Author Archives: Brady

Big Announcement


By Brady Stiff

I’ll be starting my own radio show next Sunday, the 19th of December, at chicagolandsportsradio.com

It’s called On the Sidelines, and it’ll feature myself and Joe Puschautz, a classmate of mine at the Illinois Center for Broadcasting.  Stay tuned for more updates!

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Cubs Add Pena…Good or Bad?


It’s a good time to be a first baseman in the city of Chicago.

Jim Hendry (right), along with Scott Boras (left) help to introduce the newest Cub, Carlos Pena.

Both sides of town needed to solidify the position, and both sides of town signed guys who can play the position. The White Sox signed Adam Dunn, who is an average fielder at best, and they also re-signed mainstay Paul Konerko. Konerko will no doubt get the lion’s share of time at first base.

The Cubs, on the other hand, signed free agent Carlos Pena late Tuesday night, in an effort to kill two birds with one stone. They got a first baseman, and they picked up the left-handed power hitter that eluded them for so long.

Pena is coming off a worse season than Aramis Ramirez, if that’s possible.  He hit .196 and had a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .222.  The low BABIP suggests bad luck.  So basically him and Ramirez had nearly identical seasons.  That, of course, means that they’ll both have fantastic rebound seasons….right???

Maybe.

The Cubs signed him to a one year, $10 million deal.  At first, that seemed strange to me, but after taking a closer look, it might not be so strange after all.

Let’s say the Cubs surprise the world and contend for the division this upcoming season.  More than likely, Carlos Pena will have something to do with it.  He hit 28 homers last season.  Far from a career high, but he should relish Wrigley’s small-ish dimensions, not to mention the wind blowing out.  In this case, the signing is totally worth it, and Jim Hendry will have made a good investment.

Let’s say the Cubs, as expected, struggle, but Pena plays well.  July 31st rolls around, and someone is in need of a lefty power hitter.  Pena would most certainly be traded, and the Cubs could demand a high price for his services.  Can we say, all together now, major league ready pitching?

Finally, let’s say the Cubs suck, Pena plays well, but no trade can be worked out at the deadline.  Pena leaves as a free agent, and the Cubs pick up a draft pick in the process.

Maybe, just maybe, this deal can’t go wrong for the Cubs.  Then again, there’s a distinct possibility that it could go horribly wrong.

Pena is a phenomenal fielder as well.  He’s a Gold Glove winner, and he only made six errors at first in 142 games at the position last season.  A good fielder is what they needed, with Ramirez and Starlin Castro on the left side of the infield.  Both of those guys are known to uncork some wild throws from their positions, and someone who can dig balls out of the dirt is an incredible asset.

I think the jury is still out, and will be for some time.  It may even come back a hung jury.  I think, right now, the positives outweigh the negatives for the Cubs.  On one hand, it’s a lot of money to pay for another potential lame duck hitter in the middle of the lineup.  On the other hand, he can’t be much worse than last year at the plate, and he does bring good defense to the table.

Here’s what I want from Pena: .250 average, .375 OBP, 162 or fewer strikeouts, 35 or more homers, and 90 or more RBI.  Give me that, and I’ll give him my stamp of approval (not that it means anything).

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Brady on 2 Guys and a Mic


In case you missed the show…

http://www.talkzone.com/talkzone.swf?Eid=2871&Sid=10502&showid=1641

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Earl Bennett Deserves Credit


By: Brady Stiff

Earl Bennett is not a “sexy” receiver. He’s not the biggest, fastest, strongest, or flashiest guy in the NFL. He is, though, ultra-reliable, and the best receiver on the Bears.

Earl Bennett lays out for extra yardage in Week 2 against the Cowboys.

If anyone on the offensive side of the ball from the Bears deserves Pro Bowl consideration, it’s Earl Bennett. Yes, Jay Cutler has played well (most of the time). Sure, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox are speed demons. But there’s no question in my mind that Cutler’s number one target is Bennett. It was demonstrated yesterday against the Lions. Cutler hit him seven times for 104 yards. The one I remember most is when he made the catch, then dragged several Lions for 5-10 more yards.

A quick look at Bennett’s numbers shows 39 catches for 457 yards and three scores. What that stat line doesn’t show, however is the number of third down conversions from Cutler to Bennett. It seems like every time the Bears need to pick up a first down through the air, number 80 is option number one.  During this current five game winning streak, the Bears are 36 of 68, which is just better than 50%.  The top team this year in third down conversions is the Falcons at 48%.  Cutler has thrown to Bennett on third down 14 times, and completed 9 of those throws.  It amy not seem like a lot, but it’s clear Cutler trusts Bennett.  He’s a smart, sure-handed receiver and he hasn’t fumbled all year.

The top receivers in the league this year as far as yards go are Brandon Lloyd (an excellent mid-season fantasy pickup for me I might add), Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson and Terrell Owens. Lloyd, White, and Wayne all have close to three times the amount of receiving yards as Bennett. Dwayne Bowe leads the league with 14 touchdowns this year to Bennett’s three. Three other guys are in double digits.

The point I’m trying to make is that while his numbers don’t stack up with the league leaders, and probably not too many people know his name outside of Chicago, there’s been nobody more valuable to the Bears on offense this season. Bennett won’t win the MVP, and he may not even get a single Pro Bowl vote, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the Bears wouldn’t be 9-3 without the services of Earl Bennett.

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Maybe…


Maybe this team is back to playing good football.  Or, maybe they are who we thought they would be.  Either way, the Bears played a really good football game yesterday.  They beat the Vikings up and down the field, in every aspect of the game.

Devin Hester continues to haunt opponents on special teams.

Maybe the Vikings were just what the Bears needed to wake back up.  Maybe Mike Martz finally found some balance in his offense.  Maybe the fact that the Bears were finally able to run the ball gave Martz the balance he’s been looking for all along.

Maybe Lovie Smith finally came to his senses and put Devin Hester back on kickoff returns.  Maybe he’ll be back there the rest of the season, and he can finally get back to his rookie season ways, returning kicks for touchdowns.

Sensing a theme here?  There’s no doubt that the Bears played a good game yesterday.  Some may even call it great.  I wouldn’t go that far, but the Bears looked like a playoff contender yesterday.  What I’m saying though, is I’m not jumping on the Super Bowl Or Bust bandwagon just yet.

There are just too many questions, too many maybes left for this team to answer.

The three biggest story lines to come out of yesterday’s game are:

1.  Devin Hester’s Special Teams Play

  • Hester returned two punts for 47 yards, and two kickoffs for 100 yards.
  • While he didn’t score, his returns helped the field position game, led to points.

2.  The Running Game

  • Both Matt Forte and Chester Taylor got involved, combining for 104 yards on 32 carries.  It was a much better performance than the 66 yards they put up against the Bills last week.
  • Credit the Bears’ offensive line, which despite more than their fair share of penalties, opened holes as well as kept Jay Cutler upright.

3.  Defense

  • It’s not often that a team can hold Adrian Peterson down.  Especially when that team is the Bears.  Historically, Peterson has always played well against the Bears, but he was held to just 51 yards on 17 carries.
  • Credit the defensive line for constantly getting penetration in the backfield.  Also, the Bears swarmed the ball whenever they had a chance.  Peterson was not allowed to use his strength to break tackles.  It’s a welcome change from the Bears’ normal style of strip the ball first, tackle second.
  • The secondary may have gotten lucky a couple of times with receivers falling down, but hey, we’ll take three picks any time.

One point that definitely belongs in the top three storylines of the game is the Bears’ third down efficiency.  I’m just too lazy to go back and change things around, but it worked out because this deserves a paragraph of its own.  It’s no secret that the Bears have struggled on third down this year, and it’s hard not to when you’re constantly in 3rd and 10 or longer because of sacks.  The Bears went 11-for-19 on 3rd down, good for 57%.  The icing on the cake came on 3rd and short midway through the 4th quarter.  The Bears easily could have run it, and probably picked up the first down, but they went with a play action pass for an easy touchdown to Kellen Davis.  It was the kind of inventive play call that Bears fans have been waiting for.

It’s nice to have a lead and to be able to afford to risk passing on 3rd and short, right?

I’ve been reluctant to give Lovie Smith any credit this season, because I’m so sick of his act (and I truly believe it’s an act).  But him and his staff deserve high marks for their game plan against the Vikings.  Like I said, this win could be misleading because of the state of the Vikings, but a win is a win.

Despite themselves, the Bears now sit at 6-3, tied atop the NFC North.  The real test for the Bears’ coaching staff comes with a short week.  The Dolphins always present a tough matchup, but I believe Thursday’s game is winnable because of the turmoil the Dolphins have at quarterback.  The Bears should be able to handle Miami’s wildcat package, but they run it better than anyone.

Could the Bears find themselves in an unfamiliar situation after 10 games?  Only time will tell, but the momentum gained from Sunday’s good effort should help.

 

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Randy Moss Has Issues…Like Unemployment


The Vikings unexpectedly cut Randy Moss yesterday, bringing an end to his short tenure in Minneapolis.  No matter which way you look at it, Randy Moss brought this on himself.

The Vikings’ owner reportedly didn’t want to waive Moss, but he obviously got overruled in this situation.  Moss punched his ticket out of town in a few different ways, in my opinion. Continue reading

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“It’s Indiana, It’s Indiana”


A few short years ago, the headlines about Indiana basketball were rolling in.

They say any publicity is good publicity.  I laugh at those who say that.

Kelvin Sampson did his part to disgrace the Indiana Hoosiers basketball program to the point of near extinction.  The effects of his recruiting scandal are still being felt. Continue reading

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