White Sox

Nathan Marcus decides Vanderbilt best fit

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Nathan Marcus decides Vanderbilt best fit

Glenbard West tight end Nathan Marcus didn't choose Vanderbilt because he likes Nashville, the capitol of country music, or because he wants to compete in the SEC, the toughest football conference in the nation, or because it's only an hour-long plane flight from Chicago or because he wants to major in aerospace at an academic-minded institution.

No, Marcus chose Vanderbilt because he had a "gut feeling" about his decision and because his mother, who did extensive research on the recruiting process, apparently arrived at a positive feeling about the school even before her son did.

"I didn't have to think about it too much," said the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder. "It sounds like a clich but I felt it in my gut. You really have a gut feeling at what you want. I won't change my mind. If Vanderbilt recruits three tight ends who are better than me, I feel I can outwork them. I don't feel I will have any regrets."

Marcus' mother made sure her son didn't make a hasty decision, that he wouldn't regret not waiting for more scholarship offers that would be sure to come as the 2012 season goes along. He had six offers--Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Indiana, Duke, Boston College and Toledo.

"I'm glad to get it over with before it got crazy," he said. "I'm glad to get my mind made up before I get stressed out and maybe not make the right choice. In a clear head, there is no question in my mind that I made the right choice.

"I went to a lot of schools early and got a feel for other schools. When I went back to Vanderbilt a second time, I compared them all. Vanderbilt has great academics, as good as it gets for a Division I school. I know the SEC is the best conference for football but that didn't play a big factor in my decision.

"My family and coaches reminded me that I could wait for more offers. They wondered if I was holding out for a particular school. My mother made me think about it. She wanted to be sure that I wasn't making a snap decision. I think Vanderbilt was her decision for a long time. She liked the coaches, who were very honest to her, and the good education. In the end, I couldn't name another school I was interested in."

Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said Marcus was the earliest commitment he has had. But he didn't question the youngster's decision. "It is a good fit for him, the best of all worlds. He loves the academic end of it and I think he is excited to play in the SEC. Vanderbilt recruited him as good as anyone, if not better. He had no pressure to commit," Hetlet said.

Marcus is Vanderbilt's sixth commitment. The Commodores play in the SEC's East Division with South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss, members of the SEC's West Division, also are on their schedule.

Growing up, he preferred basketball to football. His father persuaded him to concentrate on football. He enjoyed basketball because he was taller than other kids and able to dominate them. Then they began to grow and Marcus began to have more passion for football.

As a freshman, he was a wide receiver on a 70-man squad. On a team that was run-oriented, he mostly blocked and caught only seven passes. Then sophomore coach John Sigmund, looking for a tight end, pulled Marcus aside and suggested that he was big enough and would be a good fit at the position. As a starter, even as a blocker, he had fun.

As a sophomore on the varsity, he caught four passes in a game against York. A light bulb went on. "All of a sudden, people were talking about me and I began to think I could be going somewhere as a football player, that I was getting better," he said.

Last year, as college recruiters from coast to coast came to the Glen Ellyn school to evaluate defensive end Tommy Schutt (who went to Ohio State), Marcus began to get some attention. He hoped they took note of the film when he made two blocks against Wheaton Warrenville South in a nationally televised game on ESPN and put the defenders on their backs.

"I started to get pulled out of class to meet with coaches," he said. "I realized they were interested in me as a recruit. I met coaches from Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State. I said to myself: 'OK, if I keep working hard and performing, I can play in college. My name will get to the colleges and recruiting will take care of itself.' I was surprised but really happy about what was happening.

"Now the pressure is off me. I miss getting pulled out of class and meeting with college coaches. But it feels great to know my future is settled. I have what I want."

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avisail Garcia returned from his latest disabled-list stint with a bang, smacking a three-run home run in the fourth inning Saturday in Seattle.

The White Sox right fielder hasn't even played in 20 games since late April, when he went on his first DL trip, which lasted two months. A second, also featuring an injury to his hamstring, made it two weeks between games.

But when he has been able to step to the plate this summer, Garcia has been tremendously productive. He came into Saturday night with a .333/.347/.783 slash line and a whopping eight home runs in the 17 games he played in between his two DL stays. Then he added that homer Saturday night off longtime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, giving him nine homers in his last 14 games.

Keeping this up could do an awful lot of things for Garcia: It could make his ice-cold start a distant memory, it could prove that last year's All-Star season might not have been a fluke, and it could keep him entrenched in the conversation about the White Sox outfield of the future, giving the team one of those good problems to have when deciding how he would fit into the puzzle alongside top prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert.

But here's another possibility: Has Garcia swung a hot enough bat in his limited action that he could be a trade candidate before this month runs out?

The White Sox don't figure to have too many players who are going to get contending teams worked up into a lather. James Shields, Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno. Those guys could classify as additions that would bolster teams' depth, but they might not be the attractive upgrades the White Sox were able to trade away last summer.

Garcia, though, could be. He might not slide into the middle of the order for too many contenders, but someone looking for a starting corner outfielder might be enticed by the kind of numbers Garcia has put up in June and July, albeit in a small sample size. Teams would also have to consider his health. He's already been to the disabled list twice this season. Teams would certainly have to be confident he wouldn't return in order to make a deal.

On the White Sox end, Garcia would figure to fetch a far more intriguing return package than the aforementioned pitchers, given that he's still pretty young (27) with one more season of team control after this one.

The White Sox have plenty of options when it comes to Garcia. They could deal him now, deal him later or keep as a part of the rebuild, extending him and making him a featured player on the next contending team on the South Side. But with a lot of significant injuries this year perhaps having an effect on when all those highly rated prospects will finally arrive in the majors — not to mention the disappointing win-loss numbers the big league team has put up this season — perhaps it would make more sense to acquire some rebuild-bolstering pieces.

Of course, it all depends on if there are any deals to be made. Do other teams' front offices like what they've seen from Garcia in this short stretch as much as White Sox fans have? We'll know by the time August rolls around.

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

If baseball wants stars that transcend the game, they need guys like Javy Baez on the field MORE, not less.

That whole debate and baseball's marketing campaign isn't the issue the Cubs took exception with, but it's still a fair point on a nationally-televised Saturday night game between the Cubs and Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Baez was ejected from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when he threw his bat and helmet in frustration at home plate umpire Will Little's call that the Cubs second baseman did NOT check his swing and, in fact, went around. 

Baez was initially upset that Little made the call himself instead of deferring to first base umpire Ted Barrett for a better view. But as things escalated, Baez threw his bat and helmet and was promptly thrown out of the game by Little.

"I don't think I said anything to disrespect anything or anyone," Baez said after the Cubs' 6-3 loss. "It was a pretty close call. I only asked for him to check the umpire at first and he didn't say anything.

"I threw my helmet and he just threw me out from there. I mean, no reason. I guess for my helmet, but that doesn't have anything to do with him."

Baez and the Cubs would've rather Little check with the umpire who had a better view down the line, but that wasn't even the main point of contention. It was how quickly Little escalated to ejection.

"We're all human," Baez said. "One way or the other, it was gonna be the wrong [call] for one of the teams.

"My message? We're not animals. Sometimes we ask where was a pitch or if it was a strike and it's not always offending them. I think we can talk things out. But I don't think there was anything there to be ejected."

Upon seeing his second baseman and cleanup hitter ejected in the middle of a 1-0 game against a division rival, Joe Maddon immediately got fired up and in Little's face in a hurry.

Maddon was later ejected, as well, and admitted after the game he was never going to leave the field unless he was tossed for protecting his guy.

"He had no reason to kick him out," Maddon said. "He didn't say anything to him. I mean, I watched the video. If you throw stuff, that's a fine. That's fineable. Fine him. That's what I said — fine him — but you cannot kick him out right there.

"He did nothing to be kicked out of that game. He did throw his stuff, whatever, but he did not say anything derogatory towards the umpire.

"...You don't kick Javy out. If he gets in your face and is obnoxious or belligerent or whatever, but he did not. He turned his back to him. That needs to be addressed, on both ends."

Maddon and the Cubs really want Major League Baseball to get involved in this situation. 

There are many other layers to the issue, including veteran Ben Zobrist having to come into the game as Baez's replacement. Maddon was not keen on using the 37-year-old Zobrist for 1.5 games during Saturday's doubleheader and now feels like he has to rest the veteran Sunday to lessen the wear and tear of a difficult stretch for the team.

There's also the matter of the groundball basehit in the eighth inning that tied the game — a seeing-eye single that just got past Zobrist as he dove to his left. It tied the game at 3 and the Cardinals took the lead for good the following inning.

Does Baez make that same play if he were out there instead of Zobrist? It's certainly possible.

"The dynamic of our defense was lessened by [the ejection]," Maddon said. "Again, listen, if it's deserved, I'm good. It was not. They don't need me out there, we need Javy out there.

"And it surprised me. I stand by what I'm saying. It was inappropriate. MLB needs to say something to us that it was inappropriate because it was and it could've led to the loss of that game."