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Spare Change: #FREELOY, the Bears are Back, Dumb LeBron and “El Mago” the MVP

White Sox promotions long overdue, the Bears are back, the President thinks LeBron is dumb and Javier Baez's case for National League MVP.

Since stepping away from my day-to-day duties as the Editor-in-chief of The Loop Sports, I’ve taken on a greater role with the Chicago Mudcats, working as the recruiting coordinator for our high school baseball program in addition to my role as a high school level coach and instructor, tasked with overseeing the collegiate recruitment of four graduating classes worth of players at any given time.

So, it goes without saying, I’ve struggled to find time to put together my thoughts on the Chicago sports landscape here at TLS. So I’ve decided to put together a new weekend column that will drop each Saturday or Sunday morning, touching on a bit of everything happening at the moment in sports, and sharing my two cents on it.

(Double, maybe Triple) Checking the boxes.

This past January, I listened to Rick Hahn drive home the, “force the issue,” stance on prospect promotions for three consecutive days, ad nauseam. Because of that, I wasn’t surprised that Michael Kopech wasn’t thrust into the major league rotation back in April/May when he came out of the gates on fire.

Sure, the six-foot-three right-hander appeared to be simply toying with Triple-A hitters at the onset of the 2018 campaign, but he wasn’t doing what Hahn and Co. wanted him to do (master his secondary pitches) in order to earn the promotion to Chicago. When he did start to dabble in that task, he looked like a kid who needed some more seasoning.

However, when we fast-forward to the present day, Kopech is sitting at 143 strikeouts in 106.1 innings of work in Charlotte this season, and hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in his last five starts. In the month of July, Kopech has allowed just 10 earned runs in 27 innings of work (3.33 ERA), while striking out 38 hitters and walking only eight.

On the season, opposing hitters are hitting a meager .211 against the 22-year-old Texan, who is now approaching 500 punch-outs (487) in his cumulative 375.2 innings of work in the minor leagues. Then there’s the fact that Kopech will enter his next scheduled start (Monday) with a career opponent batting average of exactly .200, meaning that he will likely conclude his 82nd career minor league start with an opposing batting average under the Mendoza line, and quite possibly, 500 strikeouts.

Rick, he’s forced the issue. It’s time for his development to continue at the major league level.

Then there’s the curious case of Eloy Jimenez, probably an even more damning case than that of the aforementioned Michael Kopech.

After making a mockery of Double-A pitching to begin the 2018 campaign (. 925 OPS, 10 HR, 15 2B, 42 RBI), Jimenez made a seamless transition to Triple-A pitching. In 106 at-bats in Charlotte, Jimenez is straight-up raking, entering play today with a .387/.431/.521/1.129 slash line to go along with eight home runs, nine doubles and 18 RBI.

Here’s a fun stat — Eloy Jimenez has only struck out four more times (12) than he has went deep (8) against Triple-A pitching. Comically enough, when asked what it’s going to take to get a promotion to Chicago this week by Future Sox’s Jonathan Lee, even Eloy had to chuckle as he responded simply, “I don’t really know.”

Once again, Rick, the issue has been forced. As it’s been coined around social media, let’s #FREELOY.

Welcome Back, NFL.

The Chicago Bears squared off against the Baltimore Ravens this past Thursday in the 2018 NFL Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, and it didn’t take long to feel like football was back for Chicago Bears fans.

On the opening drive, a wide receiver dropped a touchdown pass (Bennie Fowler), and then a Bears QB tossed an interception (Chase Daniel). By the end of the first half, the Bears $10 million dollar ($7 million guaranteed) backup signal-caller, Chase Daniel had thrown two interceptions, and the NBC broadcast crew forgot Benny Cunningham played for the Bears last season. Can you blame them? I’d like to forget much of the 2017 Bears’ campaign myself.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Oh, and then there was the almost immediate debate regarding what the hell is an actual “catch,” in the NFL when DeAndre Houston-Carson intercepted Ravens’ quarterback Robert Griffin III in the first quarter.

Toss in the insanely over-called helmet-lowering rule that will be an absolute shit-show to interpret this season, and you know what time it is baby! Welcome back, NFL.

Dumb LeBron James opens public school for at-risk kids.

Late Friday evening, President Donald Trump apparently took offense to NBA superstar LeBron James telling Don Lemon in an interview that he wouldn’t be sitting across from the Twitter-happy President at a table, in response to Lemon’s question as to what LeBron would say to Trump if he was in fact sitting across from him.

So Trump took to Twitter, and let his hurt feelings be known, by calling into question the intelligence level of both Lemon and James.

Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

I’m going to make this one short and sweet, because I’d rather get hit by a bus than discuss politics at length … Say what you want about LeBron James the basketball player, but don’t be stupid enough to call into question the man’s intelligence, especially the same damn week that he opens a cutting-edge public school for at-risk children.

Javy Baez, National League MVP?

The above question was, at-best, chuckle-worthy before the 2018 season. But alas, here we are on August 4, and Baez has either tied or passed his career-highs in doubles, triples, home runs, RBI and stolen bases. Baez checks in this afternoon with an OPS north of .900 and a WAR of 4.5 (Baseball Reference).

Baez leads the league in doubles (29) and total bases (231), and has been the offensive catalyst for the 2018 Chicago Cubs, without question. In a down season for Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, “El Mago” has stepped up both offensively and defensively for the Cubs.

If the Cubs win the National League Central, there’s little question that Baez was in fact the most valuable player in the National League this season.

 Follow Patrick Flowers on Twitter — Feature Photo Credit: Ken Jancef/MiLB.com

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