Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Top Ten moves that would help the Bears

Jerry Angelo is quickly catching up to John Paxson for title of worst GM in Chicago. Even though the Bears are about 30 million dollars under the salary cap, have major needs at several positions and have their pick of a number of short-term productive free-agents that would come pretty cheap, Angelo seems content to build through the draft.

Angelo really can’t think the Bears are “close” after being lucky to finish 9-7 in one of the weakest divisions in football, can he?

With that said, here are 10 moves the Bears should make before they take the field for their season opener, though I would be very surprised to see Angelo pull the trigger on any of the free-agents that I mention.

10. Find a backup for Matt Forte
Whether he’s already on the roster (Kevin Jones, Garrett Wolfe) or out there in free agency (Warrick Dunn maybe), the Bears need to find a change of-pace-back they can trust to compliment Forte. Dunn’s 4.2-yards-per-carry average last season was actually better than Forte’s.

9. Draft a safety in the second round The safety class this year is really weak. It’s likely there will not be a single safety drafted in the first round, which means there will be a run on them starting in the second round. Even though the Bears could go for a defensive end here, guys like William Moore, Louis Delmas and Patrick Chung would be good additions and could compete for a starting spot.

8. Give Nathan Vasher and Mark Anderson one more chance Each of these guys have greatly underachieved these last two seasons. It would be easy to bench Vasher in place of Corey Graham and release Anderson, but the Bears didn’t pay Vasher all that money for him to be a backup and not too many guys get 12 sacks their rookie year like Anderson did in 2006. The Bears need both to bounce back and have good seasons; otherwise the defense will likely struggle for the third straight year.

7. Give Bob Babich as little responsibility as possible Luckily, Rod Marinelli and Lovie will now be sort of like the co-defensive coordinators, while Babich will only be coaching the linebackers. I’m very interested in seeing if the Bears’ struggles on defense were really a result of poor play-calling by Babich or just a sign that guys like Urlacher and Ogunleye are past their primes and Vasher and Harris struggled because of injuries.

6. Re-sign John St. Clair With John Tait set to retire after five solid years as a fixture on the Bears’ line, bringing back St. Clair shifts from a luxury into a necessity. Chris Williams is penciled in at the other tackle spot, but he remains a major question mark after missing nearly all of last season due to injury. There’s been talk recently about the Bears drafting an offensive tackle with their first-round pick, but with St. Clair, Williams and lone free-agent pickup Frank Omiyale, the Bears should be okay.

5. Sign Darren Sharper If the season started tomorrow, Craig Steltz would be the 64th best starting safety in the NFL. Because the Bears didn’t bring back Mike Brown, safety is probably the second biggest need on this team besides wide receiver. Sharper has been around forever, and while his best years are behind him, he still presents a big upgrade over any one else the Bears currently have on their roster for the free safety position. Reportedly, the Bears and Saints top his wish list.

4. Make Danieal Manning the full-time kick and punt returner Hester looked totally lost on his returns last season and clearly isn’t the same guy who brought back 12 kicks for scores his first two years in the league. In just a handful of games late last season, Manning showed he can be one of the league’s better returners. Manning is probably the best athlete on the team, but he’s clueless on defense, so why not utilize his athleticism as much as possible?

3. Sign Jeff Garcia Doesn’t Kyle Orton need a little more competition in training camp than Brett Basanez and Caleb Hanie? Now I understand Angelo is worried that bringing in a veteran might hurt Orton’s confidence, but honestly, who cares? Orton has proved nothing yet in this league. And if Orton isn’t good enough to beat out the 39-year old Garcia, the Bears could at least stop fooling themselves into thinking they finally have a long-term answer at quarterback.

2. Sign either Tory Holt OR Marvin Harrison Right now, there’s not a team that has a worse receiving corps than the Bears. Hester is a number three receiver on a lot of teams, and Rashied Davis and Earl Bennett wouldn’t even play on most teams. The Bears need a reliable veteran who defenses would still have to account for. Holt and Harrison both fit that profile. Either one would help Orton tremendously and take a lot of pressure off of Hester. Holt is clearly the better player, but Harrison would be easier to get considering he’s an actual free-agent.

1. Draft a wide receiver in the first round I’ve seen mock drafts where they had the Bears taking everyone from Larry English to Michael Oher. Wide receiver has to be the first priority though. Even though there is great depth in this year’s receiver class, if the Bears wait until the second round to address it they will be picking from a group of leftovers. I would be happy with any one of these guys with the 18th overall pick; Darius Hayward-Bey, Percy Harvin or Hakeem Nicks. Angelo has a history of not taking receivers in the first round, but that needs to finally change.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Top ten Chicago baseball fantasy sleeper picks

Ricky and I just had our fantasy draft Saturday (I think we did sick, Rick hopefully agrees). While the first eight to ten selections set the foundation of a fantasy squad, leagues are often won and lost by sleeper picks and players taken in the later rounds. Last season saw Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez and Ryan Theriot become solid fantasy options. Below are ten Chicago baseball players that could potentially become 2009 version of Q.

10. Micah Hoffpauir
Hoffpauir has to be the oldest prospect in major league history. But at 29, Micah might be suiting up for the big league club on a daily basis. Hoffpauir leads the team in Spring Training at bats, which means Piniella really wants to let the guy prove himself. And thus far he hasn't disappointed. He is hitting .303 with a pair of home runs. While he probably won't have an everyday spot, he could spell for Bradley, Soriano or most likely, Derek Lee.

9. Dayan Viciedo
If there was a guarantee that he would be placed on the big-league team to open the year, Viciedo would probably be in the top two of this list. At 19, he was dubbed the savior of Cuba before he signed his $10 million deal. While it's more than likely that the numbers don't come this year, having him deep on your bench is never a bad thing.

8. Clayton Richard
Clayton Richard has not had a horrid Spring Training, but playing against a mix of MLB and minor league hitters, Sox fans probably would have liked to have less than the eight hits in the nine innings and only three strikeouts. And while these numbers surely will not hold up, if he has anything close to the 1.000 WHIP and 3.00 ERA he currently owns, the Sox have clearly found their #4.

7. Aaron Heilman
They gave up very little in exchange for a solid back-end rotation guy. While it looks like he might have to outshine some other guys to get himself into the rotation, the Cubs are maybe the rotation to try to get into. Rich Harden and Carlos Zambrano go on the DL at least once a season. We don't know what Dempster is up to either. So the Cubs could be in the need for a guy like Heilman. Aaron has done pretty well in his few outings, not giving up a run and only two hits in five innings.

6. Josh Fields
This is the most questionable of the guys on the list, not because he won't put up good numbers, but because he has done it before. His 2008 was not what the Sox or Ozzie expected after his 20-homer second half in 2007. While his average will probably be down, the power will more than likely still be there and 25 homers and 80 RBI are not out of the question.

5. Kevin Gregg
Jeff Samardzija has been, well, horrendous this spring. So Gregg will most likely get more setup and middle relief opportunities than initially anticipated. Gregg has also been a closer before, so if Marmol goes down, Gregg will probably get the nod at the closer position.

4. Chris Getz
Ozzie gave him the number 17, which all but makes him a guarantee to make the big league squad, and hopefully the starting second basemen too. Getz hit .300 in Triple-A last season and is hitting .278 this year in Spring Training. He'll be batting at the end of the order too so there could be a lot of runs coming from Getz also.

3. Sean Marshall
It sounds like Marshall possesses the inside track towards the the #5 spot in the rotation. And he has not disappointed Sweet Lou. Having only allowed one run in nine innings and only giving up six hits, it seems that he assures himself that spot everyday he goes to the bump.

2. Jeff Marquez
It looks like Marquez could get the #5 spot in the Sox rotation, and while there is not a lot of stats to back up this good praise, his early spring numbers have been very impressive. In two outings and five innings he has allowed only one run and struck out four.

1. Mike Fontenot
Fontenot is finally getting his time to shine, and there is a consensus feeling that he will not disappoint. He could be the best #8 hitter in baseball and after hitting over .300 in 3/4 of a season last year, anything less than .280 seems like a bit of a disappointment. He will be batting with guys on base like double machines Lee, Bradley and Soto, so we could expect a fair share of RBI. But also since Alfonso Soriano will be leading off, runs should come like crazy too.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Top Ten reasons to love March Madness

With the NCAA Tournament only a week and a few days away, here are the ten reasons why March is the best month of the year for sports fans.

10: Selection Sunday

This may deserve a Top Ten list of its own, but I would say that the selection show is the best non-sporting sports event of the year. Watching the guys on CBS unveil what seed teams are, which bubble teams made it in the bracket and which missed out is exciting for some reason. Even though the actual games don’t start until four days later, the selection show is the real start to the Madness.

9: Everybody is an expert

There is no time during the sports year where so many different people have so many different opinions than March. Put 20 people in a room to talk about the NCAA Tournament and there will be 20 different opinions on which team will cut down the nets, which surprise team will go farthest and which teams will be one-and-done. Then of course there is the random person in your bracket pool who isn’t an expert, has no knowledge or opinion of college basketball and ends up winning all the money anyways.

8: CBS coverage

This wouldn’t have made the list any of the past 30 years, with Billy Packer as the voice of the Final Four. But since CBS decided to dump college basketball’s Ebenezer Scrooge, their broadcast suddenly has become a strength. Anytime you can watch Gus Johnson, Kevin Harlan and Bill Raftery on the same network, it’s a positive in my book.

7: Gambling

Other than former Washington/current UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel, does anybody not enjoy gambling on the tournament? With money on the line, every game is significant and picking the correct Cinderella team becomes that much more important. Also, winning cash makes a normally forgettable team suddenly memorable, a reason I still have props for Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, Lonny Baxter and the rest of the 2002 Maryland Terps who helped me win like $150 that year.

6: Upsets

It’s only a matter of time before a 16 seed takes down a #1. Until then, schools like George Mason and Davidson will provide the entertainment by knocking off higher seeded teams and either making or ruining a person’s bracket.

5: Scenario generator

Every website that hosts tournament pools has this feature, but I am biased to Yahoo’s scenario generator. The feature allows players to plug in hypothetical game results and then see where they would finish in their pool, making it useful for people who had a poor first round and want to see if they still have a chance of winning anything. Outside of actually watching the games, the scenario generator probably is responsible for more wasted time across the country in the month of March than anything else.
4: School / Office pools

As somebody who has been in a pool with the essentially the same people for almost ten years now, facing competitors who give their brackets names like Voyager Express and Real Madeez Nutz, I can say almost nothing beats being in a pool with your friends and talking trash about their picks. Only thing that tops it? Taking all their money at the end of the tournament.

3: The Bracket

Filling out an online bracket is fun and saves a lot of time and trees. But other than Michael Barrett’s fist and AJ Pierzynski’s face, does anything in sports go together better than a NCAA bracket and an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper? There is no wasted space, with every inch of the paper filled with school names, lines and by the end of the Madness, giant marks through the incorrect picks and circles around the right ones.

2: Unforgettable moments

Here are the moments that instantly popped into my head: Laettner’s shot to shock Kentucky, Tyus Edney going coast-to-coast, Jordan’s baseline J to beat Georgetown, the Fighting Illini’s Elite Eight miracle, Bryce Drew’s three, Jimmy V looking for somebody to hug, Mario Chalmers pushing the title game into OT. What could possibly be better?

1: Games all day

The first two days of the tournament are, without doubt, the two best days of the sports year. 16 games Thursday, 16 more on Friday, with the first tipping off at 10:30 a.m each day and the last ending after 11 p.m. Sure, there’s a good chance your hope for a perfect 63-out-of-63 bracket (odds of that happening: 1 in 7.2 billion) will be over by Thursday’s lunch, and your chance of winning your pool could be done by Friday morning. But that doesn’t prevent those days from being the pinnacle of the college hoops calendar.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Top Ten Baseball Card Brands of the 80's and 90's

If you're like me, you spent half your youth scrambling to collect as many baseball cards as humanly possible.

The thought process behind this mad dash was that you'd lock them away in a closet for thirty years and they'd be worth millions.

But what we didn't realize was that everyone our age was doing the exact same thing and now 99.9% of them aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

Nonetheless, baseball cards were a mainstay during the 80's and 90's.

Here are the top ten brands from that era:

10. Post Cereal

I don't remember much about the Post Cereal sets except that I threw them away the minute after I got them.

They were included on this list for one reason.

To represent of all the bogus cards you got in your cereal, fast food places and other fine establishments.

9. Score

Usually picked up a pack of these only if I was low on cash. And even then I'd usually buy a pack of their football cards. But when you start throwing in a sweet insert like that MVP hologram how can any young man with $2 in his pocket resist?

That looked hot on my Huffy.

8. Classic

If I remember correctly, they came out with a blinding hot pink card at one point.

The guy who came up with that is working the mop bucket in a Denny's located somewhere in Alaska.

7. Leaf

Anything that shares their name with the worst quarterback in NFL history has to die sometime right?

6. Bowman

I hated Bowman cards with a burning passion when I was growing up.

Why you ask?

Because they never fit into my baseball card binder, they were way too long.

(Looking back, I might have been a huge baseball card nerd complaining about the uniformness of my binder)

5. Donruss

Your honor, I'd like to submit Exhibit A to the court.

4. Skybox

I always felt like a million bucks after I bought a pack of Skybox cards.

Ultra glossy and uniquely designed, they were the best basketball cards on the block.

3. Fleer

Creator of perhaps the most well know NBA rookie card of all time.

M. Jeff, with hair, short shorts and the tongue wagging for everyone to see.

2. Topps

The original.

Nuff said.

(That and I loved how the gum shattered into a million pieces when you bit into it)

1. Upper Deck

Topps may be the original, but Upper Deck was no doubt the ultimate brand of baseball cards growing up.

I'd still trade just about my entire collection for that Ken Griffey Jr. baseball card. Everyone knew somebody that knew somebody whose cousin had it, but I never saw it unless I was at a coin shop.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Top ten White Sox with something to prove in Spring Training

You jerks tore me apart last week, so say something nice or I'm quitting.

10. Jon Link

Link, acquired from the Padres in the Rob Mackowiak trade of 2007, was quite awesome serving as the closer for the AA Birmingham Barons last year. He proved he had the stuff to strike guys out and induce ground balls. The only thing a tad troubling was his walk rate. Still, the Sox' bullpen lacks great depth (don't they all), so if Link performs well this Spring and beyond, it'd be a major boost for the Sox.

9. Dayan Viciedo

Viciedo comes in only at No. 9, because, well, the Sox' success in 2009 shouldn't really hinge on him. He's still so young. But Alexei Ramirez set a rather high precedent last year for his Cuban buddy, so some expect big things from Viciedo ASAP. He wasted no time going yard early this Spring, but it looks like he may be more of a butcher than Josh Fields at third. Viciedo's future is probably as the Sox first baseman in 2010 (with Paulie acting as DH), but I never thought Alexei would have mashed the way he did as a rook (albeit a much older one), so, who knows, maybe Viciedo is a starter on the South Side before we know it.

We just hope that, as far as fat hackers go, he's more Miguel Cabrera than Juan Uribe.

8. Scott Linebrink

Aramis Ramirez's walkoff homer in Wrigley seemed to be the beginning of the end last year for Linebrink. He started off hot, acting as the ideal setup man for Bobby Jenks. But after A-Ram's dinger, Linebrink struggled and then eventually got hurt. The Sox pay Linebrink quite handsomely, and he's entering only the second season in a four year contract. He needs to have to prove he can again be a top notch setup man again this Spring. He's said to be adding spliter to his arsenal, so maybe that'll help.

7. Alexei Ramirez

Whoa, whoa, whoa, hear me out first bros before you spit your venom in the comments section. All the individual defensive metrics rated Alexei one of the worst defensive second basemen in the majors last year. He looked pretty good to me and you from afar, but who are we to argue with math and science? Alexei appears on this list not for his bat, but for his glove. Moving an awful defensive second baseman to shortstop doesn't seem like a smart move, but Che has been drawing rave reviews from his manager all offseason. Oz may know a thing or two about playing the position.

6. Bartolo Colon

Low risk, high reward. That's probably the best way to describe the Sox' one-year, $1 or 2 million deal to bring Colon back to the South Side this offseason. But is it really? Consider that most didn't expect Jose Contreras back til way after the All-Star break (though he's making those people eat their words now, it appears), and that the Sox have basically zero major league experience or high upside prospects behind the big three of Danks-Buehrle- Floyd in the rotation. Yeah, the AL Central could very well be determined by the backend of the Sox' rotation in 2009. Maybe not trading Jermaine Dye for another starter was a mistake. Who knows. It all comes down to Colon. The Sox will be counting on him heavily this year.

5. Chris Getz

Tiny and white with a swing that draws rave reviews, why, have the Sox found their very own Dustin Pedroia? Um, not so fast. I don't think anyone sees an MVP in Getz's future, but that doesn't mean he's not expected to hit as a rookie. Gets should be a high AVG/OBP guy, which would do wonders for the future of the top of the Sox' order. At first, he'll probably start off in the eight or nine hole until he proves his worth, though. Think Ryan Theriot with a tad more power.

I'm rather high on Getz, but I just hope he doesn't fall on his face out of the gates because he has top prospect Gordon Beckham breathing down his neck. Ideally, if Getz can hit this year, the middle of the Sox' D could have Beckham and Getz as the double play combo with Alexei patrolling center field in 2010.

4. Jeff Marquez, 3. Clayton Richard

Colon and the incredible Jose Contreras are the two guys the Sox would like to fill out the backend of the rotation, but it's likely that Marquez and/or Richard will get a bunch of starts this season. The two enter 2009 with completely different public perceptions: the fans were calling for Richard to make a postseason start over Javy Vazquez last year, and they were pulling their hair out when Marquez was the best player the Nick Swisher trade could yield. Neither of these dudes seem destined to be stars, but if at least one of them can turn into an innings eater with an ERA around 5.00, I think the Sox would be quite pleased.

Perhaps Jack Egbert should be in this mix too, after a strong showing in the Sox' first televised Spring game on Sunday.

2. Jerry Owens


Yes, yes, yes, we know.
But the pickings are slim for the Sox when it comes to the first spot in the order, so they're praying Owens can do enough to fill it. One thing far outweighs anything else when it comes to hitting leadoff: on-base percentage. Owens has proven in his roughly 13 minor league seasons - seriously, he's 28! There's a Freddy Church joke in here somewhere but I'm just going to leave it alone - that he'll never be all that patient at the plate. So that means Owens' OBP will be heavily batting average dependent. A .285./.330 line may be a bit of a stretch, but that's probably best case scenario for Owens. It still wouldn't even be league average for leadoff men, but at least it'd be sort of acceptable. If Owens can hit that mark, the Sox can be pretty good. Of course, if it were up to me and most other Sox fans, the center field job would go to Brian Anderson. But then you have.....AJ hitting leadoff? He's not exactly fond of OBP either. So yeah: give Owens a shot if he earns one in camp, just make sure the leash isn't too long.

1. Josh Fields

Look at the run producers in the middle of the Sox' order: three of the big ones (Thome, Dye, Konerko) could be entering their last season on the South Side. There was a time two years ago when Fields seemed destined to be an heir apparent for one of those middle of the order slots, but an all around disasterous 2008 really put a crimp in those plans. Still, the man hit 23 dongs in just 373 at bats two years ago. So maybe there is hope for him. At 27, Fields is another guy that probably won't have a very long leash - particuarly if he continues to be a butcher at third and if Viciedo starts raking early - but the Sox' future is sort of dependent on him. Best case scenario? .275/.335, 28 homers. The Sox are probably as good as any team in the division as is, but if Fields comes close to that line, it'd be a huge boost for the team's present and future.

Honorable mention:

Jose Contreras - health
Gavin Floyd - that last year wasn't a fluke
Carlos Quentin - health/fluke

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Top Ten Rex Grossman highs and lows


Has there ever been an athlete in Chicago who had more ups and downs than Rex Grossman? You can look at Rex’s six years with the Bears in one of two ways; the Bears went 24-13 in games which Grossman started, and he did help them get to a Super Bowl in 2006.

Or you could look at it the other way, the way most people in Chicago tend to do when analyzing Grossman’s career; he threw 33 TDs compared to 35 INT, had a career completion percentage of only 54% and made Bears fans cringe every time he dropped back to pass.

With the team deciding not to bring him back for next year, it’s time to reflect on both the good and bad times from Rex’s stay in Chicago. Because we all know what a roller coaster ride it was.
10. New Year’s Eve vs. Packers
Even though the game meant absolutely nothing for the Bears, Rex raised some eyebrows the week after by saying he didn’t give 100% because he was distracted by it being New Year’s Eve. Give the guy some credit though. How many players in his position would have come out and admitted that right before the playoffs, and risk further alienating a fan base that had already been calling for Brian Griese since the middle of that season?

9. ’05 game vs. Falcons

I was in attendance for that mid-December game, and even though it was so cold you basically had to have been hammered to enjoy yourself, I do remember thinking one thing after that game; we finally have a quarterback. With rookie Kyle Orton struggling once again, Lovie finally called on Grossman, who had been injured during the preseason, to take over. The crowd went crazy while Rex played hero and helped lead the Bears to a victory.

8. Super Bowl media “meltdown” Apparently the heat and thrashing by the media finally got to Grossman when he referred to the media as ignorant in his press conference a few days before the Super Bowl. All Rex did was say what 99% of players have always felt, but it was still a surprise to see the mild-mannered Grossman lash out, even just a little bit. Obviously the pressure had gotten to him, and it showed days later during the game.

7. Injuries early in career
In ’04, just his second year in the league, Rex damaged his knee ligaments in the third game of the season, causing him to miss the rest of the year. The very next year, he broke his ankle during a preseason game, and missed the first 13 games of that season. A lot of guys might have never made it back from those two injuries so early in their career, so give Rex credit for getting back on the field quicker than most expected. It does make you wonder what might have happened had he been able to get valuable experience as a starter those first couple years.

6. ’06 NFC playoffs
While Grossman didn’t exactly light the world on fire in wins against the Seahawks and Saints, the Bears did average 33 points for those two games. All the people who said a team with Grossman under center could never reach a Super Bowl, and there were plenty, had to eat their words.

5. Getting benched for Brian Griese
After three bad games to start the ’07 season, Rex was pulled in favor of Brian Griese, a move a lot of Bears fans had been calling for since the middle of the previous season. You don’t see very many times where a quarterback gets benched just three games after leading his team to a Super Bowl, but Lovie had no choice really. Rex would come back during the middle of the year after Griese got hurt and play pretty well. By then though, the organization had already given up on him.

4. Super Bowl performance Putting all the blame on Rex’s shoulders for this game is just wrong. The Bears couldn’t stop the run, couldn’t get any pressure on Peyton Manning, and were forced to try and come back in an absolute downpour. And Grossman’s stats (20-28, 165 yards) would have been good enough to win most games considering how good the Bears’ defense was back then. Still, his two fourth quarter interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown when the Bears were down only 22-17, were killers and ultimately decided the game.

3. First 5 games of the ’06 season Here were Grossman’s combined stats for those games; 10 TD, 3 INT, 62% completion percentage, 102 QB rating. Oh yeah, the Bears averaged 31 points during that stretch, and Grossman was named NFL Offensive Player of the Month for September, the first Bear to win the award since Neal Anderson in 1989. Unfortunately, Rex teased fans with his play early that season, because he was never close to the same quarterback from that point on.

2. Bad games from the ’06 season
Here were Grossman’s combined stats versus the Cardinals, Dolphins, Patriots, Vikings and Packers from that season; 1 TD, 16 INT, 34% completion percentage, 14.4 QB rating. Wow. I got to think that has to be the worst select five games of any quarterback in NFL history. Even with those ugly games, Grossman became the first Bears QB to start all 16 games in a season since Eric Kramer in 1995.

1. Dealing with criticism from fans/media When he found out he wouldn’t be back with the Bears, Grossman said, “some of my home games felt like away games.” The guy was even booed last August at Soldier Field Family Night. Because he was a first-round draft pick, and because the Bears had gone so long without a stable quarterback, Grossman’s inconsistency and high-risk high-reward approach never sat well with fans. Dealing with criticism from the fans and media comes with the territory of being an NFL quarterback, but the treatment he got here was way over-the-top.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Top ten baseball players in Chicago

A few weeks ago the Sun-Times Chris DeLuca named Alexei Ramirez the city's best player. While I was not doubting DeLuca, it got us to thinking who we felt the best player was. And determining a list like this is never easy, and while there are 15 potential preseason all-stars combined on the Sox and Cubs, none of them stuck out as a unanimous pick for #1. But we thought we should have a go at it. So below are TTCS' top Chicago baseball players.

10. Bobby Jenks
After back-to-back 40-save seasons in 2006 and 2007, Bobby took a small step backwards in '08 with only 30 saves. He claims he took something off on his fastball so he could save his arm a little more and throw his splitter with more of a purpose. It is tough to say as to whether or not that idea will eventually pay off, but one thing is for sure; he gets the job done. He only blew four saves last year and only one of them was after June 4th. He just finds ways to close out games.

9. Mark Buehrle
Buehrle is the rock not only of the rotation, but probably the entire clubhouse. While his numbers have curtailed since his extraordinary 2005, a 3.79 ERA is still very good in the steroid era of baseball. Not to mention that there isn't a better big-game pitcher in the city than Mark.

8. Ryan Dempster
While even another good year for Dempster will probably not equate to last season's totals, it is hard to not put a 17-game winner with a sub-3 ERA off this list. For Cubs fan's sake (and Eli) I hope he doesn't re-gain his "Dumpster" tag after signing that monster contract.

7. Geovany Soto
All the field-players on this list can hit. But Geo is one of the best defensive catchers in the game. He committed only five errors in 136 games. Not to mention he hit 23 homers drove in 86 in his rookie campaign, good enough for NL Rookie of the year. And Geo is only going to get better.

6. John Danks
There hasn't been this much promise from a young Sox pitcher in maybe a decade, but 2009 could be the year Danks makes himself a household name. His 12-9 record last season is very deceiving when looking at his 3.32 ERA and 1.226 WHIP (not much run support on days Danks took the bump). He also struck out a solid 159 batters last season.

5. Alfonso Soriano
Injuries and a slow start plagued the Fonz's 2008 season. But for weeks at a time he can single-handedly lead an offense (See May 12-17: 6 games, 15 hits, 7 home runs, 13 RBI, 10 runs). While it is impossible to keep that pace the entire year, if he can gain some sort of consistency Lou will have no choice but bump him lower in the order... and make us put him higher on this list.

4. Alexei Ramirez
DeLuca's pick for the Chicago's best baseball player, and it is hard to question that. He is the most well-rounded of anybody on the list, especially when we put speed and glove work into the equation. There is really not much of a reason he is not #1 other than the fact that he is playing a new position this season, and while he played short in Cuba and I hope the transition is smooth, him being unproven at the ML level gives pessimistic Sox fans (myself) reasonable doubt.

3. Aramis Ramirez
A-Ram deserves a spot on this list solely because of his performance in the three-game series at Wrigley against the Sox (4 home runs, 8 RBI) last year. But his 27 homers last year to go along with 111 RBI and 97 runs are nothing to scoff at either. With an exception of a sub-par July, his numbers were pretty consistent throughout the year.

2. Carlos Zambrano
While his numbers were down last season, and while there are a lot of good starters in the city, I think he would be the ace of an All-Chicago team. He pitched a no-hitter last season that put his dominance on display. Not only that but the intimidation and intensity he brings cannot be matched by many in baseball, much less Chicago.

1. Carlos Quentin
Q is sick. Plain and simple. Nobody carried their respective team for as long as Quentin carried the Sox last April and May. In his first season with an everyday starting position, Carlos hit 36 homers and 100 RBI while hitting .288 with a .394 on-base percentage. And to think, Ozzie didn't initially have him in his opening day plans. If not for breaking his hand the Sox would have had their first MVP since Frank Thomas earned the honor in 1994. According to reports it doesn't sound like Quentin has lost any of his pop either since Spring Training opened two weeks ago.