White Sox

Public vs. Private controversy continues on

674602.png

Public vs. Private controversy continues on

In January, executive director Marty Hickman of the Illinois High School Association spent time with executive directors from around the country. No, they weren't comparing golf handicaps or favorite vacation retreats.

The No. 1 topic of conversation?

Public schools vs. private schools--and how to deal with the issue.

"Last year, our friends in Indiana had five classes in football and four private school champions -- and the same four won the previous year," Hickman said. "Obviously, that has generated discussion in Indiana. And the same thing has happened in Iowa."

Illinois has felt the pinch, too. Montini has won three state football championships in a row. Joliet Catholic, Mount Carmel and Providence have won more state football titles than any other school. Marian Central and Bishop McNamara dominated the 1980s.

In girls sports, Mother McAuley has won 13 state titles in volleyball, three in water polo and one in basketball. Quincy Notre Dame has 10 state titles in basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball. Breese Mater Dei has six state titles in volleyball.

According to Matt Troha of the IHSA, 192 of 792 member schools or 24 percent are non-boundaried. That includes Simeon, Whitney Young, Normal University High and other non-private schools that draw students via an application process and not from a fixed area.

In 2008-09, non-boundaried schools won 17 of 67 or 25 percent of the team state championships. The boys won 10 of 34, the girls 7 of 33.

In 2009-10, the figure was 18 of 67 or 26 percent. The boys won 9 of 34, the girls 9 of 33.

In 2010-11, the number rose to 28 percent, 19 of 67, with the boys winning 10 of 34 titles and the girls winning 9 of 33.

In Indiana, while private schools make up only 14 percent of the membership, they win nearly 40 percent of team championships. And seven of the 10 schools that participated in the state football finals last year were non-public, the most ever.

In Ohio, private schools win 70 percent of the wrestling titles, 63 percent of the volleyball titles, 50 percent of the girls soccer and baseball titles, 47 percent of the football titles and 45 percent of the boys soccer titles. And only 16 percent of the membership are non-public.

State officials were so outraged by the domination of private schools that they proposed a plan which called for elevating some schools to higher classes and lowering others based on a formula that included tradition, non-boundary factors and socio-economics. It was narrowly defeated.

Some states have separate playoffs for public and private schools, including New York, Vermont, Virginia and Texas. Wisconsin's private schools once had their own governing association but the state has since realigned because school officials didn't want some schools treated differently than others. Other states are thinking about about adopting separate playoff formats.

Since 2009, eight of the 51 state associations, including Illinois, have adopted a multiplier formula which calls for private schools to multiply the number of their student enrollment by a designated figure. In so doing, smaller private schools are reclassified to compete against larger public schools.

Private school administrators argue that the process is unfair and the public vs. private debate has been waging ever since private schools began to dominate in certain sports.

Illinois, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Missouri are among the states that utilize multipliers in an effort to satisfy critics of the public vs. private issue. But all of them admit they are wrestling with the problem, trying to figure out what is fair.

"For the most part, since going to the multiplier and the individual sport waiver, the publicprivate issue hasn't been as big a topic of debate among Illinois administrators as it once was," Hickman said.

"There still is a lot of animosity between public and private schools. We have done some things and helped to level the playing field. But there is no magic silver bullet. What we have done is better than the alternative, which is doing nothing."

A side issue to all of this is the subject of transferring, which is reaching epidemic proportions. It doesn't matter whether they are public or private, city or suburban or Downstate, kids are moving from school to school for the purpose of playing sports.

They want to compete at a higher level with and against elite athletes and have an opportunity to gain more exposure to major Division I coaches. It is all about money and scholarships and ego with absolutely no regard for the fact that the percentages, like betting in Las Vegas, are against you.

The latest high-profile case in Illinois involved baseball star Ryan Koziol, who transferred from Brother Rice to Providence. Koziol, who is committed to Arizona, caused a furor when the principal at Brother Rice refused to sign off on the move, claiming the youngster's move was entirely baseball-related.

The IHSA upheld the principle's decision and ruled that Koziol was ineligible to compete at Providence. But the Koziol family went to court and a judge overturned the IHSA's ruling. So what happened to the premise that you go to school to get an education, not to hit home runs?

"It is embedded in our philosophy. It is a bad thing when kids transfer for athletic reasons," Hickman said. "But we have no actual rule prohibiting such a move. We had a proposal to include in our transfer form that a school had to attest there was no motive. But it was rejected by the Legislative Commission. Maybe it's time to bring that proposal back into play.

"The problem is there are two parts to the rule--it gives the principal a voice in the transfer but he has to point to a violation of the by-laws. But there is no rule in black-and-white. Change was rooted in some solid philosophy."

But Hickman admits that the IHSA's one-time transfer rule from one private school to another has encouraged more transferring than ever before. At one time, the rules didn't allow for Koziol to go from private to private for any reason.

"Kids are using the one-time transfer rule for athletic reasons," Hickman said.

So maybe it's time to change the rules.

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

0516_jace_fry.jpg
USA TODAY

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

The White Sox best reliever through the first 42 games of this rebuilding season? Undoubtedly, it’s been Jace Fry.

With Rick Renteria’s bullpen hardly the most reliable relief corps the game has ever seen, Fry has been a revelation, starting his 2018 campaign with 7.1 scoreless innings over six appearances.

And now things are getting a bit more dramatic for the 24-year-old lefty, a guy who’s been through a pair of Tommy John surgeries. He pitched some high-leverage ball in Saturday night’s 5-3 win, sitting down all four hitters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings while protecting a two-run lead.

“I was ready the whole game, just waiting for my name to be called,” Fry said. “But it was awesome getting in there in the eighth inning, even getting the first guy in the ninth inning. After I got him I was kind of hoping he’d let me keep going.”

Renteria uses his bullpen in a non-traditional manner, one that perhaps he thinks is a way of the future or one that’s a result of his lack of dominant options out there. Whichever it is, he doesn’t really have a closer but rather a host of guys he uses in those high-leverage situations, whenever they might come during the late stages of a game. Joakim Soria, Nate Jones and Bruce Rondon have all been used to get big outs late in games, and Rondon threw a scoreless seventh Saturday, with Jones getting the game’s final two outs for the save.

But it could be argued that most difficult outs were recorded by Fry, who put away the visiting Texas Rangers’ fourth, fifth and sixth hitters before getting the seventh hitter to strike out to start off the ninth.

Renteria steered away from dubbing Fry one of his new high-leverage guys after the game, but why wouldn’t Fry be in that mix? All he’s done since joining the big league squad earlier this month is get outs. He’s got 10 strikeouts, hasn’t allowed a hit and has just two walks as the lone blemishes on an otherwise perfect season line.

“It just happens to be that it was the eighth inning and the ninth that he pitched,” Renteria said. “I think he’s looking very comfortable in those. It happens to be the eighth and ninth we needed him. He’s been very, very effective. He’s been commanding the strike zone very well, confidently approaching his hitters. He’s got pretty good stuff.

“He’s able to command the zone. Along with that nice breaking ball he’s got to lefties and righties, it’s pretty effective. But he’s continuing to show you he’s capable of coming in and getting some pretty good hitters.”

Fry has been a rarity this season in that he’s appeared to be a candidate for a long-term spot in the White Sox bullpen. Jones would perhaps be the only other guy coming close to qualifying for that, mostly because of his team-friendly contract that keeps him under control a few more years, but he’s had some rough moments, even with his ERA dropping to 3.50 on Saturday.

Fry, though, is young and is dealing at the moment. He even got a shoutout as a potential long-term piece from general manager Rick Hahn earlier this week.

“Take Jace Fry, someone we haven’t mentioned when we’ve had this conversation the last couple of weeks,” Hahn said Thursday, discussing the positives he’s seen during this developmental season. “He’s shown up here and shown that he’s made some progress in his last stint in the minors and now, at age 24, seems like he’s ready to take that next step, and pencil his name in as part of what we’re building here going forward.”

There’s a lot of season left, and no one’s expecting Fry to keep batters hitless and opposing teams scoreless from now through the end of September. But this is a nice development for the rebuilding White Sox at the moment, a guy who’s giving them at least one name to put into that bullpen of the future.

How long can he keep this thing going? As long as he keeps getting ahead of hitters.

“Having the success is awesome, but I realize it’s the plan, the plan of attack,” Fry said. “I’m going out and throwing Strike 1 and getting ahead. Actually doing it, seeing it and having the process work definitely creates more confidence. Once you go back to the blueprint of baseball, Strike 1 is everything.”

Carson Fulmer's demotion and the current state of the White Sox rotation provide several rebuilding reminders

Carson Fulmer's demotion and the current state of the White Sox rotation provide several rebuilding reminders

Carson Fulmer getting sent to Triple-A following Friday’s game might be, to this point, the biggest development this season on the South Side.

Fulmer doesn’t carry the same expectations as higher-rated prospects like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen or Dane Dunning, but this is a top-10 draft pick who the White Sox still believe can play a significant role in their bright future. And he’s struggling. Badly. Once his ERA jumped up past 8.00 thanks to his third straight brief and run-filled outing, the White Sox made the decision to send him to Charlotte.

It leaves the White Sox rotation looking like this: James Shields, a struggling Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Hector Santiago and either Chris Volstad or the recently summoned Dylan Covey.

Four of those guys (Shields, Santiago, Volstad and Covey) don’t figure to play a role in the team’s long-term future, and Giolito is dealing with his own significant struggles, leading the American League in walks heading into his Saturday-night start. Lopez has been the rotation’s bright spot, but even he watched his ERA climb more than a full point after allowing six runs in two innings his last time out.

It’s not a great state for the rotation to be in if you, like the White Sox, have your sights set on the long-term future of this team, though it probably won’t look like that for too much longer. Still, it provides a few valuable reminders about not only this rebuilding effort but rebuilds in general.

This season is about development, and this is what development looks like

For better or worse, this is what development looks like. The White Sox own baseball’s worst record, and general manager Rick Hahn has been among the large number of White Sox fans to voice their disappointment over play that has been sloppy at times.

Fulmer’s struggles fall into the same category and serve as a reminder that growing pains like this are going to happen. We’ve seen it with Fulmer. We’ve seen it with Giolito. We’ve seen it with Lopez. Heck, we’ve seen it with Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson, too.

But more than wins and losses, this is what this season is about. Hahn calls it “the hardest part of the rebuild” because it features guys getting lit up and games being lost. The hope is that Fulmer can figure things out in the minors and that Giolito won’t require a similar demotion to right his ship. And if everything turns out all right, then this will be an easily forgotten chapter in both of those players’ development.

In the moment, though, it’s another reminder that rebuilds take time and that the waiting game provides minimal fun.

Each player’s development has a different trajectory

Just because Fulmer is getting bumped down to Triple-A doesn’t mean he can’t still turn into a successful major league pitcher. Player development and rebuilds aren’t linear, as rebuilders like to say. And to expect every prospect to travel in a straight line from potential to big league stardom doesn't make much sense.

“We reiterate, ‘It’s not the end of your career,’” Renteria said Saturday. “This is simply a reboot, a reset. Ultimately, I think after the initial shock for any player, they settle down and they understand exactly what’s going on when you look at it logically and look in the mirror. I think it’s easy to logically look at it and say, ‘I need to work on x, y and z.’

“This is a good kid with a really positive attitude and a lot of confidence. I think he’ll look in the mirror and go, ‘You know what, I got things I can work on, I’ll settle in and get over this initial bump and get to work.’ Those are the guys that end up giving themselves a chance to return sooner rather than later and have success.”

Not all prospects pan out

The other side of that coin is the reminder that not every single one of the White Sox wealth of prospects will pan out. Hahn & Co. have prepared for that and built up an incredible amount of prospect depth, but when someone doesn't live up to expectations, it will be painful.

This isn’t to suggest that Fulmer, specifically, won’t pan out, but it’s to point out that not everyone will. That’s a crowded-looking rotation of the future with Kopech, Hansen, Dunning, Fulmer, Giolito, Lopez, Carlos Rodon and Dylan Cease all competing for those eventual five spots. Rather than the White Sox having to make tough decisions about who will be left out, certainly a possibility, the developments of those pitchers might make those decisions for them.

Renteria is confident that Fulmer will be back in the big leagues, and there’s little reason to think that this is the end of Fulmer’s opportunity. But not every top-10 pick reaches All-Star status.

The future is on the way

The current starting rotation might have fans asking why the heck it looks like it does. But a month or two from now it will look drastically different.

Rodon makes his first rehab start Saturday at Class A Kannapolis as he battles back from shoulder surgery last fall, and he shouldn’t be too far away from providing a serious jolt to the starting staff. Not to mention, he’s a guy who as good a chance as anyone as grabbing one of those front-end spots, and with him in the rotation, things will look a tad more futuristic.

Same goes for Kopech, whose promotion figures to be coming at some point this summer. Given the hype and the expectations there, his arrival will obviously be a really big deal.

But regardless of the results either Rodon and Kopech put up in their first tastes of major league action in 2018, they’ll make the rotation into something that way more closely resembles the rotation of the future. There’ll be plenty of development left for the Hansens and the Ceases and the Dunnings in the minors. But a rotation featuring Rodon, Kopech, Giolito and Lopez looks a lot different than one featuring Shields, Santiago, Covey and Volstad.

Patience. It’s not much fun. But it’s necessary to build a contender.