Cubs

Alex Rodriguez could be out for 2 months

791710.jpg

Alex Rodriguez could be out for 2 months

From Comcast SportsNet
SEATTLE (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez has broken his left hand after being hit by a pitch from Felix Hernandez in the eighth inning of the New York Yankees' 4-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night. Rodriguez was the third player to be hit by a pitch from Hernandez. He immediately fell to the ground, wincing in pain and was removed from the game. The Yankees said afterward that A-Rod had a non-displaced fracture of the left hand, and there was no timetable for his return. He will be placed on the disabled list and will see the team's doctor when the club returns to New York after Wednesday's series finale. Hernandez also hit Derek Jeter and former teammate Ichiro Suzuki.

Eddie Olczyk delivers motivational message to Cubs fans

eddie_olczyk.jpg

Eddie Olczyk delivers motivational message to Cubs fans

Eddie Olczyk had a special message for the Cubbie faithful ahead of Game 5 of the NLCS.  

The Blackhawks’ color commentator passed along an inspiring message that was played on the Wrigley Field jumbotron right before first pitch:

“It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get up,” Olczyk said as North Siders cheered.

Olczyk’s motivational pep talk had extra meaning given that he’s in the midst of his own fight. The Chicago legend was diagnosed with colon cancer in August and has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment ever since. His resilience is unmistakable, though. Olczyk returned to the broadcast booth this week and will continue announcing as his health allows.

Even with all that’s happening in his own life, Olczyk is still putting on for his hometown teams.

As the Bears begin to form an identity, special teams need to catch up

10-19michaelcampanaro.jpg
USA Today

As the Bears begin to form an identity, special teams need to catch up

If you squint, you can start to see the Bears forming an identity. The offense, at its best, will control the game with Jordan Howard and an offensive line that’s improving with cohesion over the last few weeks. The defense will stop the run, rarely blow assignments and — at least last week — force a few turnovers. 

Those can be the makings of a team that's at least competitive on a week-to-week basis. But they also leave out a critical segment of this group: Special teams. And that unit is obscuring whatever vision of an identity that may be coming into focus. 

Jeff Rodgers’ special teams unit ranks 29th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, and is below average in all five categories the advanced statistics site tracks: field goals/extra points, kickoffs, kickoff returns, punts and punt returns. 

Had the Bears’ just merely "fine," for lack of a better term, on special teams Sunday, they would’ve controlled a win over the Baltimore Ravens from start to finish. But a 96-yard kickoff return (after the Bears went up 17-3) and a 77-yard punt return (which, after a two-point conversion, tied the game in the fourth quarter) were the Ravens’ only touchdowns of the game; they otherwise managed three field goals. 

Rodgers didn’t find much fault with the way the Bears covered Bobby Rainey’s kickoff return — he would’ve been down at the 23-yard line had the officiating crew ruled that Josh Bellamy got a hand on him as he was tumbling over. But the Bears players on the field (and, it should be said, a number of Ravens) stopped after Rainey hit the turf; he got up and dashed into the end zone for a momentum-shifting score. 

“A lot of our players stopped, all their players stopped,” Rodgers said. “There were players from both teams who came on to the field from the sideline. So there’s a lot of people on that particular play who thought the play was over.”

That return touchdown could be chalked up to an officiating-aided fluke, but Michael Campanaro’s punt return score was inexcusable given the situation of the game (up eight with just under two minutes left). The Bears checked into a max protect formation, and no players were able to wriggle free and get downfield toward Campanaro (Cre’von LeBlanc, who replaced an injured Sherrick McManis, was knocked to the turf). Rodgers said O’Donnell’s booming punt wasn’t the issue — it didn’t need to be directed out of bounds, he said — and instead pointed to a lack of execution by the other 10 players on the field. And not having McManis isn’t an excuse here. 

“We expect everybody to play at the standard at which that position plays,” Rodgers said. “I don’t put that touchdown on one guy getting hurt, but you’d always like to have your best players on the field.”

In isolation, the special teams mistakes the Bears have made this year can be explained — beyond these two returns, Marcus Cooper slowing up before the end zone was baffling, yet sort of fluky. But while the Bears’ arrow is pointing up on defense and, at the least, isn’t pointing down on offense, these special teams mistakes collective form a bad narrative. 

“We take those players, we practice it, and like all mistakes, you admit them and then you fix them,” coach John Fox said, “and then hope to God you don’t do it again.”