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Friday, November 21

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Feature Fri Nov 21 2014

The Game is Up for WGN's Sports Radio Station

Starting a radio station is a massive undertaking. Though the infrastructure existed for WGN in terms of facilities, filling the schedule for 87.7 The Game with attractive talent is expensive and somewhat difficult considering there were already two successful sports talk stations on the AM dial in Chicago. But they succeeded in that department by convincing some of the up-and-coming broadcasters and producers at 670 The Score and ESPN 1000 that if they wanted their big break in a major market, this was their chance.

Just nine months later, the dreams of those same folks were ended, and WGN didn't bother getting the information to their employees before it leaked out on the internet.

WGN president Jimmy de Castro stated that they were cutting their losses with the station because it wasn't turning a profit in a Chicago market that's seeing lower radio revenues over the last year. If the mandate was for 87.7 The Game to be in the black before the close of 2014, then it was a doomed project in the first place.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bears Tue Nov 18 2014

Bears Win Doesn't Move the Needle Enough

Chicago BearsThe Vikings are a really bad team. Three of their four wins this season came against the other three bottom-feeding teams in the NFC: Washington, Tampa Bay and St. Louis -- and their other victory was against the NFC South leading Atlanta Falcons -- who are 4-6 themselves.

To give any indications that the Bears were back, they needed a decisive victory. Something along the lines of a 20-point margin might bring some semblance of confidence back to the fanbase, even though more than 6,000 people left their seats empty at Sunday's home game. A 38-14 type of score would've brought people back for the Lovie Smith bowl this weekend and maybe the games beyond.

But that didn't happen. Instead, another sluggish start to the game, another Marc Trestman time-management boner before halftime, and more drive killing or opponent enabling penalties than you can shake a stick at. Don't forget the fake punt that ended up netting Minnesota a touchdown.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (1)

Blackhawks Mon Nov 17 2014

Blackhawks Prep for Tough Circus Trip

Chicago Blackhawks Sunday night marked the last home game for the Blackhawks for a few weeks with the annual Circus Trip starting Thursday night in Calgary, and they were able to send the fans home happy after a 6-2 final against the Stars. Four goals in the third period provided the Hawks with their fifth win in their last 10 games and their seventh home victory out of 11.

Now comes the long stretch each season where the team packs its bags and heads west for a few weeks. This year's edition has the Hawks facing the Flames, Oilers, Canucks, Avs, Ducks and Kings -- a trip that could prove to be challenging compared to years' past.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

White Sox Thu Nov 13 2014

Sale and Abreu are Award-Caliber Talent

Chicago White SoxDespite only winning 73 games, the White Sox had two of the best players in the league this year.

Wednesday night, Chris Sale finished third in American League Cy Young vote, trailing winner Corey Kluber and runner-up Felix Hernandez. Just two days prior, it was announced that first baseman Jose Abreu won the AL Rookie of the Year via a unanimous vote. The MVP vote will be revealed tonight and both Sale and Abreu will surely get a few votes for that award as well.

What more is there to say about Sale and Abreu? They each passed the eye test by being exceedingly fun to watch. They each played some impressive games and slapped together some notable streaks. They were each worth more than 5.5 wins and, most importantly, they are under contract at team-friendly rates for virtually the rest of the decade.

So, what more is there to say? Well, a few things.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Bears Wed Nov 12 2014

Bears Should Shuffle Roster with Season All but Lost

Chicago BearsThe focus for the Bears has to be on the future. A second consecutive embarrassing loss in which they gave up more than 50 points has ended any playoff consideration in an NFC that would even see the Packers miss the postseason if it started today.

Losing to Green Bay like the Bears did on Sunday Night Football should have made heads roll -- though maybe not Marc Trestman's because there isn't an obvious replacement in the house. Mel Tucker should've been let go in his own right, and Joe DeCamallis hasn't earned any sort of interim promotion either. Aaron Kromer was 2-4 with a loaded Saints team in 2004, and it would probably cause problems if you jumped quarterback coach Matt Cavanaugh up ahead of Kromer.

If the coaches aren't going to change, then the players should. No, Jay Cutler isn't getting benched. He's played terrible football this season because of numerous factors, a major one being questionable coaching and play calling. An example: the Bears have dialed up just 68 play action passes this season, good for 20th in the NFL. This is despite having one of the best running backs in the league. Of those 68 dropbacks, Cutler has been able to throw 67 passes, meaning he's been sacked or scrambled just once on those plays. Miss those quick slants that moved the ball quickly and efficiently last year? Me too, but Cutler's financially linked to the Bears for two more full seasons. That boat has already set sail.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (2)

Blackhawks Mon Nov 10 2014

Sharp Injury Creating Opportunities for Young Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks With Patrick Sharp now sidelined for three to four weeks with a lower-body injury he suffered last week against the Montreal Canadiens, the Hawks will look to Rockford for some much-needed relief, especially with the team's recent scoring drought.

Despite a 5-2 win Sunday night against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center, the Hawks recently have struggled at home, including amassing only two goals in three of the team's previous home contests. The shots on goal were there, but the netminders facing the Hawks played great despite limited second-chance shots. It's not as bad as the Bears' scoring chances, but it was looking a little concerning for a team so loaded with talent.

Sharp led the team last season in points scored with 78 points off of 34 goals and 44 assists; this season, third on the team thus far in points (13 games played) with nine points off of three goals and six assists. For a guy who was rumored to be on his way out of town during the offseason now finds himself on the sidelines for an extended period with Joel Quenneville scratching his head and youth in Rockford itching for an opportunity.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Bears Thu Nov 06 2014

Does Anyone Care That It's Bears/Packers Week?

Chicago BearsIf you're only a fan of football and the Bears, I'd believe you. I would understand that you still care about this team at this particular time. But if you're a fan of other Chicago sports -- the Hawks, Bulls, Cubs, White Sox -- it's hard to give a damn about the Bears right now.

Watching pathetic performance after pathetic performance has left people frustrated and angry. The team was coming into its second year with Marc Trestman running a high-scoring offense and made significant upgrades along the defensive front to improve one of the NFL's worst defenses from 2013. There were expectations; big ones.

And instead of looking at the back half of the season loaded with home games as a celebration and an opportunity to make a statement before the playoffs, we're instead talking about getting new coaches, begging for team leaders, and trying to think of any way not to get blown out by the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday. The only thing anyone has come up with is to knock Aaron Rodgers out of the game again. Good luck with that.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Cubs Wed Nov 05 2014

The Cubs Need to Rock Free Agency: Here's How

Chicago CubsJoe Maddon being the manager of the Cubs would've been a laughable storyline a month ago. He was still in Tampa Bay under contract, and the Cubs were happy with the job Rick Renteria did in his first year managing. An opt-out, a phone call, and beers outside an RV in Pensacola, Florida, and everything changed. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have talked extensively about this offseason being one where the organization will dip into free agency with a stack of cash at the ready. Maddon was the first, albeit unexpected, example to back up their statements.

Now it's time for the players. The core talent is ready to take the next step, and possibly turn the corner. Expecting a playoff berth in 2015 is much too aggressive as the way the team is currently constituted, and probably still is even if they land big names at positions of need. The young talent on the team is going to struggle next season -- prepare yourself for that, and be ecstatic if they exceed that expectation. Adding free agents isn't just about 2015. It's about 2016, 2017, and 2018 too -- all years in which the Cubs hope to challenge for a spot in the playoffs.

Signing all the top free agents and jumping the payroll to $150 million isn't a smart route to go either. Once you do that, there's no going back. The Yankees are bogged down by massive contracts to old players they feel compelled to play because of their contract, and might sit out that top-tiered free agent this year because of it. Even though it may seem like good business now, spending crazy amounts of money doesn't guarantee wins and can absolutely obliterate the team's ability to maneuver down the road.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bulls Mon Nov 03 2014

Bulls Hit with Minor Injuries to Start the Season

Chicago Bulls
Coming off three games in four days, the Bulls had their fair share of minor injuries and shaky performances. The biggest scare was seeing Derrick Rose come up limping against the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night. Now knowing it was a minor ankle sprain, Bulls fans can breathe a little easier. Taj Gibson suffered an ankle sprain also, which resulted in him and Rose missing the game against Minnesota for precautionary reasons.

Jimmy Butler, who missed the first two games of the season, returned from his thumb sprain Saturday night against the Timberwolves. Butler is now a restricted free agent but hopes to still sign with the Bulls in the summer. Butler came up big hitting two clutch free throws with 0.2 seconds left in the game to seal the Bulls 106-105 victory over the Timberwolves. What Butler did was continue the sort of play he had shown in the preseason. He spent the off-season working to add a turn-around jumper to his game and get into better condition. Butler led the Bulls with 24 points and was 11-of-15 from the free throw line.

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Josh Williams / Comments (0)

Cubs Wed Oct 29 2014

The Dance to Get Joe Maddon is Worth It for the Cubs

Chicago CubsRick Renteria is an affable guy. He always seems to have a smile on his face unless Edwin Jackson has loaded the bases in the second inning while already down 3-0, though anyone would have smug look it that was happening for the third time in a month.

The Cubs got fantastic performances out of the guys they cared about most in 2014. Anthony Rizzo was arguably the best first basemen in the National League because he figured out how to hit left-handed pitching, and Starlin Castro found his hitting stroke by posting his best weighted on-base average, and surprisingly, the best walk rate of his career. Jake Arrieta turned himself into a potential ace with quite possible the nastiest slider in all of baseball, Kyle Hendricks proved that he could easily function as a back-of-the-rotation innings eater, and the three youngest guys in bullpen that threw more than 30 innings combined for 2.9 wins above replacement.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Wed Oct 29 2014

Puck Possession Not a Problem for the Blackhawks

Chicago BlackhawksThe Hawks went into Tuesday night's tilt with the Anaheim Ducks as one of the leaders in the NHL in total shots taken. No surprise there, as head coach Joel Quenneville has the pleasure of juggling three deep lines on a nightly basis with a fourth that would suit any other team in the league.

Even after falling 1-0 to the Western-leading Ducks, after another great effort from Lemont native Scott Darling (24 saves on 25 shots), the Hawks still managed to outshoot their opponents by 13. A short-handed goal off of a bad Brent Seabrook turnover notwithstanding, the Hawks continue to out-possess the opposition, which has managed to keep them in each contest thus far at the dawn of the 2014-'15 season.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Bears Tue Oct 28 2014

Bears Bye Week Press Conference Broken Down

Chicago BearsThe bye week press conference is essentially a mid-season state of the team address. The general manager and coach step up to the podium, and tell everyone that the timing couldn't be more perfect. Players are always injured, and a two-week stretch without playing football anytime during the season is a welcome sight.

The Bears are in a state of turmoil. 3-5 in the first half of a season with Super Bowl aspirations is an absolute nightmare considering they've had a healthy starting quarterback who happens to be the highest paid player this year. They've won games they should've lost, lost games they should've won, and capped that off by getting utterly embarrassed by Tom Brady and the Patriots on Sunday.

A lot was said during yesterday's presser. Some of it was still coach speak, but there were a few admissions of guilt after weeks of saying nothing is wrong. To get a sense of it all, here are tweets from the beat writers in attendance (in chronological order), along with a breakdown of what it all means.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Fire Mon Oct 27 2014

Chicago Fire: Going Out on a High

Chicago FireIn a season bereft of high points, Friday night's game against the Houston Dynamo easily stands as the highest one for the Fire. It was already a game suffused with emotional weight, given that it marked the end of Logan Pause's storied 12-year-long career with the Fire, as well as the end of another year of underperforming despite having a solid lineup. Few could imagine the pieces falling into place as well as they did on the evening, creating a memorable moment to honor a team legend as he left the field, as well as imbuing the team and fans with a sense of positive momentum heading into the offseason.

For late October the practically summery weather seemed to telegraph the charmed nature of the evening from well before first kick. The nearly full stadium, many who had turned out specifically to send off Pause, were in spirits obviously buoyed by the occasion and the near-mint fall night. Chants and songs rang out as they are wont to do, though most had been tailored to honor Pause as he took the field sporting once again the Captain's armband, as he had done for many of the dozen years he had spent with the team.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Fri Oct 24 2014

Carcillo, Versteeg Looking to Prove They Belong

Chicago BlackhawksThere are times when Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman looks like a genius, mostly for his ability to trade away minimal or expiring talent in return for draft picks or relatively unknown prospects. There was the time in 2010 when he traded Cam Barker to the Wild for Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy, or even something as exciting as when he was able to land Teuvo Teravainen on a three-year contract at entry-level pricing.

But with the good come a few head-scratchers along the way. Most notably, the re-signing of Dan Carcillo prior to this season and re-acquiring, via trade, Kris Versteeg last November. It's been a roll of the dice for sure, especially the Vertseeg move last year. But can both actually provide enough service on the ice for another run at the Cup instead of time spent on the bench or penalty box?

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Bulls Fri Oct 24 2014

Jimmy Butler Questionable for Bulls Season Opener

Chicago BullsJimmy Butler suffered a sprained left thumb against the Charlotte Hornets last Monday and will miss the last preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight. Butler underwent an MRI exam and doesn't need surgery for the thumb. The Bulls will reevaluate his status for the season opener against the New York Knicks Oct. 29.

Before suffering the thumb injury, Butler was having a great preseason, leading the Bulls in scoring multiple games and showing off his improved offensive play. He averaged 15.8 points on 58.8 percent shooting and 8.8 rebounds. This strong preseason start will surely pay off as Butler and the Bulls are in negotiations for an extension. The deadline will be Oct. 31. Butler will be entering his fourth season and the deadline is important so the Bulls can wrap him up and not take the risk of him becoming a restricted free agent next summer.

The Bulls could let Butler become a restricted free agent and just match the best offer from another team. This comes with a lot of risk though, as the price for Butler could reach a near-max level if he has a great season and the "wait-and-see approach" could cost the Bulls tens of millions of dollars. Butler is considered an elite perimeter defender by most scouts and was named to the NBA's All-Defensive Second Team last season.

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Josh Williams / Comments (0)

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