The Force is Strong in This One: Bulls-Cavs Preview

May the fourth be with you. Today is Star Wars Day, the only holiday that justifies it’s existence with the use of a terrible pun. I’m not a hater of Star Wars Day, but couldn’t it happen on a different day, like May 25th (the release date of the 1st Star Wars movie)? I digress; today is also the opening game of the Eastern Conference semi-finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers. With Stars War on the brain, I got to thinking that this Bulls-Cavs series is very reminiscent of the Rebel Alliance’s battle with the Empire.  Here are my conclusions:

1) Derrick Rose is Luke Skywalker

Both men have suffered grave injuries in the line of battle (Rose and knee, Luke and his hand). Hopefully, DRose follows in Luke’s footsteps and defeats Darth Vader. Speaking of which…

2) LeBron James is Darth Vader

This doesn’t mean LeBron is evil, in fact both James and Vader are tragic characters in retrospect. LeBron was seen as a coward for leaving Cleveland for Miami. Vader made up for his transgressions through his death, while James is trying to do that with his return. It can also be said that LeBron is, in fact, a Basketball Sith Lord sent here to destroy opponents with his mastery of the force.

3) Joakim Noah is Princess Leia

This is not a stretch, I promise you. According to the Stars Wars Data Bank, “Princess Leia Organa was one of the Rebel Alliance’s greatest leaders, fearless on the battlefield and dedicated to ending the tyranny of the Empire.” Sound like a certain former Defensive MVP for a certain Chicago Bulls? Plus the hair, am I right?

4) Nikola Mirotic is Han Solo and Paul Gasol is Chewbacca

A scoundrel, a loose cannon, a man who cannot be tamed; all of these characteristics not only describes one of the greatest characters in the galaxy, but one of the greatest rookies in Chicago Bulls history. As for the Chewy-Gasol comparisons, both are know for their short tempers and their big hearts. Plus, they kind of look alike don’t they?

(Editors Note/Breaking News: Gasol cast as Chewbacca stand in for Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

5) Kyrie Irving is Galen Marek (Starkiller)

Now this one is the biggest stretch considering that Starkiller was only in “Force Unleashed” video games and not in the actual movie, but when the shoe fits. Starkiller was an assassin used by Vader to kill various members of the Jedi Order in order to begin war on the galaxy. Uncle Drew is an assassin on the basketball court, used by James when teams can be exploited by his passing and creating abilities or when an opponents back court is particularly weak.

6) Taj Gibson is Lando Calrissian

Quick witted and daring, Lando was an invaluable member of the Rebel Alliance. But, try as he might, he would never ever be able to replace Han. Sounds like Taj right? Important to the Bulls, but not a good enough replacement for Mirotic.

7) Aaron Brooks is R2-D2 and Mike Dunleavy is C-3PO

R2 is the gutsy little robot who is always there for a quick fix. He’s a skilled starship mechanic and fighter pilot’s assistance. He’ even there with Luke on Dagobah; strapped to Skywalker’s back as he is completing Yoda’s grueling training exercises. Aaron is the Bulls gutsy, quick-fix. He’s ready to help DRose when ever need be.

On the flip side, C-3PO is humanoid protocol droid designed for etiquette. Dunleavy is a 13-year pro who thrives using proper technique, footwork, and spacing. In order for the Bulls to be successful, both of these role players must find a way to rise to the occasion during pivotal events during this series much like R2 and C-3PO found there way into key events during the rebellion.

8) The rest of the Cavaliers are Stormtroppers

Minus Kevin Love, who is out of the lineup due to injury, the rest of Cleveland’s roster is of little consequence. The job of both and Stormtropper and a Cavalier is to contribute to the war effort while protecting those hire up the food chain. Both are necessary for victory, and both can beat you if you let them. But if you take away those who are in charge (James/Vader), then both with collapse into a conglomerate of individuals only looking out for themselves.

9) Tom Thibodeau is Admiral Ackbar

Admiral Ackbar was instrumental in the destruction of the Death Star II, and the eventual victory of the Rebel Alliance. Thibs needs to be just as decisive and tactical in order for the Bulls to overcome Cleveland in this semi-finals match up.

(Editor’s Note: How has a defensive-minded coach never said the word “trap” on national television?)

10) Jimmy Butler is Wedge Antilles

Now this one is the least obvious comparison, but it is the most important/best fitting. Wedge was one of the founding members of the Rogue Squadron, along with Luke Skywalker and Commander Arhul Narra. Wedge was a key member of the team that destroyed the first Death Star, as well as the pilot to eliminate Death Star II. He is the only fighter pilot to survive both skirmishes. The Bulls need Jimmy Butler to be Wedge Antilles. While Rose, Gasol, and Mirotic willl be focused upon by the Cav’s defense, it will be Butler who draws LeBron James on defense. If Butler can’t score against James, he must then be able to help his teammates exploit weaker match ups. It will also be up to Butler to slow James down defensively while players like Rose, Dunleavy, Brooks, and Tony Snell try and stop Kryie Irving defensively. Just like Antilles in Return of the Jedi, it will be up to Butler to destroy the Cavaliers right at their core.

My prediction for the game is Bulls in seven. With Kevin Love out for the remainder of the playoffs, and J.R. Smith suspended for the first two games, the Bulls have a fighting chance to win a game in Cleveland.

Either way, this series should go down to the wire.

(Food for thought)

First Round NFL Draft Grades

1) Tampa Bay: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State. (A-)

Pretty much the only pick that could be made. Hopefully he matures under Lovie Smith. If he doesn’t, he’s the new JaMarcus Russell. If he does, he’s the new Ben Roethlisberger.

2) Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon. (A-)

Bye bye Zach Mattenberger. Besides Chip Kelly, Titans’ coach Ken Wisenhunt is the best coach for Mariota to cut his teeth under. Wisenhunt is a QB guru and, under his tutelage, he can really develop into a fringe Pro Bowl type player.

3) Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Folwer Jr., DE/OLB, Florida. (A-)

Gus Bradley may have finally found the “Michael Bennett” for his Jacksonville defense. Folwer is verstile, a hard worker, and a match-up nightmare. Pete Carroll would be proud of his former defensive coordinator.

4) Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama. (A)

Amari Cooper reminds me so much of Reggie Wayne, or to a lesser extend, Torry Holt. He doesn’t look that special when he’s playing but, when you look at his box score, he torched you for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He’s smooth, effective and more simply put, he gets the job done.

5) Washington Redskins: Brandon Scherff, OT/OG, Iowa. (B-)

The best offensive lineman in the draft, the only trouble I have with Scherff is his postion. Is he and offensive tackle or and offensive guard? If he’s a tackle, this is a fantastic pick. However, if the Iowa product is a guard, then the Redskins drafted him way to high.

6) New York Jets: Leonard Williams, DE/DT, USC. (A+)

Williams is the best player in the draft. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t fill a need for the Jets. The DT is far too good to pass up.

7) Chicago Bears: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia. (A-)

He has more bustability than Cooper, but he also has more upside. He is a freak athlete, who is a safe-made prospect. He could be the next Larry Fitzgerald, or the next David Boston. The Bears are hoping for the former rather than the latter.

8) Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson. (B+)

New head coach Dan Quinn (former Seahawk’s defensive coordinator) is trying to set up a defensive similar to his former squad. Beasley fits the LEO lineback postion to perfection. Hopefully his college production carriers over to the pros.

9) New York Giants: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami. (D+)

I understand the Giants need offensive linemen, but Ereck Flowers was projected to fall out of the 1st round. Miraculously he is drafted 9th overall, ahead of a player like Andrus Peat. This pick seems like a huge over-draft to me.

10) St. Louis Rams: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia. (A)

Was considered a top 10 pick before his ACL tear. With Tre Mason, Zac Stacey, and Benny Cunningham on the roster, Gurley can take as much time as he needs to in order to heal up. The Rams need all the help they can get on offense, and Gurley certainly adds a much needed punch.

(Editor’s Note: The rumor going around is that the Rams will move to L.A. The last time a running back this good played in L.A. he looked like this…)

11) Minnesota Viking: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State. (B+)

Waynes needs to get bigger and more physical, but he does fill a need in Minnesota. With Xavier Rhodes and the Michigan State product, the Vikings may have the best cornerback duo in the NFC North,

12) Cleveland Browns: Danny Shelton, NT, Washington. (A)

The perfect colmination of drafting for “best player available” and for need. Shelton in going to be a real terror in the middle of that Browns defense. Hopefully this opens up better rushing lanes for Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo.

13) New Orleans: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford. (B+)

The Saints are in dire need of youth along their offensive line, and Peat is the best OT availible in this draft. Drew Brees should be able to more up right this season. He may be a little raw, but he has the talent to be an anchor for the next 10 years.

14) Miami Dolphins: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville. (A-)

Parker, Kenny Stills, Jordan Cameron, and Jarvis Landry; Ryan Tannehill may finally have the weapons he needs in order to ascend into the position of best post-Marino quarterback the Dolphins have ever had. Parker has all the skills to be a go-to wide receiver, and with the talent around him, he should excel in his first year in Miami.

15) San Diego Chargers (trade with 49ers): Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin. (A-)

Gordon replaces Ryan Mathews: a player who had never started all 16 games in a season, and who had only topped 1,000 rushing yards twice in his 5 year career. Gordon will add a dependable and dynamic rushing attack to a team that is in desperate need of one.

16) Houston Texans: Kevin Johnson, CB, Waker Forest. (A)

The best cover cornerback in this years draft class. The Texans fill a need while drafting the best remaining player available. Johnson should pay dividends right away.

17) San Francisco 49ers (trade with Chargers): Arik Armstead, DE/DT, Oregon. (A+)

Armstead needed the 49ers as much as the 49ers needed Armstead. The Oregon product could be the next Calais Campbell, and the 49ers would love nothing more for that to happen.

18) Kansas City Chiefs: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington. (B)

Peters fills and need, but he has to keep his noise clean in order for the Chiefs to come away with a steal. If he does prove to be a problem, many will wonder why Andy Reid elected to choose him over Byron Jones, Ronald Darby, or Landon Collins.

19) Cleveland Browns: Cam Erving, OL, Florida State. (B-)

If Alex Mack’s injury is truly that bad, the drafting Erving is a great decision. However, if Mack is healthy, then the Browns may have made a mistake. Erving is not an NFL tackle, and trying to make him one could be costly.

20) Philadelphia Eagles: Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles. (B)

Agholor is a great receiver who was shooting up draft boards. But, I wonder how could Chip Kelly draft him over Brashad Perriman? However Kelly ends up proving me wrong.

21) Cincinnati Bengals: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M. (B+)

Ogbuehi was considered a top 10 pick until he tore his ACL in A&M’s bowl game. If he is 100 percent healthy, then the Bengals just got a huge steal.

22) Pittsburgh Steelers: Bud Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky. (A+)

The Steelers have struggled to rush the passer lately. Bud Dupree has the athleticism to do that for the Steel Curtain. The Kentucky defensive rusher was being considered in the top 10, that’s how good he is.

23) Denver Broncos (trade with Lions): Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri. (B-)

The marijuana arrest is very concerning, but the Broncos organization is very well respented. If anyone can keep Ray out of trouble all while getting the most from him, it would be Denver. However, one has to be worried about someone who has had trouble with weed in a state where it’s legalized.

24) Arizona Cardinals: D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida. (B)

Raw offensive tackle that possesses all the skills to be a career player on the left side. The Cardinals can afford to start him out on the right side while he develops his technique.

25) Carolina Panthers: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington. (C+)

Thomas Davis was a Pro Bowl linebacker last year. Why would you draft his eventual replacement when you have other, more glaring needs to fill? Unless Thompson becomes a pro bowler in his own right, then this pick could prove to be a bust.

26) Baltimore Ravens: Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF. (A)

With Torrey Smith moving out to San Francisco, the Ravens needed to find a replacement who can take the top off the defense. Perriman will proved a deep threat for Joe Flacco and a decoy that will allow Steve Smith Sr. to operate underneath coverage.

27) Dallas Cowboys: Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut. (A-)

If Byron Jones sticks a cornerback, then this is a tremendous pick for America’s team. However, some teams were worried that he would have to move to safety. Either way, the Cowboys could use fresher bodies in their secondary.

(Editor’s note: This is how Cowboys fans should feel about the pick.)

28) Detroit Lions (trade with Broncos): Laken Tomlinson. (B)

Tomlinson fills a need for the Lions. He wasn’t the best linemen left on the board, but he certainly helps the Lions win now.

29) Indianapolis Colts: Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami. (C+)

This is a luxury pick if I have ever seen one. Dorsett may be a good receiver at this level, but he’s certainly not going to keep Andrew Luck protected and standing upright. They should have taken a offensive linemen or safety to help fill out the Colts roster.

30) Green Bay Packers: Damarious Randall, S, Arizona State. (B)

With Landon Collins on the board, the Packers elected to draft Randall instead. He does have some solid ball skills, but he needs to work on his tackling and run-stopping ability in order to live up to this pick.

31) New Orleans Saints: Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson. (C-)

Anthony definitely fills a need for the Saints, but with Eric Hendricks and Paul Dawson still on the board, I believe New Orleans drafted the wrong inside linebacker.

32) New England Patriots: Malcolm Brown, DT, Texas. (A+)

Brown was a player being considered by teams drafting in the middle rounds. For the Patriots to get their hands on a player with that type of talent is simple unfair. Brown adds even more versatility to one of the most multi-purpose teams in the NFL.

The Booth Review Vol. 2

1) Take a Walk on the Wild Side:

On Saturday night, the Blackhawks finished off their series with the Nashville Predators, winning the game 4-3. Duncan Keith netted the game winning score 16 minutes into the third period to put the Preds away. Jonathan Toews and Keith finished the game with a goal and two assists each. The Patricks, Kane and Sharp, each tallied a goal and an assist. Next up for the Hawks is the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference semi-finals.

2) MLB’s Royal Rumble:

On Thursday night, the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox exchanged blows in what turned out to be a very interesting scuffle. Multiple suspensions resulted from the melee including Royal’s pitchers Yordano Ventura (7 games), Edinson Volquez (5 games) Kelvin Herrera (2 games), centerfielder Lorenzo Cain (2 games), and White Sox’s pitchers Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija (5 games). The most notable person involved in the altercation is Ventura, who is just weeks off of instigating another incident with the Oakland Athletics. Ventura and the Royals have always been considered a feisty, fiery bunch. However, this angst seems to be spilling over onto the field.

3) Jimmy Butler: Serving His Opponents Up One Tasty Bucket at a Time:

As the Bulls strive to win their ongoing series against the Milwaukee Bucks, one thing becomes readily apparent: Jimmy Butler is the man. Butler, who is a free agent at the end of the season, is averaging career highs points per game (28.3), assists per game (3.0), steals per game (1.8), field goal percentage (.543), and three point percentage (.393). Regardless of what happens during the rest of the playoffs, Butler has cemented his place as the Bulls’ new franchise cornerstone.

4) The People v. Scott Darling: The Case Exonerating Corey Crawford:

After giving up three goals in the first period during Saturday’s Game 6 win, Joel Quenneville opted to pull playoff hero Scott Darling for embattled former-starter Corey Crawford. The results were instantaneous: Crawford shut-out the Predators the rest of the game, and the Hawks won because of it. No starter has been named for Game 1, but in my opinion, Quenneville should stick with the hot hand in Crawford, but Darling should be ready to play at a moment’s notice. It’s better to have two solid goalies than one terrible one.

5) And With the First Pick of the 2015 NFL Draft…:

This Thursday marks the beginning of the NFL Draft. For the first time since 1965, the draft will be held in the city of Chicago. This draft proves to be equal parts exciting and mystifying. Aside from Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston going first overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the rest of the draft is unknown. Where will Marcus Mariota be selected? Will there be any blockbuster trades? The only thing that is for sure, is that Thursday night will be one hell of a night.

“There’s Always Next Year” Takes on a Whole New Meaning

With last night’s debut of 21-year old Addison Russell, Cubs’ faithful are getting a tantalizing preview into what may become a juggernaut in the making. Aside from possessing the greatest name for a Cubs’ player to have (his name is Addison – that’s like the Knick’s new starting point guard being named Madison), the middle infielder has burned through the Cub’s minor league system like a California wildfire during a drought. If he had moved through the system any faster, he would have to change his name to Kris Bryant.

Speaking of Bryant, he has done a very nice job since is first at bat versus James Shields. He is now hitting 8-18 (.444 BA) with 3 doubles and 6 RBIS. He hasn’t hit a homerun yet, but I doubt he’ll have trouble in that department.

The emergence of these two super-prospects, plus the continual success of Jorge Soler, lead many fans to be excited not only for this season, but the seasons to follow.

Why, if the team is succeeding in the present, are fans looking more to the future than ever before? With a bevy of incoming top prospects many, including myself, believe that we are witnessing the makings of dynasty. For the non-believers out there, here are a few reasons that might be the case.

  • Kyle Schwarber and the Rest of the Youngsters

Even with Bryant and Russell playing for the big league team, the Cubs still have a lot of fine prospects available down on the farm. Catcher Kyle Schwarber, the team’s first pick (fourth overall) in 2014, has hit 19 homeruns and 56 RBIs in only 81 minor league games. It doesn’t matter if he can stay behind the plate (it would help), the dude can flat out hit.

C.J. Edwards was one of the pieces in the now famous Matt Garza trade with the Texas Rangers. At the age of 23, Edwards has already struck out over 300 batters without even pitching 250 innings. Durability concerns aside, Edwards has the repertoire to produce in the big leagues.

These two prospects are just the tip of a supremely talented iceberg. Billy McKinney, a throw-in player in the Jeff Samardzija trade, looks like a Matt Carpenter clone. Albert Almora, the sixth overall pick in 2012, looks like a rich man’s Johnny Damon. Players like Duane Underwood, Gleyber Torres, Jen-Ho Tseng, Eloy Jimenez, Carson Sands, Justin Steele, and Dylan Cease, all of which are 20 years old or younger. This is discluding the prospects that are close to the major league level. Regardless of how you cut it, the Cubs are in great position for sustainable success.

  • Nothing to See Here, Just Passing Through

Another great reason the Cubs are morphing into a premier organization is the fact that the team has managed to become competitive through free agent acquisitions without hamstringing themselves finically in the future. Players like Dexter Fowler, Chris Coghlan, Chris Denorfia, Travis Wood, and Jason Motte are one-year rental players that fix major holes for the ball club. Miguel Montero, Jason Hammels, and David Ross are only around for two years, adding veteran leadership to a club that is learning how to win. In both cases, the Cubs have brought in competent players that can help bridge the gap to their top prospects. The team has only six players on the active roster that are signed through 2017, and one of them (Montero) has a club option. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have done a great job of maintaining the balance between rebuilding a team, and winning now.

  • Grandpa Lester, Uncle Rizzo, and Papi Castro

It’s nice to have a core group of players to help build a baseball club around. The top three players in the group are Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo, and Starlin Castro. Of the three, Lester is the only player above the age of 30. Rizzo and Catro, both age 25, represent the two longest active Cubs on the roster. Upon the hiring of Epstein and Hoyer, Rizzo was the first addition to the rebuilding franchise.

Castro, on the other hand, is the last remaining hold over from the Jim Hendry era. These two players will act as a stabilizing force for the rest of the team. With both players currently beginning their primes, the team now has two all-stars that can help them achieve legitimacy.

And when both Rizzo and Castro begin their inevitable declines, players like Bryant, Soler, and Russell will be there to carry the torch that other players lit.

All these reasons have the Cubs’ arrow pointing up. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer didn’t just create a flash in the pan, they built a machine capable of continual success, much like our bitter rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. In essence, the Cubs are trying to become a loveable version of the Marvel Terrorist group HYRDA. “If one head is cut, another two take its place.” If Baez is a bust, Torres could be there to fill his void. If Almora is more a defensive ace rather than a table setter, McKinney has the tools needed to lead off a game. Either way, the Cubs future looks limitless. That is why “there’s always next year” doesn’t mean what it used to anymore.

The Booth Review Vol. 1

The Booth Review is an article recapping what was in Chicago Sports over the weekend of April 17-19. Here are the top stories:

The People v. Corey Crawford

The biggest sporting news this weekend comes at the hand of the Chicago Blackhawks. After giving up 3 goals in the 1st period of Game 1, Corey Crawford had been on thin ice with coaches and fans alike. Crawford may have fallen through after the Hawks beat the Predators Sunday, 4-2. Darling finished the day with 35 saves, adding on to his league leading save percentage (.975) and goals against average (0.94). This leaves many to wonder if this is the end of Crawford. Darling starts Game 4 tonight and in my opinion, until he falters, he should remain the starter for the remainder of the playoffs.

“I have a Venti Latte for Kris.”

Getting his first (and hopefully only) cup of coffee with the Cubs this past weekend, super-rookie Kris Bryant made his major league debut. Going 3 for 10, with a double and 4 strikeouts, Bryant did disappoint. However, he is too talented not to succeed. Cubs’ fans must be patient with the Phenom; he’s no Mike Trout. There will be growing pains along the way, but they will be well worth it.

Every Rose Has its Thorn(s)…Still

The Bulls also played their first playoff game this year against the Milwaukee Bucks, and an old friend came out of hiding to steal the show. Derrick Rose finished the game with 23 points and 7 assists. But it was more than what appeared in the box score for Rose, who played in his first playoff game since 2012. He dunked, nailed pull-up three pointers, and got the crowd hyped up. If he can maintain this level of play for the rest of the playoffs, Chicago may be able to topple the mighty Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals this June.

Welcome Back, Kaner

Very rarely does a super-star returning from an 8-week injury get bumped down to fourth on a list of hot sports topics, but it was that type of weekend in Chicago sports. Patrick Kane is back with a vengeance, scoring 3 points in his first three games back from a broken collarbone. Now 3 points may not seem like a lot, but he is currently tied for third on the team in total points. The Hawks are getting it done as a team, and Kane has served as a catalyst for the second line. As he goes, the team goes, so it is great to see him getting back into his comfort zone.

That’s all for the weekend recap. This time next week I will be covering the NFL Draft, and hopefully a handful of Bulls and Blackhawks victories. See red and let’s go Hawks!

John Lester’s Yips: Is This Really a Thing?

Lester-Jon

News broke yesterday that Jon Lester, the Cubs’ $155 million free agent signing/messiah, has the yips. Buster Olney, ESPN baseball insider, recently reported that Lester has been unable to throw to first base since his earliest days in the Red Sox organization. According to the report, Boston was able to hide this fact from the media by having him take fielding practice in private. The situation has been brought to light in Chicago thanks to Lester’s horrendous play in his first two games as a Cub.

The Cubs do not seem too concerned by what is happening to their prized offseason addition. Joe Maddon down plays the issue. In an interview on Chicago’s 670 The Score, Maddon states, “There’s a lot of pitchers throughout Major League Baseball who aren’t that good at that.” While that may be true, none of them are making $155 million over the course of five years. None of those pitchers are expected to lead a struggling franchise to its first playoff appearance since 2008. None of those pitchers face the same pressures as Lester.

The yips, as defined by the Mayo Clinic are involuntary muscle spasms. “It was once thought that the yips were always associated with performance anxiety. However, it now appears that some people have yips that are caused by a focal dystonia, which is a neurological dysfunction affecting specific muscles.”

There is a goddamn medical definition for the yips. This is a problem that Lester and Cubs organization should not take lightly. There have been cases where seasons and careers have been altered because of a case of the yips chronicled below.

The Curious Case of “Fundamental Sound” Chuck

Chuck-knob

One of the more well known cases of the yips surfaced in former Twins and Yankee great Chuck Knoblauch. A 4-time all-star second baseman, a gold glove winner and potential hall of famer, Knoblauch was one of the driving forces behind both the Twins and Yankees World Series championships in the 1990s. In 1999, however, Knoblauch was unable to make routine throws to first base. His case of the yips was so severe that in 2000, then Yankee’s Manager, Joe Torre moved Knoblauch to left field and designated hitter. In the 2002, he left for the Royals, and in 2003, Knoblauch retired from baseball.

Steve Blass Disease

steve blass

The most famous sufferer of yips, essentially the man who started it all, was former Pittsburgh Pirates Pitcher, Steve Blass. A former all-star and World Series champion, Steve Blass was considered a great pitcher in the early parts of his career. Then, in 1973, Blass inexplicably lost his ability to pitch. In ‘73, Blass finished with a 9.85 ERA, 84 walks, and only 27 strikeouts. Before the term “yips” was coined, the disorder was commonly referred to as “Steve Blass Disease.”

Steve Sax – who suffered from the same ailment as Knoblauch, which at the time was called “Steve Sax Syndrome” – along with Rick Ankiel, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Mackey Sasser are all players who have suffered from the yips. This is such a prevalent disorder that other athletes outside of the sport have suffered from it as well. John Starks, Nick Anderson, Braylon Edwards, Joel Stave, and Nick Folk all have had documented cases of the yips.

steve-saxRick-Ankielstarks-john

I believe the Cubs and Lester should be concerned with his case of the yips. If they are not corrected soon, the North Sider’s season could deteriorate very quickly, and Lester’s career could be over sooner rather than later.

Bears Hire John Fox: Is This a Good Idea?

The Bears have finally pegged their new head coach. Only one week after hiring Ryan Pace as their new GM, the Bears chose John Fox to replace the infamous Marc Trestman. This move does not really come as a surprise. After Fox and the Broncos “mutually parted ways” on Monday, the Bears moved quickly to secure their man. After interviewing Fox on Wednesday, the team pulled the trigger and hired him on Thursday. It’s not hard to see why he was the obvious choice, as Fox has been an effective and winning coach in the past.

Fox holds a 118-89 record (.570) and an 8-7 post season record after coaching the Carolina Panthers from 2002-2010 and the Broncos from 2011-2014. He has gone to a Super Bowl with both teams, but has failed to win the title with either. Fox’s specialty is on the defensive side of the ball. In 2010, Denver was ranked last in team defense. Since Fox took over for the Broncos, the defense has never ranked lower than 19th. In the 9 years Fox coached in Carolina, the defense only ranked in the bottom third of the league once. Those numbers are hard to ignore, especially when the Bears have ranked 29th and 30th the past two seasons.

Fox is a proven winner and a defensive specialist, but is he the right fit for the Bears?

Many people will see the hiring of a proven, defense-first, players coach as a step back. How will Bears keep up in the NFC with a run-first offensive attack? The Seahawks have a very efficient offense that is heavily dependent upon the running skills Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson’s ability to play turnover-free football. Fox has, however, been able to create solid offenses with his time in Carolina. In 2008, which was Fox’s best offensive season in Carolina, the team averaged 7th in points scored and 10th in total yards. That team was led by Jake Delhomme at Quarterback, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams at Running Back, and Mushin Muhammad and Steve Smith at Wide Receiver. It is feasible to expect that the Bears offense can finish somewhere in the top twelve given the personnel they have. With a new emphasis on running the offense through Matt Forte, and Jay Cutler taking on more of a care taker role for the offense, the team can be great in 2015.

In an interview Monday, former NFL GM and current ESPN Analyst Bill Polian was asked about the type of coach Ryan Pace should hire, and he responded by explaining what he had done in Buffalo and Indianapolis with Marv Levy, Jim Mora and Tony Dungy. He discussed his preference for men with previous head coaching experience. “It’s a matter of a very small degree of difference. I’ve always said all things being equal I’d like to have a guy who had been a head coach before. They’ve been down the road and there is no learning curve. They understand the media duties; they know what needs to be done to improve.”

In other words, one of the most respected team builders in the modern era preferred to hire former NFL head coaches. Some will hate that Ryan Pace and the Bears played it safe. But, what if the safest move was the best for the direction of the franchise? Fox is the right coach to bring the Bears up to a playoff-caliber level. He is a proven winner who has the ability quickly turn a team around. The Bears need a steady hand on the field and in the locker room. He has a successful past and, simply put, he knows how to win. On paper, Ryan Pace looks like he snagged a good one for the Monsters of the Midway.