White Sox

Sox Drawer: Robin ready to rock


Sox Drawer: Robin ready to rock

By now youve likely heard the criticisms of Robin Ventura managing the Chicago White Sox. Hes heard them too. Theyre tough to ignore.

One, hes never managed. Two, hes never even coached.

Well, thats not entirely true. Two years ago, Ventura actually was a coach -- at the White Sox Fantasy Baseball Camp in Glendale, Ariz.

People say that Ventura doesnt have a sharp tongue like Ozzie Guillen? Heres what Robin said when I asked him about his rag-tag team of seniors who paid thousands of dollars to play in the camp, but couldnt win a game.

We were terrible," he said. "We were not just no good. We were terrible.

So if Ventura couldnt inspire a collection of athletically challenged baseball players between the ages of 40 and 70, what makes him think he can suddenly lead a real major league team, and into the playoffs no less?

Well for one, the fantasy campers couldnt catch. They couldnt catch or even hit, so I was at a disadvantage from the start, Ventura said laughing. Now I feel like I have a foot in the right direction with the squad that we have here.

But lets not kid ourselves. That foot has an extremely large shoe to fill.

Hes taking over for Guillen, who might be long gone in Miami, but his voice is still echoing at U.S. Cellular Field. His words were so memorable, theyre permanently embedded in the rafters.

Guillen also won a World Series title for the White Sox, the only manager alive who can say that.

But while they are both vastly different on the surface, Ventura and Guillen are almost twins when it comes to their approaches to the game. Theyre cut from the same cloth, brought up in a White Sox organization that stressed the importance of playing the game one way -- the right way.

There are parts of baseball that Ozzie and I both had instilled in us early in our careers that are very similar in the way we do things here, Ventura said in an interview following his Tuesday press conference. We do appreciate guys who play hard and we expect that. Theres no other way around it.

Ventura might have the look of a laid-back surfer who would prefer to hang 10 than to play nine, but inside that belly of his is a competitive fire that burns, and has been known to boil. Just ask some of his former teammates, like Frank Thomas, who not only heard but felt the wrath of Ventura when he believed they werent giving 100 percent of themselves to the team.

I took it personally when guys didnt come out and do what they were supposed to or back a teammate or play hard as theyre supposed to, Ventura said. And thats something that our team is going to understand about me. Im going to come every day with the same attitude, the same personality. Whats expected is not going to be a shock.

Speaking to reporters last week, Williams said that he wants Ventura to have his own voice, and to challenge the Sox GM whenever he feels necessary.

One day into the job, does Ventura have the comfort level to stand up to his boss when conflict arrives?

Youre going to have disagreements, Ventura said. It may not be like the same as the ones he had before with Guillen. But I have beliefs just like anybody else. Our staff is going to have beliefs. And thats going to be something that if I dont agree with something hes doing, Im going to tell him that. It doesnt mean Im going to scream and yell, but hes going to understand that I dont agree with whats going on.

The Detroit Tigers beat the White Sox by 16 games to win the Central Division. But that gap is nothing compared to the difference in experience between the two skippers. Jim Leyland has managed 1,716 games in his career; Ventura 0.

So when the fans and media criticize Ventura as being a managing neophyte whos in over his head, he understands where theyre coming from.

I get it. I totally get it, Ventura said about his lack of coaching experience. But just because they say it, doesnt mean its true.

Just ask anyone who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003 and 2004, Venturas last two seasons as a player in the big leagues. His teammates had a special nickname for him.

What was it?

It was ploach.

Which meant?

Player-coach, Ventura said modestly. I dont know if it was about my age. I was at the end of my career. I was the oldest guy on the team, but it stuck early in spring training and I had it for the whole year.

At the time, Ventura might not have seen himself as a manager, but everyone else did.

Of all the players I played with, he would be my No. 1 choice to manage a team, tweeted former Dodger teammate Shawn Green soon after Ventura was hired.

As for the perception that Ventura had to be talked into the job? First, that didnt happen and second, who in their right mind would sign up to be the White Sox new manager with all the pressure of replacing Guillen, dealing with the media pressure and taking over a struggling team if they werent 100 percent certain that they wanted the job, and felt deep down that they could succeed?

It wasnt like, Hey lets just take a shot at it, because no organization is going to go into a season and waste one full year on a guy who says, Well, lets see how it goes, said Ventura. Thats not how Im going into this. Im going to work hard until I get to spring training having everything I need to have ready to go.

For the last 20 years, it seems like wherever Ventura goes hes reminded of the infamous night when he charged the mound against Nolan Ryan and received a round of noogies to the head from the Hall of Fame pitcher. Coincidentally, Ventura will make his managerial debut next season in Texas, where Ryan is now the teams president.

Its going to be great, Ventura said, rolling his eyes. I think there might have been 500,000 people in the stadium when that happened because everyone says they were at the game.

Among those in attendance was a teenage ballplayer dreaming of the big leagues.

Paul Konerko was actually at that game, Ventura said.

How about that little nugget?

Konerko was with a traveling baseball team that got to meet the White Sox third baseman before the game.

What did Ventura talk to them about?


I guess you never know where life will take you. Ventura knows that ... from experience.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the New York Yankees?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the New York Yankees?

As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

What’s there to know about the New York Yankees?

You know how everybody always (usually jokingly) refers to “stacked” lineups as the ‘27 Yankees? Well, it might be time to change that to the ‘18 Yankees.

The Bronx Bombers did their nickname justice this winter, adding reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton and teaming him with Aaron Judge to form a power-hitting combo perhaps unseen since the Ruth-Gehrig glory days.

Now that’s not to suggest that Stanton and Judge are going to become two of the greatest baseball players in history. But it is to suggest that they’re going to strike fear into opposing pitchers, with plenty of prognosticators predicting a combined 100 homers for the duo. That’s not crazy, either, considering Stanton led baseball with 59 bombs a season ago, the highest single-season total in almost two decades, and in a runaway Rookie of the Year campaign, Judge crushed 52 homers to lead the American League.

So, you know, 59 plus 52. That’s more than 100.

And while Stanton and Judge take all the attention, the Yankees’ lineup is pretty darn good outside of those two guys, too. Gary Sanchez is one of baseball’s best offensive catchers and hit an only shabby-by-comparison 33 homers last season. Didi Gregorius has plenty of pop for a shortstop, and he smacked 25 homers last season. Brett Gardner had a strong 2017. And even two late-in-the-offseason additions to the infield, Neil Walker and Brandon Drury, form a better 8-9 combo than most teams in the AL.

There’s no need to start spreading the news, it’s already been spread: The Yankees have one of the best, most fearsome offenses in the game.

As for the pitching, well that ain’t half bad either. Luis Severino had a 2.98 ERA and 230 strikeouts last season. CC Sabathia had a 3.69 ERA in 27 starts. Midseason acquisition Sonny Gray had a 3.55 ERA on the year. Masahiro Tanaka almost hit the 200-strikeout plateau.

And that bullpen is outstanding. Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren formed as good a relief corps as you were likely to find in baseball last year.

Even with the division-rival Red Sox looking pretty good — and coming off a 93-win season — the Yanks will enter 2018 as the favorite in the always-competitive AL East. The question is how close they’ll come to being the favorite in the AL overall. The defending-champion Houston Astros still seem a hair ahead after besting the Yankees in last year’s ALCS. But the Bombers might have the preseason edge over the Cleveland Indians, especially after beating them in the playoffs last year.

Bottom line: The Yankees are really, really good. And don’t be surprised if you hear a lot of Billy Joel during the Fall Classic. "Some folks like to get away, take a holiday from the neighborhood ..."

2017 record: 91-71, second place in AL East, lost in ALCS

Offseason additions: Giancarlo Stanton, Neil Walker, Brandon Drury

Offseason departures: Todd Frazier, Jaime Garcia, Michael Pineda, Starlin Castro

X-factor: White Sox fans know how good Robertson and Kahnle were last season. Chapman and Betances are now household names as elite relief pitchers. But the best reliever of this whole group at the end of last season was Green, who finished the year with a 1.83 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 69 innings. Over his final 30 games, 47 innings, he had an even lower 1.53 ERA and 77 strikeouts. He allowed one run in September. And though he was roughed up a bit in his lone appearance against the Indians in the ALDS, he allowed just one unearned run in 6.1 innings against the Astros in the ALCS.

Projected lineup:

1. Brett Gardner, LF
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
4. Gary Sanchez, C
5. Didi Gregorius, SS
6. Aaron Hicks, CF
7. Greg Bird, 1B
8. Neil Walker, 2B
9. Brandon Drury, 3B

Projected rotation:

1. Luis Severino
2. Masahiro Tanaka
3. CC Sabathia
4. Sonny Gray
5. Jordan Montgomery

Prediction: First place in AL East

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies

Ryan Cordell goes to Triple-A as White Sox seemingly figure out center field situation


Ryan Cordell goes to Triple-A as White Sox seemingly figure out center field situation

The White Sox center field situation seems to have a solution.

Ryan Cordell was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte, the team announced Thursday, bringing his bid to make the Opening Day roster to an end.

Cordell had a nice spring in his first action since joining the White Sox organization in last summer's trade that sent reliever Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers. Cordell was injured after playing 68 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs last season, but he got some love from general manager Rick Hahn at this winter's SoxFest, with Hahn saying three teams had called the White Sox inquiring about the 25-year-old outfielder.

In 17 Cactus League games, Cordell slashed an impressive .317/.417/.512 with six extra-base hits, eight runs scored, eight RBIs, seven walks and only six strikeouts. That performance brought on the idea that Cordell could not only make the team out of camp but perhaps be the Opening Day center fielder, potentially beating out an improved Adam Engel for the job after Engel hit just .166 last season.

But Engel's spring numbers are even better than Cordell's. He's got a .364/.429/.682 slash line with four homers, 11 runs scored, eight RBIs and four walks. Plus, he's already well known as a strong defender in center after last season's impressive glove work. Spring stats don't mean much, but it's a good sign considering how ineffective Engel was at the plate last season.

With Thursday's news and Engel's impressive spring, it seems the White Sox have things figured out in center to start the season. Engel will likely be the starting center fielder, with utility man Leury Garcia an option there in a reserve role. Cordell and Charlie Tilson, who was sent to Charlotte earlier this spring, are sure get plenty of at-bats in the minors and could be called up should Engel struggle.

Both Engel and Cordell fall into the "see what you've got" category for the rebuilding White Sox. The future of the position figures to belong to highly touted prospect Luis Robert, who was reassigned to minor league camp along with pitchers Rob Scahill and Chris Volstad on Thursday, bringing the White Sox to 32 players in big league camp. But with the team not expected to contend in 2018, Engel has an extended opportunity to figure things out at the big league level. Should he struggle, someone like Cordell or Tilson could have a similar opportunity.