White Sox

Miller: Soldier Field renovations were short-sighted

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Miller: Soldier Field renovations were short-sighted

What better city to host a Super Bowl than Chicago. The city boasts some of the best hotels and finest restaurants, not to mention the incredible shopping available to Super Bowl travelers.

Chicago has more to offer than New York, which will prove to be a logistical nightmare when Met Life Stadium, located in East Rutherford, N.J., hosts the Super Bowl in 2014. Weather aside, have you ever tried to pass through the Lincoln tunnel or cross the George Washington Bridge on a good day in New York City? Mayor Bloomberg will really be praying for good weather, because theres no guarantee for snow removal if state workers elect to protest state contracts again. The city that never sleeps came to a screeching halt with only a foot of snow a little over a year ago.

It sounds good to play the Super Bowl in the elements, but cold weather is problematic. When Pontiac, Mich., hosted the Super Bowl in 1980, cold weather hit record lows all week leading up to the game. All together now: How cold was it? It was so cold the San Francisco 49ers team bus broke down traveling to the game. The team walked the last quarter mile to make the game on time. The only comfort for the 49ers was the cozy environment of the Pontiac Silverdome, because the Cincinnati Bengals were a team geared to play in cold weather.

When Ted Phillips signed on as the Bears' new president, following Michael McCaskey, his No. 1 priority was securing the Bears a new home at Soldier field. Phillips accomplished the goal very early in his tenure, but was it shortsighted for the city of Chicago? Discussions of a new domed stadium or retractable roof was pretty much off the table as costs would have supposedly been driven close to the dreaded billion-dollar mark. The rebuild cost rests somewhere between the 650-700 million range. There is still fallout over such a short sighted project.

In 2009, former mayor Richard Daley said the city had the right to charge amusement taxes on the sale of personal seat licenses for Bears games. Of course, seat license owners filed suit. The tax has risen from 7 percent to 9 percent since the Bears first sold PSLs prior to the 2003 season. (Source: Media Ventures) Dont mention naming rights to Daley, he went after the Chicago Bears for that too.

New Chicago mayor Rahm Emanual told the Chicago Sun-Times Dec. 8, 2011, the Chicago taxpayers are not an ATM machine and they cannot afford to be the financial backstop for Soldier Field bonds whenever the hotel tax falls short of rosy growth assumed a decade ago.

Doesnt everyone remember what was sold to taxpayers concerning the Soldier Field project? It was to attract new civic, cultural, religious and educational gatherings. The events of Sept. 11, 2001 pretty much destroyed hotel tax revenues, then a market crash in 2008 demolished it further. Old Soldier Field could not have come down faster with a wrecking ball than the financial destruction new Soldier field has weathered. But for all those explanations, taxpayers are currently on the hook for only a 5 million contribution per year.

Rahm Emanuel is right to cozy up to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in hopes of Chicago hosting a future Super Bowl. He realizes Chicago hotels and restaurants would finally be footing the bill for the smallest capacity, unroofed, cold weather outdoor stadium ever built. Emanuel does have a catchy slogan to promote though, as I believe, new Soldier Field was dubbed the eyesore on the lake shore.

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

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USA TODAY

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

This season, Matt Davidson became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a season opener. It definitely raised a few eyebrows, especially after Paul Konerko noted during spring training that a 40-home run season and an All-Star selection isn’t out of the question for the California native. After clobbering nine home runs (seven of them coming at Kauffman Stadium) in his first 21 games, anything seemed possible.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out that way, though he did rack up his second straight 20-homer season. But it’s hard to argue that 2018 wasn’t a success for Davidson — mostly because of the swings he didn’t make.

Everything else aside, Davidson walked as often as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in 2018.

OK, the more meaningful comparison would be Davidson to himself.

What stands out is his walk rate. One hundred fifty three players had at least 400 plate appearances in both 2017 and 2018. Among them, Davidson had the second-highest increase in walk percentage this past season.

Consider this: In 2017, Davidson and Tim Anderson became (and still are) the only players in MLB history with 160-plus strikeouts and fewer than 20 walks in a season.

Davidson, while logging 20 more at-bats in 2018, had the same number of strikeouts, 165, but he increased his walk total from 19 to 52. Give him credit for that. It’s a tough adjustment to make at the minor league level let alone in the major leagues. The increased walk rate brought his on-base percentage from .260 in 2017 (well below the AL average of .324) to .319 in 2018 (a tick above the AL average of .318) and pushed his overall offensive production from 16 percent below league average (as measured by his 84 weighted runs created plus, or wRC+) to four percent above league average (104 wRC+).

And I haven’t even mentioned the most fun aspect of his 2018 season: He pitched! And he pitched well.

Thirty pitchers took the mound for the White Sox in 2018, all of whom made at least three appearances. And only one of them didn’t allow a run: Davidson.

He topped out at 91.9 MPH and had as many strikeouts, two, as baserunners allowed in his three innings of work. The two batters he struck out, Rougned Odor and Giancarlo Stanton, combined for 56 home runs in 2018. They combined for 89 home runs (and an MVP award) in 2017.

In his career, Stanton had a combined 16 plate appearances and zero strikeouts against Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Edwin Díaz. He struck out in his one plate appearance against Davidson.

Davidson is one of just three players with 20 or more home runs and at least three mound appearances in a season in MLB history:

— Babe Ruth (1919): 29 home runs, 17 games on the mound
— Davidson (2018): 20 home runs, three games on the mound
— Shohei Ohtani (2018): 22 home runs, 10 games on the mound

Facts are facts. Davidson is actually serious about expanding his role on the mound.

“To be honest, I would love to maybe explore that idea,” he said in July. “Pitching was a dream. As a young kid, everybody wants to hit that walk-off homer, right? I was the guy striking that guy out. That’s how I first loved the game. My favorite player was Randy Johnson and doing that.

“So, it’s something I would be interested in. I don’t know if the game would necessarily allow that or something like that. It’s something that is really close to my heart is pitching.”

Whether or not it ever happens, Davidson’s 2018 was all about finding ways to increase his value. For the White Sox, that’s a good problem to have.

Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'

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USA TODAY

Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'

It’s tough to call the position battle for the backup point guard spot on a Lottery-bound team important, but here we are two days into the Bulls’ season.

It won’t move the needle in NBA circles and Dwane Casey won’t be putting in additional time getting ready for Saturday’s game, but there appears to be potential for change in Fred Hoiberg’s rotation.

One day after an embarrassing display in a season-opening loss to the Sixers, Hoiberg said the Bulls have yet to make a decision on a potential lineup change for tomorrow’s affair against the Detroit Pistons. Kris Dunn, who missed Thursday’s game for the birth of his first child, was not at practice on Friday and may or may not be available for the home opener.

That could prompt changes after Cam Payne, inserted into the starting lineup, was largely ineffective, failing to score on 0 of 4 shooting in 21 minutes.

“We’re gonna see how practice goes today and then make that decision,” Hoiberg said. “It’s still up in the air on what we’re gonna do.”

The loss certainly can’t fall on just Payne, as the Bulls went lifeless after a 41-point first quarter that had them in the lead after 12 minutes. From there the Sixers outscored them by 29 in the second and third quarters, facing little resistance from a Bulls defense that doesn’t appear to have made much improvement from a year ago, Dunn or no Dunn.

Philadelphia shot 48 percent from the field, scored 20 fast-break points and 46 points in the paint, cruising to 102 points through three quarters before reserves finished things off. Even with Dunn the defensive prospects don’t look good, meaning Hoiberg might have to make changes to ignite the offense that scored just 35 points in those second and third quarters.

The Bulls could go a few different routes. Zach LaVine’s hot hand in the first quarter – 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting – saw the ball in his hands, and he even added two assists.

“It's a collective effort. You've got to have all five guys out there trying to play the right way and again, we found a recipe with Zach, especially in that first unit, where we let him bring the ball up the floor,” Hoiberg said. “We ran a couple actions where he was the facilitator and we put Cam in the corner. So a lot of that will be dictated by who has it going on a particular night and last night it happened to be Zach, so he was the one that was doing a lot of facilitating.”

Past a point guard-less lineup, the backups to Payne – Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis – could also see extended minutes going forward.

Arcidiacono had 8 points and 8 assists in 28 minutes, though the majority of those stats came in garbage time. Still, he hit a pair of 3-pointers and didn’t turn the ball over, and five of his assists resulted in makes at the rim.

Ulis, acquired off waivers last week, could inject some life into the second unit.

“He’s ready. He’s done a good job in practice,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve gone through the system with him as far as what we expect and if there’s a point in the game where he can go out there and we feel he can help us, I’m confident that he’ll go out there and give us good effort.”

The point guard rotation isn’t the key to unlocking the Bulls as a lockdown defensive team, or no longer suffering the offensive dry spells that happened Thursday. But in a season that’s already showing signs of adversity, shaking up the lineup might be Hoiberg’s only chance.