Saturday, March 10, 2012

Weber out as Illini coach

The University of Illinois fired head men's basketball coach on Friday after 9 years in Champaign. Athletic Director Mike Thomas has made it clear that losing is not an option in any Fighting Illini sport. Since his hiring, Thomas has fired head football coach Ron Zook, head women's basketball coach Jolette Law, and now the men's basketball coach is packing his bags as well.

Thomas has also made it clear that he wants to strengthen the school's relationship with the city of Chicago, a relationship that has been weakened. After the Illini victory over Northwestern (a school who has named themselves "Chicago's Big Ten Team") Thomas made sure to play "Sweet Home Chicago" in the stadium. He also added the state of Illinois' outline at center court and started programs with the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Fire that offer special ticket deals for Illini fans, students, alumni, and family.

Thomas will likely pursue a coach that he believes can recruit better in the Chicagoland area than Weber was. I also suspect that he wants a coach that is relatively young. The two big names that come to mind are VCU's Shaka Smart and Butler's Brad Stevens. Both are young coaches who took programs that rarely made the NCAA Tournament and brought them to the Final Four. I personally would like to see Smart hired. Other names brought up are Scott Drew of Baylor, Gregg Marshall of Wichita State, Anthony Grant of Alabama, and even Derrick Rose's coach at Simeon.

Nonethless, I think it is clear that the entire Illinois Athletic Department is undergoing a rebuilding period. As Northwestern also improves, I think that it is clear that both major college athletics programs in the state are making a push for national prominence.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Why the Cubs need to take Fielder seriously

Now that Albert Pujols has found a new home in California, it is time for baseball to turn its attention to Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder, who is also a free agent this winter. I am not all that dissapointed that the Cubs did not pursue Albert Pujols for two reasons. One is that he is not the kind of player that you are going to build a team around. The Cubs are in a re-building stage, and Pujols is too old to be a centerpiece of a re-building team. The second is that expectations would be too high. If the Cubs were to sign the best player in baseball, they would be expected to contend immediately, and I don't think they could.

Prince Fielder, however, is a different story. Fielder is younger, giving the Cubs more time to work with him and re-build around him. Also, he has always remained fairly "under the radar" despite putting up numbers that make him among the best in the game. Fielder is no doubt a superior option for the Cubs. He is an option that the Cubs must take seriously.

Not only is Fielder a great candidate for the Cubs, but he is a necessary one. The proper way to re-build is to re-build around a player that stands out. Without Fielder, the Cubs don't have that player. Ramirez is getting old and Soriano cannot be counted on for anything. The Cubs have done a nice job building up several quality young players, and Fielder would provide a centerpiece for the re-building. After that, you could trade Ramirez or Soriano (if anyone wants to pay him) and start new.

Rumors have been slow-coming over the Fielder situation. A friend of Fielder's reportedly said that his coice would be to play in Chicago, although similar rumors surfaced about Miami. At this point, the Marlins say that they won't be involved in courting Fielder. So who else? The Rangers have been rumored for awhile, and now that division-rival Los Angeles has aquired Pujols, they may want to make a splash. Other than that, Peter Gammons told CSN Chicago that the Cubs are going about the situatiion correctly, saying that he believes that Prince will end up on the North Side. However, a few hours later, Gammons tweeted that the Cubs are not likely to sign Fielder because the money isn't there. The situation appears open.

I trust Theo Epstein and his staff to get this one right. The Cubs are being presented with a prime opportunity to establish themselves as a favorite in the NL Central with Pujols out of St. Louis. Theo knows a thing or two about building World Series teams, and I trust that he will bring that knowledge to Chicago. If the Cubs want to contend in the next 5 years, they need to start making moves now.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Santo voted in

A committee of 16 baseball writers and former players voted Ron Santo into baseball's Hall of Fame by a margin of 94% to 6%, according to the Chicago Tribune. This is long-awaited news, as Santo has been turned down several times. Santo joins Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and Ryne Sandberg in the hall. Santo was most famous for his heel-clicks after a victory.

The news is somewhat bitter-sweet, however. A year ago this month, Santo died of complications from his long fight with diabetes. It deeply saddens me that he did not live to see himself inducted into the hall. You may remember him saying that the Cubs' retiring his number was far more important to him than the Hall of Fame, but the pain in his eyes every year that he was rejected was so difficult for all of us to watch. How I would have loved to see his eyes light up after getting the call that he was in.

Nonetheless, I am sure that Ronnie is smiling down from heaven now, watching all of his accomplishments be honored at the highest level of baseball accomplishment. Baseball season this year wasn't the same without turning on WGN Radio and hearing Santo's voice. I am happy to know that Santo is finally being recognized, as he was not only one of the greatest baseball players, but he was a kind and gentle soul who did so many great things for diabetes awareness, the City of Chicago, and baseball fans across the country.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Evaluating the Bears chances without Jay Cutler

Despite a satisfying victory against San Diego on Sunday, bringing the Bears to 7-3 and looking to take the Wild Card with ease, Sunday turned into a miserable day for the Chicago Bears. A few hours after the game, the Chicago media broke reports that Jay Cutler had broken his thumb and would need surgery, leaving him out 6-8 weeks. The Bears confirmed the injury and said that Cutler would have surgery on Tuesday, but declined to comment on a timetable.

This, of course, has caused many Bears fans to panic about the team's chances. Some are questioning whether or not the playoffs are possible anymore. Today, we are going to take a deep breath and evaluate the Bears chances for the rest of the season.

While the injury has caused panic in Chicago, and rightly so, it is important to remember that the Bears running game is superb. Matt Forte is having the season of his life despite a slight decline in recent weeks, and Marion Barber, a power back, has been a pleasant suprise. Forte as well as the defense will have to step it up as we move forward, but I don't see any reason why that isn't possible. Remember when the Bears went all the way to the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman at quarterback? Now all they need to do is win a few games.

There is the possibility of the Bears bringing in a veteran QB to take over until Jay is possibly well enough to play. Names like Mark Bulger and Brett Favre have been brought up. I would be quite optimistic with Bulger at starting QB, but not Favre. Nonetheless, Caleb Hanie has some primetime experience after Cutler went out with a knee injury last year in the NFC Championship, and he is definitely one of the better back-up quarterbacks in the NFL.

Now, let's evaluate the schedule that this Bears team must face without their quarterback. It really isn't that bad. The first stretch of the seaosn was much more difficult than the second half, working out well for the situation. Next week, the Bears face Oakland, which is their toughest game for the remainder of the season other than Green Bay on Christmas Day. They also face Kansas City, Denver, and Minnesota. If they can win 3-4 games, which I believe they could do against the Chiefs, Seahawks, Vikings, and possibly the Broncos, they would be 10-6 or 11-5.

Is that good enough for the playoffs? Two teams can win the Wild Card, and right now the top contenders are Chicago (7-3), Detroit (7-3), Atlanta (6-4), and the New York Giants (6-4). The Lions have a very tough schedule ahead, playing Green Bay twice. The Giants do as well, having to play Dallas twice, Green Bay once, the Saints once, and the Jets once. Atlanta's is not so tough, but they do face the Saints and Tampa Bay, each once. I expect the Giants to fall out of the race with their schedule, making it a three-way race for two spots, unless another team pops up. The Bears have a head start on Atlanta, leading them by a game, and Detroit's schedule puts them at a disadvantage.

Ovwerall, I think that the Bears' shot at the playoffs is not as dim as some may make it seem, but that goes without saying that the defense is definitely going to have to pick up their game. The game against the Broncos will be crucial, as it is possibly the difference between 10-6 and 11-5. We will see how it goes as we move forward, but you never know. With Cutler's toughness, he could be back before the Denver game. Afterall, he's got some unfinished buisness with them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Multiple reports: Theo Epstein to Cubs

Throughout the day, developments about Theo Epstein's future with the Cubs have taken place. Multiple reporting agencies including FOX Chicago, FOX Boston, WEEI, ESPN's Buster Olney, and the Chicago Tribune are reporting that Epstein and the Cubs have agreed to a 5yr/$15-20mil deal, although the Cubs will not confirm the report.

Epstein won two World Series championships as General Manager of the Boston Red Sox, but after the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs in 2011 they started cutting ties with staff, including manager Terry Francona.

Many questions remain with Epstein at GM. I would personally assume that he is going to fire Mike Quade as his first move. The question is then who will be managing the Cubs next year. Many have speculated that Theo will pursue Ryne Sandberg because he asked Ryno to manage Red Sox minor league affiliate Pawtucket. Former GM Jim Hendry took a pass on Sandberg last year, despite Ryno being a fan favorite and a Cubs hall of famer as a player.

I am very happy about this move by the Cubs. Firing Hendry was the right thing to do, as he seemed unwilling to re-build as GM. Hiring Epstein is right because he is a baseball genius and knows how to take a team with little or no World Series experience all the way.

One thing I stress to Cubs fans is to give him time. I have seen many people on the internet today talking about World Series aspirations for the 2012 season. While that is always a great goal, Epstein deserves more than one year to turn the club around. I am confident that he can bring the Cubs a World Series in the five years on his contract, but only if the fans are patient with him.

I will have any updates on the Cubs as well as some football coverage coming up. Remember that you can get sports news quicker by following @WCSBlog on Twitter, and then you can read about the details here later. I look forward to following the Cubs as this plays out. Go Cubs!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bears Update

The Bears lost to the New York Giants on Monday, in a game that I would prefer to talk about as little as possible. The offensive line looked horrible yet again and is proving to be our biggest weak spot this season. But, what's new, right?

The Bears will take on Tenessee on Saturday in their third of four preseason games. The countdown to the first regular season game continues, which will take place on September 11 at Soldier Field against the Atlanta Falcons.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bears 10, Bills 3

In the first preseason game of the summer, the Bears beat Buffalo by a score of 10-3. For preseason, we will do post-game stories in a "notes" style post, meaning they will be bullet point observations rather than a story.

-Offensive Line: The o-line stole the show on Saturday - in a bad way. They gave up 9 sacks and at some points it didn't even look like they were trying. It reminded me of last year's regular season game against the Seahawks in which Seattle defenders blew right through our line and sacked Cutler within 2 seconds of the snap.

-Marion Barber: He was the most positive story of the night. He had 7 carries for 45 yards and one touchdown. With Forte in contract disputes (although he did show up for the game on Saturday), Barber has a nice opportunity to show what he can do.

-Johnny Knox: Knox impressed in the return game as well as the recieving game. He had a nice return that almost went for a touchdown (although the offense squandered the opportunity) and also made a case for himself at wide reciever. I hope we don't see this guy leave any time soon.

-Kahlil Bell: Bell, who's been under the radar for three years now, carried for 73 yards and raised a lot of eyebrows. Expect to hear a lot of "What the hell, give it to bell!" shouts at Soldier Field this year.

-Robbie Gould: A little bit of a dissapointing night for Gould, as he missed a field goal before making up for it and hitting a 40-yarder. Not anything to be concerned about, of course, but it is mentionable.

-Punters: The Bears are trying out a couple different punters after Maynard's release (he signed with Houston the other day), and I think they will soon regret releasing Maynard. Chicago had some dismal punts on Saturday.

-Bears coaching staff: The coaches stole the show after the game, when it was realized that the Bears kicked off from the 30 instead of the 35 for the entire first half of the game. The rule was changed this year for the kickers to kick closer to the far endzone to increase touchbacks and decrease injuries. The Bears voted against this rule and refused to obey it (although it has been speculated that the real motivation was to get a better look at their players). They complied when instructed to at halftime.

The next preseason game for the Bears is in the Meadowlands as they visit the New York Football Giants. Expect a post-game story from that, as well as any news that pops up concerning Notre Dame, Illinois, Northwestern, and, of course, the Chicago Bears.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

2011 Bears Predictions

L vs. FALCONS - A tough opponent for the Bears to open up with, Atlanta is definitely a playoff caliber team. Not to mention, the Bears are a very weak team in their first game, at least in the past few years.

W @ Saints - I don't buy the hype that New Orleans is getting this year. They embarrassed themselves last year in the playoffs, and didn't even look all that strong in the regular season. Their major off-season story was re-signing Reggie Bush, an overrated bust.

L vs. PACKERS - This one could go either way. Green Bay is looking like the best team in the NFL this year, but the Bear fans and players will be hungry for revenge after last year's NFC Championship loss in Chicago. I'm marking it down as a loss, but look for an upset special.

W @ PANTHERS - Carolina is falling apart, drafting yet another QB in the first round, they seem to be run by people who know nothing about football. They won't be any good this year, and the Bears will steamroll through Charlotte, NC, for their first easy win of the season.

W @ Lions - Detroit will be much improved this year, but I still see them finishing behind the Bears. Just like the Green Bay game, though, this one could go either way, but it will go down as a win in my predictions.

W vs. VIKINGS - The Vikings will finish last in the division and return to the mediocrity that they have enjoyed for many years prior to their little run with Brett Favre. Expect two easy wins against Minny.

W @ Buccaneers (London) - Another toss-up here, although playing in London gives an advantage to the Bears, as it is a Bucs home game. Probably a loss if it was in Tampa, but the nuetrality makes this one a toss-up. I will put it down as a "W" though, because I believe the Bears defense can handle Tampa's offense, a key match-up in this one.

L @ Eagles - The Eagles were the most improved team in this short off-season we have had, and they will be very good. I don't see the Bears making that much noise going into Philly.

W vs. LIONS - As mentioned above, the Lions will be much improved this year, and I marked the game at Ford Field as a toss-up, but Soldier Field will prove advantegous for Chicago, and I think they take care of buisness at home.

W vs. CHARGERS - San Diego is another team that I believe is getting more hype than they deserve. They will be in the playoffs this year, but only because the division they play in is so weak. The Bears will get this one at home.

L @ Raiders - Here is my official "Upset Special" for the 2011 season. I don't think the Raiders are going to be that great this year, but they have been improving and should be a little bit better than in past years. More importantly, this is usually the point in the season at which the Bears lose a game that they are expected to win (or in last year's case, two games against Seattle and Washington. Oakland over the Bears by the Bay.

W vs. CHIEFS - The Chiefs raised a few eyebrows last year after making the playoffs, but they do not lack the depth to keep up, and I don't see them returning to the post-season this year. The Bears shouldn't have too much trouble putting them away at home.

W @ Broncos - I don't see the Broncos making much noise this year, either. A weakening AFC West may get them a couple wins, but don't expect anything big. Kyle Orton is a great QB, he just needs some other great players to work with, and I don't see that happening this year.

W vs. SEAHAWKS - With off-season aquisitions Matt Leinart and Tavaris Jackson, Seattle is looking to re-build their offense to what it once was when Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander were in their primes. It's not going to happen overnight, though. Seattle will be helpless in this game, especially without the 12th Man.

L @ Packers - The Packers will most likely be in first place at this point in the season (I went through their schedule and had them at 13-3) and I see them sweeping Chicago this season. The Bears may have a chance a a Wild Card spot, but I'm on board with everyone else's prediction that Green Bay will be very good this year.

W @ Vikings - Like stated above, Minnesota is going to be terrible this year, and the Bears will beat them twice. I love Donovan McNabb, but he is past his prime, and Chrisitian Ponder will take a few years to settle in.

So, I have the Bears at 11-5, with a few games to give or take. In addition to the toss-ups, there are always one or two games that I see as a victory and they end up losing, so the Bears could easily end up at 10-6 or 9-7.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Football Season

Welcome back to Windy City Sports blog. It's been awhile, unfotunately, with the Cubs making almost no noise. However, there has been a recent revival of news in the Chicago sports world.

Last week, the NFL lockout ended, meaning that there will officially be an NFL season, with the only thing cancelled being the Hall Of Fame game between the Rams and our Bears.

Football season is the most exciting time in sports, in my opinion, and Windy City Sports will be dedicated to bringing you news and analysis of all Chicago football teams throughout the season. We plan on having game previews, especially in the weeks before big match-ups, post-game summaries, as well as other important news and analysis throughout the weeks ahead.

Of course we will be covering the Bears to the best of our abilities (that is expected), but I also want to explain our college football coverage. We are dedicated to bringing in-depth NCAA coverage to our readers in addition to our Bears coverage. We try to meet the demands of our readers, so this year we will be adding the Northwestern Wildcats to our coverage, as they are an up-and-coming team in the area. Of course, we will continue to cover the two schools that we believe have the largest fanbases in Chicagoland: Notre Dame and Illinois. In addition, we will have some stories that will include the Northern Illinois Huskies, as well as the entire Big Ten Conference.

The final thing I would like to address in this post is our Twitter account (@WCSBlog). Throughout the last year, we have had a Twitter account and have experimented with it. We believe it can be a great tool to bring brief updates to our fans, especially throughout the game. We will continue to use Twitter as a supplement to our blog here on Blogspot.

I hope you enjoy our coverage throughout the upcoming season, and if you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please feel free to contact me at, or send me a Tweet on Twitter at @WCSBlog.

Thanks again, and GO BEARS!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cubs take 3 of 4 from Brewers

The Cubs finished off their divisional series with Milwaukee yesterday, a series in which the Cubs looked much better than they have in recent weeks. This was due to some good pitching, both starting and relief, especially by Ryan Dempster. Milwaukee remains in first place due to the Cardinals struggles against the Nationals in D.C.

This weekend, the Cubs will have the opportunity to host the New York Yankees. This will be a fun interleague matchup. However, Derek Jeter will not be trying for his 3,000th hit, as he was placed on the 15-day DL earlier this week. Hopefully the Cubs sucess against the Brew Crew will continue this weekend against the Bronx Bombers. Today's pitching matchup is between two veterans, Freddy Garcia (NYY) and Doug Davis (CHC). Gametime today is 1:20pm central time.