Without baseball highlights to watch or box scores and game recaps to read, there's plenty of time for obscure baseball lists. For example, this one: the White Sox All-First Half Team 1980-current. I've taken the best White Sox first halves at each position over the past 33 seasons and molded them into a team. Then I added bench players out of guilt that Harold Baines didn't make the initial nine. Why did I select 1980? Because I was born that year and I believe nothing matters prior to my existence. No, seriously, I picked 1980 just so that the seasons are recent enough for us to remember them more vividly. Also, I love those vintage big collared uniforms they wore back then. Here they are:CatcherCarlton Fisk- 198523 HR, 54 RBI, .238.320.528Pierzynski's 2012 is nice, sure, but consider this: no White Sox catcher has surpassed Fisk's Pre-Break total of 23 home runs in any FULL SEASON since Pudge poled 23 prior to the 1985 Midsummer Classic. The future Hall of Famer finished the season with 37 home runs (at age 37), which through the 1992 campaign was tied with Dick Allen's 1972 output for the all-time White Sox single season record.First BaseFrank Thomas - 199432 HR, 78 RBI, .383.515.795With all due respect to Paul Konerko, every Thomas first half from 1993-97 ranks better than Paulie at his best, but of course the first ten seasons of Frank Thomas' career is arguably the best 10-year stretch since Ted Williams roamed left field at Fenway; maybe even better. 1994 was certainly the best. 32 HR is the most first half homers by a White Sox player, and the 78 ribbies trails only his 85 in 1996. Only a dozen players in White Sox history besides Thomas have even reached 32 HR over an entire season. This incredible first half to a tragically shortened season included two separate 5-game HR streaks. And in 86 games, he reached base 200 times via walks or hits (116 H, 84 BB).Second BaseRay Durham - 19999 HR, 38 RBI, .298.373.480Among many first halves of many standout seasons, Durham's first half of 1999 was the best: 14 three-hit games, 21 doubles, 7 triples, 9 home runs, and 14 stolen bases in 84 games. Ray is the only White Sox player with 5 seasons of 100 runs and 20 stolen bases, and they came in five straight seasons (1997-01). The top four or five first halves by Sox second sackers are arguably all Durham, followed by Alexei Ramirez' lone season at second in 2008 (.312 BA, .791 OPS), and Tadahito Iguchi's 2006 (10 HR, 40 RBI, .775 OPS).ShortstopJose Valentin - 200418 HR, 48 RBI, .254.325.548Quick! Name the eight players who had 3 seasons of 25 or more home runs while playing 50 of their games at shortstop (apologies for that very number-y sentence). Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez, Ernie Banks, Miguel Tejada, Nomar Garciaparra, Troy Tulowitzki, Vern Stephens...and Jose Valentin. He played anywhere in the infield you needed him. He was a very good fielder. He drew a decent amount of walks. He was a very heady baserunner. And he had some pop. Valentin tailed off to a .218 BA by season's end, but in the first half of 2004, he was a force. He led all ML shortstops with 18 HR at the break (Miguel Tejada was second with 15). Valentin's 2000 (13 HR, 46 RBI, .808 OPS) and 2003 (13 HR, 40 RBI, .775 OPS) also very solid, followed by Alexei Ramirez' 2009 (11 HR, 42 RBI, 12 SB). Guillen's 1990 (.319 BA with his superlative defense) was tempting, but the 11 SB12 CS frightened me away.Third BaseRobin Ventura - 199619 HR, 55 RBI, .282.376.519Can't go wrong with Ventura's 1994 (15 HR, 65 RBI, .826 OPS), 1995 (15 HR, 49 RBI, .901 OPS), or the 1996 shown above. Crede's 2006 (16 HR, 57 RBI, .843 OPS) right there with them. 1996 & 2006 seem to be a common theme across the board...Left FieldCarlos Quentin - 200822 HR, 70 RBI, .277.375.525A great first half of what should have been an MVP season, curtailed by a silly self-inflicted injury on September 1st. Quentin edges out a few Carlos Lee seasons and both of Albert Belle's seasons (although Belle's second half of 1998 is one of the greatest ever). Quentin posted three multi-HR games in the first half of 2008; in comparison the 2012 Sox as a team have four. Add to that 12 HBP and 43 walks (a frequency of walks he'd never again duplicate in a White Sox uniform). Unfortunately, he was never again able to string along several excellent months on the Southside. But the bat toss was legendary.Center FieldAlex Rios - 201015 HR, 49 RBI, 23 SB, .305.361.518Rios' red hot start to 2010 came out of left field... or rather center field, after hitting .199 in 41 games with the White Sox after being selected off waivers from the Blue Jays in 2009. A .344 May propelled him to a fine first half. Rios tailed off a bit in the second half (and tailed off drastically in 2011), but finished the season with just the fourth 20-HR20-SB season in franchise history. Rios' fantastic first half of 2012 is nearly identical to his 2010 (12 HR, 49 RBI, 13 SB, .874 OPS), although of course he no longer qualifies for the center field spot. Runners up to 2010 Rios are 1999 Chris Singleton (7 HR, 39 RBI, 20 2B, .868 OPS), and 2004 Aaron Rowand (9 HR, 21 RBI, 18 2B, .863 OPS).Right FieldMagglio Ordonez - 200021 HR, 74 RBI, .330.407.621The toughest call on this team was choosing between 2000 Maggs and the man who replaced him in 2005, Jermaine Dye. And fittingly so; both men were born on January 18, 1974. I gave Ordonez the nod mostly on the basis of 46 BB36 K vs Dye's 38 BB59 K. Magglio also had a 5-double and 6-RBI edge, whereas Dye had four more homers, and an edge on OPS. Either way, both were monster first halves. Harold Baines' finest seasons aren't even in the discussion with these two.Designated HitterJim Thome - 200630 HR, 77 RBI, .298.414.651Thome came to the White Sox after missing over 100 games the previous season due to injuries to his back and elbow. Although at the time the trade was criticized by some with the departure of Aaron Rowand, Thome burst onto the Chicago scene with 6 HR and 10 RBI in his first 9 games. By the All-Star break, he had already established just the third 30-HR season by a Sox lefty (joining Oscar Gamble and Robin Ventura), and by season's end he wound up Comeback Player of the Year with the only 40-HR season (for now, at least) by a lefty in White Sox history.BenchJermaine Dye - 200625 HR, 68 RBI, .318.397.646Dye, just edged out by 2000 Ordonez, is a shoo-in for the bench.Paul Konerko - 201122 HR, 67 RBI, .319.390.564It seemed as if the captain was well on his way to his best first half ever in 2012 with a gaudy .399 BA as late as May 27th, but he came back down to earth and hasn't been quite the same as far as power numbers are concerned (3 HR in last 137 PA). 2011 was as good as Paulie has been prior to the All-Star Break, and these numbers would probably make most teams' pre-break teams, but those teams did not have Frank Thomas.Harold Baines - 199615 HR, 62 RBI, .314.398.545Era arguments aside, 1996 showed Baines at his best in a White Sox uniform prior to the Midsummer Classic. Several Baines Pre-Break performances come close: 1984 (.833 OPS, 14 HR, 53 RBI), 1986 (.853 OPS, 12 HR, 53 RBI), 1987 (.887 OPS, 12 HR, 49 RBI), 1989 (.897 OPS, 11 HR, 46 RBI).Alexei Ramirez - 200911 HR, 42 RBI, 12 SB, .281.335.415The bench needed another middle infielder, so I'm going with Alexei's first season at shortstop. While the defense didn't fully blossom until 2010, the offensive output was strong (although he stumbled in the second half: 4 HR, 26 RBI, .684 OPS). Starting PitchersBritt Burns (LHP) - 19809-6, 2.06 ERA, 118.0 IP, 0.983 WHIPThe 1980 White Sox featured the 7th most left-handed rotation since the Deadball Era (111 starts by lefties), and Burns was the best pitcher on that extremely young staff (Burns & Richard Dotson were 21, Steve Trout was 22, Ross Baumgarten & LaMarr Hoyt were 25). After brief stints with the big club in 1978 and 1979, Burns went to work in 1980, with a new grip on his slider taught to him by Paul Richards (said Roland Hemond in the July 1980 Baseball Digest). His record should have been better; the Sox were shut out in four of his starts prior to the All-Star Game, and he completed 6 of his 15 starts. Burns finished strong and ended up The Sporting News Rookie Pitcher of the Year.Richard Dotson (RHP) - 198411-4, 2.64 ERA, 136.1 IP, 1.049 WHIPDotson was acquired in 1977 with Bobby Bonds from the Angels in the Brian Downing deal... He was flat out stingy before the break in 1984, allowing just 92 hits in 136.1 innings, holding opponents to a .194 BAA. He completed 9 of his 17 starts. Things didn't work out so well afterward, however. He went 3-11 with a 4.77 ERA in probably the worst second half of anyone on this All-First Half Team.Esteban Loaiza (RHP)- 200311-5, 2.21 ERA, 130.1 IP, 1.059 WHIPLoaiza was simply awesome in 2003. Before the All-Star Break, he held opponents to 1 or fewer earned runs in 11 of his 19 starts. He should have been better than 11-5; two of his starts were 1-0 losses, there was a 2-1 loss, and two 3-2 losses mixed in before the Midsummer Classic. Not bad for a guy whose career record was 69-73 with a 4.88 ERA coming into the season... he went 36-32 with a 4.81 ERA afterwards.Chris Sale (LHP) - 201210-2, 2.19 ERA, 102.2 IP, 0.955 WHIPWhat more can be said about this 23-year old phenom? Well, here are a few things... Sale is on pace for:- the lowest HR9 IP by a White Sox pitcher (0.44) since Dennis Lamp in 1982 (0.43)- the lowest ERA by a White Sox starter since Wilbur Wood in 1971 (1.91)- the lowest WHIP by a White Sox starter since Joe Horlen in 1967 (0.953)- the lowest opponents' BA (.198) by a White Sox starter since Joe Horlen in 1964 (.190)Relief PitchersRoberto Hernandez - 19961.20 ERA, 45.0 IP, 26 SVThe Roberto Hernandez who was known as Roberto Hernandez during theENTIRE course of his career had a successful run as White Sox closer. The 1.20 ERA was fantastic despite 23 free passes in 45 innings, although he held opponents to a .502 OPS. He blew a save in his first appearance then was 20 for his next 20, and as late as June 13th, his ERA was a microscopic 0.56. Hernandez, of course was most notable AT the 1996 All-Star Break, when during a team photo he slipped and accidentally broke Cal Ripken's nose, jeopardizing the ironman's streak (close call, but Cal kept on going).Cliff Politte - 20051.02 ERA, 35.1 IP, 0.736 WHIPDustin Hermanson - 20051.53 ERA, 35.1 IP, 21 SVMake no mistake about it; the 2005 White Sox won the World Series with pitching, and while the starters got the lion's share of the glory, the bullpen was remarkable. Politte & Hermanson contributed career years, with their best work coming in the first half of the season. Hermanson started the season with 19 straight scoreless appearances, while Politte allowed just 17 hits over his 35.1 first half IP.Shingo Takatsu - 20041.30 ERA, 34.2 IP, 5 SV, 0.808 WHIPThe top 7 in the 2004 A.L. Rookie of the Year vote went in this order: Bobby Crosby, Shingo Takatsu, Daniel Cabrera, Zack Greinke, Alex Rios, David DeJesus, Ross Gload. Interesting given how things worked out since... The Japanese import nicknamed "Mr. Zero" was an instant sensation with his "frisbee" pitch and funky sidearm delivery. Roughed up in his first appearance of the season, Takatsu rebounded and ran off 24 straight scoreless appearances, during which he allowed just 10 hits in 26.1 innings. He was a lot of fun to watch while it lasted.
GLENDALE, AZ -- There’s a different Tim Anderson at White Sox spring training this year.
You can see it on his face You can hear it in his voice.
“I’m busting out of the shell. I’m talking more,” he said as he sat down for an interview with NBC Sports Chicago (in the video above).
It’s not the new Tim Anderson. It turns out, it’s the real one that’s been there all along.
“This is me. It’s always been me. I never knew how to express myself. I feel like I’m being a lot more open,” Anderson explained. “That’s what I want to give to fans. Let them know the real me. You’re cheering for me. Why not know me? I’m being open and kind of let fans into my life.”
The White Sox shortstop has learned a lot about life in the past year. It all started in May when the White Sox were in Baltimore to play the Orioles. Anderson received a phone call at 4 a.m. It was news from back home.
It was the worst phone call of his life.
His best friend Branden Moss had been murdered in the parking lot of a Tuscaloosa, Ala., bar after helping the victim of a fight.
The two were like brothers. Anderson is the godfather to Moss’s young daughter. Moss was the godfather to Anderson’s 2-year-old daughter.
“It was heartbreaking,” Anderson said.
While Anderson grieved, playing baseball seemed like it would be a perfect escape for his pain. Only it wasn’t. Far from it. Baseball might have made things even worse.
In fast-paced sports like football and hockey, players don’t have much time to think. It’s react, react, react. Whatever might be happening off the field feels like a million miles away.
Not in baseball.
The game moves at a much slower speed. There’s plenty of time for your mind to wander. Thoughts kept going back to Anderson’s lost friend, taken from him in an instant.
At 23, he didn’t have the tools to deal with the emotional pain and excel at baseball at the same time.
“The year was rough. I wasn’t having fun in between the lines. I was making the game harder than it was. I was thinking too much. I was feeling sorry for myself and the list can go on. When my friend died it definitely took a lot out of me. I had a dark moment,” Anderson said. “Some days I didn’t feel comfortable coming to the ballpark because I knew it was going to be a bad day.”
Making matters worse, there were many nights when Anderson didn’t sleep. Not a wink. Still, he dragged himself to the ballpark and somehow tried to play.
The results weren’t pretty. On June 22, Anderson already had 16 errors at shortstop, most in the majors. At the plate, he was hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs.
He knew he was better than that. He also knew something else: He needed help.
In July, Anderson started meeting with a therapist who was able to unlock the pent up thoughts and emotions that he was burying inside him.
The therapist would write down everything that Anderson was feeling on paper and then read it back to him.
“Just going in and talking and pouring everything out of you. It lets you hear what you’ve been going through,“ Anderson said. “When she did it, it was a lot. I took what she read to me, balled it up and threw it away. I got lighter. It was a brightening. Those counseling sessions definitely helped me.”
Soon, Anderson was back to being himself both on and off the field.
In the month of August, he had 8 doubles, 5 home runs and 16 RBI.
“Woof. I was hot,” he said after hearing those stats. “That’s Tim. That’s more Tim that we need to see.”
In September, he batted .327 with 3 home runs and 9 stolen bases.
“We need a lot of that this year. That’s the way I want to go. That’s the way I want to go about it. Get back to what got me here.”
There was still an issue with his plate discipline. He had 32 strikeouts and only 1 walk in September.
“We play a tough sport as it is. They’re going to come,” Anderson said about the walks. “I mean, when I walk more, what are you going to tell me? ‘Start swinging more?’ It’s one of those things. It’s a give and take. We’ll see what happens.”
In 2017, Anderson received a crash course in adversity. What did he learn from all that pain and misery?
“Tough times happen, but they don’t last forever.”
Now that he’s survived the personal storm from last season, he wants “another shot at it. I feel like last year went left. This is new season.”
So, what does he envision for himself in 2018?
“Having fun, smiling a lot, picking up my teammates, hugging on the coaches and players. A lot of love, more so than stats,” Anderson said. “I’m fired up. I’m excited. I feel like I’m ready to lead this pack. We got a great group of guys. We’ve got a chance to do something special.”
It may be a good thing that the Fire’s originally scheduled season opener March 3 at Colorado got moved back.
The Fire’s preseason has been riddled with injuries to key players and the extra week may end up being needed to get the team ready for the season. Four players (not counting the already known long-term injuries to Michael de Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic) sat out Saturday’s game against Florida Gulf Coast University due to injury: Daniel Johnson (a right ankle injury suffered in a game against Philadelphia on Feb. 8), Grant Lillard (left knee), Matt Polster (left knee) and Luis Solignac (left hip).
Polster’s injury is especially notable because he has had recurring left knee problems since first suffering a sprain in the 2016 season finale at Toronto. Polster missed the first nine games of 2017 due to the injury and missed three more in August due to a related injury.
The 24-year-old, who is now the longest tenured player on the team and the only player remaining from before general manager Nelson Rodriguez’s tenure began at the end of the 2015 season, arrived with the Fire after playing with the U.S. national team in January. He played all 90 minutes on Jan. 28 against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bastian Schweinsteiger still hasn’t played in the preseason and the team hasn’t listed him as injured.
All the absences, combined with rest for some of the team’s regulars, resulted in a starting lineup against Florida Gulf Coast that featured two players who have appeared in an official match with the Fire. Three trialists and four draft picks started.
Four of the Fire’s seven scheduled preseason matches are in the books. The Fire lost 2-1 to Montreal on Feb. 14. One of the bright spots was a rare set piece goal after the Fire trailed the Impact 2-0. Dax McCarty headed in a free kick from Diego Campos. Campos has been dangerous on set pieces, hitting the post with a free kick and assisting a goal from a corner kick in Saturday’s 2-0 win against Florida Gulf Coast.
Next up is a match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Feb. 21. Next Saturday the Fire play at Orlando to finish up play in Florida.
The Fire close out the preseason March 3 against the team’s USL affiliate, Tulsa, at Toyota Park before the season opener on March 10.