White Sox

Sox Drawer: The Buehrle goodbye

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Sox Drawer: The Buehrle goodbye

DALLAS -- On the last day of the regular season, Kenny Williams walked into the White Sox clubhouse seeking out Mark Buehrle. He gave him a hug to say goodbye.

Is this goodbye, goodbye? Mark asked.

No, its just goodbye, Williams said.

At the time, there was still hope that the White Sox would find a way to bring Buehrle back to the White Sox.

Chicago was his home. It held his heart. The White Sox were all he knew.

But when the window opened for teams to contact free agents, the Marlins came calling -- so did the Nationals, Rangers and almost half of the teams in the major leagues. Everyone wanted Buehrle -- even the Cubs -- and yes, so did the White Sox, but there was nothing they could do about it.

Well, almost nothing.

I knew what we could have done, Williams told reporters Wednesday night. Wed have to go to the ATM about 56 million times. Thats assuming we can get a dollar out of it.

Blame it on bad timing.

In 2010 at the Winter Meetings, the White Sox had money to spend. Weve heard the phrase a zillion times. They were All In. However, in 2011 when it comes to free agents, its exactly the opposite.

"All Out." Just like the Marlins were for the last several years. Not this year.

In terms of payroll, both teams are headed in different directions. The White Sox are low on money, the Marlins are apparently printing it -- spending lavishly on Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell -- so far.

For Mark, it was never about the money. According to a source close to him, he likely would have given the White Sox a hometown discount as long as the offer was fair. Yet when Buehrles agent, Jeff Berry, contacted Williams on Wednesday night to inform him of the 4-year, 58 million dollar deal with Miami, the end of his White Sox career became official.

It was goodbye, goodbye.

They came to us and told us exactly what he had in front of him, Williams said. And we simply said, Congratulations, we wish you well, and thank you. You will forever be in our hearts. Theres nothing we can do about it.

Buehrle has easily been one of the most popular players on the team for the last decade, so the decision to let him leave will certainly not go over well with White Sox fans.

I asked Williams how he thinks theyll react to the news.

I think people are going to be just as unhappy as I am, said the Sox GM. Listen, given my druthers I would rather have him here than not. Two words probably sum it up best, It sucks. But this is part of sports, part of business. Your favorite players and my favorite players will come and go.

Most athletes dont have trouble switching teams or leagues. It happens all the time. However, Mark is different. Hes about as straight and narrow as they come. All along, he was hoping his career would stay on the same path. But now its headed on a big detour, one that has him reuniting with Ozzie Guillen.

Buehrle told his longtime manager that he had serious reservations about leaving the White Sox, even though all the signs pointed to him not coming back.

One of the first conversations we had he said I dont know how Im going to handle it, going to a new city and new spring training, Guillen said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet after the news broke. I said you are going to handle it easy wearing a Marlins uniform because I'm going to be there, and Joey Cora going to be there, and he knows the way we work. But it was very hard. I know for a fact that he feels kind of funny leaving the ballclub. But this is part of the game. I told him dont blame Kenny, dont blame Jerry Reinsdorf. I think they go in a different direction. Mark decided to play somewhere else. Thats the way it was meant to be.

Wednesday night, Guillen flew back to, of all places, Chicago. He and his wife recently built a home in the city, and despite managing in Miami, he plans on living in Chicago in the winters. He said he doesnt want to leave. Why? Well, hes Ozzie, and he still loves Chicago -- apparently even when its 5-below zero.

And if you happen to live near Guillen, you might see him around the neighborhood on Thursday morning, and a lot more than normal.

I will walk my dog three times to see what they say about Mark. It will be pretty interesting to see what they say.

Memo to Ozzie: theyre not going to be happy.

So now the White Sox move on without one of their longtime centerpieces, a guy who pitched a perfect game, a no-hitter, won a World Series ring, as well as the hearts and minds of every White Sox fan from Beverly to Burr Ridge, Palos Hills to Park Forest.

Can they replace him? We know better.

You cant.

For me to stand here and say that somebody is going to take that mantle and be Mark Buehrle? Mark Buehrle is Mark Buehrle. Hes a unique person, Williams said. I just told the Marlins ownership, I said, Youve got one hell of a pitcher, but let me tell you, youve got a better person.

One of the best players, and one of the best people this sportscaster has ever covered or ever met.

Chicago, I feel your pain.

Robinson Cano sees superstar potential in Yoan Moncada

Robinson Cano sees superstar potential in Yoan Moncada

The greats know greatness.

Looking across the field this week at Yoan Moncada, 8-time All-Star Robinson Cano not only saw a lot of himself in the White Sox second baseman, he believes he was witnessing a future baseball star. 

“I can see a guy who’s going to be a superstar in this game,” Cano said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “He can field, he can throw, he can hit. In the first game against us, he was a hit away from the cycle. He can hit right now. Imagine when he’s in the league two or three years and is facing the same guys for the last couple years. Then you have a different approach. The guy that I see, you just got to give it time and keep working hard because I think he’ll be a superstar.”

Cano had heard the comparisons between himself and Moncada, but until this week, he had never seen his protege play baseball in person.

The two of them hadn’t even met until Monday when they encountered each other at of all places—second base. Moncada had just doubled for his second hit of the night. That gave Cano a close look at the swing that happens to be identical to his.

“I was watching that the other day on second base and I was like, ‘Wow, it’s the same swing,’” Cano said.

Growing up in Cuba, Moncada idolized Cano. He didn’t just play the same position and copy his swing, he wore Cano’s jersey number and even named his son after him.

“It’s something you can’t describe because as a player it’s the first time that’s happened where you see a player name their kid after you,” Cano said.

Despite their similarities, Cano admits there are some differences that favor the young Moncada.

Who hits the ball harder?

“I would say him. He’s stronger.”

And speed?

“He’s got something I never have. He can run. I was slow, always.”

Moncada’s biggest problem right now is strikeouts. He has 38 this season, second most in baseball. Cano, who has only 14, provided some advice for Moncada.

“The only thing I can give him for that is making the game simple and try not to swing so hard,” Cano explained. "The thing is when we swing too hard and try to hit a homer, we chase pitches. When you try to stay simple, try to make contact and use the whole field that’s when you can minimize the strikeout.”

Cano was 22 in his rookie season. Moncada is currently 23. A player’s first few seasons in the majors is mainly about learning and maturing, which Moncada is essentially doing every time he comes to the plate. Often times his talent just takes over like it did on Wednesday when he homered in the first pitch he saw against Felix Hernandez. After that, he struck out three times.

Moncada’s offensive game has so far been quite boom or bust. Over time that should level out. When it does, look out. 

In the meantime, more wisdom from Cano:

“Sometimes as a kid, you want to go out and all you think is about putting out numbers compared to playing the game that you know how to play. You need to let the numbers come to themselves, not try to get a hit every time, or I’ve got to hit a homer or want to swing hard. Just go out and try to win a game.”

Cano didn’t learn this on his own. It helped having former Yankees teammates like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield show him not just how to play, but how to win.

“When you have someone who can help you in this game, that’s the best thing to happen to a player,” Cano said. “When someone can be there for you and say, “In this situation I think you’re wrong.’ Someone who can tell you something you don’t want to hear.”

For Moncada, one of those players right now is Jose Abreu.

“Having a guy like (Abreu) who can help is good especially since they’re from the same country.”

At one point during Wednesday’s game, Moncada and Cano crossed paths between innings. They smiled at each other before going their separate ways. Cano to second base where the 35 year-old is in the twilight of his career. Moncada to the White Sox dugout where most of his career awaits.

“He’s going to be great in this game,” Cano said about Moncada. “He just needs to stay healthy and keep working hard. People don’t realize that this game is more about time.”

That was Cano's way of saying: be patient White Sox fans. A "superstar" is here. His time will come.

White Sox record isn't pretty, but Yoan Moncada has provided a shiny silver lining of late

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USA TODAY

White Sox record isn't pretty, but Yoan Moncada has provided a shiny silver lining of late

The silver linings aren’t always a joy to find during this rebuilding season. “Well, at least …” can become a somewhat tired refrain as the White Sox sit at 5-16.

But that’s the reality for the rebuilding White Sox, for whom brighter days surely lie ahead. The stocked farm system keeps delivering news of prospect achievements, and the young players at the major league level are providing their own positive signs for the years that are coming.

The South Siders wrapped a 1-5 homestand Wednesday afternoon with their second straight one-run defeat to the visiting Seattle Mariners. They only had one hit after the third and saw the last 13 hitters go down in order. James Shields walked four more guys to bring his season total to 17 in six appearances. The White Sox starting staff leads the majors with 65 free passes issued.

Well, at least … 

Wednesday, it was Yoan Moncada’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the first, a ball that was absolutely crushed into the right-field seats. The distance and power were strong signs for a player expected to be at the center of all that future success. But perhaps of greater note to those who have watched his still-nascent big league career was the fact that the homer came on the first pitch Felix Hernandez threw, a departure from the long at-bats Moncada has been famous for working in his first two seasons on the South Side.

But perhaps it’s just as strong a showing of his hitter’s eye that he was able to do what he did with that first pitch.

“I was trying to be aggressive in that at-bat, swing at the first pitch,” Moncada said. “It was a good pitch for me, and I put the barrel on the ball and made good contact. That was it.”

Moncada, to add luster to this silver lining, has been mashing of late. In the last nine games, Moncada is slashing .333/.421/.848 with eight extra-base hits, four home runs, eight RBIs and eight runs scored. His five home runs rank second on the team, behind only Jose Abreu. And he's just two days removed from coming a single short of the cycle in Monday's win. Yes, he’s also struck out 14 times in the nine-game span, a constant concern for a guy who’s right around the major league lead in punch outs. But he’s also drawn five walks and stolen four bases.

Yes, the White Sox went 1-8 in those contests. But if the 2018 campaign is about developing the players who will power future contenders, then this recent surge by Moncada, one of the rebuild’s biggest stars, ought to please the front office and fans alike who have bought in to the rebuild but remain eager for the strategy to translate into big league success.

“As experience and time give him more opportunity to gain more knowledge of himself and the opponent, and what he’s capable of doing, he’s barely scratching the surface of who he is,” manager Rick Renteria said. “There’s no way that any of us believe in any way, shape or form that he’s a finished product. He continues to develop his skill set, continues to learn, make adjustments as do most players, but one as young as he is, with the skill set he brings to the table, you hope that it ultimately winds up playing really big dividends, which I believe we expect that in the near future.”

“I agree with Ricky,” Moncada said. “I also think that I’m just in the learning process. It’s step by step. I think that I have a lot of talent and I can be a much better player overall. I agree with him. It’s just a process. I try to improve and get better every day.”

An interesting question might be how many leadoff home runs Moncada will have a chance to hit when the oft-projected 2020 lineup takes full shape. Moncada was seemingly entrenched in the leadoff spot when this season began, though Renteria has already moved him out of that spot against left-handers, opting instead to put Tim Anderson at the top of the lineup. Moncada’s got just one hit in only four at-bats outside the leadoff spot, more an indication of his struggles against lefties, against whom he’s batting .130 with 12 strikeouts in 23 at-bats.

Though with his increased power display in the last week and a half, it sparks curiosities of Moncada being more of a middle-of-the-order bat than one that is parked at the top for the remainder of his career.

“He has an extremely good eye,” Renteria said. “Right now, as you see, we’ve mixed and matched him with Timmy now the last two or three days maybe to give him the best chance to have the most positive outcomes possible. We know that right now against righties, he’s very, very good. And right now he’s working on improving his approaches against left-handed pitchers. Seems to me the last couple of days he’s shown some pretty good signs against lefties in his at-bats, contact, swings, approach, and so we’re going to try to continue to develop whatever we need to do in order to maximize the confidence he can gain and the opportunities he gets in any situation.

“And then at some point, I’m sure it will be defined as to what he is ultimately from both sides of the plate and if he’s going to be ultimately a leadoff hitter from both sides of the plate against anybody. His eye says to me that he’s capable of doing that. But sometimes you want to give him the best matchup and you also want to, within the construct of the lineup that you have and the guys that you have, maximize what those guys are capable of doing.”

Moncada and the White Sox both have a long way to go until they transform from 5-16 to the planned contender this rebuilding effort is supposed to yield. But if this season is about anything at the big league level, it’s about Moncada’s development. It’s a small sample size, yes, but of late, Moncada has shown some signs of a guy who could be one of the reasons the South Siders are contending one day.