It is alive!

It is alive!

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Coming back from my two-week hiatus, I of course find it appropriate to reference one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite actors. Much to John Wingers chagrin, Sergeant Hulka re-appeared in Italy to help run the EM-50 through its paces. And maybe to some others chagrin, Im returning to your computer screen. Whatever!

While Ive been away a lot has happened locally in the sports world and not all of it good. The Bears fall from 7-1 to out the playoffs and their head coach out of work as you would expect is the main topic.

During their free fall, Lovie Smith and Jay Cutler dominated the conversation. The local faithful were more than done with the Lovie regime. My response to that was: Do you think the McCaskeys would eat the five million left on his contract? Not to mention the money owed to his assistants who were resigned last year?

So needless to say, I was quite surprised that he was sacked after a 10-win season. But again, how many chances do you get to fail? Lovie had as many as Ferris had days missed at school that his parents didnt know about. Nine times? Nine times! Unlike Ferris though, he was not going to get a tenth one to make it count. No worries for him though as he still is owed that 5 mildo and can buy as many red Ferraris as he wants and now has plenty of free time to hang out with Abe Froman.

So along with the new head coach search, the Cutler topic becomes front and center. As Phil Emery approaches the halfway point of his seeming goal of interviewing 50 candidates, (No truth to the rumor that yours truly is on that list. As much as I know, even I would admit that the head job might be a bit of a stretch. But, Andy Reid keeps calling me, and since he hired a fry cook to run his defense in Philly, who knows? Maybe my density is on the sidelines of Kansas City! (Free beer if you get that reference!))

As we discussed last week on CTL, I feel Cutler is at the heart of this coaching decision. Since it is very obvious that Emery feels that Cutler is a franchise quarterback it would figure that his new coach feels the same way. (I guess I am out!!) (Sorry, I had to take that. I apologize to any Cutler apologists that I may have offended!) (Seriously, Im not drinking. I usually dont start until Im halfway through one of these! For those of you doing the math, that right, Im on my way to another 2000 word opus. Hold on!)

So for me, you can take any defensive name out of the mix. For that matter, I cant see anyone with prior NFL head-coaching experience either. Im thinking of an existing NFL offensive coordinator. To be specific, Colts assistant Bruce Arians. Arians is an it guy now for the job he did with the Indianapolis Colts, stepping in for Chuck Pagano as head coach as Pagano fought his inspiring battle against leukemia. The Colts 9-3 record under Arians, for the team with the worst record in the league last year, was nothing short of astounding. Arians is a career coach who has spent nine years in the NFL as an offensive coordinator. He was Peyton Mannings first QB coach in the NFL. (I know this means he served under Manning, but who better to learn from?) He also had a successful 5-year stint in Pittsburgh with Ben Rap, excuse me, I mean Ben Roethlisberger, winning two Super Bowls. His downfield type of attack would fit with Cutlers gunslinger mentality. I also think he is smart enough to understand that Jay needs to roll out more to take advantage of his cannon arm and avoid his sometimes awful pocket throwing mechanics. Maybe its just me, but Jay always seems better on the move. Since his career numbers bear that out, you would think at some point his Bears OC would incorporate that into his repertoire.

For all his experience, and success, you have to wonder why, at 60, that Arians hasnt been offered a head coaching job before. You would also have to think, at 60, that he would be amendable to any parameters put on him. That would include my guess that the Bears hierarchy, read that how you want, would like to maintain the coaches on the defensive side of the ball. That would offer defensive continuity to a unit getting a little long in the tooth, not to mention offset some of the Lovie paid vacation costs. Having a new coach that only has to worry primarily about the offensive side of the ball as a 1st time head coach would seem like a no-brainer. Offering a four-year deal as opposed to a three-year one would be one way to ease the pain of forcing coaches on him.

Naturally, Im probably way off base with my thinking, but we know that wouldnt be a first now would it? At least though, I dont think Ive veered off as far as Brent Musburger did during the national title game on Monday. Or was that an Alabama scrimmage? Anyway, as Im finding out, the older you get, the smaller the filter. I cant wait to hear what he says next. Oh, and buy the way, for all of those who are feigning outrage, they could have heard 20 times worse on just about any other channel on TV at that time, so lighten up Francis.

The other big news is the end of the NHL lockout. What? You didnt know about that? Trust me, youre in the majority. Ive had about two conversations a week about in the bar. What the NHL doesnt understand is that its niche entertainment, kind of like the WWE. If its there, people will watch, but in this day and age there are too many other options to fill the sports fans plate. This is especially true in a world where NFL coverage is 247 during the season. Wake me when its over. It is? OK, Ill watch. Funny, but for the real fan, this might work to the better. With the compressed schedule, playoff style hockey, which is what we all watch for anyway, will come sooner since every game will mean that much more. Were going to get 5 months of games anyway, so what was lost or gained? The owners implement a salary cap and then try to find every way to circumvent it? The problem is that there are too many teams, plain and simple. And these lower rung teams are bringing down the leagues financial stability and product quality. Contract teams and keep the 48-game schedule. Now that would be a product that fans would watch, and miss.

Another thing that we could not miss this week was the baseball Hall of Fame vote, or lack thereof. What a big shock. As Ive written many times the ripple effects of the Selig Steroid Era in Major League Baseball are going to be felt for a long, long time. The point this week is that in addition to the lack of any competent oversight of drug enhancement abuse at the major league level, the same can be said for the criterion of baseball writers making the decisions of who gets in or not. I dont know about you, but I find it ironic that many who turned a blind eye during the career of these abusers are now becoming holier than thou.

One argument that gets me going is the blaming of the union for this mess. Of course they are going to protect their own. Duh. But where they ever really pressed on the issue in any negotiation besides the last one? Was there any mention of this during the 94 lockout? Was there? Do you remember Lenny Dykstra back then? And Im only pulling one guy out of a hat. Tons of guys were juicing. Roids in baseball didnt start with McGwire and Sosa in 98. As always the issue was money, not integrity. If the owners pushed the topic as hard as they did financials, this wouldnt be as bad. But in a management culture that had turned its attention away from amphetamines and cocaine until it absolutely had to deal with it, what did you expect? Bonds and Clemens were players for the ages. Unfortunately, besides being abusers, allegedly,(LOL) they played the role of all-time jerks to the hilt. Its easy to accept them not getting in since most fans dont like them anyway. But that isnt whats being judged. As much as it pains me, if there is no proof beyond the smell-test, how can they be denied? Furthermore, if they can be denied on suspicion or unusable evidence, who should be let in? I know Frank Thomas and Jim Thome would appear as non-abuse guys, but can you say thats 100 true? Who knows? Its doubtful for sure, but isnt our judicial system built on that word? Doubt. When everything a fan hears is that most guys were doing it, wouldnt it stand to reason that guys we would never expect would be among them. I would think that to be very reasonable. So how do you just put those two in when they come up with a clear conscience?

What this leaves us with is one big mess. I dont know that Ive heard one cure-all solution that everyone can feel good about. There should be a fair, equitable solution. But that would take some people in very high places taking a public stance that they dont want to be put in. So they leave it to the writers to decide, and so far they are an apprehensive judge and jury coming from some of the things they are writing and saying. This is a time that again calls for decisive leadership and once again in MLB that seems to be sorely lacking.

Thankfully though, this weekend will bring our focus back to where it should be: The NFL playoffs. Divisional weekend is the best of the year with the potential for four great games. Ive been wrong all year, but Ill still give it a go. Ive been rooting for Peyton Manning all year and the genius of John Elway to get him there. Add to that, my now sports-crazed 10-year-old son just bought a Manning jersey with his own holiday bounty as Im typing this and you can guess who Im picking there. In San Francisco, I know that the Niners man-handled New England a couple of weeks ago in the most impressive road win of the year and pounded the Packers in the season opener in Green Bay, but its hard for me to bet against Aaron Rogers with the way he has been playing lately and in the playoffs for his career. Is this the year that Atlanta finally ends their playoff misery? Nope. Once again they run into this years buzz-saw in the form of the Seattle Seahawks. Trust me, that does not make me happy and for once, I hope Im wrong. And in the finale, your choice is Matt Shaub or Tom Brady at home. Is that a choice? Sorry Houston, hes your problem.

And, to leave on a high note, did you know that there is such a thing as Pinterest? Neither did I, but Sammy Sosa does. Judging from what I saw, hes fine without the HOF after his name and, like his choice of bats, he sometimes also makes mistakes with his sweaters.

High School Lites Week 2 basketball capsules

High School Lites Week 2 basketball capsules

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school basketball games across Chicagoland for another basketball edition of High School Lites. Catch the show live at 11 p.m. Friday on CSN and streaming at CSNChicago.com

The show will feature numerous teams in the CSN Preps Power Rankings. The best game on Friday night could be No. 16 Benet traveling to No. 15 Notre Dame in a clash of unbeatens in the ESCC but there will be plenty of other highlights to check for.

The Red-West, North Suburban and Southland are all prominently featured on the show this week while High School Lites will also have highlights from the SouthWest Suburban.

This week's Viewers' Choice Game of the Week generated over 5,000 votes as Von Steuben will travel to Taft to represent the Red-North.

We'll also have a Getting to Know feature on Conant senior guard Jimmy Sotos.

Thursday's Game

Hyde Park at No. 7 Kenwood, 4:30 p.m. -- Kenwood will try to keep its momentum going as they host Hyde Park in a Red-Central battle. Kenwood (5-1, 1-0) is coming off of a Red-Central win over Dunbar earlier this week while Hyde Park (3-1, 1-0) defeated Lindblom for a conference victory as well. The Broncos are still unbeaten in Illinois as they're relying on senior big man Manny Patterson and his talented group of teammates. Hyde Park is trying to figure things out in head coach Jevon Mamon's first season as Andrew Anderson had a nice game against U-High at the Chicago Elite Classic.

Friday's Games

No. 11 North Lawndale at Westinghouse, 4:30 p.m. -- The Red-West is going to be a lot of fun to watch this season as this should be an interesting game. The Phoenix (5-1, 1-0) knocked off Marshall for a Red-West win on Wednesday while Westinghouse (3-3, 0-1) is coming off of a tough double-overtime loss to Farragut. Westinghouse is going to have to slow down Carlos Hines and Martrell Barnes but they can counter with a talented senior of their own in Coreyoun Rushin.  

Kankakee at Crete-Monee, 6:00 p.m. -- We also head to the Southland on Friday night as Kankakee (1-3, 0-1) travels to Crete-Monee (3-2, 1-0). The Warriors survived a high-scoring, double-overtime win over Rich East on Wednesday as they're led by senior and Toledo commit Dwayne Rose, the nephew of Derrick Rose. Kankakee is off to a sluggish start as they've lost some close games and they could use a conference road win here.

Rich East at No. 19 Bloom, 7:00 p.m. -- Keeping it in the Southland, Rich East (2-4, 0-1) will try to shake off a double-overtime loss this week as they travel to face No. 19 Bloom. Rich East has two one-point losses and the double-OT loss to Crete-Monee this year, so they could be better than the 2-4 record indicates. Bloom (4-1, 1-0) was impressive during Thanksgiving week at the Chicago Heights Classic as they look like one of the premier teams in the South Suburbs this year.

No. 24 Thornton at Lincoln-Way West, 7:00 p.m. -- These two teams battled in the SouthWest Suburban Red last season and both programs return some key pieces. Lincoln-Way West (2-4, 1-0) is led by senior Marco Pettinato as he's an All-Area candidate and big-time scorer. Thornton (3-2) will counter with a big scorer of its own with senior Alonzo Verge.

No. 16 Benet at No. 15 Notre Dame, 7:00 p.m. -- This could be the best matchup of Friday night as two unbeatens clash in the ESCC. Benet (5-0) is coming off of a runner-up finish in Class 4A as they bring back some talented players like Jack Nolan, Liam Lyman and Justin Enochs. The Redwings have looked very good early this season as they've piled up a lot of double-digit wins. Notre Dame (6-0) is also off to a hot start as they picked up an overtime win over Loyola and another victory over Bartlett last weekend. The Dons have a lot of size on the inside as Chris Heinichen, Jeameril Wilson and Sean Johnson are all 6-foot-5 or bigger.

No. 12 Stevenson at Mundelein, 7:00 p.m. -- Stevenson is off to a great start as they try to carry that into Mundelein in this North Suburban contest. The Patriots (6-0, 2-0) are led by Indiana commit and senior Justin Smith as he's one of the best players in the state this season. Mundelein (2-4, 0-1) dropped one to Zion-Benton earlier this week as they try to get back on track in the North Suburban race.

Lake Zurich at Zion Benton, 7:00 p.m. -- Two team with high expectations in the North Suburban face each other in this one. Zion-Benton (2-1, 1-1) dropped a conference game to leader Stevenson last weekend but recovered with a double-digit win over Mundelein during the week. Lake Zurich (4-1, 0-1) dropped its conference opener to Waukegan after a 4-0 start to the season.

Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Von Steuben at Taft, 6:30 p.m. -- This week's poll was a tight one as over 5,000 people voted and this game barely beat Lane at Uplift. The Panthers (0-2, 0-1) are trying to pick up their first win of the season after losing to an out-of-state opponent and No. 9 Uplift. Senior Rafael Cruz put up monster numbers last season as he's the player to watch for Von Steuben. Taft opened its Red-North slate at home against Lincoln Park as they're facing two tough opponents right out of the gate at home. They'll try to capitalize on those early conference home games with a win here.

Koji Uehara would add another dimension to Cubs bullpen

Koji Uehara would add another dimension to Cubs bullpen

The Cubs are reportedly on the verge of adding another pitcher who’s notched the final out of a World Series as Theo Epstein’s front office builds out the bullpen for manager Joe Maddon.

The Cubs are nearing a one-year, $4.5 million deal with Koji Uehara, according to Nikkan Sports in Japan, which would open up even more possibilities for the defending champs in front of All-Star closer Wade Davis.

The Cubs made their biggest splash during this week’s winter meetings at National Harbor in Maryland by trading young outfielder Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals for Davis, who finished off Game 5 in the 2015 World Series.

Uehara closed out the 2013 World Series for the Boston Red Sox, the beginning of three straight seasons where he put up 20-plus saves. The Cubs have not confirmed an agreement is in place.

The Cubs needed another lefty presence with Mike Montgomery – the pitcher on the mound when the 108-year drought ended in November – moving to the rotation and Travis Wood likely leaving as a free agent.

Uehara throws right-handed, but he shuts down left-handed hitters (.183 batting average, .555 OPS across 800 at-bats) and has appeared in seven postseason series after a distinguished career in Japan.

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Uehara will turn 42 the day after Opening Day. But an array of relievers should help preserve Uehara, strengthen Carl Edwards Jr. (who’s generously listed at 170 pounds) and maybe prevent the late-season injuries that marginalized Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop during the playoffs.

“We’re going to try to build up a ton of depth,” Epstein said. “We’re going to try to build up a really talented, deep bullpen with a lot of different options that you can use in close games.

“Instead of three late-game options, it would be ideal if you had five or six. And you could always like who you’re turning to in the ‘pen and not feel the need to use a Rondon four out of five times.

“(We could) use them every other day and occasional back-to-backs. And that would help keep them fresh down the stretch – and help keep them strong in October.”