Steve Stone's mailbag: What's wrong with Jones?

Steve Stone's mailbag: What's wrong with Jones?

Monday, July 26, 2010
3:15 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer your questions about Andruw Jones, Jim Hendry, and more!
Brian W, Lake Bluff, IL- Could you analyze Andruw Jones' swing? It looks to me like he's trying to hit a home run every time. I would like to see more at-bats like the one he had right after his 400th home run when he let the ball get deep into his stance and he singled to right field.

Steve Stone: I think you analyzed very well, I think he is more concerned with hitting the ball out of the park more than anything. I don't really believe that he has any intention of even hitting 250 this year. I think he wants the home run stats and his ability to hit them has always been there. When you pull every pitch, you have a low batting average. He still is a vital part of the team because Quentin does get injured and when he goes down, Andrew plays very well. I don't think you will find him being a right or center hitter. He will always try to do what makes him money and that is hitting the ball out of the ballpark.

Sam K, Buffalo Grove, IL - Steve, regardless of whether or not the Sox make a deadline deal to improve the team, what aspect of White Sox baseball needs to improve the most in August and September in order for them to win the division?

Steve Stone: Well, this year you have a number of polls and it depends on how the guys respond to the holes they have. Most teams have various holes. For the White Sox over the long haul they would like to graft and develop their farm system a little bit better and Buddy Bell has taken over the minor league system and has done a good job down there. Now Doug Laumann and his scouts have to draft well. I believe you will see one of the products Chris Sale, to come in not as a starting pitcher but as a situation left hander out of the bullpen. Look for him out of the club this year. At 43 years old, even though Omar is in remarkable shape, you wonder how much he will have left when division titles are won and loss. Hopefully it will be a lot. I think Kenny is trying to address the left-handed run producer though those guys will be very expensive if he is interested in Prince Fielder for a year and two months until he becomes a free agent. Adam Dunn has been out there for some time and we will have to see what Kenny decides over what youngsters he wants to give up or would he entertain the idea of giving up Carlos Quentin. When healthy he is a destructive force but when not healthy, you have to watch out.

Jake G, Lincolnshire, IL - Who do you see as a possibility for the Cubs first baseman next year? I know it most likely won't be D-Lee, so who else is there? I do not see this team spending anymore money on a big contract, and a guy like Josh Vitters is not ready for the majors next year.

Steve Stone: Josh Vitters has to prove he can both field and hit before you can consider him major-league ready. I think you can use Xavier Nady at first. they will go downhill defensively from Lee but they do need financial flexibility and with Ted Lilly and Lee's contracts running out, that's about 22 million of flexibility. That depends on who they trade them to this year and can you get something back from him that you can try to
plug in this year. I think Lilly would have higher value than Lee because he makes less money and left handed starting pitchers are very valuable. All of these who are in the Cliff Lee deal who might be interested in some of the other pitchers who are talked about like Ben Sheets of the Oakland Athletics, I think would be more than an acceptable replacement for a lot of the guys and might bring them a lot in return.

Editor's note: Steve answered this question before news broke that Josh Vitters has a broken finger and Ben Sheets has a strained right elbow.

Evan L, Woodstock, IL - What do you take from the confidence that Tom Ricketts has shown in Jim Hendry? Does he truly believe Hendry is his guy, or does he not want to fire him and have to pay the final two years of his deal? Will he 100 percent be the Cubs general manager come December?

Steve Stone: All I can go by is the same thing you can go by, and that's the word of Tom Ricketts. The near future of Jim and that is that Jim Hendry is the general manager of the Chicago Cubs and will be going forward. I don't know how far forward. I know he has won division titles, I know he has had three shots at the playoffs. That is a good resume for postseason play. I consider from 2003 on, Jim Hendry in his eighth year of the Cubs; he has spent or obligated around a a billion dollars in those years, maybe a little less or more. But, I do know those expenditures are similar or a little less than what the Red Sox have used. The Red Sox have two championships and the Cubs one series playoff win over the Braves. The last two years have been somewhat disappointing and I think that Tom has said he has a belief in Hendry and you have to take his word that that's what it is. Jim is on the verge of hiring his third manager and usually GMs get two managers. So in hiring his third, this is one where he can't make a mistake. We will have to wait and see who he decides to manage his team and how well it works out.

Lucas M, Valparaiso, IN - What is your take on the lack of home runs in baseball? Is it pitchers getting better, batters getting worse, non-existence of steroids, or something completely different? Do you see this as a good or bad thing for baseball, and will anything dramatic be done to the game after evaluating this season like how they lowered the mound after 1968?

Steve Stone: I don't believe they will do anything with the mound, in fact if they save the pitchers' arms, they will raise it--but there are a lot of pitchers dominating this year. There are some reasons you can't overlook: better steroid testing, no amphetamines. In years past, a guy could drink a lot the night before and then take amphetamines. Now with testing, not many would do this. It was recently announced MLB will test for HGH in the minors, and that testing will make it to the majors. Baseball miracles won't happen quite as often; like guys who spend five or six years in minors who have never had double-digit home runs then hit 30 in a year will not happen. Baseball is a beautiful game when played as designed. When you do have to play the game the right way, it shows you just how nine men can operate as one, everyone has a job as the pitcher releases the baseball. In the slugball era, a lot was discarded because homeruns were so prevalent and consequently a lot of beauty was lost. The whole chicks-dig-the-long-ball era will go the way of the Dodo bird, which is extinct as testing gets better and the beauty of baseball is understood.

Calvin de Haan practices with Blackhawks for first time: 'I really want to play that first game'

NBC Sports Chicago

Calvin de Haan practices with Blackhawks for first time: 'I really want to play that first game'

Calvin de Haan has been skating for a while now, but he got the clearance from team doctors on Tuesday to participate in his first practice with the Blackhawks. The 28-year-old defenseman has been recovering from a shoulder injury and groin strain.

"Still taking my time with the shoulder and stuff," de Haan said. "Got a timeline for that, sooner than later. Other than that, feel pretty good. It's nice to be out there with the guys. Feels good to pass the pucks and get in the corners with the guys and just get into some game-like situations."

De Haan had shoulder surgery in May and was put on a four-to-six-month timeline by his former team, the Carolina Hurricanes. He admitted that his shoulder "feels fine" and it's his groin that's "been a bit of a hinder" more than anything, an injury he said he sustained pushing too hard to get back.

"Not really, no, " de Haan said when asked whether he feels limited. "A little banged up in the lower body right now. But other than that I'm working through that. Just typical bumps and bruises trying to get back into the swing of things. I feel pretty good. It was fun to be out there with the guys."

The Blackhawks announced on Day 1 of training camp that de Haan will be out of the lineup for two to three weeks. The timeline hasn't changed, but de Haan's goal is and always has been to be ready for Opening Night in Prague on Oct. 4.

"I hope so," de Haan said. "That's my game plan, anyways. I'm going to do everything in my power to be ready and hopefully make it a tough decision on the doctors and the staff to not let me play ... but at the end of the day it's their decision. I feel good. I'm just going to keep working and do as I'm told.

"I really want to play that first game but so be it if [I can't]. There's another 81 after that so there's not really a big rush."

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Alex Nylander making strong first impression, but will he start 2019-20 season with Blackhawks?

Alex Nylander making strong first impression, but will he start 2019-20 season with Blackhawks?

The Blackhawks are a team that likes to take chances on young players who were highly regarded coming out of their draft but have underachieved to start their professional careers.

Take Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome for example. Both of them are former first-round picks, with Strome being drafted No. 3 overall in 2015. 

Alex Nylander is somebody who falls under this category. Taken No. 8 overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2016, he put up decent numbers in the AHL but couldn’t take that next step in the NHL and hasn’t been able to stick. He's trying to change that in Chicago after being acquired by the organization in the summer for Henri Jokiharju.

"I'm just trying to work hard every shift, be consistent out there and just play my game," Nylander said. "Make plays and be good defensively as well."

Nylander has been a standout in Blackhawks training camp so far. He shined in Sunday’s team scrimmage at the United Center by scoring a highlight-reel penalty shot goal and followed that up with a multi-point effort in his preseason debut on Monday, scoring a goal and adding an assist against Washington.

It's the consistency and how he plays when he doesn't have the puck that's going to determine whether he sticks with the big club and ultimately thrives.

"I just think learning how to play at a higher pace away from the puck," Jeremy Colliton said. "He is a good skater. He can fly. You can see when he's hunting, he's on offense, he can really skate. We're going to want him to show us that persistence away from the puck to try and get it back. Obviously when his teammates have the puck (or) when he has the puck — when he's on offense — he's a terrific player. He can be a real asset for us. So we want him to put himself in those situations as much as he can."

There are legitimately eight or nine forwards that are competing for the two or three roster spots on Opening Night. Nylander is one of them. He has such an elite offensive skillset that it's hard to ignore him for one of them, and he's probably better off playing with guys who think the game the same way.

"He can make a lot of plays and he can see the ice as offensive players do," Colliton said. "He's got a great shot, great release. ... Having said that, for him, the more versatile he can show that he can be then it gives us more options and different places to fit him into the lineup. It's a lot easier to make the team. So he'll probably move around here as we go through preseason and see if there's a fit."

While Nylander, in the big picture, is simply competing for a spot on the 23-man roster, he also finds himself battling for a role within the team in the process. But he's not looking that far ahead.

"I'm just trying to do my best out here and take whatever is given to me," Nylander said. "Just do good, play my game and good things will happen I think. I've just been working really hard this summer and I'm trying to take that with me from the past three years in Buffalo and try to be the best player I can be.”

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