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Steve Stone's mailbag: The future of the Cubs and Sox

Steve Stone's mailbag: The future of the Cubs and Sox

Monday, June 28, 2010
3:11 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer some of your questions about the Cubs' future, A.J. Pierzynski, Stephen Strasburg, and more!
Question from Jake R.-Highland Park, IL: Steve, as June nears its end it is becoming more and more apparent that the Cubs have little to no shot at making the playoffs. What would you do if you were the general manager of this team?

Steve Stone: First of all, far be it for me to give any suggestions to Jim Hendry because he runs his ball club and as many advisers that have certainly helped him over the years get in the position that he is in. The one thing ball club fans have to realize, the Cubs have obligated 9 players next year for 103 million dollars. There is a number of those players that have full no-trade clauses which makes it very difficult to move them.

Another factor that they have to deal with is the Carlos Zambrano issue and the millions owed to him and how best to resolve that. It is very rare for a baseball team to suspend one of their players, to have one team to suspend 2 players in 2 year is almost unheard of. While they were able to move Milton Bradley who is hitting a robust 205 for Seattle, one of the things I would be looking at, and this would be the only suggestion I would give Jim Hendry would be, while he is throwing the best baseball of his life, I would be looking to move Carlos Silva. Carlos has had a tremendous run of this half, been one of the most consistent, if not the most. Generally I take a great deal of heat for making predictions into the future on the health of various pitchers, I would say because Silva is very much overweight and starting to experience hamstring problems hamstring problems will eventually turn into back problems. While SIlva can still pass another team's physical and because I believe the Cubs owe him something along the lines of 7 million this year and another 12 next year, I would be looking to trade him assuming that the Cubs don't make a strong run before the All-Star break. Always better to trade a guy before he breaks down than to keep him until he is rendered unable to perform for you. As a couple of very good general managers who I have talked to, who have constantly reminded me, it is better to trade a guy a little to early than to hold onto him a little too late.

Question from Kristin P.-Dyer, IN: As a pitcher, how does it affect your mentality on the mound when you know that you probably wont be getting run support on a regular basis? Are the Cubs starters aware of the teams struggles at the plate, and does that create more pressure for them to pitch a gem?

Steve Stone: For the Cubs starters not to be aware of the team's struggles at the plate, they would have to be that great character from the song written by The Who about the deaf dumb and blind kid who sure plays a good pin ball. But that should and usually does not have any influence on a good pitcher. A good pitcher or a great pitcher doesn't really care how his team is struggling offensively because he feels that if his team gets one run, he will should out the other team. A good or great pitcher doesn't worry about what plays are made behind him or if his infield is going to hit or who he goes up against. The great pitcher thinks he will be better than that team on any other day; to go out without that mind set, you will go out with a self defeating prophecy.

David W.-Granger, IN: Steve, do you think that either Ozzie or Kenny will be let go during the season if the Sox continue to struggle? Does Jerry Reinsdorf owe either person anything because of the 2005 World Series victory?
Steve Stone: This question probably had a lot more relevance when they were struggling but they find themselves 1.5 games out of first and one game behind Detroit for second place. That being said, Jerry met with both Ozzie and Kenny separately during some of their more difficult times and said to both of them, time to fix this, put the squabbling to bed and get back to the business of baseball. Ozzie and Kenny, whenever it is that they happen to go out, will go out on their own terms. One has been a very successful Manager, the other a very successful General Manager and when the day comes when they can no longer do their particular job, most likely they will be gone. That day, however, is not anytime this year.

Andrew L.-Northbrook, IL: Steve, now that A.J. has his 10-and-5 rights do you still see the Sox trying to trade the veteran catcher, and if so, do you think A.J. would waive his no-trade clause if it would help the Sox build for the future?

Steve Stone: Again, this becomes a much more pertinent question when the sox found themselves 9.5 games in back of Minnesota but A.J. is hitting 242 which is 40 points below his lifetime average. He has a tremendous amount of value as calling pitches and going out every day he is called on. A.J. has his problems, driving in runs and throwing out base runners. I believe A.J. has a lot of value to a contending team because left handed catchers who play just about everyday have some value. A.J. being one of the smarter players on the team, I believe that the Sox at this point have no interest in trading him.

With 13 games left against Minnesota and 13 left against Detroit as well multiple series with Boston and Los Angeles, there is going to be ample time to see where this team fits in the AL Central and if it comes apparent that they are in the race, AJ stays. If it is apparent they are not in the race, A.J probably goes.

Max K.-Waukegan, IL: Steve, everybody is talking about Steven Strasburg. What is your take, as a former pitcher, on the phenom? Is he as good as advertised, the next Roger Clemens? Can this player put the Nationals on the map?
Steve Stone: Well the Nationals are already on the map because they play in Washington DC. They have some very good young players, Steven Strasburg being one of they. He is not as good as advertised, he might be better. Sox players were dazzled by his straight change which is most unusual for a guy that has a fast ball that tops out at 101. He has a knee-buckling curve ball and even a shorter breaking curve that he doesn't use quite as much. But what sets him apart from other flame throwers is a great, great change. With any pitcher you always have to use the term, if he stays healthy. Barring injuries, he is now and will continue to be one of the great new dominating pitchers in the year that has become the year of the pitcher. The Nationals have a couple other young players on the horizon including a young infielder by the name of Espinosa, no one has heard about but will in the not too distant future, Washington has a chance to be competitive in the National League East as soon as they get a couple pitchers back and make a deal for a starting pitcher or two.

How Coby White is putting it all together over most recent hot stretch

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USA Today

How Coby White is putting it all together over most recent hot stretch

The shots are starting to fall for Coby White. In seven February games, the Bulls freshly-turned 20-year-old is averaging 17.7 points, 4.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 35.7% from 3-point range (eight attempts per). That’s good news for the Bulls. 

And better is that’s not all that’s going right for White. Yes, consecutive career-high 33-point games — something no rookie reserve has ever done — on cumulative 55% field goal shooting (12-for-22 from deep) will grab eyes, especially on the heels of a frigid stretch between the beginning of February and the All-Star break. But after Sunday’s losing-streak-snapping 126-117 win over Washington, Bulls coach Jim Boylen peeled back the layers of White’s growth.

“I think he's been aggressive in transition, I think his finishing has been terrific, he's had the ball up and out, he's got it out of his stomach, something he's working on,” Boylen said. “I think his work pre-practice, post-practice is paying off.”

And of White’s defense: “We make a defensive (film) edit on Coby after every game. And him and I watch it together… (Early in the season) he had, of his 14 plays on the tape, you know, seven of them were good and seven of them were bad. Now it's like 10 are good and four are bad. He's climbing in that way.

“What he's finding out is: If you get into the game defensively and you follow your assignment and all that, good things happen for you at the other end. It just does. And I think he's locked in that way.”

White’s restricted area finishing has steadily improved over the season (59.3% in February) — he’s getting to the rim and finishing through contact better than ever before (White’s seven free throw attempts versus the Wizards ties a season-high). In transition, he’s a blur running off live rebounds and steals, which could prove a boon for a Bulls team that lives in the fastbreak. His decision-making and ability to change speeds in the halfcourt stand out. Defensively, though not yet perfect, he’s staying more and more connected off-ball, rotating sharply and hunting loose ball recoveries.

If the jumpers are falling, gravy. But the game slowing down for White, and his confidence growing as a result, should excite the Bulls and their fans the most. White, for his part, has learned over the course of a curious rookie campaign to control what he can control.

“It feels good,” White said of his recent red-hot shooting. “But I think now I look at the game differently than I did at the beginning of the year. Now, I just look at the games like I'm gonna go in and play hard on both ends of the court, that's all I'm gonna do. And then control what I can control — I can't control whether I miss or make shots, so. I'm just going out there and playing hard.”

That comes from Boylen, who White lauded for pushing him to continue improving, especially defensively.

“Coach Boylen was preaching to me, you gotta play defense you gotta play defense, so I took it as a challenge. And I feel like I'm continuing to get better at it. I still can get better at it,” White said. “But he pushes me, he pushes me to be a good player, so I can't knock him for that and that's the type of coach I want.”

None of the above (nor Boylen’s unconditional trust in White) has culminated in his first career start, despite clamoring from some media and fans. But perhaps that’s OK. Boylen has often preached White’s increasing comfortability leading the Bulls’ second unit — even injury-ravaged — and that comfort is starting to show up on the floor and in the stat sheet. It speaks to the labeless approach the Bulls have taken to White’s development.

“We got a second group that's playing pretty good again, and we're also melding Coby into that first group at times in the game,” Boylen said when asked if starting White could be a possibility. “So, coming off two 33-point games, I don't know if it makes sense to [start him].”

To that point: White is still getting his fair share of minutes — he played 34 tonight and is averaging 30.6 in February — and a healthy amount of time on the floor staggered alongside Zach LaVine and Tomas Satoransky. White has also played valuable minutes down the stretch of games recently and his usage rate is up to 24.1% over his last seven games. Opportunity comes in many forms.

“I feel like I'm in a good position,” White said. “This year for me wasn't about starting, it wasn't about being this being that, it was just about me getting better over the season. That's the main thing in this league, you just keep getting better. You don't want to be a guy that just stays the same the whole time.”

White certainly hasn't. The overarching point is that nights like tonight (and Saturday against Phoenix) further emphasize how crucial his continued progression will be down the 25-game stretch of this ill-fated Bulls season — whatever form it takes. Talk of a playoff push has noticeably tempered around the United and Advocate Centers, but White’s been the center of plenty of conversations.

“You see how explosive he is,” said LaVine, who’s been highly complimentary of White all year. “Trying to figure out some nicknames for him. Either like propane or gasoline or something like that. His scoring is special. He can do it in a variety of ways. He's finding his rhythm. Kid's good. He's real good.”

If we land on a pseudonym by mid-April, it’d be a welcome sign.

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Coby White drops 33 in 2nd straight game

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Coby White drops 33 in 2nd straight game

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders Podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson and Allana Tachauer discuss Coby White becoming the first Bulls rookie since Michael Jordan to score 30+ points in back-to-back games; LaVine breaking the Bulls record for threes made in a single season; and Dwyane Wade's role in Derrick Jones Jr.'s controversial dunk contest victory.

0:40 - Allana's back and the Bulls losing streak is over

1:10 - White drops 33 points in second straight game

5:30 - Tomas Satoransky records team-high 13 assists

6:45 - Zach LaVine breaks Bulls single-season three-point record

8:35 - Bradley Beal scores 53 points and doesn't get victory

9:45 - Have injuries kept Bulls from reaching their full potential?

11:10 - Should Daniel Gafford start over Wendell Carter Jr.?

14:00 - Pros and cons of playing White and LaVine together

18:25 - Is LaVine in the Bulls long-term future?

20:50 - Injured Bulls look like boy band

22:45 - Did Wade rig dunk contest for Jones Jr.?

25:50 - Does Coby need to start?

Listen here or in the embedded player below.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.