Preps Talk

Frankie O's Blog: Not like it's my money!

Frankie O's Blog: Not like it's my money!

Monday, Feb. 28, 2011
9:03 a.m.

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Unexpectedly, the favorite topic at the bar this week had nothing to do with something that is going to affect this year. I know, I know, Chicago, and more specifically, Chicago baseball, is at the origin of Wait till next year! Considering that THIS season doesnt start for a month, even for here, its a little ridiculous to be talking about next season. But thats what happens when the best hitter in baseball, someone in my top two of hitters that I have watched in the last forty years, says that he is going to be a free-agent after this season. Players of that caliber, still in their prime, dont become available often, nor do they come cheaply. And that is where the fun starts.

In the economic age in which we live, financial discussions elicit a lot of passion. But as I readily point out, player salaries, in any sport, are way past absurdity. (I then ask: Has anyone seen the bonuses paid out to the big-wigs at Goldman-Sachs? Now that is worth getting worked up about, but I digress.) The point is though, someone actually pays athletes those salaries and once in a while gladly so.

The saying goes: Stats are for losers. Well, I think that could be said about team payrolls. The only time salaries become a topic is when a player or team, greatly under-perform for what they are being paid. More money being paid means that the expectation for better results rises accordingly. Putting your payroll to levels where its never been, means youre all-in, right Kenny? If the White Sox perform this year like they are being paid, the talk will be of making the right financial investments to put together a winner. If this team does not perform, and I wonder how much time they will be given, things could get very interesting here this summer.

But thats this year. What Im talking about right now is next year. By all accounts, Albert Pujols is playing his last season in St. Louis. I do not believe that they will pay him what he wants. I believe that he thinks he has been under-paid in his current seven-year 100 million contract and I agree with that. The conventional thinking is that St. Louis wants players to sign for less than market value with them, just for the privilege of playing in such a great baseball town. If you look at their payroll they only pay big-money to four guys (10 mil per season) and peanuts (remember, this is a relative term) to the rest. That they are in contention every year is a testament of how shrewd they are. Or are they? Chris Carpenter is paid like an ace, but his health is always a concern. They pay Kyle Loshe 10 mil a year. What? Whos Kyle Loshe? But the eye-opener is the 7-year 120 million (plus an option year)contract that they gave Matt Holliday before the 2010 season. Didnt this contract, to this player, look like protection against losing Pujols if he did not take their low-ball offer? I think it was. This year, Pujols is playing on a 16 million team option that was part of his seven-year deal. He is still UNDER-PAID! If you were serious about keeping him, wouldnt you have made him an offer before now? Isnt having to option your best player a bad sign? My guess is that the Cardinals brass is going to spin this as Albert being greedy. That he thinks hes too good. He is that good! I dont know a lot, (I heard that!) but when you do something in Major League Baseball that hasnt been done before, thats usually pretty good. Ten years straight of 30-homers, 100-RBI and having a .300 avg., has never been done before, never that is until The Machine. His stat line is absolutely incredible. More so though, its incredibly consistent, thus the nick-name. The only other players of our time who are close to matching his productivity are two players with the stain of steroid abuse: Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds. Say what you want about those two, but their numbers are scary. Pujols is right with them. And he has done it without a ton of suspicion about him. Averaging 155 games played over ten years tends to erase doubt, since until this point, most abusers tend to break down and need periodic tune-ups.

So what Im trying to say here is that someone is going to have a unique opportunity to shape their franchise with arguably the best player of his time. The price will be steep, but paying for top-of-the-line always is. If you want the best, ante up! The St. Louis argument against doing so is two-fold: His production is bound to go down, why pay for past results? And, who in their right mind, has the ability, and gumption (I really wanted to use another word!) to sign him for what he wants? The number he wants, by the way, is reportedly 10years-300 mill. BOO-YA!

I agree that number sounds insane, but is it? Arent we being told that baseball attendance is the best of all-time? Doesnt it make sense that revenue would be at all-time levels? I have not seen the price of a ticket, or a beer, coming down. A line has to be drawn at some point, but didnt we also say that when we saw the first million dollar player? The first ten million dollar one? The three other major sports have salary caps, will baseball finally join suit? Not without shutting down for a while and that will not benefit anyone, so damn the torpedoes!

So who could it be? Who could be so bold? The usual suspects, the Red Sox and Yankees, are out I think, both having big-contract 1st basemen. The Phillies have Ryan Howard: Trade? The Mets are going to be in Madoff-limbo for a while. The Dodgers have to sort through the messy divorce of their owners. Texas just signed the awful Adrian Beltre deal. Baltimore used to spend money. Detroit? Get serious. The Nats? Now thats a good question. If theyre wacky enough to give Jayson Werth 120 mil, who knows? But it would be shocking. And there are a number of franchises that could make the leap into relevancy, but would they have any money left?

So who are the teams that Cardinals fans should fear could take their Phat Albert away? For my money (easy for me to spend!) it comes down to two teams. One is the Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim. I dont know if its realistic or not but with owner Arte Moreno is involved, anything is possible. And like I said, with the Dodgers ownership a mess, this could be the perfect opportunity for him to be what hes always wanted: Be the most relevant team in Southern California.

The other is the reason for the animated conversations at the bar: The Chicago Cubs. When you stop laughing, read on! I have written in this blog many times that I believed that something seismic would occur for the Cubbies to end their century-plus of futility. I often pondered this while I was watching games last August and September and was admiring all of the fans dressed as empty seats. Then there was the very public rebuff of Cubs ownership of a loan to the team to be paid by taxpayer money. This is a franchise in need of a jolt and Albert would provide that, and then some. Talk about seismic, this is off the charts!

First off: can they afford him? Yes, and, yes! This team brings in money no matter what I think we can all agree. Coincidentally, after this season, they take four big contracts off the books in Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Silva, Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Pena. Pena has a one year deal at first base, imagine that. Those contracts are worth about 48 million. Ramirez has an option for 16 million next year and I wish him well with that. Silva and Fukudome are gone, or at least are going to take humongous pay cuts. Pena is on a one year deal that works out perfect for using him as a plan B.

Dont know about you, but I think the team could use a face to help itself in the attendance and loan issues. Say what you want about him, but no matter what, Sammy Sosa put people in the seats and before his fall from grace, he was the face of a franchise that made a ton of cash from it. His face was their case! Sometimes you have to invest money to make even more of it. Having a player of Pujols Hall of Fame stature could only help.

And did I mention, this would only tick Cardinals fans off? How cool is that? Working at a Cubs bar has made this Phillies fan as annoyed with Red Bird fans as anyone wearing blue. Nothing would be better than to help shut their yaps about how many titles they have won and that a rivalry is between teams that win championships more than every hundred years. This reason alone would be enough for me to get a deal done.

So to FINALLY put an end to what Im sure will be many pages spent on this subject for the next 12 months, I think that the Cubs need to follow the wisdom of one of the heroes of my youth, and Dare to be great! The philosopher who uttered that phrase that I will never forget, nor its message, was none other than Julius Erving. The Doc. 6. Its about not being afraid to take advantage of an opportunity, if it means you have a chance to win. Is paying anyone 300 million crazy? Sure it is. But its not like paying the 208 million of the contracts to Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano, now that is CRAZY! Someone is going to be nuts enough to sign him, so why not here? Hes the best hitter in baseball and he could be yours. Theres eight months to get everything in order, and Ill be with you every step of the way. Like LeBron James last year in Cleveland, this will be a story that wont die. Oh, and if what you read here doesnt make any sense, come on I and join me at the bar and Ill serve you till it does, it should only take a couple!

The top players to watch during the IHSA State Football championships

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The top players to watch during the IHSA State Football championships

Below is a listing of several prospects and recruit names to watch this coming weekend for the IHSA State Football championships.

Class 1A

Tuscola

2018 OT Hunter Woodard (Oklahoma State) 6-foot-5, 285 pounds

2018 TE Cal Sementi 6-foot-6, 202 pounds

2019 QB Luke Sluder 6-foot-2, 195 pounds

2019 OL CJ Piczao 6-foot-3, 271 pounds

2019 OL/DL Brayden Vonlanken 6-foot-2, 244 pounds

Lena Winslow

2020 TE/DE Isaiah Bruce 6-foot-3, 238 pounds

2020 RB/LB Sean Ormistron 6-foot-0, 191 pounds

2019 TE/DE Parker Magee 6-foot-3, 206 pounds

2019 OL/DL Ian Kuehl 6-foot-2, 260 pounds

Class 2A

GCMS

2019 WR Ryland Holt 6-foot-4, 190 pounds

2019 S Lane Short 6-foot-2, 180 pounds

2019 QB/DB Nathan Garard 5-foot-11,185 pounds

Maroa Forsyth

2020 QB Ian Benner 6-foot-2, 165 pounds

2019 DL Lane Ohlemeyer 6-foot-1, 275 pounds

2019 WR Max Davenport 6-foot-1, 190 pounds

Class 3A

Immaculate Conception

2019 OL/DL Ricky Mysliwiec 6-foot-1, 275 pounds

2019 LB Khali Saunders 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

2019 WR Khalil Saunders 5-foot-11, 185 pounds

Pleasant Plains

2019 TE/LB Tristen Tewes 6-foot-3, 220 pounds

2019 OL Deven Burns 6-foot-3, 250 pounds

Class 4A

Morris

2018 OL Nathan Korte 6-foot-6, 298 pounds

2018 TE/DE Tyler Spiezio 6-foot-5, 210 pounds

2018 OL Nolan Feeney 6-foot-3, 282 pounds

2019 TE Nathan Little 6-foot-4, 259 pounds

Rochester

2018 QB Nik Baker 5-foot-9, 185 pounds

2018 OL/DL Sean Brewer 6-foot-4, 245 pounds

2018 OL/DL Clay Johnson 6-foot-1, 290 pounds

2018 DL Mike McNicholas 6-foot-1, 215 pounds

2018 DB Tyler Caruso 5-foot-9, 180 pounds

2018 RB Nick Capriotti 5-foot-11, 190 pounds

Class 5A

Phillips

2018 DT Queneil Morrisson (NIU commit)

2018 QB J'Bore Gibbs (South Dakota State commit)

2018 DE Terrance Taylor (Toledo commit)

2018 WR/S Fabian McCray (WMU/Toledo offers)

2019 WR/DB Joseph Thompson

2019 TE Jahleel Billingsley 

2019 DB/WR Joseph Thompson

2020 DB Robert Pledger 

Dunlap

2018 TE Charlie Mangieri (Northwestern commit) 6-foot-4, 230 pounds

2018 RB/LB Luke Bennyhoff 5-foot-10, 180 pounds

2018 WR/DB Isaac Guyton 6-foot-2, 170 pounds

2018 OL Broc Jockisch 6-foot-3, 280 pounds

2019 WR/DE Josiah Miamen 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

Class 6A

Prairie Ridge 

2018 QB Samson Evans (Iowa commit) 6-foot-1, 210 pounds

2018 OL Jeff Jenkins (Iowa commit) 6-foot-4, 280 pounds

2018 LB Joe Perhats 6-foot-3, 205 pounds

2018 LB Jacob Ommen 6-foot-1, 215 pounds

2018 OL Justin Grapenthin 6-foot-3, 250 pounds

2018 OL Jeffery Schultz 6-foot-6, 300 pounds

Nazareth Academy 

2018 DT Isaiah Lee (Iowa State commit) 6-foot-1, 290 pounds

2018 TE/LB Austin Reifsteck 6-foot-1, 210 pounds

2018 LB Wesley Lones 6-foot-2, 205 pounds

2019 RB/DB Devin Blakely 5-foot-9, 180 pounds

2019 WR/DB Diamond Evans 5-foot-10, 180 pounds

2019 WR/DB Michael Love 5-foot-10, 165 pounds

2019 DB Jermaine Baker 6-foot-2, 200 pounds

2019 WR David Ogelsby 5-foot-10, 182 pounds

Class 7A

Batavia

2018 OL Nolan Eike (Central Michigan commit) 6-foot-6, 260 pounds

2018 SS Michael Niemiec 6-foot-1, 190 pounds

2019 ILB Luke Weerts 6-foot-2, 230 pounds

2019 OLB Michael Jansey 6-foot-2, 210 pounds

2019 DE Ethan Towers 6-foot-5, 210 pounds

Lake Zurich

2018 QB Evan Lewandowski 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

2018 LB Jack Sanborn (Wisconsin commit) 6-foot-2, 220 pounds

2018 OL Ian Fitzgerald 6-foot-6, 300 pounds

2019 LB Lucas Dwyer 6-foot-2, 195 pounds

2019 DL Jackson Farsales 6-foot-3, 265 pounds

Class 8A

Loyola Academy 

2018 QB Quinn Boyle 6-foot-1, 180 pounds

2018 OL Charlie Gross (Fordham commit) 6-foot-5, 270 pounds

2018 TE Charlie Gilroy 6-foot-5, 225 pounds 

2018 DL Marty Geary 6-foot-2, 265 pounds

2018 DE John McMahon 6-foot-3, 245 pounds

2019 LB Armoni Dixon 6-foot-3, 220 pounds

2019 S Jacob Gonzales 6-foot-1, 175 pounds

2019 WR Noah Jones 6-foot-2, 195 pounds

Lincoln-Way East

2018 DL Devin O'Rourke (Northwestern commit) 6-foot-6, 250 pounds

2018 TE/LS Turner Pallissard (Iowa PWO) 6-foot-2, 220 pounds

2018 DT Jayden Hacha 6-foot-0, 250 pounds

2018 WR Shane Pedersen 6-foot-4, 185 pounds

2018 LB Declan Carr 6-foot-1, 200 pounds

2020 WR AJ Henning 5-foot-10, 170 pounds

2019 OL Dane Eggert 6-foot-3, 265 pounds

The youngest coach in baseball manages some of the White Sox top minor leaguers

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MiLB.com

The youngest coach in baseball manages some of the White Sox top minor leaguers

Most minor league managers have graying sideburns, wrinkled skin and a birth date well before 1980.

They’ve been through the battles of baseball and life, placed in rural dugouts across the country to teach the younger generation how to play the game.

But in a town outside Charlotte, North Carolina, the White Sox are bucking this trend with a fresh-faced millennial who one day could be sitting in a major league manager’s office with his name on it.

Justin Jirschele is the manager of the Kannapolis Intimidators, the White Sox Class-A affiliate.  At 27 years old, he is the youngest manager in all of professional baseball.  

Jirschele (pronounced JIRSH-ah-lee) goes by “Jirsh” to those who know him and who play for him, which last season included top prospects like Jake Burger, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Dylan Cease.

When Jirschele played the game, he was a guy every team would have wanted.

Not for his speed: He never stole more than four bases in a season during his minor league career. Not for his power: He didn't hit a single home run in 622 career at-bats.

But because he treated every game like it could be his last.

“I never took a play off. I never took an at-bat off,” he said.

This was his mindset even in his very last minor league at-bat for the Birmingham Barons in 2015.

“I remember walking up and I said out loud to myself, ‘This is it. Do something.’ I’m getting the chills right now thinking about it.”

Jirschele knew his playing days were over. So did the White Sox. They signed him out of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2012 as an undrafted free agent. Nobody else wanted him. Over the next four seasons, he played for five White Sox minor league teams. The results on the field were overwhelmingly average.

Then one day, Nick Capra, then the White Sox Director of Player Development, came to Jirschele with an idea and an offer that would change his life.

“He asked, ‘Are you ready to start coaching yet?’ Jirschele recalled. ‘And I looked at him and went, ‘What do you mean?’”

The White Sox offered Jirschele a job to be the hitting coach for the Grand Falls Voyagers, the team’s rookie league affiliate.

“I was in shock. It was the end of May, the season was still young. I was at three different levels. I started at Winston-Salem, went to Charlotte and came back to Birmingham. It was a whirlwind. When he first said it, my first feeling was excitement. That kind of told me right there that it was the right time to do it.”

So Jirschele took the job.

He was 25 years old.

Then he went out and took that final minor league at-bat for Birmingham, which turned out to be a fitting conclusion to his playing career.  

“I think it was the second pitch, right down the middle and I was tardy, hit it off my fist, a dribbler to the shortstop and I bet you I ran as hard as I had in my entire life. It wasn’t that I was fast, but I was running as hard as I possibly could to first and I don’t think there even was a throw I hit it so soft, perfectly past the pitcher.  I just said to myself, that’s it right there.”

An infield dribbler for a base hit to close his playing career.

Coaching made sense for Jirschele. His father, Mike, is the third base coach for the Kansas City Royals. He won a World Series in 2015. His older brother, Jeremy, is the head baseball coach back at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Pretty soon, the younger Jirschele would be leading a team of his own.  

In 2017, the White Sox gave him the managerial job with Kannapolis. Sure, some of his players would be around the same age, but the White Sox looked past the birth date on his driver’s license and recognized a person who was wise beyond his years.

“It was identified early on that he has the leadership qualities we look for in a manager regardless of his age,” said Chris Getz, White Sox Director of Player Development. “He has good baseball knowledge, good communication skills, a willingness to learn and adapt, and carries out a consistent message. We feel lucky to have him and think he has a bright future ahead.”

Although the ages of the Intimidators players ranged from 19 to 25 years old, it didn’t matter that their manager was slighty older than them.

“Never once had an issue with the age thing,” Jirschele said about his players. “I think from Day 1 when I showed them the respect like I’m not going to be the guy that’s two years older than you hammering things down your throat, I’m going to have that respect and you’re going to show it back.”  

While the White Sox prospects spent the season developing their playing skills, Jirschele was honing his managing skills, which go beyond what happens on the field. A big part of the job is handling issues that arise off of it.  

“It’s a long grind season and there are so many things that are going to come up non-baseball related to where you might be in that clubhouse and you might feel alone,” Jirschele explained. “You might feel like you’re on an island all by yourself even if you’ve got three best friends that are going to stand up in your wedding one day, you might not feel comfortable talking to those guys about that.  Come on in, we’ll talk about it at 12:30 in the afternoon or 7:30 at night or midnight. I tell the guys you’ve got my phone number.  Call or text no matter what time if you need to talk.”

Following his thirst for managing knowledge, Jirschele often reaches out to his dad for late-night phone calls, rehashing the game that night. He’ll even text an opposing manager, like Patrick Anderson, a friend who has managed the Hagerstown Suns, the Nationals Class-A affiliate for the last four seasons.

“He’s a guy I could pick his brain about things," he said. "Once the series was over I’d send him a text and ask, ‘Why did you do this?’ At the end of the day we’re all in it together and first and foremost it’s all for these players and making them better each and every day and doing whatever we can to get them to the top. But at the same time we’re developing ourselves as well along the way.

“I’m sure I annoy a lot of people of asking questions but that’s how you learn. I was brought up that way.”

Jirschele’s impressions of some White Sox top prospects he managed last season:

Alec Hansen: “When he takes the ball, you feel like you have one of the best chances in the country to get a win that night in minor league baseball.  His stuff is just off the charts.”

Dane Dunning: “It would be the 8th inning, he wanted that complete game and he wouldn’t be too pleased with me coming out there to take him out, but you want that.  You want that out of a competitor on the mound every 5 days. He’s definitely a guy you want in the foxhole with you, no doubt.”

Micker Adolfo: “He has a special, special arm.  I don’t know if there’s a better one right now.”

Jake Burger: “Looking forward, the ceiling is unbelievably high for him. 100 percent no doubt in my mind, someday he will be a captain in the big leagues.”

Like many of his players, Jirschele left an impression with the White Sox in his first season as manager. He helped lead the Intimidators to their first playoff berth since 2009 and their first trip to the South Atlantic League championship since 2005.

Earlier this month, the White Sox named him their Minor League Coach of the Year.

“First and foremost, it means we had good players this year. It’s those guys between the lines,” he said. “As coaches, we can’t go out there and pitch. We were fortunate to have a great group of guys. We came up a little short (winning the championship), but we got there and it was fun.”

Once upon a time, Jirschele’s dream was to make it to the majors. That dream still exists.  Just now instead of having his own baseball card, he wants to get to the big leagues holding a lineup card.

“I think I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t a goal, but at the same time I don’t worry about it. I know I’m 27 years old," he said. "I’m just fortunate to have the job I do right now with the White Sox. I go out and do my job every single day and the rest will just take care of itself.”