Red Sox sneak out of town after crazy weekend

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Red Sox sneak out of town after crazy weekend

The Red Sox were only in Chicago for three days, but inside the cramped visiting locker room at Wrigley Field, it felt like a whole lot longer.

"Man, it seems like about 12 years," Jon Lester said as the Red Sox were packing up for their return trip to Boston.

There were no black cats at Wrigley Field this weekend. No fan interference, no goats in the stadium. No Curse of the Bambino lingered and there wasn't any controversy over fried chicken or beer.

But there was ninth-inning drama, shaky fielding and some unlucky hitting on the part of the Red Sox. There was Dustin Pedroia swearing in his media appearance after Friday's game and there was Boston manager Bobby Valentine with his hands on his head, responding to a reporter's question with "sometimes, crazy times call for crazy measures."

There were injuries, which have hampered the Red Sox all year. Josh Beckett (shoulder) and Ryan Sweeney (toe) found themselves on the disabled list this weekend and Scott Podsednik (groin) and Kevin Youkilis (toe) had to leave Sunday's game.

Beckett was supposed to be Sunday's starter, but shoulder inflammation forced Franklin Morales to the mound for his first start since 2009. He responded, allowing just two runs in five innings and striking out nine.

Morales didn't pick up the win, as two errors in a disastrous sixth inning allowed the Cubs to tie the game against reliever Matt Albers, despite the fact the ball never left the infield.

"All the sudden, there are men all over the bases and it's a tie score, but Albers never gave in," Valentine said.

The Red Sox could have easily withered under the adversity they faced this weekend and that sixth inning could have been their doom. But they rose above it and plated three runs in the top of the seventh inning.

"The guys came right back and answered the bell," Valentine said. "That's what happens. You win a game, you get that one hit and then other hits follow."

The Red Sox couldn't get the big hit on Friday, as Pedroia left the bases loaded in the ninth inning of a 3-0 ballgame. Saturday, Boston eeked out a 4-3 victory on the back of Lester, who was in complete control until one pitch to Luis Valbuena got away from him and wound up in the left-field bleachers for a three-run homer.

Sunday was a step in the right direction, but could hardly be considered smooth sailing as three straight hits in the ninth loaded the bases for David DeJesus, who just missed a game-tying grand slam.

But Alfredo Aceves nailed down the win and the Red Sox caught the bus to the airport with a .500 (33-33) record.

It's been said that the BP Crosstown Cup -- which starts Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field -- has a tendancy to send the two Chicago teams in opposite directions. The White Sox swept the Cubs last month at Wrigley Field and wound up charging to first place. The Cubs, meanwhile, saw any hope of a surprise season dissipate as they found themselves in a 12-game losing streak.

Maybe this historic weekend series will do the same for the Red Sox. Maybe that seventh inning Sunday was the spark they need to catapult into a push for the playoffs.

"We need a team effort all the way," Valentine said. "We need the constants to remain constant."

Kiper: Deshaun Watson would be a stretch at No. 3 for Bears

Kiper: Deshaun Watson would be a stretch at No. 3 for Bears

If you haven't heard, the Bears are in the market for a quarterback.

It's no surprise that finding a long-term solution at the position will be at the top of GM Ryan Pace's to-do list as it's likely Jay Cutler has played his last game in a Bears uniform.

The Bears have a bevy options this offseason as they're saddled with the No. 3 selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, and have over $54 million of salary cap space — before roster cuts and an added $8 million in roll over money.

Having the 3rd overall pick, the opportunity is going to present itself for the Bears to nab one of the draft's top quarterbacks or add to their young defensive core with a player like Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen (who ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has the Bears selecting in his latest mock draft) or LSU's Jamal Adams (Kiper Jr. also has him as a possibility for the Bears).

If quarterback is the choice, that's where the real debate begins.

The 2017 draft marks one of the rare years where there isn't a consensus No. 1 quarterback. The four signal-callers likely to hear there name called within the first two rounds are UNC's Mitch Trubisky, Clemson's Deshaun Watson, Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer and Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes.

Who comes off the board first? That may change 100 times between now and Thursday, April 27.

Despite only starting one year at Chapel Hill, Trubisky has the strongest case to be the first quarterback taken. Trubisky threw for 3,748 yards and 30 touchdowns and added 308 yards on the ground and five rushing scores in his first full year as a starter in 2016.

If the Bears have their eyes set on Trubisky, they may have to pull off a trade as Kiper Jr. doesn't see the former Tar Heel lasting to the third pick. In his conference call on Thursday, Kiper Jr. said it's Trubisky's dream to play for his hometown Cleveland Browns, and sees him in play for both the Browns at No. 1 and the San Francisco 49ers at No. 2.

Would the Bears pull the trigger on Watson if Trubisky is off the board? Kiper Jr. believes Watson would be a stretch for the Bears at No. 3 and right now he sees Watson as a fit with the Buffalo Bills at No. 10. Kiper Jr. had a second-round grade on Watson before he shined on the big stage in the College Football Playoff. Watson's stock catapulted back into the first-round mix after he torched Alabama for 463 yards and four touchdowns en route to leading Clemson to a National Championship.

By selecting a defensive player at No. 3, the Bears could still have the opportunity to draft their quarterback of the future in the second round. Kiper Jr. believes both Mahomes and Kizer will be available on Day 2 where the Bears hold the 34th overall selection in the draft.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What happens if the Bears don't come away with one of the draft's top quarterbacks? They could look toward free agency or the trade market.

The downfall of the free agent market is that the best available option is former Tampa Bay Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon — he hasn't started a game in almost three years. You can cross Kirk Cousins off the wish list because there's a better chance of Brett Favre coming out of retirement and leading the Browns to a Super Bowl in 2017 than the Washington Redskins letting Cousins walk in free agency. The Bears also could elect to bring back two of their own unrestricted free agents in Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, but neither would provide an ample long-term fixture at the position.

One of the most intriguing players available on the trade market is New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The connection between him and the Bears runs deep as Garoppolo starred at Rolling Meadows High School in the Chicagoland area and played his college football at Eastern Illinois — the same alma mater as Pace — before he was selected by the Patriots in the second-round of the 2014 NFL Draft. In limited snaps backing up future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, Garoppolo has shown potential to be an above-average NFL quarterback, but unless the Patriots step down from their rumored asking price of a 2017 first-round pick and more, trading away the No. 3 pick would be too high of a price for the Bears to pay.

The Bears could explore the possibility of trading for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to serve as a stopgap and help groom a young quarterback, but bringing in the veteran Romo — just four starts since 2014 due to various injuries — would be a lateral move, and the Bears would likely be better off keeping Cutler for another season.

With less than two months until the start of free agency on March 9, we'll finally get our first clue then as to which direction the Bears will go at quarterback this offseason. 

Charles Tillman wrote a letter to his younger self and it will hit you in the feels

Charles Tillman wrote a letter to his younger self and it will hit you in the feels

Grab a pocket pack of tissues for this one.

Bears icon Charles Tillman released an emotional tell-all article on The Players' Tribune Thursday.

He starts off discussing how often he moved around as a kid with his dad in the Army and little things like learning cursive before delving into growing up in Germany and learning to communicate through sports.

It then moves on to the NFL Draft and coming up through the Bears with Lance Briggs, then jumping to the Super Bowl and what it was like to cover Calvin Johnson and Marvin Harrison.

Tillman even provides a fascinating take on how being a new dad affected his play on the field because he was so tired and stressed.

It was refreshing to hear a player talk like that. In everyday life, you hear all the time about first-time parents being exhausted and stressed, but now one of the most elite athletes in the world — whose job is exclusively in the public eye and his performance is dissected weekly by millions — is saying the same thing.

He discusses how he got past that stress and at this point, you're nearly halfway through the article and it's easy to think this is just like any other athlete's story.

But then Tillman gets serious and the story turns heart-wrenching.

The man affectionately known as "Peanut" takes us into the hospital room as he and his wife are told their young daughter, Tiana, may not make it through the night.

Tillman recounts the gripping tale behind how his family very nearly fell apart and how they climbed back to where they are today.

Give it a read. It's a fantastic snapshot into the career of one of the best Bears players ever, but also into the life of one of the truly great people to ever put on the orange and navy.