Marbury's Magical Mind

While I am the resident NBA blogger on this site, many do not know I am also a doctor.

Yes, I have a Ph.D in locating and analyzing crazy people, and the NBA has two of them with a very severe case of the crazies. Today, we will look at one of them who goes by the name Starbury. If you could all please look at the photo to the right, we will begin our dissection of the demented.

As you can see, Stephon Marbury decided he would hug a reporter who wrote a column about him over the summer. The column said Starbury was "toxic" to the team and he needed to leave. Marbury said he had a spiritual revelation of sorts during the off-season and would pray for those who criticized him.

My diagnosis is Starbury is going to play the crazy card.

You see, he has already played the my teammates around me suck card, the coach sucks card, the G.M. sucks card, the I'm not one hundred percent card, the I'm not getting treated fairly card, the I threaten to hold out card, the trade me now card, the no one can buy me out card, and even the reverse psychology card.

By playing the crazy card, Marbury has opened a world full of possibilities. One day he may come in as the player who is in touch with his spirituality, like he already did. Maybe he will be the angry guy who threatens to eat a reporter's children. Hell, maybe he roller skates on to the floor during warmups and has John McCain's face tattooed across his stomach.

Either way, it will be another entertaining year from Starbury and I am glad the Knicks have to deal with it.

For as crazy as the man is, he has shown flashes of greatness on and off the court. Despite not giving 100 percent most nights and killing chemistry with teammates, there are nights when he puts his ego aside and fills it up. Take for instance his inspired performance against a very good Utah Jazz team last year when he filled it up for 28 points and six assists to lead the Knicks to a highly improbable victory.

Off the court, he donated millions, not thousands like all the other athletes, but millions to the Hurricane Katrina relief. He also has extremely affordable shoes, which is especially nice for young kids that look up to the stars of the NBA.

At the end of the day, when Marbury is done with the Knicks he could very well be done with basketball. G.M.'s are reportedly interested in the Star, but I doubt they really want to take him. His reputation has outgrown him and pretty much everyone thinks he is a cancer.

So enjoy the craziness this season cause it could be the end. We will have the touching moments of Marbury inspiring his team to a win or donating to a worthy cause, and we will see the insanity of temper tantrums and missing practices.

NBA season can't get here fast enough

Why the Dodgers will beat the Cubs

One of our two resident St. Louis Cardinals fans, "Big Stilley" has hopped on the L.A. Dodgers' ship.

Why?

Let him explain as Manny Ramirez continues to celebrate his walk-off shot from the 2007 ALDS.

I have been predicting for the last three weeks the Dodgers would win the World Series, so don't take this as a Cubs bashing. This is simply why I think the Dodgers will get past Chicago.

The biggest reason is Manny Ramirez. He has been the most dominating player in baseball since coming to L.A. and everyone knows Manny is an even bigger beast in the post season.

Ignore the AL/NL splits (which make no sense anyway) and Man-Ram has 37 homers and 121 RBIs.

That's sick.

I think Manny is one of the few players who has the ability to nearly carry his team to the World Series. He is one of the best hitters in baseball.

The Dodgers will need more than just Manny to win it all though. They're going to have to have some other players step up and play well.

Derek Lowe has shown in the past that he is a great post season pitcher. The way he pitched in 2004 when Boston won the World Series shows that he can dominate in October. Remember, he clinched every game for the BoSox that magical season.

I think Lowe will take Game 1 over Ryan Dempster. Dempster has been good at home for the Cubs this season, but he doesn't have near the post season experience of Lowe.

Carlos Zambrano has been on a roll this season. I don't think anybody is going to hit him, so the Dodgers might as well tack this one up as a loss.

Game 3 will likely be a match up of Rich Harden of the Cubs against Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda dominated the Cubs, pitching a four hit shutout in June. I see the Dodgers taking this one.

In order to avoid Big Z in game 5, the Dodgers will throw out Derek Lowe on short rest for game 4. The Cubs will likely throw Ted Lilly, but could possibly go with Dempster on short rest. I think this will be one of the higher scoring games, but the Dodgers will win and take the series in 4.

My surprise player for the Dodgers: Nomar Garciaparra. I see him stepping up and playing really well for L.A. He's going to end up being the difference maker for this team.

The last reason I think L.A. will win is my gut. I have always been a firm believer in trusting your gut instinct and for the last three weeks that instinct has told me the Dodgers will win the World Series.

Now a few reasons for why the Cubs won't beat the Dodgers.

I don't think you're going to see the same Jim Edmonds you saw during the regular season for Chicago. I think he's going to struggle.

Ditto for Aramis Ramirez. He has hit .196 in 56 career post season at-bats. He's going to keep that streak up and the Cubs will fall.

The Dodgers may not be the more talented team, but I do think they will beat the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS.

A White Sox Winner Two Weeks Too Late

Phase one of the Chicago White Sox's playoff plan is complete, defeating the Detroit Tigers 8-2 to clinch a share of the American League Central Division title.

Phase two kicks off tomorrow when the Sox face the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field.

Unfortunately for my fantasy team, the South Siders' victory came two weeks too late for me, personally.

Gavin Floyd picking up the win and eight strikeouts two weeks ago and Alexei Ramirez's grand slam would have given me a fantasy baseball championship.

Instead, their contributions are too little, too late.

As for White Sox Nation, sleep tight, for tomorrow you can extract your revenge by blasting your arch-rival Minnesota Twins at the comforts of home.

The Curse of Dick?


Via Awful Announcing

First of all, do you see anything wrong with this picture?

I'm not sure when that billboard was put together, but that guy's no Nostradamus.

There is no playoff baseball in Gotham City. Plenty of time for the N.Y. media to salivate over Brett Favre's six touchdown passes and the New York Giants' hot start.

Anyway, this AA post brings more bad news to Chicago Cubs fans hoping that 2008 is indeed the year they can celebrate something more than an NL Central Division title.

Not only do the Cubs have to overcome the Los Angeles Dodgers of Chavez Ravine. Not only do the Cubs have to overcome black cats, billy goats, Bartmen and 100 years of ineptitude. They also have overcome the Curse of Dick Stockton.

God, I hate him. He's terrible.

Remember Adolpho Ramirez?

The Cubs were 0-3 when Stockton was behind the mic of FOX's MLB Game of the Week. They were also swept in last year's NLDS with Stockton (again) rockin' the mic, this time for TBS.

And to make matters worse, last year, after the Cubs were knocked out, he called three straight NFL games featuring the Chicago Bears.

The Bears lost each game.

Why couldn't I be treated to a Chip Caray "SWUNG ON AND BELTED!" call?

Hell, I would rather hear Joe Buck and Tim McCarver pontificate instead of Dick Stockton.

Thankfully, I'll be in Chicago for Game 1. As for the rest of the games, take full advantage of the mute button and find a radio powerful enough to catch 810 AM in southern Illinois and listen to Pat Hughes and Ron Santo.

Since I'll be in the house for Game 1, maybe I should just take things into my own hands.

Or maybe the Cubs will make this look silly and beat the Dodgers fair and square.

I like my chances.

Daily Dosage: Lunchtime Edition

Rosario Dawson is a beautiful woman.

Did you know she's part Irish, Native American, African, Cuban and Puerto Rican.

That's a recipe for absolute goodness.

She's the kind of girl you'd like to bring home to mother and your Monday morning eye candy.

On with today's Dosage!

The Sox Ain't Done Yet! Let's keep this very simple. If the Chicago White Sox can beat the Detroit Tigers, they force a one-game playoff at U.S. Cellular Field against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.

But the Sox have to get past the Tigers.

Gavin Floyd takes the bump for the South Siders while Freddy Garcia will get the ball for los Tigres.

Wait, what?

Garcia, best known for his Game 4 win in the 2005 World Series, was traded for Floyd a few seasons ago.

And I remember Ozzie Guillen saying Garcia (his son in law?) wasn't ready to pitch.

How terribly ironic (is that even the word?) would it be if one of the best big game pitchers in White Sox history eliminated his former mates?

I kind of want the Sox to win, mostly because I want to be able to have two Chicago teams in the playoffs.

Eat it, New York!

Brew Crew Beats Iowa Cubs to Clinch NL Wild Card. This was more like an early Spring Training game, with no Chicago Cubs pitchers going more than two innings.

On the other hand, CC Sabathia pitched all nine to help clinch the NL Wild Card. And he actually had to pitch all nine, too.

Welcome to the playoff party, Milwaukee.

Bearing Down on a Goal Line Stand. The Chicago Bears beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-20, in a pretty shocking game.

After watching Brian Griese torch the Bears 'D' for 407 passing yards, I was pretty sure Chicago native Donovan McNabb would go for 500, at least.

Instead, the Bears were led by Kyle Orton's three first-half touchdown passes, a Robbie Gould field goal and a killer goal line defensive stop with about four minutes remianing in the game.

I'm not sure Brian Westrbook doesn't get in. But it doesn't matter, he was inactive.

I'm not sure Donovan McNabb doesn't get in. But Andy Reid didn't call for McNabb to use his athletic ability, at all.

I'm not sure that McNabb couldn't have thrown to DeSean Jackson. But I'm sure he would have thrown it away at the 1 yard line before entering the end zone.

It doesn't matter, the Bears are 2-2 and could be 4-0 if their defense hadn't collapsed in the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers or Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Quality Linkage:
  • John Elway is marrying an ex-Raider cheerleader. [Yahoo! Sports] Talk about penetrating the opposition.
  • What the Rays are drinking out of is deserving of a post of its own later. [Big League Stew]
  • An open letter to MLB that I absolutely agree with. [Bugs & Cranks]
  • Closing out my 25 Years Later series: 1983 team honored for past, witnesses future. [Daily Egyptian]
  • Defense isn't limited to SIU basketball. 10 turnovers in two home games = 2-0 at the Mac. [Daily Egyptian]

Paps strikes again?

Photo credit: SportsByBrooks

Look, I'm no photographer, but props to all the picture takers in the world.

Especially the ones lucky enough to capture championship celebrations of any kind.

Last week, we were treated to Jonathan Papelbon celebrating with David 'Big Papi' Ortiz in a rather peculiar way.

By the looks of this picture, Paps made a trip to Milwaukee to celebrate with Prince Fielder.

A picture says 1,000 words.

And kinda makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little.

ESPN's newest baseball expert: Lil' Wayne?

This post was going to be one of those worrisome posts because ESPN baseball analyst (and overall, genius) Peter Gammons is picking the L.A. Dodgers of the Pacific Time Zone to beat the Cubs in the first round of the NLDS.

It was going to be one of those gloom-and-doom posts talking about how one of baseball's brightest minds is picking against the Cubs, meaning three losses are impending.

Then, a little bit of searching on ESPN.com brought me across an interview with Lil' Wayne.

Yes, the rapper.

Wayne is ESPN's newest blogger, and through the smoke and the sizzurp, Wayne goes off his rocker and predicts the unthinkable:

"I like the Rays but I'm gonna take a shot in the dark here and say the Cubs. This could really be the year after all they been through. I'd pick a song for them, or write one, about triumph. But it's gotta be big for this. It's gotta be a good song."

Wow.

More reason to hope the Cubs win the series. Can you imagine a 'Go Cubs Go' remix featuring the king of the "reeeemix baaaaby"? I know I can.

Eddie Vedder? Billy Corgan?

Give me a track starring Lil' Weezy and I can guarantee a No. 1 hit single.

Gammons is great, but the Cubs have one of the best rappers in the world on their side.

I hope I haven't tempted the baseball Gods.

In either case, I can't wait 'til Wednesday.

Playoff Roster Redux

After the Chicago Cubs clinched the NL Central title, I came up with 25 guys that I thought should be on the playoff roster.

Now that the Cubs' opponent has been identified - the L.A. Dodgers of Alemeda County for those of you who don't know - I've come up with an updated roster.

Starting Pitchers:
  1. Ryan Dempster
  2. Carlos Zambrano
  3. Rich Harden
  4. Ted Lilly
If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that Ryan Dempster was going to be the Cubs' Game 1 starter in the NLDS, I'd be either piss myself laughing or just be pissed off.

But that's why you play the game.

Dempster won 14 games at Wrigley Field this season and will definitely be psyched to be pitching at the Friendly Confines.

After throwing the no-no against the Houston Astros, Carlos Zambrano has struggled and might benefit from the extra time between starts.

Having Rich Harden in the hole as the Game 3 starter makes me smile. He was dominant in Cubbie blue, and a well rested Harden could give the Dodgers some trouble.

Lilly pitching Game 4 at pitcher friendly Dodger Stadium also fits the Cubs' scheme very well.

Relief Pitchers:
  1. Kerry Wood
  2. Carlos Marmol
  3. Jeff Samardzija
  4. Neal Cotts
  5. Jason Marquis
  6. Sean Marshall
Jeff Spellcheck is on the roster, that's official. So are Wood and Marmol. You can pencil in Marquis and Marshall as long relievers. Cotts is the Wild Card.

He pitched well in Sunday's loss, and the Cubs are in desperate need of a LOOGY to try to neutralize the left-handed bats of James Loney and Andre Ethier.

No Bobby Howry. After working around the New York Mets on Wednesday, he collapsed Thursday and on Sunday - helping the Milwaukee Brewers back into the playoffs.

Everyday Lineup:
  1. Alfonso Soriano, LF
  2. Ryan Theriot, SS
  3. Derrek Lee, 1B
  4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
  5. Jim Edmonds, CF
  6. Geovany Soto, C
  7. Mark DeRosa, 2B
  8. Kosuke Fukudome, C
Look up and down that 1-8 lineup and there has been a different hero everday.

Soriano' speed and power paces the top of the order. Lee, Ramirez and Edmonds anchor the middle. Soto, DeRo and Fuku at the bottom of the order give the Cubs an American League-style lineup.

Bench:
  1. Henry Blanco, C/1B
  2. Mike Fontenot, 2B
  3. Ronny Cedeno, 2B/SS/3B
  4. Reed Johnson, LF/CF/RF
  5. Micah Hoffpauir, 1B/LF/RF
  6. Daryle Ward, 1B/LF/RF
  7. Felix Pie, LF/CF/RF
Going with 10 pitchers is risky, but I couldn't decide between Hoffpauir and Pie. Both provide the Cubs with something they'll need in the postseason. Hoffpauir's lefty stick and Pie's speed and defense.

Seeing that the Dodgers have a pair of power armed lefties, carrying two big lefty sticks is important for the Cubs.

That's it, for now, until a playoff roster is officially unveiled.

Hats off to Maxwell Smart...

...because I missed it by that much.

Last night's pre-game prediction: 27-23, SIU.

Last night's result: 27-24, SIU.

Apparently the folks in Cedar Falls, Iowa are reading the blog.

Or I had a really good night at predicting.

As for my picks to click: Larry Warner scored two touchdowns and Brandin Jordan intercepted a pass and recovered the fumble which led to Kyle Dougherty's game winning field goal.

This is a much better feeling than what happened last time I made a bold prediction.

Way to make me look good, SIU.

Greetings, from McAndrew Stadium

Good evening and welcome to SIU football, live from Carbondale, Ill.

The Salukis enter today's rivalry match with the University of Northern Iowa coming off a bye-week following a 33-7 loss to Northwestern University.

SIU should be well-rested and healthy coming into a game in which the home team generally wins and then takes that momentum throughout the rest of the conference season.

Picks to click:

  1. Chris Dieker, QB. Dieker was accurate with his short and long passes in SIU's opening night victory, and with very favorable weather conditions, should succeed against the Panthers' passing defense.
  2. Larry Warner, RB. Warner is the beneficiary of the projected return of running back Richard White, who will be giving Warner a blow when necessary. A fresher Warner down the stretch could make SIU's running and short passing game a threat throughout.
  3. Brandin Jordan, LB. He has been one of SIU's best linebackers to date, this season. I can see Jordan being one of the Salukis' most active defenders this evening.
Prediction:

SIU 27 UNI 23

Off-Season Leavin'

The summer months are when NBA players get a chance to rest their bodies after a long, grueling 82-game season.

It's even more crucial for teams like the L.A. Lakers and Boston Celtics who had played their way through a long playoff season as well.

I understand the need for the break. Basketball is not an easy game to play multiple times a week while flying from city to city, but this year's batch of players seem much more interested in a permanent break than they do in a summer vacation.

Shaquille O'Neal was the first to come out and say he is hanging up his kicks when his contract expires.

I was fine with that.

The Big Aristotle has put in more than his fair share of work for the Association and will leave the game as one of the top-5 centers of all time.

Then you have Shareef Abdur-Rahim take a bow and quietly leave the game he played so well.

I was sad to see King Rahim leave as he was still young and could have produced so many more highlights if not for constant knee injuries. But he knows the limitations of his knee, and I can respect him for not playing past his prime and further injuring himself.

Now is when I am going to start taking issue.

Jason Williams announced his retirement today, and while he was a great player, I am not going to give him the same fond farewell I gave to King Rahim. Williams introduced "street" style passing and swagger to the NBA and was part of the most exciting team of all time with the Sacramento Kings of the early 2000s.

He starred for the Memphis Grizzlies when no one cared about them and he helped the Miami Heat win an NBA Championship. Sure, he isn't anywhere near the player he was when people knew exactly what the name "J-Will" meant. He can't fill it up quite as much and he can't turn heads with mind-boggling passes as often.

But instead of finding his swagger or using the trade to the L.A. Clippers as a chance to be "J-Will" one last time, he quit. He didn't retire, he quit.

Williams played 10 years in the NBA. Shaq is ready to play his 17th season and he has to carry much more weight and has dealt with nagging injuries throughout his career.

But Shaq can still make a difference, so he shows up to work and jumps into the first row for a loose ball during a regular season game. Williams can still make a difference and he walks away because he struggles.

Does Williams even remember the off-the-elbow pass to Raef LaFrentz, or does he only see less playing time because Baron Davis is ahead of him?

Consider me highly disappointed in your decision to leave the game when you still have so much left to give.

As if Williams picking up his ball and going home because he was traded to the Clippers wasn't bad enough, we now have Dirk Nowitzki pretty much saying he is done when his contract expires.

Come on Dirk, keep your mouth shut about stuff like this. Sure, when your contract is up, it will be 13 years in the league and maybe you are done, but saying it now is immature and a total distraction.

The Mavericks can't win a championship when they have the best team in the league (See 2006 Finals for example). How does Dirk expect to win a championship when questions will be raised about his desire and passion for the game anytime he has a bad night?

I really hope this "announce retirement in advance" trend doesn't continue into future seasons. Hopefully the headaches the Mavericks will have to deal with this year will show players who were thinking about giving advance warning about their retirement that it is not worth it.

Oh, by the way....The Chicago Tribune just broke the story that Derrick Rose has announced he will retire in 2020.

Daily Dosage: Trojans Busted!

What kind of blogger would I be if I didn't make a Trojan joke after last night's upset.

A bad one, that's what kind.

Today's eye candy (by request) is Kelly Clarkson. I'm a fan.

You readers out there are lucky because you're going to get greeted with an extended session of "Dosage."

I hope you're prepared. I know Big Papi is.

Chi-Town Choke Fest Pt. I. A part of me is bothered that manager Lou Piniella continues to send out the Iowa Cubs to play Major League Baseball teams, but it almost worked two nights in a row.

Unfortunately for the Chicago/Iowa Cubs, the real Bobby Howry showed up, Koyie Hill did his best Michael Barrett impression by blowing the tag on Ryan Church and Micah Hoffpauir (despite two home runs) proved not to be Derrek Lee in the bottom of the ninth.

In the end, both Carlos Beltran helped my fantasy team by delivering a game winning single off Kevin Hart (not the comedian) to complete a 7-6 come-from-behind win for the New York Metrosexuals.

Jose Reyes, who scored the winning run, also swiped a bag that inning.

Thanks.

Chi-Town Choke Fest Pt. II. Karma strikes again for a certain Chicago White Sox fan who will go nameless.

A Chicago White Sox fan who texted me after the Iowa Cubs loss must not have been happy with the way his team bit the bullet against the Minnesota Twins, who now sit in first place in the AL Central with three games remaining.

Gavin Floyd (another one of my fantasy studs) was stellar Thursday, but Bobby Jenks (who pitched in the eighth, ninth and tenth innings) gave up the lead and then the game.

The Sox have three games against the Cleveland Indians, including the potential season-finale against Cy Young hopefuly (and another fantasy stud...no wonder I'm winning in championship week) Cliff Lee.

As for the Twinkies, they get three against the Kansas City Royals.

'25 Years Later' comes to a close. This has been a fun week of stories, covering the 25th anniversary of the 1983 National Champion SIU Salukis football team.

The players seem to be genuinely excited about returning to Carbondale.

Apparently, one of my stories has gone missing online. I'll find it, 'til then, check these stories out.

25 Years Later: 1983 team recalls championship season [Daily Egyptian]
25 Years Later: Dempsey, Johnson recall fond memories of SIU [Daily Egyptian]

What 2 Watch 4
  • Red Sox vs. Yankees (Fri., Sat. & Sun.) It'll be the last time these two acquaintances meet, unless Bud Selig creates a stipulation that allows the Yanks to participate in postseason play.
  • Alabama vs. Georgia (Sat.) If the Bulldogs win, they should regain the No.1 ranking in both polls. If Alabama wins, there will be a celebration at a mother f*cking funeral. If the game isn't played, it's because of a gas shortage. I blame all those rappers with their SUVs!
  • Mets vs. Marlins (Fri. Sat. & Sun.) Nobody cares that Shea Stadium is closing its doors, too. Evidence? Where's the ESPN nut hugging of Shea? Don't worry, I'll wait.
  • Ravens vs. Steelers (Mon.) Bart Scott is apparently going to kill Hines Ward. Even though Ward is one of my fantasy team's best receiving options, Scott is an SIU alum. I side with No. 52. He's a bad ass!
Quality Linkage:
  • Absolutely classless stuff at this Seattle Seahawks message board. [Deadspin]
  • Engineer: head-first slide is faster. [Eurkalert] Baseball afficianados like me: no it isnt'!
  • "Latent racism in baseball" [The Big Lead]
  • Welcome to the blogosphere, Lil' Wayne [ESPN] Reeemix baaaaby!!!!!
  • Cedric Benson's boating charges are dropped. [Statesman] White women in Texas are happy. I'm not (because they're not with me).
  • The best team in the NL is also the funniest. [Funny or Die]
  • Big Papi's bed isn't popular. [Red Sox Monster] Jonathan Papelbon would like to disagree.
The Week In Review:
Thank you for supporting The Big Dead Sidebar. We promise to be better next week.

Maybe.

BREAKING: Ryan Dempster selected as Game 1 starter

When you go 17-6 with a 2.99 ERA for the Chicago Cubs, you get to date girls like Marisa Miller.

Somebody dial up Big Z, just to make sure he's OK.

Did somebody do that yet? OK, we can move on.

Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella named Ryan Dempster to start Game 1 of the NLDS.

No, Dempster didn't get the nod because he has some incriminating pictures of Sweet Uncle Lou, he got the nod because he's 14-3 at Wrigley Field with a 2.86 ERA in 20 starts.

He's only 3-3 with a respectable 3.22 ERA in 12 road starts.

By the way, that brings the former closer's 2008 season to 17-6 with a 2.99 ERA. Not bad for a guy everyone wanted run out of town before the season started.

Piniella obviously understands the importance of home field advantage, especially since the Cubs have a league best 55 home wins. He also understands that Carlos Zambrano has been f*cking up since his no-no against the Houston Astros.

I'll be honest, I wasn't surprised by the move. In fact, I support it. Dempsters dominance at home combined with El Toro's recent struggles makes it a perfect choice.

I expect the move to light a fire under Big Z. Last time someone questioned his health, he didn't allow a hit.

According to the linked Chicago Sun-Times story, Zambrano said he wouldn't mind starting Game 3 on the road.

That means Rich Harden in Game 2, right?

Only time will tell.

Good call, Lou.

Piniella selects Dempster as Game 1 starter. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Jonathan Papelbon is excited to see Big Papi because he really wants to celebrate


The Boston Red Sox celebrated another AL playoff berth with the team's 5-4 victory over Cy Young candidate Cliff Lee and the Cleveland Indians.

And they celebrated like any victorious team should.

By getting each other wet.

I feel sorry for the clubhouse manager. I don't know how he would get all that stuff out. It looks like a big mess and by the look on Papelbon's face, Big Papi's got some more coming to him.

I'm assuming those are some top-notch goggles, I'd hate for that crap to get in Papi's eye, causing him to miss some key games down the stretch.

Seriously, is this not the greatest photo ever?

Kudos to With Leather for the inspiration for this post.

Is Ron Gardenhire the last great manager?

It's a serious question and not meant to be a jab at the recent struggles of the Chicago White Sox.

But let's think about this for just one moment.

No Johan Santana and no Torii Hunter, two of the franchise's best players in history.

Matt Garza has been solid for a Tampa Bay Rays team that is going to the playoffs for the first time in the team's history.

Francisco Liriano was garbage during the first half.

Yet, a win by the Minnesota Twins tonight puts them 1/2 game ahead of the White Sox as baseball enters its final weekend in a season where they were pegged to finish behind the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and in some opinions, the White Sox.

Now only the Sox stand in their way of a division title.

Ron Gardenhire has got to be the last great manager. Baseball manager. In the classic meaning of the word that baseball old farts get all nostalgic about.

You know, with sacrifice bunting, hit & run plays, double steals, lefty-righty match-ups no matter the numbers. Match-up for match-up sake.

Gardenhire has turned water into wine this season, and even though it's not over, it has to be considered a success.

In a world where baseball managers are expected to master massing the egos that come with big cash contracts, Gardenhire plays the role of a micromanaging button pusher.

And to this point, none of the button's he has pushed have been the self-destruct button.

The Twins' line-up, other than Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau doesn't strike fear in anyone.

But don't sleep on Dernard Span, Alexi Casilla, Jason Kubel and Carlos Gomez.

The pitching staff, is full of young overachievers such as Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey.

It's like having Scott Erickson, Eric Milton and Brad Radke all over again.

The team's best reliever is Joe Nathan, you can thank the San Francisco Giants for that.

"Gardy" isn't even close to being named manager of the year, unless Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon is found out to be a steroid dealing child molester in the coming days.

But she should get some consideration.

Some, not all.

Chicago Bears 2005: Worst. Draft. Ever.


I hate Cedric Benson.

He has a lot of talent, a lot of money and a lot of pretty white girls on a boat that I would guess is pretty expensive.

Benson was one of the 2005 draft class busts.

But just one of them.

Let's discuss, shall we?

Cedric Benson (Round 1. Pick 4) Benson was the shit coming out of the University of Texas. He was supposed to be the next Ricky Williams, without the off field issues.

However, that was a lie.

But even if you put aside Benson's extra-curricular activities, he got on the wrong side of Chicago fans when he had his lengthy hold out.

I'm a big supporter of players (especially NFL RBs) getting as much money as possible, up front. But what's the difference $1 million can make when you're guaranteed at least $10 million.

Benson's bright spot was that he was an awesome second half runner, mostly because Thomas Jones ate up defenses in the first half.

Who the Bears should have picked: Adam Jones, CB, West Virginia.

Why? Three words: MAKE! IT! RAIN!

Mark Bradley (Round 2. Pick 39) Bradley had tons of potential coming out of Oklahoma University.

That and $1.50 will buy you Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times.

Talent and potential is one thing, staying healthy long enough to use it is another.

Bradley was recently cut, which is the inspiration behind this post.

Thanks Mark. Oh, and the Sooners still suck!

Who the Bears should have picked: Roscoe Parrish, WR, Miami (Fl.)

Parrish + Devin Hester = Ridiculous(squared)

Kyle Orton (Round 4. Pick 106) I didn't understand this pick then and I don't understand why he's on the team now.

Sure, he drinks heavily. And I like that. Unfortunately, he likes to throw the ball to he other team more than he likes throwing it to guys on his team.

And don't give me that Rex Grossman apologist shit. If Rex would have thrown it directly to Gaines Adams, he would have been sniped on spot.

Meanwhile, the Neckbeard gets a free pass because he's canoodling with Linday Lohan.

Tool!

Who the Bears should have picked: Brandon Jacobs, RB, Southern Illinois

I go with Jacobs only because I saw him at SIU, it was my freshman year. He destroyed everyone. Whether it was running the ball, pass catching and even kick returns.

Think about it. 6-foot-4. 260 pounds. Runs a 4.5 second 40-yard dash. Returning kicks.

Marion Barber also would have been an outstanding pick.

Airese Curry (Round 5. Pick 140) Cool name, lame game.

There isn't much to say here.

I would have rather the Bears select Adrian McPhereson so I can write some clever check bouncing headlines.

Chris Harris (Round 6. Pick 181) The best player to come from this draft isn't even on the Bears anymore.

Kudos to the front office that let that happen.

Maybe the Bears should have gone with quarterback whose intitals are "DA" and went to from Oregon State University.

I'll be honest, the Bears' seventh round pick isn't even worth mentioning.

One day I'd like to see a team trade a seventh round pick for a day one pick because a team "needed" such-and-such in the seventh round.

That'd be great. Too bad the only guy who would fall for that got fired today.

In summation:

Jerry Angelo, you have failed. Miserably. You're not a terrible guy and you're talent evaluation isn't the worse I've seen.

But you drafted Kyle Orton AHEAD of Marion Barber AND Brandon Jacobs.

Sounds like a fireable offense to me.

Daily Dosage: The Teaser

Have you ever seen the movie 'The Girl Next Door' starring today's eye candy, Elisha Cuthbert.

It's great, and if you're a twentysomething like me, you'd probably like it.

The problem is that she doesn't get naked - check that - that's not the problem because Cuthbert's beauty can stand on its own mertis. However, the movie continuously hints that she's going to get naked eventually.

What a tease.

Kinda like the 2008 Chicago White Sox. I'll get to them shortly.

On with the Dosage.

Whoever wins today leaves with the AL Central lead. No matter how you cut it, that's how it's gonna go down today at the Hump Dome.

The Minnesota Twins defeated the Chicago White Sox, 3-2, Wednesday night, cutting the ChiSox's division lead to 1/2 game.

In a sign of bad things, Twins catcher Joe Mauer went 0-for-4 in the win ... with 2 RBIs.

That's painful but it could be worse.

Did I mention it could be worse because here come the Mets. Don't worry though, they won't harm you.

The New York Mets' 9-6 loss (in 10 innings) to the Chicago Cubs was heart-wrenching in every sense of the word, especially if you're a fan of the Metros.

The Mets left more men in scoring position than the teaser at the end of the bar.

Yeah, I went there.

And the Cubs dodged bullets time after time and eventually won the game behind a bloop RBI double by Derrek Lee and a blast two-run home run by Aramis Ramirez.

Part III of the 25 Years Later Series. Two things will always be remembered about the 1983 SIU football team that won the Division I-AA national championship. Terry Taylor's block to preserve the 17-14 win against Eastern Illinois University and the Salukis' 28-6 loss to Wichita State in the final regular season game of the year.

The loss knocked them out of conference title contention, but it didn't matter. After giving up 28 points to the Shockers, SIU only allowed a total of 21 points to its next three opponents.

Check it out at siuDE.com.

25 Years Later: 1983 team recalls championship season [Daily Egyptian]

Quality Linkage:
  • The NCAA is asleep at the wheel. [Yahoo!] I remember when that used to be an infraction.
  • Headline: Man sentenced for attempted pimping. [mlive] I hope "attempted pimping" isn't a crime, because my only excuse would be the "failed pimping" excuse.
  • Somebody got into Bobby Petrino's Gmail account. [The Dead Guy's SEC Site] That reminds me, don't leave your Facebook account open on your computer.
  • Dating tips from Texas Tech head football coach Mike Leach [The Wiz of Odds] Honestly, that's the best dating advice I've gotten in a while. I wonder what kind of advice Chris Lowery or Dale Lennon could give me. I'm pretty sure Phil Longo would encourage me to cook a hearty Italian meal (everyone knows I got the flame Chicken Parmasean).
Enough editorializing for one night. I'll be back later with posts (hopefully).

Daily Dosage: The Johan Santana trade works for everyone

Finding the daily eye candy is harder than you think. Finding pretty girls is harder than you think. But that's what makes this fun.

So rather than search far and wide for the next best thing, I typed "Halle Berry" in my Google search bar and that's how I came up with today's choice.

On with the Dosage.

Insert another Santana, Supernatural headline here. If you listened the reports by baseball's talking heads this offseason, you would have thought Johan Santana was going to go 34-0, undefeated in the playoffs and bat .400 with 40 home runs and 150 RBIs.

Santana improved 8-0 with a 2.26 ERA in his last 16 starts in the New York Mets' 6-2 victory against the Chicago Cubs.

Maybe that's what I get for spewing my venom yesterday. I don't care, I needed that yesterday.

Javier Vazquez's ears are likely being filled with expletives. Maybe Ozzie Guillen was right about Javy.

Vazquez, who was challenged by the White Sox skipper to be more aggressive, dropped his record to 12-15 by allowing five runs on seven hits in four innings in the South Siders' 9-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

The win by the Twinkies brings them within 1.5 games of the Pale Hose, whose magic number remains at 5.

The magic number for this segment, 3, as in different nicknames I used for Chicago's South Side baseball team.

As for the other part of the Santana trade, Carlos Gomez, he went 2-for-4 with his 32nd stolen base of the season.

Quality Linkage:
  • Matt Millen is done, son. [Fox Sports] The Lions still suck and I'm convinced Jay Glazer doesn't sleep.
  • The Yankees dynasty is officially over. [ESPN] It's time to pop champagne like we won a championship game!
  • Rodgers > Romo. [Dallas Morning News - Cowboys Blog] Blogs like that discredit bloggers like me.
  • Donovan McNabb talks to a blog. [The 700 Level] I think that's cool.
  • The Pierre Pierce saga continues. [Associated Press] Steve Alford still defends him. Still an asshat.

Farewell to King Rahim and Grading the West

Normally I would start this off talking about the worst move in history...Seattle to Oklahoma City, but alas the true king is off his throne.

Before LeBron James took his crown, there was Shareef Abdur-Rahim. The man who made Atlanta relevant again after they had been drowning in oblivion from the loss of Dominique Wilkins or the man who gave the Kings one last breath in their pursuit of a championship.

The problem is many wont remember King Rahim's 18 PPG and 7 RPG career average. Rahim is a shooting star. Someone who lived the rock star lifestyle for a brief moment, but wont shine as long as his contemporaries like Kobe Bryant, James, Steve Nash and Tim Duncan will.

But before this star totally fades out let me leave you with this Tribute to Reef.

Now to the grades...

Dallas Mavericks
DeSagana Diop, Antoine Wright and Gerald Green are all nice players. They only lose Tyronn Lue, Jamaal Magloire and Malik Allen. The problem is it was a completely safe off-season when Mark Cuban NEEDS to shake things up already. Make a big move or suffer. Grade: C-

Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have a pretty bad defense and it just got worse. They said goodbye to Marcus Camby, Eduardo Najera and Yakhouba Diawara. Kenyon Martin is their last chance to stop a team. I will give them props for adding "Birdman" Chris Andersen, Renaldo Balkman and Sonny Weems. Great exciting offense, but an overall worse team. Grade: C

Golden State Warriors
They lost The Baron, but they added some nice pieces in Corey Maggette, Ronny Turiaf, Marcus Williams and Anthony Randolph. Anytime you lose a franchise player and a spark plug like Matt Barnes it can be hard to recover, but they proved it's possible. Grade: B

Houston Rockets
Are they taking off? They should after this off-season, but they are the Rockets. Ron Artest was a brilliant pick up and DJ Strawberry and Joey Dorsey will add even more depth to a great bench. If they stay healthy, it could be their year. Grade: A-

LA Clippers

Defense: Marcus Camby, Brian Skinner, Jason Hart (that's a check) Offense: Ricky Davis, Baron Davis and Eric Gordon (that's a check). Losing Elton Brand after thinking you have him in the bag is not a check and hurts and otherwise great off-season. Grade: B+

LA Lakers
Sun Yue. Yup, that was their off-season. A team a move or two away from being champions decided Sun Yue would be enough. Don't get me wrong, I am excited to see him play, but come on guys, your so close. Maybe Andrew Bynum getting healthy will do the trick. Grade: C+

Memphis Grizzlies
They lost Juan Carlos Navarro and Mike Miller so that is not good. They did bring in O.J. Mayo to complement Rudy Gay and also brought in Darrell Arthur and Marc Gasol. But they are too young and not good enough in the post, and they didn't do anything about it. Grade: C

Minnesota Timberwolves
If they thought Mike Miller and Kevin Love would be enough to turn their sinking ship around they were wrong. I don't understand how they didn't pursue Elton Brand harder or Ron Artest or even Sean Livingston. Please, stop hurting yourselves. Grade: D

New Orleans Hornets
They landed James Posey, a great defender and clutch shooter who could help give the team the extra boost it needs. They didn't have a real deep bench and it got shallower after Chris Andersen and more importantly, Jannero Pargo, left. Grade: B-

Oklahoma City Thunder
Well, they got decent players with Desmond Mason, Russell Westbrook and D.J. White, but they left Seattle and changed their name to Thunder. I mean I would like to give them a B for the personnel they got, but the name is terrible. Grade: F

Phoenix Suns
Robin Lopez, Matt Barnes and Sean Singletary wont improve a team that needs a kick in the rear. Singletary will be good in the future, Barnes is a tough player and Lopez will probably bust. Shaquille O'Neal is a year older, so is Steve Nash. And Amare Stoudamire could go down at anytime. Sorry guys, you are starting to slip. Grade: C-

Portland Trailblazers
Greg Oden is coming on strong, Jerryd Bayless looks awesome and Rudy Fernandez is crossing borderlines. Mr. SIU Jamaal Tatum is also in the mix, talk about the best off-season ever. This one is easy to grade. Grade: A+

Sacramento Kings
Well they got Donte Greene and Bobby Jackson. But at least now when they lose they wont have to deal with Ron Artest making a fuss. But on the other hand, they may see more losses now that Artest isn't there to stop the other team. They will be young and scrappy, but not a very good off-season. Grade: C-

San Antonio Spurs
They either added or resigned 11 players. And none of it mattered. This team showed its age last year, and they didn't get younger. How can you either add or resign 11 players and get nothing of significance out of it. Maybe Roger Mason can do something Grade: D+

Utah Jazz
This is a great young team, and they didn't add much aside from Kosta Koufos who could really go either way. The fact of the matter is they didn't really need anything other than experience, which comes with playing. They stood pat, but that is fine. Grade: B

[Bleep] the Mets!


In 1994, Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes hit three home runs on Opening Day off New York Mets starter Doc Gooden. And the Cubs still lost. I was at that game. I bet Mr. Met was happy. F*ck Mr. Met.


I'm pretty sure as a Chicagoan, it's in my blood to have a disdain for everything that is New York sports.

John Starks and the Knicks.

Derek Jeter and the Yankees.

Victor Diaz and the Mets.

Who and the who?

Victor Diaz (with the help of LaTroy Hawkins) and Craig Brazell (with the help of Kent Mercker) helped break the collective heart of Cubdom in 2004 with a pair of home runs that helped seal another classic collapse by the Chicago Cubs.

And while the Cubs have the NL Central Division title and home field advantage throughout the NL playoffs locked up, there's one fan that has a little revenge on their mind.

Yeah, that's me.

I remember 2004 vividly. I remember breaking my television remote when I threw it off a brick wall in my dormitory when Hawkins gave up the homer to Diaz. And after Mercker got yarded by Brazell, a night of binge drinking and bad decisions ensued.

Someone needs to pay for that. And that someone is the 2008 New York Mets.

Nothing would make me happier than seeing the Cubs deliver the deciding blow to the Metrosexuals.

Sure, they've felt heartbreak. Ask the 2006 Metrosexuals who allowed an 83-win St. Louis Cardinals team win the pennant behind a game-winning Yadier Molina home run and a knee-buckling curveball by Adam Wainwright.

As painful as it was for them, imagine how it was for this young, impressionable baseball mind when his roommate jumped on the coffee table in celebration of the Cards' championship run.

OK, this is starting to turn into a rag fest, so I digress.

I was glad to see Jason "Grand" Marquis go deep against the Mets last night, but I'm not completely satisfied.

In the end, I want Ronny Cedeno to go 3-for-4 tonight against Johan Santana, taking the former AL Cy Young winner yard off a 3-2 changeup and hand him his first loss of the second half. I want to see David Wright take the collar against Sean Marshall. I want to see Jose Reyes swipe a few bags (only for the sake of my fantasy league), but see him stranded in scoring position.

It's up to the Cubs - who have the best record in the National League - to play spoiler.

I think that'd be grand.*

*Pun intended

Daily Dosage: Home Sweet Home

Today's eye candy is Erika Christensen. Who is she? I don't know. I began writing today's dosage at 12:28 a.m. and was needing a girl.

My buddy Anthony told me to go with her and I took his advice. It turned out much better than Sunday night's advice of extra "Ninja Turtle Shots."

On the other hand, I wouldn't mind taking a shot (or ten) with her.

It seems like it has been forever since I've done a shameless self cross-promotion, so I'll get to that in the Dosage.

A 'Grand' Marquis helps Cubs clinch home field. Perennial whipping boy Jason Marquis did everything in his power - yes, power - to help the Cubs clinch home field advantage throughout the National League playoffs in the North Siders' 9-5 win against the New York Metrosexuals.

Marquis went 1-for-3 with five RBIs, four of which came with one swing of the bat, deep into the New York night. Derrek Lee also homered as the Cubs topped the Mets, who would be the Cubs first round opponent if the playoffs started tomorrow.

Don't worry, they don't.

Marquis pitched 6.2 innings, scattering eight hits and allowing four earned runs. His road record now stands at 7-3 this season. Keep that in mind, Cubs fans.

25 Years Later: Part One. This story is part one of today's shameless self cross-promotion and will by my baby throughout the week.

The 2008 season of SIU football marks the 25th anniversary of the Salukis' NCAA Division 1-AA National Championship season. The Dawgs went 13-1 to bring a title to Carbondale.

Today's feature is about the relationship between head coach Rey Dempsey and quarterback Rick Johnson.

Johnson described Dempsey as a disciplinarian and a master motivator that helped guide the Salukis to the title.

Dempsey described Johnson as the perfect quarterback for a team that took years to build to that point because of his smarts and skills.

25 Years Late: Dempsey, Johnson recall fond memories of SIU [Daily Egyptian]

No ordinary Joe: Versatile Allaria catching passes. This story is part two of today's shameless self cross-promotion.

After losing out on the QB derby, SIU sophomore Joe Allaria has been practicing as a wide receiver, and is expected to see more time in the slot as the season goes on.

I first reported the story Sept. 10, and even though Allaria had fielded punts during summer training camp, the wide receiver experiment has just begun.

It's not like SIU hasn't done this trick before. Justin Allen, one of SIU's top receivers last year, was a converted QB after Nick Hill took control of the everyday No. 1 responsibilities.

Versaitle Allaria adapts to receiver. [Daily Egyptian]

Quality Linkage:
  • Can you believe Steve Phillips gets paid to predict the Seattle Mariners winning 90+ games. [Vegas Watch]
  • A White Sox fan is happy the Cubs clinched. [1 Happy St]
  • Media fight! [The Big Lead]
  • Right kick, wrong time? [Deadspin]
  • Why I like girls from the state of Ohio [With Leather]
For more news, see siuDE.com

Don't ask questions. Just do it. Now!

Predicting a playoff roster

One of the fun things about having a playoff team is actually having to construct a playoff roster.

It is up to manager Lou Piniella to choose the 25 guys that will help his team win its first round playoff match, against whoever it may be.

Thankfully for Piniella, he has six games to analyze what's best for the team.

As for me, I can do that now. No hesitation.

Ready? Let's do this.

Starting pitchers:
  1. Carlos Zambrano
  2. Ryan Dempster
  3. Rich Harden
  4. Ted Lilly
That's the order I'd go in. Dempster over Harden only because of Demp's dominance at Wrigley Field. Jason Marquis and his 6-3 road record might squeeze in somewhere depending on the match-up. He's a long reliever only on this roster. So we're now at five pitchers

Relief pitchers:
  1. Kerry Wood
  2. Carlos Marmol
  3. Sean Marshall
  4. Neal Cotts
  5. Jeff Samardzija
  6. Chad Gaudin
Gaudin might be the odd man out here. He's a valuable piece to the team, but if he's not completely healthy then there's no reason for him to be on the team. Marquis can fill in that role if necessary. I'm impressed with No. 21, only because he hasn't completely collapsed in the second half.

We're now at 11 players. 11 pitchers on my staff. Let's move on to the men who carry the big sticks.

Your "everyday" line-up.
  1. Alfonso Soriano
  2. Ryan Theriot
  3. Derrek Lee
  4. Aramis Ramirez
  5. Jim Edmonds
  6. Geovany Soto
  7. Mark DeRosa
  8. Kosuke Fukudome
The Fuk has been in a slump at the plate, but his defense has been stellar throughout the year. You can hide him at the bottom of the order and hope the patient eye he possessed at the beginning of the year comes back in October.

Turning over the line-up for Soriano could be the key to the Cubs' postseason success.

We're at 19, let's finish strong.

The bench:
  1. Reed Johnson (LF/CF/RF)
  2. Mike Fontenot (2B)
  3. Ronny Cedeno (2B/SS/3B)
  4. Henry Blanco (C/1B)
  5. Micah Hoffpauir (LF/RF/1B)
  6. Daryle Ward (LF/RF/1B
Just missing the cut: Felix Pie, Angel Guzman, Bobby Howry and Kevin Hart.

The only player I might see getting some cuts in is Pie, because Hoffpauir and Ward are almost interchangeable. Hoffpauir is younger, but Ward is experienced so if it's a battle between the two, then it should be Ward.

Again, this all depends on who the Cubs face in the first round. I'm sure Piniella and GM Jim Hendry will put together a squad that will match-up fine against the Cubs' first round opponent.

Here's hoping I get to do one for the White Sox later this week.

Daily Dosage: Two outta three ain't bad

You know what would be great: a Sunday where the Cubs, White Sox and Bears all win games.

At least the Cubs did their part ... with a bunch of reject prospects and scrubs, nonetheless.

Feeling bad about the Bears? Cards? I'm sure Tiffani Amber Thiessen would love to help make your day.

I've come to the conclusion Tiffani (with an 'I') and Amber are like standard names for pretty girls.

Seriously, Zack Morris, you were a very lucky man.

Kelly Kapowski ... another great name for a pretty girl.

On with the Dosage.

P.S. I'm gonna start "tagging" these girls so I knew who I've "done" in the past.

Back to your regularly scheduled program

Cub scrubs top Cards. Kosuke Fukudome and Felix Pie were the only two Opening Day starters in today's post-celebration starting lineup. They combined to go 4-for-8 with three runs scored in the Cubs 5-1 win against the Redbirds.

If Fuku and Pie played like that all year, there would have been no need for Reed Johnson or Jim Edmonds in center or Mark DeRosa in right.

One of these two guys will be on the postseason roster. One of them is still under contract for three more years at $12 million a pop.

Is there a market for a $12 million No. 8 hitter?

Sox beat Royals. Ike Turner jealous. I was watching ESPN Classic last night and realized the Royals used to be awesome. George Brett. Brett Saberhagen. Those teams were great.

And it's not like they haven't had talent.

What do Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon have in common?

They all came up through the Royals system only to be traded away for players to never be named on a major league roster.

Well, the Sox shutout the Royals, 3-0, who were playing without Brett, Saberhagen, Beltran, Dye and Damon.

Nick Swisher went 1-for-3 on the field and is still batting 1.000 off of it.

Brian Griese beats Bears. I could have used that headline in years past, especially last year when Griese threw a billion picks to the Detroit Lions secondary, allowing the Cowardly Lions to walk away with a season sweep of the Bears.

All I need to put here is that Griese threw for 407 yards against the Bears.

Buccs 27 Bears 24 OT


Quality Linkage:
  • Congrats to the Rays. 9=8. That's catchy. [The Big Lead]
  • Jose Reyes is big pimpin'. Apparently. [Deadspin]
  • Bloggers Row. Has a nice ring to it. Make it happen. [Examiner]
  • Prince flips the bird. [Sports Bubbler] The Brewers are like a bird. Put a fork in 'em. They're done!
  • The Miami Arena is no more. [Miami Herald] Did that awful P.A. announcer go down with the ship? I can only hope.

Bear with us, it's gonna be a long ride.

So you're probably wondering about this photo choice?

Well, it's Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary.
And I can guaran-f*cking-tee that he wouldn't allow Brian Griese to pass for 40 yards, let alone 407.

Look into those eyes.

Once your done changing after you've soiled yourself, read the rest of this post.


Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune hit it right on the head
.

Someone's gotta go. Heads gotta roll.

Is it going overboard? No, not at all.

You can't lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not at home. Not with a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter. Not with this defense that was supposed to be the second coming of the 2006 Super Bowl team.

So whose head should roll.

Let's start with the head coach, Lovie Smith.

Sometimes you have to cut off the head of the monster to see results.

I feel bad for Lovie, who was the best coach ever when he was leading the Bears to playoff and Super Bowl appearances. His demeanor never changed, and everyone liked that about him.

But inevitably, it's turning into Dick Jauron all over again.

How long 'til the calls for Bill Cowher start coming.

Ron Turner should be burned at the stake.

The Bears offense is offensive, and that's putting it nicely.

There's talent with Matt Forte and Greg Olsen, but can we trust someone who apparently is using a high school playbook in the pros to put a productive offense on the field?

I didn't think so.

Every quarterback that has been under Turner's "watchful" eye has regressed to the point where they'll need shrinks 'til the day they die unless they're able to move on to another franchise where they instantly turn into Pro Bowl-caliber stars.

Bob Babich is bad, bitch!

This is where you can get Lovie, too. Letting go of Ron Rivera was a big mistake then, and it looms as a bigger mistake with each passing down.

The defense is good, but the aggressiveness is gone. The heat is gone. The blitzes are down and the points allowed are up.

That was the joy of Rivera's 'D.' It was a combination of the best aspects of the Cover-2 and 46 defenses.

Prediction: You heard it here first, when Lovie is launched, Ron Rivera will be the Bears' first candidate to take over.

And maybe he can bring LT, Rivers, Gates and Merriman's roids with him from San Diego.

Just a thought.

The only coach worth a damn on this staff seems to be Dave Toub, who would be a genius if he took the next coaching opportunity offered to him and ran with it.

Jump before the fire hits your floor!

All I know is that I'll feel a lot better if I wake up tomorrow and see that someone is paying for the travesty that is the Chicago Bears.

The NL Central Clincher

Media credit: Scott Stewart, Chicago Sun-Times.

Of all the pictures I could have chosen, I went with one of Ted Lilly.

Why?

Because Lilly never smiles. Ever. That's why I gave him the nickname of TeddyNeverSmile.

And the last time we saw Lilly in the playoffs, he slammed his glove in frustration after Chris Young of the Arizona Diamondbacks hit a ball that still has not landed. It was a microcosm of the series in which the Cubs would be swept.

On with the analysis.

By virtue of their 5-4 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs have won the NL Central Division championship and have clinched consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 1906-1908.

Ernie Banks couldn't do it. Neither could Ryne Sandberg, the greatest second baseman in baseball history. Sammy Sosa and his three 60 home run seasons couldn't get the job done either.

It's a feat three of the franchise's best players could never accomplish. That's saying something.

It was an ending that any great writer couldn't have penned better themselves.

Kerry Wood, the longest tenured Cub, was on the mound and former Cardinal great Jim Edmonds caught the final out, a lazy fly ball off the bat of Aaron Miles.

Edmonds' contributions are a kudos to general manager Jim Hendry, who should get some votes for whatever executive of the year award is given out at the end of the season.

He found gold in gravel.

18 homers from Edmonds, who I considered to be closer to a dead bird than a Redbird in recent seasons. Reed Johnson posting a .298/.352/.422 line as the Cubs' fourth outfielder.

And when CC Sabathia was sent to Milwaukee, in a move that was reminiscent of the Rick Sutcliffe move in 1984, Cubs fans were up in arms and looking to off Hendry like he was a French king.

Then, days later, he acquired Rich Harden, who has a 5-1 record and 85 strikeouts since joining the North Siders' rotation.

Yet, the 2008 team is everything the 2007 team wasn't.

The term "home field advantage" meant something this year and the Cubs have rewarded the world's most loyal fans with the best home record in the league.

They were dominant from the start, and able to coast to a title with eight games remaining instead of having to come back from being eight games under .500.

Manager Lou Piniella's philosphy of patience has payed off with the second most walks in franchise history.

Hell, even free-swingers Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez have not only taken pitches, but they have taken four pitches to draw walks. It's an outstanding turnaround from the days of the "it's called hitting, not walking" train of thought.

They got offensive production from every position. Whether it was Mark DeRosa's career-best 20 home runs. Or Geovany Soto's Rookie of the Year performance behind the plate. Or "Little Babe Ruth" Mike Fontenot's pinch-hitting pop off the bench.

Yes, winning the NL Central was expected, but with eight games remaining? Not even the most optimistic of Cubs fans could have expected this.

But now it's time to look to October, of course not before clinching home field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. That will be step two of the process. Step three of course, is winning in October.

Something Edmonds did as a Cardinal. Derrek Lee did as a Marlin. And Piniella did as a player in New York and a manager in Cincinnati.

But it won't mean a thing without the ring. Ron Harper taught me that. Word.

But Cubs fans, heed the advice of "Jimmy Baseball," who addressed the team after popping the bubbly.

"It's nice to just bring everybody together all at one time and let them know what a special moment this is and tell them how our goal is to win the World Series and nothing else."

Didn't catch it? Then I'll close with it.

"Win the World Series and nothing else."

Well said, Jimmy. Well said.

Far from un-hittable

Sometimes your the dog and sometimes your the fire hydrant.

Carlos Zambrano's line today against the St. Louis Cardinals:

1.2 IP 6 H 8 R 8 ER 3 BB 1 K

Yeah, it's 2:31 p.m. and the game is still going on and Big Z's day is done.

Still you can't take away Sunday's no-no.

Not Drayton McClane. Not Skip Bayless. Not Bud Selig.

No one.

If this score stands, the Chicago Cubs' magic number will remain at 2.

Grading The East

Our NBA guy, Jeff Engelhardt is taking on top of the Association's off-season moves. Today, the Eastern Conference. Tomorrow, the Western Conference. Saturday, the world.


The Eastern Conference has been criticized the last few seasons for being inferior to the powerful West. But teams like the Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics proved the criticism was unsupported.

The West is the best, no doubt about it. But the East's elite can play with the best, and thanks to summer acquisitions, there is a whole lot more reason to believe the championship stay with the East.

Atlanta Hawks
They resigned Josh Smith which was huge. They lost Josh Childress which hurt. The additions of Maurice Evans, Randolph Morris and Flip Murray are nice safety pieces, but I think they missed to take a huge step forward. This team is close to being really good, but they needed action in the draft. Grade: C+

Boston Celtics
One big loss with the defensive-minded James Posey headed to the Hornets. But draft picks J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker should develop nicely. They bring in two guys, Darius Miles and Patrick O' Bryant, looking to ressurect broken careers in a bad way. If their bench of Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Kentucky Kid Rajon Rondo continue to improve, they will be fine. Grade: B-

Charlotte Bobcats
What is there to say? I love DJ Augustin, but he is similar to Raymond Felton. They resigned Emeka Okafor and Ryan Hollins, which is good. They bring on Alexis Ajinca who could go either way. If this team wants to see the playoffs, they need to stop drafting conservatively. Better luck next year. Grade: D+

Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose is a great pickup no doubt, and getting Luol Deng back was key. They got rid of two problem players in JamesOn Curry and Chris Duhon, but they still have little size. They needed to be more aggressive in pursuing a trade for Shawn Marion that was being discussed. Good draft, but Del Negro as coach? Grade: C+

Cleveland Cavaliers
Three really solid picks and getting Mo Williams makes this team deeper and a little better. Is Williams LeBron's Pippen? No, but he will help tremendously. Lorenzen Wright comes on board and they resign Booby Gibson. There is not a whole lot of bad to say about their off-season. Grade: B+

Detroit Pistons
I always loved this team's style, but this was a terrible off-season. They lose a great shot blocker in Theo Ratliff and a solid bench player in Jarvis Hayes. They add Kwame Brown? Will Bynum? I mean come on guys. The draft wasn't much better with mediocre picks at best. The Pistons are busting out the white flag. Grade: F

Indiana Pacers
It was a good job to get TJ Ford and Brandon Rush. Jarrett Jack is a good player, but what about the post? They lose Jermaine O' Neal and get Josh McRoberts and Rasho Nesterovic? I mean, I guess if you want scrappy players, which is nothing but crappy with an "s" its OK. I like the backcourt though. Grade: C-

Miami Heat
Bow down to the kings of the East. Michael Beasley was the best player in the draft, Mario Chalmers is a great pick and now Dwayne Wade won a gold medal and The Matrix is there for a full season. Sure there are questions on defense, but whatever, this team is scoring all night long. Grade: A

Milwaukee Bucks
This is my team so I am biased, but they added a superstar. They gave up Mo Williams which hurts, but hello Richard Jefferson, we have been waiting. The Bucks also added Joe Alexander, who could be a great spark from the bench but that's about all I see there. Luc Richard Mbah-A-Moute has mad skills on defense. Grade: B+

New Jersey Nets
You would think losing Richard Jefferson and Marcus Williams would mean terrible off-season. Not so much. They add Brook Lopez, Chris Douglas Roberts, Ryan Anderson, Yi Jianlian. This team has A LOT of youth and it is extremely exciting. But they need time to grow. Great off-season. Grade: A-

New York Knicks
Whoops, they forgot to get better. Danilo Gallinari could be good or maybe not, but thats not the point. They add Chris Duhon, Anthony Roberson and Patrick Ewing Jr. (that's cute). They lose a promising player in Renaldo Balkman. They did get a great coach though so that saves them from being too terrible. Grade: D+

Orlando Magic
I love the Courtney Lee pick and Mickael Pietrus will help with depth. They lose two nice players in Carlos Arroyo and Keyon Dooling, but they will live. They pretty much stayed the same, but that's fine since they need to focus on gelling this great, young team together. Grade: B

Philadelphia 76ers
This is how you run an off-season. Elton Brand, Royal Ivey, Kareem Rush, Theo Ratliff and Donyell Marshall all join the team, sweet deal to say the least. Andre Igoudala and Louis Williams come back and they lose absolutely no one of significance. Well done Philly, well done. Grade: A+

Toronto Raptors
This one is a little tough. They get Mr. Injury Jermaine O'Neal, who could really help Bosh when healthy, but they lose TJ Ford and Carlos Delfino. I guess Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker need to step up. It could have been better, but it wasn't terrible. They float in mediocrity. Grade: C+

Washington Wizards
This one is simple to sum up. JaVale McGee....and Agent Zero blowing out his knee. You do the math.
Grade: F

From the cutting room floor

One of the things that makes the internet awesome is that there is endless space to create posts like this.

Unfortunately, because of the size of Thursday's Daily Egyptian, space was limited for the Cubs/Cardinals arguments that went into the paper.

So I present to you additional offerings, fresh from the cutting room floor.

Jim Edmonds

Once the bane of Cubs fans' existence, the former Gold Glove center fielder has switched alliances and is doing his best to leade the North Side Nine to new heights.

Edmonds will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest players to wear a St. Louis Cardinals uniform, but could ultimately go down in Cubs lore as one of Cubdom's greatest folk heroes if he keeps his act up.

His defense has been superb, and that was to be expected. But what he has done with his resurgent bat has kept him in the lineup.

"Jimmy Baseball" has hit 18 home runs since putting on the Cubbie blue pinstripes in May, providing the Cubs iwth the left-handed hitting power threat the Cubs desperately have been looking for.

Edmonds has also torched his formet mates with a two-homer game (resulting in a Cubs win) and has made several diving catches.

Harry Caray

It's true Cards fans, you had him first. Most of our generation remembers Caray as the lovable Cubs announcer who sang "Take Me Out To the Ball Game" to the masses at Wrigley Field, but Caray got his start working with the Cardinals.

However, Caray didn't become a national icon until joining the Cubs.

It's like what Jay-Z said about his hit song "Dead Presidents II" in the classic track "Takeover"

"You made it a hot line, I Made it a hot song."

caray might have gotten his start in St. Louis, but Chicago made him a superstar.

Wrigley Redux

Not only is WRigley Field awesome because of its orginiality, the fact that it has spawned copy-cats throughout the league.

Houston's MInute Maid Park has the brick backstop and the hand-operated scoreboard and San Francisco's AT&T Park has the bullpens that are in the playing field.

It is a testament to how awesome the beauty on Clark & Addison truly is.

Cubdom has stars, too

Cubs fans that reacted to Brian's story were rightfully upset that Mr. Feldt ignored Cub greats of the past.

It wasn't an oversight - Brian knows his baseball - so I'm going to defend my editor here.

But for every Musial, Gibson, Brock and Smith, the Cubs can answer with Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Ernie Banks and Ryne Sandberg.

Not to mention Greg Maddux (twice).

And Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, who had a Hall of Fame career despite having only three fingers on his pitching hand.

Writing stories like this put a smile on my face. Knowing that someone's gonna tweak out over what one of us says about our rivals gets my heart pumping.

That's why I've always wanted to be a part of this journalism thing.