White Sox

Adam Jones: White Sox Chris Sale is MLB's 'praying mantis'

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Adam Jones: White Sox Chris Sale is MLB's 'praying mantis'

CINCINNATI -- The Chris Sale Lovefest is in full swing this week at the All-Star Game.

For two days, anyone and everyone participating in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game at Great American Ballpark has fawned over the White Sox ace, who earned a spot on the American League roster for a fourth straight season.

The superlatives have arrived at an almost-sickening pace for Sale, who is 8-4 with a 2.72 ERA this season and leads the AL in several pitching categories, including with 157 strikeouts. Now in his fourth season as a starting pitcher, Sale has made it clear to his fellow All-Stars he’s no fluke and he’s also a constant nightmare to face.

“I call him the praying mantis,” Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said. “He’s probably the nastiest pitcher in baseball, right-handed or left-handed.”

Seeing as they’re both lefties, Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis knows he’s in for a tough game any time Sale takes the mound. The two are friends and Kipnis feels fortunate to have four hits in 17 at-bats against Sale.

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“It sucks,” Kipnis said. “It’s not fun at all.

“See if can just get one off him today. See if I can scrape. He’s lengthy, it’s funky and it’s also 98 miles an hour and a curveball that starts behind me and it ends up a ball away. You’ve got to have an approach, you’ve got to eliminate one of his pitches and even after that you can’t miss when you guess right on it. He’s a tough guy to have success against.”

The hitters aren’t the ones offering praise and some of the highest comes from the only pitcher who has more strikeouts than Sale this season, Clayton Kershaw. A three-time Cy Young winner, Kershaw, who has 160 strikeouts for the Los Angeles Dodgers, has been seriously impressed with what he’s seen from Sale.

“Strikeouts aside, he’s dominant,” Kershaw said. “It’s really unbelievable. You should really thank your lucky stars if you get a hit against him. Just watching him and the stuff he’s featuring and that arm angle, I don’t know how you get a hit, honestly. Impressive.”

Sale is well aware what has been said about him and he’s appreciative. But he has never been big on self-promotion and tries to block out the attention as much he possible.

[MORE: Yost believes the world wants to see Chris Sale pitch at ASG]

“I know where it’s coming from,” Sale said. “These guys are the best players in the world and you definitely appreciate it, but at the same time I try not to listen to or think about that kind of stuff too much. I’m a big believer in karma and the baseball gods and if you let those things take over your game, it spirals pretty quickly. When you think your horse is a little higher than the next you get knocked off. I definitely appreciate it. It’s humbling to hear, but I try not to let all those things creep in.”

As Jones sees it, Sale has only made the volume louder with his outstanding pitching and the uncomfortable at-bats hitters must endure with him on the mound.

Jones is 4-for-11 with a home run against Sale. He said the key is to not wait around against the lanky lefty -- otherwise he could devour you.

“He throws everything at you and it’s probably 95 or 96, sharp slider, good changeup,” Jones said. “Hope he misses and swing. If you see one you like, hit it. Don’t try to work an at-bat, that’s a quick out.”

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

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Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

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USA TODAY

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

"It's a dirty play by a dirty player."

That was Christian Yelich, the all-but-sure-to-be NL MVP, describing Manny Machado, who's about to become one of the best-paid players in baseball history, after Game 4 of the NLCS, a game in which Machado once again grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Machado's Los Angeles Dodgers and Yelich's Milwaukee Brewers have played four games in this NLCS, and after three of them, the focus has been on Machado. Not because of his bat or his glove but because of lack of hustle and certain methods on the base paths that weren't exactly on the up and up.

After Game 2, he was criticized for not hustling on a ground ball to shortstop. In something straight out of a public-relations person's nightmare, he defended himself by saying that hustling really isn't his cup of tea. During Game 3, he twice attempted to break up double plays by interfering at second base and was, upon review, busted for it the second time. In extra innings in Game 4, he appeared to intentionally drag his leg across Jesus Aguilar's at first base. That play cleared the benches, got Machado called "dirty" in the Brewers' clubhouse and earned him the reputation of postseason villain.

And so Machado's impending free agency gets to be discussed in a brand new light. There's now more baggage attached to the 26-year-old superstar with a fantastic bat and a stellar glove.

The question is: Will the White Sox, one of many teams that could be mulling a contract offer worth hundreds of millions of dollars, care?

As much as it’s talked about building a perennial contender of the future by developing the on-field skills of their fleet of highly touted prospects, the White Sox brain trust has discussed developing a culture, a way of doing things, to go along with all that talent and all that skill. Unsurprisingly that conversation has focused on the oft-used phrase of “doing things the right way.”

Does what Machado has been doing count as “doing things the right way”? It seems easy to assess that it doesn't. It's far more difficult to determine whether it will end up making a difference or not.

Not hustling is one of Rick Renteria's biggest bugaboos. He sat down multiple players on multiple occasions throughout the 2018 season — starting with Avisail Garcia in a spring training game and including a veteran like Welington Castillo as well as a young star like Tim Anderson — for not running to first base on pop ups and line outs and ground outs. Would Renteria's tune suddenly change if Machado and his preference for not hustling arrived on the South Side in what would surely be the biggest free-agent deal in club history?

Renteria got fired up over the issue at the end of July, when he benched Anderson for not hustling on what the shortstop believed was a line out.

“We tell these guys, don’t assume anything. ... It’s as simple as that, and he understands it. He knows it. We’ve talked about it. He comes out of the box, he doesn’t stand there. But we just reiterated to make sure that you allow the umpires to make the calls and you allow the other clubs to go ahead and ask for reviews. We run.”

But asked about not running out his ground ball in Game 2, Machado shared pretty much the opposite philosophy.

"Obviously I'm not going to change, I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,' and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen," Machado told The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. "That's just not my personality, that's not my cup of tea, that's not who I am."

What about Machado's interferences at second base? It was that exact play that sent Anderson into an on-field tiff with umpire Joe West during the second Crosstown series of the season just last month. Javy Baez slid into second base, and Anderson thought Baez did something he shouldn't have, raising his arm to interfere with a double-play turn, that sequence of events ending with Anderson screaming at West on the field. Would Anderson be cool with playing alongside — and potentially vacating his position at shortstop for — an infamous interferer?

And what about being a "dirty player," a villain? The White Sox always seemed fine — heck, they loved it — having one of baseball's greatest irritants in A.J. Pierzynski on the roster. Perhaps no player wore the "villain" title as a badge of honor more than the catcher on the 2005 World Series team. But remember that Pierzynski took the punch, he didn't throw it. Being baseball's version of a "villain" and being a guy who makes dangerous plays that could hurt somebody are two different things.

The point being: Do Machado's actions in this postseason series make him anathema to the "Ricky's boys don't quit" mantra? If the White Sox were to turn a blind eye to the events of this NLCS, would it qualify as a betrayal of their quest to establish a high-effort, high-character culture?

Or do they value that culture so much that they stay away from Machado this offseason?

Here's Rick Hahn from September of last year.

"It’s the culture that Ricky and his coaching staff have been able to create in that clubhouse. I cannot tell you how many various fans have stopped me, or emailed me or mentioned to me that they’ve never been this excited over a 60-win team. Or they’ve never been excited about a team that isn’t going to the playoffs. And I think so much of that is based on how Ricky and the coaches have them playing day in and day out. You see them fighting for 27 outs, you see them prepared every night. Sure, we’re going to get out-manned at portions during this process, but the fight and competitiveness and the style of play is the kind of thing that is going to endure year in and year out. And that is extremely important for us to establish at the big league level for all of us."

Machado's talent would make any team he's a part of more competitive. But for the White Sox, who talk an awful lot about hustling and refusing to quit, perhaps all these postseason shenanigans make it so Machado just isn't their cup of tea.