White Sox

Contending Cubs and rebuilding White Sox have Hawk Harrelson seeing a wonderful next decade of Chicago baseball

Contending Cubs and rebuilding White Sox have Hawk Harrelson seeing a wonderful next decade of Chicago baseball

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Anyone else jazzed for a potential Red Line World Series?

On the North Side of town, the Cubs’ championship window is wide open and figures to be for some time. On the South Side, a lengthy list of highly ranked prospects has White Sox fans dreaming of a lengthy stay among baseball’s top teams.

One notable Chicago baseball figure who thinks the Windy City’s on the cusp of a golden age of baseball on both sides of town? Hawk Harrelson.

Despite his repeated pledges to never again set foot inside Wrigley Field, the longtime White Sox announcer — who’s embarking on his final season in the broadcast booth — had some high praise for the Cubs. And of course he’s as excited about the White Sox rebuilding efforts as anyone.

“Last month we were at an induction into the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame. (Cubs chairman) Tom Ricketts was there. I congratulated him on winning a world championship. I also told him in two years from now our club is going to have a lot of fun playing his,” Harrelson said Monday at baseball’s Winter Meetings. “Because they’re not going anywhere, they’re good. That makes it good for us because it makes us have to get better. And when you have to get better you work a little harder, subconsciously or consciously. That’s the way sports is. Inner drive, and getting that adrenaline flowing.

“Chicago fans are going to have a wonderful next decade in baseball.”

The famously tangent-prone Harrelson touched on a wide array of topics in a crowded lobby at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort, including baseball’s future and how one recent restructuring proposal could have the Cubs and White Sox playing in the same division.

“We’re going to see a reorganization in baseball, and it’s actually going to be, in my opinion, for decades and decades, a tremendous boon,” he said. “But the end result will take something away from it, where we’re going to be playing the Cubs 18 times a year. … That’s going to happen. It’s not going to happen for a long time yet, but it will happen.”

He also had glowing words for managers on both sides of town, channeling his “Ricky’s boys don’t quit!” mantra from 2017 by talking about how hard both the White Sox and Cubs players play for their respective managers.

“The mark of a good manager is not wins and losses. A mark of the good manager is these,” Harrelson said, pointing to his eyes. “How hard do they play for him? And we’ve got two terrific managers in Chicago in Rick Renteria and Joe Maddon. You saw how hard our guys played this year. We only won, what, 67 games this year? You see how Maddon’s guys play for him. They never quit. Our guys don’t quit. Now we’re outgunned, outmanned. But playing hard?”

It should come as no surprise that Harrelson is one of the biggest advocates and supporters of the White Sox rebuilding effort, and he added Monday that he’s never seen a rebuild get off to as fast a start as Rick Hahn has with the White Sox. But Harrelson has also lauded Renteria as the right manager for the job on the South Side.

As part of an analysis on the ever-growing number of players from Spanish-speaking countries in the game, he cited Renteria as the model for the future of managing.

“You’re going to see more and more Latin managers come into this game because nothing is going to be lost in translation,” he said. “I am so happy that we have Rick Renteria at the helm. I saw a thing last year, I could kick myself for not taking a photo of it. In Minnesota, there was (Avisail Garcia), (Jose) Abreu, (Leury) Garcia and Rick Renteria sitting around the table in the food room. They were laughing their behinds off. They were having such a good time talking about baseball and having good times, and you just don’t see those three guys in that mode. And Rick had them in stitches, speaking Spanish, of course. And then when he had his meetings in spring training, half of it was in English and half was in Spanish. So that is a trend.”

For a team so focused on the future, the man who’s seen it all — a man who hopes to be in baseball for parts of eight decades — sees not just a future contender but the future of the game in what is brewing on the South Side.

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

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.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

The White Sox top pitching prospect sits down with Chuck Garfien for a revealing interview at spring training. Kopech says he almost quit the game after he got into a fight with a Red Sox minor league teammate in 2016. He goes in-depth about his desire to be great, why meditating makes him a better pitcher, his failed PED test in 2015, comparisons to Justin Verlander, possibly becoming the future ace of the White Sox and much more.