White Sox

Home opener still special for veteran Konerko

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Home opener still special for veteran Konerko

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted: 3:47 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

The 3-2 White Sox returned home for their first game in Chicago, packing a couple of players who werent sure theyd return after last season, Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski.

Konerko begins his sixth season as White Sox captain and has insisted since the end of 2010 that he never counted Chicago out as his 2011 destination.

Home openers are always special, he said. You remember every Opening Day. You remember every home opener. At least I do; other than getting to the playoffs, that will be the only time all year that has that feel. Definitely, thinking back to last year, I didnt know where Id be, I didnt necessarily think I wouldnt be there. I just didnt know.

As for the popular players connection to fans, Konerko feels it as strong as ever.

Its nice. It means they appreciate that youve showed up and played, he said. It kind of gives you energy to go out and do it again because the longer you play, the tougher it gets to drag yourself out there every day and get after it. When youre at home, you should draw energy from your fans and Opening Day at home is the most youll get all year, barring the playoffs so you try to use it.

Pierzynski was literally one phone call from joining the Los Angeles Dodgers, a move he didnt want to make but after the big-money signings of Adam Dunn and Konerko, the White Sox coffers were thought to be dried up.

I expect a nice ovation, Guillen said. PK has been here for so long and A.J., everybody in Chicago likes AJ and I dont know why. Maybe because hes Polish.

Guillen is thrilled when longtime players are honored by teams, and expected a nice reception for both players.

They are playing good for us and have been playing good for a long time, he said. We are very excited to have them here because I remember when I took those guys out in 2010s season finale, when both players received long ovations, in the back of my mind, I was saying bye to them. I thank God, owner Jerry Reinsdorf and GM Kenny Williams we brought those guys back.

As far as Opening Day, however, dont count Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen as a huge fan.

I have to deal with all of these people, Guillen lamented. Opening Day, back home, its all exciting. You have the PR guys with suits and ties, like its a special day. You see the people in the front office with the suit and tie, like they are going to be in the team picture.

Still, Guillen knows how important the day is for fansvirtually an official holiday for fans of the home team.

Opening Day here is exciting because the fans, he said. To me, its for the fans and the media. You have a chance to come back home and enjoy this day. Its a special day for people. For me its another year in the big leagues, another year back home. Its my 21st with the White Sox. I cant wait until the game starts.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

The White Sox need starting pitching, so why not bring in a guy with a Cy Young Award sitting on his mantle?

Dallas Keuchel is one of the two biggest names on the starting-pitching market this winter, along with Patrick Corbin, who will get more attention — and likely more dollars — because he's two years younger. But Keuchel's the guy with the track record, the AL Cy Young winner in 2015 (when he was also a top-five MVP finisher), a two-time All Star, a four-time Gold Glove winner and the owner of a 3.28 ERA over the past five seasons, during which he helped the Houston Astros transition from rebuilding to one of baseball's perennial contenders. You might have heard something about them winning the World Series in 2017.

It's true that things have been somewhat up and down for Keuchel since his Cy Young win. After posting a 2.48 ERA with a career-high 216 strikeouts in 33 starts during that 2015 season, he had a 4.55 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 26 starts in 2016, then a 2.90 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 23 starts in 2017 and a 3.74 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 34 starts last season. But three times in the last five years he's finished with an ERA under 3.00. In other words, he's pretty darn good.

How might he fit with the White Sox? Well, in terms of whether or not he lines up with their long-term plans. Keuchel's older than Corbin, but it's not like he's old. He'll be 31 on Opening Day 2019, and a long-term deal, which he's expected to fetch, would keep him around for another planned transition from rebuilding to contention. Keuchel — a veteran who's accomplished a lot already, including putting a World Series ring on his finger — could be viewed as a Jon Lester type for these rebuilding White Sox, a big name who buys into the front office's long-term plan and helps make those plans become reality.

And there's no doubt the White Sox are in the market for starting pitching this winter. Michael Kopech is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the White Sox decided not to pick up James Shields' option for 2019. That leaves two holes in the starting rotation. An addition like Keuchel would be a long-term one, which means the White Sox would opt to make him a safety net for their still-developing fleet of young pitchers and choose not to roll the dice on a homegrown starting staff for 2020. However, if they're confident in a quintet of Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease, then maybe they opt for a couple one-year fill-ins in 2019. Keuchel would not be a one-year fill-in.

Keuchel could also fill the role vacated by Shields, a veteran who could help bring along the young guys in an off-the-field mentor role. His experience going through the dark days of a rebuild — he was a member of Astros teams that lost a combined 310 games from 2012 to 2014 — and coming out the other end a world champ would also figure to be of value.

Of course, the White Sox wouldn't be alone in a pursuit of Keuchel, if they were interested. Thanks to Clayton Kershaw signing a new contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he's one of the two biggest names on the market when it comes to starting pitchers. The White Sox would likely have to go through the same bidding war and pitch of planned future success they would with other big names like Corbin, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

But there's no doubt Keuchel would be an upgrade to this rotation in 2019 and could provide plenty of value for years beyond.

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

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USA TODAY

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports has made a habit of failing to remember the South Siders in recent years, most notably forgetting (on multiple occasions) that the White Sox did in fact win the 2005 World Series.

It happened enough times that A.J. Pierzynski had some opinions about it.

This time, the omission came in an effort to illustrate how good Mike Trout is, with ESPN researcher Paul Hembekides listing baseball players who appeared in the top four in MVP voting three or more times. Trout, the Los Angeles Angels superstar, has already done it seven times, and boy that is terrific.

But Hembekides left someone out. And that someone let him hear about it.

You tell 'em, Frank.

Yes, the Big Hurt finished in the top four of the AL MVP vote on six separate occasions: 1991 (third), 1993 (first), 1994 (first), 1997 (third), 2000 (second) and 2006 (fourth, while playing for the Oakland Athletics).

ESPN's blind spot for the White Sox doesn't end up meaning much of anything, though it's amusing that they've now managed to leave out a relatively recent World Series champion and a relatively recent first-ballot Hall of Famer.

We all make mistakes. But it's a little funny that ESPN's are, repeatedly, White Sox related.