago basketball enthusiasts, we can enjoy emoji battles between grown men or quasi-kidnappings, but we need something to occupy our time until tip-off in October. Thankfully the Bulls Summer League play begins on July 11, so there can be a little action during the dog days of summer.

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

White Sox Thu Jul 02 2015

Sale's Strikeout Streak Survives for Sox

Chicago White Sox On Tuesday night, and against the MLB-best Cardinals no less, Chris Sale struck out 12 batters to become the second pitcher to ever strike out at least 10 in eight consecutive starts.

Sale has been one of the best and most consistent pitchers in baseball since 2012, and baseball as a whole has become a strikeout-contingent game. While Sale's feat isn't surprising, being good for 10 Ks a game is still very impressive. How has this streak come to be?

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Bulls Thu Jul 02 2015

Bulls Offseason Checklist Nearly Complete

BullsPhewww that was a scary couple of hours. Once the clock struck midnight and the calendar rolled over to July, Chicago Bulls fans waited with bated breath as the NBA free agency period started. The Bulls are usually an aggressive team during the offseason when they have cap space available, but this year they passed over the new options and concentrated on locking up their core and keeping the guys they know.

Jimmy Butler (restricted) and Mike Dunleavy were both free agents coming into the summer and the Bulls made it their number one priority to retain them. The team didn't have to sweat too much as they both verbally agreed to new contracts yesterday, the first day of the free agent negotiation period.

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

Soccer Wed Jul 01 2015

Watching Team USA Kick Ass in the Park

By Veronica Arreola

The build-up to the Women's World Cup has been almost as much about judging the entertainment value of women's sports as it has been the quality of Team USA to win the cup. Last night US Soccer held a last minute outdoor viewing party for the semifinal match against Germany and Chicago showed up. The diversity was amazing.

As I sat on a picnic blanket with my husband and our soccer-obsessed pre-teen, I took note of many other families on their own blankets. But there were also the countless college-age students who made it clear they wanted to stand in the front row and cheer on our team. The group of people in front of us looked like they swapped meeting up at their neighborhood bar for the lawn in foggy Lincoln Park. And it should be noted that the beer garden was heartily packed.

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Tailgate / Comments (0)

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