Cubs

Konerkos slogan for 2012

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Konerkos slogan for 2012

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The next time the White Sox need a new marketing campaign, I suggest they save the time and effort and just go straight to Paul Konerko. The longtime captain always has a way with words, and he did again on Thursday after the teams final workout before the season opener.

I asked Konerko what this White Sox team will be about in 2012, and what fans can expect to see.

He took all of a millisecond to come up with the answer.

Doing it right, Konerko said. Thats just the one thing that goes through my head more than anything is that everybody is in a mode right now, whatever their job is, to not even be concerned with the outcome or whats going to happen out there. Just doing it right.

Some might perceive this as Konerko lowering expectations, saying that as long as the White Sox play the game the way its supposed to be played, that will be good enough.

Far from it. Dig a little deeper.

Last year when the White Sox went All-In, it was all about the outcome Konerko mentioned. Win or lose. Period. That was the theme for 2011.

Thats great if you have a team like the 1927 Yankees who can just beat peoples brains out from April through October. It also works when you have a team where very little goes wrong. Case in point: the 2005 White Sox.

But last year, a lot went wrong. And when the ship started sinking, in many cases it was every man for himself.

Team baseball? Fundamentals? Everyone pulling from the same rope?? It might have been in the White Sox handbook, but it was often missing on the field.

That wont be the case this year.

If youre at the plate with guys in a certain situation, you know that your job is to do it as right as possible, and get that job done, Konerko said. If youre in the infield on defense, at that moment youve got a job to do. Everybody is really focused on that kind of stuff. Thats the way to go about it. If you do that and you have the talent, it will come out in the results.

Kenny Williams was laughed at when he toyed with the idea this offseason of having Konerko be the teams player-manager. It was more of a creative thought than anything else. But as Robin Ventura begins his managerial career on Friday, hell be comforted with the knowledge that he basically has another manager out there on the field, wearing a No. 14 jersey.

Outside of their own clubhouse, not much is expected from this White Sox team. The players dont need to be reminded. Theyre asked about it everyday.

How would you react if you were constantly asked about your shortcomings from last year, how SI.com is predicting 95 losses, how the Tigers are going to run away with the division, how you no longer have Mark Buehrle, Sergio Santos and Carlos Quentin, etc, etc, etc?

If youre an athlete, or just a living, breathing human being, eventually its got to tick you off.

Say this, the 2012 White Sox already lead the league in having something to prove. That includes proving the doubters wrong.

If everything goes as we plan on it, theres going to be a lot of people crawfishing a little bit, backpedaling on where they have us right now, said John Danks who gets the Opening Day nod, as well as a clean slate after starting last year 0-8.

We obviously underachieved greatly last year. I think thats the reason why people arent talking about us, which could be a good thing, said Adam Dunn, who after his disastrous season is probably looking forward to the new year more than anyone.

So what kind of year will it be? Dont listen to the critics, because nobody knows the answer.

If Im going to listen to anyone, its Konerko.

Hes not predicting 90 wins and a playoff spot, nor is he calling for a rebuilding year where everything goes to pieces.

He calls it like it is, which in April is never black and white -- more like several shades of gray. It's a long season. There are 162 games ahead. What can we expect?

I feel like this team, whatever the results end up being as far as wins and losses, will be what this team is, Konerko said. I think were going to go about it correctly all the time. Theres always going to be a slip-up here and there, but for the most part were going to go about it right all the time, and well see how that bears out in the end.

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

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USA TODAY

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

MESA, Ariz. — You don’t need to spend long searching the highlight reels to figure out why Javy Baez goes by “El Mago.”

Spanish for “The Magician,” that moniker is a fitting one considering what Baez can do with his glove and his arm up the middle of the infield. The king of tags, Baez also dazzles with his throwing arm and his range. He looks like a Gold Glove kind of player when you watch him do these amazing things. And it’s no surprise that in his first media session of the spring, he was talking about winning that award.

“Just to play hard and see what I can do. Obviously, try to be healthy the whole year again. And try to get that Gold Glove that I want because a lot of people know me for my defense,” he said Friday at Cubs camp. “Just try to get a Gold Glove and stay healthy the whole year.”

Those high expectations — in this case, being the best defensive second baseman in the National League — fall in line with everything the rest of the team is saying about their own high expectations. It’s been “World Series or bust” from pretty much everyone over the past couple weeks in Mesa.

Baez might not be all the way there just yet. Joe Maddon talked earlier this week about his reminders that Baez needs to keep focusing on making the easy plays while staying a master of the magnificent.

“What I talked to him about was, when he had to play shortstop, please make the routine play routinely and permit your athleticism to play. Because when the play requires crazinesss, you’re there, you can do that,” Maddon said. “But this straight up ground ball three-hopper to shortstop, come get the ball, play it through and make an accurate throw in a routine manner. Apparently that stuck. Because he told me once he thought in those terms, it really did slow it down for him. And he did do a better job at doing that.”

But the biggest question for Cubs fans when it comes to Baez is when the offense will catch up to his defense. Baez hit a game-winning homer run in his first major league game and smacked 23 of them last season, good for fifth on a team full of power bats. But arguably just as famous as Baez’s defensive magic is his tendency to chase pitches outside of the strike zone. He had 144 strikeouts last season and reached base at a .317 clip. Seven Cubs — including notable struggling hitters Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — had higher on-base percentages in 2017.

Baez, for one, is staying focused on what he does best, saying he doesn’t really have any specific offensive goals for the upcoming season.

“I’m not worrying about too much about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to play defense, and just let the offense — see what happens.”

Maddon, unsurprisingly, talked much more about what Baez needs to do to become a better all-around player, and unsurprisingly that included being more selective at the plate.

“One of the best base runners in the game, one of the finest arms, most acrobatic, greatest range on defense, power. The biggest thing for me for him is to organize the strike zone,” Maddon said. “Once he does that, heads up. He’s at that point now, at-bat wise, if you want to get those 500, 600 plate appearances, part of that is to organize your zone, accept your walks, utilize the whole field, that kind of stuff. So that would be the level that I think’s the next level for him.”

Will Baez have a season’s worth of at-bats to get that done? The versatile Cubs roster includes a couple guys who split time between the infield and outfield in Zobrist and Ian Happ. Getting their more consistent bats in the lineup might mean sacrificing Baez’s defense on certain days. Baez, of course, also has the ability to slide over to shortstop to spell Addison Russell, like he did when Russell was on the disabled list last season.

Until Baez learns how to navigate that strike zone a bit better, it might make Maddon more likely to mix and match other options, rather than considering him an everyday lock like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

But like Russell, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras, Baez is one of the young players who despite key roles on a championship contender the last few years still have big league growth to come. And Maddon thinks that growth is right around the corner.

“I want to believe you’re going to see that this year,” Maddon said. “They’ve had enough major league at-bats now, they should start making some significant improvements that are easy to recognize. The biggest thing normally is pitch selection, I think that’s where it really shows up. When you have talented players like that, that are very strong, quick, all that other stuff, if they’re swinging at strikes and taking balls, they’re going to do really well. And so it’s no secret with Javy. It’s no secret with Addy. Addy’s been more swing mode as opposed to accepting his walks. That’s part of the maturation process with those two guys. Albert I thought did a great job the last month, two months of getting better against righties. I thought Jason looked really good in the cage today. And Willson’s Willson.

“The natural assumption is these guys have played enough major league at-bats that you should see something different this year in a positive way.”

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

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USA TODAY

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

The Bears are looking for an upgrade at wide receiver this offseason, and there may be one available.

The Dolphins used the franchise tag on wide receiver Jarvis Landry on Tuesday, in a move that many believe signals the team's desire to deal him instead of losing him in free agency for nothing.

Landry put up excellent numbers last season, catching 112 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the league in catches and was fourth in touchdown receptions but was just 17th in yards. His yards per reception ranked 108th of 139 qualifying players.

Still, it's no secret he'd be an upgrade for the Bears at wide receiver. Though they'll get Cam Meredith and Kevin White back from injury, the corps largely struggled and didn't give rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky much help.

Luckily, they may be interested in Landry, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

"There are a couple teams that we should keep an eye on as far as a potential Jarvis Landry landing spot......the Chicago Bears are looking for receviers," he said.

Rapoport also mentioned the Titans, Panthers and Saints as options for Landry. The franchise tag will pay Landry about $16 million before he becomes a free agent in 2019 (or has the franchise tag used on him again).