White Sox

Cubs breaking it all down on video

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Cubs breaking it all down on video

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs have installed cameras in their minor-league stadiums. Theres the angle from center field, but you can still pan and zoom in and watch it from anywhere on your laptop.

One team official called it Spycam, and laughed when it was suggested that it sounded like Big Brother. This will be real-time video on the Web, and prospects should know that the Cubs will be watching during early work.

Long before luring Theo Epstein out of Boston, Cubs executives had been obsessed with the Red Sox model. But, on some level, its almost like theyre getting the New England Patriots.

The video doesnt lie, utility man Jeff Baker said. Its like football. If youre doing something wrong, its going to show up on the tape on Monday when you look at (Sundays game).

Epstein has quoted one-liners from NFL wiseguy Bill Parcells, and sounds Bill Belichick secretive when he says he cant talk about proprietary information. The Cubs president of baseball operations wants to give his coaches and players every possible tool to find an edge.

Its important to establish a culture of preparation, Epstein said. There are a lot of wins out there available through advance scouting and preparation. Youd be foolish not to go after them as hard as you can.

The Cubs hired two advance scouts in Adam Melhuse and Kyle Phillips, who both played catcher in the big leagues. They added Kyle Evans, a former Red Sox professional scout, as the assistant director of video and advanced scouting. Evans is training another young scouting assistant, Bobby Basham, to round out the department.

We adopted the same two-man rotating advance team that we had in Boston, Epstein said. Most teams have either no advance scouts on the road or one. But when you have one advance scout on the road, theres a risk of becoming kind of isolated and that advance scout never gets any face time with the manager or coaching staff or players. Hes simply an e-mailed report in and its really easy for that information to get ignored.

But if you have two, then they can rotate, bring the information with them, connect in person and in the clubhouse (and) make adjustments (and) be more accountable. Its a luxury.

To be clear, almost every team in baseball uses some version of the B.A.T.S. video system. The Cubs implemented a video system almost 10 years, a source said, and began taking it on road trips in 2008.

But there will be upgrades, like the additional work stations in the Wrigley Field clubhouse. Where last year the Cubs processed video of all National League games, this season they will feed in every game in the majors.

The bill for the actual Opening Day roster should come in under 90 million (though the actual major-league payroll figures to be over 110 million, in part because of the money owed to Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Pena and Carlos Silva).

The fans waiting for a big splash last winter didnt get one. But there are many ways to divide an overall budget for baseball operations, including manpower and technology.

Were in the process of revamping what we do video-wise, general manager Jed Hoyer said, and making sure we get a lot more major-league (and) minor-league video. Now we have a staff that can sort of handle that and process it.

(If) we start talking about payrollthis probably was the smallest front office in baseball and weve really done a lot to try to increase staffing. Some of thats initial investment and over time that will go away. But we did feel like things like game preparation was something we had to spend the money to really get up to speed.

The Cubs have distributed video cameras to their amateur and international scouts to use each time they go to a game. So they will now be juggling a radar gun, a scouting report and a video camera, all of which can be rolled into the new Bloomberg computer system.

We have this progression of film, said Jason McLeod, the senior vice president of scouting and player development. We can see if anythings changed. We just keep adding onto it. Its all part of like the history of the player.

We can see if youre struggling: Well, look, now hes holding his hand down here and hes striding open. He wasnt doing that earlier in the year, because we have that footage (when) he was up here and he was closed off.

We can see everything. Its just another tool to get added information.

Dale Sveum does not look like a computer geek. He rides motorcycles and has tattoos on his arms and stubble across his face.

But Cubs executives identified Sveum as a top managerial candidate, in part, because he could break down video and had shown fluency in statistical analysis years ago as a Red Sox third-base coach, focusing on spray charts and defensive positioning.

Its almost like cheating the way they have it down to be able to advance the other team, Sveum said. You can see black and white where guys weaknesses (and) strengths are. You can put data to video instead of just watching (it). Its cheating that the Cubs havent had before (and) a lot of other teams have had.

Its very important for players to be able to witness it by seeing it on video as opposed to a coach saying, OK, hey, go play over here.

Sveums face may be plastered across billboards, but he doesnt plan to let the jobs external demands get in the way of teaching. He still plans to sit next to his players in the video room, as if he was still the Milwaukee Brewers hitting coach.

I got all the time in the world, Sveum said. The games three hours and I meet with (the media) for 10, 15 minutes a day and the rest of my job is when I see things or teaching factors of the game. Thats just the way I am. Im more hands-on, whether its hitting fungoes or throwing batting practice. Its just something I do and have always done.

Sometimes when you can see it instead of hear it it helps a lot, like: Wow, I had no idea it was that blatant of a stat. Or when you can look at a grid like: Joe Blow, man, wow, 90 percent of every ball he throws is away. So you put that into play in your head when you walk up to the box: OK, I just saw this, I dont have to worry about anything inside.

This doesnt make the Cubs the smartest guys in the room. But it was an area targeted from the start of the Epstein administration. Spring training ends Tuesday, so its time to press play.

Its great to read scouting reports, (but) the best tool we have is our eyes, pitcher Ryan Dempster said. Videos always been a big part for me. I believe strongly in it. Its nice to see that were taking the next level with it, and, hopefully, the results will come.

A White Sox fan's guide to watching the World Series

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USA TODAY

A White Sox fan's guide to watching the World Series

The White Sox are not playing in the World Series. A 100-loss season will do that.

But just because the South Siders aren't playing doesn't mean White Sox fans shouldn't pay attention to the Fall Classic. There's plenty to take from this matchup between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers that applies to South Side baseball past, present and — most importantly — future.

Chris Sale

The guy who will throw the first pitch of the 2018 World Series is one of the greatest White Sox pitchers of all time.

Sale's been grabbing headlines the last few days for an alleged belly-button ring, but the only body part of his that matters come Tuesday night is his left arm. Since the White Sox traded Sale away in the deal that kick-started the rebuild, he's been arguably the best pitcher in baseball, putting up a 2.56 ERA in 59 regular-season starts, with 545 strikeouts in his 372.1 innings. He's made five postseason appearances with the Red Sox and hasn't fared quite as well, the overall numbers ugly thanks to a seven-run outing against the eventual-champion Houston Astros last year. But this fall, he's given up just four runs and struck out 14 batters in 10.1 innings.

Sale's status as one of the game's best hurlers is a reminder of a couple things for White Sox fans watching him wear differently colored Sox this fall: 1. why they liked him so much in the first place, and 2. what kind of price it took for Boston to get him. The K Zone can be reborn, if only briefly and in the comfort of White Sox fans' own homes, for Sale's appearances in this World Series. But more importantly to the future of the South Side franchise, Sale's continued excellence is a reinforcement of the potential of Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada, the two biggest names in the return package. It took those guys and their incredibly high ceilings to get a pitcher as good as Sale, and that's still a good sign for the White Sox future.

This is how you rebuild

The Red Sox have a reputation as one of baseball's biggest spenders, but their roster is rife with the fruits of player development, something the rebuilding White Sox are trying to yield in their contending team of the future.

Boston has a couple big-ticket players in David Price and J.D. Martinez, but they're two of just four free-agent signings on the Red Sox World Series roster. Meanwhile, a whopping seven were drafted by Boston, including the entire starting outfield: Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and likely AL MVP Mookie Betts. The left side of their infield is a pair of international signings in Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, so that means five of the Red Sox starting nine position players (five and a half if you count Christian Vazquez, one half of the Red Sox catching tandem) have never known another organization.

The Red Sox might not win this World Series, but their roster makeup isn't dissimilar from the last two teams that hoisted a trophy, the Cubs and Astros, who boasted their own groups of homegrown stars. And here's something you might not realize: Boston had back-to-back last-place finishes in the AL East in 2014 and 2015, during which they rid themselves of veteran contracts and earned a couple high draft picks. They made the No. 7 pick in the 2016 draft for all that losing. The result? Benintendi.

And so it's another October with a team proving that the tear-down-and-rebuild method can work wonders. White Sox fans might not be rooting for the Red Sox this fall, but their victory would be another for the rebuilding strategy — and should give plenty of hope to South Side fans envisioning their own group of homegrown stars leading a championship run one day.

Manny Machado

The World Series will allow White Sox fans to do a little bit of scouting on some free agents that the South Siders could pursue this winter, and there's no bigger name in that category than Machado, the Dodgers shortstop expected to receive one of the biggest contracts in baseball history this offseason.

Many a Twitter-using White Sox fan have had Machado on their wish list for years, though that number might be declining following some of Machado's words and actions during the NLCS. He didn't run to first on a grounder, then ignited a PR disaster by saying hustling wasn't his "cup of tea." He interfered with a pair of double-play turns by sticking his hand up while sliding into second base (the same play that, during a Crosstown game last month, ended with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson screaming at umpire Joe West). And Machado most notably dragged his foot over Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar's leg in a play Aguilar's teammates called dirty after the game.

So with all that in mind, Machado and his extreme amount of talent — he's at the end of a career year that saw him slash .297/.367/.538 with 37 homers and 107 RBIs during the regular season — will be on the game's biggest stage for all to see. That includes his future team, whichever that might be. Those White Sox fans still hoping he lands on the South Side to help kick the rebuild into overdrive can watch this World Series to see just how good he is with the bat and with the glove. On the latter, should the White Sox be willing to rearrange their infield for Machado, who is insistent on playing shortstop despite his two Gold Gloves at third base? Watch and see.

Other free agents to be

But Machado's not the only player in this matchup who'll be hitting the free-agent market this winter.

Before either of these teams punched their tickets to the Fall Classic, I wrote about a pair of pitchers who will be free agents this offseason and who could make sense for the White Sox, and lo and behold they're both going to make starts in this World Series. Hyun-Jin Ryu is slated to get the ball for the Dodgers in Wednesday's Game 2, and though yet to be announced, we'll likely see Nathan Eovaldi go for the Red Sox when the series shifts to Los Angeles.

Rick Hahn said the White Sox will be looking to add pitching this offseason, and Ryu and Eovaldi will both be available. Either would be an upgrade in a South Side rotation that led baseball in walks this season. Eovaldi walked just 20 guys all year, 12 in 54 innings with the Red Sox and only eight in 57 innings with the Tampa Bay Rays. That's compared to a season strikeout total of 101, for a better than 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Ryu, meanwhile, walked only 15 batters in his 82.1 innings, compared to 89 strikeouts. His ERA was a pencil-thin 1.97, significantly lower than Eovaldi's still quite good 3.81 number, which was 3.33 after the midseason trade from the Tampa. Could either one be a future White Sox starter? Maybe.

Boston closer Craig Kimbrel is also heading to free agency and could be of interest to White Sox fans who don't see a future closer among the team's crop of young relievers. He's going to cost a lot, though, a seven-time All Star with a 1.91 career ERA and eight straight seasons of at least 31 saves (40-plus in five of those).

Other bullpen guys who will be looking for jobs this winter: Joe Kelly of the Red Sox (one earned run allowed in 5.1 innings this postseason) and Ryan Madson of the Dodgers (one run allowed in 6.1 innings this postseason).

Oh, and Dodgers Game 1 starter Clayton Kershaw could be a free agent, too, if he opts out of his current contract. The White Sox would figure to be quite a longshot to lure him away from Southern California, but if Kershaw were to go somewhere else, that could shake up the whole market and open up other possibilities for teams like the White Sox. Something to keep in mind.

The next important trend

The World Series and the postseason in general have been ground zero for some of the game's latest sweeping changes in recent years.

Specifically, the emphasis on relief pitching has dominated the last couple Fall Classics, and teams like the Brewers and Rays showed how good a team can be while leaning as heavily on the bullpen as any team ever has. While this World Series might not feature teams practicing "bullpenning" to those extremes, the relief corps again figure to play starring roles. If that happens, how does that impact the White Sox rebuild? Does a heavy focus on starting-pitching depth need to shift to a bigger focus on relief-pitching depth? Or do the lists of future free-agent relievers become of greater interest than players at any other position?

Or perhaps an entirely new trend is born this fall that the White Sox will have to react to while constructing their teams of the future. You won't know unless you watch the World Series.

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

There are diehard Michael Jordan fans.

And then there's this guy.

Forget anybody getting a tattoo of their favorite team's championship trophy. Forget the people who wait for hours in terrible weather just to catch a glimpse of their favorite player.

This dude has a constant, 24/7 reminder of "His Airness":

Yep, that is a full tattoo of a Jordan "23" jersey on his back, complete with a Michael Jordan "autograph" in the middle of the "2." 

Dedication at its finest.

Couple questions: 

A) Does it carry over to the front at all? And if not, is that a plan for the future?

2) Will one of his buddies get a "45" Jordan jersey tattoo or are we just gonna continue to pretend that era never happened?

D) What will that tat look like in a few years? That guy better stay away from the Doritos...