White Sox

Former White Sox Ken Griffey Jr. elected to HOF, Tim Raines inches closer

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Former White Sox Ken Griffey Jr. elected to HOF, Tim Raines inches closer

One former White Sox outfielder set a new Hall of Fame election record on Wednesday while another moved closer to enshrinement.

Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame after he received 99.3 percent of the vote. Griffey Jr., who played 41 games for the White Sox in 2008 when they won the American League Central, was named on all but three of the 440 ballots in his bid to become the first player unanimously elected.

Meanwhile, Tim Raines, who played for the White Sox from 1991-95, moved significantly closer to an induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y. as he received a personal-high 69.8 percent (307 of 440) of the vote.

Raines, who only has one year of eligibility left, saw an increase just shy of 15 percent after he received 55.0 in 2015. A seven-time All-Star, Raines is fifth all-time in career stolen bases and is 71st among all position players in Wins Above Replacement (69.1), according to baseball-reference.com.

Raines took to Twitter to express his gratitude to the BBWAA for considering his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Raines is headed into his final year of candidacy in 2017 after a rule change prior to the 2015 election. Whereas players used to remain on the ballot for up to 15 years, the Hall of Fame altered the rules so that current eligible candidates only had 10 years. Players who were already in years 11-15, a group that included Alan Trammell, Jack Morris and Lee Smith, were grandfathered in.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The change meant that Raines, who first became eligible for the HOF in 2008, only had three more chances at election. Raines, who produced 16.0 WAR in five seasons with the White Sox, received 24.3 percent of the votes in his first year of eligibility. He has since jumped up — and inexplicably down twice — in the last eight years. Raines received 22.6 percent in 2009, 30.4 in 2010, 37.5 in 2011, 48.7 in 2012, 52.2 in 2013 and 46.1 in 2014.

The case for Raines — who finished with a career on-base percentage of .385 and OPS of .810 — has gained traction over the years. He finished fourth in the 2016 voting process. Jeff Bagwell improved his chances as well with a 71.6-percent showing, about 15 votes shy of the 75-percent mark to gain entry. Mike Piazza received 83 percent.

Griffey — who hit three of his 630 homers with the White Sox after he was acquired on July 31, 2008 from Cincinnati — broke Tom Seaver’s record for highest percentage of votes received. In 1992, Seaver received 98.84 of the vote. The Kid is also the first-ever No. 1 overall pick to be elected into the Hall of Fame.

Closer Trevor Hoffman received 67.3 percent in his first year of eligibility. Curt Schilling received 52.3 percent while Roger Clemens increased to 45.2 and Barry Bonds to 44.3.

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: