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SportsMonday: Out With A Whimper, In With A Bang

Chicago shrugged.

As they called it a season with a 24-20 loss to the Lions, the Bears (6-10 and out of the playoffs for the eighth time in the last nine seasons) seemed more inconsequential than ever. Did you hear the Bears lost again? Um, yeah, but how about Jimmy Butler? And Corey Crawford's even better.

What are the Cubs going to do to add starting pitching? And will the Sox (the Sox!) sign Yoenis Cespedes?

Butler scored a "Devin Hester at his peak" ridiculous team-record 40 points in the second half in Toronto yesterday to lead the Bulls all the way back from numerous double-digit deficits to a two-point victory over the Raptors.

Crawford notched his league-leading sixth shutout as the Blackhawks blanked the Ottawa Senators 3-0 later that same evening.

Both teams enter the new year/week occupying spots in the standings they would be ever so pleased to hang on to until the end of their respective seasons. The Bulls pulled themselves up to second in their conference with a 20-12 overall mark. They trail the Cavs by just 2 1/2 games (though they are also only two games out of sixth; the Raptors and Hawks are tied for fourth at 21-14).

The Blackhawks, who continue to reside in the same arena as the Bulls and yet are members of a Western conference while the Bulls hang out in the East, have also ascended to second overall. They are further behind the front-running Dallas Stars (60 points to 50) but about the same distance from fifth (currently occupied by a Nashville Predators team that has 45 points).

As for baseball, teams for the most part took a break from tossing wood into the stove during the holiday weeks. But it shouldn't be long now before White Sox fans learn whether their team will bring in a prominent free agent corner outfielder for the 2016 season. Or should we say fans will find out which outfielder the Sox will sign.

Various reports had them as one of two finalists to sign the aforementioned power hitter who sparked the Mets' long playoff run last fall. If the Sox are willing to budget enough money to make that signing a real possibility, it would certainly seem to follow that if they don't get him, they will be right there to sign either Alex Gordon or Justin Upton, either of which would represent a major upgrade over current right fielder Avisail Garcia.

The Cubs might wait to swing a deal for pitching until spring training. Did we mention that pitchers and catchers report in about a month-and-a-half?

So, where were we at the start of this column? Oh yeah, the Bears finished another lousy season by dropping their sixth consecutive decision against the Lions. That's right, they have lost six straight to the sorry-assed Lions!

At least the "state of the franchise" stories about the Bears as they approached their season finale last week followed an entertaining arc. There was initially plenty of stuff about how Ryan Pace and John Fox had "changed the culture," especially in the immediate aftermath of their thrilling victory over Lovie Smith's Buccaneers.

Then over the weekend, an inconvenient fact seemed to occur to the commentariat: Wait a minute, if this team loses this game to Detroit, it will finish last in its division again. Its record will be only one game better than it was last year.

At least one first-year coach has done a far better job than Fox. The Jets were worse than the Bears last year, posting a 4-12 record. Despite their disappointing loss Sunday, the Jets finish this season 10-6. The Bears also can't argue they had a particularly difficult schedule. Because their schedule was relatively easy, they will draft last (11th) among the four teams that finished with 6-10 marks this season.

Then again, did I mention the Blackhawks' winger Artemi Panarin has to be the favorite to be named Rookie of the Year in the NHL this year? And that Andrew Desjardins, who scored one goal in the Hawks' first 37 games, now has four in their last three games? And another thing about the Hawks . . .

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See also: The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #83: Our Chicago Player Of The Year.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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