How ’bout dem rebuilding Bears?

My rationale for picking the Bears to beat the Eagles might have been the worst thing I’ve ever thought. Ever.

“Weird shit happens on Mondays.”

I would never go to a betting window with that kind of reasoning, so why would I do it at anytime? Sure, it happens to the best of us. But man I felt dumb last night.

The Bears aren’t good. I knew that going into the year. I talked with friends about how it would be easy to get sucked in by football hype and I still made a dumb Monday Night pick. Oops.

Offensively, they’ve dumped three offensive playmakers (Marshall, Forte, Bennett) in the last two offseasons. And while the replacements for Marshall and Forte (Kevin White and Jeremy Langford, respectively) were younger and cheaper — two tell-tale signs of a true rebuild — one is an untested rookie and the other is a second-year player with a high floor, but low ceiling.

Alas, none of it is going to work with the offensive line as currently constructed. The offensive tackles are major question marks. The guards (Kyle Long, Josh Sitton) are good, but what is the value of good guards when the tackles are as bad as they are? And it’s not like they’re high-upside guys out there on the bookends.

Oh, and the Bears put all the eggs in their tight end basket in a guy with a long, detailed injury history. Bold strategy, if you ask me.

***

You know, for a team that’s rebuilding — with a GM who said he wanted to develop a quarterback and draft one every year — not having a developmental quarterback seems counterintuitive and counterproductive. Unless the idea is to buy as much time on the new job as possible.

Defensively, the Bears are improved from last year in the sense that they have actual football players playing at inside linebacker. What a concept! Now, how about applying it to other positions?

***

I won’t hang this organizational lull on head coach John Fox. I’m sure many have and will. He brought Bears respectability simply by not being Marc Trestman. That’s better than nothing, but simply not enough for the big picture.

I mean, it wasn’t for Lovie Smith. Does Fox get a longer leash for not being Lovie Smith? Something feels wrong about that.

***

The Bears should consider themselves lucky. While the mainstream media was trying to figure out Cubs plan, the Bears have given you whatever THIS is/has been with minimal criticism.

Makes you wonder how the Cubs would have been covered if they half-assed a rebuild in the modern era the way the Bears did.

Then again, that’s what a lot of people wanted, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

***

Since the end of the Trestman era, I’ve slowly turned into the guy who cares more about his fantasy team and alma mater’s football team (Roll Damn Salukis!) than professional football … and I’m OK with that.

I enjoy college football more and more because when you’re playing something like 50 games in a weekend, there are bound to be some compelling games. And compelling undersells it. There are a ton of fun games on every Saturday that you can flip between.

Now, imagine if you applied that to the NFL every weekend. Fewer games than college, but better than committing three hours to the Bears right?

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The Cubs are going to win the division, so you better celebrate it

When you’re the Cubs, winning is hard. And has been for quite some time.

Everyone knows about the World Series drought that dates back to 1908 and the fact they haven’t captured a National League Pennant since 1945. But it’s not as if they have given themselves that many opportunities to erase those numbers off the books.

When the Cubs officially clinch the 2016 NL Central Division title, it will mark their seventh postseason appearance in the last 30 years — and only the second time in that span in which they have made the tournament in consecutive seasons.

The Cubs haven’t been great in my lifetime. They have had more losing seasons (18) than winning seasons (12). Whenever they clinch the division title, they will still have more 90-loss seasons (9) than postseason appearances (7) since 1986.

Of course, things could be worse considering the 30 years before I was born they only made one postseason appearance (1984) and the 11 seasons of 90+ losses featured three 100-loss campaigns.

Hard to win a World Series if you can’t even qualify for the postseason.

Alas, what I’m trying to say is winning is hard and every opportunity to celebrate success should be celebrated to its fullest extent.

No, a division title isn’t the end game. It shouldn’t be.

Not for a team that has five every day players among the top-25 on the NL Wins Above Replacement leaderboard, including two MVP candidates.

Not for a team with a rotation that features four 3-WAR pitchers (three of whom rank in the top-10 in the NL by that metric)

Not for a team that has a player in the top two at their respective position at five different spots (Ross, Rizzo, Baez (2B), Russell, Heyward), per the Defensive Runs Saved metric.

Yet, a division title is worth celebrating. That was a goal coming into the season, right? Winning enough games to avoid the one-and-done Wild Card coin-flip should be worth celebrating on its own merits after surviving 2015’s experience on the road against a 98-win Pirates team.

Regular season wins don’t ensure postseason success. Every Cubs fan knows that. And every one who doesn’t has been reminded at every turn this season. Which, again, seems like good enough reason to enjoy the thing you like to the max.

They might not win a World Series. Heck, they might not even win a playoff series. Postseason baseball is the most cruel to its best teams. But being the best team in your division over the course of the most grueling schedule in professional sports is worth celebrating.

Many teams have good months. The Phillies (65-81) were 24-17 on May 18. The White Sox (70-75) were 13-games over .500 at one point with a six-game lead in the division in early May and were in the Wild Card hunt as late as the All-Star Break. Even the Pirates (on the verge of their first losing season since 2012) were 1.5 games out of a postseason spot as late as August.

In fact, I can safely say every team has a good week. That happens over the course of a 162-game schedule. Even the 90-loss Braves had a six-game winning streak earlier in the year.

But only 10 teams can say they made the playoffs. And that’s an accomplishment that shouldn’t go overlooked.

The Cubs (and their fans) aren’t in a position to thumb their noses at a division title. Maybe one day they will be good enough to be able to roll their eyes at “another” NL Central banner waving atop Wrigley Field. But today isn’t that day.

It’s after Labor Day, so let’s see how my MLB predictions look now

I wanted to do this post on Labor Day, but found myself busy. Things aren’t any lighter now, but I squeezed in some time to do it today.

AL EAST: Blue Jays, Yankees (Wild Card), Red Sox (Wild Card), Rays, Orioles.

The Blue Jays are one game behind the Red Sox in the division race, while the Yankees still have an outside shot (2 GB) at the Wild Card. I was too high on the Yanks, especially now considering how they’ve out-performed their Pythagorean record. I was too low on the Orioles pitching, though I rightfully felt good about their offense. Here is what I wrote about them in April. The Rays were a major disappointment, considering how I thought their pitching would be better.

AL CENTRAL: Royals, Indians, White Sox, Tigers, Twins.

I nailed the Twins being in last place, but the rest of my division picks are in shambles. I had the Indians winning the division right until the time I wrote this post because I thought I would look foolish for counting out the Royals for a third straight year. Prognostication lessons I’ve learned in 2016: Trust your instincts, trust the team with the better manager and starting pitching … and never trust the White Sox again.

AL WEST: Astros, Rangers, Angels, Mariners, Athletics.

I could not have been more wrong about this division. The Astros had a shot at this thing had they done better than 3-13 vs. the Rangers and/or had not gotten off to a 7-17 start. The Angels could’ve been better had they not lost their two best pitchers to elbow injuries. Credit Texas’ pitching staff for doing better than expected. The A’s are still rebuilding from the ashes of what happened at the end of 2014, while the Mariners still might finish with a winning record and another postseason-less year for Felix Hernandez.

AL Awards Predictions: MVP (Mike Trout is still the best in the game, but might be runner-up again), Cy Young (Chris Sale will likely be a top-3 finisher, but his offense does him no favors), ROY (Jose Berrios has dominated Triple-A twice this year and struggled during each MLB call-up), MOY (AJ Hinch isn’t going to win it because the Astros are probably missing the playoffs).

NL EAST: Nats, Mets (Wild Card), Marlins, Phillies, Braves.

Finally, I nailed a division from top to bottom. I’ll take my victory lap while I can.

NL CENTRAL: Cubs, Cardinals (Wild Card), Pirates, Reds, Brewers.

I came close to figuring out the Central, but the Brewers haven’t been as bad as I thought they would be. We really could get a Mets/Cardinals Wild Card game. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be rooting for Team Meteor that night. The Cubs have baseball’s best record (I honestly didn’t see that coming), but all that fun can be over quickly with a few bad games in a best-of-5 LDS. I thought the Reds would be better, but some of the pieces I thought would be there haven’t performed to my expectations (or haven’t arrived).

NL WEST: Giants, Dodgers, D’backs, Padres, Rockies.

I thought the 3-4-5 teams in this division were interchangeable and it turns out they pretty much are. The Rockies are the class of that group because of the Coors factor and the D’backs fell apart because their starting pitching spit the bit. The Padres are doing a rebuild thing after putting all their eggs into 2015 before that basket broke. Giants/Dodgers was a coin flip and one I was wrong about. Dave Roberts should be manager of the year, so long as the Dodgers either win the division or end up as the Wild Card team. He’s made chicken salad out of chicken bleep and more injuries than you can shake a stick at.

NL Awards Predictions: MVP (Bryce Harper was on an MVP pace before meeting the Cubs in May. Oops). Cy Young (Stephen Strasburg started strong, but injuries slowed him down). ROY (Corey Seager is also a candidate for NL MVP). MOY (Dusty Baker probably finishes in the top 3 in voting, but it will be a crime if Roberts doesn’t get it here).


Because my preseason picks didn’t scare me off, here are some awards season predictions with how I would vote for the awards — if I had a vote.

AL MVP: Mookie Betts, Red Sox
**If I had a vote, Mike Trout would have it. As it stands, my top-5 are Trout, Betts, Jose Altuve, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson.

AL CY YOUNG: Corey Kluber, Indians
**It might be hard to vote against the pitcher with the highest WAR in the AL who also happens to be the best/most consistent pitcher on a team that could still finish with the league’s best record. If I had a vote: Kluber, Sale, Hamels, Porcello, Britton would be my top-5.

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Michael Fulmer, RH SP, Tigers
**If he hits qualifying marks, Fulmer could lead the AL in ERA. He owns a 1.08 WHIP and the TIgers are 16-6 in his 22 starts. Tim Anderson and Max Kepler round out my top-3 AL rookies.

AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Terry Francona, Indians
**This team has battled injuries and suspensions to take over the AL Central and Francona has led with a steady hand. Jeff Banister has done an excellent job in Texas and would be my No. 2 choice for this award behind Francona.

NL MVP: Kris Bryant, Cubs
**Even I wouldn’t have expected Bryant to take the leap from NL Rookie of the Year to MVP, but here he is on the verge of winning this award if all goes well down the stretch. The offensive numbers are there (again) but to do that while playing 3B, LF, RF well is impressive. If I had a vote: Bryant, Corey Seager, Anthony Rizzo, Nolan Arenado, Daniel Murphy would be my top-5.

NL CY YOUNG: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
**If Kerhsaw comes back with a healthy September, it will be impossible to vote against him. Despite not pitching enough innings to qualify, he has the best ERA in baseball and the second highest bWAR. If I had a vote: Kershaw, Scherzer, Syndergaard, Bumgarner, Hendricks.

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Corey Seager, Dodgers
**An easy pick, even though Aledmys Diaz would have been a strong candidate had he not been injured a few months ago. The NL is loaded with quality rookies, so here are my top-5: Seager, Diaz, Trevor Story, Trea Turner, Seung-Hwan Oh

NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Dave Roberts, Dodgers
**To say the Dodgers have been bitten by the injury bug would be an understatement. Between balancing injuries, drama, egos and more, Dave Roberts has done a fantastic job juggling everything and keeping the Dodgers in contention in the NL West. My top-5: Roberts, Joe Maddon, Dusty Baker, Bruce Bochy, Don Mattingly