White Sox

Other looks at the stars of 2013, 2014

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Other looks at the stars of 2013, 2014

Sometimes we can't see the forest through the trees, right? Sometimes we get too comfortable by accepting evaluations from basketball recruiting analysts we know and trust, old standbys such as Bob Gibbons, Van Coleman, Bill Flanagan and Roy and Harv Schmidt.

So, at a time when the classes of 2013 and 2014 in the Chicago area are being touted to be among the best talent in the country, perhaps it is wise to acknowledge what other evaluators have to say about them.

Are they as good as we think they are? Or are they overrated? Do they rank with the Isiah ThomasTerry CummingsTeddy Grubbs class of 1979? Or the Quentin RichardsonCorey MaggetteJoey Range class of 1998?

The Illinois crop got plenty of exposure in recent tournaments in Minneapolis, Fort Wayne, Akron and elsewhere. And judging from the reviews, they played up to their clippings.

Here is a sampling of what the critics saw:

N.D. Kendrick of NBE Basketball Report on Simeon's Jabari Parker: "He showed throughout the tournament against some of the best players in the Midwest that he was the best of the elite."

Kendrick on Proviso East's Sterling Brown: "He is one of the most physically gifted players in the 2013 class. What sets him apart from others is his combination of power and athleticism which makes him a difficult match-up for opponents."

Eric Bossi of Rivals.com on St. Charles East's Kendall Stephens: "It's hard not to be impressed with the development of Purdue commitment Kendall Stephens over the last year. While he's still slender, he's gotten much stronger, grown to a legit 6-foot-4 and boosted his athleticism."

Bossi on Normal University High's Keita Bates-Diop: "He showed plenty of what got him ranked No. 39 in the country. The 6-foot-7 forward has length, ball skills and is a graceful athlete who is light on his feet and plays with a high level of intelligence."

Bossi on Morgan Park's Kyle Davis: "One of the most athletic playmakers in the country, he plays with attitude, swagger and never stops attacking. Previously viewed as a bit of an undersized shooting guard, Davis is proving that he's a point guard and with his performance this spring he has built a pretty strong case to be included in the Rivals 150 the next time the class is updated."

Bossi on Jordan Ash, St. Joseph's freshman guard: "He didn't really get a chance to show off his entire arsenal because he was playing for the Illinois Wolves' 16 and 15-and-under squads. But it's easy to see what has drawn early offers from Purdue and DePaul to go along with lots of Big Ten interest."

Bossi on 6-foot-7 sophomore Amanze Egezeke of Huntley: "He is a lunch pailbig-time effort guy who plays physically and gets on the glass. He is a potential high major Division I recruit."

Jim Comparoni of Yahoo Sports on Whitney Young's 6-foot-11 Jahlil Okafor: "He was dominant inside, utilizing his substantial width and showing excellent ability to elevate quickly and finish with power. Inside, he is patient, powerful and improving rapidly with his post game."

Bossi on Okafor: "Already ranked No. 3 overall in the class of 2014, there isn't exactly a lot of room for Okafor to move up in the rankings. However, that doesn't mean that there's not room for him to get a lot better. That's exactly what he's been doing. He's expanded his game and can face up and attack from the high post thanks to excellent hands, nimble feet and a surprisingly tight handle."

Bossi on Orr's Tyquone Greer: "There will be several more opportunities to watch Greer to confirm this--but all the information we have leads us to believe that he's a no-brainer as a four-star prospect. The 6-foot-5 small forward is a big-time athlete with a big-time penchant for getting to the rim and he's got significant upside."

Jeff Borello of Eye on College Basketball Recruiting on Okafor: "He has tremendous hands and is adept at finishing down low. He does need to become more aggressive with his back to the basket but he has a good set of post moves and simply overpowers many defenders."

Jason Pratt of Future150 on Okafor: "He is the nation's No. 1 player in the class of 2014. He has a body that absolutely pounds you on the low block and is a force on the defensive end of the floor. He is being compared to Ohio State star Jared Sullinger. He has the size and skill to dominate the game whenever he chooses."

Pratt on Curie's Cliff Alexander: "He is quick for a 6-foot-9 post player and shows good athleticism for a player his size. He reminds me of Dennis Rodman because he is an elite rebounder. He is a game-changer because he can control the paint, not only scoring but blocking shots as well."

Bossi on Simeon's Kendrick Nunn: "There are some who have been down on his performance this spring. But, on this night, he turned it up on the defensive end where he can be one of the best in the country when locked in. Once he got going there, his jumper started dropping. Ranked No. 22 in the class of 2013 by Rivals, he played up his ranking."

Bossi on Simeon's Kendall Pollard: "At 6-foot-5, he is a big-time athlete with a nose for the rim and some scoring tools. He plays with great energy. Whether he is playing with his high school team or his club team Mean Streets, he shares the spotlight with some guys who have a lot of notoriety."

Nationals join White Sox as only teams to beat Gerrit Cole since April

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USA TODAY

Nationals join White Sox as only teams to beat Gerrit Cole since April

Baseball fans might want to sit down for this shocking news: Gerrit Cole lost last night.

The Washington Nationals played in and won a World Series game for the first time in their history, but the more hard-to-believe news was Cole's performance, in which the potential AL Cy Young winner gave up five runs and took the "L."

That result made the Nationals the first team to hand Cole a loss since May 22, when he lost to the White Sox in Houston. The two squads are the only teams Cole has lost to since the calendar switched from April to May. It was just the third time since that loss to the White Sox in which the Astros lost a game Cole started.

That goes to show you just how insanely good Cole has been this season. Between losses, he owned a 1.59 ERA in 25 games, including his first three starts of this postseason. All in all during the regular season, he led the American League with a 2.50 ERA and led baseball with 326 strikeouts.

But the Nationals flipped that script in Game 1, tagging Cole for five runs on eight hits, including a pair of homers off the bats of Juan Soto and Ryan Zimmerman. It was a performance reminiscent of that May night, when the White Sox scored six runs off Cole, getting home runs against the ace from Eloy Jimenez and Jose Abreu.

Of course, this statistical happenstance won't be the only thing tying Cole to the White Sox this fall. The South Siders have starting pitching at the top of their offseason to-do list, and Cole will be the biggest name on the free-agent market. What's expected to be the richest pitching contract in baseball history and a supposed preference to play on the West Coast might lessen the chances that Rick Hahn's front office will reel Cole in, but they're just one offseason removed from chasing the two biggest names on the free-agent market, when they pursued Manny Machado and Bryce Harper last winter.

Cole in a White Sox uniform come Opening Day? Maybe if Cole subscribes to the old logical of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

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How will Cubs players respond to David Ross as manager?

How will Cubs players respond to David Ross as manager?

David Ross is officially moving from "Grandpa Rossy" to "Manager Rossy."

The affable former backup catcher is not only a fan favorite, but he's immensely popular inside the Cubs clubhouse among the core group of players. 

However, that popularity has always come in a different form, as he now enters into a new dynamic as Cubs manager. Ross was first a teammate, then transitioned into a front office role with the organization, which included a vital role in recruiting Craig Kimbrel to Chicago.

Now that Ross has been tabbed as Joe Maddon's heir, how will his relationship with the players change?

The Cubs announced Maddon's departure on the final day of the regular season and in turn, immediately stoked the fires of the Ross-as-manager rumors. Players were asked how they'd feel if their former teammate became their boss, including Jon Lester, who was instrumental in bringing Ross to Chicago before 2015 as his personal catcher.

"I think that's something that you'd just have to learn as you go," Lester said. "I would like to think that [former Red Sox manager Tito Francona] was a good friend of mine, but still my manager when it came down to it. 

"Obviously the dynamic's different — I didn't play with Tito and that sort of thing, but when it came down to it, that's my boss. If he makes a decision, he makes a decision and you have to respect that."

Anthony Rizzo and Ross formed an immediate bond in 2015 and have grown very close over the last five years.

"If it's Rossy, we would obviously sit down," Rizzo said on the final day of the season. "I've talked to him about it before. He's in a really good place right now at home with his family and what he's doing and he's happy. He's my biggest mentor in the game player-wise, really, behind Joe [Maddon] and [former Cubs coach Eric] Hinske. Can it work? Yes."

Back in August, on the five-year anniversary of his MLB debut, Javy Baez crushed two homers in a Cubs win and after the game, shouted out Ross unprompted. Baez credited his former teammate for helping him understand how to keep things simple and just his natural abilities take over while allowing the game to teach him.

So it's no surprise Baez said in September he would be stoked if Ross were named manager.

"We all love David and he knows the team and the organization," Baez said.

In reality, it will be difficult to transition from teammate and mentor to boss. Maddon found a way to be both mentor and friend to this group of Cubs players, but he obviously never played with any of them and he came to Chicago with an already impressive resume as a manager and coach.

Ross doesn't have that same experience to fall back on, but the Cubs are confident he's up to the challenge because when it boils down it, so much of the job is based off communication. 

What Ross has working in his favor that the other managerial candidates like Joe Espada lacked was an immediate rapport with the front office and the core guys in the clubhouse. There's already a built-in level of trust between him and Rizzo, Baez, Lester, Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and a host of others — including Kimbrel (the two were teammates in Atlanta). The guys he hasn't played with have at least seen him around Wrigley Field or the spring training complex in his front office role the last three years.

That preexisting relationship will be a huge advantage immediately, as it eliminates the time another candidate would've needed to earn the trust of the players on the roster. Plus, the relationship between Ross and Epstein's front office is already so far advanced for a first-year manager that there's an instant level of understanding and rapport before he's even officially introduced into the role.

During his time in the clubhouse, Ross was known to be direct and honest, holding his teammates accountable and helping the young players realize their potential without crushing their spirits. That's not an easy task for a backup catcher in the twilight of his career to accomplish.

Still, the Cubs' choice to go with Ross seemed at least somewhat contradictory when presented against the backdrop of change Theo Epstein emphasized in his end-of-season press conference. The Cubs president talked at length about the organization's need to stop looking back at 2016 and avoiding the "winner's trap" of sticking with things that worked years ago but might not be the best avenues to success today.

In that same presser, Epstein also insisted Ross' connection to the players left over from the World Series championship team was not the main reason they were considering the former catcher as manager. 

"His connection to the players on this team and especially his connection to the 2016 team are not necessarily things that are going to be important to us," Epstein said. "...It's not necessarily a detriment, either, as long as you trust the person to handle it the right way and trust the players to handle it the right way. It's something you have to consider.

"I'm just saying, what we're looking for is someone who's a great manager for the Cubs moving forward. Certainly not looking backwards and not with undue emphasis on a couple players there might be a personal [connection]. That's not a major factor for us."