From Comcast SportsNetGary Andersen publicly pledged his allegiance to Utah State not long ago. Now he's on the verge of becoming Wisconsin's coach.Wisconsin reportedly will hire Andersen to replace Bret Bielema, who left the Badgers earlier this month to take the Arkansas job.The news about Andersen broke Tuesday night and neither Utah State nor Wisconsin had anything official to announce about Andersen on Wednesday. The delay is at least in part tied to laws in Wisconsin that require a state job to be posted for at least two weeks before it can be filled. The two-week posting was up at the end of business on Wednesday.The school was expected to introduce Andersen at a news conference Thursday, but a snowstorm might change those plans.The 48-year-old Andersen just completed his fourth and best season at Utah State. The 18th-ranked Aggies finished 11-2 with a bowl victory against Toledo and won the Western Athletic Conference.It's been a remarkable rise for a program that had been near the bottom of major college football for years, and stuck in distant third in its own state behind BYU and Utah. The Aggies won nine games in the previous four seasons before Andersen took over. The last football coach to finish his tenure in Logan, Utah, with a winning record was Phil Krueger who went 21-12 from 1973-75.Andersen drew interest from California, Colorado and Kentucky last month, but decided to pass on those opportunities and received a contract extension from Utah State."The interest I have received is a compliment to the quality young men in this program," Andersen said in the statement released Nov. 30. "I love Cache Valley, this university and these young men, and I am humbled and excited to continue to be the coach here. The leadership of President (Stan) Albrecht and Mr. Barnes, as well as the support from the fans and community, are big reasons why this is the right place for myself and my family at this time."That was before Wisconsin had an opening. Bielema announced he was leaving on Dec. 4, three days after the Badgers won their third straight Big Ten title and trip to the Rose Bowl.As late as last week, before Utah State played in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Andersen was saying he was committed to the Aggies."I love the kids I get to coach here. ... The kids I have in the program, it just was not time. I look them in the eye and I need to be where I'm at," he told the Idaho Statesman newspaper.When Wisconsin called, Andersen changed his mind.It's a tough spot in which many coaches find themselves. It's imperative for recruiting purposes to show unwavering commitment to your current school. But when a coach does jump to another job, he looks like a liar."If you can, it's good to not say anything," former Arkansas and Mississippi coach Houston Nutt said. "It's almost now impossible because there's so much information out there."Washington State coach Mike Leach said he felt his only obligation was to his employer and his team."I think you handle it honestly with the people you work for, but by the same token you don't let the media or public into your personal business," he said.Apparently, many in Utah were caught off guard by the Andersen-to-Wisconsin news."I can't believe this..." Utah State receiver Alex Wheat posted on his Twitter account when word started to spread."I hate rumors.." tight end DJ Tialavea tweeted.A few hours later, that changed."Coach A just called me. Explained the situation. No hard feelings. I have nothing but respect for the man. We must fight on. (hash)AggieNation," Wheat posted."Just got that phone call always have and always will love ya coach!" Tialavea tweeted.The Wisconsin State Journal, which first reported that the Andersen would be the next Badgers' coach, reported Wednesday that Andersen spent Tuesday night calling his Utah State players.The should buy plenty of good will for Andersen as he heads from his old job to his new one.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo pulled no punches Friday describing negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players union to resume play amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think it's just flat-out embarrassing for me to be searching through Twitter and seeing the updates because that's how fast they got out there," Rizzo told reporters in Friday's Zoom session. "There's a lot of leaks on [MLB's] side, seems like there was leaks whenever we sent in a proposal, to the point where it kind of turned into a joke with the media battle."
The squabbling between MLB and the MLBPA continued into late June before commissioner Rob Manfred unilaterally imposed a 60-game season. Rizzo pointed out how billionaires and millionaires fighting over money during a pandemic is a bad look, and many have speculated baseball's fan interest could take a hit in the short- and perhaps long-term.
Rizzo believes MLB has an opportunity to capture a new generation of fans during this unique 60-game season, however.
"But when it's all said and done and baseball's on the field and we play with our emotion like we know how to do, that's how we're gonna capture a new fan base through this tough time," he said.
It's what this rebuild is all about.
When you start building from the bottom, the name of the game is acquiring young, talented players, developing them and watching as they, hopefully, start winning baseball games and, eventually, World Series titles. The White Sox, despite the hype, obviously aren't all the way there just yet, unless I somehow missed a parade.
But they're getting there. They might be really close. And throughout the roster, players once described as prospects with bright futures have stepped into those futures.
That includes Tim Anderson, who went from a .240 hitter in 2018 to a .335 hitter last year, that batting average high enough to win the big league batting title.
What's next for Anderson remains to be seen — the White Sox and their fans want to see defensive improvement to go along with his big jump at the plate — but the guy running the show is over the moon when it comes to his shortstop and the growing up Anderson's done over the last few years.
"I was watching him a little while ago. Man, he looks so good," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Friday. "This young man is — he's a man. I think that he's grown so much as a person, as a player. I'm looking forward to seeing what's next for him. I'm very, very confident in the maturity that's transpired over the last few years. He's worked extremely hard. I think, and I still believe, that this kid's an All-Star quality type shortstop.
"When I see him working, I see some things that he does, and every day I'm impressed. I expect a lot out of Timmy. More importantly, Timmy expects a lot out of himself. I know he wants perfection, and he's continuing to grow toward that. But this kid's pretty good, and I will continue to say that for as long as I'm here.
"Timmy's a pretty good Major League Baseball player, and I think he's going to be around for a while."
Anderson sees that growth, too, when he looks around the field, and like plenty of fans and observers, he sees this group of White Sox capable of finally making that jump out of rebuilding mode and into contending mode this year.
"I think we all have matured," he said. "As the years pass by, we have all matured and kind of grown into better players. We all had a great season last year. I think it’s just exciting to see us continue to grow and continue to come together as a team and grow as men.
"I think it’s very cool and we have a chance to basically tighten this bond up for the next couple of years to hopefully do something that’s real special."
That jump was supposed to happen this season. With the young core emerging in a big way in 2019 and Rick Hahn's front office going to work over the offseason, bringing in veterans with winning experience, the rebuild was supposed to start bearing winning fruit back in March.
Then the pandemic brought baseball to a screeching halt.
The game is back, for now at least, with the league-branded "Summer Camp" starting Friday morning on the South Side. Finally, the White Sox were back together, again readying for a season of big expectations.
A lot has changed since March, though, both in baseball and in the world, in general. For the White Sox, the 162-game season they were built for and revved up for in March has been squeezed down to a 60-game schedule in a two-month sprint to the postseason.
The next stage of growth for these White Sox — whose most recent regular-season action was the end of an 89-loss season almost 10 months ago — is learning how to win. They thought they'd have six months to figure it out. Instead, they have two.
"'Learning how to win,' I guess that's a really good way of putting it," Renteria said. "Our guys, they've been growing up together. I've been very fortunate to be here to see them growing up, and they've had an opportunity over the last few years now to experience playing at the major league level, going through some ups and downs, learning what they're capable of doing.
"At the end of the day, their talent has to meet the moment and be prepared for it and allow themselves to trust what they're capable of doing."
Should the state of the pandemic allow the 2020 season to get off the ground — the initial testing results Major League Baseball announced Friday were encouraging, with a positive-test rate of only 1.2 percent — we'll find out exactly what they're capable of doing.
But as mentioned, that growth is still happening all over the roster. Anderson, entering his fifth big league season, has grown up. Even Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada have shed the nasty results from their 2018 seasons to arrive at a much better place. But Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech only have a handful of major league starts under their belts. Eloy Jimenez is entering just his second season. Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal have yet to see a major league pitch. And there's more behind them, with last month's first-round draft pick Garrett Crochet already being described as a potential quick mover to the major leagues.
That's part of the plan, of course, for the window to stay propped open for years while the waves of talent continue to reach the South Side and develop into high-end major league players. And so whether the shortened 2020 season features the White Sox finally reaching the playoffs or not, Hahn sees the value in that big-picture goal as guys keep growing.
"We've got a limited sample here. Let's make the most of it from a development standpoint," he said Friday. "Whether that is young guys getting their major league experience under their belt and dealing with whatever adjustments have to happen throughout the league, or teaching some of the guys who have been around here a little bit longer what it takes to win and playing in an intense environment, given the magnitude of each and every game and, ideally, a pennant race down the stretch that will be compelling. So there's going to be a lot of long-term benefits from getting these guys back out here and playing."
But while the growth continues, there's good reason to finally be excited about the present. Anderson sees what's possible, even in this most unusual of seasons, as he looks to keep evolving while the White Sox start winning.
He's not thrilled with his defense, either — he made a combined 88 errors in his first four major league campaigns — and he's looking to put in the same kind of work that turned his offensive fortunes around last year.
"Nothing came natural. I worked to get to where I’m at. But I’m going to continue to work," he said. "That’s a part of my game that’s definitely lacking. It ain’t too far behind, though. I’m getting to where I need to be.
"I’ll continue to work, I’ll continue to get better. I’m going to continue to learn the game. Each and every day, come to the ballpark ready. As I mature and as I grow, it’s going to continue to get better. You’ll see. You have seen it. All aspects of my game.
"As long as I continue to get better, continue to grow and continue to learn and work hard, that will come along as well."
And he won't say no to another batting title, either. Not that it's Priority No. 1, though.
"Hopefully I can get a ring out of it," he said, "and if the batting title comes again, then cool.
"We’ll see what happens at the end of the 60. Hopefully it’s not just 60."