Bears

On The Farm: Iowa Inches Closer To Division Title

On The Farm: Iowa Inches Closer To Division Title

Friday Sept. 3, 2010
Posted: 10:15 p.m.
By Kevin Czerwinski
CSNChicago.com

CUBSIowa AAA
The I-Cubs arent ready to give up first place just or their place in the Pacific Coast League playoffs. They made that much obvious Friday night at Principal Park by defeating Memphis, 4-2, in the opening game of a four-game series that will determine who wins the American North Division title.

Iowa took over sole possession of first and need to win two of the three remaining games to make the playoffs. Should the two teams split, Memphis would win on a tiebreaker. The I-Cubs have been in first or shared a piece of it for 47 consecutive days.

Brad Snyder continued his spectacular season, connecting for his career-best 25th homer in the seventh inning. The solo shot snapped a 2-2 tie and increased his career best RBI total to 103, second best in the PCL. Matt Camps RBI single in the eighth gave the I-Cubs a two-run cushion. Bobby Scales was 1-for-2, extending his hitting streak to 12 games. Hes batting .357 15-for-42 during the streak.

Luke Sommer pitched two scoreless innings for his first Triple-A victory before Jeff Stevens picked up his 10th save despite a shaky ninth inning.

In other action, Daytona was officially eliminated from the Florida State League playoff race after dropping a 3-2 decision at Lakeland. Luis Castillo bunted home Francisco Martinez in the 10th inning with the run that knocked the Cubs out of post-season contention. Brooks Raley started and allowed a run over 5 23 innings. Daytona managed only four hits, one of which was a Junior Lake two-out, two-run homer in the ninth that knotted the score at 2-2. Peoria lost 4-2 at Kane County. Brett Wallach allowed three runs in four innings to fall to 0-4 in seven starts as a Cub. Carolina edged Tennessee, 5-4, in 10 innings. Steve Clevenger had three doubles for the Smokies while Tony Thomas had a double, a triple and two RBIs. Esmailin Caridad took the loss. Trey McNutt started and allowed three runs in six innings. ... Eduardo Figueroa allowed an unearned run over five innings, picking up the victory as Boise defeated Yakima, 4-3.

Matt Szczur
Chicago prospect Matt Szczur, who left Peoria last month to return to Villanova to play football, made his season debut Friday night in a 31-24 loss to Temple. Szczur caught five passes for 17 yards, had five carries for 18 yards, completed his only pass attempt for 26 yards, returned a punt for one yard and returned seven kickoffs for 170 yards.
WHITE SOXWinston-Salem A
Terry Doyle had his final tune-up for the Carolina League playoffs on Friday and though he was a little shaky demonstrated that hes ready for the post-season in Winston-Salems 6-4 victory over Lynchburg at BB&T Ballpark.

Doyle 8-8 earned his third consecutive victory after scattering eight hits over five innings. He allowed four runs and surrendered a pair of homers in the process but still reached the .500 mark for the first time since July 20. Taylor Thompson and Brandon Kloess allowed two hits over the final four innings with the latter picking up his first save.

Andrew Garcia had two hits, including a homer, and three RBIs. Nick Ciolli extended his Carolina League hitting streak to six games while the Dash pushed their winning streak to eight.
In other action, Kannapolis began its last series of the season by dropping a 5-2 decision to Lakewood at FirstEnergy Park. The Intimidators managed only three hits. John Spatola had one of them and drove in two. Charlotte was bested at Norfolk, 4-2. Brandon Hynick allowed three runs over six innings and fell to 1-4. The Knights were without Brent Morel, who was promoted to Chicago earlier in the day. Mississippi bested Birmingham, 6-1. Chris Marrero was 1-for-3 with an RBI. ... Host Helena scored ninth-inning run and edged playoff-bound Great Falls, 5-4. Mike Earley had two hits and two RBIs for the Voyagers.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Medium

Decisions to be made on: Mitch Unrein (free agent), John Jenkins (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: Jared Crick, Frostee Rucker, Dominique Easley

This unit was consistently the Bears’ best in 2017, with Akiem Hicks playing at a Pro Bowl level (don’t let his exclusion from the game fool you on that) and Eddie Goldman putting together a rock-solid, healthy year. 

Hicks signed a four-year contract extension just before the season began and rewarded the Bears with a dominant year, racking up 8 ½ sacks and 15 tackles for a loss. Goldman played in and started 15 games and was a key reason why the Bears limited opposing rushers to four yards per carry, tied for the 10th-best average in the league. 

But while the Bears’ defensive line was certainly good, it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. These words from Vic Fangio ring true for Hicks and Goldman:

“I think they all have a lot more to give to us than we’ve seen,” Fangio said. “And it’s our job to get them to improve and become even better players. That will be more important to us than anybody we can acquire between now and whenever our first game is. So, and I know it’s always sexy to talk between now and the first game, you know, who are you going to draft, who’s in free agency, etc., but we’ve got to get our so-called good players playing even better. And that will be critical.”

Hicks will enter Year 3 in Fangio’s scheme, while 2018 will be Goldman’s fourth. It’ll also be a critical year for Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris, who’ve flashed potential at times but haven’t been able to turn that into consistent success on the field. 

And that’s where we begin to look ahead to free agency and the draft. Is the Bears’ evaluation of Bullard -- their 2016 third-round pick -- positive enough to hand him a bigger role in 2018? That’s question No. 1 to answer, with No. 2 then being if the team should try to re-sign Mitch Unrein. 

It may be a bit risky to move forward with Bullard, given how popular Unrein was among the Bears’ defensive coaching staff. 

“He’s one of the glue guys on the defense and the team,” Fangio said last November. “Every team needs a few of those guys who are going to do everything right, full speed, hard and tough all the time, and that’s Mitch.”

Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers offered this up about Unrein back in October: “He allows those guys to play fast,” with “those guys” being Hicks and Goldman. 

Statistically, the 30-year-old Unrein doesn’t  jump off the page, but he did record a career high 2 ½ sacks in 2017. Perhaps there would be some benefits to continuity in the Bears’ base 3-4 defensive line.

Worth noting too is this position isn’t a huge need, given Unrein usually played between 40 and 55 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps on a per-game basis last year. Keeping Unrein for a relatively low cap hit would make some sense, as opposed to testing free agency to replace him.

Jared Crick is coming off back surgery and an ineffective 2016; Dominique Easley is coming off his third torn ACL this decade; Frostee Rucker is in his mid-30’s. The Bears could look to pick a 3-4 defensive end in April, but that would be a pretty quick re-draft of the position and would be an indication they don’t think much of Bullard. This seems like a position where keeping the status quo is likely, save maybe for replacing John Jenkins with a different backup behind Goldman. 
 

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

anthony_davis.jpg
AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”