Cubs

Bears 2012 season guaranteed to make someone happyunless

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Bears 2012 season guaranteed to make someone happyunless

Do you realize that the 2012 season, still more than three months away but it already is all but assured of making one group of watchers happy no matter how it comes out?

Heres how that works:

Good year

If the Bears do well, as in the third consecutive 10-6 or better assessment of CSNChicago.com (the 2010 call was right; the 2011 one was as well at 7-3 before Jay Cutler went down), the majority of Chicago will be generally happy. Players and coaches dont always get this, but Chicago wants to love its Bears.

The over-under point for the Bears is 8.5 wins, which has the faint feel of a suckers bet since the Bears won eight games last season without Cutler for six games, Matt Forte for almost five and Brandon Marshall for any.

Bad year

Nothing is ever assured in the NFL, including the Bears improving from last season. So a team that should win 10 or 11 could wind up losing that many; just ask Mike Ditkas last team (5-11 in 1992 from 11-5 in 1991).

That fall from grace was enough to get Ditka fired despite playoffs the previous two and seven of the previous eight seasons. Obviously, if the Bears miss the playoffs for the fifth time in the six seasons since Super Bowl XLI, Lovie Smith wont be back for a 10th season (Ditka had 11).

That would make happy the Smith-haters who didnt think Smith deserved any more of a pass on last seasons collapse than Jerry Angelo got.

Gregg Rosenthal over at NFL.com is the latest to note the obvious that Smith is under immediate pressure to win, something made amply apparent in post-Angelo-firing remarks by George McCaskey and Ted Phillips and even more so in the hiring of Phil Emery.

Either way, somebody will be happy with the way this season turns out.

Unless

Smith signed a two-year contract extension in February 2011, running through the 2013 season. Matters will get interesting should the Bears go, say, 10-6 but dont make the playoffs.

Could happen. The 2008 Patriots went 11-5 and missed. The 2010 Buccaneers and Giants went 10-6 and missed, then New York went 9-7 last season and won the Super Bowl.

Then what do the Bears do?

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: