Cubs

Bears OL shuffle is the norm, not the exception

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Bears OL shuffle is the norm, not the exception

Maybe everyone should be used to this sort of thing.

The anticipated annual? shakeup of the Bears offensive line proceeded Thursday with Jonathan Scott replacing Gabe Carimi at right tackle and Chris Spencer returning to left guard in place of Chilo Rachal, who had been his replacement after the Green Bay game.

It felt pretty good, getting the calls down and communicating, things of that nature, Scott said. I think its definitely conducive to winning.

For Carimi it was a tough epilogue to a disastrous outing against the San Francisco 49ers and rush linebacker Aldon Smith, who abused Carimi, J'Marcus Webb and others for 5.5 sacks, a record for any Bears opponent.

It seemed like it just kept rolling worse and worse, Carimi said. I didnt play my best and I can only talk about myself. I needed to do a better job and didnt. I needed to step up and I didnt.

Situation normal: in complete flux

It is far from the first time that the Bears have had to scramble with a shuffle on the offensive line, not the first time Spencer has been a key figure, and not the first time that right tackle has been an issue.

Spencer began last year on the bench but was dropped in at right guard in Weeks 2-4 when Louis was down with an ankle injury and then just held out. Louis returned for Game 5 but by then the struggles of Frank Omiyale in place of Carimi had become unacceptable and Louis was shunted out to right tackle and Spencer brought in at right guard again.

Chaos does not automatically translate to collapse. The 2010 team had four different front-fives three different starting right tackles in the first six games. The result was a 4-2 mark in that stretch even with the nine-sack first half against the New York Giants that cost them a Jay Cutler game with a concussion.

If the Bears go 4-2 from this point, they are 11-5 and a virtual lock for the playoffs.

Searching for depth in the draft

The Bears didnt address their offensive line in the draft because the organization believed the tackle tandem of JMarcus Webb and Carimi, a No. 1 in the 2011 draft, was adequate at the time, with an arrow pointing up. Carimi was one of the top linemen when he was injured, so the expectation for improvement was anything but a stretch.

But you can never be too rich, too thin or have too many tackles and the Bears quietly drafted three extras: James Brown, a surprise undrafted free agent, signed April 29; Corey Brandon, an undrafted free agent with Tampa Bay last year, signed June 15; and Scott, added on Sept. 10. Brown and Brandon wound up on the practice squad.

The Bears appear to like Tampa Bay castoffs. Besides Brandon, defensive tackle Brian Price was signed during training camp (cut after preseason) and guard Chris Riley was signed on Thursday after spending the majority of the 2011 season on Tampa Bays practice squad.

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

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USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

In the latest edition of HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan makes his picks for the weekend.

Kap made his picks with the help of Eddie Olczyk this week.