Brown will enter Fire Hall of Fame

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Brown will enter Fire Hall of Fame

The Fire will induct one of their original players, defender C.J. Brown, into their "Ring of Fire" -- the team's version of its Hall of Fame -- on May 9 when they host Real Salt Lake.

Brown retired after the 2010 season after 13 years with the team, and holds the franchise record for most MLS regular season appearances (296), MLS Cup playoff appearances (35) and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup appearances (25).

"C.J. Brown played his entire MLS career with the Men in Red and is deserving of the Ring of Fire recognition. His longevity, commitment and passion for our club make him a standout among Fire players," Javier Leon, Managing Director of Andell Sports Group, said in a statement. "C.J. led by example, brought grit and toughness to the field and did things the right way off the pitch. We're happy to honor his career with an induction into the Ring of Fire."

Brown joins a group including Frank Klopas, Bob Bradley, Peter Nowak, Chris Armas, Lubos Kubik and Peter Wilt in the Ring of Fire.

How Cubs are setting the expectations for winter meetings

How Cubs are setting the expectations for winter meetings

The billionaire owners and millionaire athletes wisely decided to not stop all that momentum after a World Series that beat the NFL’s “Sunday Night Football” in head-to-head TV ratings, attracted more than 40 million viewers for Game 7 and turned the 2016 Cubs into legends.

The owners and the players’ union avoided a foolish labor war, crafting a new five-year collective bargaining agreement that should unleash teams that had been waiting to see the rules of engagement, spur the free-agent market, accelerate trade talks and ignite Major League Baseball’s signature offseason event.

The Cubs can go viral seemingly anywhere now – “Saturday Night Live,” Disney World, “The Tonight Show,” the Latin Grammys, an Indiana-North Carolina basketball game, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” – but don’t expect them to own the winter meetings this time.

As a $10 billion industry begins to descend upon National Harbor in Maryland on Sunday, Cubs officials won’t feel any of the urgency that fueled the spending spree that nearly totaled $290 million and helped end the 108-year drought.

“We said at the time that we did two offseasons worth of shopping in one offseason last year,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “We really liked the talent available to us last offseason. It was a very good free-agent market. We felt like building upon a 97-win team that got to the NLCS but was swept. We wanted to improve some of the deficiencies on that club and really push forward.

“We were really aggressive with what we did last offseason. We told everyone at the time that we felt like we were kind of shopping for two offseasons.

“So with that in mind, I don’t expect nearly the activity we had a year ago.”

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Sensing the pitching market might erupt at that point, the Cubs pushed to close John Lackey’s two-year, $32 million deal in early December, before the winter meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, and Zack Greinke’s anticipated decision between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. Hours after the Lackey news broke, the Arizona Diamondbacks shocked the baseball world when word leaked out that Greinke had agreed to a six-year, $206 million megadeal.

The perfect storm brought Ben Zobrist to Chicago, once the Cubs finally engineered a Starlin Castro trade at the winter meetings, with the New York Yankees being the only team willing to absorb $38 million, give up a useful pitcher (Adam Warren) and take a chance on the former All-Star shortstop. Zobrist turned down $60 million guaranteed from the Giants and New York Mets, taking a four-year, $56 million deal and delivering a World Series MVP performance.

The opt-out clauses within Jason Heyward’s eight-year, $184 million contract don’t seem so inviting anymore – and he said those weren’t important to him anyway – but he provided Gold Glove defense in right field, called that pivotal team meeting during the Game 7 rain delay in Cleveland and should rebound after the worst offensive season of his career.

The Cubs have no expectations that Dexter Fowler’s market will again crater to the point that he will accept a $13 million guarantee in spring training, moving on with a center-field timeshare between Jon Jay and Albert Almora Jr.

“The bulk of our heavy lifting is done,” Hoyer said. “But I think that was done 12 months ago. It will be a quieter winter than last offseason.

“We’re always listening. If good ideas come to us – or we come up with good ideas – we’ll share them with other teams. But fans shouldn’t expect a flurry of things, because they got that 12 months ago.” 

Fans also won’t be getting crash courses on labor relations and lockout implications. A game that can be slow, boring and stuck in its ways can’t waste the energy and excitement that created crossover moments like LeBron James showing up at the United Center in a Cubs uniform.

“There’s no doubt that it was an amazing postseason all around,” Hoyer said. “Baseball really showed itself in the best possible light, ending with a Game 7 that we happened to win. But win or lose, that was one of the greatest games ever played. Baseball is certainly going to be on a high going into spring training.

“Baseball is definitely in a great place right now.”  

Rough second period sinks Blackhawks in loss to Flyers

Rough second period sinks Blackhawks in loss to Flyers

PHILADELPHIA — Rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov scored two goals and prevented another to help the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 on Saturday.

Provorov, 19, scored 31 seconds apart early in the second period to give the Flyers their fourth straight win. Brayden Schenn also scored and Steve Mason stopped 26 shots.

Artemi Panarin scored his ninth of the season for the Blackhawks, who lost in regulation for the first time in five games, snapping a 3-0-1 streak.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Flyers' biggest save of the night might have come from Provorov, who swatted a bouncing puck out of the goal crease with 3:22 remaining in the second period to preserve a two-goal lead.

Chicago backup goalie Scott Darling, pressed into action after projected starter Corey Crawford underwent an emergency appendectomy, finished with 27 saves.