Bears

Major League Baseballs social media revolution

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Major League Baseballs social media revolution

MESA, Ariz. Two years ago, Lou Piniella had one reaction when reporters told him about Ozzie Guillens latest move: What is Twitter?

The White Sox manager at the time needed less than 24 hours to pick up more than 7,000 followers. Once Piniella found out messages are limited to 140 characters, he dismissed the idea with a laugh line: Ozzie needs more space than that.

Hands in his back pockets, Piniella liked to pace back and forth beneath the Arizona sunshine and tell stories. Yet somehow, a slow game played without a clock would find a match in a head-spinning outlet that goes 247 nonstop. The former Cubs manager had no interest.

Im not really a Facebook or Twitter guy, Piniella said that day. Im a prime rib and baked potato guy.

Its impossible to ignore now. It certainly caused tension within the White Sox organization. It has definitely changed the way the game is covered. Major League Baseball and the players union had to recognize this trend in the latest round of labor negotiations.

While theres no explicit social media policy in the new collective bargaining agreement, a source said the labor deal did allow MLB to distribute a policy memo to players. The Major League Baseball Players Association agreed to handle any grievances that may come out of it.

The memo distributed this month set social media guidelines, which prohibit players from: releasing confidential information; promoting banned substances; posting sexually explicit material; making derogatory remarks; and criticizing umpires. Those are just a few of the bullet points. A major-league source doubted that the possible disciplinary actions have been formalized on paper yet.

Randy Wells had to shut down one Twitter account last August, the day after the Cubs announced Jim Hendry was fired as general manager. Someone hacked into Wells account and blasted the bloggers who used to rip Hendry.

Wells had no idea until a team official told him it was spreading across the Internet. The Cubs pitcher mostly uses it to follow the Red Dirt music scene.

I dont think that Twitter is a place for somebody to speak out about an issue that theyre having, Wells said. Baseballs always had that unwritten rule: What happens in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse. Even if I felt the urge to act out, I wouldnt even feel like Twitter was the right place to do it.

Guys should be smart enough not to put dirty laundry out there.

This spring, Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson got heat for posting ex-teammate Mike Napolis phone number on Twitter as a prank, which was not appreciated by the Rangers catcher.

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer who once restocked the Padres system by dealing Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox has laughed about the bio for the (Fake) Jed Hoyer Twitter account: I love trading All-Stars for prospects any chance I can get.

Over the winter, Paul Maholm broke the news of his signing with the Cubs on Twitter. The ex-Pirate also got into it with some Pittsburgh fans after the Steelers lost an NFL playoff game to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. But mostly Maholm uses it as a platform for his faith and charity work.

Im from a small town. Im a pretty quiet guy, Maholm said. Im not going to sit here and start throwing Bible verses (in) your face. Thats me I try (to) be a faithful husband and good father and follow the values of being a Christian.

Thats how I want to live and thats how I strive to live. But as far as me looking down on somebody or trying to say something thats going to offend somebody, youre not really going to get that out of me. Im not perfect. Im not going to say Im perfect. But that kind of comes with the territory.

In the labor negotiations, both sides recognized the opportunities to connect with fans, grow the game and build their brands. Thats another point of emphasis in the new social media policy.

I like interacting with people, Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart said. I was a huge baseball fan growing up. Me and my buddies would send letters to different guys in the clubhouse and just see who we could get responses from. (It) would do wonders for us.

(Now) its cool because if someone says, Hey, its my birthday today, I just wanted to know if you could retweet this, you just write happy birthday. People will be like, Oh, my gosh, I cant believe you actually responded to this! Its like the best birthday present ever!

It makes me happy that I can do that for somebody, (something) as little as that that took no time.

All it takes is one click. Thats why another MLB memo this month reminded players that a tweet is a public statement to a mass audience, not a private text message to a friend. And if you wouldnt feel comfortable saying it at a press conference, you shouldnt post it on social media.

Once something is posted, you will not be able to retract it, the memo read. Once you hit send, your message becomes public information that can be forwarded and reported by the media.

In the age of Google and camera phones, its difficult enough for an average person to protect his privacy, much less a millionaire athlete.

Facebook is getting out of hand, Wells said. Only friends can have pictures. Well, I was at one point where I thought I was cool. I was accepting everybody, trying to get as many fans as I could.

And then you have a couple bad games and somebody takes a picture of you and steals it right off your Facebook and uses it in a blog, and its like: What the (expletive)?

I dont think thats stuff that should be taken away from people or frowned upon, but at the same time, you just have to be smart. You have to be an adult about it and be careful who you let in.

Like it or not, you better get used to it. One night last August, Mike Quade sat seething inside the managers office at Turner Field.

Once Quade was done burying Carlos Zambrano in Atlanta His lockers empty. I dont know where hes at. I heard he might retire the ex-Cubs manager spit out two words for the reporters punching their BlackBerrys, right there in front of his face.

Nice tweets.

Three questions for Bears pass rush: What is Leonard Floyd's ceiling?

Three questions for Bears pass rush: What is Leonard Floyd's ceiling?

 

Pre-camp depth chart

1. Leonard Floyd
2. Isaiah Irving
3. Kylie Fitts
4. Elijah Norris
5. Josh Woods

1. Sam Acho
2. Aaron Lynch
3. Kasim Edebali
4. Andrew Trumbetti

1. What is Leonard Floyd’s ceiling?

Floyd’s career to this point has been limited by injuries, but in the 22 games in which he’s played he’s only averaged one sack every 97 snaps. That’s essentially what Pernell McPhee provided last year (one sack ever 96 snaps), for comparison’s sake. The point being: Not only do we not know if Floyd can stay healthy for a full year, we might not know if he can live up to the expectations for a top-10-picked pass rusher.

Coaches and Floyd felt like they fixed the reason for Floyd’s concussion issues from his rookie year, which they believed was the product of poor tackling form. Floyd’s season-ending knee injury last year was a freak, unavoidable one, to be fair — but he’s still missed a total of 10 games in his two-year career.

The Bears haven’t lost confidence in Floyd’s potential, though — if that were the case, Ryan Pace likely would’ve added more to his team’s outside linebacking corps. In the short term, Floyd is a key player to watch in Bourbonnais — impactful practices are important for building up his mental confidence in his knee. In the long term, the Bears’ bet on Floyd needs to pay off, otherwise this pass rush may not be good enough in a quarterback-centric division.

2. Can Aaron Lynch be a diamond in the rough?

Lynch had a productive rookie year under Vic Fangio in 2014, recording six sacks and looking like a nice fifth-round find for the San Francisco 49ers. After Fangio was passed over for the 49ers’ head coaching job and left for the Bears, Lynch still notched 6 1/2 sacks in 2015.

But he only appeared in 14 games in 2016 and 2017 due to conditioning and injury issues, as well as a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse. When Lynch did play, he wasn’t effective, with only 2 1/2 sacks in those 14 games covering 379 snaps.

So that’s why Lynch signed for only one year and $4 million, with only $1.25 million of his salary guaranteed, according to Spotrac. The Bears hope a fresh start and reunion with Fangio will benefit Lynch, but the prove-it nature of his contract doesn’t guarantee him anything more than a chance.

“It’s exciting getting back with Vic, you know, he drafted me,” Lynch said. “I know his defense. So being it's something I'm used to and the fresh start like I mean, I've had my ups and downs in this league and it's just nice to come here to people with open arms that believe in me so now I've just got to come here and play football so it feels amazing.”

Getting six or so sacks out of Lynch would be huge for the Bears’ defense, but those efforts begin with the 25-year-old staying healthy. That Lynch suffered hamstring and ankle injuries during the offseason program was a little concerning, even if they weren’t characterized as anything but minor knocks.

3. What are fair expectations for Kylie Fitts?

The 6-foot-4, 265 pound Fitts is an intriguing prospect in that he tested well at the NFL Combine and, before injuries limited his junior and senior years, posted an eye-popping 2015 (seven TFLs, seven sacks, 10 pass break-ups, four forced fumbles). Fitts doesn’t believe the injuries he suffered at Utah (Lisfranc/foot, ankle sprain, shoulder sprain) will linger or pop back up in his pro career, though.

“I think I got all my injuries over with,” Fitts said. “I think it’s just a run of bad luck and it’s over now. I’m healthy, feeling good now, and I’m banking on remaining healthy and playing good.”

Still, every team in the NFL passed on Fitts until the Bears used the 181st pick to draft him in April. That doesn’t mean he won’t have success — Jordan Howard was the 150th pick in the 2016 draft, after all — but he’ll head to Bourbonnais with plenty of work to do to earn a role in Fangio’s defense. The Bears’ outside linebacking depth chart may not look strong, but that doesn’t mean Fitts will waltz into a prominent role. What he does in practices and preseason games will go a long way toward determining his outlook for 2018.

Bears' pass rush is one of NFL's worst, says PFF

Bears' pass rush is one of NFL's worst, says PFF

The Chicago Bears play in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford, so it's pretty obvious that a key to this season will be the defense's pass rush.

Unfortunately, getting after the quarterback doesn't appear to be a strength of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's unit. According to Pro Football Focus, the Bears have one of the worst group of pass rushers in the NFL.

Right now, expectations for what the Bears can expect off the edge pass-rush wise should be very low. Injuries have slowed Floyd’s development after he was drafted with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, leading to just 72 total pressures through three seasons. Starting opposite him will likely be Acho, with Lynch in on nickel pass-rushing packages. Lynch has averaged four sacks, and just over six hits and 21 hurries per season in his four-year career. The Bears top pass-rusher right now is Hicks on the defensive interior, and after producing 49 total pressures in 2017, he will likely need to be their top pass-rusher again in 2018.

If Sam Acho ends up starting opposite Leonard Floyd, then Aaron Lynch will go down as a free-agent bust. He was signed to start, not to be a rotational pass rusher. In fact, it's Acho who's better equipped to rotate into the lineup and provide a burst of energy when needed. 

Sixth-round pick Kylie Fitts is another candidate to bring pressure off the edge for the Bears, but he too is a great unknown. His college resume is littered with injuries and more potential than production. Chicago is high on him, however, and he could be another day-three steal to add to Ryan Pace's draft catalog.

Ultimately, the Bears' pass rush will come down to Floyd and whether he can become the elite sack artist he was drafted to be. In fact, he's entering something of a make-or-break year. If he doesn't prove he can stay healthy enough to register 10 or more sacks this season, Chicago may have to re-think its plan at edge rusher.