Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Top Ten Chicago athletes to watch in '09

10. Osiris Eldridge
The best guard in the state doesn't reside in Champaign, he's in Bloomington. After a few solid years of recruiting, Illinois State looks like a tournament team in 2009. They'll go as far as Eldridge can take them.

9. Alexei Ramirez
While we're not sure if his D will hold up at shortstop, is there any reason to doubt Ramirez? No one would have thought he'd be in the majors last season, let alone one of the top second basemen in the American League. Year one gave us an incredible grand slam against the Tigers, and Ramirez played a major role in helping the overachieving Sox win their division. What can he do for an encore?

8. Luol Deng
The entirety of 2008 was forgettable for Deng on the court. Sure, he still scored a 72 million dollar contract, but he earned it in ‘07. If Deng can't turn it around this year, it'll be another strike against John Paxson.

7. Mike Davis
The Illini have been a pleasant surprise so far this year, and Davis deserves the bulk of the credit. The sophomore forward has really come into his own this season, leading the Illini in scoring and rebounding. With Davis, fellow sophomores Demetri McCamey, Alex Legion and Mike Tisdale, and a few strong recruiting classes heading in the next few years, the Illini's future looks bright.

6. Alfonso Soriano
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you the Fonz's high power-low patience combination should make him a middle of the order run producer, not a leadoff hitter. But will the Cubs finally figure it out in year three? Soriano hasn't been bad his first two years in Chicago - and hey, the Cubs have won the Central both years he has been here - but in an eight year contract, one great season sure would be nice.

5. Nikolai Khabibulin
Remember when the Hawks waived Khabibulin before the season started? Sort of reminiscent of when the Red Sox did the same thing to Manny, and eventually won the World Series. The Hawks paid a ton of money to bring in his replacement this offseason, Crisobal Huet, but it's Khabibulin who has been the Hawks' best goaltender this season, and one of the most important pieces in their turnaround.

4. Derrick Rose
He'd rank higher, but here's the thing: we have 100 percent faith Rose will only continue on his path to greatness, but will he have enough around him to rally the troops to higher ground this year? Sadly, we doubt it.

3. Devin Hester
Hester would like to forget 2008, thank you. While he did sign a phat new contract and begin his development as a receiver, it's still a little hard to believe the GOAT didn't take one kick to the house this year.

2. Carlos Quentin
Quentin was a revelation in his first year on the South Side. But can he keep it up? If you ask me, no diggity, no doubt. Yet there will be critics who proclaim his 2008 a fluke until he does it again. Prepare yourself.

1. Kyle Orton
This is easy: the Bears are Chicago's favorite sons, and quarterback is the most important position in sports. Orton was down then up then down again in ‘08. If he's to be the stabilizing force at QB the Bears have been searching for in what seems like decades, 2009 will be critical.


Phil Barnes said...

Thanks Danny for putting this up in good time and editing, Rick thanks for writing it knowing you're not going to be here. good team work all around.

Anonymous said...

Nice list, glad to see you included Eldridge and Davis on it.

Anonymous said...

C'mon, ISU is in Normal, not Bloomington. I'd expect non-Illinoisans to make the mistake but not you guys.

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