Bears

Frankie O: At speed - Part 3

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Frankie O: At speed - Part 3

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

One constant when I travel is my inability to get a good nights sleep. As much fun as it is to go somewhere new, nighttime is the only drawback. Add this to the anxiety of having to do something that every person I know is going to watch and my morning caffeine is needed more than usual, if thats possible. People always ask if doing a junket is fun and my response is, of course, but my fun starts as soon as the review airs. Its like preparing for a major exam, taking it and waiting for grade. Ill never forget the first one and the mood in the room as it changed before everyone got their chance to interview Will Ferrell. The money shot. The reason for being there. If trained professionals are feeling the pressure I guess I should, too.

It was at this time that I wanted to vomit as I felt the enormity of the situation I was about to encounter. I felt like I was being taken to the chair as I was led to the room where he, Im sure, anxiously awaited my grand entrance. The room, and my head, was spinning as I was introduced and led to my seat across from the big fella.

My first reaction as he was sizing me up was, Holy Mackerel! Thats Wilf! (well it least it was something similar to that! But I couldnt help but give a gratuitous shout-out to my favorite seafood restaurant). As we waited to start, still quizzically looking at me, he asked, What are you doing here?

My response was that times were tough and I needed a second job and someone told me by doing this I would sometimes get to meet interesting people and enjoy an unlimited buffet in the green room. His laughter in response was all I needed to forget about everything going on around me and hopefully not embarrass myself (to judge, go to Harrycarays.com and click on to my Talladega Nights review). He helped me realize that all we were doing was having a conversation. That this conversation was with someone I have never met shouldnt matter, since its something I do every day, repeatedly at my other job. That thought process is the important part of slowing things down. In any job, thats always the key to doing it well. Admittedly, its still moving pretty fast, but Im almost to the point where I can think about breakfast, almost.

Riding to the stadium was like going to play a game. It was a little less boisterous than the rides to and from the movie as folks were getting their thoughts together, asking each other questions to make sure they had their facts straight. Of course that didnt stop a few of the guys from chiding me about the Eagles gag job the night before (who knew that would be a recurring theme? Ha-ha).

Once at the stadium, it was hurry up and wait, and wait and wait. This was no way to enjoy a Diet Dew high. Some of it was my own fault since I took an earlier shuttle than I needed to since there was no way I was going to be late and I figured at least the scenery would be better than inside my room. Theres something about a ballpark. Any ballpark. Im sure its seen better days, but you could have fooled me. Under a clear blue sky, while lacking the charisma of Wrigley, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum looked as inviting as any park Ive ever been in. I know its 8:30 a.m., but I wouldnt have objected to a beer and a dog if a game had started.

Anyway, I was hoping to find out what order we were going to do our interviews. While I was guessing I would get the big boys last -- little did I know how true that would be -- you never know. In a way, you just want to get it done, but there is something to doing a couple and getting adjusted before you do the one that really counts. Not that I have ever discounted any that I have ever done, but I know the realities of a two-and-a-half minute piece are that some of these will never see the light of day. Although this time with a companion piece on the effects of Moneyball in Chicago, if I could get more good sound, it could find its way on air.

Sure enough a little after 10 a.m., I got the call to get in line for Michael Lewis. It was time to meet my late-night travel companion! While I didnt ask how much time I had, I figured I would have more than enough (a long time ago, my TV sensei had given me the timeless advice -- get it? -- of asking questions until they told me to stop. That was when they had limited-size tapes, so I often heard, The tapes done," as I was still having a conversation. Oh well, I just keep throwing them against the wall until I get TV gold!

Now, with the new discs they use, my feeling is that I can squeeze in a little extra (or at least I try). The big stars are on a strictly measured time count, usually three minutes, while with, no offense, the others, it is usually between four and five. This can seem painfully long or very short.

With Lewis it flew by. I could have talked to him all day. With his eye for detail and the amount of research he did, Im sure he could have told me stories easily for that long. I thought it went great, although there was one curious note: When I explained to him that he was riding home with me from work every night while I listened to the audio version of the book, he asked, Did I read it, or was it an actor? Um, pretty sure it was you dude, it said read by author on the cover, and I can recognize your voice anywhere by now. Really, he replied. That was strange but I had no time to dwell.

After another half-hour, it was time for Chris Pratt and Scott Hatteberg. Again, for me, doubles are sometimes awkward, especially when you really want to talk to one more than another. Then there is the dreaded run-on, if they start a conversation between themselves in response to a question. Or say, youre being nice and the wrong guy takes all of your time!

For the movie INVICTUS, there was only one interview for us sports types, but it included Matt Damon. Depending on your point of view, the goodbad part was that it was a double with the man he portrayed in the movie, Francios Pienaar. Now Pienaar is interesting in his own right, but he was sitting next to MATT DAMON and I only have three minutes! Before I went in, I was warned, repeatedly, not to ask Pienaar a question or he would take up all of my time. Honestly? With him sitting this close, dont ask one? That felt rude.

My plan was open with a movie question to Damon, then time permitting, follow Damon with a funny baseball observation, then give Francios the leftovers. Well, when Damon gave a good, but quick answer and kind of looked over at Pienaar, I took the bait and asked him a question that would give me just enough time to sneak in my funny at the end. Everybodys happy, right?

WRONG!

Hes probably still talking, that tape-eater! It was no consolation that when I did ask Damon my question on the way out, that he laughed and broke out into that world-famous smile, in fact, it only made it worse. No such problems this time, as I had what felt like 10 minutes and was able to go back and forth, between them, and still had time for my funny at the end. Too bad its on the cutting room floor! Thats showbiz! Whatever! It was still fun to talk to them and at least Hatteberg made the second piece, which Im sure, if he knew, would be a big thrill!

The good part, for me, was that as soon as I was done with the guys, I was told to get in line for Jonah Hill. Cool. With just the big guns after that, I could be done by lunch, which looked outstanding by the way. The BeanePitt combo had been running a little behind, but, again, that was to be expected, and again, who cares as long as I get to talk to them? My time is their time, as long as I make my flight! And since I had moved that flight to a later time, that, hopefully, shouldnt be an issue.

Interestingly, in my preparation, I always seemed to have writers block for my approach with Jonah. Hes a funny guy, but hes a subtle funny. I wanted him to be funny. I needed him to be funny. Then I saw a clip of him on the internet where he talked about the pranks that Pitt had played on him on the set. One in particular was hilarious and I was telling people at the bar about it and it got a laugh every time. If I could get him to tell that story to me.

Sometimes in life, its probably better if you dont overthink stuff, or have a preconceived notion. As I was waiting after the Lewis interview in the lounge that they had created for us, I overheard several people talking about their Hill experience and lets just say it wasnt what they had hoped. No problem, Ive got a solid approach, he should work for me.

When it was my turn and I sat next to him it was startling to see how much weight he had lost. Wow. He didnt even look like the person who was in the movie. In fact, he lost half a person! I thought he looked like a slightly larger version of Toby McGuire. Thats a compliment. The production crew was having a slight problem with the audio, so we had a few minutes. This could be good, I thought. But with every one-word answer to my small-talk questions, I started to feel very awkward. So anything that did not happen, Ill take the blame.

Overweight, red-bow-tie wearing bartenders are an acquired taste. Actually as I looked back over the transcripts of what we said to each other, it didnt seem as bad as I had felt it was. In fact his description of the story of the movie was very eloquent and was used in the review.

Still, for me, I wanted some funny and just could not get any. Im reminded of the many stories over the years that folks have shared with me at the bar about random encounters that they have had with funny stars and to their dismay, they didnt find that person to be very funny. My response has always been that maybe the star wasnt having a very good day or maybe they should ratchet-down the expectations. No one is funny all of the time. Trust me, I know. So as I tried to get the story out of Jonah, and failed miserably, I just had to laugh. Not the good type of laugh mind you, but at least I got one from him and Ill always have that.

Besides, it was time to move on to my reason for being here, the person that everyone has asked me about before and since. No pressure right? For some reason I had a good feeling about this one. I had caught a couple of glimpses of Mr. Pitt as he made the rounds and he seemed very natural and at ease (why shouldnt he?).

Tune in next week to find out how that went. For now, Ill leave you with this: The next day, as I was sorting everything out and telling folks at the bar about my experiences, Jonah Hill was on Letterman and from all accounts, he absolutely killed. Especially with the story of a particular prank that Pitt had played on him while they were filming Moneyball.

Like I said, you have to laugh.

Fantasy Football: 15 players to target on your waiver wire

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USA TODAY

Fantasy Football: 15 players to target on your waiver wire

We've crossed the halfway mark in the regular season for most Fantasy Football leagues, so it's officially crunch time.

As we get ready to make a push for the stretch run and with Bye Weeks in full gear, the waiver wire has never been more important in 2018.

If Nick Chubb is available in your league still, change that immediately. But considering he should've been scooped up in every league after Carlos Hyde was traded away from Cleveland Friday, we're more focused on guys who should be available and worth spending your free agent budget on.

Here are 15 guys worth targeting on the waiver wire:

1. Kenjon Barner, RB, NE

It appears Sony Michel has avoided serious injury, but he still will probably miss at least Week 8 and possibly longer. James White will see a larger role without Michel, but Barner suddenly goes from a guy not even worth sniffing at in Fantasy to a must-own. As soon as Michel left the game, Barner entered and tallied 10 rushes against the Bears defense. If you're desperate for a running back in Week 8, Barner might be a good add as he has a fantastic matchup against a Bills defense that just allowed 219 rushing yards to the Colts.

2. Chris Ivory, RB, BUF

LeSean McCoy was forced to leave the Week 7 contest with a concussion, opening the door for a decent game for Ivory (126 total yards on 19 touches). If McCoy continues to miss time, Ivory is the clear beneficiary, though it's not a great matchup in Week 8 against the Pats.

3. Danny Amendola, WR, MIA

It's been a while since Amendola was anything more than a tease in Fantasy Football, but the soon-to-be-33-year-old has had back-to-back good games while building a good rapport with Brock Osweiler. Amendola has hauled in 143 yards and a tuddie on 14 catches (18 targets) the last two weeks and while he is banged up, he practiced in a limited capacity Monday. If he can suit up Thursday, he should be the Dolphins' top target as both Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson are expected to miss that contest with their own injuries.

4. Raheem Mostert, RB, SF

Matt Breida and Alfred Morris owners must hate this guy, but Mostert has emerged from complete irrelevance to lead the Niners backfield the last two weeks. The 26-year-old has 23 touches the last two games while Morris has tallied just 9 touches (all in Week 7) and Breida has racked up 19 touches as he works through a bunch of injuries, including an ankle issue. It will be tough to predict how this situation will play out this week, but Mostert has been the only Niners back worth starting recently and this group of RBs now has the best matchup of the week against the woeful Cardinals defense. Mostert at least deserves to be owned, even if you're not comfortable starting him at the moment.

5/6. Jalen Richard/Doug Martin, RB, OAK

With Marshawn Lynch on IR, Richard and Martin should be owned in all formats just for the sheer possibility of a heavy workload. However, both are questionable Fantasy starts for Week 8 — even coming off a Bye. Richard should be the call in PPR leagues while Martin figures to eat up most of Lynch's carries. 

7. Tyrell Williams, WR, LAC

Williams is owned in hardly any league, but he's racked up 236 receiving yards and 3 TDs the last two weeks. He's not getting a heavy workload (only 8 targets in that span), but the Chargers love throwing deep to this guy and it's paid off in back-to-back weeks. Williams isn't close to being a safe bet as his value is completely contigent upon whether he catchs a deep bomb or not, but you could do a lot worse in your Fantasy lineups.

8. Martavis Bryant, WR, OAK

With Amari Cooper now in Dallas, somebody's gotta catch balls for Jon Gruden's Raiders. There's no guarantee that's Bryant, but he's slated to start Week 8 and he has the talent and resume to be at least a servicable Fantasy player the rest of the season.

9. Donte Moncrief, WR, JAC

The good: In 3 of the last 4 weeks, Moncrief has tallied at least 5 catches and 76 yards. The bad: In the other week during that stretch, he did not record a single catch on 3 targets. So there's clearly some risk here, especially considering the state of the Jags passing offense and QB situation. But Moncrief may be worth a pickup and start in Week 8 if you're desperate, as the Eagles have given up some of the most Fantasy points to opposing WRs. 

10. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, BUF

Benjamin was drafted in most leagues but was unable to post as many as 10 Fantasy points in even full-point PPR leagues until Week 7, and that was a modest 11-point total. Nobody blames you if you've given up on Benjamin, but he finally topped 3 catches and 50 yards in Week 7 and has a rapport with Derek Anderson from their time in Carolina. 

11. Trenton Cannon, RB, NYJ

Who? Cannon is owned in 0.0 percent of Fantasy leagues, which makes sense given he had a grand total of 2 Fantasy points entering Week 7. But when Bilal Powell left the game with a neck injury, it was Cannon that stepped up with 69 receiving yards on 4 catches while Isaiah Crowell still handled rushing duties. If Powell misses time in Week 8 or beyond (neck issues are no joke), Cannon is the main beneficiary in the passing game and should be rostered in all PPR leagues.

12. Chris Herndon, TE, NYJ

The Jets' fourth-round pick from this spring is another no-name in the Fantasy world, but that's quickly changing after back-to-back weeks with a TD. Herndon has clearly become the top tight end for fellow rookie Sam Darnold, seeing 7 targets last week and hauling in 4 of those catches for 42 yards. If you're desperate for a TE or you're in a dynasty league, target Herndon now. 

13. DeVante Parker, WR, MIA

Parker has been worth absolutely nothing in Fantasy this year, finding his way out of the lineup on a weekly basis. But he's worth a speculative add in case he's traded by next week — like he wants — and he also receives a boost for Week 8 by default, as the other Dolphins wideouts are all banged up and Parker essentially has to play.

14. Jakeem Grant, WR, MIA

Notice a trend here? We're all-in on South Beach receivers this week. Same logic applies because of injuries to Stills and Wilson, but obviously all of Parker, Grant and Amendola will not be worth a Fantasy start in Week 8. This is still Osweiler and the Dolphins we're talking about. But Grant is fun with his gamechanging speed and has at least contributed in every single week of the season so far even before he's become an increased part of the gameplan, so his floor isn't "0" like Parker's or some of the other WR options on the market.

15. Colts D/ST

We can't end this without a defense/special teams unit, right? The Colts gave up at least 31 points for 3 straight games from Week 4 through 6, but they absolutely dominated the Bills last week and now draw a Raiders team that just lost its two best offensive playmakers over the last 10 days. There is no better D/ST to stream out there than the Colts, and they're available in more than half of leagues.

Bonus: Rishard Matthews, WR, NYJ

Matthews is reportedly signing with the Jets, who need some WR help. Matthews quit on the Titans earlier this season after they completely went away from him in the gameplan, but this is a guy that racked up 1,740 yards and 13 TDs from 2016-17. He's worth an add in all leagues just for the potential.

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.