Evaluating the Bears OL? Look a little deeper

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Evaluating the Bears OL? Look a little deeper

CSNChicago.com (at least this humble chronicler of gridiron games) has not bought into any of the hysteria reaction over the offensive line for about two years. The Mike Martz Factor has been analyzed in no small detail, so enough on that; Martz (and, critics would say JMarcus Webb) didnt block anybody last year. But the former was his own issue.

Consider something else, though:

The quarterbacks.

Some perspective here. The Indianapolis Colts allowed 16 sacks of Peyton Manning in 2010. They gave up 35 last season. Jeff Saturday, Ryan Diem and the Colts line twice as bad one year to the next? Dont think so.

Matt Schaub had the Houston Texans rolling when he was injured in Week 10. He was being sacked 1.6 times per game. T.J. Yates did a nice relief job, but he also was sacked 15 times in basically five games' worth of playing time.

Figure it another way: Schaub was being sacked once every 19 pass plays. Yates was sacked once every 9.9 attempts.

Jay Cutler was sacked 2.3 times per game through his 10. Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown in six games went down 26 times, or 4.5 times per game. Did the offensive line just get twice as bad 10 weeks into the season? Probably not.

Jared Allen had the only sack of a Chicago quarterback (Cutler) by a Minnesota Viking in the teams first meeting last year. McCown was sacked seven times, three by Allen, in that final game.

If you want to declare the offensive line a disaster zone, then youre saying that Hanie was maybe pretty good and just didnt get any protection. You sure you want to go there?

The offensive line doesnt need anyone running interference for it. Thats their job for Cutler and Matt Forte (presumably) and Michael Bush.

But there is a lot more to the offensive-line story for 2011, and now 2012, than JMarcus Webb. A lot more.

New bullpen clicks as advertised in Cubs victory over White Sox

New bullpen clicks as advertised in Cubs victory over White Sox

The Cubs bullpen has gone from a problem area to a seemingly automatic endgame.

Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman preserved a tight lead as the Cubs beat the White Sox 3-1 Thursday night in front of 41,157 fans at Wrigley Field, evening up the season series between the two Chicago teams.

Manager Joe Maddon got to employ his best-case scenario as John Lackey accounted for six innings before Strop pitched the seventh, Rondon got two outs in the eighth and then Chapman came in for the final four outs.

Rondon got into a little trouble as Tyler Saladino led off the eighth with a double into the left-field corner, but the former Cubs closer struck out Adam Eaton and got Tim Anderson to ground out.

With Melky Cabrera — who has been swinging a hot bat — up next, Maddon came out to replace Rondon with the new 105 mph closer.

Chapman didn't even mess around with offspeed stuff, just blowing the ball right by Cabrera to end the threat.

The Cubs tacked on a run in the bottom of the eighth as Ben Zobrist led off with a double, advanced to third on Adam Eaton's error and then scored on Addison Russell's ground out.

Dexter Fowler was his classic "you go, we go" self, scoring the Cubs' first two runs against Sox ace Chris Sale — first on an RBI double from Kris Bryant on the Cubs' second batter of the game and then later on Zobrist's single up the middle in the third inning.

Lackey allowed only the one run and it came in the first inning when Tim Anderson reached on an infield single and then scored on Cabrera's double into the right-field corner.

Chris Sale good in return but White Sox lose to Cubs

Chris Sale good in return but White Sox lose to Cubs

He wasn't as sharp as a knife, but Chris Sale was still pretty good in his return to the mound on Thursday night.

Following a nine-day layoff, including a five-game suspension for insubordination and destruction of team property, Sale pitched well enough for a victorious return. But John Lackey and the Cubs bullpen were even better and the White Sox fell 3-1 in front 41,157 at Wrigley Field and had to settle for a Crosstown Cup series split.

Sale, who also singled in two at-bats, allowed two runs and six hits with three walks in six innings. The White Sox dropped to 50-52 as they head to Minneapolis for a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins.

Nobody quite knew what to expect as Sale returned to his team for the first time since he was sent home Saturday for destroying the 1976 throwback uniforms the team was supposed to wear that night.

“It could go a lot of ways,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “But I expect him to show up. He’s mature enough and he knows what he’s doing. 

“It’s weird. It’s a crazy situation, but I think if somebody can handle it it’s him. Hopefully, he deals today and we won’t talk about this for a little bit.”

Wearing a suit for the road trip to Minneapolis, Sale smiled as he arrived in the visiting clubhouse at 4:42 p.m. Upon entering the constricted confines of the visiting clubhouse, Sale was greeted by a series of fist bumps and hugs. Seated on the floor, outfielder Melky Cabrera shouted “my man” and jumped up to bear hug Sale, stealing a second hug as the pitcher walked away. Todd Frazier and J.B. Shuck also instantly met Sale before he headed to his corner of the clubhouse and teammates Navarro, Matt Albers, Carlos Rodon and Tyler Saladino walked over, too.  

With his return coming in the midst of the Crosstown Cup finale, teammates were uncertain what kind of atmosphere Sale would face at Wrigley.

“I know the crowd’s going to be a little crazy,” Frazier said. “I think everybody in the world kind of knows what happened, and we’re on the North Side, so we’re going to hear some crazy stuff here.”

About 40 minutes before first pitch, Sale began to warm up in right field. Near the end of his long-toss session with Navarro, Sale walked to the bullpen and handed a young girl wearing a Sale T-shirt a baseball. As he began to throw off the mound, a number of curious fans began to snap pictures with their phones (even a beer vendor briefly stopped). Another, wearing a green pinstriped Jon Garland White Sox jersey, took a selfie as Sale warmed up. Though a few wisecracks were made, the scene was relatively tame.

With Sale returning only hours before he took the mound, Ventura -- who hadn’t talked to his pitcher in several days -- didn’t expect the left-hander would have much time to address teammates. He thought Sale might talk to players a few at a time over the next few days, though Frazier believed it might happen before he pitched Thursday. Asked if he thought Sale would apologize, Frazier said: “That’s a good question. I think he knows what he did wrong. I think he’s a guy of his word. I think he understands how much winning means to him. I’ve had an opportunity to talk to him and, you know, he’s ready to go. He just wants to play. I’m sure he’ll talk to us before the game. Whatever he has to say, if it deals with winning, we’ll take it.”

The White Sox offered their All-Star a welcome back gift with an early run when Melky Cabrera doubled in a run in the first inning.

But Lackey found a rhythm and retired 16 of 19 after Cabrera’s double. No out was bigger than the last of the sixth inning as Lackey induced a pop up on the infield from Jose Abreu with the go-ahead run at first.

Down 2-1, the White Sox threatened once more in the eighth inning as Saladino doubled off Hector Rondon. Rondon recorded two outs before Aroldis Chapman took over and struck out Cabrera with the tying at third.

The effort was enough to outdo Sale, who was hurt by walks in the first and third innings.

Dexter Fowler drew a nine-pitch leadoff walk in the first inning and Kris Bryant, who homered off Sale in the All-Star Game earlier this month, nearly did it again, settled for an RBI double off the centerfield fence. Sale stranded the go-ahead run however, retiring Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Willson Contreras to keep it tied at 1.

After Sale hit Fowler and walked Bryant to start the the third, Zobrist hit a comebacker just past Sale in the third for an RBI single and a 2-1 Cubs lead.

But even though he wasn’t pinpoint, Sale never broke.

After stranding a runner at third base in the first inning, he did it again in the fifth. He also struck out pinch-hitter David Ross with two on in the sixth. Though it didn’t result in a victory, Sale gave the White Sox what they needed.

“He's a great kid,” Ventura said. “This doesn't change that. We've seen him do some really great stuff. I know I've done some stuff that I wouldn't want people to know. We're in an age where in what he's doing is his job, but sometimes you don't get that luxury. I think for him, he's just going to go pitch and we'll move on from there.”

Brandon Vincent plays 33 minutes in MLS All-Star Game

Brandon Vincent plays 33 minutes in MLS All-Star Game

Chicago Fire rookie Brandon Vincent played 33 minutes at the MLS All-Star Game on Thursday.

The All-Stars lost 2-1 to Arsenal. Costa Rican Joel Campbell gave Arsenal the lead in the 11th minute via a penalty kick. Didier Drogba, who used to play for Arsenal's London rival Chelsea, scored just before halftime to tie the match. Chuba Apkom scored the game-winner in the 87th minute.

Vincent subbed on for FC Dallas' Kellyn Acosta in the 57th minute. Vincent registered one shot, which was off target.

All 26 players for the MLS All-Stars played. For Arsenal, American Gedion Zelalem came off the bench and played 23 minutes.