Bears

Cubs make it official, sign Soler to nine-year deal

794756.jpg

Cubs make it official, sign Soler to nine-year deal

Glenn Braggs was so powerful, he once snapped his bat off at the handle following through on a swing. The ex-outfielder for Milwaukee and Cincinnati had plenty of upper body strength, enough to make his bat-breaking abilities a reality instead of an urban legend.

In terms of body type, Braggs was the name Cubs manager Dale Sveum came up with when asked about Jorge Soler, who the Cubs officially signed to a nine-year deal on Saturday.

"You can probably go on and on about the body type and everything like that, like a Glenn Braggs-type," Sveum said. "You see his body and the size and that kind of strength at a young age, it's pretty impressive. Hopefully it all translates into a huge, productive player at this level."

Soler is years away from the major leagues, and general manager Jed Hoyer wouldn't even estimate when the 20-year-old will begin playing in games in the Cubs' minor league system. Soler will begin his journey with the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz., as part of "his own version of spring training."

Getting Soler up to speed on the diamond is only half the battle for the Cubs. Getting the native of Cuba adjusted to the United States, with its different culture and language, is a priority for the organization.

"I think we have to do a really good job focusing on his assimilation," Hoyer said.
"For any player coming from Cuba, this is a lot different, and we have to understand that and we have to take it slow with him and realize that professional baseball's hard for any player, let alone someone that's coming from a completely different culture."

The Cubs have plenty of Cuban influence within the organization, from VP of player personnel Oneri Fleita to player developmentinternational scouting coordinator Alex Suarez to 20-year-old lefty Gerardo Concepcion, who's currently pitching for Single-A Peoria. Soler, who doesn't have any family in the country yet, won't be alone, whether he's in Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee or Iowa.

But despite his blue-chip prospect status and major-league contract, Soler won't race from state to state as he works his way through the Cubs' farm system -- that is, unless he earns it.

"We're going to develop him the same way we develop anyone, but obviously a little different care with a Cuban player," Hoyer said. "He has to prove himself level to level, we're not going to try to speed him through the minors. There's no reason to do that. He has to prove himself like anyone else does. We're going to treat him that way."

Hoyer wouldn't go as far as Sveum in matching Soler to a current or former player. But he did mention that Soler may not stay where the Cubs start him on the field.

"I won't comp him out," Hoyer said. "I think you'll be really impressed when you see him physically. He's a huge person, very big man. Right now, he moves really well. We're going to start him out in right field. He could end up moving at some point ... because he is that big."

While Hoyer was never scared a deal wouldn't get done with Soler, he did appear relieved to complete the signing with only a few days to spare before the July 2 cutoff date. Soler's signing, which Hoyer joked "wasn't the best-kept secret of all time," was initially reported 19 days ago. While the process took a while, the Cubs are just happy to have Soler in the fold.

"We think he provides a ton of power potential for us," Hoyer said. "It's obviously a significant commitment for us, but we feel like he fits very well into what we're trying to do. He's the right age, the right talent, and we're excited to finally get him started here."

How good can the Bears’ offense be while Mitch Trubisky is a work in progress?

9-24mattnagymitchtrubisky.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

How good can the Bears’ offense be while Mitch Trubisky is a work in progress?

Matt Nagy liked some of the throws Mitch Trubisky made in Sunday’s 16-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals, at least the ones he threw with conviction. 

“I say to myself, that right there is what we’re about to get to,” Nagy said. 

Trubisky, indeed, did throw a few completions with what looked like conviction upon first and second viewing. There was a 25-yard strike to tight end Trey Burton in the second quarter, a 39-yard completion to Allen Robinson after the receiver got open with an excellent double move, and a 12-yard laser to Burton that sparked what wound up being the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. 

But still plaguing the second-year quarterback were inaccurate throws, especially downfield, and some questionable decision-making. So that brought up a question to Nagy in his regular Monday press conference: Is Trubisky mentally full or at capacity as he works to learn the offense?

“I think that it's probably getting close,” Nagy said. “It's not fair to him if it gets -- remember what I told you before, there's that balance of knowing what he can and can't handle. And not just him now too, but we have 10 other guys on this offense that this is their first time learning it. So, they need to be able to go through these routes and these plays for the first time as well. 

“When you feel like it's getting close to that breaking point or too much, you got to pull back. And so I feel like we've done a pretty good job so far with that. We'll continue to monitor that and see where he's at. We'll talk to him, we'll get feedback from him, as well as the other guys, and then try to figure out the 'why' part. Why aren't we where we want to be? 

“So, there's some common sense to it of knowing that it's going t o take a little time, but then there's some, 'Hey, let's start doing the little things the right way, the details.' And let's make sure that we as coaches are pitting these players in the best position possible.”

A number of incomplete passes thrown by Trubisky on Sunday warrant additional scrutiny. 

He didn’t connect with an open Robinson on what would’ve been a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter, firing the ball behind his receiver when an accurate pass would’ve almost certainly resulted in seven points. Nagy, though, pointed to there being some pass rushing pressure near Trubisky’s knees, which made it more difficult for him to make an accurate throw. 

A few plays earlier, Taylor Gabriel looked like he had a step in the end zone, but Trubisky overthrew him from the 36-yard line. He had time to throw and showed better pocket awareness, but wasn’t able to get the throw right. 

Those are the kind of throws the Bears expect Trubisky to hit, even if you add “eventually” to that sentence. Connecting on deep shots will be critical to the success of this offense going forward — not only will can those spark Trubisky and the offense, but it would force opposing defenses to back off the line of scrimmage a bit. Arizona sold out to stop Jordan Howard, committing eight or more men to the box on 42 percent of the running back’s attempts (which is in line with the rate of stacked boxes he faced in 2017). It’s clear that Arizona and, a week ago, Seattle went into facing the Bears’ offense with the plan of not letting Howard beat them — or, alternatively, making Trubisky prove he can beat them. 

“We need to start connecting on those,” Nagy said. “It’s great to take the opportunity of going deep. Those are great. but they’re way better and they mean a lot more when you connect on them.”

Until Trubisky’s accuracy and decision-making improve, though, the Bears’ offense will have to hang its hat on its ability to grind out drives that, at the least, give the defense a breather. Nagy cited the Bears’ time of possession — which averages 34:42, second-highest in the NFL — as something with which he’s pleased. But it also bears noting Nagy’s old team, the best-offense-in-the-league Kansas City Chiefs, rank 25th in average time of possession (27:48). 

So if the explosive plays aren’t coming, what Nagy is focusing on is better efficiency to end those lengthy drives with touchdowns instead of field goals. For an offense that’s still a work in progress, starting with that goal sounds like a realistic idea. 

And, it's worth noting here too: The Bears have won more games than they've lost. It's certainly better to be winning games than not when going through what Trubisky and the Bears' offense is right now. 

“When you're a quarterback in this offense and you're not going three and out and you're not using your punter, you know what that does? That helps your defense out because they get a breather,” Nagy said. “And so, understand that there's two parts to that. Where do we got to get better? We got to get better in the red zone. And that's where we need to improve right now. We're moving the ball and getting first downs. We're chewing up the clock and we're getting stopped in the red zone and we're kicking field goals and we need to get touchdowns.”

NBC Sports Chicago to honor retiring behind-the-scenes broadcasting legend Jim Angio

nbc_sports_chicago_slide_blk.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to honor retiring behind-the-scenes broadcasting legend Jim Angio

Chicago, IL (September 24, 2018) – NBC Sports Chicago – THE home of the #AuthenticFan – will be honoring the illustrious 40-year career of 13-time Chicago/Midwest Emmy Award winner & Emmy ‘Silver Circle’ inductee JIM ANGIO, who will be officially retiring at the end of the season, during its White Sox telecast tomorrow night (Tue, Sept. 25) vs. the Cleveland Indians (coverage begins at 7:00 PM CT).  

Among the in-game highlights honoring Angio during Tuesday night’s White Sox telecast on NBC Sports Chicago include numerous video montages featuring classic Chicago sports moments Angio has directed over the years, along with interview clips showcasing a number of front-facing and behind-the-scenes individuals who worked with Angio over his career.  IN ADDITION – NBC Sports Chicago will dedicate the entire third inning of tomorrow night’s game to Angio, as fans will hear first-hand how he calls the game from inside the production truck.

“Jim Angio is a true Chicago sports legend who will go down as one of the very best directors in sports broadcasting history,” said Greg Bowman, VP of Programming for NBC Sports Chicago.  “We are grateful for Jim’s artful direction on so many of our city’s most memorable sports moments and we couldn’t be more honored than to dedicate Tuesday night’s game to Jimmy, along with providing our audience with a glimpse of his expert efforts.”

Angio, 66, a graduate of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, began his White Sox broadcasting career back in 1978 with WSNS-TV 44 in Chicago working with the late Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall.  During his distinguished career, Angio was at the helm of directing numerous no-hitters, which include Mark Buehrle’s no-hitter and perfect game, along with Tom Seaver’s 300th career win, Jim Thome’s 500th career HR, division-clinching games in 1983, 1993, and 2005, and many more.  

In addition, Angio was in the director’s chair for numerous Chicago Bulls seasons and Michael Jordan career-highlight moments, including the all-time NBA record 70th regular season win back in 1996, Jordan’s fresh out of retirement 55-point game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in 1995, along with Jordan career-high 69-point game back in 1990, among many others.

Among Angio’s numerous career honors include 13 Chicago/Midwest Emmy Award wins, 56 Chicago/Midwest Emmy Award nominations, three Illinois Silver Dome Awards for Excellence in Broadcasting, a national CableACE Award, along with the prestigious induction earlier this year into the Chicago/Midwest Emmys “Silver Circle,” recognizing 25 years or more of excellence and significant contributions to the Chicago broadcasting industry.