The White Sox once more didn’t win a Shields start. Despite an increasingly good-looking season stat line, Shields can’t seem to rack up many wins, with just two to his name on the season. But of course, wins are not exactly the most important barometer in this rebuilding campaign.
Speaking of the rebuild, the White Sox are getting closer to the trade deadline, it’s about a month and a half away. And Shields’ continued success could have Rick Hahn’s phone ringing as July 31 creeps closer. After six innings and three runs in Sunday’s loss to the visiting Detroit Tigers, Shields has seven quality starts in his last 10 outings,
After last season’s struggles that ended in a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs surrendered, getting anything for Shields might’ve seemed a bit of a fantasy. But Shields has delivered, especially since the end of a rocky April.
“It’s very important to try to eat as many innings as you possibly can,” Shields said of his consistent efforts of late. “Early on in the season, we were ruining our bullpen by not going deep into games. My main focus is to go as deep as I possibly can. … Consistency’s the name of the game.”
Does it make him one of the most attractive names on the market? No, probably not. Is it going to fetch a highly ranked prospect? No, probably not. But it might fetch something, and in a season where guys believed to be afterthoughts like Dylan Covey and Daniel Palka are working their way into the conversation about the White Sox future, who wouldn’t want something added to this rebuilding effort?
And Shields isn’t the only White Sox player who could bring something back.
The bullpen was stocked with potential sign-and-flip guys over the offseason, and a few of those veteran arms have had good runs that could earn them a similar fate to the bulk of last year’s relief corps. Anthony Swarzak, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Dan Jennings and Tyler Clippard were all dealt away last summer. Could Hahn employ a similar strategy this season?
The bullpen hasn’t been quite as good as it was last year, which made all of those players attractive additions for contending teams around the league. But veterans like Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Bruce Rondon, Xavier Cedeno – guys who hoped to rediscover some old magic – could still draw interest.
Soria owns a 3.12 ERA. Avilan’s is at 3.10. Cedeno hasn’t given up a run in his six relief appearances. Rondon has shown blow-em-away stuff at times. It’s been a nice recovery for some of these sign-and-flip veterans.
“They’ve had an opportunity to get their chances to work on different things and become really effective performers,” manager Rick Renteria said of some of his veteran relievers prior to Sunday’s game. “I think Joakim has risen his level of game back what he was pre last couple years, I think he’s reinvented himself a little bit. He has an up-down breaking ball now, he’s continuing to attack the strike zone, he’s throwing 93 miles an hour with his fastball, he’s commanding the zone. He’s doing everything he can to be as good a closer as he was in the past. His history and his experience also allow him some confidence to be put in situations to close out ballgames.”
Soria could perhaps draw the most interest because closers are often in demand in July. But last year’s trade-a-thon showed that teams are willing to trade prospects away for relief help of any kind. Many of the return pieces in those deals might not get rebuild-loving prospect followers thrilled. Casey Gillaspie and Ryan Cordell haven’t exactly put their names at the forefront of the discussion about 2020 and beyond. But remember that Blake Rutherford came over in the deal that sent Robertson and Kahnle out of town (Todd Frazier went to the New York Yankees in that trade, too). So an acquisition that could improve the rebuild can most definitely happen, even with middle relievers.
There’s no guarantee that any of these guys, be it Shields in the rotation or any of the arms out in the bullpen, will get traded or even draw significant interest. But for a team in the White Sox position, you’d have to assume they’d be open to making a deal and getting something to add to this rebuilding process.
Here’s a comp that’ll get White Sox fans really excited. It’s a Hall of Famer saying that the organization’s top-ranked prospect reminds him of another Hall of Famer.
“The kid Eloy (Jimenez), I’ve really watched him a lot. He’s a tremendous (player),” Frank Thomas said. “He reminds me of a young Vlad (Guerrero) that can cover the whole zone and use the whole field. I’m interested in seeing how he progresses.”
Eloy a young Vladdy, eh?
Don’t tell actual young Vladdy that – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is ranked one spot ahead of Jimenez on MLB Pipeline’s list of the best prospects in baseball – but that’s one heck of a comp for a player that White Sox fans are already immeasurably excited about.
Thomas was back on the South Side on Sunday to join Hawk Harrelson in the broadcast booth for the latter’s sendoff season. He spoke a lot about what Harrelson meant to him and the White Sox, but he also answered questions about the team’s ongoing rebuild. Thomas has kept a close eye both in his roles as an analyst for FOX and someone who will always be invested in this team.
“It’s Chicago, and we’re used to winning,” Thomas said when he was asked if the White Sox needed to undergo such a process. “You normally get away with this in a smaller market, but you’ve got to understand they’ve taken their time with it. They wasted a lot of money for a five-year period trying to continue to be successful the way we were in the past and it wasn’t working.
“The game has changed. The game has totally changed. It’s a different ballgame now. It’s all about the youth. … The hardest part they’re going to have, though, is figuring out who’s going to be here and who’s not going to be here because over the next couple years they’ve got so many young talented players in Double-A and Triple-A that someone could actually force some of these guys out. It’s going to be a hard decision what they’re going to have to do.”
That’s the good problem Rick Hahn and his front office would like to have.
While fan buy-in to the rebuilding effort has been tremendous, there are some who will continue to question the willing suffering through losing seasons at the major league level while the contending team of the future develops in the minor leagues. But if you look at the teams that have won and played in the World Series in recent seasons – and even seasons long past – the process almost seems mandatory if you want to reach that level.
“It is,” Thomas said. “I’ve watched it firsthand. I first saw it with Cleveland when I was playing. Cleveland did it. Then you saw the Royals do it. You saw Houston do it, and they’re tearing it up with that youth. There’s been some other teams that have had a lot of success with it, too. I think Billy Beane has been great with it in Oakland for many, many years. They just haven’t had the luxury of keeping it together and going for the World Series, but he continues to create young superstars and basically trading them off for whatever the organization needs.”
Thomas, the greatest hitter in White Sox history, was also asked about the greatest hitter on the White Sox right now, Jose Abreu. Abreu’s future is the topic of much conversation surrounding this team, what with his contract running out at the end of the 2019 season, just when the White Sox hope to be fielding a perennial contender.
Abreu has been remarkably consistent – and one of just three players ever to hit at least 25 homers and drive in at least 100 runs in each of his first four seasons – but Thomas thinks there’s a side of Abreu we still have yet to see.
“I just don’t think we’ve seen the best of him,” Thomas said. “That’s because it’s a youth movement and the protection’s been up and down for him in that lineup. I’ve seen him be inconsistent at times, but I think he’s a much better player than that. But I understand when you’re not winning every day and it’s not as motivating because losing’s tough on everybody. But the guy’s an incredible player, an incredible hitter.
“I think the next couple of years we’ll see the best of him if he’s still here. I think this guy has a chance to be one of the great ones.”
With one last question about the modern-day White Sox, Thomas was asked about manager Rick Renteria, who he raved about. But with Renteria’s recent history with the Cubs, when he was replaced with Joe Maddon right before the North Siders started their phase of contention, he has yet to be the manager of a team with expectations. The plan is that he soon will be, and Thomas is interested to see what happens when that becomes the case.
“I think he’s done a hell of a job. I really like Ricky a lot,” Thomas said. “But who knows what they’re going to do in the future. When this team becomes what they think it’s going to be, either you get it done or you don’t. That’s just what it’s going to be. That’s the way Jerry’s handled it for many, many years.
“We’ve had some decisions that weren’t all happiness at times, but it’s about winning once they get their team here. I hope it’s Ricky because he’s done a hell of a rebuild job with the Cubs, he did a hell of a rebuild job here. It’s just time for him to get a good team out on the field and see what he really can do. I’m hoping he gets a chance of having a full team to put out there for 162 games and see what he can do.”
White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson uses his father’s support to help facilitate his development in the majors.
Most parents would agree that being a father or mother is the most important job in one’s life. Nurturing, teaching and caring for a young child—directing them down a path to becoming a successful and respected person.
“I loved my father,” said Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller several years ago. “He was always there for me, teaching me how to be a man and how to work hard. I watched him, learned from him and wanted to be like him. I would have never become the person I am today or the pitcher I was during my major league career without him.
“When I was a young boy in Iowa, where my father worked as a farmer growing crops and raising cattle and hogs, I was taught to help him. And after a long day, he would always take time to play catch . . . he loved the game of baseball.
“One of my favorite memories,” Feller continued, “was during the cold winter months, when my father and I would put a ball and our gloves in the oven to heat them up and then go out to the barn to play catch. I threw every day all year long. That’s how I learned to strengthen my arm. My father was so instrumental on how I learned to take care of myself. I always ate well, did a lot of farm work, and played catch everyday when the baseball season was over.”
Feller pitched 18 years in the majors despite missing fours years serving in the Navy during World War II. He was more proud of his military service than his career as one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. His character and integrity are traits learned from his upbringing, and Feller often credited his father with the success he enjoyed, especially those achievements earned as a major league pitcher and during his service in the Navy as a chief of an anti-aircraft unit while on the USS Alabama.
On this Father’s Day, several White Sox players reveal the importance their father’s had in the growth and development of their baseball careers.
Tim Anderson, who turns 25 on June 23, continues to hone is baseball skills, and his path to the majors is one steeped in perseverance and hard work. Anderson’s father served time in jail during the first 15 years of the shortstop’s life, but they have reunited. “Our relationship is great,” Anderson said. “He’s always been there for me as has my uncle, who helped raise me.
As a public policy major and softball player at the University of Chicago, Kim Ng wrote a thesis paper on Title IX, opening her eyes to the challenges and opportunities for women with careers in sports.
The daughter of a banker and a financial analyst in New York, she was interviewing for jobs in investment banking. She thought if she found a career in athletics, it would be for sports like tennis or golf – and probably in the marketing department.
Then, she heard through the university in 1990 that the White Sox were looking for an intern.
“Baseball hadn’t crossed my mind. I had no examples,” Ng said recently in Rockford, where the town was celebrating the 75th anniversary of pro baseball’s Rockford Peaches and the accomplishments of women in sports. “For (the White Sox) to hire a woman as an intern, it was more unusual at that time. Unfortunately, it still is out of the ordinary.”
Ng, 49, currently serves as senior vice president for baseball operations in Major League Baseball, the highest ranking woman in the sport. She’s mentioned frequently in news articles as potentially becoming baseball’s first female general manager.
During one of her initial interviews with the White Sox, Ng was asked if she knew how to compute ERA. Of course, she did.
As she rose through the sport, Ng concedes “It did rattle me at times” when she was underestimated. But she said it never stopped her, and colleagues encouraged her.
“At no point did I think, ‘You can’t do this,’ ” she said. “I had great bosses along the way. Nobody ever said, ‘You can’t do this.’ “
The White Sox hired her full time in 1991, and she was entrusted quickly with significant responsibilities. In 1995, at 26 and working as the team’s assistant director of baseball operations, she became the youngest person and first woman in baseball to present an arbitration case. She won the case involving pitcher Alex Fernandez.
“I forced her to do it,” White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. “Her first arbitration, she was very nervous and apprehensive. She preferred to assist. I told her I wanted her to do it. It was part of development.”
At first, she was a novelty in the office just for being a woman.
“Scouts and other people, coaches, it was new situation for them,” said Dan Fabian, White Sox senior director of baseball operations who worked with Ng for about three seasons. “It was 25 years ago; not many women were in positions like that. Some eyebrows were raised. There were a few times I had to say, ‘Cut it out. She knows what she’s doing.’ When people saw her do her work, they saw she was really qualified.”
Ng went on to work for the American League in 1997 before the Yankees hired her in 1998 as the youngest assistant general manager in MLB and one of only three women to hold such a position. Ten years later, she joined the Dodgers as vice president and assistant general manager.
Ng is part of a small circle of women who have broken into front office roles in MLB. Elaine Weddington Steward was the first assistant general manager in 1990, while Jean Afterman followed Ng with the Yankees in 2001. According to a Washington Post article, 113 women are in baseball operations but most are in administrative or medical and training positions.
In Chicago, three women have broken into male-dominated baseball fields. The Sox hired Grace Guerrero Zwit in 1982 as an assistant in the player development and scouting department. She works now as senior director for minor league operations. The Sox hired Emily Blady in January as a baseball operations analyst. The Cubs hired Ella Cahill as an amateur scouting assistant.
“I think it is (changing),” Reinsdorf said. “I see it with our interns. We’re getting more and more female interns each year.”
In her current role, Ng oversees international scouting and development, helping MLB plant roots and grow talent in countries throughout Latin America and in places like China, Mexico and India. After her appearance in Rockford, she was headed to Florida the following day before a trip the next week to Brazil.
Ng, who is Asian-American, ranked fifth in Forbes’ list of most powerful women in sports and No. 13 in the magazine’s list of most influential minorities in sports in 2015.
With the increased importance of analytics in baseball, Ng said some of the stigmas have been removed. She works with MLB’s Diversity Pipeline Program.
“Not playing is no longer an excuse,” she said. “Nothing should hold women back (from being hired). There’s more willingness to the idea at lower levels but we’re not there yet.”
Indeed, her eye for numbers – especially in the early 1990s when analytics were not in vogue – were a draw for the White Sox and earned her respect among colleagues.
“Our cubicles were right next to each other,” said Fabian, who was an assistant on the minor-league side while Ng worked on the major-league side. “She was extremely bright. That stood out. She could think through a scenario or a problem as well as anyone I’ve worked with. She came up with new things at a time when there was so much less information. Things with the internet were just coming into being. She developed a lot of systems we used.”
Ng has been interviewed for general managing openings, the first time was in 2005 with the Dodgers but also with the Mariners, Padres and Angels.
“She has all the skills to be a general manager,” Reinsdorf said. “She has been in the game for 20 years. Somebody is going to crack that glass ceiling one of these days.”
Ng is looking forward to the day any woman is hired in the role.
“Whether it’s me or someone else is inconsequential,” Ng said. “As long as it’s someone.”
Winning series against division leaders like the Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox bred enough optimism a week ago that there was passing thought that Race to the Bottom might be a one-and-done series, rather than a season-long tracking.
But those hopes have been revealed as a bit premature, so 16 games after the first edition, let’s trot another out.
As the 2018 team attempts to avoid becoming the worst White Sox club in franchise history, Race to the Bottom takes a look at how it compares to the very worst White Sox team ever (1932) and two other close “rivals” (1948 and 1970).
Just 16 games ago, the 2018 White Sox were on track to become the worst White Sox team in history. Today? There’s a new leader in the clubhouse!
1948 White Sox ⚾️ 23-45-1 ⚾️ 54-107-1 pace ⚾️ 8th (last) place, AL ⚾️ 191⁄2GB ⚾️ Actual 162-game finish: 53-107-2
The team that would end up with the second-worst winning percentage in White Sox history has taken the “lead” through 69 games. The 1948 Pale Hose lost 10-2 on July 7, 1948 against Bob Feller and Cleveland, in a night game at Cleveland Stadium. The White Sox touched Bullet Bob for two runs in the top of the first — Don Kolloway and Dave Philley singled to start the game, and with two outs Taffy Wright singled to score them — and no more.
Pretty good, huh, two runs straight away against Bullet Bob? Sure. One problem: Cleveland rallied right back for six runs in its half of the first. Not sure if manager Ted Lyons was extra tough on his starters, given his greatness on the mound, but he wasn’t fooling around in this game: Lyons yanked starter Earl Caldwell just seven batters into the game. To be fair, Caldwell retired just one batter, surrendering five singles, a walk and four runs in the process. Feller would go the distance and even his record at 9-9, with five walks, six Ks, eight hits and a 64 game score.
One strange play, with the game already out of hand, benefited the White Sox: In the bottom of the eighth, Joe Gordon led off with a walk and was doubled off of first base by White Sox left fielder Pat Seerey. How, with no one out and the play in front of him, was Gordon could be doubled off of first base, from left field?
2018 White Sox ⚾️ 24-45 ⚾️56-106 pace ⚾️ 4th (of 5) place, AL Central ⚾️ 12 GB
Game 69 came at home, which has been a house of horrors for the White Sox when the Detroit Tigers are in town. Chicago fell to 0-5 on the season while hosting Detroit, which is mounting an improbable pitch to take the AL Central in a “rebuilding” year. The Bengals undoubtedly will be sending the White Sox a thank-you note if all ends up well, given Chicago’s uncommon hospitality. On June 16, the White Sox rallied to tie the game, 5-5, in the sixth inning. But Chicago’s shoddy defense and inconsistent relief pitching pushed Detroit ahead 7-5 in the eighth, a score that would hold.
1932 White Sox ⚾️ 25-44 ⚾️ 59-103 pace ⚾️ 7th (of 8) place, AL ⚾️ 221⁄2GB ⚾️ Actual 162-game finish: 53-109
In 1932, the last season before the establishment of an All-Star Game and thus an All-Star break, Game 69 came in the middle of a quirk of scheduling. It was the first game of a July 4 doubleheader, which in itself isn’t bizarre. What is strange is that the doubleheader was the only home date the White Sox had in more than three weeks — a stretch that had them playing 22 of 24 games on the road. Also strange: The Sox hit the rails from St. Louis after their game on July 3, played a doubleheader at Comiskey Park on July 4, and then had two days off and didn’t play again until a July 7 doubleheader in Philadelphia.
Anyhow, the White Sox lost Game 1 of the July 4 twinbill vs. Cleveland, 4-2, but gained a split by taking the nightcap, 2-1, behind Lyons. In the Game 69 loss, Wes Ferrell handcuffed Chicago with a complete game win, striking out three and surrendering just seven hits, for a 67 game score. Milt Gaston pitched well for the White Sox in the loss, going eight innings but dropping to 3-7 on the season. The entire doubleheader took just three hours and 26 minutes.
1970 White Sox ⚾️ 25-44 ⚾️ 59-103 pace ⚾️ 5th (of 6) place, AL West ⚾️ 19 GB ⚾️ Actual 162-game finish: 56-106
In 1970, Game 69 was the nightcap of a doubleheader loss against the California Angels, in front of 38,956 out at Anaheim Stadium on June 24. Mel Queen and Eddie Fisher held the White Sox to two hits in the game, a single from Syd O’Brien and a double from Duane Josephson. Bill Melton fast fact: In 1969 and 1970, his second third years in the league, Beltin’ split his time between the outfield and the hot corner, and in this game, Melton played right field. Sox starter Barry Moore had a quality start, but it’s hard to win when your offense puts up two hits; Moore fell to 3-7. For the doubleheader overall, the White Sox scored just two runs and had a total of five hits.
[For the 1932 and 1948 teams, records are extrapolated from 154 to 162 games.]
Was there anything about Saturday’s game that differed from Friday’s loss?
Sure, there were some minor details, a two-run loss today vs. one yesterday, day game vs. night game … bottom-line difference, the Detroit Tigers ended the game a smidge closer to first place than last night, after spending Saturday beating the White Sox for the fifth time in five tries in Chicago.
But overall, it was the same depressing, get behind early, rally to tie, blow it late formula that has marked far too many games this season for the White Sox.
The 7-5 loss featured a bigger struggle from the starter, Lucas Giolito, than we saw last night from Reynaldo López.
Giolito started out well enough, pitching a scoreless couple of innings that were matched by Detroit starter Jordan Zimmermann.
In the third, Giolito had two another two outs in his pocket when he walked leadoff man Leonys Martin on four pitches. On camera, it seemed like Giolito was getting squeezed by home plate umpire Cory Blaser, and if my memory serves, there was an exaggerated pause from the hurler after ball two. But it seems that Gameday exonerates the man in blue:
Anyhow, with Matt Davidson holding a basestealing threat in Martin on first base, Jeimer Candelario’s routine grounder became a seeing-eye single between Yoán Moncada and Davidson, putting runners at the corners. Nicholas Castellanos then golfed a 1-0, center-cut two-seamer into the bullpen in right field for a 3-0 lead that piled up so fast it left Giolito with whiplash.
Castellanos would sting Giolito again in the fifth, for a two-run homer, this time to left. The young righthander’s final line was doleful: 5 1⁄3 innings, five earned, six hits, two walks, six Ks, 35 game score.
To his credit, Giolito hung in long enough for the White Sox to get him off the hook for the loss.
In the sixth, José Abreu hit a sacrifice fly, bringing in Yolmer Sánchez with the tying run.
Alas, the lead would not last. Jace Fry pitched a perfect seventh, but gave up a leadoff single to Victor Martinez in the eighth that brought the hook. Unfortunately for Fry, he was replaced by Bruce Rondón, who wasn’t too sharp today.
Victor Reyes pinch-ran for Martinez, and for anyone who thinks speed is a minor factor in today’s game, check yourself. Rondón, distracted by Reyes as a basestealing threat, walked John Hicks on four pitches, and those pitches weren’t close. Next, JaCoby Jones popped up a sac bunt intended to push Reyes and Hicks to second and third, a pop that Rondón could not squeeze in his glove for the putout; base hit, sacks packed.
By whiffing Grayson Greiner, Rondón set up a potential inning-ending double play. But instead, it was time for someone else in Chicago pinstripes to muck things up, and as has been the case all too often of late, it was Moncada.
What is generously scored a José Igelsias RBI single in the box score was a lazy Baltimore chop, bouncing straight up the middle and eminently-playable. Rod Allen of Detroit’s broadcasting team was adamant Moncada had no play, and with due respect, Allen is full of it:
Sure, Moncada’s momentum is carrying him away from home plate, but like Abreu’s bobble at first base last night, Moncada tried to throw the ball before he had it in hand. A relatively easy force out at home became an eventual game-losing “base hit.”
Rattled, or whatever, Rondón walked pinch-hitter Niko Goodrum on four pitches to extend the lead to two, after which Xavier Cedeño relieved Rondón before the flabby fireballer self-immolated on the mound.
Cedeño, who has been murderous since his call-up, took just eight pitches to whiff both Martin and Candelario; the lefty has struck out eight of the 14 batters he’s faced since joining the team.
Chicago could not mount another comeback, failing to reach base in the eighth and ninth. Shane Greene was called on by manager Ron Gardenhire for the fourth straight game, pitching the ninth to earn his 19th save.
Kevan Smith was the only White Sox player with more than one hit, going 2-for-4 and raising his average to .433.