Bears

Soler, Almora and Theos next moves with Cubs

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Soler, Almora and Theos next moves with Cubs

The Theo Epstein doctrine isnt quite with us or against us. But the Cubs president is using 2012 to evaluate everyone in baseball operations.

Rudy Jaramillo was fired on Tuesday because Epstein and his inner circle didnt think that the hitting coach fit into The Cubs Way. Nothing personal, they said, just philosophical differences.

Jorge Soler and Albert Almora two elite talents Jaramillo no doubt would have loved to work with appear to be close to joining the organization.

Sources indicated Soler agreed to a major-league deal on Monday reportedly worth around 30 million over nine years. Epstein declined to comment on the 20-year-old Cuban defector, a potential five-tool outfielder to build around.

I saw those reports, Epstein said Tuesday at Wrigley Field. But I cant really address anything until its official. In this case, theres usually a process where theres an agreement and a term sheet and then theres an immigration process with getting visas and then theres a physical.

Epstein said the entire process could take hopefully around a week-ish, maybe longer.

Almora, the No. 6 overall pick in last weeks amateur draft, is facing a July 13 deadline to sign with the Cubs. Advised by agent Scott Boras, the 18-year-old outfielder has emphasized his commitment to the University of Miami.

Weve talked briefly, but I think that process will hopefully pick up here in the coming days, Epstein said. Hes a great student who worked hard to get that full ride to a prestigious university and he does have options. (Those types of kids) should fully examine them. But he loves baseball, too, and well sit down and talk about it.

From here, the front office will pivot toward the July 31 trade deadline, with eyes on adding more prospects to the system. Ryan Dempsters no-trade rights dont seem to be an obstacle, and the Opening Day starter figures to be the first big name to leave Clark and Addison.

Youre constantly balancing or juggling different balls, Epstein said, but its true that once the drafts over with, there seems to be more of a focus on the trade market across baseball. There are more phone calls being made now than there were 10 days ago.

Certainly, thats something well evaluate. Were in a position where any opportunity to get better (and) improve our future is something that we have to take seriously, even if it means making difficult decisions about the product that were putting on the field right now.

Epstein took this job with the understanding that he would have total control over baseball operations. He has the luxury of looking toward the next decade. Hes not worried about breaking the franchise record for losses (103) this season.

Im more focused on where were going, Epstein said. When you focus too much on how fast, then sometimes you make compromises with exactly how youre going to get there. I know you guys are probably sick of hearing me say this, but there arent shortcuts.

We have to focus on putting building blocks in place, whether its acquiring young players who can be part of our core going forward, or making sure the right teaching philosophys in place.

Unfinished Bears job a 'bitter pill' for John Fox, but the legacy lies beyond just the W-L record

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USA TODAY

Unfinished Bears job a 'bitter pill' for John Fox, but the legacy lies beyond just the W-L record

When John Fox succeeded Marc Trestman in 2015, neither he nor the Bears were looking at the situation and Fox as any sort of “bridge” hire – a de facto interim coach tasked with winning, but just as importantly, developing and getting a team turned around and headed in a right direction.

The heart of the matter is always winning, but in the overall, the mission statement also includes leaving the place better than you found it. Fox did that, which is very clearly the sentiment upstairs at Halas Hall as the Bears move on from Fox to Matt Nagy.

“It would’ve been nice to see it through,” Fox said to NBC Sports Chicago. “That’s kind of a bitter pill but you sort things out and move forward.

“I do think it’s closer than people think. We inherited a mess... but I felt we were on the brink at the end. I think that [Halas Hall] building is definitely different; they feel it. I do think that it was a positive.”

(Fox is probably not done coaching at some point, but that’s for another time, another story, and anyway, it’s his tale to tell when he feels like it. Or doesn’t.)

One measure of the Bears change effected: Virtually the entire Trestman staff, with the exceptions of receivers coach Mike Groh and linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, was jettisoned along with Trestman. By contrast, Nagy has retained not only virtually the entire Fox defensive staff under coordinator Vic Fangio, but also arguably the single most important non-coordinator offensive coach by virtue of position responsibility – Dave Ragone, the hands-on mentor of quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Obvious but extremely difficult decisions are coming, as to shedding personnel and contracts – Josh Sitton, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young being among the most difficult because of tangible intangibles that no organization wants to lose.

“Bridge” results

Fox was never intended as a bridge coach but the results point to that function having been served. To exactly what end remains to play out under Nagy and the quarterback whom Ragone and Fox’s handling began developing.

Rick Renteria was one of those “bridge” guys for the Cubs, intended to be part of pulling out of or at least arresting the slide into the Mike Quade-Dale Sveum abyss, and leaving something for Joe Maddon. The late Vince Lombardi effectively served as that, at age 56 and for an unforeseen one-year for a Washington Redskins organization that’d gone 13 years without a winning season before Lombardi’s 1969 and needed a radical reversal. The culture change was realized over the next decade under George Allen and Jack Pardee, much of the success coming with the same players with whom Washington had languished before the culture change.

The Bears were in that state after the two years of Trestman and the three years of GM Phil Emery, certain of whose character-lite veteran player acquisitions (Martellus Bennett, Brandon Marshall) and high-character launchings (Brian Urlacher) had left a palpable pall over Halas Hall. A Fox goal was to eradicate that, which insiders in Lake Forest say privately was accomplished even amid the catastrophic crush of three straight seasons of 10 or more losses, and with injuries at historic levels.

What happens next is in the hands of Nagy and GM Ryan Pace, after a third John Fox franchise turnaround failed to materialize. Or did it? Because much of the core, from Trubisky through the defensive makeover, came on Fox’s watch, like him or not.

“You wish some things would’ve happened differently obviously,” Fox said, “but there was a lot positive that happened.”

Blackhawks ban four ejected fans from future home games

Blackhawks ban four ejected fans from future home games

The Blackhawks have banned the four fans — who were ejected from Saturday's game against the Washington Capitals for their racist remarks towards Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly — from future home games.

On Monday, a Blackhawks spokesperson released this statement:

We have contacted the select individuals involved in the incident on Saturday to notify them that they are no longer welcome at our home games. Racist comments and other inappropriate behavior are not tolerated by the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks also wanted to remind fans that they can alert security at the United Center by texting the following to 69050: UCASSIST <SPACE> followed by the seating section, row and a brief description of the issue.