White Sox

The Robin Ventura-Nolan Ryan fight story you haven't heard

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The Robin Ventura-Nolan Ryan fight story you haven't heard

This story was originally published on CSNChicago.com on March 2, 2012. Today marks the 22-year anniversary of the Robin Ventura-Nolan Ryan fight.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Aug. 4, 1993, might have been just one day on the calendar, but for Robin Ventura, it's a date he wont be able to escape for the rest of his life.

It was on this fateful evening that a 26-year-old Ventura charged the mound in Arlington, Texas against 46-year-old Rangers pitcher Nolan Ryan, who proceeded to hammer Ventura with an embarrassing array of noogie shots to his head. Even if Ventura had gone on to hit the game-winning home run in a World Series, he might not have been able to top the visuals of this chaotic and surreal melee, easily one of the greatest in baseball history.

"I think there might have been 500,000 people in the stadium when that happened, because everyone says they were at that game," Ventura said about the play that has been replayed so many times, it probably belongs in the Hall of Fame along with Nolan Ryan himself.

That summer, the U.S. Junior Olympic baseball team spent two weeks training in Tyler, Texas. It was a squad comprised of players either going into their senior years in high school or recent draftees who had just graduated.

The day of the game, the team made the two-hour bus ride to Arlington to watch the Rangers play the White Sox. They arrived early to watch batting practice. Afterwards, they were led into the tunnel near the visiting clubhouse where they were introduced to the one and only Robin Ventura.

"We all had our USA garb on, and lo and behold Robin comes out because he was an ex-USA baseball player," remembers a certain player on that team. "He gave us a little pep talk and said hello."

This young ballplayer hoped to follow in Ventura's footsteps. He didnt just want to make it to the major leagues, he wanted to excel at the sport and play the game right. Ventura was a perfect example of this type of ballplayer; a model citizen who probably drank milk and called his mother every day — or at least that was the image of Ventura at the time.

Well, that was until the game started.

It was just a brief meeting, but Robin made an impression on the team, and specifically on that one player who would eventually fulfill his dream of baseball, later becoming one of the game's biggest stars.

Who was he?

None other than Paul Konerko.

It was a chance meeting that Konerko remembers vividly. Ventura...not so much.

"I don't remember it all," Ventura said. "Apparently, I was talking to a U.S. team, an amateur team about sportsmanship. Things went a little haywire in the game."

Did they ever.

"They probably just grabbed him and he didn't even know what it was, and he came out said hello, said hi, good luck guys, and that kind of stuff," said Konerko. "Two hours later, there's a riot on the field that he caused."

The White Sox and Rangers hadn't been getting along at the time. Alex Fernandez plunked Texas slugger Juan Gonzalez the inning before. If Ryan wanted to retaliate (as he often did), Ventura was the logical target because his single in the first inning gave the Sox a 1-0 lead. But even before the game began (right around the time he met with the young Olympians about sportsmanship), Ventura told his teammates that if he got hit, he was going to charge the mound no matter who was out there.

Watching the brawl unfold from the left field bleachers was a stunned Konerko.

Did seeing Ventura go after one of the best, most respected players in the game change his opinion of him?

Nope. The opposite.

"That made me think nothing less of him, only more because anybody who's going to charge Nolan Ryan, you gotta have..."

Konerko paused for a few seconds, trying to find the right word he can use on family television. Then one popped in his head.

"You gotta have some guts, let's just put it that way."

Ventura fighting Ryan, as crazy as it was, made him a hero to his White Sox teammates. Now a 14-year veteran himself, its an attitude Konerko loves to see in a clubhouse.

"That gives you ultimate respect in this game if you say, 'Hey this guy throws at me a lot or he throws at our team a lot, if he hits me, I'm gone. Be ready.' That's ultimate respect in the fact that he followed up on his word," Konerko said.

Ventura was ejected, but Ryan, for some inexplicable reason, was able to stay in the game.

"And I remember for every inning after that, the whole place was chanting 'Nolan' for what seemed like an hour long," Konerko said. "It was an electric-type atmosphere after that happened."

When the Olympic coaches thought of taking their players to a baseball game, this was not exactly the kind of experience they probably had in mind. So what kind of effect did the fight have on those young, impressionable minds?

"Obviously, one guy became a major-leaguer so it must have been pretty good," Ventura said, laughing.

And now as fate would have it, where does Ventura make his White Sox managing debut on Opening Day? Texas. And who's the president of the Rangers? Nolan Ryan.

Somewhere out there, the person who makes out the MLB schedule is giggling profusely.

"They'll get all hopped up on it, but I'm not playing," Ventura said about what the fan reaction will likely be. "It's not going to affect me as far as winning or losing the game. I'm more concerned about how we do in the game than about getting booed or somebody yelling at you. I mean, that's been happening for years."

It follows Ventura wherever he goes.

"He makes a joke out of it," Konerko said. "Whenever he's in a public setting, they have a pool going. How long is it going to take for the Ventura-Ryan fight to get brought up? He just knows that people are always going to say, What about Nolan Ryan?"

While Ventura says that 500,000 fans claim they were in attendance that night, the official number is 32,312. Paul Konerko will always be able to say that he was one of them.

"There have been a million fights in the game and all that, but with Nolan Ryan, it's just a legendary moment in the game that will always be," Konerko said, "so I'm happy and proud to say that I was there for it."

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

The 2017-18 baseball offseason continues to be, well, the 2017-18 baseball offseason, even with spring training games being played in Arizona and Florida.

A bunch of names remain on the free-agent market, including All-Star players who thought they would be in for big multi-year contracts. But as teams continue to deny the wishes of guys who expected to get big deals, the suggestion that those players might end up needing to take one-year offers if they want to play during the 2018 season is becoming a more common talking point.

So with potential bargains to be had for some pretty big-name players, do the White Sox jump into the waters and try to lock up a potential future piece on the cheap? Though they aren’t expected to contend this season, the White Sox have been mentioned in a pair of recent reports surrounding a pair of All-Star position players: Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi wrote last week that the White Sox are a potential fit for Moustakas, who has sat and watched as former Kansas City Royals teammate Eric Hosmer received a huge contract from the San Diego Padres. Moustakas set a new Royals record last season with 38 home runs but has yet to find a team.

The White Sox, connected to Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado earlier this offseason, seem to have a current big leaguer or highly ranked prospect locked into almost every position on the diamond for the foreseeable future, but third base isn't necessarily one of them. Jake Burger was last year’s top draft pick, though there’s speculation he could slide over to first base. The team still envisions him as a big league third baseman, for what it’s worth.

Moustakas is 29 and already has seven big league seasons under his belt, including a pair of All-Star appearances and a pair of trips to the World Series, including the Crowns’ championship back in 2015. His 38 homers and 85 RBIs in 2017 were both career highs. He slashed .272/.314/.521, the final of those three numbers the best mark of his career.

Moustakas has rarely hit for average or reached base at too high a clip, though those recent power numbers would be intriguing at a hitter-friendly park like Guaranteed Rate Field, where he has 10 career dingers, 26 career RBIs and a .249/.308/.456 career slash line as a visitor.

Certainly Moustakas would be a buzz-worthy addition, and if the White Sox could get him for a good value thanks to this slow-moving market, that adds incentive to bring him aboard. A short contract would have even more incentive for the rebuilding White Sox, who would have the option to either sign him to a long-term deal or deal him away in a deadline deal depending on his immediate production levels.

But for fans hoping the White Sox will spend big on a third baseman in one of the next two offseasons — Machado is a free agent next winter, and Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado is set to hit the market the winter after next — slotting in an outside addition at the hot corner now could impact those plans.

Gonzalez is a completely different story, a three-time All Star during his 10-year big league career who is just three seasons removed from a 40-homer campaign in 2015. The 32-year-old Gonzalez also has a trio of Gold Gloves to go along with his 215 career home runs. FanRag’s Jon Heyman listed the White Sox as a possible landing spot for CarGo this weekend.

But his walk year in Colorado was not a very good one by his standards. In 136 games for a Rockies team that ended up in the playoffs, he slashed .262/.339/.423, all those averages way down from his usual level of production. And his power numbers plummeted to 14 homers and 57 RBIs after he combined for 65 homers and 197 RBIs in 2015 and 2016.

The good news for the White Sox is that down year makes Gonzalez far more affordable. Should he command only a one-year contract, the White Sox could take a flier, stick him in the outfield — which still has an unresolved spot with few strong offensive options for center field — and trade him should he bounce back in a big way. Or, at 32, perhaps he’s a guy the White Sox could opt to keep around should he prove valuable and the rebuild continues to move along ahead of schedule.

Gonzalez seems the less risky move at this point, as Moustakas could still be looking for a multi-year contract. But the White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility and flexibility in their decision-making should they add either guy and he proves worthy of a midseason deal or a long-term look.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.