Word on the Street: Cavallari a jinx on Bears?

Word on the Street: Cavallari a jinx on Bears?

Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011
CSNChicago.com

Cavallari a jinx on the Bears?

If Bears fans aren't worried about the Sports Illustrated jinx for their beloved Monsters of the Midway, there may be another factor tipping the luck scales in the Packers' favor. Reality TV celebrity Kristen Cavallari may provide the infamous "Jessica Simpson" factor on her quarterback beau, Jay Cutler.

Simpson, the famed singersongwriteractress, was famously the girlfriend of Dallas Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo and brought nothing but misfortune to her boyfriend and his teammates on the season's biggest stage--the playoffs.

However, even with Cavallari in tow, the Bears have already done something those Cowboys teams failed to do--win a playoff game. And according to reports, Cavallari wants Cutler to focus on winning as much as any diehard Bears fan. (Toronto Sun)

Clark to suit up for Bears?

Desmond Clark, the Bears' veteran tight end who has been on the inactive list for much of the 2010 season, has Tweeted that he will be suiting up and on the field Sunday against the Packers. Clark has not appeared in a game since the Bears' Week 3 win over the Packers at Soldier Field. (Twitter)

Fire show their support for Bears

The Chicago Fire declared Friday Bears Day at Toyota Park. Participating staff members donned their best Bears apparel and then posed for a picture inside the Fire locker room (See photo above right). (Chicago Fire)

Dent honorary captain Sunday

Richard Dent, the Bears all-time sack leader and MVP of Super Bowl XX, will be an honorary captain for Sunday's NFC Championship game at Soldier Field. Dent recorded 124.5 sacks in his 12 year career with the Bears and is a Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011 finalist. (CSNChicago.com)

Minnesota bar to roast bear Sunday

A sports bar owner in St. Paul, Minn., will support the Green Bay Packers during the NFC Championship game Sunday afternoon by roasting a 180-pound bear.

Blake Montpetit, the co-owner of Tiffany Sports Lounge, says he will cook the black bear in a pig-roaster over hickory and charcoal on Sunday. He says his cousin shot and killed it in northern Wisconsin during bear hunting season and then froze it. (Washington Post)
Referee retains position in Bears-Packers game at Soldier Field

Terry McAulay has been annouced as the referee in Chicago on Sunday. That may not mean much to some people, but McAulay was the referee in Week 3 when the Packers were flagged 18 times for 152 yards.

However, this will not be a repeat of Week 3, according to Mike Pereira of FoxSports.com. McAulay is the only one from his crew that was involved in that Week 3 game. As Pereira says, "from this point on in the playoffs, the crews are made up of the top three officials at each position." (Fox Sports)

Boozer set to make return Saturday for Bulls

Carlos Boozer, the Bulls' star power forward, looks to be on the fast track to recovery. After missing the last three games due to an ankle injury suffered in the waning seconds of Chicago's thrilling 99-96 victory over the Miami Heat last Saturday, Boozer has been announced as a go for Saturday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the United Center. (CSNChicago.com)

Bulls don't need Melo?

According to ChicagoNow.com, the Bulls are doing just fine without Carmelo Anthony and despite the superstar's scoring prowess, Chicago can do just fine in the Eastern Conference without having to mortgage Joakim Noah or a surplus of picks or bench players to acquire the services of the superstar forward. (ChicagoNow)

Could Sox have had Papelbon?

Jonathan Papelbon, the star closer for the Boston Red Sox, was reportedly shopped to multiple teams over the offseason, mainly the Oakland Athletics and the Chicago White Sox, according to Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated. Heyman cites the high price tag arbitration was likely to bring kept the teams at bay (OverTheMonster.com)

Ozzie launches new website

Ozzie Guillen, the enigmatic and outspoken manager of the Chicago White Sox, celebrated his 47th birthday in style, after having his 2012 option picked up with the team and launching his own website www.ozzieguillen.com. The site features news, photographs and videos of Guillen in addition to promoting his charity foundation that has been around since 1998. (Chicago Tribune)

Manny signs with Rays
Manny Ramirez signed with the Tampa Bay Rays Friday on a one-year deal. Ramirez, who played the last month-plus of the 2010 season with the Chicago White Sox, signed for a reported 2 million. He hit .298 with nine home runs in 265 at-bats last season. (Sports Illustrated)

Former Cubs prospect gives it another go as a pro

Ryan Harvey, the Cubs' first-round pick in 2003, is attempting a comeback at Major League Baseball. Harvey was drafted as the sixth player overall as an outfielder with some major power potential, but never quite cut it. In eight minor league seasons, Harvey never rose above Double-A level and hit just .244 with 711 strikeouts and 158 walks in 2,372 at-bats.

Now, however, Harvey is attempting to make it as a pitcher in the Boston Red Sox organization, signing with the club this offseason. (Fox Sports)

Cubs ninth inning rally stifled by Jeurys Familia in loss to Mets

Cubs ninth inning rally stifled by Jeurys Familia in loss to Mets

NEW YORK – The Cubs didn’t overreact to getting swept in last year’s National League Championship Series, but the New York Mets did expose some underlying issues while a deep playoff run created a sense of urgency in Wrigleyville.

The Cubs spent like crazy on the free-agent market (almost $290 million) and wore T-shirts around spring training that literally put targets on their chests, knowing the look would go viral on social media and spark love/hate responses.

Making a statement? Sending a message? That’s so last year, when the Cubs were a team still trying to find an identity and learn how to win. The Mets are now the ones feeling the season-on-the-brink anxiety, desperate for offense and hoping to avoid worst-case scenarios with all those talented young pitchers.

So maybe this becomes a turning point for the defending NL champs, beating the Cubs 4-3 on Thursday night at Citi Field to kick off this marquee four-game series in front of 40,122 and a national TV audience.

Steven Matz, who set off alarm bells this week with the disclosure he’s been pitching with a bone spur in his left elbow, managed to work into the sixth inning and throw 104 pitches, giving up homers to Kris Bryant and Javier Baez but limiting the damage to only three runs.

Yoenis Cespedes, who revived a lifeless lineup after last summer’s trade-deadline blockbuster, energized the Mets again with a big swing in the sixth inning, drilling a John Lackey pitch 441 feet out to left field and onto the third deck, creating a 110-mph exit velocity with his 19th home run.

Lackey, the big-game starter the Cubs needed to lengthen their rotation for October, got pulled with one out in the seventh and the Mets took advantage of Joel Peralta’s shaky audition out of the bullpen and a Javier Baez throwing error in what became a three-run inning.

The Cubs couldn’t come up with an answer for Mets closer Jeurys Familia, who finished off all four NLCS wins last October. The Cubs wasted Miguel Montero’s pinch-hit, leadoff walk in the ninth inning and Ben Zobrist’s line-drive double to right field. Familia responded by striking out Bryant swinging, intentionally walking Anthony Rizzo to load the bases, striking out Willson Contreras swinging and getting Javier Baez to pop out to end the game.

Could Cubs ace Jake Arrieta be in line to start All-Star Game?

Could Cubs ace Jake Arrieta be in line to start All-Star Game?

NEW YORK – After his long, winding journey to the Cubs – and stunning transformation into a Cy Young Award winner – Jake Arrieta won’t attach any special meaning to starting the All-Star Game: “I’m kind of over that.”

But the back injury that forced Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw onto the disabled list could create an opportunity for Arrieta. Beyond Kershaw and Arrieta, New York Mets manager Terry Collins listed three more “legitimate names” for the National League starting assignment on July 12 at Petco Park in San Diego. San Francisco Giants teammates Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto are in the mix along with Mets flamethrower Noah Syndergaard.

“Clayton was one of those names,” Collins told reporters before Thursday’s Cubs-Mets game at Citi Field. “And I can tell you Jake was right near the top of the list. I kind of like my guy a little bit, too.

“I kind of feel like I know who’s going to start the game.”

That’s how Collins ended his media session, without taking any more follow-up questions, but he will get an up-close look at Arrieta (12-2, 2.10 ERA) on Saturday night, which also marks the three-year anniversary of that franchise-altering trade with the Baltimore Orioles for a pitcher who spent parts of the 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 seasons on the Triple-A level.    

“I’ve kind of addressed (how) I’ve come to this point,” Arrieta said. “It’s a long way from where I used to be. I do understand that. But at the same time, I’ve kind of put most of it behind me.

“(Starting the All-Star Game) would be great. It would be an honor, obviously. If it happens, it’s something special.

“But most important for me is my start Saturday.” 

Why Kyle Schwarber is untouchable and how Cubs plan to rebuild bullpen

Why Kyle Schwarber is untouchable and how Cubs plan to rebuild bullpen

NEW YORK – Let’s start with this boilerplate Theo Epstein quote and file it away for the next time Kyle Schwarber’s name appears on MLBTradeRumors.com or a fantasy-baseball proposal for the New York Yankees.

“I’m looking forward to Kyle Schwarber — who got hurt in a Cubs uniform and is working his ass off in a Cubs uniform — coming back and hitting a very big home run in a Cubs uniform sometime very early next season,” Epstein said.

The president of baseball operations clearly has a special bond with Schwarber, selecting the Indiana University catcher/outfielder with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft, back when the industry consensus made it sound like a reach. Schwarber helped ignite those champagne celebrations last year by setting a franchise record with five postseason home runs. Epstein felt sick watching Schwarber wreck his knee in an outfield collision during the first week of this season, allowing him to rehab in Chicago and hang out in the draft room, essentially viewing him as an untouchable player because of his left-handed power and leadership qualities.

The Mets are the defending National League champs — with all due respect, as Joe Maddon might say, quoting Will Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby character in “Talladega Nights.” But the Yankees might be the New York team the Cubs should focus on now.

While the Mets returned home to Citi Field on Thursday as a third-place team — six games behind Washington after getting swept at Nationals Park — the Yankees will be in no man’s land on July 1 at 39-39.

The Bronx Bombers now have another month to decide whether or not they will become trade-deadline sellers for the first time in a generation, how breaking up the Andrew Miller/Aroldis Chapman/Dellin Betances bullpen could set them up for the future. And what surrender would mean for a YES Network/Yankee Stadium/27 World Series titles business plan. 

Epstein viewed Thursday’s action – the San Diego Padres flipped closer Fernando Rodney to the Miami Marlins while the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired right-hander Bud Norris from the Atlanta Braves – as more of a reaction to the July 2 international signing period (and Clayton Kershaw’s back injury) than a sign that the market would start to move quickly.

“We’re talking to clubs, just trying to see who might be available and where we might have matches,” Epstein said. “But there’s nothing real imminent. There’s usually a flurry of activity around (this time). Despite the trades today, I think it might end up being more of a slow-developing market. We’ll see. We’re not close to anything.”

Remember, the Cubs rebuilt their bullpen on the fly last summer with Clayton Richard (acquired for a dollar from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate), Trevor Cahill (released by the Braves and Dodgers before signing a minor-league deal) and Rodney (a two-time All-Star the Seattle Mariners had designated for assignment).

While Schwarber-for-Miller buzz is great on talk radio and Twitter, for now the Cubs will go with the grab-bag approach, looking at internal options like Carl Edwards Jr. and Joel Peralta, hoping for good news on their Tommy John cases (Joe Nathan, Jack Leathersich) and waiting for Justin Grimm to get locked in again.

“It’s pretty rare that you rebuild a bullpen midseason through big-ticket items,” Epstein said. “Last year was actually more typical. They don’t all work out — that’s not what I’m saying. But if you have a plan and a process — and you’re willing to kind of cycle through guys (and) ride things out — you often get rewarded in the end.

“For a postseason bullpen, if you’re thinking that far in advance, you’re not talking about eight guys. You’re talking about three or four guys that you can lean on heavily. It’s being open-minded, being willing to let guys ride through their downturns and make adjustments, so that they can find it.”