White Sox

What to watch for in the BP Crosstown Cup opening series

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What to watch for in the BP Crosstown Cup opening series

Heading into this weekend's installment of the BP Crosstown Cup at Wrigley Field, Cubs Talk blogger Tony Andracki and White Sox Talk blogger JJ Stankevitz break down what to watch for in the next three games:

JJ: Well, the White Sox haven't won a series since sweeping Seattle from April 20-21. Since then, they're 0-5-3. In the last few years, pitching has carried the White Sox against the Cubs, but this year, that doesn't seem to be the case, right?

Tony: Yeah, thats true, but part of the reason the Sox pitched so well against the Cubs was because they were led by Mark Buehrle, whose dominance of the NL included the Cubs. He is no longer a part of this serious, however. Pitching definitely a key for the Cubs, though. The starting pitching on the North side of town has been unbelievable this year, while the bullpen has leftquite a bit to be desired. There are so many guys in the White Sox offense struggling to hit their weight, so the Cubs starting trio of Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm and Jeff Samardzija could dominate. But then again, if the Sox are able to get into the Cubs bullpen

JJ: That's the key here. Dempster and Samardzija have been outstanding, and the Sox have really struggled against lefties before beating up on a wild CJ Wilson Thursday. The good news for the Sox is that Dayan Viciedo looks like he's starting to come around, but he may sit the first two games in favor of Adam Dunn -- who absolutely has to be in the lineup -- in left field. Also, don't sleep on Gordon Beckham having a big series -- while the numbers don't show it, he's shown more signs of life at the plate in May than you may think. Who's someone on the Cubs who could be primed for a big series who we may not expect?

Tony: Ian Stewart and Alfonso Soriano. Everybody will be focusing on the Cubs' 1-2 punch of Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair. But Stewart has shown signs of life lately and has looked rather comfortable at the plate for the most part over the past week or so. Part of his problem is just how unlucky he's been. He just keeps hitting balls hard, just right at defenders. As for Soriano, he may be in one of those stretches he gets into from time to time. He is no longer at the point where he can single-handedly carry a club, but he can still be a driving force behind guys like Castro and LaHair. The advantage the Cubs hold in this series at Wrigley is the White Sox will have to play Dunn in the field and lose out on one of their everyday bats. Is that a good or bad thing for the South Siders?

JJ: Dayan Viciedo has eight hits in his last 16 at-bats with three home runs and only one strikeout, so I suppose parking him on the bench for Friday and Saturday's games isn't a good thing. But it's far more important to keep Dunn in the lineup against Dempster and Samardzija, and I imagine Viciedo will get to pinch-hit at some point in both games he doesn't start. The problem here is that the White Sox lineup may have to generate quite a bit of support for the starting rotation, namely John Danks, who has really struggled this year. Philip Humber finally put together his first good start since throwing his perfect game and Gavin Floyd was torched by the Angels on Tuesday, so maybe those two guys are toss-ups, too. For a lineup that's struggled to score at times this season, a bad start by any of those guys could be big trouble for the Sox. But then again, the Sox have historically been outstanding in interleague play, so maybe this is all overblown. Got a prediction for the series?

Tony: Yeah, I see the Cubs taking two of three games in this series. I think they'll win both the Samardzija and Dempster starts, but lose the game Maholm starts. Dempster is finally going to get his first win of 2012, at the hands of the crosstown rivals. I think all three games will be close, though. As you said the White Sox offense has been struggling of late so a bad start could doom the team, but the same can be said for the Cubs all year. This Cubs team will fight tooth and nail, but their offense just isn't a powerhouse, even if they have been swinging the bats better of late. What are you thinking for this series?

JJ: I like the pitching matchups for the Cubs, plus as I said earlier the White Sox haven't won any of their last eight series. I'll say they win the opener behind a good outing from Philip Humber, but won't be able to get to Samardzija or Maholm in the next two games. That being said, I'm looking forward to a few new chapters in this series being written. Everyone remembers the Pierzynski-Barrett brawl, but how about Carlos Lee and Jose Valentin walking off against Courtney Duncan and El Pulpo? Or Pierzynski belting a grand slam into the teeth of a stiff wind five years ago at Wrigley? Or Ray Durham hitting a 14th-inning walk-off single? Those are just a few from a South Side perspective -- what are some of your favorite moments?
Tony: June 20, 2008. That's what stands out the most. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez went back-to-back in the seventh off Octavio Dotel and then A-Ram hit a walk-off shot in the ninth. Cubs won 4-3. I was at the game with my mom and sisters wearing homemade shirts that said "Friends don't let friends be Sox fans" haha. Seriously. I remember going nuts during the seventh, and then jumping out of my seat the very second A-Ram made contact. I knew it was gone right away. I'll also always remember the Zambrano freak-out on Lee as well as the Milton Bradley incident in which he lost it on Lou Piniella. And of course, The Fight. That's one of those infamous "Where were you when..." type of moments in Chicago history.

Three months till baseball's back as White Sox announce spring training schedule

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USA TODAY

Three months till baseball's back as White Sox announce spring training schedule

Only three more months till the White Sox are back in action.

The South Siders announced their spring training schedule Monday, with Cactus League play commencing Feb. 23 out in Arizona.

The White Sox have the unenviable task of opening the exhibition schedule against the defending National League champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers playing hosts to the Pale Hose in Glendale. The White Sox will be the visitors, though they share the Camelback Ranch facility with the Dodgers, so they'll still be in their home ballpark. Their first official home game comes two days later, in a Feb. 25 matchup against the Cincinnati Reds.

The White Sox will face off against the Cubs in three "Cactus Crosstown" games on Feb. 27 and March 10 in Mesa and on March 16 in Glendale.

And in a cool wrap to the preseason, the White Sox will square off against their own Triple-A affiliate March 26 in Charlotte. The game against the Knights should be a fun watch considering all the future White Sox expected to make their way to the big leagues over the next couple seasons. The Knights' roster could be loaded with highly ranked prospects depending on how things shake out.

Here's the full schedule:

Potential first-ballot guy and Blackout Game hero Jim Thome headlines group of former White Sox on this year's Hall of Fame ballot

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AP

Potential first-ballot guy and Blackout Game hero Jim Thome headlines group of former White Sox on this year's Hall of Fame ballot

White Sox fans have seen a couple of their team's all-time greats go into the Hall of Fame in recent years, with Frank Thomas inducted in 2014 and Tim Raines inducted earlier this year.

Seven former White Sox are on this year's Hall of Fame ballot, even if only a couple of them made a big impact on the South Side.

Jim Thome is on the ballot for the first time. While more famously a member of those great Cleveland Indians teams of the 1990s, Thome spent four seasons in a White Sox uniform, playing in 529 games and belting 134 of his 612 career home runs with the South Siders.

A Peoria native currently working as a member of the organization, Thome was a beloved part of four White Sox teams, including the last one to reach the postseason in 2008. He smacked a solo homer to drive in the lone run in the legendary Blackout Game, a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins that gave the White Sox the American League Central crown in the 163rd game of the 2008 regular season.

Thome ranks second in White Sox history in slugging percentage and OPS, trailing only Thomas in both categories. He's No. 7 on the franchise leaderboard in on-base percentage and No. 13 on the home run list.

Given that he ranks eighth on baseball's all-time home run list, Thome could very well be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Also on this year's ballot is Carlos Lee, a power-hitting outfielder who spent the first six seasons of his major league career with the White Sox. El Caballo hit 152 homers and drove in 552 runs in 880 games with the White Sox, finishing 18th in AL MVP voting in 2003 after he slashed .291/.331/.499 with 31 homers. His numbers were even better in 2004, his final season with the White Sox.

Lee ranks ninth on the team's all-time home run list and 11th on the franchise leaderboard in slugging percentage.

Lee did an awful lot of damage in six seasons with the Houston Astros, as well, and earned three All-Star nods in his post-Sox career.

Five others to play for the White Sox are on this year's ballot. Sammy Sosa, more noteworthy for what he did with the Cubs, spent parts of three seasons on the South Side. Omar Vizquel, another Indians great like Thome, played for the White Sox in 2010 and 2011. Andruw Jones, better known for his defensive highlights with the Atlanta Braves, played 107 games with the White Sox in 2010. Orlando Hudson played in 51 games for the White Sox in 2012. And Manny Ramirez, the legendary Indians and Red Sox slugger, played 24 games with the White Sox in 2010.

In order to qualify for election into the Hall of Fame, a player must appear on 75 of ballots submitted by voters.