White Sox

Garfien: Buehrle to the Cubs? No chance

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Garfien: Buehrle to the Cubs? No chance

Over the last couple days you may have heard rumblings in the news that a certain baseball team in Chicago not called the White Sox has expressed interest in signing free agent pitcher Mark Buehrle. Im told the thought of the South Side legend calling the North Side home has produced such side effects as nausea, headaches, and especially -- heartburn.

As I sit here today, I cannot promise you that Mark will return to the White Sox. There are many teams knocking on the door, and reportedly even the team that plays at Wrigley Field. However, there is one thing I can assure you:

Mark Buehrle will not sign with the Cubs.

Rest easy, White Sox fans. It wont happen.

How do I know?

Lets start with what we know about Mark as a person. Growing up in a close-knit family in St. Charles, Missouri, the values that were instilled in him back then are still very much apart of his life. Ever hear the phrase Give me a child until he is seven and Ill give you the man?

Thats Mark.

He was born into a world that made him a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, and to a large degree, he remains that to this very day. The White Sox are number one in his life, the Cardinals are number two.

What do both teams have in common? A deep and utter dislike for the Cubs. Those feelings dont go away in a day or even three decades.

Mark also knows who he is. His life has become deeply rooted, not only in White Sox lore, but in the hearts and minds of the people who come to watch him play. He knows it, and when he takes the mound at U.S. Cellular Field, he feels it. Although he wasnt raised on the South Side, when he looks into the crowd, he doesnt just see White Sox fans, he sees a bit of himself. Meat and potato baseball fans. Thats one of the reasons hes become such an icon.

So would Buehrle, who has made 85 million in his baseball career -- millions more than he ever dreamed of -- jump ship to the other side of town, turning his backs on the only team hes ever played for, the only major league fans who have ever cheered for him, just so he could chase a few extra bucks?

No way.

These are just my words. Want to hear some from Mark?

Buehrle has declined to be interviewed until he signs with the lucky team. But an interview I did with him last February during spring training revealed what he was thinking then, and is very likely thinking now. Mark has lived by the same principles his entire life. I doubt they have changed in the last nine months.

In the conversation, he first explained that if the White Sox didnt re-sign him there would be a small list of teams he would play for.

Obviously St. Louis would be there, Buehrle said. Im not going to throw teams out to you because obviously getting to the end of your career youre going to want to go to a team thats going to win or has a chance to win. Youre not going to go to a team thats obviously rebuilding.

After winning 71 games and finishing 25 games out of first place, this would seemingly take the Cubs out of contention. One could argue that the White Sox situation isnt much better, but thats a subject for another column, one I would disagree with -- depending on the moves Kenny Williams makes this off-season. Its too early to go down that road.

Right now, I cant pinpoint how many teams, Buerhle continued. I know there are teams in my head I will not go to no matter how much money or what the situation is. If the White Sox dont want to sign me back after this year and some team that Im not a fan of, or I dont want to go play for, or if its just too far from home, Im not going to go play just to make money.

So I asked him. What about the Cubs?

Im not saying any names, any cities, any towns, but I have a few teams that are on my mind I would play for, and there are a few teams I wouldnt play for.

I told Mark that if he went to the Cubs Id be concerned about the mental well-being of many White Sox fans.

I could see that, he replied. I dont know if I can get up for that many day games. Im not a morning person. Spring training is about it, and then I need some sleep.

Mark is a smart person and also a smart business man. There would be no benefit in saying directly that he wouldnt play for the Cubs. But read between the lines. Its all there.

Cubs President Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer are reportedly pursuing Buehrle, which is what any smart baseball executive would and should do. On paper, hes a logical fit for the Cubs. Plus, they both have experience seeing one of their best players leave and play for their biggest rival. In 2006, Johnny Damon departed the Red Sox and signed with the hated Yankees. Wade Boggs did the same thing. Theyre probably thinking, Why not Buehrle?

But thats Boston and New York. This is Chicago. Its different here. Its the same reason Kerry Wood chose not to sign with the White Sox last winter. He wouldnt do it.

For those of us who are from here, its all quite simple.

The Sox are the Sox.
The Cubs are the Cubs.
We are who we are. Its in our blood.
The Sox are in Buehrles blood.

Being traded across town is one thing. Its happened before. Even to Ron Santo. But choosing to jump ship and actually sign with the enemy, thats completely another.

Some athletes chase money, some chase fame, some both.
Buehrle? He stands for much more than that.

Will he sign with the Cubs?

No offense to my friends and colleagues who are Cubs fans, but the answer is an easy one.

It can be summed up in a single word.

Never.

On this day in 2005: White Sox pitchers put the CG in Chicago

On this day in 2005: White Sox pitchers put the CG in Chicago

Mark Buehrle. Jon Garland. Freddy García. José Contreras.

The 2005 White Sox had four consecutive complete games to finish off the 2005 ALCS — Contreras took his turn in Game 5 against the Angels 13 years ago Tuesday. How special was that run of starting pitching to finish that series? Consider the following six statements:

— No team has had more than two complete games in a single postseason, let alone a postseason series, since.

— There has been a grand total of four complete games in 188 postseason games (through Monday) since the beginning of 2016.

— Those 2005 White Sox remain the only team with four complete games in a single LCS (which went to a best-of-seven format in 1985).

— They are the only team since the 1968 Tigers (in the World Series) with at least four complete games in any postseason series.

— They are the only team since the 1956 Yankees (in the World Series) with at least four consecutive complete games in a series. (The Yankees had five in a row: Games 3 through 7.)

— They are the only team since the 1928 Yankees (in the World Series) with at least four consecutive complete-game wins in a series (Games 1 through 4).

Take a moment to look back and appreciate what Don Cooper’s troops were able to accomplish in that series. The way the game is played nowadays, we will never see it again.

If 2018 was all about 'learning experiences' for young White Sox, what did Lucas Giolito learn?

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USA TODAY

If 2018 was all about 'learning experiences' for young White Sox, what did Lucas Giolito learn?

We heard a lot about "learning experiences" during the White Sox 100-loss 2018 season.

It was Rick Renteria's way of describing the to-be-anticipated growing pains for highly touted players spending their first full seasons in the major leagues. Fan expectations were high for the likes of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Yoan Moncada, and by very few measures did those players — some of the first of the organization's bevy of prospects to reach the South Side — live up to those expectations.

But that doesn't mean that those players' seasons were devoid of value. Renteria, the White Sox and the players all expect these "learning experiences" to have long-term benefits. In other words, it's the struggles now that will help these players succeed and create the planned perennial contender on the South Side.

So if those "learning experiences" were so valuable, what did these guys learn?

Giolito finished his first full season in the bigs with a 6.13 ERA, leading baseball in earned runs allowed and leading the American League in walks. What did he take from what looked from the outside like a disappointing season?

"I think I learned the most from my worst starts this year, the ones where I didn’t make it out of the first, didn’t make it out of the second," Giolito said before the end of the White Sox season last month. "Just going out there not having the right mindset from the get go and allowing the game to speed up on me really quickly, there’s maybe two, three, four games where that happened. And obviously I came out of those games upset and frustrated, but now looking back on them from this perspective at the end of the season, I really learned the most from those.

"Entering every single start, I get roughly 32 of them a year, make sure that I’m prepared, I’m ready to pitch, my routine is set and I’m following it to a ‘T.’ And over the second half of the season, I started to put up better numbers, put up more competitive starts just through that process of earlier in the year grinding and grinding and not doing well. I learned a lot about myself in that process as a pitcher and as a competitor."

Certain numbers don't exactly show a drastic improvement from one half of the season to the other: Giolito's ERA prior to the All-Star break (6.18) and after it (6.04) were pretty much the same. He had a much improved August (3.86 ERA in six starts) and a rough September (9.27 ERA in five starts).

But again, the 2018 season wasn't about what the numbers look like now. It was about what those numbers will look like a year or two or three from now, when the White Sox make their transition from rebuilding to contending.

"You go out there and you don’t get the job done, you’re knocked out of the game early, looking back on it, it’s like, ‘Now I know what doesn’t work.’ And I’m able to make those adjustments and the changes to the routine and the changes to mindset and things to be able to go out there," Giolito said. "I’m not going to have my best stuff every day. Some days I might not feel right and might be battling myself a little bit. But it’s being able to make that quick adjustment, not letting the game speed up. That’s the biggest thing.

"At this level, you go out there and you’re not feeling right in the first inning, it might be three runs, four runs on the board before you even know it. And I think getting that experience, getting to pitch every fifth day for an entire season and having a ton of downs and starting to figure it out more toward the end, it’s gaining that experience and learning what works and learning what doesn’t."

Throughout the season, Renteria complimented Giolito for the pitcher's ability to move on from rough beginnings to starts and turn in a five- or six-outing despite the early trouble. Giolito did a good deal of that throughout the season, with longevity during starts rarely being an issue, even if the run totals were high. Only six of his 32 starts in 2018 were shorter than five innings, and the percentage of his starts that lasted six and seven innings increased from the first half of the season to the second.

And then there are the walks, and there was a significant decrease in the amount of guys Giolito was putting on base between the first and second halves of the season. He walked 60 batters in 103.1 innings in the first half for a BB/9 of 5.2, compared to 30 batters in 70 innings in the second half for a BB/9 of 3.9.

So there were positives for Giolito to take from his 2018 campaign.

"The second half of the season, bouncing back from what I was doing. Cutting down on the walks, starting to pitch better, pitch more consistently. Even games when I wasn’t sharp, I was getting hit around, not doing so well, I did a better job of at least giving the team a chance, getting a little bit deeper into the game," he said. "So I’d say those are some of the highlights, learning from the mistakes and learning from the failures and within the season being able to make the right adjustments to be more successful."

On Opening Day, Giolito talked about how different a pitcher he was more than a year after joining the White Sox organization. One full season in the big leagues, and Giolito is again a different pitcher. It's that continuing evolution that the White Sox hope will make him a mainstay in their rotation of the future.

"More experience, more mature. I’m no longer really fazed by the big situation. If I get into trouble in the first inning, I’m not worrying about it or thinking about it or how I screwed up the last at-bat, last pitch, I walked a guy, gave up a double, whatever it might be. Now, what’s in the past is in the past, even when I’m out there," he said. "If I mess up a couple pitches, I know the adjustment to make and I’m going to do my best to make that adjustment without it taking a couple innings or even never making the adjustment the entire start, which is what was happening through April, May, June.

"Just getting that experience and learning to make those adjustments on the fly. I’d say that’s what I’m really taking away from this year."