Blackhawks

Leave Devin Hester alone

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Leave Devin Hester alone

Its a theme that has been put out by the Bears on too many occasions in the past several years.

Devin Hester is going to be a top wide receiver.

Devin Hester is a unique talent.

Devin Hester is having one of the best camps of any Bear.

All of that meant precisely zero in the past, means precisely that now, and it might be the worst thing for Hester.

Maybe its time he was just left alone to beDevin Hester, whatever that is going to be.

Jay Cutler started it on Wednesday:

Devin Hester I think is probably having the best camp of all the receivers.

The camp is two days old. Cutler is certainly eminently qualified to assess performances. But hyping Hester after two days?

It got worse with Brandon Marshall, who one-upped Cutler by stating that Hester will have the best season of any Bears receiver (assuming that only one receiver from a team is likely to earn All-Pro honors):

I honestly think hes going to have an All-Pro year this year at wide receiver.

(If Hester does make All-Pro, it will be with a lot of passes that Marshall probably thought would be coming his direction).

There is nothing remotely wrong with pumping or pubbing up a teammate, believing in him and saying so.

But Hester has gotten so built up at various times Mike Martz had exotic plans for him; now Mike Tice and the Bears have a Hester package planned when the guy simply has a nice season, hes a disappointment.

Maybe the best thing for Hester, a sensitive young man who knows what people say about him, good and bad, would be to just be allowed to be Hester. No best of camp honoree. No All-Pro-in-waiting.

JustHester.

Brendan Perlini still trying to find role with Blackhawks

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AP

Brendan Perlini still trying to find role with Blackhawks

Brendan Perlini's start with the Blackhawks hasn't been ideal. He has zero points and is a minus-6 rating through six games since being acquired — along with Dylan Strome — from the Arizona Coyotes for Nick Schmaltz on Nov. 25. 

In his most recent game, Perlini logged only five shifts and was benched for the final 28:28 in a 4-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday. Two days later he found himself a healthy scratch. It's been a little more than two weeks now, but Perlini is still trying to find his role in Chicago.

"You always want to be playing, but I always take the positive in everything and try to improve no matter what the situation is," Perlini said. "It's always tough, you come into a new situation, new things going on, you don't know too many people. ... There's a lot of things going on. I just have to stay focused on what I can do to help the team improve each day."

Is he feeling some pressure to live up to the trade and trying to do too much early on?

‘‘Nah, not really,’’ Perlini said. ‘‘I’m an easygoing guy. I just like to come and play hockey, and that’s it. I don’t think crazy things and blah, blah, blah. I just like to have fun, do my thing, work hard, improve. Hopefully the rest falls into place.’’

The Blackhawks aren't asking too much out of him. He's not going to produce big numbers offensively because that's not the kind of player he is. At 6-foot-3, 211 pounds, Perlini is more of a power forward and the Blackhawks want him to be harder to play against so that he can turn into a consistent top-9 forward.

"We just want him to have a little more urgency without the puck," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Skate, work, work away from the puck, and I think he'll put himself in good situations."

Perhaps it's a little more difficult to establish your role when the team is on a seven-game losing streak because there's lots of mixing and matching going on as they search for the right formula to break out of it. Perlini (and Strome) has yet to be a part of a win with the Blackhawks, which probably isn't helping as they get acclimated to their new locker room.

But it's also an opportunity to take control and make an impact when things aren't going your way, both individually and as a team, and learn from some of the veterans who have three Stanley Cups on their resume.

"I'm just trying to improve with different things every day and learn off the guys," Perlini said. "Obviously, some unbelievable players. The team is going through a skid, but you take a look around the room — [Jonathan] Toews, [Patrick] Kane, all the guys who have won things and done tremendous things in the game — those are the guys you want to be around and learn from and improve from. For me, regardless of what the situation is, I’m always going to try to improve and better myself.’’

As buzz of White Sox and Bryce Harper continues at Winter Meetings, they reportedly prefer him to Manny Machado

As buzz of White Sox and Bryce Harper continues at Winter Meetings, they reportedly prefer him to Manny Machado

LAS VEGAS — South Side baseball fans have been dreaming about Bryce Harper signing up with the White Sox ever since they were first reported as interested a month ago back at the GM Meetings.

Now it's the Winter Meetings, baseball's annual frenzy of offseason activity, here in Harper's hometown, no less, and the noise surrounding that possibility keeps getting louder.

One thought was floated on the first night of these meetings that the Harper sweepstakes might already be down to a final three teams, the White Sox being one of them alongside the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers. Representatives from the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals spent Monday telling reporters they likely weren't going to sign Harper. The Washington Nationals' owner already said he doesn't think Harper will be back in the nation's capital. And the big-spending Cubs are financially tied up to the point where they might not be a possibility for Harper, either.

That all adds up to the White Sox being in one heck of a unique position to land one of the best players in baseball and the biggest fish on this winter's free-agent market.

One of the game's biggest national names chimed in Tuesday morning. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal authored a column explaining the White Sox situation and their pursuits of Harper and fellow mega free agent Manny Machado. For those who have followed every scrap of information regarding the White Sox and Harper over the last month or so, this served better as an explainer than a news-breaker. But Rosenthal did mention that the White Sox appear to prefer signing Harper to Machado. He also mentioned that the Crosstown-rival Cubs are "not engaged in a pursuit of Harper," perhaps more emphatically taking them off the table as possible competition.

Certainly both 26-year-old superstars would fit in with the White Sox long-term plans, but there definitely exist questions about Machado's fit that don't exist about Harper's. First, Harper could easily slide into the team's hole in right field, whereas Machado has stated his desire to play shortstop, one of the few positions where the White Sox have a long-term piece on their major league roster. Second, Machado's now-infamous comments about his distaste for hustling contrasted sharply with manager Rick Renteria's "don't quit" culture and his persistent benching of anyone who he felt didn't hustle during the 2018 season.

It's a mystery whether either of those things impact the White Sox thinking on which star they prefer. But Machado's incredible production with the bat and with the glove makes him an attractive long-term option, regardless.

Rosenthal's piece focused on team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who famously handed out baseball's then-biggest-ever contract in 1996 to sign Albert Belle. Harper is expected to receive the new biggest contract in baseball history this winter. Rosenthal included this line, as well:

"Reinsdorf privately has expressed doubt his team will actually win the bidding for Harper or Machado, according to a source with knowledge of his thinking. But even with the White Sox at least a year away from contention, he is not stopping his front office from engaging in the pursuit of the two stars, and the possibility of a marriage with Harper seemingly is growing more realistic."

The competition might not be as big as once imagined, but it should still remain fierce. The Phillies have vowed to spend "stupid" this offseason in their pursuit of building a contender. The Dodgers are always a threat to cough up large sums. And the potentially lurking Cubs, as Rosenthal mentioned, have a trio of $100 million players on their roster right now, so they're obviously not shy about spending big.

But the White Sox have almost no long-term financial commitments to speak of, their financial flexibility achieved as part of their ongoing rebuilding effort. Team vice president Ken Williams said Monday that they have shifted into a more aggressive mode this winter, not a surprise to hear aloud after months of their reported activity involving any number of available players.

General manager Rick Hahn has been saying for months that the team will look to take advantage of opportunities that make sense for the long-term future of the club, and it's hard to argue any move would make more long-term sense than adding Harper (or Machado) to lead a group of talented youngsters, many of whom have yet to reach the major leagues, into perennial contention mode.

"It’s very important for us to remain very diligent where we are in this," Hahn said Monday night. "We’re entering Year 3 of a rebuild, and although I think there’s some potential skepticism that it might be a year too soon, perhaps be pushing it, we’re very mindful of that. And we also want to balance the fact there is some unique opportunities out there in the market, and we wouldn’t be doing our job — even if it is perhaps a year too early — not doing our job if we didn’t fully vet those opportunities.

"It doesn’t mean we’re going to just look for any way to make some sort of splash. It has to fit with the long-term vision of what we’re trying to accomplish. Traditionally, the third year of a rebuild isn’t always the time where you push those chips in, so to speak, but when unique opportunities present themselves you have to respond."

The challenge would seem to be convincing Harper or Machado (who has a different set of reported suitors, though the White Sox are reported to be very much in the mix there, too) to join a team whose plans for the future are just that, plans, as opposed to teams like the Yankees or Dodgers or even the Phillies, to a degree, that can point to win-now rosters and recent examples of success at the major league level. Hahn thinks he has the right selling points with his carefully assembled collection of minor league talent and the bright future this rebuilding effort has created.

"Someone asked me last week when we did a conference call, 'How do you sell a team that lost 100 games last year?' And really, the conversations we're having aren't about our past, they're about the future," Hahn said. "And everyone who's involved in the game and follows the game closely knows where we're headed and what we've tried to accomplish over the last couple years and what we're going to continue to build for in the future. And in terms of the prospect of being something special for an extended period of time in the future in Chicago, that has appeal to people. That's more important to them than where we were last year in the second year of a rebuild."

And so the buzz continues to increase in volume when it comes to the possibility of Harper landing on the South Side. The White Sox seem willing and able to spend and aggressive in pursuing this one-of-a-kind opportunity. But until a deal is done — with the White Sox or one of their competitors — the race is still on.

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