White Sox

Follow the money

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Follow the money

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

The big story this week was the unprecedented penalties handed down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the New Orleans bounty scandal. Wow. That got everybodys attention. I think most of the folks I talked to thought the penalty was a bit much, but thanked god it wasnt their team, especially since we all know that this is not an isolated incident. I have no doubt that Goodell had to act in this way since it became public. At that point the Saints did this to themselves. I find it interesting that it was noted that this investigation had been going on for years. The troubling part is that this did not deter Gregg Williams and the Saints from curtailing the practice. Again, I believe it was because these incentives were so much part of the tough-guy culture and existed for so long that those involved did not see the harm, pardon the pun. Much like Martha Stewart, the lying when confronted only increased the penalty. And also like a gun-toting-in-the-sweatpants-at-a-nightclub wide receiver and a delusional, hair-dyed, Howdy-Doody look-alike ex-governor, examples must be made of. Theres nothing like a very public flogging to keep the masses in check.

Now as I said here last week, I think some of this is over-blown in the fact that this is portrayed as players repeatedly taking wild-eyed head-shots and tackling at knee level only. The game moves too fast for that. Wouldnt an obsessed media notice? Are the Saints penalty numbers far above the rest of the league? But core aggression, achieved by almost any means, is always going at the heart of a game of violence. Stuff is going to happen. The players understand the world of mayhem in which they exist. Bounty or not, a hit that knocks someone out is going to get notice: From players. From coaches. From fans. And, lets not forget, be shown repeatedly, around the clock on ESPN and the NFL NETWORK! If it bleeds it leads!

Now call me cynical, but Im wondering in what different ways the NFL could benefit from this. During the past year, concussion issues in sports have been discussed more than any time ever. Goodell has been out front on this, touting a concern for player safety. But is he exactly the right guy to be doing this? After all, hes in charge of a business that is built on violence and high-speed collisions. Can a cattle farmer be an animal rights activist? Also since hes in charge, he must be aware of the 39 lawsuits from over 850 former players over concussions. I would think those lawsuits stand a chance against a league that used to sell biggest hits videos on their own website. Wouldnt a good preemptive strike against damages be to show that your on and off-field business model had changed? (Or is it an admission of guilt?)

Culture change doesnt come easy, and I commend Goodell for at least trying to move the bar to a more palatable place. But, with the money that is involved Im finding it hard to believe that all of his motives are altruistic. Then again, if he really is the savior, he can purify the sport by dealing with the real elephant in the room: The fact that the NFL is the most popular sport in this country because its the easiest to gamble on.

Im thinking if there was going to be a how-not-to book written on how to negotiate a player contract, it should be done by Matt Fortes agent. Lost in the woods is always my first thought when I hear the latest update of his contract saga. Forte is not in a position of strength, usually the determining factor in a negotiation, but he and his team dont seem to understand this. I know that this must be very frustrating for him, but what can he do? What he shouldnt do is send out woe is me tweets lamenting the fact that the Bears signed another running back. Honestly?Theres no crying in football! Michael Bush is a beast of a back and a great compliment to Forte. What Forte should do is stay quiet, and double-down that he wont get hurt and play on his 1-year deal. After this season Im sure the Bears wont want to use the tag again, then he can do what he wants. If they do use it again, he will have made about 20 mildo in 2 seasons, so quit the whining or sign a new deal. Or better yet, get some better advice. Im available!!

The thing about John Elway as a player was that he always seemed to get better the more dire the situation. Ever heard of The Drive? Need I say more? Well it seems he save a little of the Elway magic for his job as President of the Broncos. As Ive written here before, part of Tim Tebows allure for me was watching Elways reaction to it. One of the best quarterbacks ever watching this hack. First the team was pressured to put him in. Then he wins a bunch of games to get them into the playoffs. The Elway reactions, facially and verbally, were priceless. He should teach that vacant smile to beauty contestants to use as they are asked questions about topics they have no clue about, like say about anything you would read in a paper. Then after the shocking playoff win against the Steelers, Tebow was the QB of the future, right? Wrong, worst mechanics-ever breath! John Elway is a freaking genius! How could he get rid of his polar quarterbacking opposite, in a city head-over-heels in love with him and not hear one word about it? Sign Peyton Manning, thats how! Even if Manning is done, who cares? Tebow is someone elses problem. (Of course Ill have more on that, but that topic is an entire blog in itself, my little foot soldiers!) He gone! And in the world of Elway, thats all that matters. Plus, youre selling your fan base that you are trying to win now with a future Hall-of-Famer. And he got a fourth-round draft pick! I cant get over what a brilliant move it was on Elways part. Has he ever thought of politics? Better yet, does he want to run my Eagles?

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.