Hillenmeyer Takes Over At Middle Linebacker
By JERRY RILES
The Bears and Lovie Smith should be able to survive without the services of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher after it was announced on Monday that the 10 year veteran will miss the remainder of the season because of a broken wrist.
While Urlacher has been a serviceable player on the defensive side of the ball, he hasn't been overwhelming in that position. He is a great physical specimen and a pretty decent athlete, but to think the Bears defense will falter because he's not in the starting lineup is kind of stretching it. I like Brian, but I think he's a tad bit overrated. The question was asked, could the Bears continue to make a run toward the Super Bowl, after it was revealed that Urlacher's season was over, or were they done? There are four individuals who can answer that question, or more importantly, must answer that question. They are GM Jerry Angelo, Head Coach Smith, Defensive Line Coach Rod Marinelli, and Quarterback Jay Cutler. There lies the answer to the million dollar question. It's not the receivers, the corners, or special teams.
Stud pitcher Carlos Zambrano and just plain stud Milton Bradley.
No question these two players are the most fiery on this disappointing Cubs team this season.
Bradley was brought in to improve the outfield play and to solidify the left-handed spot in the team's batting order. Something the Cubs were missing from a year ago after they were swept by the L.A. Dodgers in three straight playoff contests.
The argument was the Cubs went down in the first round of the playoffs because they lacked hitting from the left-side of the plate.
GM Jim Hendry went out and acquired the volatile outfielder who was known for his outburst and violent temper. Hendry felt he could manage Bradley's demeanor and that he was one of the missing pieces the Cubs needed to go deep into the playoffs if not all the way to the World series and winning it.
Heck, he had already dealt with the fiery personality of big Carlos Zambrano who the organization signed to a hefty $90-plus-million-dollar deal. This was supposed to be an easy task.
Unfortunately, for Hendry and skipper Lou Piniella, the plan back fired and neither GM nor coach could handle the explosive nature of the two.
Big Z just a week ago scolded reporters about asking him if he wanted to stay in Chicago with the Cubs or be traded somewhere else. He sharply responded, "What kind of question is that? I'm done."
Zambrano abruptly left the post game press conference.
Hendry told Bradley to go home with 15 games remaining in the regular season after the struggling right-fielder responded to reporters' questions with "What else ya got, what else ya got, what else ya got?"
Hendry said Bradley was a detriment to the team and so he suspended him for the rest of the season. My question is, didn't the Cub brass figure this out before hand? Weren't they aware of his antics in the past? Did they think he was another Zambrano, and maybe did they think "Z" was another Milton?
I said the move was a great move, ONLY, if the Cubs and Lou could handle the two. The organization from top to bottom dropped the ball.
Both players appear to be ready for a new address. It is clear Zambrano is ready to take the money and run. It's unfortunate that neither player wants to play ball for the organization in an effort to bring home a World Series title. But you can't overlook Hendry and Piniella. They certainly cannot go blameless in this debacle.
The whole team has crumbled before our eyes. And it's a sad situation.
I say good riddance to the both of them because it's obvious they're more interested in the money that the game, but shame on the other two for not handling them in a proper fashion. Lou at times seemed uninterested. Then to call Bradley out in front of his teammates, chase him down into the locker-room on the road and call him a "piece of sh%!" and to take the uniform off and go home was just wrong.
How would Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, Joe Girardi, or even Ozzie Guillen have handled the situation?
All the Cubs can do now is just agree with their fans and say, "wait till next year." It's only 101 years and counting.
Heads or tails? It can go either way. My feelings about the 2016 Olympics here in Chicago that is. I love the Olympics, sports, winning and definitely the City of Chicago. But I also love life and love my fellow brethren, although some of my close friends and family members may differ at times. All in all, the life that God has given us is very precious and we should all cherish each and every day that we breathe the air and walk on this glorious planet we call home. Unfortunately, there are too many young African American teens and young adults on the city's South and West Sides that no longer have that chance to enjoy life anymore.
They are no longer with us because someone felt that their lives weren't important enough. Derrion Albert became the fourth Chicago public School student to have his life snuffed out by violence this 2009 school year. Corey McClaurin, senior at Simeon High School on the city's South Side, lost his life just five days before Albert fell victim to a senseless and brutal attack. Mayor Richard Daley and the Chicago 2016 Olympic supporters are in Copenhagen this week in hopes of convincing the IOC to vote in favor of awarding the City of Chicago the bid.
I think the city winning the bin would be an incredible honor. My question is at what expense? Better yet, at whose expense? The lives of young African American teens living on the South and West Sides? I hope not. Chicago and the United States are being represented very well, and by very high profile and prominent African American supporters. The list includes, Pres. Barack Obama and his lovely wife Michelle, Oprah Winfrey, an endorsement from Michael Jordan, Gold Medalists Jackie Joyner-Kersee, sprinter Michael Johnson, triple-jumper Michael Conley Sr. just to name a few.
Too bad this prestigious group of leaders can't or are not interested in finding time to help come up with a solution to the brutal violence that is taking place in the city. They're more interested in traveling overseas to help the Mayor secure the 2016 Olympic games. Again, I love the Olympics. My love began many years ago when I was cheering on Frank Shorter to win the marathon. I rooted for Mark Spitz before there was a Michael Phelps. I ran along with Edwin Moses as he pushed toward Olympic glory in the finals of the hurdles. Yes, I screamed at the television as Florence Griffith -Joyner, Jackie, Evelyn Ashford, Carl Lewis, Kristi Yamaguchi, Bart Conner, Bruce Jenner, and the many other Americans, who represented this country in the past Olympics, brought home the Gold medals.
I urge the Mayor to rally a group of these individuals to come back to Chicago and help rid the City of these ridiculous acts of violence that are destroying its image. If Chicago receives the bid, jobs, programs, and better education must be implemented immediately to help those living in the community. The killings of young males must cease. The numbers are astounding. Before 2006, on average, 10-15 students were fatally shot each year. That climbed to 24 fatal shootings in the 2006-07 school year, 23 deaths and 211 shootings in the 2007-08 school year and 34 deaths and 290 shootings last school year.
Just this month, the city announced a $30 million project that targets 1,200 high school pupils identified as most at risk to become victims of gun violence, giving them full-time mentors and part-time jobs to keep them off the streets. Some money also will pay for more security guards and to provide safe passage for students forced to travel through areas with active street gangs.
Kudos to leaders like Fr. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina on the City's South Side. May his hard work and dedication to the lives of these young individuals not go unnoticed. So let the Games begin. But let's not forget that life is more than just a game. (Jerry Riles is a weekly 5on5 contributor featured every Tuesday in the RedEye)