White Sox

Bates-Cutler reunion doesn't guarantee good things for Bears

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Bates-Cutler reunion doesn't guarantee good things for Bears

When Mike Martz was hired in 2010 as Bears offensive coordinator, the euphoria was palpable in some quarters. This was going to be the great leap forward for Jay Cutler and the Chicago offense.

It didnt prove to be entirely the case. The Bears were the No. 6 scoring offense when Cutler went down with his broken thumb. But the greatest leaps forward over the past two seasons followed when coach Lovie Smith gave then-OL coach Mike Tice a greater voice in the game planning.

Tice was elevated to coordinator and Jeremy Bates brought in as quarterbacks coach, without the designation of passing-game coordinator. The positive buzz began again because Bates coached Cutler with the Denver Broncos in the quarterbacks first three NFL seasons.

Its a big advantage for us, coach Lovie Smith said during last weekend's rookie minicamp. When I was looking at filling the position, I took all of that into consideration. Jeremy has a background, has a history.

But not all the Bates history is good. The rejoicing that some accorded the hiring of Martz and what it would mean for Cutlers development was premature. Any celebration of Bates arrival simply because he was in Cutlers ear during the 2006-08 seasons should be put on hold as well.

Reality check

This is not to say that Bates, a position coach, cannot emerge as a major positive force in a passing game built around and on Cutler.

But the stark reality is that Bates needs to produce better results than he has at any previous time in his NFL career. Otherwise his addition to the staff may end up in the MartzTurnerHamilton file.

Since becoming a position coach with Tampa Bay in 2004, Bates has coached on only one winning NFL team (the 9-7 Denver team in 2006, Cutlers rookie season). That team did not reach the playoffs despite being 7-4 when Cutler replaced Jake Plummer as the starter.

Notably perhaps, that Denver offense was the most balanced, with a near 50-50 split between run and pass. The next two years saw Denver tilt increasingly toward throwing, at 56 percent in 2007 and 38 percent in 2008 when Bates was the chief play caller.

The 2008 team stood at 8-5 but lost the final three in a row with Cutler throwing 2 touchdown passes vs. 4 interceptions and posting three consecutive sub-75 ratings in that span.

Given Tices commitment to offensive balance and Bates relationship with Cutler, Bates buy-in to that philosophy looms as a pivotal mindset for 2012.

The only NFL team to make the playoffs was the 2010 Seattle Seahawks, which went 7-9 and fired Bates after the season ended with a playoff loss to the Bears. Bates, like Martz after his failed 2008 season with San Francisco, was out of football the following season.

We lost in the 10 playoffs, and Im just very fortunate to be with a great Bears staff and great ownership and some good players, Bates said.

Bates Cutler management

Bates role in molding Cutler warrants some particular scrutiny. Cutlers fundamentals were a target of Martz from the beginning and of critics within the NFL community who saw throws off the back foot and other flaws.

Not all of those could be blamed on Cutlers one year with Ron Turner and Pep Hamilton, since he didnt particularly listen to them anyway.

The operating principle now is that Cutler will listen to Bates.

We were together in Denver for three years, Bates said. I think hes got great talent. Hes a Pro Bowl quarterback. And Im excited to be with him.

The Bates-Cutler yarn ball is difficult to unravel and shouldnt be taken as an automatic positive any more than Cutlers seeming early endorsement of Martz was.

Cutler went to the Pro Bowl off his 2008 season. But Pro Bowl selections are questionable indicators, voted-on awards with fan input counting for one-third, not anything won on the field.

Indeed, Cutler was selected to the Pro Bowl despite a passer rating of 86.0. That rating, which measures passing, not winning or quarterbacking, was second only to Brett Favres 81.0 for the New York Jets that same year as the lowest for a Pro Bowl quarterback over the last six seasons.

The only Bowl that matters

The term of last six seasons was used only because that extends back through the 2006 season -- when the Bears went to a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman, who was hardly a Pro Bowl quarterback with his 73.9 rating but at least owns an NFC Championship ring. Cutler does not.

(Best guess is that given the choice of Bowl to make, Cutler chooses Super over Pro. If not, the Bears have a bigger problem.)

Hes still the same quarterback, Bates said. Has a great arm. I think the experience of any profession, or anything you do, the more times you do it you grow with it, both good and bad.

Hes definitely matured as a player, because hes had good games and bad games, and you get better every game. So the more experience and the more snaps, youre always going to get better at your craft.

For the Bears purposes, that needs to apply to both quarterback and coach.

Hes a good football coach, Smith said. I knew that before and I believe it even more now from seeing him work with our players. I think our guys will talk to you the same way about what hes brought to the table. So, pretty excited about that. He should help us.

White Sox reportedly trying to trade Avisail Garcia

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USA TODAY

White Sox reportedly trying to trade Avisail Garcia

Is the Avisail Garcia Era about to come to an end on the South Side?

According to a report from MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, the White Sox are trying to trade Garcia away. Feinsand added that there's a belief the White Sox could even non-tender Garcia in the absence of a trade.

Garcia came to the White Sox in the three-team Jake Peavy trade at the 2013 deadline. Yes, Garcia's been with the White Sox for more than half a decade. He didn't break out until 2017, though, batting just .257 in his first three and a half seasons with the White Sox. Then came the All-Star campaign of 2017, when he hit .330 and reached base at a .380 clip, ranking among the league leaders in both categories.

Last season, though, Garcia was hampered by a knee injury that bothered him from Opening Day on, with his hamstring sending him to the disabled list on more than one occasion. He slashed just .236/.281/.438 in 93 games, though he did set a new career high with 19 home runs.

The injuries made it very difficult to forecast what Garcia's long-term future with the White Sox might be, preventing him from being able to prove he could repeat those All-Star numbers. With one year of team control remaining, the White Sox have options. They could try to deal him this winter, as is being reported, or they could try to trade him during the season.

General manager had this to say about Garcia at last week's GM Meetings:

"We've been talking about Avi for a long time now, and I think we know him as well as anybody about what he's capable of doing when he's fully healthy, as well as some of the challenges created by the health issues for him," Hahn said. "With one year currently left of control, we're having conversations right now about how best to proceed."

With the White Sox expected to bring top prospect Eloy Jimenez, who played mostly left field in 2018, up from the minors early next season and their reported interest in free-agent right fielder Bryce Harper, there could be a desire to open up corner-outfield spots for more productive offensive players.

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Daniel Palka got one third-place vote for AL Rookie of the Year, but will White Sox have the 2019 winner?

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USA TODAY

Daniel Palka got one third-place vote for AL Rookie of the Year, but will White Sox have the 2019 winner?

Somebody out there with an AL Rookie of the Year vote believed Daniel Palka to be the third-best first-year player in the Junior Circuit.

Palka finished tied for fifth in the vote, the results of which were announced Monday evening. Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani won the award, with second and third place going to a pair of New York Yankees infielders in Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, respectively. Tampa Bay Rays infielder Joey Wendle finished fourth, ahead of Palka, who tied with another Ray, relief pitcher Ryan Yarbrough.

Palka launched 27 home runs on the season, breaking out after he wasn't even on the Opening Day roster. He was picked up off waivers from the Minnesota Twins last winter and ended up one of the White Sox better offensive players in 2018.

Palka will be the first to admit he's not a finished product and has plenty to work on. He finished with just a .240 batting average and a .294 on-base percentage. But those power numbers were enough to make him the first White Sock with a Rookie of the Year vote since Tim Anderson's seventh-place finish in 2016. Palka's fifth-place finish is the highest by a South Sider since Jose Abreu was the unanimous winner of the award back in 2014.

That could all change in just a year's time, when Eloy Jimenez could be a top candidate for the 2019 edition of the award. Jimenez is currently ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball and figures to reach the big leagues early next season. He put up big numbers in the minors in 2018: a .337/.384/.577 slash line with 22 home runs and 75 RBIs in 108 games between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.

In fact, the only reason he wouldn't be the favorite heading into 2019 is the guy ranked two spots ahead of him on the prospect list, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He was ridiculous last season, putting up a minor league slash line of .381/.437/.636 in 95 games. He figures to be a Toronto Blue Jay — and Jimenez's main competition for Rookie of the Year honors — in 2019.

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