White Sox

Former White Sox teammates applaud Tim Raines' election to Hall of Fame

Former White Sox teammates applaud Tim Raines' election to Hall of Fame

Carlton Fisk played with Tim Raines for about two and a half seasons with the White Sox, but during that time the Hall of Fame catcher never considered that Raines would eventually join him in Cooperstown enshrined among baseball's greatest players. 

Even as Raines inched his way toward reaching the 75 percent vote threshold for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Fisk wasn't sure his former teammate's credentials would get him in. Then, last summer, Fisk joined former White Sox hitting coach Walt Hriniak for a round of golf and had an epiphany of sorts. 

"We started talking about Tim Raines," Fisk recalled over the weekend at the Hilton Chicago during SoxFest. "And he said, 'You know, Pudgy, you look at Tim's numbers — and you don't think he's a Hall of Famer?' I said, 'I don't even know his numbers.' I know he stole a lot of bases, I know he got a lot of hits. 

"But I didn't know they were that many stolen bases or that many hits. I didn't even know — it just didn't register that he played that long, either, maybe because he came over from a different league. And then Walt worked with him a lot — hitting and that while mental approach to the game. And he says, 'This guy was good. This guy's got great numbers.' I said, well, we'll see, I hope everybody else recognizes that also."

In his 10th and final year on the ballot, Raines received 85.9 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer along with Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez. Raines, statistically, is one of the best leadoff hitters of all time, finishing his 23-year career with a .395 batting average and 808 stolen bases. Not once in those 23 seasons did Raines have more strikeouts than walks, among his other accomplishments. 

"I have no reason, no understanding of why it took him so long to get there," Frank Thomas said during a panel discussion with CSN Chicago's Chuck Garfien on Saturday.

Thomas put Raines among the top three leadoff hitters in baseball history, along with Rickey Henderson and Pete Rose. Probably to Raines' Hall of Fame detriment was that he played at the same time as Henderson (Raines and Henderson both debuted in 1979 and retired one year apart in the early 2000's), who stole nearly 600 more bases than him, won an MVP and finished his career with 3,055 hits. 

"He's in the hall now," former two-sport superstar and White Sox outfielder Bo Jackson said. "What he did, what Rickey did, they're both in the Hall of Fame. Whenever you think of base-stealing, three people in our era that you can point to when you mention the words base stealing: Vince Coleman, Tim Raines and Rickey Henderson."

Thomas, though, pointed out that Raines stole bases at a better average than Henderson (84.6 percent to 80.7 percent) and brought a loose, "goofball" presence to the White Sox clubhouse after the team acquired him from the Montreal Expos prior to the 1991 season. But he was overshadowed nationally by Henderson, and with stars like Fisk, Thomas and Jackson on the White Sox in the early 1990's, he had a spotlight to share on his own team. 

"Tim Raines was under the radar as far as consideration in that area," Fisk said. "I think that's why a lot of people didn't recognize that he had the presence and the numbers that he had. I'm really glad that they recognize that now."

Raines only spent four years of his career on 35th and Shields, during which he helped the White Sox win a division title in 1993. He'll enter the Hall of Fame wearing an Expos hat, but his impact on the South Side won't be forgotten. 

"I am glad to have had the privilege to say I was on the same team with Tim Raines at one point in time," Jackson said. 

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

With Jose Abreu playing in the All-Star Game, we asked some of his American League teammates about the White Sox first baseman. Justin Verlander, Craig Kimbrel and Michael Brantley rave about Abreu, explaining why he’s such a great hitter and a tough out for pitchers. 

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

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While the White Sox wait for their All Stars of the future to develop, Jose Abreu is representing the club at the All-Star Game in the nation’s capital.

Abreu, elected by the fans to be the American League’s starting first baseman Tuesday night, might represent the White Sox present, but he’s a key part of their future, as well. While his contract situation remains a mystery — the team would need to extend him in order to keep around past the 2019 season — he’s helping to develop the players who are planned to make up the next contending group on the South Side.

No player is more under Abreu’s guiding hand than Yoan Moncada, his fellow Cuban who just a season ago was the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Moncada’s development from top prospect into star of the future is the biggest storyline of the season for the White Sox. And Abreu, the role model in this clubhouse, is in part tasked with helping Moncada do just that.

“Our friendship is special,” Moncada said through a team translator last week. “We’re always talking about everything, having fun. He gives me advice, and I always try to make fun of him. Our relationship has been for a long time. We were friends in Cuba. And now we are rejoined here. It’s just a very good relationship. I’m blessed having him here.”

“He’s a Cuban, and it’s always special to play with a fellow Cuban countryman. He’s a great kid,” Abreu said through a team translator Monday. “I think that it’s a blessing. The White Sox did all that they could do for us to play together. I’m just enjoying the moment and every day with him. It’s special. It’s definitely a very special feeling.”

Abreu is often lauded by White Sox brass as the perfect example of what they want their young players to become. His incredible production makes that an easy comparison: He put up at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first four major league seasons. But it’s what he does outside the lines that gets the highest praise. Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and all of Abreu’s teammates constantly talk about his work ethic, his routine, his dedication to getting better and the way he goes about his business.

Moncada’s noticed. And he sees Abreu’s latest accomplishment — getting picked as an All-Star starter — as vindication that, yes, Abreu’s methods certainly work.

“Knowing him, knowing all the effort that he puts into his preparation, his work ethic, all that work that he puts into his preparation is paying off and he’s recognized with this election,” Moncada said. “That’s something that motivates you, something that lets you know that if you do things the right way, you’re going to get rewarded. For me, it’s a motivation, and I feel really honored to share this team with him.”

Moncada’s first full season in the bigs hasn’t gone smoothly. He’s had his hot stretches — including the last couple weeks; he’s slashing .356/.453/.644 since July 2 — but he’s also had long periods of struggles. Certain aspects, such as a propensity for striking out and making errors at second base, have been constants throughout the campaign.

Renteria refers to the mistakes and the poor results as teachable moments. Does he have a proxy teacher in Abreu?

“I tell him to enjoy the game,” Abreu said. “Enjoy the game, have fun, be a little more focused on the situation of the game. But I think the key is to have fun.”

Mostly, though, Abreu is convinced that Moncada will blossom into the kind of player White Sox fans hoped he would when he brought that top-prospect track record to the organization in the Chris Sale trade. The expectations are undoubtedly high, but Abreu’s been seeing Moncada meet them for some time. The two have known each other since the younger Moncada was 17 years old.

“I think that he was born with special abilities to play this sport,” Abreu said. “Before I met him, there were a lot of people talking about him in Cuba because of his abilities, the talent that he has. And when I met him, it was a very special moment. As soon as I met him, I realized, ‘Wow, what people say about him is true.’ His body type, his ability to play the game. He’s special.”

So will the All Star of today and the All Star of tomorrow one day share the All-Star stage?

“I would like to have that opportunity. Let’s pray to God to have that opportunity,” Abreu said. “If that happens, that would be really special for us.”