It's Not What You Know, It's When You Know It!

It's Not What You Know, It's When You Know It!

Tuesday, September 22nd
As the city basks in the glow of the Bears, its time to talk NFL. Fans are into the NFL for different reasons. Among them are: gambling, tradition, city pride and more gambling! Lets not kid ourselves, in this country, the NFL rules because of the action, and the ACTION! Office confidence pools and fantasy football are all the rage now. Thank you, internet! The ability to win either of these depends on two things: LUCK and information. From having, or not, these two things, we can impress others accordingly. As your resident bartender, Ive been witness to more braggadocio about football than any other sport. Thank-you, alcohol!

As for knowledge about football, we wont talk about luck, because I have none. I know just enough to be dangerous; for me and anyone who would care to listen. Since I am behind a bar just about every Sunday of my adult life, Ive watched a little bit of football. I also meet fans of teams from all over the country, and others who are interested about teams from all over the country, (wonder why that is??) who want to talk football 247. I guess they figure all that time Ive spent behind a bar has taught me something. Well... they are right!

One thing Ive learned is preseason football means absolutely nothing as far as how to predict how a season will go. How did that 4-0 preseason record work out for Detroit last year? The point is, some coaches want to win and some could care less. And if youre a veteran who has the team made, dont get hurt because the regular season is when you get paid! Thats why I think predictions based off the preseason are fairly useless. Have you ever gone over some of the expert predictions after the year? They were throwing darts at a board! This leads me to my fearless predictions for the 2009 season. I think that after two games some trends are very obvious, while some others will need more time to play out. Still its the perfect time for the guy-in-a-red-bow-tie to offer his humble assessments. Besides which, due to the frenetic pace of my domestic life, its the first chance Ive had to get to my computer since the season started! Here we go.


1) New England: Is Brady still Brady? You bet! Seymour trade is a curious one. Does 4 RBS = Any RBS?

2) NY Jets: Rex Ryan doesnt fall far from the tree. It will be a fun team to watch. Leon Washington is electric.

3) Buffalo: I like Dick Jauron. He is a kind, thoughtful, intelligent person. And he agreed to T. O.??? Good luck!

4) Miami: Lets see how a roster with mediocre talent does with a 1st place schedule. I see a lot of low scores in their future.


1) Pittsburgh: Repeat? Four games against Cincinnati and Cleveland help vault them to the playoffs. If healthy, no less than final four.

2) Baltimore: Defense a year older and without the 2nd mentor of the Lewis Era. They will go as far as Flacco will take them.

3) Cincinnati: Really? Their chances? Child, please!

4) Cleveland: Man-genius? Seems to be in a little over his head. This could get ugly.


1) Indy: New coach? Same old Manning. Smartest player in the league is the
ultimate on-field leader, has the best commercials too.

2) Houston: My surprise team of the year. They give Indy a run and get in as
a wild-card. Andre Johnson is a beast!

3) Tennessee: Good defense and ground game. Can you consistently win in this league if you cant throw the ball?

4) Jacksonville: Love Jones-Drew, not much else. And Im not the only one: 17,000 unsold tickets? At least the home town doesnt have to watch this mess.


1) San Diego: Rulers of the worst division in football. Make the playoffs as usual, then what? Is this finally the year?

2) Denver: Orton move was shocking. What they needed to shock was the defense. Team unity is shown on offense: They all have neck-beards!

3) K.C.: Fantasy owners will love this offense. Cassel will get a chance to air it out.

4) Oakland: Honestly? Team Psycho? They dont look so bad early, but give it time. Enjoy the side-show and the losses.


1) Eagles: Vick is always the first thing Im asked about. No. 2 is this: Will this FINALLY be the year to end all of the endless suffering?!! (Sorry, I get carried away sometimes.)

2) NY Giants: The best combo of offensive and defensive lines in pro football. That will be good enough to finish 2nd.

3) Dallas: Tons of talent with no results. The lights are on, but nobodys home!

4) Washington: As far as under-achievers go, theyre Phi Beta Kappa!


1) Green Bay: Dom Capers taking over the defense is huge. Fast and aggressive, they rule the division.

2) Minnesota: Cant wait to see how Favre implodes another teams season. Three different teams in three consecutive years? This I have to watch!
3) Bears: One word: Defense. Do they have one? Need to move last years 30th against the pass into the top 10 to have a shot. Plus, more KNOX!

4) Detroit: Ouch! Ill go out on a limb and say that theyll win two games!


1) Atlanta: Good young team. Ryan is the real deal. Gonzalez move was brilliant.

2) New Orleans: Score 500- give up 500 = .500? If this team can stop a good offense, theyre scary.

3) Carolina: Ultimate fluke team of last year crashes with a thud!

4) Tampa: I dont think so!


1) San Francisco: How can you not root for Singletary? I want winners! Surprise team uses easy schedule to get to the playoffs.

2) Seattle: With Hasselbeck: over .500. Without?: Way, way under.

3) Arizona: Remember, even though this team was one play from being the champs last year, they were 9-7. Pete Rozelles dream come true!

4) St. Louis: Thanks for playing; we have some lovely parting gifts. Besides, have you ever met a Rams fan? I havent, everyone in that town is rooting for the Cardinals.

In the postseason, I have:

New England over Houston
Atlanta over Minn
Jets over Indy
NYG over SanFran
Then,Then,San Diego over Jets
Phil. over Atl.
Pitt. over N.E.
NYG over G.B.
Then,Then,S.D. over Pitt.
Phil over NYG

Then, drum roll please,

The Eagles over the Chargers in Super Bowl XLIII!!

Of course, my second week predictions end up like a lot of preseason ones: worthless, so I might as well get to type that once! Check back to see how I did. If I do well and you mention it to me at the bar, Im sure there will be a beer in your future. Otherwise, just hit delete!

What can the Cubs expect from the Cleveland Indians in the World Series?

What can the Cubs expect from the Cleveland Indians in the World Series?’s Dan Hayes and JJ Stankevitz saw plenty of the Cleveland Indians while covering the White Sox in 2016, and set their sights on what kind of a challenge the Tribe will provide the Cubs in the World Series.


The American League’s second-best offense has slowed down considerably in the postseason as its .635 OPS ranks seventh among 10 playoff teams in 2016. But the Indians have received enough clutch hitting from part-timer Coco Crisp and their star in the making, shortstop Francisco Lindor, to make the most of their stellar pitching in the playoffs.

In the regular season, the Indians finished second in the American League in runs scored (777) in part because of an aggressive approach on the base paths and even though the team’s best player, Michael Brantley, was limited to 43 plate appearances because of injury. The Indians ranked second in the majors in extra bases taken with 186, two ahead of the Cubs, according to The team also finished second in the majors with an extra bases taken percentage of 45 and led the AL with 134 stolen bases in 165 tries (81 percent).

The offense is centered around designated hitter Carlos Santana, who blasted a career best 34 home runs and posted an .865 OPS. First baseman Mike Napoli and second baseman Jason Kipnis also established career highs in homers with 34 and 23, respectively. Kipnis finished with 68 extra-base hits, including 41 doubles.

Third baseman Jose Ramirez picked up much of the slack for a team that also was without projected outfielder Abraham Almonte for half the season because of a suspension for PEDs. Ramirez had 46 doubles among his 60 extra-base hits and produced an .825 OPS in an outstanding all-around campaign that could garner him a few MVP votes. Rookie Tyler Naquin also filled a big void in the outfield with 14 homers and 43 RBIs in 365 plate appearances.

So far, Indians manager Terry Francona has divided up the plate appearances among his outfielders in October. Only right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall has received consistent playing time as the Indians have platooned Crisp, Naquin, Rajai Davis, who stole 43 bases this season, and Brandon Guyer.

-- Dan Hayes


Andrew Miller may be having the best postseason a relief pitcher has ever had. The big-ticket trade deadline acquisition threw 11 2/3 innings in the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox and ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays, striking out 21 while allowing only five singles and two walks (that’s good for a laughable .132/.171/.184 opponent slash line). Manager Terry Francona hasn’t been shy about using Miller early in games, too — he inserted the 6-foot-7 lefty in the fifth inning of Cleveland’s ALDS Game 1 win over the Red Sox, and half of his six playoff appearances this year began in the sixth inning or earlier. Miller’s ability to throw multiple innings will put pressure on the Cubs to score early and often against the Indians’ rotation.

Francona’s willingness to use Miller early has been critical toward helping maximize the success of a starting rotation without two of its three best arms in the postseason. Carlos Carrasco (fractured gone in right hand) won’t pitch in the World Series, though Francona hinted that fellow right-handed All-Star Danny Salazar (strained flexor muscle in right forearm) could return to start in the World Series. Right-hander Trevor Bauer, who sliced his right pinky open while repairing his drone and only managed to record two outs before his finger gushed blood in Game 3 of the ALCS, will start Game 2 or 3.

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With or without Salazar and/or Bauer, though, Cleveland’s rotation has been effective. Corey Kluber is the unquestioned ace of the staff and allowed only two runs over 18 1/3 innings in three postseason starts, which stands as a continuation of his strong regular season numbers (18-9, 215 IP, 3.14 ERA, 3.26 FIP). Josh Tomlin has had a short rope, only throwing 10 2/3 innings in his two starts, but allowed three runs in that span with 10 strikeouts and three walks. Rookie left-hander Ryan Merrett threw 4 2/3 shutout innings in a clinching Game 5 win over the Blue Jays last week, too, showing no signs of “shaking in his boots” in his first postseason start.

The rest of Cleveland’s bullpen -- which tied for the second-best ERA in the American League (3.45) in the regular season -- has found success in addition to Miller in the playoffs. Hard-throwing closer Cody Allen has looked unflappable in five save opportunities, allowing five hits and three walks with 12 strikeouts. Right-handers Dan Otero (3.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K) and Bryan Shaw (5.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR) have been go-to options if Miller can’t bridge the gap between the starting pitcher and Allen, too.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Cleveland has found pitching success in the playoffs, even with so many injuries, given their 3.86 staff ERA ranked 7th in baseball.

-- JJ Stankevitz


Nobody has been as outstanding of a defensive team as the Cubs in 2016. But, the Indians are still near the top of the second tier team and have proven a remarkably improved squad over the past two seasons. Much of their improvement stems from the stellar play provided by Lindor, who ranked second in the majors in Ultimate Zone Rating (20.8) among shortstops and fourth in Defensive Runs Saved with 17, according to Combined with Kipnis, who ranked sixth in UZR (7.3) among second baseman, the Indians have a strong double play combo. Ramirez also proved to be a steady defender at third base after taking over as the full-timer following the release of Juan Uribe.

Though the club has missed the presence of starting catcher Yan Gomes, it has handled his absence extremely well. Not only does replacement Roberto Perez rate among the game’s best pitch framers, he also threw out 13 of 26 runners who attempted to steal a base with him behind the dish.

-- Dan Hayes


Francona won two World Series trophies with the Boston Red Sox, including the one in 2004 that ended that franchise’s 87-year title drought. He’s led Cleveland to two postseason berths since taking over in 2013, and the Tribe haven’t had a losing record in his four years at the helm.

The 57-year-old has been lauded for his aggressive use of Miller in the playoffs, deploying the lights-out lefty as a study bridge between a starting rotation beset by injuries and dominant closer Allen.

First baseman/catcher/designated hitter Santana is hardly a prototypical leadoff man, but he’s hit first in six of Cleveland’s eight games in the postseason after leading off 85 games in the regular season. And that’s the batting order position he’s been most effective from --- In the regular season, Santana hit .260/.385/.502 with more walks (67) than strikeouts (60) as a leadoff man. Francona’s willingness to eschew stolen bases and speed on the base paths has put early pressure on starting pitchers by having Santana on base so frequently.

Said Cubs starter Jon Lester, who pitched for Francona in the Red Sox 2007 championship run: “I know that manager on their side’s going to be prepared, I know their coaching staff’s going to be ready.”

-- JJ Stankevitz

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

As Cubs players and generations of fans celebrated Christmas in October, Jon Lester had to be The Grinch for a moment. Sure, the Cubs would party from Saturday night into Sunday morning, probably get “a little bit” drunk and enjoy the franchise’s first National League pennant in 71 years. But the reality of the Cleveland Indians would set in once the Cubs got rid of this hangover.

“We ain’t done anything yet,” Lester said during the Wrigley Field celebration after the Cubs eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Nobody likes second place.”

There are enough Boston Red Sox connections in this World Series that Lester already knows what to expect, starting with Indians manager Terry Francona, who became a father figure as he dealt with a cancer scare as a rookie.

There are ex-teammates from those championship teams in 2007 (Coco Crisp) and 2013 (Mike Napoli, Andrew Miller) at Fenway Park. There is the accumulated experience from throwing 119 postseason innings (2.50 ERA) and becoming one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation.

“I don’t want to sound like a smart-ass, but we got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “I know that manager on their side’s going to be prepared. I know their coaching staff’s going to be ready. I know their players are going to be ready, just based on one player alone, and that’s Mike Napoli. I know what he brings to the table. He helped transform our 2013 team.

“Come Tuesday, we got to put the gloves back on. We got to get ready to fight and grind and do what we’ve done well all year. We got four more games to win.”

After limiting the Dodgers to two runs in 13 innings, and being named the NL Championship Series’ co-MVP along with Javier Baez, Lester should be a worthy Game 1 starter opposite Corey Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner.

This is why Lester took a leap of faith with Cubs bosses/ex-Red Sox executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and chairman Tom Ricketts’ family and what had been a last-place team in 2014.

Two seasons into the $155 million contract that signaled the Cubs would be serious about contending – and not just in the Baseball America/Baseball Prospectus prospect rankings – the franchise has won 200 games and four playoff rounds and remained in position to dominate for years to come.

“Theo and Jed and the front office and Tom and all these guys had a belief,” Lester said. “I believed in that belief. The talent here speaks for itself. I didn’t do anything – I came here because I wanted to win in Chicago. I’m just happy to be here and be a part of this and get to this point.

“(But) we’re four hard wins away from doing what we set out to do in spring training.”

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As bright as the future looks on the North Side, Lester will be 33 next season and his left arm has already accounted for more than 2,000 innings during his decorated career. John Lackey turned 38 on Sunday. Jake Arrieta only has one more season before becoming a free agent.

The Cubs built their franchise around young hitters, with the idea that they can figure out the pitching later with free agents, change-of-scenery trades and bounce-back guys. Easier said than done. They have a true No. 1 starter now in Lester, who as a free agent watched a recruiting video that imagined what it would be like when the Cubs win the World Series.

“This isn’t it,” Lester said. “It’s been a tough playoffs for us to this point and it’s only going to get tougher. We’re going to enjoy it. We’re going to show up Tuesday in Cleveland ready to play. We’ll see what happens.”