Chicago White Sox

Miller: No pity party for banged-up Bears defense

956783.png

Miller: No pity party for banged-up Bears defense

Everyone knew this was coming. Its been stated repeatedly the last three years that the Bears' defense is getting old. All their great players defensively are over 30 and are currently hurt, so this general statement must undoubtedly be true.

Unfortunately, for anyone trying to fit that narrative would have to erase 10 other stellar defensive performances besides San Francisco and Seattle this past weekend. One would also have to erase the fact that all four of the Bears' best defensive players made the Pro Bowl in 2011. Furthermore, all four performed legitimately at a Pro Bowl caliber level to be worthy selections a year ago.

Durability is an issue for every player in the NFL, whether you are young or old. No one can ever predict when a significant injury will occur, but in this line of work, its almost a guarantee it will. The NFL does not discriminate against anyone when it comes to injuries. It's just a matter of time.

Just look around the NFL. There are plenty of teams dealing with injuries to key players. Timing is everything when it comes to injuries. It just depends when they happen, to whom they happen, and if the roster is strong enough to sustain them.

The timing of injuries can be problematic, but they can be overcome. General manager Phil Emery has done just that from a roster standpoint. It is now up to the players to perform and show their worth.

Here are the Bears key injuries defensively:

Charles Tillman: Playing with a chipped bone in his ankle. Its just what prideful, tough football players do.

Lance Briggs: fighting through his own ankle injury (playing through it, same as above).

Julius Peppers: has played with a foot problem since camp (same as above).

Brian Urlacher: played with a balky knee and now dealing with a hamstring which may cost him the rest of the regular season.

Tim Jennings: has a shoulder injury which may sideline him also.

All were addressed this offseason through scheme or signings. One of those signings already replaced a former starter, as Kelvin Hayden was already logging significant playing time as D.J. Moores replacement. Hayden comes with significant starts and experience while playing for Indianapolis in the same exact defensive system. If Hayden has to start for Jennings, it also allows a hungry Moore to state his case why he deserves to be the starting nickel back again.

The Urlacher injury was already well thought out by coaches and tested during pre-season games with Nick Roach moving to MLB and Geno Hayes to SLB. If the Bears feel Hayes is the better fit at MLB, so be it. Only one position is affected rather than two if that is the case. Hayes understands the MLB position if he has to start and what is being asked of him.

It was discussed, tested and all players involved have played, performed and won in this defensive system before. Does it hurt the Bears not having their defensive leader out there on the field? Of course it does, but havent the Packers won a Super Bowl and ripped off victories this season without their defensive leader, Charles Woodson, on the field?

The Peppers injury was also already addressed. Corey Wooten and Shea McClellin were already playing to spell Peppers. Unfortunately for McClellan, a concussion slowed his opportunities for more experience. The defensive line rotation as a whole has been much better in 2012 than seasons prior.

So, there really is no time for pity parties concerning the Bears. The only pity is the Bears defense has logged an entire game more in terms of snaps when compared to their offense. The defense has 759 snaps compared to the offense which has accumulated only 700. Typically, each side logs 60 to 70 snaps during a game.

Tired would be an understatement if you play defense for the Bears. They have played basically one more regular season game than their offense.

Football is a team game. It might be time for the Bears offense to aid an ailing defense that has consistently protected them and bailed them out for the past three seasons. They should be well rested and up for the job. It should also be compartmentalized as a pride thing.

Joining Hall-of-Fame company the latest feat for Jose Abreu, White Sox model of consistency

jose-abreu-0923.jpg
USA TODAY

Joining Hall-of-Fame company the latest feat for Jose Abreu, White Sox model of consistency

Just how valuable is Jose Abreu to the White Sox?

Well, whenever you join Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only baseball players ever to do something, you must be pretty darn valuable.

Abreu joined that elite company Saturday night, driving in both runs in the White Sox forgettable 8-2 loss to the visiting Kansas City Royals. Those RBIs brought his total to 100 on the season, making him the third major leaguer ever to hit at least 25 homers and drive in at least 100 runs in his first four seasons.

“Every year after a season I meet with my family and we review my season and my stats. Last year when we had the meeting, I told them next year I’m gonna hit 30 homers, I’m gonna drive in at least 100 and I did it,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I was able to do it and that’s something that made me feel proud of myself and proud of my family, too, because they have been the ones who have been supported me through my whole career."

Abreu’s known as an extremely hard worker, a template to follow for many if not all of the youngsters coming up as the future stars of the White Sox rebuild. And so it makes this moment all the sweeter for him and those around him.

“It is especially important not just for me but for my family and my team,” Abreu said. “I think that this is a reward for the effort and all the work you put in for preparation for your season. It’s special when you get this kind of result and consistency in your stats. But the most important thing is it’s a reward for my family. And this organization, maybe we are not in the position we want to be right now as a team, but I know that better times are to come.”

“He works extremely hard,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I think everybody was feeling it for him tonight. He’s been pushing. He fouled a ball off of his left shin the other day, and you see him kind of gimping around there. … He’s not one to do anything to deter from continuing to help the team win first and foremost, but along the way he’s able to collect some individual merit points, so to speak. And put himself in a very special class.”

The big question surrounding Abreu isn’t whether he’s worthy of being the leader the young White Sox of the future need to turn rebuilding mode into contending mode a few years down the line. The question is whether he’ll still be around by then. His final year of arbitration is 2019, meaning if the White Sox are looking at 2020 as the year of true contention, it will take a new contract to keep Abreu in town.

A few things factor into that, of course. No. 1, Abreu could continue this consistently terrific pace and be lured away by another team willing to spend more to acquire his services. No. 2, though, is his age. He’ll be 33 years old when the 2020 season starts, and while that’s not old by most standards, it means he’ll demand a big contract — and likely a lengthy one — as he reaches the latter part of his prime. It’s not to suggest Abreu will dramatically slow down in terms of production, but it will most definitely be under consideration as the White Sox look to keep their window of contention open as long as possible.

For what it’s worth, Abreu is constantly thanking the White Sox organization for the opportunity to do what he’s done over the past four seasons, and he’s said how much he wants to keep playing for this franchise.

What is of no question, however, is Abreu’s worth as a top-of-the-line offensive player. His totals with a week’s worth of games left in the 2017 season: 31 homers, 100 RBIs and a .305/.356/.551 slash line. All those percentages would be his highest since his outstanding rookie season in 2014.

And his worth as a leader, as a guy who could be a rallying point for all these young players, that’s pretty darn valuable, too.

“I haven’t (tonight) made light of what I believe he’s becoming as part of this organization and what he is as far as what he does for the team,” Renteria said. “You got a couple of young men in there that are growing up and becoming a part of what I believe are leaders within that clubhouse. And he’s one of them. He’s certainly deserves it. He’s earned it. He’s worked for it. He’s been in this organization since the inception of his major league career. He’s someone that we all are happy is a part of us.”

With tougher games awaiting, Fire miss opportunity to gain ground in standings

accam-sad.jpg
USA TODAY

With tougher games awaiting, Fire miss opportunity to gain ground in standings

Saturday got off to a good start for the Fire with New York City FC drawing at home, but the Fire were unable to gain ground in the race for second place in the Eastern Conference.

Not only did the Fire fail to gain ground, they lost ground. Philadelphia smashed the Fire 3-1 on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium, leaving the Fire four points behind NYCFC for second and vulnerable to the chasing pack. Atlanta can pass the Fire for third place with a win against Montreal on Sunday, and still would have a game in hand.

Things don’t get any easier for the Fire with a trip at San Jose coming up on Wednesday. The Earthquakes are in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference and have one home loss this season.

While Philadelphia has won a majority of its home matches this season, it was the easiest of the three remaining road games on the Fire’s schedule. In addition to the trip to San Jose, the Fire close the regular season at Houston, another team in the playoff hunt that has just one home loss this year.

So Saturday wasn’t such a good day for the Fire.

The game marked the first start for defender Joao Meira since Aug. 16, but midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juninho missed once again. This was the third straight game Schweinsteiger missed and two straight for Juninho.

Philadelphia took the lead on a Chris Pontius header in the 10th minute and added goals in the second half by Pontius and C.J. Sapong to secure a three-goal lead. Luis Solignac, who came off the bench to replace David Accam in the 60th minute, provided the Fire with a consolation goal, but there wasn’t another to make things interesting in the final minutes.

With four games left in the regular season, the Fire have a pair of tricky games coming up with that trip to San Jose before a big one at home against NYCFC.