White Sox

Scrutiny on the bounty

Scrutiny on the bounty

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

In between the numerous conversations about the future destination of Peyton Manning and its earth-shattering ramifications, I was able to seek refuge in a more tranquil discussion, that of the existence of bounties in the NFL. Stunning stuff! And judging by the outrage of those manning (Hes everywhere!) the moral high-ground, youd think the existence of the game itself was at stake. What?

Play-for-pay is as old as performance enhancement. Both inspire each other to new heights, or depths, if youre so inclined. In football, the reward for the big hit is at the core of the game itself. Uh-oh, maybe the outraged have a point. But in the world we live in, what do you expect?

We live in a play-for-pay world. In fact, I understand, its possible to make a donation to any politician of your liking: A mayor, a congressman, an alderman or presidential candidate of your choice. And of course theres no expectations of reciprocation when you do so, is there? But I digress.

Positive reinforcement is probably the easiest way to ensure continued behaviors. I wish that my children would always do as I ask, but sometimes I have to up the ante, if for no other reason as to keep their attention.

Lets face it, nothing gets someones attention like cold, hard cash. Those of you who are married know what I mean. Its the ultimate incentive and that permeates every facet of the world we live in. Every single one! Follow the money if you want an answer, I dont care what the question is.

Football is the number one sport in this country and we can argue the cynical and virtuous reasons for this all night long any time you would like to come into the bar. For me, love affair started by watching on TV and playing on the street or the local park with my friends. Then, when I was 9, I was introduced to organized (I use that word loosely, for my experience only) youth football. As I look back, Im lucky to still be around. As plain as day, I can recall being taught to lead with my head like a missile, to take down a ball carrier. Admittedly, this was very long ago, but really?

But, more importantly, I remember getting yelled at incessantly by coaches to make the right play and hit with everything I had. Football was a battle of wills to protect sacred turf and half-assed was not going to cut it. Do not back down, ever! As youngsters, we all wanted to please, and for the yelling to stop. Immediately though, we all fed on it. The last thing you wanted to do was get embarrassed in front of your friends, or, as we were ingrained, to let your teammates down. However primitive, they were lessons not readily forgotten. As you got older, the reprimand became a test of manhood. And as anyone who played knows, its a game for men.

For me, thats what I take from this whole mess. At its core, football is a game of extreme violence, a combination of artistry and controlled mayhem. To survive in that world, one must not have any fear or doubt. Intimidation is the first weapon of defense. Its a sixty minute battle for land where the meek wont survive; theyre going to get trampled in the process.

In any endeavor such as this, there is going to be collateral damage. Players have been leaving pieces of themselves on fields all over this country for as long as the game has been played. When physical specimens like those in the NFL go at it, such is life.

The points of contention here, and I think there are two, are where the debate should be framed.

The first is that deliberately trying to injure a player should never be tolerated. Thats easy enough and everyone would agree. The problem though, is that would require the constant ability to measure intent. In this game, being able to demonstrate physical superiority is paramount. So that means that wherever lines are drawn, there will be those to test the boundaries, intentionally or not. In a game moving at light-speed, that can be a hard thing to do. Especially when it is assumed that hard hits will make a QB jittery and have happy feet, or cause a receiver to have alligator arms when attempting a catch over the middle. These are defensive intentions as old as time. With the new, supposed, focus on player safety, the edge between legal and illegal seems to rest primarily on head-shots and those around the knees. Although from my perspective, sometimes its hard to fault a player when hes doing what he has been taught to do and when an offensive player makes a split-second reactionary move that puts him in a more vulnerable position to those types of hits. There will be carnage.

The other gets more involved, but is simply put: Dont get caught. I know this is not a very moral position to take, but unfortunately life is not as black and white as we would like it. We constantly have to deal with shades of gray. In a group, there are many ways to motivate and I believe the system, at its core was put in place to motivate a group of men to play beyond themselves, not to put every player in an opposing uniform in a hospital. Now, Im measuring intent, but since I didnt play, thats all I can do anyway. Having read Matt Bowens account of having played for Gregg Williams in the Tribune makes me believe this is the case. Again, this is the NFL. It is about winning and nothing else. Do whatever it takes. Theres a prominent coach in the northeast that has been living on the edge forever and hes going to be in the Hall of Fame. The goal is to get a group of men to put everything they have on the line for you, and the team.

I dont look at this as being as blatant, and over-the-top, as when Charles Martin putting the numbers of the Bears players that he was going to take out on a towel he was wearing during a game in the eighties. That was an idiot being an idiot. This is more about a culture that exists in a game of violence. Think this is the only team that does it?

The culture of the game is about machismo. That works for the players and fans alike. Its the fire were all drawn to like moths. For as long as the game has been played, and continues to do so, that will be the case. Some can say theyre outraged, Ill say theyre being selective in their opinions. Pro football is a brutal world and has brutal consequences. Its also a sum of its parts. From a time when a player or coach starts their journey, they know they are going to have to sacrifice to survive. They also must get on with the program or find themselves dazed and wondering what happened. Kill or be killed.

Elephants in the room are there for a reason. We think were so smart that we can avoid them unlike everyone else. Football at the highest level will always have that air of danger. Why? Because we like it, thats why. And there are billions of reasons for it to stay that way, so it will. There will be public outcry and the Saints will have to pay a price because they had the misfortune of getting caught. Thats the only thing that makes them different from other teams in the NFL. And, of course, there is the other reason that this is going to be made into a big deal: They won.

Rebuild, meet overdrive: Eloy Jimenez provides best snapshot of White Sox progress yet

Rebuild, meet overdrive: Eloy Jimenez provides best snapshot of White Sox progress yet

A rebuild, White Sox fans know all too well, takes place over a lengthy period of time. Progression, development, these aren’t things easily pointed to as a single moment.

Allow Eloy Jimenez to provide an exception to the rule.

The White Sox contention window might not have been yanked open with one broken-bat homer to beat the Crosstown-rival Cubs on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But Jimenez’s game-winner was the best single image yet of the direction Rick Hahn’s rebuilding project is moving.

Surely you don’t need a refresher on the highlight seen ‘round Chicagoland by now, but take a second to realize how incredible, how unscriptable it was: Jimenez, traded away by the Cubs two summers ago, up in a tie game in the ninth inning in his first game at the ballpark he always assumed would be where he’d be playing his big league games. Well, he finally played a big league game inside the Friendly Confines — and he delivered an unforgettable moment for the team on the other side of town.

Yeah, maybe it’s perhaps a little hyperbolic, maybe it’s a pure reaction to the moment, but: Rebuild, meet overdrive.

“We’re playing in the city of champions,” manager Rick Renteria said after the game. “The White Sox were champions at one time, the Cubbies have been champions. You have a history of basketball and football. It’s the city of champions, so a lot is expected of them. They’re starting to embrace it, understand it and revel in it.”

Talk of championships might seem a tad premature for these White Sox, still under .500 even after Jimenez blasted them to dramatic victory on the North Side. But then again, that’s been the end goal of the rebuild from Day 1. Rick Hahn has said repeatedly that the rebuild won’t be a success unless there’s a parade.

Jimenez’s homer came in June, not October. But it cranked the dial even further on the blindingly bright future these White Sox are building.

Lucas Giolito is providing examples of progress every time he steps on the mound these days. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert and Dylan Cease are doing their part, too. But no one has been as central a part of the future than Jimenez, the guy who’s supposed to be the middle-of-the-order power bat in this lineup for the next decade. The way he delivered Tuesday made for a flag-planting type moment on the White Sox journey up baseball’s mountain.

“We all knew the talent was there from the get-go as soon as the club acquired him. It was just a matter of time for him to get to the big leagues, get comfortable in the big leagues,” Giolito said after the game. “I think he's getting comfortable with the big leagues a lot faster than I would've predicted. He's a really, really good player, great teammate. Can't say enough good things about Eloy. He really delivered for us tonight, and it was a big one.”

Again, it’s June. It’s a game against a National League opponent, not exactly the kind of game that helps chew up the deficit separating the White Sox and the out-of-this-world Minnesota Twins at the top of the AL Central. But within these city limits, it’s hard to imagine a bigger stage than this.

The media swarmed Jimenez postgame, causing him to express some shock at the number of cameras and recorders suddenly thrust in his face. He’s been asked a million times what it would be like to play in Wrigley Field. When he rounded first base, the smile on his face — a permanent fixture — was enormous. He gave a huge clap when he touched home plate. Were the emotions what he’d been dreaming of?

“Yes,” was the only verbal response. The body language told a much richer story. He let out ebullient sounds that brought to mind Tim “The Toolman” Taylor. The smile nearly got too big for his face.

These were the Cubs he just beat, a team so often the comparison point for these White Sox. They’re trying to find their way through the same total rebuild the Cubs went through. And without these Cubs, the White Sox might not be as far along as they currently are. Thanks to that trade, which brought Jimenez and Dylan Cease into starring roles in this rebuild, the championship future Hahn has envisioned looks realistic. It looks closer.

The North Siders came out the other end of a rebuild champions. The White Sox have their eyes on the same result.

It might not happen tomorrow, even if the bright spots are shining through now more than ever. But it’s something the White Sox are fully chasing. This is the city of champions, after all.

“It means a lot because we’re fighting for a spot in the playoffs,” Jimenez said. “We have been playing really good and I think that was a good victory for us.”

A good victory for now. A good victory for later. A good victory, indeed.

That was a storybook ending. And it’s only the end of Act I, Scene I.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez drives to Wrigley with Chuck, then drives a dagger into the Cubs hearts

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez drives to Wrigley with Chuck, then drives a dagger into the Cubs hearts

For his first regular season game ever against the Cubs, Eloy Jimenez got a ride from Chuck Garfien which started at Guaranteed Rate Field, stopped at Wrigley Field and ended with Jimenez hitting the game-winning home run in the 9th. First, Vinnie Duber joins Chuck to discuss how Jimenez homered despite breaking his bat (2:00). On the ride, Jimenez' talks about playing at Wrigley (8:20), what Cubs fans say to him now that he's on the White Sox (10:00), how he persuaded Rick Renteria to let him pinch-hit against the Cubs in a spring training game in 2018, and homered (11:30), what his mother thinks of him saying "Hi Mom" (14:30), Jimenez sings hip-hop (17:40), why a home run against the Cubs would mean so much (24:50), his reaction when the Cubs traded him to the White Sox (27:20) and more.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: