Bears looking to figure out Seattle

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Bears looking to figure out Seattle

Bears-Seahawks is all about control season still in Bears own hands
Lovie Smith likes to break the season into a series of four-game sprints, and the Bears will finish their third of those on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. From here starts a fourth quarter with three of the final four against, in order, Minnesota, Green Bay and Detroit, with the Arizona Cardinals between the Packers and Lions.
Where this becomes a problem on Sunday is if the Bears have been thinking about being within a win or two of clinching a playoff berth, and possibly the NFC North, depending upon what happens Sunday between the Packers and Vikings.
No Lovie Smith team has won its final four games, which means getting to 9-3 becomes significant for staying on the heels of San Francisco (8-2-1) for a chance at the No. 2 seed. A Bears' win and 49ers' loss at St. Louis Sunday would slide the Bears a half-game ahead of the team that crushed them less than two weeks ago.
Were in first place right now and we control what happens to the Bears, Smith said. And thats what its all about.
Unwelcome guests
Seattle has won just once on the road this season. But Seattle also has not lost in Soldier Field in the regular season since 2006, the Bears Super Bowl season. The Bears have beaten the Seahawks twice in divisional-round playoff games, but Seattle put 24 points on the Bears in both the 2006 and 2010 games.
The 2011 loss marked only the 10th time in the Lovie Smith era that the Bears lost a game when leading at halftime (14-7).
And that stung.
"It still does, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. They beat us bad last year They beat us up up front. They came in here, late December, in our weather and put it on us pretty good.
Theyve beaten us the last two times in the regular season when they played here. They beat us the year we went to the playoffs, then we beat them in the playoffs. But they beat us in the regular season two in a row here.
Which Seahawks?
Seattle has been a conundrum this season, defeating the likes of Green Bay, New England and Minnesota, while losing to Arizona, Detroit and Miami. The tipping point, as in real estate, has been location-location-location. The Seahawks are 5-0 at home and 1-5 on the road.
Indeed, Seattle has beaten more teams with winning records (three) than the Bears (two). And the Seahawks had possession for a potential tying final drive against the 49ers in San Francisco, a situation markedly different from the Bears on their trip there.
A fatal flaw has been failure to stop the run, giving up 175 or more yards in three of the last five game. Seattle defeated the Vikings despite giving up 242 rushing yards but the Miami Dolphins, ranking 20th in yards per attempt, averaged six yards per carry in their win over the Seahawks.
Finding Forte
An underused core element of the Bears offense has been Matt Forte, who left the Minnesota game with an ankle injury but is expected to start against Seattle. With the offense running through Forte in 2010-11 the Bears had an identity, something that has not taken firm root even at this late part of 2012.
Its difficult right now to try to get involved in the passing game when youre trying to establish the run so much, Forte said. I think it all will come along.
Curiously perhaps, maybe the key to the balanced offense isnt as much Fortes running as Michael Bushs, or at least a hefty distribution of carries for Bush. The Bears are 5-1 when Bush has 10 or more carries.
Use of running backs has been a problem for the Seattle defense beyond just the running part. In San Franciscos win, for example, Frank Gore rushed for 131 yards and caught six passes for another 51, in addition to backup Kendall Houstons 62 yards on 13 combined touches.
The Bears are expected to maintain the commitment to the run that worked so well against Minnesota, particularly because of the help it gives an offensive line still settling in after a spate of changes.
It does because they can come off the ball and instead of pass-blocking, Forte said. You can come off the ball and not have to worry about people blitzing or where theyre coming from.

In case you missed, my in-game tweets (@csnmoonmullin) and commentary will be part of our whole Bears Pulse package this and every Sunday. See you on CSNChicago.com.

Michael Kopech, Luis Basabe, Victor Diaz and the rest of the return for Chris Sale

Michael Kopech, Luis Basabe, Victor Diaz and the rest of the return for Chris Sale

The White Sox return for Chris Sale has been generally praised in the aftermath of Tuesday’s megadeal with the Boston Red Sox, with the headliner being 21-year-old infielder Yoan Moncada

But the White Sox also acquired three other prospects with varying ranges of hype: 20-year-old right-hander Michael Kopech, 20-year-old outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and 22-year-old right-hander Victor Diaz. Baseball America ranked all three among the top 20 prospects in the Red Sox farm system, while MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo ranked Kopech No. 5, Basabe No. 8 and Diaz No. 28 in Boston’s farm system. 

Kopech is a hard-throwing former No. 33 overall pick out of Mount Pleasant, Texas who was rated as a top 100 prospect in baseball by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus prior to the 2016 season. Over three minor league seasons from rookie ball to high Single-A, Kopech has 172 strikeouts, 69 walks and only three home runs allowed in 134 2/3 innings with a 2.61 ERA.

Whether or not Kopech sticks as a starting pitcher (35 of his 36 professional games have been starts) remains a point of contention among prospect evaluators, though he features a power slider and a low-90’s changeup that Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser wrote has drawn comparisons to New York Mets ace Noah Syndergaard. He also reportedly threw a 105 mph pitch last summer with Double-A Salem — and even if that radar gun reading was inaccurate, he’s able to fairly regularly throw his fastball at or above 100 mph. 

[Complete coverage of the White Sox-Red Sox Chris Sale blockbuster trade]

There have been two off-the-field issues with Kopech, though, that are why he’s been dinged in some prospect rankings. In 2015, he was suspended for the final 50 games of the season after testing positive for amphetamine use, and in March of 2016 he fractured his hand following an altercation with a teammate

Basabe — not to be confused with his twin brother, infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe, who the Red Sox traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks last summer — is a toolsy outfielder who hit .264/.328/.452 with 25 stolen bases in 30 attempts between Single-A Greenville and high Single-A Salem last year. FutureSox’s Rob Young wrote that Basabe has “immense upside” as a potential five-tool player, while Baseball America’s best-case is Basabe’s raw talent develops into a "top of the order center fielder" 

Over four minor league seasons, Basabe has a .253/.353/.408 slash line with 21 home runs, 25 triples and 73 stolen bases in 93 attempts (78 percent). 

Diaz has had some control issues, issuing an average of 3.97 walks per nine innings, over his first two professional seasons. The hard-throwing right-hander posted a 3.88 ERA with 63 strikeouts out of Single-A Greenville’s bullpen last year, and with a fastball touching 100 mph, he could develop into a legitimate relief option down the road if he can find the strike zone more consistently. 

What’s worth noting here is the depth of the trade for the White Sox. This is a farm system that lacked both top-end and raw talent when Rick Hahn & Co. woke up on Tuesday, but adding Moncada, Kopech, Basabe and Diaz to a group headlined by recent draft picks like right-hander Carson Fulmer, catcher Zack Collins and right-hander Zack Burdi should have a significant impact on the quality of the White Sox minor league ranks. 

MLB releases postseason shares for Cubs

MLB releases postseason shares for Cubs

The Cubs' postseason shares were released Tuesday afternoon amid the craziness of the White Sox-Red Sox Chris Sale deal.

Fresh off a World Series win, the Cubs handed out 66 full playoff shares, worth $368,871.59 each. The organization also dealt 8.7 partial shares and four cash awards.

As champs, the Cubs received a share of $27,586,017.75 of the players' pool, which is formed from 50 percent of the gate receipts from the American League and National League wild card games and then 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first three games of the Division Series, the first four contests of the League Championship Series and first four games of the World Series.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

The 2016 players' pool set a new record at $76,627,827.09, up from the 2015 total of just under $70 million.

2015 champion Kansas City Royals received share amounts of just over $370,000 last season, split into 58 shares.

The Cleveland Indians received more than $18 million from the 2016 players pool.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays — runners up in the LCS — tallied more than $9 million from the players' pool.