White Sox

Jerry Reinsdorf: 'It would be a joke' if Jim Thome's not a first-ballot Hall of Famer


Jerry Reinsdorf: 'It would be a joke' if Jim Thome's not a first-ballot Hall of Famer

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Former White Sox slugger Jim Thome is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the very first time. Ask him about his chances of getting into Cooperstown when the announcement is made next month, and the man who crushed 612 career home runs, eighth most all-time, won’t go near it.

He, like many players before him, believe there is a baseball God hovering over him and his candidacy. Simply uttering sentences like “I think I’ve got a chance” or “I hope I get in” could spell doom to his potential induction.

So mum is the word from Thome.

But ask Jerry Reinsdorf about Thome getting enshrined, and the White Sox chairman is much more forthcoming.

His reaction if Thome doesn’t get in on the first attempt?

“It would be a joke. It would be a total miscarriage of justice,” Reinsdorf said to NBCSportsChicago.com at the Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort. “How many non-steroid users have hit 600 home runs? Not many with steroids have hit 600 home runs.”

Baseball’s top-10 home run list has been hit by an earthquake in the last 20 years, with a steroid fault line buried underneath it. Barry Bonds is at the top. Alex Rodriguez is in the middle. Sammy Sosa is near the caboose, one place behind Thome. While Thome was never linked to performance-enhancing drugs during his playing days, Bonds, Rodriguez and Sosa symbolize the Steroid Era, making Thome’s case for first-time induction even greater.

“(Thome) was a great player,” Reinsdorf said. “I always hated to see him come up in the eighth and ninth innings against us. And he’s a great human being. He epitomizes everything about the game that’s good.”

Beyond Thome’s power and his reputation for being one of the best teammates and nicest human beings alive, he had an exceptional batting eye. He posted 12 seasons with at least 90 walks, and he's seventh on the all-time walk list. And, like Reinsdorf mentioned, he was clutch in the late-innings. His 13 career walk-off home runs are the most in major league history. White Sox fans fondly remember one of them: his 500th career homer to beat the Los Angeles Angels in the bottom of the ninth in September 2007.

Joining Thome on the ballot is his former Cleveland Indians teammate Omar Vizquel, who also played for the White Sox (in 2010 and 2011), and was recently named manager of the Winston-Salem Dash, the White Sox Class-A affiliate. Vizquel won 11 Gold Gloves, played more games at shortstop (2,709) than anyone in history and has the highest ever fielding percentage (.985) at the position.

But his road to Cooperstown could see some bumps along the way. He’s got competition not only from Thome, but from fellow first-timers Chipper Jones and Johan Santana.

“I think he should be a first-ballot guy, too, but that’s going to be closer,” Reinsdorf said about Vizquel. “Omar might be the best shortstop I’ve ever seen. He certainly had the best hands I’ve ever seen. It would be great if they both got in. Thome for sure. He’s got to get in. I can’t even conceive that he doesn’t get in on the first ballot.”

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Baltimore Orioles?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Baltimore Orioles?

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 Baltimore Orioles?

Perhaps a better question for White Sox fans: When’s Manny Machado coming to the South Side? (Better question from me, personally, is when Chicago might acquire Maryland's greatest creation: the crab pretzel. Had in College Park last summer. It's amazing.)

Whether that ends up happening or not is a question for next offseason, but that query is one that plenty of South Side baseball fans on social media have asked for years now. Machado, mentioned in trade rumors during the Winter Meetings in December, is most likely entering his final season as an Oriole. His contract is up at season’s end, and he’s expected to land a gargantuan deal next offseason.

The funny thing is that for all the hullabaloo over the 25-year-old infielder, he’s coming off his worst statistical campaign as a big leaguer. In 2017, he slashed .259/.310/.782, all three of those percentages seeing huge dropoffs after a sensational 2016 campaign a year prior. His power numbers stayed relatively consistent, but his run and hit totals plummeted as the O’s weren’t quite as a competitive as in years past.

Now, Machado is likely still cruising for a big contract regardless of what he does in 2018. He’s moving to shortstop, which will be interesting. But he’s young enough that even another season like last year won’t make too big a difference, considering how good he’s been throughout his career.

That’s who White Sox fans will be watching whenever their gaze falls on the Baltimore baseball club. (They won’t be alone, by the way, and some contending teams might even try to add him at the trade deadline.) But the O’s are making news for other reasons, recent reasons, in fact.

The biggest name left on the free-agent market finally signed this week, and now the Orioles have a big-time addition to their starting rotation. Unlike Jake Arrieta, it appears Alex Cobb’s waiting game paid off in the form of dollars, years and a no-trade clause. How nice for him. It’s also nice for the O’s, who get to add a guy to a low-key decent starting staff.

Cobb, who had a 3.66 ERA in 29 starts last season, might not be ready to rock for the start of the regular season considering he didn’t ink a deal until a week out from Opening Day — bet he’s good at staring contests, too — but the trio of Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner (another new addition) and Kevin Gausman will be ready, and all those guys are coming off a solid-enough 2017. Bundy had a couple good stretches, posting a 3.03 ERA over his first 13 starts and then a 2.00 ERA in the month of August. Gausman had a 3.31 ERA over his final 18 starts. Cashner, another free-agent signing, had a 3.40 ERA with the Texas Rangers.

So while the likes of Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and the better-than-Machado-last-year Jonathan Schoop still make the O’s an offensive threat in a hard-to-win AL East, the starting pitching might be where the magic is this time around.

2017 record: 75-87, fifth place in AL East

Offseason additions: Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, Colby Rasmus, Alex Presley, Pedro Araujo, Joely Rodriguez, Nestor Cortes Jr.

Offseason departures: Welington Castillo, J.J. Hardy, Ryan Flaherty, Seth Smith, Jeremy Hellickson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley

X-factor: I said it just above, and I'll say it again: Jonathan Schoop was better than Manny Machado last season. Schoop made the All-Star team and finished with 32 homers, 105 RBIs and a .293/.338/.503 slash line. His .841 OPS was one of the best 50 in the game. Should we expect Schoop to be the best middle infielder on the O's in 2018, too? Maybe that's a little extreme, but hey, good to have this guy.

Projected lineup:

1. Tim Beckham, 3B
2. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
3. Manny Machado, SS
4. Adam Jones, CF
5. Chris Davis, 1B
6. Trey Mancini, DH
7. Colby Rasmus, RF
8. Caleb Joseph, C
9. Alex Presley, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Dylan Bundy
2. Andrew Cashner
3. Kevin Gausman
4. Chris Tillman
5. Mike Wright Jr.

Prediction: Third place in AL East, no playoffs

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers

Sounds like we know how the White Sox starting rotation will line up to start the season


Sounds like we know how the White Sox starting rotation will line up to start the season

Rick Renteria's starting rotation isn't exactly official for the start of the season, but it's about as close as it can be.

Maybe "unofficially official" is the best way to go?

The South Side skipper agreed with the assessment of reporters Wednesday in Arizona, saying that an order of James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer "sounds right."

Shields was already announced as the White Sox starter for the season opener next Thursday in Kansas City. That wasn't much of a surprise considering Shields' veteran status in this rotation.

Giolito, who made seven starts at the end of last season and looked mighty good doing it, might be the best starting pitcher on the team going into the season. He posted a 2.38 ERA in those games, with many fans hoping he would have been the one to take on the Royals in the opener. It sounds like he'll likely pitch two days later in Game 2 against the Crowns.

Lopez made eight starts at the end of last season, turning in a 4.72 ERA in those starts. He's another former highly touted prospect who will get a full season to continue his development at the major league level.

Gonzalez was brought back this winter after being traded away from the South Side last summer to bring another veteran mentor type to help along these young pitchers. He had a 4.31 ERA before the trade to the Texas Rangers after a 3.73 ERA in a full season with the White Sox in 2016.

Fulmer is another young arm who will be looking to earn a spot in the crowded rotation of the future this season. He's had a rough spring — though turned in his best start of the spring earlier this week — but he'll be given every opportunity to prove he can succeed as a big league starting pitcher after showing some promise at the end of last season.

Those first three guys will face off against the Royals on the season's opening weekend. Gonzalez and Fulmer are expected to make their first starts of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays in Canada.