- Jon Greenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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10. Bulls lost 35-point lead, game to the Sacramento Kings
No Ben Gordon, no problem, right? Uh, not exactly. The post-Gordon Bulls aren't as bad as the post-Jordan Bulls were, but they're even more maddening. Headlined by Derrick Rose, a resurgent Luol Deng and rapidly ascending center Joakim Noah, the Bulls should be better than 10-17 going into Christmas Eve, and coach Vinny Del Negro's job status didn't get any safer after the Bulls blew a third-quarter lead that ballooned to 35 points. The Kings shocked the United Center with the second-biggest comeback in NBA history, one point shy of the Jazz's record. Think they could have used Gordon's fourth-quarter heroics? Or maybe Del Negro should have played more than seven guys all game?
9. Dale Tallon screws up qualifying offers, gets demoted
This is a joint embarrassment for both the classy former general manager of the Blackhawks and the team that fired him from his GM duties in mid-July, two months after the team made the Western Conference finals. It's no secret that Tallon was more skilled at talent evaluation than bookkeeping, and the team's decision to mail out qualifying offers to the team's restricted free agents, rather than shell out for courier service, was mystifying and costly. When they fired him to promote Stan Bowman, the cold move soured some fans on the organization that had reinvented itself and reinvigorated hockey in Chicago. Well, until the team started out white hot this season. Now, no one cares where Tallon is, or what he's doing.
8. White Sox claim Alex Rios, then watch him play
Well, at least the defense got better. In truth, the most embarrassing thing about the 2009 White Sox was their alarmingly bad defense. When general manager Kenny Williams claimed Toronto outfielder Alex Rios on waivers, and got him and the obligation to pay him more than $60 million in salary owed through 2015 (when the team has a $1 million buyout on his deal), it was a head-scratcher. Rios is a skilled player, and easily the best outfielder on the team, but he is one of the many bad contracts signed by unemployed former Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi. Rios didn't augur much of an immediate return, hitting .199 with three homers and nine RBIs in 41 games with the Sox. His .530 OPS won't impress the statistically advanced, either.
7. White Sox can't shut up about Mark Buehrle's perfect game
Forget the President Obama overkill, this was more annoying. The marketing-friendly White Sox flogged Buehrle's July 23 perfect game way past its expiration date. Yes, it was awesome, but Buehrle went 2-7 with a 4.91 ERA after the fact. Yet the Sox were still plugging the perfecto as the season went down the tubes. The incessant commercials for perfect game "tickets" during the games prompted manager Ozzie Guillen to call the press box and offer to buy out the stock in order for the commercials to cease. Guillen, according to a source, said forget about that, Buehrle would pay for it himself.
6. Derrick Rose's summer
Rose, Chicago's golden child, was hit with some unprecedented bad publicity following his Rookie of the Year campaign. First, there were insinuations that he had someone else take his SATs and was actually ineligible to play his one season at Memphis. Other, somewhat minor, allegations followed as the NCAA investigated the Memphis program. Rose has adamantly declared that he took the test. Also, pictures of Rose at a party or a bar, looking less than angelic, spread throughout the Internet. It wasn't a big deal, he was in college after all, but it was publicity he didn't plan on. Rose, who spent much of the summer working out in Los Angeles, said a late summer trip to China, away from his problems, with adidas was welcomed.
5. Big Z throws big fit
We love Carlos Zambrano's antics and his animated personality, but while his May 27 fit was really funny, it also showed his lack of discipline and maturity. He needs emotion to pitch, but his meltdowns prove that he might never reach ace status. Zambrano's rage, which included him throwing the umpire out via a "you're gone" gesture, did have one positive side effect: The team removed the cumbersome orange Gatorade dispenser from the dugout after Zambrano bashed it. In retrospect, this was one of the miserably disappointing team's few highlights of 2009.
4. Patrick Kane arrested
The Blackhawks' cherubic scoring machine got a black eye after supposedly attacking a Buffalo cab driver over some loose change. After a night at the bars, the then-20-year-old Kane and his cousin got into an altercation with their 62-year-old cabbie over 20 cents. For a guy who was sometimes criticized as being a finesse player, the EA Sports cover boy got pretty physical with someone older than Chris Chelios. Not much came of this legally -- Kane wound up pleading guilty to a non-criminal disorderly conduct charge and received a conditional discharge. He still hears about it from opposing fans.
3. Bengals 45, Bears 10
The Bears were 3-2 going into the Cedric Benson Bowl in Cincinnati and still a playoff contender. It's safe to say that was the beginning of the end. The Bengals humiliated Chicago, going up 31-3 at halftime. All the Bears' many weaknesses were exposed as Benson ran for 189 yards against the team that released him, while Jay Cutler threw three interceptions. Lovie Smith's defense was shredded, which would be a regularly occurring feat against good teams, to the tune of 448 yards and 30 first downs. The Bears have gone 2-6 since, with wins over Cleveland and St. Louis.
2. Milton Bradley gets tossed from game by his own manager
It's tempting to interchange this June 25 incident, when Lou Piniella tossed Bradley from a game against the White Sox for yet another dugout outburst, with Jan. 8, when the Cubs actually signed Milton Bradley, who called himself "blessed" to be in Chicago, to a three-year, $30 million deal. Or April 16, when he was tossed from his first home at-bat for arguing balls and strikes. Or April 23, when he vented to the Cubs.com writer about how mean her colleagues were being to him. Or Sept. 21, when Jim Hendry suspended Bradley for the season, ruining any trade value he had left. Or Dec. 18, when Hendry unloaded him for terrible Mariners pitcher Carlos Silva. You get the picture. Pick a day and we can go with it. The petulant Bradley was the face of a pretty bad Cubs team.
1. Jay Cutler's Bears debut
Much was expected of Jay Christopher Cutler when the Bears traded Kyle Orton and three draft picks (two first-rounders and a third-rounder) for the first-time Pro Bowl quarterback last spring. Cutler's long-awaited debut was a harbinger of a disastrous season, bringing back memories of Rex Grossman, not to mention Chad Hutchinson. In the first of many primetime stinkers, Cutler threw three first-half interceptions at Lambeau Field. At halftime, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo just stared at the field, speechless at what he had just seen. The quick prognosis at the time was that his performance, 17-for-36 and a career-high four interceptions, including one to end the 21-15 loss, was an aberration. But it wasn't. Cutler's 25 interceptions and low 70s passer rating make him look like a slight upgrade from Grossman. His total lack of charisma hasn't exactly endeared him to writers or fans. Hopefully a change in offensive play calling, some better linemen and maybe an experience receiver or two, will help Cutler get back to his 2008 ways. Maybe 2010 will be better for everyone.
14hTristan H. Cockcroft