MANNY MACHADO COULD HAVE saved a lot of sports prattle this week if only he had signed with Zion Williamson and the Duke Blue Devils.
That thought was much less blue before Williamson's stunning Nike PG 2.5 PE malfunction vs. North Carolina Wednesday night.
Because prior to the unfortunate event, it was a steady midweek drone as media chatterers ping-ponged back and forth: Machado and the White Sox. Zion and Michael. Manny and the Padres. Zion and the NCAA tournament. Machado and Reinsdorf. Zion and the NBA.
By Thursday morning, Williamson once again owned the top of the national sports marquee for a very wrong reason.
But as the White Sox air finally began to clear, one certainty remained: The organization still has Eloy Jimenez, unarguably the most anticipated rookie headed for the South Side since … well, at least since Michael Kopech last August.
Forget Kopech. Jimenez is the now and the new. He's hope.
Even if the 22-year-old outfielder is assigned to the Triple-A Charlotte Knights for the initial weeks, the most impassioned White Sox fans can get their "Mo' 'Loy" workin' early.
Last season, NBC Sports Chicago carried 18 Charlotte games, including four before May 1. Backstage maneuvers are reportedly near conclusion for a similar arrangement this year, possibly including expanded April coverage.
There's Eloy Window No. 1.
Window No. 2 is for only the most rabid. That'll come when Charlotte visits the Indianapolis Indians for a four-game series beginning April 11.
It's roughly 175 miles from Guaranteed Rate to Victory Field in Indy. To make it even more attractive, the White Sox are off that Thursday before opening a three-day Bronx stand at New York.
So like violets and snapdragon, Mo' 'Loy Mania can bloom even sooner.
Especially since by July 1, the Sox will probably be 35-47 and Jimenez will be out with a bad hip. (He has a history of nagging injuries.)
In the interim, "Viva Zapata!" "Ki Adolfo!" and "Go Eloy!"
And, Zion … blue, blue, blue.
THE RESILIENT STEPHEN BARDO will have a dandy dose of double duty in Champaign this weekend. He'll be prominent during the 30th reunion of the Fighting Illini's 1988-89 Final Four crew along with fellow starters Nick Anderson, Kenny Battle, Kendall Gill and Lowell Hamilton.
Then, amid it all, the affable Carbondale native will handle color alongside Lisa Byington on the Big Ten Network's presentation of the Illinois-Penn State game (11 a.m. Saturday).
Lou Henson -- who is also expected, health permitting -- directed that extremely athletic group to a 31-5 season. It ended with an 83-81 loss to Michigan in an NCAA semifinal. The Illini had beaten the Wolverines twice in Big Ten play before meeting their Waterloo in Seattle.
THOSE NEW NIELSEN AUDIO numbers for January in Chicago once again showed that WSCR-AM (670) -- No. 8 overall -- remains on extended horizontal hold and flatlining No. 27 WMVP-AM (1000) is like a guppy without gills in the big tank at the Shedd Aquarium.
Primary "talent" at both hummers remains station sales staff. Lone impacting exception was WSCR's morning franchise, No. 4 in its time slot, where the looming question -- can a yappy Irishman coexist with a buttoned-downed Ball Stater? -- is answered on a daily basis. (That would be Mike Mulligan and David Haugh.)
STREET-BEATIN': Mike Tirico was refreshing and remarkably prepped for his career debut as an NHL play-by-play man on NBCSN's telecast of the Blackhawks' 5-4 OT win at Detroit Wednesday night. Having the great Eddie Olczyk alongside never hurts. … Credible national speculation that Stephen A. Smith may seek $6 million per year from someone in his next contract cycle would be spit-take laughable except for the fact vapid John "Skip" Bayless draws a reported $5 million annually from the hyenas at FS1. Bayless spent a languid three years in Chicago newspapering, making crosstown dilettante Rick Telander look like Jay Mariotti. … Both Jimmy Garoppolo and Tony Romo sent video messages and Syracuse's Dino Babers headed the gratefully upticking on hand for a memorial to Eastern Illinois coaching wizard Bob Spoo earlier this week in downstate Charleston. Coach Spoo -- who passed at age 80 in October -- was the man most responsible for crafting EIU into a major "Cradle of Quarterbacks."… Bruce Wolf -- the sports funnyman turned William F. Buckley Jr. impostor -- laughed off a suggestion that he and Chuck Swirsky would be an intriguing weekly radio chat duo. (They might, sort of like Bobby Bittman and Joel Osteen.)…Career good guy Dave Eanet will be Grand Marshal of Skokie's 4th of July parade. Eanet would also be an automatic holdover if WGN-AM (720) management ever snaps out of its corpulent catatonia and makes Dean Richards its main morning man. … ESPN2 debuts "Unapologetic: The Black Female Athlete" at 9 p.m. Sunday. One-time Chicago Bandits comet A.J. Andrews hosts. … Giannis Antetokounmpo was nothing if not gracious when informed that his surname popped up in Lil Wayne's Z-rated yawner "Big Bad Wolf" (do not YouTube), telling media: "I'm not a deep fan of music but it's a compliment to hear a rapper give you a shout-out in his song." Yanni, in this case, no it's not.