White Sox

Cubs-Sox wont have the same buzz without Ozzie and Big Z

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Cubs-Sox wont have the same buzz without Ozzie and Big Z

GLENDALE, Ariz. Dont expect to hear Robin Ventura barking to the media about the (bleeping) rats at Wrigley Field.

I dont think hell be kicking facemasks or anything either, Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija said.

Ozzie Guillen did that to Geovany Sotos catching gear last summer on the South Side, after arguing a call at home plate and getting thrown out of the game. There almost always seems to be fireworks whenever the Cubs play the White Sox.

That night, Carlos Zambrano walked into the interview room at U.S. Cellular Field and asked reporters if they had seen the one where Rocky fought in Russia. Zambrano decided that Rocky Balboa said it best: Its not too late for people to change.

Less than two months later, Zambrano cleared out his locker during the middle of a game at Turner Field and headed to the team hotel in downtown Atlanta. He told team personnel that he was thinking about retirement and sent text messages saying that he felt like he was stealing money.

As soon as Guillen jumped to become the Miami Marlins manager, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Zambrano would take his talents to South Beach, creating a dream team for the media.

As much as Guillen appeared to need a new challenge, and Zambrano couldnt walk back into the Cubs clubhouse, it still leaves a void. Its hard to imagine the Cubs-Sox rivalry will have the same juice.

I was an Ozzie fan growing up my whole life, said Samardzija, whos from Indiana. I enjoyed watching Ozzie play. I like how he manages. Yeah, it will definitely be a little different. Obviously, I think the rivalry will still be where its always been, but he always seemed to be a big part of it.

In front of 10,327 fans the announced crowd at least the Cubs beat the White Sox 5-1 on Friday at Camelback Ranch. The pivot point came in the third inning, when Randy Wells inherited a bases-loaded jam from Travis Wood.

Auditioning for a spot in the rotation, Wells threw Paul Konerko a sinker that induced an inning-ending double play, preserving a two-run lead.

Its quieter, Wells said of the difference without Guillen around. The Cubs-Sox rivalry is going to be as good as it always is. Its just one of those games you dont want to lose to your crosstown rival. I dont think spring trainings got quite the hype, but were definitely gearing up for those guys.

Cubs infielder Adrian Cardenas played at Monsignor Pace High School just before Guillens youngest son Ozney did and knows the family. When Cardenas would go home and work out in Miami, Guillen would watch batting practice and talk to the 16-year-old kids who dream of the big leagues.

The Ozzie you see in high definition on TV every night, Cardenas said, is the exact same Ozzie youll find on a high school baseball field in February.

Hes just real all the time, and you either like it or you dont, Cardenas said. Thats it. You have to learn to accept it or have a problem with it. But one things for sure is he loves the game.

Ventura will project calm in the roughly 400 times he will have to meet the press this season. New Cubs manager Dale Sveum who briefly played with Ventura on the South Side in 1992 looks past the coaching inexperience and sees a natural leader.

Hes got an incredible personality, but you wouldnt know it. Hes quick and very sarcastic, Sveum said. Hes definitely the right guy for the job. (Hes) capable of just stepping right in and doing things. He knows the game as well as anybody (and) hes the kind of guy who people will follow.

Ventura wont be filming Pepsi commercials with say, Matt Garza, in Venezuela, the way Guillen and Zambrano once did.

And Cubs officials were furious when they found out Zambrano went to dinner with Guillen hours after jumping Derrek Lee in the dugout and being sent home from U.S. Cellular Field (and eventually into anger-management therapy).

When Theo Epstein took over at Clark and Addison, the president publicly allowed for the possibility of Zambrano earning his way back onto the team. But in polling players privately, the response was overwhelming: Big Z had to go.

Zambrano isnt necessarily a bad guy. Hes deeply committed to his faith and his family and can show a terrific sense of humor. His emotions, Kerry Wood once observed, are a double-edged sword that can lead him pitch at an extremely high level or completely lose control.

Guillen pushed for this trade, predicting that Zambrano can still be a 15-game winner. Their friendship plus the roughly 15 million the Cubs kicked in closed the deal.

His baseball talent is still there, utility man Jeff Baker said. If Ozzie can get him going, who knows what can happen?

The Cubs and White Sox have enjoyed distraction-free camps, but their rivalry wont be the same. The Marlins become a Showtime reality series with Ozzie and Big Z.

If its going to work anywhere, Samardzija said, it should work there.

Rebuild, meet overdrive: Eloy Jimenez provides best snapshot of White Sox progress yet

Rebuild, meet overdrive: Eloy Jimenez provides best snapshot of White Sox progress yet

A rebuild, White Sox fans know all too well, takes place over a lengthy period of time. Progression, development, these aren’t things easily pointed to as a single moment.

Allow Eloy Jimenez to provide an exception to the rule.

The White Sox contention window might not have been yanked open with one broken-bat homer to beat the Crosstown-rival Cubs on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But Jimenez’s game-winner was the best single image yet of the direction Rick Hahn’s rebuilding project is moving.

Surely you don’t need a refresher on the highlight seen ‘round Chicagoland by now, but take a second to realize how incredible, how unscriptable it was: Jimenez, traded away by the Cubs two summers ago, up in a tie game in the ninth inning in his first game at the ballpark he always assumed would be where he’d be playing his big league games. Well, he finally played a big league game inside the Friendly Confines — and he delivered an unforgettable moment for the team on the other side of town.

Yeah, maybe it’s perhaps a little hyperbolic, maybe it’s a pure reaction to the moment, but: Rebuild, meet overdrive.

“We’re playing in the city of champions,” manager Rick Renteria said after the game. “The White Sox were champions at one time, the Cubbies have been champions. You have a history of basketball and football. It’s the city of champions, so a lot is expected of them. They’re starting to embrace it, understand it and revel in it.”

Talk of championships might seem a tad premature for these White Sox, still under .500 even after Jimenez blasted them to dramatic victory on the North Side. But then again, that’s been the end goal of the rebuild from Day 1. Rick Hahn has said repeatedly that the rebuild won’t be a success unless there’s a parade.

Jimenez’s homer came in June, not October. But it cranked the dial even further on the blindingly bright future these White Sox are building.

Lucas Giolito is providing examples of progress every time he steps on the mound these days. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert and Dylan Cease are doing their part, too. But no one has been as central a part of the future than Jimenez, the guy who’s supposed to be the middle-of-the-order power bat in this lineup for the next decade. The way he delivered Tuesday made for a flag-planting type moment on the White Sox journey up baseball’s mountain.

“We all knew the talent was there from the get-go as soon as the club acquired him. It was just a matter of time for him to get to the big leagues, get comfortable in the big leagues,” Giolito said after the game. “I think he's getting comfortable with the big leagues a lot faster than I would've predicted. He's a really, really good player, great teammate. Can't say enough good things about Eloy. He really delivered for us tonight, and it was a big one.”

Again, it’s June. It’s a game against a National League opponent, not exactly the kind of game that helps chew up the deficit separating the White Sox and the out-of-this-world Minnesota Twins at the top of the AL Central. But within these city limits, it’s hard to imagine a bigger stage than this.

The media swarmed Jimenez postgame, causing him to express some shock at the number of cameras and recorders suddenly thrust in his face. He’s been asked a million times what it would be like to play in Wrigley Field. When he rounded first base, the smile on his face — a permanent fixture — was enormous. He gave a huge clap when he touched home plate. Were the emotions what he’d been dreaming of?

“Yes,” was the only verbal response. The body language told a much richer story. He let out ebullient sounds that brought to mind Tim “The Toolman” Taylor. The smile nearly got too big for his face.

These were the Cubs he just beat, a team so often the comparison point for these White Sox. They’re trying to find their way through the same total rebuild the Cubs went through. And without these Cubs, the White Sox might not be as far along as they currently are. Thanks to that trade, which brought Jimenez and Dylan Cease into starring roles in this rebuild, the championship future Hahn has envisioned looks realistic. It looks closer.

The North Siders came out the other end of a rebuild champions. The White Sox have their eyes on the same result.

It might not happen tomorrow, even if the bright spots are shining through now more than ever. But it’s something the White Sox are fully chasing. This is the city of champions, after all.

“It means a lot because we’re fighting for a spot in the playoffs,” Jimenez said. “We have been playing really good and I think that was a good victory for us.”

A good victory for now. A good victory for later. A good victory, indeed.

That was a storybook ending. And it’s only the end of Act I, Scene I.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez drives to Wrigley with Chuck, then drives a dagger into the Cubs hearts

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez drives to Wrigley with Chuck, then drives a dagger into the Cubs hearts

For his first regular season game ever against the Cubs, Eloy Jimenez got a ride from Chuck Garfien which started at Guaranteed Rate Field, stopped at Wrigley Field and ended with Jimenez hitting the game-winning home run in the 9th. First, Vinnie Duber joins Chuck to discuss how Jimenez homered despite breaking his bat (2:00). On the ride, Jimenez' talks about playing at Wrigley (8:20), what Cubs fans say to him now that he's on the White Sox (10:00), how he persuaded Rick Renteria to let him pinch-hit against the Cubs in a spring training game in 2018, and homered (11:30), what his mother thinks of him saying "Hi Mom" (14:30), Jimenez sings hip-hop (17:40), why a home run against the Cubs would mean so much (24:50), his reaction when the Cubs traded him to the White Sox (27:20) and more.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: