Cubs

Sox show off bounce-back ability

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Sox show off bounce-back ability

By Paul LaTour
CSNChicago.com contributor

One characteristic of the White Sox this season has been their ability to shake off bad losses.

Just in the past 12 games, theyve had to rebound from three of them -- 9-1 against Kansas City on May 13, 7-2 at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on May 16, and 9-2 against Minnesota on May 22.

Yet after their 14-7 victory over Cleveland on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field, the Sox have won four in a row and eight out of nine, showing the distinct ability to ignore what happened in the past.

Alex Rios provided a microcosm of that attitude Saturday.

Rios was robbed of two extra-base hits with multiple RBI in his first three plate appearances. He still finished 3-for-5 with a home run and a double, while tying his season high with three RBI.

Theres no point to lose focus on the game because youre going to have a couple more at-bats that could be useful, Rios said. You get a little mad, but its not something thats going to take you away from your plan.

In Rios first plate appearance, he drove a Derek Lowe pitch deep into center field. But Michael Brantley timed it perfectly as he leapt to catch the ball over the fence, just to the left of the 400-foot marker.

Despite losing a three-run home run on the catch, Rios appreciated the stellar defense.

Its a good play, he said. With runners on base its an even better play. You have to understand that if its a good play, its a good play.

Rios followed that with an RBI single and later scored during Chicagos four-run third. But in the fourth, Rios was robbed again.

With Paul Konerko on second, Rios sliced a pitch down the right-field line only to see it end up in the glove of a sliding Shin-Soo Choo. Rios had the final say, though, as he finished with an RBI double and two-run home run in his final two plate appearances.

If I changed my mentality, it would have ruined my day, Rios said. So you just have to keep focused and look forward to the other at-bats.

Rios was only part of the story as the Sox set season-highs in runs and hits (17) while earning their fourth straight victory. Dayan Viciedo finished with a career-high five RBI, while Konerko continued his torrid pace with a four-hit, three-run, two-RBI afternoon.

The offensive surge helped Jake Peavy despite a less-than-stellar appearance. He gave up a season-high seven runs in 6 13 innings, yet also had a season-high nine strikeouts and earned the win to improve to 6-1.

Peavy said Rios exemplified what is becoming the signature of the White Sox under first-year manager Robin Ventura.

You should watch the attitude of this team, Peavy said. Watch what Alex went through. Were going to battle and grind this thing out to the end. You watch that attitude with a specific player (like Rios). Thats just the mentality were taking with Robin and this team.

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

The day after Kris Bryant suggested that first-time fatherhood and the dramatic reality of world events have changed how he looks at his future with the Cubs, general manager Jed Hoyer outlined why it might be all but moot.

Setting aside the fact that the Cubs aren’t focusing on contract extensions with anyone at this time of health and economic turmoil, the volatility and unpredictability of a raging COVID-19 pandemic in this country and its economic fallout have thrown even mid-range and long-term roster plans into chaos.

“This is without question the most difficult time we’ve ever had as far as projecting those things,” Hoyer said. “All season in projecting this year, you weren’t sure how many games we were going to get in. Projecting next season obviously has challenges, and who knows where the country’s going to be and the economy’s going to be.”

Bryant, a three-time All-Star and former MVP, is eligible for free agency after next season. He and the club have not engaged in extension talks for three years. And those gained little traction while it has looked increasingly likely since then that Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, would eventually take his star client to market — making Bryant a widely circulated name in trade talks all winter.

MORE: Scott Boras: Why Kris Bryant's free agency won't be impacted by economic crisis

The Cubs instead focused last winter on talks with All-Star shortstop Javy Báez, making “good” or little progress depending on which side you talked to on a given day — until the pandemic shut down everything in March.

Báez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are both also eligible for free agency after next season, with All-Star catcher Willson Contreras right behind them a year later.

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None has a multiyear contract, and exactly what the Cubs are willing to do about that even if MLB pulls off its 60-game plan this year is hard for even the team’s front office executives to know without knowing how hard the pandemic will continue to hammer America’s health and financial well-being into the winter and next year.

Even with a vaccine and treatments by then, what will job markets look like? The economy at large? The economy of sports? Will anyone want to gather with 40,000 others in a stadium to watch a game anytime soon?

And even if anyone could answer all those questions, who can be sure how the domino effect will impact salary markets for athletes?

“There’s no doubt that forecasting going forward is now much more challenging from a financial standpoint,” Hoyer said. “But that’s league-wide. Anyone that says they have a feel for where the nation’s economy and where the pandemic is come next April is lying.”

The Cubs front office already was in a tenuous place financially, its payroll budget stretched past its limit and a threat to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second consecutive season.

And after a quick playoff exit in 2018 followed by the disappointment of missing the playoffs in 2019, every player on the roster was in play for a possible trade over the winter — and even more so at this season’s trade deadline without a strong start to the season.

Now what?

For starters, forget about dumping short-term assets or big contracts for anything of value from somebody’s farm system. Even if baseball can get to this year’s Aug. 31 trade deadline with a league intact and playing, nobody is predicting more than small level trades at that point — certainly not anything close to a blockbuster.

After that, it may not get any clearer for the sport in general, much less the Cubs with their roster and contract dilemmas.

“We have a lot of conversations about it internally, both within the baseball side and then with the business side as well,” Hoyer said. “But it’s going to take a long time and probably some sort of macro things happening for us to really have a good feel for where we’re going to be in ’21 and beyond.”

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Cubs' GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Cubs' GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Veteran umpire Joe West made waves Tuesday downplaying the severity of COVID-19 in an interview with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. 

“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus," West said. "I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths.”

As far as the Cubs are concerned, those comments don’t represent how to treat the virus. In fact, they’ve gone out of their way to ensure everyone treats it with equal severity.

“That’s one of the things we've really tried internally to instill in our players and our coaches,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday, “[that] everyone here has to take it equally [serious].”

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Hoyer noted like the world, MLB isn’t immune to people having different viewpoints on the virus — those who show concern and those who don’t. This echoes comments made by manager David Ross earlier on Tuesday, and Hoyer said those he’s talked to with the Cubs don’t feel the same way as West.

The Cubs had an up close and personal look at pitching coach Tommy Hottovy’s battle with COVID-19 during baseball’s shutdown. It took the 38-year-old former big leaguer 30 harrowing days to test negative, and in the past week many Cubs have said watching him go through that hit home. 

“When you get a 38-year-old guy in wonderful health and he talks about his challenges with it,” Hoyer said, “I think that it takes away some of those different viewpoints.”

To ensure everyone stays safe and puts the league in the best position to complete a season, MLB needs strict adherence to its protocols.

“I think that's one of our goals and one of the things that we feel is vital is that we have to make sure everyone views this the same way, because we can't have a subset of people within our group that don't view it with the same severity,” Hoyer said.

“That’s not gonna work. We're not gonna be successful."

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