The Weekender

The Weekender is a blog with links to things you should read while spending time at your computer over the weekend while I'm spending time away from it.  Must read links after the jump.  Oh, and pretty girls, too.(Today: A three-for-all because I'm so damn late)

Who's Burning Detroit? WBD4.0

Raging house fire


[Editor's Note: Last year, Scott Mieszala served as my Assistant Sports Editor before I went all Dusty Baker on him and burned him out midway through the semester.  Still, Scott presented his highly regarded weekly columns.  The fact that he is without a job while scabs such as Rick Morrissey and Chris DeLuca are still employed is a sad.  Someone, hire him.  With that said, here he is with a new rendition of his award-winning column, "Who's Burning Detroit?"]

So, who will it be this week?  Find out after the jump.

Well, At Least One Of My Teams Promises To Be Great This Season

Duke Blue Devils v North Carolina Tar Heels

Long-time readers of this blog know that I am a North Carolina homer despite never attending a single class at the Chapel Hill campus.  It was my love of Michael Jordan that turned into my love for everything Tar Heels.  I could have gone to school there and attended one of the top journalism schools in the country, but decided to keep it close to home.

During my freshman year at Carbondale, North Carolina beat Illinois to win the national championship.  Despite being on the campus of SIU (drop the "C" please) there were plenty of Illini fans.  Most of them wanted to see long-time Saluki coach Bruce Weber win the big one with the Orange Crush.  Then there was lil' ol' me.  The Saluki homer miffed that both Bruce Weber and Matt Painter left.  (And the fact that I apparently wasn't good enough for U of I or its school of journalism.)  The long-time Carolina fan in me wanted to see the Illini fall apart against my beloved Heels.

On that day, Talent triumphed over Team.  In the coming years my roommate would be a Duke fan -- which set up some pretty heated college hoops arguments.  Also, a close friend and former co-worker (and, at times, TBDS reader) was also Duke fan, and that set off some pretty intense moments in the office.  However, that was offset because one of my mentors was a big-time North Carolina fan too.

For two years, my roommate was a Michigan State fan.  And everyone knows how the last two games between Michigan State and North Carolina have ended.

So, let the homerism begin as THE University of North Carolina will start the season ranked No. 4 in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches Poll.  Kansas is No. 1 with Michigan State and Texas following the Jayhawks.  Kentucky, Villanova, Purdue, Puke Duke, West Virginia and Butler (not the butler ... but Butler) round out the Top 10.

The Alma Mater received three votes and The Arch Nemesis of the Alma Mater received seven votes.  Northern Iowa, the reigning Missouri Valley Conference champions, received one flippin' vote.

No love for Frostbite Falls.

World Series Buried Lead: FOX Sports Chicago

(The Big Dead Sidebar will try to provide readers with a buried lead before each and every World Series game.  This is the second installment in a series.)

In an effort to pull in a third large market for the World Series, FOX Sports will present the World Series through the eyes of some of Chicago's most popular players and managers.  At least, that's my theory ... and I'm sticking to it.

World Series Buried Lead: The Cleveland Factor

Cleveland Indians Media Day

(The Big Dead Sidebar will try to provide readers with a buried lead before each and every World Series game.  This is the first in a series.)

Unless you're totally oblivious to playoff baseball, you know that former Cleveland Indians pitchers CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee are the Game 1 starters for the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, respectively.  The fact that they are no longer members of the Tribe could be one of the primary reasons Manny Acta has a job in Cleveland and Eric Wedge is somewhere in an unemployment line.

Lee went 22-3 with a 2.54 earned run average in a little more than 223 innings en route to a Cy Young.  In eight seasons with Cleveland, Lee posted an 83-48 record including 14-win seasons in 2004 and 2006, sandwiching an 18-win season in 2005.

Then there's Sabathia, who wile he was in Cleveland was known as C.C. Sabathia.  (Yes, he took out the periods after being traded to Milwaukee.)  Watching Sabathia start a World Series in a Yankees uniform has to be painful for fans of the mistakes by the lake.  It would have been different had Sabathia returned to Milwaukee, gone west to be closer to home, stayed in the National League or went west and stayed in the National League.  Instead, he took the money and pressure that comes with playing in the Bronx.  And he performed.

Sabathia went 106-81 in his eight year career in Cleveland, but really didn't put it all together until his 2007 Cy Young season.  He went 19-7 with a  3.21 ERA while making a league-most 34 starts and pitched a league high 241 innings.  Those numbers aren't eye-popping enough for you?  How about the ridiculous amount of hitters he faced, 975 in total.

After struggling in the playoffs, and out of the gate in Cleveland, Sabathia regained the magic touch in Milwaukee (I'm convinced it was the bratwurst) and went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA while racking up 128 strikeouts in a little more than 130 innings.  Sabathia single-handedly carried the Brewers into the playoffs.

Honestly, how often does a team develop two true aces who end up bringing home Cy Young Awards in consecutive seasons and then are traded away in consecutive seasons?  Not often?  How about not ever.  But if was going to happen anywhere, it would be in Cleveland.

But it doesn't stop there.  The Tribe could field a team of players they've cut ties with that happened to reach the playoffs this season.

The Indians could have had Manny Ramirez (Dodgers) in left, and Ryan Ludwick (Cardinals) in right field.  Casey Blake and Ron Belliard (Dodgers) could have been playing third and shortstop, respectively, with Mark DeRosa (Cardinals) at second.  Jim Thome (Dodgers) could have handled first with Victor Martinez (Red Sox) at catcher.  Out of the bullpen, Acta Wedge could have called upon Rafael Betancourt out of the bullpen.  Heck, they could have thrown Ben Francisco as the designated hitter.

Did I mention a healthy Grady Sizemore would have made the Indians an elite American League team?  It would have. 

Instead, Cleveland is back in rebuilding mode, even though they probably shouldn't be.

Your Official Chicago Bulls Projection, Prediction Blog

Orlando Magic vs. Chicago Bulls

So how does Derrick Rose follow up his sensational rookie season?  Find out after the jump.

Ten Things from MVC Basketball Media Day


Sheryl Crow performs under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis

St. Louis was home for the Missouri Valley Conference Media Day earlier today, and as Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery points out, every team feels pretty happy about their team right now. Here are 10 thoughts and fun moments from the Sheraton City Center.

10.  Saluki women's basketball is in "transition" year, according to the MVC press release. Are they referring to new coach Missy Tiber's fast-break offense or the team being picked to finish last in the 10-team league? And I wonder how many times Tiber will refer to a "roller coaster" when describing the ups and downs of her team.

9.  Saluki point guard Kevin Dillard's shoes had to be 3 sizes too big. Dillard seemed to be annoyed by his long, "cowboy-boot looking" footwear. "Voice of the Salukis" Mike Reis poked fun at Dillard's look. Head Coach Chris Lowery: "If only we can get him to play as good as he looks."

8.  Evansville head coach Marty Simmons couldn't really comment on the new NCAA rule prohibiting charges under the basket, similar to NBA's arc under the hoop. Simmons (who looks like an offensive lineman): "I wouldn't know, I haven't taken one in my life."

7.  The economy has affected the media guide process. Indiana State is adapting well, with its basketball media guides being published on a disc. As for Bradley, they had a letter saying they are no longer printing media guides, and you need to look online for various team notes. Ah, gotta love these times.

6.  For those who do not know much about basketball, Missouri State coach Cuonzo Martin may not be the guy to talk to. He does not simplify the art of winning games; it is strictly basketball speak. He could be a 400-level professor in a basketball class. Also, Martin had what seemed to be a 45-minute talk with SIU Athletic Director Mario Moccia...would have liked to overhear that conversation.

5.  Fox Sports Midwest gave away big coffee mugs to everybody. It made me think of last year when announcer Dan McLaughlin spoke at Media Day. I just heard him on a college football telecast, so I understand why he wasn't there today. The guy never stops working, and as much as it would be cool to see him, I will take the coffee mugs.

4.  Each coach is disturbed by the trend of BCS conferences getting more and more at-large bids in NCAA tournament, while mid-majors get fewer and fewer. Illinois State and Creighton could have arguments last year on men's side, but they came up short. Scheduling well and getting national exposure are big ways, according to coaches, to get the league back to tournament.

3.  Illinois State men's coach Tim Jankovich was at it again. He had this to say about his team, who happens to be picked third in the league: "We got eight new guys in practice, and we are just trying to figure out what basket is ours most of the time and which one we're defending."

2.  And speaking of Illinois State, women's coach Robin Pingeton says preseason all-conference selection Maggie Krick did not want to say it to media, but Krick told her jokingly that she is happy that 3-time MVC Player of The Year Kristi Cirone is gone: "'I'm just so thankful she's finally gone, cuz now I can shoot the ball.'"

1.  I wonder how many times each coach has to answer the same exact question. The event is five hours long, there are tons of media members around the Midwest, and there a variety of different interview requests. Thank you coaches, especially with many coming from Wichita, Kansas, Omaha, Neb., Des Moines, Iowa Cedar Falls, Iowa and every other MVC city that is not that that close to STL.

Making Sense Of Nonsense: Indians Hire Manny Acta

MLB: Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers

I'm not sure which of these is more of a head scratcher: the Cleveland Indians hiring Manny Acta or the Astros being upset with not hiring Acta.

All this over a manager with a career 158-252 record, a .385 winning percentage and a 26-61 record before being fired by the Washington Nationals.  Meanwhile, the Indians just came off a season in which they fired Eric Wedge, a manager who posted a 561-573 record and a .495 winning percentage.

Tell me how hiring a guy with a .385 career winning percentage to replace a guy with a career .495 winning percentage is an improvement?  Sure, Acta received the Washington job and didn't get much support from baseball's version of the Detroit Lions.  But don't be too sure the Tribe won't be too far off from the Nasty Nats.

Cleveland's 2009 bunch was a shell of its former self, which was up 3-1 in the 2007 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox before suffering a classic Cleveland collapse.

CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, the last to AL Cy Young award winners will square off in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night, with reserve outfielder Ben Francisco watching from the dugout.  Victor Martinez was shipped off to Boston and helped push the Red Sox into a Wild Card berth.  While former Indian role players Mark DeRosa, Casey Blake, Rafael Betancourt and Carl Pavano each enjoyed postseason runs in cities not named Cleveland.

Grady Sizemore must feel like Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez from "The Sandlot" because he's the only legit star among a rag-tag group of kids.  What is there to be excited about in Cleveland?  Crazy Fausto Carmona?  Jeremy Sowers?  Aaron Laffey?  Chris Perez?  Heck, the team's big-ticket free agent signee from a season ago, the much-beloved Kerry Wood, struggled in his first season with the Indians.

I can name five things I would like about managing the Nationals (Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Nyjer Morgan, Stephen Strasburg, John Lannan) before I could name five I liked about Cleveland.  After naming Grady Sizemore, the only things that could have been used to entice me to be the leader of the Tribe would have been courtside seats to Cavs home games, free admission for my friends and me to Cedar Point, Ohio State-Michigan football tickets and a studio session with Bone Thugs & Harmony.

Then there's the Astros, who low-balled Acta by only offering him a two-year deal, as reported by the Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice.  And by his account, the 'Stros really screwed the pooch as they turned away a long-time fan and someone who worked 16 years in the organization.

And if you look at it objectively, the gig in Houston looks more appealing than the one in Cleveland.  There are heart-of-the-order thumpers in Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee, speed at the top with Michael Bourn and a budding star in Hunter Pence.  Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez anchor the rotation, and the back of the bullpen has the potential to be nasty if the Astros would be willing to re-up with Jose Valverde.

A change at the top step of the dugout might be worth something for the Indians.  But not it won't bring the kind of change Tribe fans are looking for, especially when considering they will be watching two of their former aces square off in the World Series.

Unless the Cleveland LeBrons are on.

Your NBA Predictions, Projections And Thoughts Go Here (But Only After You Read Mine)

NBA All-Star Rookie Challenge

Get your Craig Sager on after the jump...

Sources: The NBA Season Is Upon Us

la lakers media day 9/29/2009
Kobe & Phil are here to remind us the NBA tips off tonight.

Sources close to The Big Dead Sidebar tell us the NBA season begins tonight.  I was very hesitant to believe these sources until I received additional info that four (count 'em) four games kick off the 2009-10 season.

Huh?

And this is why I can't get excited about the National Basketball Association.  It's Opening Night and you have four games.  That's it.  Maybe I'm upset because I'm spoiled.  When the NFL kicks off, we get a full slate of Sunday games.  Same for the MLB, which sees every team in action on Opening Day.

I know The Association wants eyes fixated on TNT for its doubleheader featuring Boston vs. Cleveland and Lakers vs. Clippers ... but at what cost?  My beloved Bulls aren't slated to get underway until Thursday against San Antonio.  Sure, it gives me more time to prepare my Bulls preview blog, but if not for ESPN.com's front page, I would have assumed it was just another day between me and the beginning of the World Series.

And to be honest, the newsworthiness of the opening of another NBA season pales in comparison to the newsworthiness of the upcoming World Series ... or hell ... another week in the NFL.  But before you even argue that point, remember there are only four flippin' games on tonight.  Four.  Yes, the MLB and NFL each open with one single game, but there's glitz and glamour that surround that one game.  It's the only game in town for a reason.

Am I supposed to get pumped about the Lakers-Clippers game?  Even if Blake Griffin was 100 percent healthy.  That would be like opening the baseball season with a game between the Yankees and the Kansas City Royals.  Or an NFL opener starring the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions.

The NBA has done a lot recently to stir my juices ... whether it be allowing the SuperSonics to vanish into thin air without much of a fight, or handing its TV deal to ESPN and its set of buffoonish broadcasters and analysts.

And really, all I want is a full slate of games.  Instead, I find myself ready to countdown the days until the playoff season that somehow always finds a way to feel longer than the regular season that preceded it.

Ricketts (Finally) Gets The Keys To Cubdom

Cubs-Ricketts

In April 2007, I voiced my excitement upon hearing the announcement that Tribune Co., a long-time nemesis (and hopefully one day, future employer) was going to sell the Chicago Cubs.  For a long time, I had compared TribCo.'s ownership of my beloved baseball team to a bad relationship.  Sure, guys like Andy MacPhail and Larry Himes tried to run the franchise into the ground, but in the end, they were always there for you.  For better or worse.  Always.

And after a two-year courtship, Tom Ricketts, whose family founded TD Ameritrade, is (officially) the Cubs' new partner in crime.  Ricketts will make a statement to the media Friday.  But as happy as this news makes me, I have already been warned about getting too giggly over the situation.

Older Cubs fans have been through this before, like in 1981 when ownership last changed hands.  They thought the Tribune Co. would save the Cubs after the Wrigley family had turned a once proud franchise into a hobby.  And after three years, it looked like they had done the trick.  But after getting a 2-0 lead in the NLCS over the Padres, the Cubs collapsed.

The 1980s and 1990s should have been much better to the Cubs.  Dallas Green had a plan, but never got to see it blossom thanks in part to TribCo.'s mismanagement of the team.  Young talent came through the system as player such as Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace and Greg Maddux should have been franchise cornerstones.  They would go on to add Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, each of whom had a share in why the Cubs have become one of baseball's most popular and profitable franchises.

Under a proper management system, the Cubs should have made at least one World Series appearance between 1981 and 2009. And that's just according to the law of averages.

Instead, all the Cubs have to show from the Tribune Era is the following:
  • 6 playoff appearances
  • 5 division titles, 1 wild card
  • A 9-22 postseason record
  • 1 playoff series win
  • 0 World Series appearances
  • 0 World Series titles
The Cubs went 2,179-2,282 from 1982-2009.  They had more 90-loss seasons (7) than 90-win seasons (4) and have had 17 different managers in the same time span in which the Cardinals have had only five.  We're talking nearly three decades of disaster.

In short, Tom Ricketts has small shoes to fill.

The Paul McIntosh Era For SIU Set To Begin Saturday At Indiana State


Paul McIntosh, your table is ready

I knew I had to write this post as soon as I received a text message early Sunday morning that claimed the Saluki football team's season dead on arrival upon hearing the news of Chris Dieker's injury, which was confirmed today..  As usual, yours truly has been asked to play the voice of reason.  Between the boo-hoo birds and the maroon kool-aid drinkers, here I am telling both parties to sit down, shut up and enjoy the rest of the show.  Because that's what you're going to get out of the rest of the Southern Illinois football season.

A show.

It's not as if the Salukis will be trotting out the collegiate equivalent of JaMarcus Russell every Saturday until the team hits Chattanooga.  Paul McIntosh is a damn good quarterback, and you'll see it soon enough. 

McIntosh, a redshirt freshman, will make his first career start Saturday against the Indiana State Sycamores.  Here's what you need to know about McIntosh before we make the trip to Larry Bird's old stomping grounds.
  • Was a 3-year varsity starter at the quarterback position.
  • Rushed for 1,600 yards and 34 scores in his high school career.
  • Threw for 2,400 yards and 22 touchdowns and only 5 picks in his senior year (4.4-to-1 TD/INT ratio) 
  • Led his team to a 15-0 record and state title as a senior.
  • Was Indiana's Mr. Football and Gatorade Player of the Year in 2007.
  • Other recipients of that award include none other than Rex Grossman
  • Unlike Grossman, McIntosh doesn't suck.
Alright Saluki fans, let's get this straight.  He's a winner (evidenced by the state title and 15-0 record).  He's not turnover prone (22 TD passes, 5 INTs as a senior).  He's versatile and mobile (34 rushing TDs).  He was an elite high school signal caller (Indiana's Mr. Football).  Name is not Rex Grossman.

Those are all signs that SIU isn't as completely screwed as you might think it would be.  Dale Lennon is still roaming the sidelines.  Deji Karim is still on the team, as well as offensive weapons such as Bryce Morris, Joe Allaria, Marc Cheatham and Ryan Kernes.  The defense hasn't left Carbondale either as Brandin Jordan, Korey Lindsey and Marty Rodgers still are alive and well.

And as scary as it might sound for the rest of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, the Salukis might be better off with McIntosh under center.  He led the team with 81 rushing yards on Saturday, and his nimble feet will send defensive coordinators scrambling to defend what was once a non-factor of Southern's offense.

Remember when New England Patriots fans thought their season was over when Drew Bledsoe went down and all the Pats had to fall back on was a former 6th round pick named Tom Brady?  Well, we saw how well that has worked out for everyone.

I expect similar results out of McIntosh.

Crank that offseason plan: Chicago Cubs

I started with the Chicago White Sox and now I move onto the Chicago Cubs and what they should do over the course of the offseason.

MUST-MAKE DECISIONS

1) Milton Bradley: To trade or not to trade?

Without question you got to trade crazy Uncle Milton right? Perhaps not. With his former hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo on board the Cubs may have a shot at fixing their confused and disoriented right fielder. Of course, the Cubs want to trade Bradley ASAP but they may have to try to restore a little bit of value because he doesn't fit on many teams due to his antics and inability to provide adequate defense. He did, however, stay healthy which should help his value out a bit. A straight salary dump doesn't make sense and I don't think the club has a viable option in right field to repalce him, either.

2) John Grabow: long term deal, arbitration, or not?

I think this should be the easiest decision the Cubs make all offseason. Of course they, at the very least, offer Grabow arbitration but if he declines you can't let him walk, even for his type-A compensation. The Cubs haven't had an even remotely capable lefty out of the pen since "Stevie" was on the team and it's always difficult to find a reliable lefty on the open market. My best idea would be to offer him arbitration only if a long term deal cannot be reached.

FLEXIBLE DECISIONS

3) Who's on second? Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot, Aaron Miles or somebody entirely different?

This has been a huge area of concern for the Cubs with no in-house candidate capable of truly holding down the job. I thought the Miles signing last year was weird from the get-go but I didn't expect him to be as bad as he was either. At this point I think you can rule out the Fontenot era and Jeff Baker isn't anything more than an better version of Andres Blanco so it would seem the best solution is to go outside the organization for some help be it by trade or free agency.

4)Do you make room for Jake Fox on this team somehow or do you look to trade him?

Fox was one of the better stories of the 2009 season for the Cubs but he's best served as a designated hitter for an AL team. He could have some value as a first baseman as well but neither position is open for him on the current club. He could be a valuable trade chip along with Josh Vitters to get a second baseman or a closer (both are areas of concern).

FREE AGENCY

5) Which positions are in most dire need of an upgrade?

Without a doubt, second base and closer are in the most dire need of an upgrade with the potential that right field an area in need of an upgrade as well. The rotation appears to be in OK shape.

6) Name three (or more) free agents you’d consider, at a price.

Sign Chone Figgins for 3-years at $12 million-per-year. The Cubs are going to be in a bidding war with just about every team with money to spend for the versatile and speedy Angel. Beauty of it is Figgy can play positions where the Cubs need the most help (OF and 2B).

Sign Billy Wagner for one-year at whatever price it takes to be the highest bidder.

Sign Orlando Hudson for 2-years at $8 million-per-year. He brings good defense and switch hitting skills which helps the Cubs two-fold.

TRADES

7) Name three (or more) realistic trades that could improve the Cubs.

Trading a package of Jake Fox, Josh Vitters and Jeff Samardzija to the Washington Nationals for Adam Dunn, Christian Guzman and John Lannan.

Is this too much to give up Cubs fans? It would fix the Cubs need for lefty power by adding Dunn and fill the hole at second base with Guzman. Lannan has a career ERA under four and just posted 3.88 ERA in 2009. Fox doesn't have a position and as long as Aramis Ramirez stays healthy there's no room for Vitters either. The Nationals would be up for this deal because Dunn doesn't help them win in the future and Guzman is overpaid.

Option Two: Trading said package for Brian Roberts. It wouldn't be a Cubs offseason story without an attempt to trade for Roberts.

SUMMARY

Basically, the plan is laid out. The Cubs need to upgrade second base and find a closer. It's more important then trading Milton Bradley, trust me. The good news is that there are plenty of options from both a free agency and trading standpoint for both positions. It should be a relatively easy fix. I'm not too sure about the back end of the rotation but there's more important issues to address. The other key for the 2010 season? HEALTH. The Cubs should be neck and neck with the St. Louis Cardinals if everyone stays healthy. Aramis Ramirez wasn't 100 percent at any point this season and when you're missing one of your top-two hitters, it's bad news. The Cubs also never had a closer this past season, either. Kevin "Kelly" Gregg was a joke from the get-go and general half-ass playing did this team in (see Phonsi and Geo Soto). Bounce back seasons all around and the Cubs are contenders again with just minor tinkering needed. Here's looking at you Rudy J.

Do The Bears Need Change At The Top?

Dallas Cowboys v Chicago Bears

I knew it wouldn't take long before the calls for heads to roll would be coming in.  And I don't blame Bears fans.  Not one bit.

There are only so many times you can put up with failed screen attempts, dive plays run for players who are barely tall enough to ride a rollercoaster.  Bubble screens on third and long.  Ron Turner's playbook is so vanilla, chocolate wants no part of it in a swirl.  It's bad and embarrassing.  And to think, Bears fans (myself included) thought there would be an improvement with Jay Cutler under center.

And while Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett have stepped their games up, the Bears offense as a whole is still as boring as ever at times.

The only way the Bears are going to get change in the offense is if it says good-bye to Lovie Smith, who prior to this week's debacle, had done a pretty good job calling the defensive plays.  But Smith, who has two years remaining on his current deal, seemed to have had his playbook switched with the old Bob Babich kind.

So, where should the Bears go with this?  You'll see after the jump.

Bears Buzz? More Like Bears Bust

Chicago Bears v Cincinnati Bengals

Jay Cutler admits the Bears were embarrassed on Sunday.  Well, um, duh.  I would hope so.  Anger after the jump.

BALCO Presents: Your 2010 St. Louis Cardinals

Mark McGwire #25

We'll get to the Bears stuff sometime tomorrow.  Until then, let's divert your attention to some baseball.

It looks as if Tony La Russa is returning to manage the St. Louis Cardinals, dashing the wet dreams of some idiot Cubs fans that prayed nightly for La Russa to leave his perch in the Redbirds dugout and travel up I-55 (along with sidekick Dave Duncan) and win a championship for the Chicago Cubs.

And in a stunning development which looks like an attempt to not be outdone by the Cubs' signing of a "superstar" scapegoat hitting coach, it looks like La Russa is bringing Mark McGwire out of hibernation with him.  Yes, that Mark McGwire.  The man who hit 583 home runs in his 16-year career and posted 1.111 OPS while with the Cardinals will be St. Louis' hitting coach for the 2010 season.

I'm not sure how McGwire, a career .217 hitter in 10 postseason series, is going to help the Cards not make Vicente Padilla and Randy Wolf look like Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax.  However, when Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan each have 60 home run seasons next year, we'll know why.

Pigskin Pimpin On A Sunday

Baltimore Ravens v Minnesota Vikings

Your weekly installment of football stuff and gratuitous cheerleader photos after the jump.

The Weekender Returns

The Weekender is a blog with links to things you should read while spending time at your computer over the weekend while I'm spending time away from it.  Must read links after the jump.  Oh, and pretty girls, too.  (Ed. Note: I didn't even realize I missed The Weekender last week.  That's what happens when real life interferes with blog life.)

Inside Carrie's Box, There's More Mark DeRosa Stuff!

Mailbox with mail

My inbox looks something like this.  Bill, bill, with love from mom, bill, "Do you want to be LARGER?", bill, "Do you want to meet cute singles in you're area??????, "#&$% you %^&*@" ... then there's Carrie Muskat's correspondence with her fans.

Her questions.  My answers.  Your look of disapproval as I mock the system.  Happy Friday, gang!

Saluki Men's Hoops 2009-10 Preview: Carlton Fay

[Ed. Note: This is the last installment of a series previewing the 2009-10 SIU men's basketball team's projected starting five.  Starting Monday, we'll look at head coach Chris Lowery's bench before writing a slick set of previews Friday that will include some notes on his coaching staff and the all-important, yet very irresponsible, pre-season prediction blog. Now to the rest of the garbage...  After finishing the 2008-09 season with a disappointing 13-18 record, Chris Lowery's Salukis are one year stronger and one year smarter as they will look to extract revenge on the Missouri Valley Conference teams that took advantage of a young squad.  Those teams will get their comeuppance soon enough.  And what better way to warn them than with a preview of each player that will tear their hearts out and step on their souls.]

Carlton Fay's freshman season was a struggle.  He scored what was then a career-high 11 points against Illinois State, but it was a brief highlight as he only averaged 2.4 points per game as he lingered behind senior forwards Matt Shaw and Randal Falker.


Then came Fay's sophomore season -- and it came in a big way.  He opened the season with a double-double against Cal (Pa.) in which he scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.  Fay would go on to win the 2K Sports Carbondale Regional's Most Valuable Player as he scored 33 points in two games.

Fay would go on to score in double figures in 19 of the team's 31 games.  He averaged 13.6 points per game over the season's first nine games.  At times, he played as if he was Shaw's clone.  Getting away with garbage buckets down low while also being a threat on the perimeter.

Fay should be able to build on a solid sophomore season as he enters his second year as a starter under head coach Chris Lowery.

Crank That Offseason Plan: Chicago White Sox

I'll try to keep this short and sweet, highlighting areas of question for each team. I'll start with the Chicago White Sox.

MUST-MAKE DECISIONS

1) Octavio Dotel: Arbitration, or not?
Dotel – Walk

2) Jermaine Dye: Mutual option, arbitration, or not?
Dye – Buyout

FLEXIBLE DECISIONS

3) One-year contract for John Danks? If not, what would you pay to extend him?

I think a multi-year offer similar to the one Jon Lester got would be fair. I can't think of a more comparable pitcher to Danks than Lester. If he doesn't go for that then go to year-to-year with him.

4) One-year contract for Bobby Jenks, extension or trade?

Jenks – You have to keep Jenks but under no cirumstance should they offer him a multi-year deal. The problem with trading Jenks is that it moves everybody in the bullpen up one job. So, while Matt Thorton would probably make a solid closer (see Brian Fuentes) it moves both Tony Pena and Scott Linebrink into roles they should not be in on a contender.

FREE AGENCY

5) Which positions are in most dire need of an upgrade?

One of the corner outfield spots are in dire need of an upgrade more than anything else on this team. It would be nice to have at the spot filled by an athletic player not named Scott Podsednik. I simply don't think he'll be cheap enough to make sense nor do I think he can duplicate his career year in 2009.

6) Name three (or more) free agents you’d consider, at a price.

Sign Bobby Abreu to a 2 year $20 million dollar contract. (I don't expect the Angels to be able to sign him along with Chone Figgins and John Lackey)

Sign Joe Beimel or Will Ohman for a 1 year deal around $2.5 million

Sign J.J. Putz to an incentive laden deal.

TRADES

7) Name three (or more) realistic trades that could improve the Sox team.
I don't see any trade as a likely scenario unless we're getting a superstar outfielder for Jenks but he didn't have the season that would warrant something like that. I'm thinking we should stand pat till the trade deadline if we need an extra piece (see Chris Getz getting bit by the injury bug).

SUMMARY

Obviously, the White Sox need to replace Dye at the very least and I assume they'll need to replace Scott Podsednik as well. All in all the White Sox need a backup catcher to replace Ramon Castro, two corner outfielders, a lefty out of the pen to replace Randy Williams and a designated hitter. Kenny Williams isn't a guy that spends big bucks in the free agent market and most of his moves are made through trades.

The White Sox don't have a ton of money to spend due to the trades and waiver claims made for Jake Peavy and Alex Rios, respectively. My key to the offseason is getting Bobby Abreu to fill one of the corner outfield spots and beyond that, one buy low right-handed option out of the pen and a semi-reliable second lefty would be lovely.

Getting a backup catcher isn't critical because no matter who it is they'll probably be terrible. They always are. Cole Armstrong makes sense in the short term but he's essentially a bad version of A.J. Pierzynski (throws righty, bats lefty). I'm fine with rotating the designated hitter spot especially if either Tyler Flowers or Dayan Viciedo can make the club.

Saluki Men's Hoops 2009-10 Preview: Anthony Booker

[Ed. Note: This is the newest installment of a series previewing the 2009-10 SIU men's basketball team.  After finishing the 2008-09 season with a disappointing 13-18 record, Chris Lowery's Salukis are one year stronger and one year smarter as they will look to extract revenge on the Missouri Valley Conference teams that took advantage of a young squad.  Those teams will get their comeuppance soon enough.  And what better way to warn them than with a preview of each player that will tear their hearts out and step on their souls.]

Once upon a time, M.J. Hartwig and I debated about student-athlete blogs.  It stemmed from an issue with allowing athletes to write columns -- it was about the time Nick Hill was penning pieces for the DE as he prepared for the NFL Draft.  The conversation turned to who we would have do it next year.  I said no one.  He suggested Anthony Booker, who to this day is still the highest ranked recruit the modern era of Saluki basketball player has brought in.


"I'd give him whatever he wants," is what I remember Hartwig saying at the time.  Lots of time has passed between then and now.  (P.S. This is a much better blog than it used to be.)

So, here we are in 2009 and Booker has found his way into my projected starting line-up.  And for good reason.

Atlantic Division: Is it 2010 yet?


In the Eastern Conference, both the Southeast and Central division should be fun to watch. The Atlantic division? Not so much.

Everyone is waiting for the big 2010 free agency class, especially the teams in the Atlantic. Boston will be a great team, no doubt about it, but the other clubs have been waiting for their Christmas for two years now.

The New York Knicks have done a spectacular job of keeping themselves mediocre for the last two seasons as they cross their fingers and hope for LeBron James or Chris Bosh at the least. The New Jersey Nets have done the same thing in a more subtle way. Instead of announcing to the world they are waiting for 2010 like the Knicks did, the Nets have stockpiled plenty of young talent and kept their salary cap low as they have sold the idea of a "rebuilding process."

Don't be fooled, they want those big names just as much as New York. And poor Philadelphia and Toronto have been stuck in the middle. They have rebuilt and unloaded at the same time, resulting in a good, but not great team. So until 2010, here is what to expect from this division.

1. Boston Celtics
This team definitely does not want 2010 to come. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo will all be pursued heavily come June, so the Celtics know their time is now if they want another championship. Rasheed Wallace will hopefully be able to lighten the load on Kevin Garnett so they can keep their defensive leader healthy for the whole season.

The only weak spot the Celtics have had is on the bench, but they took big steps to solve that with the acquisition of Marquis Daniels. Glen Davis started to come into his own in the playoffs and I still think Bill Walker will bust out at some point this season. Celtics cruise to a division championship.

2. Toronto Raptors
The 76ers may look like the teams of their glory days with their throwback jerseys this season, but Toronto is better. The Raptors had huge additions with Hedo Turkoglu, Jarrett Jack, Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan. This is the best the team has looked on paper in a while and there is depth. Chris Bosh will play his hardest as he wants a big payday this summer and Jose Calderon with super-scorer Turkoglu on the floor.

Defense has been a problem in the past, but I think Jack and Johnson both bring tenacity on that end of the floor. And your darkhorse for Rookie of the Year: DeMar DeRozan. He has looked good in preseason. Let's not forget Andrea Bargnani, he has improved each year.

3. Philadelphia 76ers
The biggest question on this team: Can Elton Brand stay healthy, and if so, does he remember how to play basketball? The team has plenty of young talent including Marreese Speights, Thaddeus Young and rookies Jrue Holiday and Dionte Christmas, but Brand is the key. In a division with Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez, a solid front court player is a must.

Andre Igoudala is the man, but this team will struggle this season because it doesn't have an NBA-ready point guard. Louis Williams fills in OK, but he is much better as a shooting guard. Holiday has potential, but it is rare to see a rookie point guard have a significant amount of success in their first year. Royal Ivey will provide much needed defense at the point.

4. New Jersey Nets
The Nets have received plenty of criticism and I'm not sure why. I think Courtney Lee is a great addition as he is a solid, consistent defender as well as a good scorer. Devin Harris and Brook Lopez are nearing all-star status and Chris Douglas Roberts continues to improve as a scorer. The team doesn't have much of a bench, but it did add some veteran leadership.

The additions of Rafer Alston, Tony Battie and Keyon Dooling will provide guidance to a young team susceptible to outside influences. This core group of veterans should keep the young players focused on the game, but they are still too unseasoned to be seen as a true threat yet.

5. New York Knicks
They just want LeBron James in 2010 and I'm sure they wouldn't mind adding another top-five draft pick to the mix next season either, so don't expect much from the Knicks. David Lee will continue to record empty double-doubles, Larry Hughes will continue to take too many shots, Eddy Curry will continue to be too overweight, Nate Robinson will continue to be too short, Al Harrington will continue to take ill-advised threes and Wilson Chandler will wonder why he is in New York.

I like Chandler, and I think Chris Duhon is capable of good games for the most part. Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas will try to fit in, but this team has got next to nothing.

2010 is almost here, hang in there.

Is Jim Hendry Reading This Blog? If So, Please Continue To Do So

Rudy
Jaramillo
The Cubs offense is already putting new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo to sleep.

A couple of years ago, my roommate and I were discussing the upcoming Major League Baseball offseason.  It started as a hot stove chat and turned into me analyzing who would go where and for how much.  Back then, I wrote a blog that was not TBDS and made predictions on a handful of players.

I was spot on in each prediction.  He would later suggest MLB execs were reading my blog. So, Jim Hendry, if you're out there reading.  Thanks.  Click a link and help some brothas get paid.  Oh!  And stay tuned for my offseason guide to not fucking up building a contender.  Maybe you'll see something you like.

There really is no denying this timeline:
Hiring Jaramillo is truly a step in the right direction for the Cubs.

Saluki Men's Hoops 2009-10 Preview: Justin Bocot

[Ed. Note: This is the newest installment of a series previewing the 2009-10 SIU men's basketball team.  After finishing the 2008-09 season with a disappointing 13-18 record, Chris Lowery's Salukis are one year stronger and one year smarter as they will look to extract revenge on the Missouri Valley Conference teams that took advantage of a young squad.  Those teams will get their comeuppance soon enough.  And what better way to warn them than with a preview of each player that will tear their hearts out and step on their souls.]

Justin Bocot exploded onto the Saluki hoops basketball scene when he scored a career-high 28 points in Southern Illinois' 72-64 win at Missouri State.  But really, his on-the-court success began with a homecoming of sorts as he scored a team-high 14 points in a 70-63 loss at Illinois State.

From that point on, Bocot averaged 10.8 points per game -- including the 28 point game that was in the team's second game after losing senior guard Bryan Mullins to what would eventually end up being a season-ending stress fracture.

So, what does Bocot do for an encore?  Replacing Ryan Hare, who was dismissed from the team on Sunday for violating team rules, in the starting line-up would be a good start.

The Central is the center of attention


The Central division can be summed up in two words: LeBron James.

Chicago is riding high after the best first-round NBA playoff series in history against the Boston Celtics, but they are no match for James' Cleveland crew. All eyes will be in Cleveland as James and The Big Witness begin their march for a championship.

Oh, and regardless if Cleveland wins a championship, James will sign with Cleveland. So all you fans of other central teams, don't start getting your hopes up for the summer of 2010; he isn't going anywhere.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers
This is probably the easiest call to make as far as a division winner goes. The only way Cleveland loses the division is if James gets injured for an extended period of time. Shaq should add to an already dominant team and Anderson Varejao will continue to look like an all-star from all the nifty passes he receives from James.

I suppose Cleveland could lose the division if Delonte West shows up to work with his collection of 18 guns one day (Too soon? I know, disgruntled employee jokes aren't funny, they're dangerous people).

2. Chicago Bulls
It pains me to write this, but they have established themselves as the second best team in the division. Derrick Rose was great last year, and assuming he added a jump shot during the offseason, he is going to be near unstoppable at times. And did Joakim Noah cut off Kareem Abdul Jabbar's hands and surgically connect them to his arms? I'm not sure when Noah got that soft touch he has been showing, but it scares me.

The Bulls will also be one of the deepest teams in the league, boasting, Kirk Hinrich Jannero Pargo, Taj Gibson, Brad Miller and James Johnson. The shooting guard position has some questions, but John Salmons is a good, consistent player.

3. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons have received a lot of criticism this offseason, but they are not as bad as some people think. Yes, they overpaid for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, but people cannot forget they are both still very good players. Rodney Stuckey should continue to improve and Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are always a handful.

They have plenty of question marks on defense, except for Stuckey and Prince who are both top notch. They also don't have much in the front court other than Jason Maxiell and at times Chris Wilcox. They better hope Austin Daye was the right choice, because they will need all the help they can get up front.

4. Milwaukee Bucks
I refuse to ever pick the Bucks to finish last. And I also actually think they are better than the Indiana Pacers. Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut NEED to stay healthy this season as there is not much firepower behind them. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute should break out as one of the league's best defenders and Brandon Jennings is going to at least make people remember Milwaukee has a basketball team again.

The darkhorse: Hakim Warrick. Expect big things out of him this season. He had a great preseason and I think he will turn heads. The Bucks are also deep at the forward position with Warrick, Ersan Ilyasova, Mbah a Moute, Carlos Delfino and Joe Alexander. Rebounds will be key for this team.

5. Indiana Pacers
Some experts think they are on the upswing, but as long as Jim O'Brien is coaching it won't matter. Brandon Rush seems ready to bust out and Danny Granger is one of the league's best players. Roy Hibbert is good, but O'Brien loves Josh McRobert's facial hair so he will play the wrong person most of the time. Everyone debates Tyler Hansbrough's worth, but it wont matter because this team isn't going to win many games either way. That's just what happens when you don't have a bench.

They lost Jarrett Jack and Marquis Daniels in the offseason; two huge assets off the bench. Now they boast intimidating players such as Solomon Jones, Luther Head, A.J. Price and Travis Diener. Sounds scary (for Pacers fans).

Saluki Men's Hoops 2009-10 Preview: Tony Freeman

[Ed. Note: This is the newest installment of a series previewing the 2009-10 SIU men's basketball team.  After finishing the 2008-09 season with a disappointing 13-18 record, Chris Lowery's Salukis are one year stronger and one year smarter as they will look to extract revenge on the Missouri Valley Conference teams that took advantage of a young squad.  Those teams will get their comeuppance soon enough.  And what better way to warn them than with a preview of each player that will tear their hearts out and step on their souls.]

When I was the Daily Egyptian's sports editor, I received many e-mails about the well-dressed young man sitting at the end of the bench.  They asked if he was a coach?  Kind of, but not really.  A recruit?  Kind of, but not really.

Eventually, I got around to writing a feature about Tony Freeman, a 6-foot-1 guard from Maywood, Ill.  The University of Iowa transfer sat out the 2008-09 season because of NCAA transfer rules and will look to break out in his senior year at SIU.

And for those who fear he will be rusty, take note that T-Free was named the Most Valuable Player in a tournament played in Turkey over the summer.  One of his teammates on the trip was fellow Saluki Nick Evans, and they helped topple the mighty basketball dynasties of France, Germany and Bulgaria.

So, what should fans expect from the team's lone senior?

Saluki Men's Hoops 2009-10 Preview: Kevin Dillard

[Ed. Note: This is the first in a series previewing the 2009-10 SIU men's basketball team.  After finishing the 2008-09 season with a disappointing 13-18 record, Chris Lowery's Salukis are one year stronger and one year smarter as they will look to extract revenge on the Missouri Valley Conference teams that took advantage of a young squad.  Those teams will get their comeuppance soon enough.  And what better way to warn them than with a preview of each player that will tear their hearts out and step on their souls.]

Kevin Dillard became the first Saluki freshman to lead the team in scoring since Kent Williams.  So how does the former Illinois Mr. Basketball follow up a stellar first-year campaign?

Carol Slezak isn't familiar with the WBC

"The schedule has been out of control for years, but it keeps getting worse. Just six years ago, the Cubs and Florida Marlins played Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Oct. 15. Just four years ago, the White Sox won the World Series on Oct. 26. But today, Oct. 20, the Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees will play Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, and Game 7 of the World Series is scheduled for Nov. 5." --- direct passage from Carol Slezak's latest column...

Seriously?

Apparently she doesn't realize that the World Baseball Classic is the reasoning behind the World Series probably running into the first week of Nov. and not because MLB wants to drag this thing out as long as it can.

It's just dumb. She made no reference of the WBC either. Maybe she forgot it happened. I mean it was boring and I couldn't even tell you who won it at this point. The idea is cool but it's not worth it.

That's not the point though.

The point is, the season runs long this year because of the WBC and for no other reason.

But it gets even more dumb. She says the World Series should be played at a neutral site.

Why? Who cares if it's cold? Did White Sox fans not show up in 2005 when it was freezing rain? Would the Cubbie Blue faithful not show up if it was 20-degrees and windy at Wrigley Field in 2010?

I would much rather freeze to death and be able to enjoy a game in person rather than watch a watered-down version take place at a dome in Florida with only the wealthy elite in attendance.

That's just dumb.

The Steve McNair Saga Just Won't Go Away


Steve McNair's death on the 4th of July has been an absolute mess.  CBS News further muddies the situation by doing some damn good investigative journalism as it was able to obtain cell phone records.  A little bit of research has gone a long way in my opinion.  Now, to clean up the rest of the mess.

Right?

Well.  Not quite.  I almost feel as if this is adding insult to injury -- as the old sports cliche would have it.  I'm sure McNair's surviving family members and friends want justice.  But at what cost?  Some have said that this ruins his legacy.  I would argue against that idea.

Sure, being a married man dating a 20something waitress while he's got a wife and kids at home is going to put a smudge on his life story.  However, no one can take away the positive things he brought to his community when he was alive.

Not even charges of adultery.

Good News

In the next day or two our ads should be back up and running - none of this PSA garbage. As always thanks for your support!

I will return to posting as well...Breaking down each team eliminated from the playoffs and those teams who never made it...What will their offseason plans be?

Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow: Salukis Dismiss Sophomore Guard

2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches v Cancer Day 1


Two days after the Southern Illinois University men's basketball team tipped off its season with its annual Maroon Madness, the team finds itself without an integral member of the team.

Sophomore guard Ryan Hare was dismissed from the team according to a release via the school's Web site on Sunday night.  Hare averaged 7.5 points per game and started 26 of the team's 31 games as a freshman.  In September, Hare was suspended after being arrested and charged with felony battery and trespassing.

TBDS sources have informed the blog that the charges stemmed from a fight that might be related to a domestic issue.  Hare was given a second chance, but citing a violation of team rules (also known as breaking whatever rules Coach Lowery laid down after the suspension) Hare was dismissed and has left the SIU Carbondale campus.

Bears Buzz: Damned In The Dome

Chicago Bears v Atlanta Falcons

Dave Kaplan used 97 words to describe Jay Cutler's on-field performance in Sunday night's 21-14 loss against the Atlanta Falcons.  He used 110 words to describe Cutler's post-game performance.

Yep.  It's going to be one of those kinds of Mondays in Chicago.

Huet is Only Thing Going Wrong with Blackhawks...Too Bad He's the Goalie

Detroit Red Wings v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Four

There is no more Dominik Hasek, Patrick Roy, or Curtis Joseph. Martin Brodeur is still a pretty good goaltender, but the era of great goalies in the NHL seems to be slowly diminishing. Despite this overall trend, there is definitely someone out there better than Chicago netminder Cristobal Huet.

Antti Niemi, the Blackhawks' backup, may become the starter more if Huet continues to struggle. Huet was pulled against Calgary last Monday after allowing three goals in under a minute. He allowed only one goal at Nashville, but the Predators had just 13 shots on net.

Then Saturday came, and Huet's troubles showed again and the Hawks fans responded with a chorus of boos at the United Center. There were some bad goals scored by Dallas, as the game-winner came on a dump-in that bounced a couple times off the boards and over the arms of a startled Huet. Now, that was a pretty bad bounce, but you cannot let a goal in like that.

I knew Huet wasn't as good as Nikolai Khabibulin, and there were some concerns when the "Bulin Wall" left for Edmonton. Yet, Huet was marvelous in the season-ending loss at Detroit in last year's postseason, and he looked pretty solid in the regular season. Still, there was a reason Huet didn't play in the playoffs until Khabibulin got hurt. He was not as good as the starter, and it is not like Khabi is the greatest goalie in the world.

Chicago will be near the top of the NHL in goals scored, but in the end, a solid goaltender is needed to win the Stanley Cup. Niemi may get more playing time, but he has yet to prove himself and may have some inconsistencies as well. We will see what happens the rest of the season, which continues this Wednesday when the Hawks host Vancouver.

This is definitely a title contender, and the only thing standing in the Blackhawks way is a good goalie. Unfortunately, this is a pretty big barrier to overcome.

Rebuilding The Cubs: A Challenge Proposed, A Challange Accepted


Cubs-Ricketts


I was recently challenged by a friend/reader to rebuild the Cubs.  It’s not as if that is a new concept to me, seeing that I’ve played this game on PlayStation, PlayStation3, XBOX and XBOX 360 many times before.

The catch is to do it fairly.  It won’t be like in video games where I can outsmart computer GM’s that don’t appreciate young talent.  Instead, I’ve been challenged to do so taking into consideration that I won’t be able to hold up opposing general managers at gunpoint and acquire Jose Reyes for Aaron Miles and Milton Bradley.

I have until Nov. 1 at 1 p.m. to post it.

Starting Point: The Cubs’ Opening Day payroll was $134,809,000.  The Cubs have $16.5 million coming off the books in 2009 when they wipe away Rich Harden, Kevin Gregg, John Grabow and Reed Johnson’s contracts off the books.  I’m also being given $10 million to work with as a $10 million payroll bump to approximately $144 million seems reasonable given how much money the Cubs bring in.

Those are the details.  What are the chances of this getting done?  Do the Cubs fans who read TBDS have faith in someone who has enough time on his hands to accept such a challenge?

Your Random Cubs Post: Sammy Sosa vs. Alfonso Soriano

It's Sunday.  I should be solely focused on football, beer and grilled meats.  However, last night's Yankees-Angels classic ALCS late-night, extra-inning showdown got me to thinking about the Cubs.

Specifically, Alfonso Soriano.  It all started from a Twitter post from sports blog(ger) Souvenir City (@SouvenirCity for those of you keeping up on the Twittersphere.) that read, "Why would you ever throw Vlad or Soriano a strike? Aren't they Sammy Sosa but 8 years later? #ishouldbeanadvancescout" during the Yanks-Angels game.

It was the reference to Soriano that got me thinking, "@SouvenirCity #Cubs fans in 2002: "Remember when Sosa was a 30-30 guy?" Cubs fans in 2009: "Remember when Soriano was a 30-30 guy?" Hmmmm..."

It's like in Ace Ventura realizes Finkle is Einhorn and Einhorn is Finkle.  Without that whole kissing a dude thing.

Making Sense Of Nonsense: Gaines Adams

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints

Over the winter, M.J. Hartwig had a series called "Making Sense of Nonsense" as he tried to find rationalization by some of the offseason moves in baseball.  This morning, I find myself doing something similar for the Chicago Bears, who acquired defensive end Gaines Adams from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a 2010 second round pick.

The Bucs are 0-5 and are in the midst of a major rebuilding project.  So I cannot fathom a reason why their management would trade the former No. 4 overall pick in the 2007 draft to a NFC rival for a second round pick.  On the other side, why would the Bears want to acquire a player who has clearly underperformed since coming to the NFL while mortgaging their future in the process.

I guess one man's garbage is another man's gold.

Adams broke out in a big way during his junior year at Clemson, collecting 9.5 sacks and followed it up with a 12.5 sack season as a senior.  The 6-foot-5-inch, 258-pound lineman was named to all five official All-American teams, justifying his place an an elite-level draft pick.  However, Adams has struggled on the field since coming to the pros, leaving critics and experts to label him as a bust as the team passed on (the real) Adrian Peterson, who was selected three picks later by the Minnesota Vikings.

Somewhere, the Bears think this is a good move.  And on some level it is.  Acquiring Adams is somewhat of a safety net in case the team is unable to to re-sign Adawale Ogunleye or Mark Anderson.  Ogunleye is leading the team with 4.5 sacks, while Anderson has played well -- but not well enough compared to his monster rookie season. 

Adams could also find himself as the pet project of defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, who has done an outstanding job reforming the Bears' front four into a fearsome group of badasses.  And while Marinelli has earned his paycheck through four games, he could go further into cementing his place on the coaching staff by milking all the talent out of Adams.

For the second straight season, the Bears will be without first and second round picks -- unless the team acquires one before the April draft.  It's not as if the Bears have had great success in the top two rounds, but that's a back-handed insult of a team's ability to scout top talent if I've ever heard one.

So all the Bears trade rumors were a bit misguided.  Does Jerry Angelo have any one else to deal for, or yet, does he have anything to deal in the first place?

Pigskin Pimpin: Salukis FTW! Edition

NCAA Third Round - Kansas v Southern Illinois

The Southern Illinois University football team had won 127 games from 1994-2008.  None of them were at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

In what is arguably the most bitter rivalry in the Gateway Missouri Valley Football Conference, the University of Northern Iowa had always gotten the better of Southern Illinois when the games were played indoors.  Panthers fans called it "Dome Magic."  Saluki fans called it (expletive deleted) ... among other things.

And as yours truly predicted on Friday, it all came to an end as the Salukis beat the Panthers 27-20 on Saturday at the little dome of horrors.

Consider the following.  Southern has had six head coaches try and fail to beat UNI in its back yard since Rey Dempsey's squad did the trick in 1983 en route to the school's lone national title.  Ten different First Team All-Americans have suited up in the maroon and white.  None of them came home with a road win at Northern Iowa.  Southern has fielded 16 different 1,000-yard running backs.  But none had carried the Egyptian Hunting Dawgs to a road win in the terror dome.

That all became nothing more than a past nightmare as Deji Karim rushed for 125 yards and what turned out to be the game winning touchdown. The 1-yard score on 4th-and-Goal gave SIU a 20-13 lead with about five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

On the Panthers' ensuing possession, cornerback Brandon Williams took back a pick six to put the game on ice.

And for good measure, former Saluki great Jerry Hairston Jr. scored the winning run for the New York Yankees after leading off the bottom of the 13th with a base hit.  I guess you could pencil in a 10-tackle day for Bart Scott against the Bills and a 100-yard rushing game for Brandon Jacobs against the Saints as a pair of former Dawgs will hit the gridiron later today.

And now, the rest of your Pigskin Pimpin' on a Sunday morning...

SIU Wins ... Just Like Someone Predicted

I'm like Jimmy The Greek ... but I like black people.

Friday:




Today:

Um, yeah.  Did I call it or did I call it?

Southern Illinois > Northern Iowa: Book It!

Road sign for Florida panther crossing

Deji Karim is good.  Everyone knows that by now.  And quarterback Chris Dieker threw for 274 yards last week in a game fans and coaches have been waiting for him to have for a long time.  Chauncey Mixon returns for the Saluki defense after leaving Week 1's loss with a busted jaw.

I could bore you with numbers and drown you with plenty of logical reasons why the No. 5 Salukis of Southern Illinois Universiy will finally end their drought inside the UNI Dome on Saturday against Northern Iowa.

I won't.

Hot Stove Hopefuls: Joe Nathan

Rangers vs. Twins

Editor's Note: Nothing says playoff baseball like the MLB hot stove.  The only thing more amusing than fans playing GM is when beat writers do it.  Usually they do it with more pizazz and insight than Joe Blogger -- myself included.  Hot Stove Hopefuls highlights some of the hot names on the market and tries to find a spot for them on the Cubs.

Today's feature: Joe Nathan

Who's Burning Detroit? WBD3.0

Wildfires North Of Los Angeles Double In Size, 10,000 Homes Threatened

[Editor's Note]: Last year, Scott Mieszala served as my Assistant Sports Editor before I went all Dusty Baker on him and burned him out midway through the semester.  Still, Scott presented his highly regarded weekly columns.  The fact that he is without a job while scabs such as Rick Morrissey and Chris DeLuca are still employed is a sad.  Someone, hire him.  With that said, here he is with a new rendition of his award-winning column, "Who's Burning Detroit?"

So, who will it be this week?  Find out after the jump.

Cubs Fans Continue To Mail It Into Carrie's Box

Mailman delivering valentine

More mail in Carrie's box?  You betcha.  More snippy answers?  Oh, you know me too well.

Southeast Surprise: The best division in the East


For the past few seasons, the Central Division has been the standard for the Eastern Conference. It hasn't always produced the best team, but Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago and at times Indiana and Milwaukee have been tough, competitive teams.

The tide turned last season after Detroit had its worse season in some time and the Atlanta Hawks took another step forward. After the Orlando Magic claimed the Eastern Conference crown, it's safe to say it is the best division in the conference. Three teams should be locks for the playoffs and the other two could be good enough to make it as well.

Here is how it should play out.

1. Orlando Magic
The conference champions are back to defend their crown. Some say the addition of Vince Carter makes them an even better squad, but it's going to be tough to repeat. Hedo Turkoglu was a clutch player for the squad last season and Courtney Lee played lock-down defense. Dwight Howard will need to improve his free-throw shooting, Carter will need to commit to defense and Mickael Pietrus will need to build off his stellar season.

The most silent but violent move for the Magic: Brandon Bass. His motor never stops and he will help Howard clean the glass.

2. Atlanta Hawks
I absolutely love this team and truly believe they are a threat to not just win this division, but the conference as well. Joe Johnson is one of the best shooters in the NBA and is a great leader. Mike Bibby is still an effective point guard and now has Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague (who had a tremendous preseason) backing him up. Josh Smith is a great off-the-ball defender while Marvin Williams has tremendous on-the-ball defense. Horford is a cardio machine for a center.

The Hawks improved the bench, which was their main concern, but there is still no front court depth. In a conference with Howard and Shaq, Atlanta will need to add size to make a push for a conference championship.

3. Miami Heat
I felt this team slightly overachieved last season, which makes it even more dangerous this year. Dwayne Wade is in a contract year, Mario Chalmers is a legitimate NBA point guard (especially on defense), Michael Beasley should be better and Jermaine O' Neal might be healthy. Biggest issue for this team is lack of scorers.

The addition of Quentin Richardson should help spark the offense, but expect Daequan Cook to be the breakout star for the Heat.

4. Washington Wizards
Gilbert Arenas, Mike Miller, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. Sounds like a dangerous lineup. Brendan Haywood, DeShawn Stevenson, Randy Foye, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee sounds like a dangerous second wave. So why will they finish fourth in the division? Someone is bound to get injured first off and secondly, where is the defense going to come from?

This is the only team in this division where I look around and can't see a single sound defender on the team. Butler and Jamison are respectable, but not great. Everyone else is close to water. They will win plenty of games by outscoring teams, but defense wins championships.

5. Charlotte Bobcats
This team was scary the last three weeks of the 2008-09 season. The intensity they played with allowed them to slay the giants of the NBA and the look in Gerald Wallace's eyes every time he stepped on the court was reminiscent of Mike Singletary. This team will turn the corner one year, just not now.

Wallace is great and I love the combination of Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustine. Their defense got a whole lot better with Raja Bell and Tyson Chandler. But there is one huge problem: To win in the NBA you need a star, they don't have one. This team brings it every night, but until they get their franchise player, they will struggle.

Oct. 15, 2003: The Night Chicago North Side Baseball Died (And A Recipe How To Revive It!)

Rangers v Cubs

While Oct. 14, 2003 is a date celebrated in many baseball circles (see: Cardinals, White Sox fans), it was really one day later that marks the beginning of the end of the Dusty Baker Era.

Kerry Wood admitted he choked on the mound as he allowed seven runs on seven hits and four walks in 5.2 innings in the Game 7 loss.  It happened one night after Mark Prior's infamous collapse that was aided by a fan's hands, a shortstop whose hands disappeared and a manager who made talented young throwing arms disappear.

And at this point, I'm so glad I didn't have Twitter, Facebook or YouTube at my disposal.  It would have been ugly.

So, how do the Cubs get back to within five outs of their first pennant since 1945?

Pitching Pushes MLB Playoffs In Post-Steroid Era

MLB

There has been a paradigm shift in the post-steroid era of baseball.  Other than the Cubs, who always seem to be behind the learning curve, no longer are teams shelling out large contracts to older sluggers.  Instead, a lot of that money has been put toward younger talent.

And rather than seeing bulky boppers age in front of your eyes, the remaining teams in the League Championship Series are primed to take the next step because of their young pitchers.

Silence is Golden: Hibachi's Rebirth

Many sports fans subscribe to the philosophy that preseason means nothing — I am not one of those fans.

Either is Gilbert Arenas.

I have always been a critic of Arenas, seeing him as nothing more than a world-class scorer who kills offensive chemistry and defends about as well as Jim O'Brien coaches. But that was the Arenas who was busy calling out the Duke Blue Devils and tying ridiculous bow ties.

And while only four games have been played, it's clear to see Arenas is a changed man and for the better.

Through four preseason games, Arenas is averaging 14 points and 8 assists per game in only 24 minutes a contest. And yes, you read that right, 8 assists. But the most surprising statistics so far has been his shooting percentages. Arenas is shooting 59 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point land.

He is taking less shots and looking to work within in the offense instead of above it. Again, critics will say its preseason, it means nothing — but Arenas' whole approach to the game has changed. He shut down his blog, shut his mouth and wants to let his playing do the talking. Sure, the NBA fined him because he was so silent, but this golden silence is worth every penny.

Arenas' sudden team-first approach could not come a moment sooner. The Wizards acquired Randy Foye and Mike Miller in an effort to make a push for the playoffs. The problem is Foye and Miller have never seen a shot they did not like and either has Arenas. With three guys looking to shoot every time they touch the ball, the super consistent Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison would be left with minimal opportunities.

Many experts have projected the Wizards to make the playoffs — some even think they will finish as high as fourth in the Eastern Conference. Before the preseason started, I didn't think playoffs would be a possibility. But after a refreshing approach to the game from their captain, I think they have a good chance to earn anywhere from a No. 8 to No. 6 seed.

A lineup with a focused Arenas, Butler, Jamison and Miller is an offensive juggernaut. Brendan Haywood continues to be grossly overrated, but Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee are starting to come into their own along with sharpshooting Nick Young.

Preseason matters, and Arenas has made the biggest impact with his lack of words. His unselfish and smart plays have the Wizards looking like a playoff squad.

Now if DeShawn Stevenson can follow the leader, Washington might avoid a basketball recession this season.

Arenas went from zero to hero and back to zero. Don't let his number fool you, Arenas is ready to be a hardwood hero once more.