White Sox

Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura back Tim Raines for Hall of Fame

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Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura back Tim Raines for Hall of Fame

With one vote to go, Tim Raines is on the cusp of Cooperstown.

But two former teammates can’t believe it already has taken this long for Raines’ quest to gain entry into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

One of the greatest leadoff hitters of all-time, Raines fell 23 votes shy of the 75 percent threshold required to be elected last month. Raines’ 69.8 percent total is his strongest showing in nine years on the ballot and gives plenty of room for optimism he could be inducted in 2017. But even so, the uncertainty bothers White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who played alongside Raines from 1991-95.

“It’s hard when you start looking at guys that should be in that aren’t in and you see him on the last time,” Ventura said. “You feel like something needs to change.

“He’s as dominant as any guy.”

[MORE: Big Hurt takes on new role in White Sox front office]

A seven-time All-Star, Raines produced 69.1 b-Wins Above Replacement in his career, good for 106th all-time. He’s 37th all-time in walks (1,330), 54th in runs scored (1,571), 47th in times on base (3,977) and 79th with 2,605 hits.

Raines also perfected the art of the stolen base. Not only is he fifth all-time with 808 steals, he’s 13th in stolen base percentage as he converted of 84.7 percent of his tries -- “when he went, he was safe,” Ventura said.

Frank Thomas groups Raines with Rickey Henderson and Pete Rose as the greatest leadoff men in baseball history. Thomas, a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2014, said Raines’ impact went beyond the numbers, too.

“He was a great mentor, a great teammate, one of the best teammates ever,” Thomas said. “You meet a couple of guys that rub you that way your whole career and Tim was one. He was a positive impact on a lot of people. And like I said, he had a career that he went through some ups and downs. But he learned and he always talked to young kids.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Raines is the player most affected by the HOF’s new voting procedures, rules that went into effect two years ago. Whereas players previously could remain on the ballot for up to 15 years, now they only have 10 (exemptions were made for candidates who already were in the 11-15 year window).

In his ninth year, Raines saw an increase from 55 percent to 69.8. Those figures are up from 46.1 percent in 2014. With an increase of more than 23 percent of the electorate over the past two votes, Raines’ chances of election are strong with only Jeff Bagwell (71.6 percent) having finished ahead of him in 2016 without getting elected.

“I hope he gets in,” Thomas said. “He deserved to get in this year. Rock’s one of my best friends in life.

“He has the momentum, but he deserves it. I think people overshadowed him (in 2016). But if you look at his numbers, he’s the best power-hitting leadoff hitter of all time. You look at his numbers, they’re crazy.”

White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will reportedly be suspended 80 games for use of PED

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USA TODAY

White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will reportedly be suspended 80 games for use of PED

For the first time since new rules came into effect in 2005, the White Sox will reportedly see a major league player suspended for violating baseball’s ban on performance-enhancing drugs.

Welington Castillo, the team’s biggest offseason addition, will be suspended for 80 games, according to a pair of reports.

Manager Rick Renteria said after Wednesday's win over the visiting Baltimore Orioles that he couldn't comment on the reports. Castillo played in Wednesday's game, during which the news broke.

"For me, those at this particular moment are rumors," Renteria said. "MLB is the one that is in charge of that type of stuff. Until they release anything officially I can’t really comment on that."

The veteran catcher, slashing .267/.309/.466 with six home runs and 15 RBIs in 33 games this season, was brought in over the winter to help the rebuilding White Sox in both the short and long term. He had a career year offensively and defensively in 2017, and he was acquired to help develop a young pitching staff featuring big pieces of the future like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, and also to swing a solid bat and help this young team learn how to win.

If Castillo proves productive over the course of his two-year deal, the White Sox have a team option that could keep Castillo on the South Side for the 2020 season. That could make him a piece of the puzzle for when the rebuild reaches its apex and the team is ready to start contending for championships. But this news has the potential to change that dramatically.

Zack Collins and Seby Zavala are both having strong offensive seasons at Double-A Birmingham and figure to be the long-term answers behind the plate. But Castillo’s absence from any long-term picture could leave the White Sox without a veteran safety net in the years ahead, depending on how the team decides to react to this news now and in the coming seasons.

Castillo’s absence for the next 80 games could also have an impact on the development of aforementioned pitchers like Giolito and Lopez. Lopez, in particular, has been throwing really well this season, and Giolito has control issues to work through, as he leads the American League in walks. Without the veteran catcher brought in to help those guys transition to the major league level, how will the transition change for those two pitchers?

Omar Narvaez would be the logical choice to take over as the No. 1 catcher. As for who could take Castillo's place on the major league roster, the options are limited. Kevan Smith, who was edged out by Narvaez for the backup-catching job in spring training, is on the disabled list at Triple-A Charlotte, placed there Tuesday. The aforementioned Zavala is also injured at Double-A Birmingham, and it seems far too early to rush Collins to the big leagues. Alfredo Gonzalez is a catcher on the roster at Charlotte. A spot on the 40-man roster would need to be freed up to bring him to Chicago.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should be the plan to call up the White Sox prospects?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should be the plan to call up the White Sox prospects?

SportsTalk Live is on location for White Sox Authentic Fan Night. Phil Rogers (MLB Network), Mark Carman (WGN Radio), David DeJesus and Ozzie Guillen join Kap to talk about Manny Machado Mania, Anthony Rizzo’s struggles and the White Sox plans for calling up their best prospects. 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: