Bears

Bryce Harper: Youngest player to hit a HR since...

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Bryce Harper: Youngest player to hit a HR since...

From Comcast SportsNet
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bryce Harper became the youngest major leaguer to homer since 1998, going deep for the first time with the Washington Nationals on a solo shot to straightaway center field Monday night off San Diego Padres right-hander Tim Stauffer. The 19-year-old Harper drove a 2-1 pitch to the grass backdrop just to the left of the 402-foot marker with two outs in the third inning. Harper raced around the bases quickly and continued his sprint straight to the dugout, where he exchanged high-fives with teammates. As the crowd cheered, Harper came to the top of the dugout steps for a curtain call, thrusting his right index finger into the air. The homer came in the outfielder's 15th game and 54th at-bat with the Nationals. He's the youngest current player in the majors -- and, at 19 years and 211 days old, the youngest to hit a homer since Adrian Beltre of the Los Angeles Dodgers was 19 years and 171 days old on Sept. 25, 1998, according to STATS LLC. Harper was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft and spent time at Single-A and Double-A last season. He began 2012 at Triple-A Syracuse, then was called up to the majors in late April because of a series of injuries to Nationals starters. Harper skipped his final year of high school, earned his GED, then played one season of junior college baseball at the College of Southern Nevada to become eligible for the draft and get a head-start on his professional career. He signed a five-year, 9.9 million contract, including 6.5 million in signing bonuses, with the Nationals in August 2010.

Patrick Mahomes' contract will haunt Bears in 2021

Patrick Mahomes' contract will haunt Bears in 2021

Chicago Bears fans can't escape the nightmare that is Patrick Mahomes. It began in 2018, Mahomes' first season as a full-time starter, when it became obvious that he was a special player who should've been the Bears' pick at No. 2 overall in the 2017 draft. Instead, Ryan Pace chose Mitch Trubisky, who's entering a 2020 training camp battle with Nick Foles for the team's starting job.

Mahomes won the league's MVP award in 2018 and led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory last season, and on Monday, he became the richest athlete in American sports. Kansas City signed him to a ridiculous 10-year extension that could pay him over $500 million by the time the deal is done.

Meanwhile, the Bears declined Trubisky's fifth-year option this offseason, making the 2020 campaign potentially his last in Chicago.

But what if Trubisky has a really good year? That should be good news, right? 

Wrong.

And it's all because of Mahomes.

If Trubisky plays like a quality starter in 2020, the Bears will be forced to pay him a lucrative new contract that, if we're being honest, he doesn't deserve. Even if they choose to buy an extra year by using the franchise tag, Mahomes' new deal will jack up the cost of that contract too. Regardless of the strategy, the Bears will be taking a big gamble on a player who needs more than one good year in 2020 to feel confident about paying. 

And let's say Trubisky flops and it's Foles who excels in the Bears' offense. His contract will be directly impacted by Mahomes as well. Remember: The Bears gave Foles the ability to opt-out of the final two years of his deal if he plays well. If Mahomes' big payday happened next year instead of Monday, maybe Chicago could've retained Foles on a more team-friendly contract. That's no longer the case.

So here we are. It's been hard enough trying to recover from the 2017 draft and the what-ifs that followed. It's bad enough that Mahomes has become the NFL's darling and the best quarterback on the planet. But an entirely new layer of the Mahomes curse is coming; he's going to make the Bears pay (again) for passing on him.

Cubs camp observations: Wrigley's home-field advantage without fans

Cubs camp observations: Wrigley's home-field advantage without fans

Four days into the Cubs’ training camp restart, we’ve only begun to get acquainted with the new normal of baseball rhythms and routines that we can only hope will result in a 2020 season of 60 games.

If the league can fix some of its early testing issues and keep enough players on enough teams healthy enough to start the season, what might come into play for the Cubs and the actual baseball.

Early observations after about a dozen Zoom sessions with team personnel and two intrasquad scrimmages:

NUTS: Home cooked?

The Cubs, who draw so reliably in one of the unique ballparks in the majors, might have more to lose than most teams without fans allowed to attend games when the season starts July 24.

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Just how much of the Confines’ home-field advantage is lost will be a matter of “wait-and-see,” manager David Ross said.

“There’s always an advantage to playing in your own park,” he said Sunday. “You feel more comfortable you woke up in your own bed. You’re not staying in a hotel room, which especially now, where you feel like outside spaces just aren’t comfortable as they used to be, probably [gives] a slight advantage in your city.

“There’s no substitute for fans,” he added. “There’s probably a slight advantage, but I don’t know if it’s as great as it used to be.”

What Ross didn’t mention were the rooftops across Waveland and Sheffield, which are planning to operate at 25-percent capacity when games start, suggesting at least a few hundred fans within cheering and booing distance.

“You’re going to hear them loud and clear, too,” pitcher Tyler Chatwood said. “I promise you that.”

BOLTS: Taking the fifth

All you need to know about Alec Mills’ ability to adjust and immediately step into an important role is what he did in an emergency start against the first-place Cardinals at Wrigley last year with the Cubs a half-game out and barely a week left in the season.

He hadn’t started anywhere in a month — and that was in the minors. But the guy who pitched out of the bullpen just three times in the four intervening weeks, pitched two outs deep into the fifth inning that day and didn’t allow a run (the bullpen took care of that, in a loss).

No wonder when Ross talks about Mills replacing the injured Jose Quintana (thumb) in the rotation, he says, “I’ve got a ton of confidence.”

He’s not the only one. “I’ve always had the mindset of doing whatever I can to stay ready and help in any way,” said Mills after pitching a strong three innings in a simulated game Sunday. “Obviously, with an unfortunate injury like this, I think it’s just even more heightened.

“I’m ready to do whatever, whether it needs to be maybe a start here or there, a couple more starts, long guy out of the pen — just whatever I need to do I pride myself on being ready to do that.”

CHATTER: The mask at hand

“It’s a little different. You leave the house with a phone, your keys, your wallet and your mask.”

—Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo on his and his teammates’ new daily normal.

“Everybody is thinking about it, but we try to get here and understand this is our safe zone and we’re trying to create that [within] the things that we’re going to do on and off the field.”

—Ross on players weighing the risk of playing during the pandemic against the safety precautions and protocols the team has built in and around its Wrigley Field bubble.

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