White Sox

How bad will Fielder's contract be?

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How bad will Fielder's contract be?

To win now, the Tigers had to sign Prince Fielder to a nine-year contract, one that ranks as the fourth-largest in baseball. The move gives Detroit a monster lineup and vaults the Tigers right into the AL pennant discussion with Los Angeles, Texas, Boston, New York and Tampa Bay.

But down the road, this is a deal that will almost certainly hurt Detroit. So while the Tigers likely will be the class of the AL Central for years to come (although don't count out Kansas City), four or five years from now, Detroit may be reeling from the deal.

Rob Neyer at SB Nation has an excellent review of his Fielder's contract could play out, and it's not especially pretty.

Let's fast-forward to 2014. The Tigers will have 78.1 million tied up in four players -- Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez. Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello will probably earn somewhere in the 7 million to 9 million range via arbitration settlements, putting their commitments for just six players well over 90 million. The arbitration settlements of Doug Fister, Brennan Boesch and Alex Avila will push that number to around 110 million.

That's not a huge problem, though, for 2014. The Tigers will have some inexpensive options like Jacob Turner and, if all goes well, Drew Smyly. But where things will get interesting are 2015, when Justin Verlander will hit free agency.

A lot can happen between now and then, and Verlander will be 32 on opening day 2015. But Cliff Lee was 32 when he signed a five-year, 120 million deal with Philadelphia, so Verlander very well could use that contract as a starting point in negotiations.

Luckily for the Tigers, they could try to back-load Verlander's contract so they can squeeze him in with Fielder's 23 million and Cabrera's 22 million salaries for 2015. So bringing Verlander back actually wouldn't be much of a problem, although they may struggle to retain Cabrera (who, despite being 33, will command a hefty contract when he hits free agency after the 2015 season).

But back to the real point of this: if Fielder is in a full-on regression by 2015, the combination of his salary and lack of value could cripple Detroit's efforts to add necessary pieces around Cabrera and Verlander.

And with MLB's new collective bargaining agreement, the Tigers can't begin to look to cushion a down-the-road blow by spending money in the draft. With the old CBA, the best thing Detroit could do in 2012 is spend whatever cash they have remaining on the draft, so perhaps by 2015 and 2016 they have a stable of young, cheap players ready to contribute.

For the Tigers, signing Fielder to a potentially-crippling contract is a risk worth taking, though. They have as good a chance as anyone to win a World Series in the next few years, and if they do, no amount of sunken costs with the Fielder contract will tarnish that flag.

But for the White Sox, and the rest of the division, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Random things can happen between now and then, and Detroit may wind up failing to win the division in the next few years because, again, random stuff happens. However, even if Detroit dominates the AL Central for the near future, eventually, that success will fall apart.

White Sox sim-game chatter shows entertainment potential in empty stadiums

White Sox sim-game chatter shows entertainment potential in empty stadiums

Baseball is going to look weird in 2020.

And it might sound even weirder.

Already, even though players are just stretching, tracking down fly balls, throwing bullpen sessions and taking batting practice during the MLB-branded "Summer Camp," the experience of baseball being played in an empty major league stadium is somewhat bizarre.

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But once regular-season games start? It's going to be like a different game from a different universe.

We got a little taste of what it might be like Wednesday, when White Sox ace Lucas Giolito threw a simulated game at Guaranteed Rate Field, throwing at game speed while his teammates took game-style at-bats.

Sim games are not among the many newfangled baseball inventions for a pandemic-delayed season. They've been around for a while and they're always weird, with only one pitcher pitching, sitting in the dugout for 10 minutes to simulate the other half of an inning that is not actually being played, and then facing off against the same players who just backed him up defensively the last time he was out there.

But as we prepare for regular-season games without fans, this simulated game was perhaps more realistic than ever.

The silence was deafening, obviously. The roar of the crowd that would have accompanied back-to-back strikeouts to start off the game for Giolito was met with nothing. Tim Anderson swung and missed at Strike 3 and went back to the dugout. Luis Robert looked at Strike 3 and went back to the dugout. No clapping, no cheering, no blaring clip from Boz Scaggs' "Lido Shuffle," which the White Sox employed during Giolito ("Lido," "-lito," get it?) strikeouts in 2019.

But in the absence of crowd noise, there's an opportunity for a new aspect of entertainment to arise. Because you know what you could hear? Everything the players said. And some of it was pretty darn funny.

Simulated games don't have umpires, so it was on catchers Yasmani Grandal and James McCann to call Giolito's balls and strikes. And Grandal got into it. When Robert stared down that third strike, he made an exaggerated punch-out motion with his fist, earning laughs from the White Sox dugout, with one dugout denizen invoking the name of infamous umpire Joe West in a joking response. Grandal kept it up, feeding off the reaction a la Frank Drebin in "The Naked Gun," and punched out Zack Collins later in the sim game, earning more laughs.

When Nomar Mazara connected on a Giolito pitch for what most would have assumed would be a line drive to right field, the diminutive Nick Madrigal, perfectly positioned in an exaggerated shift, came up with a nice catch to steal a hit away from Mazara. The response from the dugout? "You got bad luck if you can't hit it over his head."

And there was more. Giolito started talking at McCann when the catcher got his pitcher for a double into the left-field corner. The energetic Anderson was pretty loud while cheering for his teammates from the dugout. Coaches could be heard shouting out instructions.

The absence of crowds means fans watching on TV might be able to hear things they've never heard before, adding a new element of entertainment.

"With (our) teammates, we’re going to mess around, we’ll be talking trash," Giolito said Wednesday. "I’m interested to see how that carries over once we get to the regular season. You can hear pretty much everything everyone is saying."

RELATED: Why White Sox-Cubs games could be 'a little taste' of Crosstown World Series

The White Sox will do their best to fill the fanless void at Guaranteed Rate Field. They announced Wednesday the ability for fans to have their likenesses on cardboard cutouts in the stands during the season-opening series against the Minnesota Twins. And players seem unsure about whether crowd noise will be played over the speakers once the games begin. That would be equally weird, though it might help out the players, grasping for any sense of normalcy in a season where their routine-oriented day-to-day work lives have been turned upside down.

But why not keep the crowd noise away and use this opportunity to show off a new element to the game?

TV broadcasts were hoping to mic players up and have them chat with announcers during games. We'll see if that pans out, though the lack of an agreement between the league and the players' union seemed to disperse any optimism of that happening on a regular basis. In place of that, this on-field chatter could be wildly entertaining.

"I think it might (add some more entertainment value)," manager Rick Renteria said. "The guys, they were chirping in the dugout today. It was fun to hear them. They're just like everybody else. You love to play the game, and you have an opportunity to go out and play in your home park, even though you're playing against each other. It's a nice energy to have. Who wouldn't want to play baseball in a big league park? And they share that joy that they all have when they are out there competing."

So get ready for it all: trash talk, disagreements with umpires, pitchers and hitters jawing back and forth, cheers from the dugout and just plain short jokes.

Baseball's going to sound mighty different in 2020.


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White Sox Talk Podcast: Impressions from Summer Camp

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Impressions from Summer Camp

Live from Guaranteed Rate Field, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber give you the sights and sounds as the White Sox prepare to start the season. They also discuss being amazed at Luis Robert in batting practice, and can the young players of the White Sox impact the 2020 season, with little time to adjust?

(1:50) - How good can the White Sox offense be?

(6:00) - Luis Robert is dominating batting practice

(10:30) - What will the Sox look like after a long layoff

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(14:46) - Gio Gonzalez finally gets his shot with the White Sox

(21:28) - More sights and sounds from Guaranteed Rate Field

Listen here or below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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