Thursday Score visit: Of death scenes & paper cuts


Thursday Score visit: Of death scenes & paper cuts

It wouldnt be 10 a.m. Thursday without checking in with The McNeil and Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM The Score 670, Danny Mac and Ben Finfer this morning sitting in for Spiegs.

A little fun with great death scenes from movies, which the guys were chatting up when I joined them. The shark getting it in Jaws by Ben was a good call, as was Jack Dawson sinking into the depths of the North Atlantic.

My big three? Denzel Washington being taken out at the end of Training Day (richly deserved, as Mac correctly stated); Sonny Corleone getting his at the toll booth; and Val Kilmers Doc Hollidays one-shot takedown of Michael Biehns Johnny Ringo in Tombstone (Johnny wasnt a daisy after all).

The J.J. Watt problem was of more pressing interest for the week, and my sense of Watt continues to be a version of Dan Hampton and Julius Peppers, a defensive end with the power, strength and talent to drop inside and at any position to create a mismatch. Peppers has done it since he came to Chicago; Hampton went from left end to nose in the 46 (he also was defensive player of the year at D-tackle); and Watt at 290 pounds and 6-6 does the same.

Solution? There is none. Jury-rigging your offense to deal with that is a mistake, especially for an offense still forming. The Bears absolutely must run the ball (the Texans are good enough to dial Brandon Marshall down) and that is what they want to do and do well. This will be about whether the Bears can do their thing well.

Where is the bleeding coming from?

My thought to Mac was that the Bears offense is not hemorrhaging; its bleeding from a dozen paper cuts. A Kellen Davis drop cut then a Gabe Carimi breakdown cut then a Jay Cutler ball-hold cut then. You get the idea.

And coordinator Mike Tice has had some cuts. Abandoning later calls in the game plan because of a first-play sack, occasional lapses Tice knows what he wants to do and what wins. His role model as much as any is legendary Chuck Knox, and that means make your passing game truly lethal through ground supremacy.

Tice is excellent at looking for input and fresh ideas. Sometimes he just needs to trust that his have been pretty good over the past couple years and go with that.

And the pick for this weekend? Mac hadnt been able to make a pick so I wont, either. My preseason call was a loss to Houston and win at San Francisco; have to look at the first of those really close in the next day or two.

World Series drought will soon end for Cubs or Indians

World Series drought will soon end for Cubs or Indians

In no more than 10 days, one of baseball’s longest-suffering fan bases will feel anguish no more.

Decades of torment, missed opportunities and bitter disappointment will be erased when either the Cubs or the Cleveland Indians clinch a championship in the 112th World Series, which begins on Tuesday night at 7:08 p.m. CST.

Neither franchise has emerged victorious from the Fall Classic for a combined 174 years, the largest drought in World Series history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Cubs last won the World Series in 1908 while the Indians haven’t been crowned champion since 1948. The previous record of 130 combined years was set in 2005 by the White Sox (87 years between titles) and Houston Astros (43).

“Cleveland is deserving of the World Series, too, so this is going to be a classic, two cities that have been in a long drought,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said late Saturday. “This is really good for baseball.

“It’s going to be amazing.”

The Cubs already have ended one longstanding drought with their victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. By reaching the World Series, the Cubs ended the longest stretch without a championship round appearance among franchises in the four major North American sports. Despite making the postseason seven times in the previous 31 years, the Cubs haven’t been to the World Series since 1945.

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Courtesy of last week’s American League Championship Series victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, the Indians are making the seventh trip to the World Series in franchise history. The Indians haven’t won the World Series in 67 years despite three previous appearances: they were swept by the New York Giants in 1954, lost to the Atlanta Braves in six games in 1995 and suffered a heart-breaking defeat in seven games against the then-Florida Marlins in 1997.

“What could be better for baseball?” Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said. “We’re real excited. I have a lot of friends from Cleveland. I have a lot of respect for the Cleveland Indians organization. I’m anxious to get there.”

Though they’re ecstatic to be where they are, Cubs players continue to echo the sentiment that their mission isn’t yet complete. They’re not oblivious to what their fans have endured, the decades of suffering and generations who have come and gone without ever seeing a trophy. But rather than worry about the franchise’s agonizing past, veteran utility man Ben Zobrist said players must remain focused on the present.

“There’s a lot of pent up angst and emotion in this city, really all over the nation, Cubs fans that have been loyal through the years,” Zobrist said. “We know that. But the bottom line is you have to execute at the right time and stay here in 2016. These guys have done it all year long with all the expectations on our backs and we only have four more. We’re in the exact spot we wanted to be in and we have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done in 108 years.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts: Cubs ‘really have no weaknesses’

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts: Cubs ‘really have no weaknesses’

As Wrigley Field was still shaking in the aftermath of the Cubs’ first National League pennant in 1945 years, a clear-eyed Dave Roberts saw the blunders the Los Angeles Dodgers made in the National League Championship Series, but also acknowledged that his team ended the regular season with a record 12 1/2 games worse than the Cubs. 

“They beat us,” Roberts said. “We made mistakes. And you hate to have sour grapes, but the better team won the series. That's why you play seven-game series, and they showed it.”

The Dodgers took control of the NLCS with back-to-back shutouts in Games 2 and 3, with lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill shutting down a lineup that scored the second most runs in the NL (808) and led the league in on-base percentage (.343) in the regular season. But sparked by Ben Zobrist’s bunt in Game 4, the Cubs offense quickly returned to normal, scoring 10, eight and five runs in the final three games of the series.

What the Cubs did against Kershaw in Game 6 was described by president of baseball operations Theo Epstein as a “masterpiece performance.” The guy who Cubs left-hander Jon Lester said “might go down as the best pitcher of our generation” couldn’t put hitters away and was punished for the mistakes he made, with Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo blasting home runs and Kris Bryant, Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist driving in early runs. 

Just having the the best record in baseball has hardly been a guarantee of playoff success, though. In the Wild Card era (1995-present), only nine of the 26 teams with the best record (either alone or tied for it) in baseball have reached the World Series. The Cubs are that ninth team.

“Up to this point, to the World Series, they have gone wire to wire,” Roberts said. “They win a hundred-plus games, they have really no weaknesses, and youth, veterans, starting pitching, they got the guy at the back end, so they catch the baseball, they can slug, they get on base, and they're relentless.”