White Sox

Caught in limbo: White Sox players not distracted by uncertain future

Caught in limbo: White Sox players not distracted by uncertain future

The White Sox started their rebuild at a breakneck pace and have made significant progress with the trades of Adam Eaton and Chris Sale. But as general manager Rick Hahn indicated on Friday afternoon, the team's foray into tearing down the roster has only just begun.

Tired of mediocrity, the White Sox intend to reload their farm system and capitalize on the value of each and every asset. But because the plan requires patience in order to maximize those returns, many key players are in limbo with the team stuck between where it is and where it wants to be. Still, both Hahn and many of those players, including Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier and Jose Abreu, say they won't let the air of uncertainty surrounding the team's future become a distraction.

"I don't think I'd call it awkward because, again, they get it," Hahn said prior to the opening ceremonies at SoxFest on Friday. "They understand what we're about, they understand where we've been and why we're at the point we're at now.

"When seven o'clock rolls around, the job is very clear. They're going to do everything they can to try to win that ballgame, regardless of what 24 guys happen to be next to them in that locker room and these guys seem to be able to have that focus. And over the course of the season you may have to address it a few more times, or closer to the deadline before rumors circulate. But, again, they get what's going on here. These are professionals, they've been here before. So I don't think it's going to be a real difficulty."

[MORE WHITE SOX: Nate Jones, Miguel Gonzalez, David Robertson to pitch in World Baseball Classic]

If it were easy, the White Sox would have continued on the rapid pace they established in December with the trades of Sale and Eaton. In one motion, Hahn revamped a thin farm system ranked in the lower third of baseball by adding seven talented pieces, many of whom are on display this weekend at SoxFest. With Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Yoan Moncada in the mix, the White Sox now boast a top-10 farm system that should only get better when Hahn completes his next trade.

But the White Sox haven't been able to maintain that pace. Whether it's because of market saturation in the case of Abreu and Frazier, or the unwillingness of other teams to meet their price in the case of Quintana, the White Sox have stayed relatively quiet since December despite constant interest.

"Our desire is to get through this process and build a sustainable core of talented players as quickly as possible," Hahn said. "Unfortunately our desire, our impatience, our eagerness isn't what's going to dictate this market or the schedule of these moves. The timing of many of these moves is going to be based upon the market and our ability to get similar value and what we feel is appropriate value."

Hahn reiterated on Friday the White Sox aren't going to budge on their price, especially for Quintana, who is expected to bring in another significant haul whenever the team is able to trade him. Despite hearing his name in rumors all offseason – the Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees to name a few – Quintana, whose contract includes team options through 2020, wants to remain with the White Sox.

"I heard a lot about trades this year, but I don't have control of that," Quintana said. "I'm happy to be here, and I have new teammates this year. We have some good talent this year, and I'm here. I have all of my focus on the White Sox.

"When I go to spring training, I don't pay attention to any social media. I just try to remain with good preparation and do all of my workouts for Day 1 of the season. That's it."

Despite their good intentions, the White Sox know they're destined for some ugliness in the future. When he first suggested the team's new direction in November, Hahn said he expected painful times ahead. Abreu said he's ready for whatever is to come.

"I think we are ready for all the challenges we are going to face during the season and in the future," Abreu said through an interpreter. "There is something, in this sport, it's a long season. You're gonna hits some bumps. You have to move on and do your best every single day. That's the way we need to approach the season."

Setup man Nate Jones admits he realized anyone could be traded after Sale was dealt to Boston in December. Despite signing an extension of his own the previous offseason, Jones very well knows he too could end up on a new team. But after he and the White Sox received their refresher course on "the business of baseball," Jones has moved on in order to not interfere with his preparation."It crosses your mind," Jones said. "But I guess I've been blessed enough not to have one of those worrier minds. You're like, ‘All right, it couldn't happen.' But that's it. I go on about my offseason and preparation for spring training the same way, just kind of block all the distractions and the rumors."

White Sox pitchers Hamilton & Burr get a shoutout from Lin-Manuel Miranda

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USA TODAY

White Sox pitchers Hamilton & Burr get a shoutout from Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda has landed in Chicago and he made sure to give some his favorite teams, places and people in the city a shout out on Twitter.

Roughly five minutes passed before the playwright and actor of Hamilton fame quickly remembered to give a quick greeting to the White Sox and two specific members of the team.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays Alexander Hamilton in "Hamilton: An American Musical" made sure to give a specific shout out to White Sox relief pitchers Ryan Burr and Ian Hamilton. The musical Hamilton of course discusses the infamous duel between Vice President Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.

White Sox pitchers Burr and Hamilton have been inextricably linked due to their last names, ever since  they first became teammates with the White Sox Class-A team in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 2017. And they took their bond one step further in 2019, recreating the Burr-Hamilton duel in front of the entire Whie Sox team

Miranda is currently in Chicago for the opening and ribbon cutting of "Hamilton: The Exhibition". The exhibit will open on Friday, April 26.

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Remember That Guy: Charlie O’Brien

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USA TODAY

Remember That Guy: Charlie O’Brien

Back in the day, Major League catchers used to wear a backwards helmet with a separate mask strapped to it.

The beginning of the end of those masks was September 13, 1996 in Toronto, when Charlie O’Brien introduced the hockey goalie-style catcher’s mask.

Remember that guy?

Charlie O’Brien was born May 1, 1960 in Tulsa, OK.  He was originally drafted in 1978 out of Bishop Kelley (Tulsa) High School by the Rangers in the 14th round, then again out of Wichita State in the 21st round in 1981 by the Mariners (that same year his college teammate Joe Carter was taken in the 1st round by the Cubs). Finally, O’Brien signed after being selected by the A’s in the 5th round in 1982, following a dynamic .359/.399/.659 season with 25 HR and 116 RBI in 87 games.  

O’Brien worked his way through the minors, reaching Triple-A Tacoma in 1984 and earning a 16-game trial with the Oakland A’s in June 1985. He caught the final inning of a 10-1 loss on June 2 in his MLB debut in Baltimore, and eventually collected his first MLB hit – a double off the Tigers’ Frank Tanana – on August 22, his first career start. With a couple of young catchers in Mickey Tettleton & Terry Steinbach blocking his path to the Majors, O’Brien was shipped from Oakland to Milwaukee in March 1986. He played well over the next two years in El Paso and Denver in the Brewers system, and he received another 10-game stint in the Majors in May 1987. O’Brien started 1988 back in Denver, but in June he was called up to the big club for good.

He served as backup catcher from Milwaukee to Queens (he was traded to the Mets in August 1990) to Atlanta (where he won a World Series in 1995) and Toronto, developing a reputation as a solid catcher. For his career, he threw out 37% of attempted base stealers, which is comfortably above the league average of 31%. He caught 13 pitchers who won Cy Young awards at some point, including a string of four in a row – Greg Maddux (1994-95), Pat Hentgen (1996) and Roger Clemens (1997).

Then there was that day in 1996 where he revolutionized catching, introducing the modern style of catcher’s mask. He got the idea for the mask while watching hockey, likely thinking about all the foul tips he took off the mask, wondering how to find a safer alternative. He worked with a few manufacturers and Major League Baseball to make the dream a reality.

In December 1997, O’Brien arrived in Chicago as a free agent signing by the White Sox. He collected three hits in the 1998 season opener, becoming the first White Sox catcher with three hits on opening day since Brian Downing in 1977. He only appeared in 57 games with the White Sox before a July 30 trade to the Angels, but he was with the Sox long enough to provide an important Chicago historical footnote. On June 6, 1998, O’Brien became the first White Sox player to hit a regular season home run at Wrigley Field. It came in the 6th inning off Kevin Tapani, and the two-run blast scored Magglio Ordoñez and gave the White Sox a 5-4 lead which they couldn’t hang onto, as they went on to lose 7-6.

In total, O’Brien played 800 games spread out over 15 seasons for eight teams. He hit .221 with 56 home runs in his career (and an additional homer in the 1995 NLCS), but his calling card was his solid defense, as well as being an innovator. His final MLB game was June 21, 2000 for the Expos in Montreal.

After his playing career, O’Brien (who wore No. 22 for most of his career) went on to own the Catch 22 Ranch in Northeastern Oklahoma, where he raises cattle and deer. Charlie and his ranch has been featured on the Pursuit Channel’s TV show “Deer Thugs.” An avid outdoorsman and hunter, he went on to form a company Charlie O’ Products, which sells hunting products. He also wrote a book The Cy Young Catcher along with co-author Doug Wedge, which chronicles his days in the Major Leagues.