White Sox

How Geovany Soto has provided the White Sox with value while on the disabled list

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USA TODAY

How Geovany Soto has provided the White Sox with value while on the disabled list

He might be missing in action to fans, but Geovany Soto has had a significant impact on the White Sox rookie catchers.

Potentially out for the season since May with an elbow injury, Soto has bucked a normal trend for most injured players with his constant presence at White Sox home games. He’s still uncertain, but Soto holds out hope he could play again during the 2017 season. Even if he doesn’t return, Soto has offered the young White Sox catchers plenty of value in an area they lack — experience.

“Everything,” catcher Omar Narvaez said. “The game plan. Throwing to second base. How to anticipate who’s going to run and the count they run in. How to support the pitcher, what moment to go to the mound. All that stuff. What moment we can throw the fastball in, things like that.

“Sometimes there are things I might not know, or he reinforces what I know.

“I can learn from it.”

Headed into this season, Narvaez and Kevan Smith had combined to play 41 major league games. While their collective inexperience wasn’t as much of an issue out of spring camp, it became one when Soto first hit the disabled list with a sore elbow in mid-April. Suddenly, the White Sox were relying upon two catchers with little knowledge of hitters around the league.

Soto returned 11 days later, but his stay was short-lived. He appeared in eight games before his elbow acted up again. Soto decided to have surgery that would keep him out a minimum of three months.

But he’s stuck around, which has been huge for Narvaez and Smith.

Soto said he made that choice because he remembers how valuable it was for him to be able to rely upon veteran catcher Henry Blanco early in his own career.

“I care about my guys, my catchers, my friends,” Soto said. “Henry Blanco took me under his wing, and I loved how that felt. He made me feel like I belonged from early in terms of all the struggles I went through with the defensive part of the game, calling the game, relationship with your pitchers, how to deal with the whole staff. I thought that really helped me as a major leaguer, and that’s all I’m trying to do.”

Whereas most injured players are around occasionally, Soto arrives at Guaranteed Rate Field early and stays late. He doesn’t travel with the team — injured players mostly only do unless they’re on the verge of returning. But Soto has made himself readily available while he rehabs at home.

“He’s there every home game,” Smith said. “He’s always there early. He’s always asking if we want to do extra things, kind of getting some insight. He’s been awesome. He’s almost been like a second catching coach.

“Just a guy you can turn to for advice more so on in-game situations like, ‘What’s the right thing to do here?’ ‘How about that pitch sequence — what were you thinking there?’ He’ll see us kind of peek over into the dugout a few times just to see what he’s thinking.”

Soto — who signed a minor league deal with the White Sox in January for $2 million — said his elbow is 100 percent after arthroscopic surgery but he’s still rehabbing. Even if he doesn’t come back in 2017, Soto intends to play next season, “100 percent.”

“I still have a lot of baseball in this body,” Soto said. “I feel like I’m 21.”

In the meantime, he will continue to impart the wisdom he’s gained over 13 seasons on anyone who asks. He enjoys the role, and though it hasn’t been fully considered, Soto said coaching is in the “realm” of future possibilities.

“We have great guys here,” Soto said. “The most important is they come up here and they want to learn and get with the program.

“We are here to help them, guide them and let them know what they are probably going to see out there that we’ve seen before.”

Narvaez said Soto’s presence has been invaluable. Smith said he and Narvaez love having a veteran player around to increase their knowledge — the kinds of things Soto once asked of Blanco when they played together with the Cubs.

“I ask him a lot of questions on preparation and his first year, what he learned from it and how he got through it,” Smith said. “He’s been a solid guy, especially for being hurt. It’s very easy for a guy that’s hurt to go into a little hole and kind of stick your head out once in a while away.

“These guys are filled with baseball knowledge. You can ask them about situations, what they thought, if we did it the right way, if we pitched it the right way. It’s funny because you’ll be sitting with them and you’re just enlightened.”

Who's the next White Sox Hall of Famer?

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USA TODAY

Who's the next White Sox Hall of Famer?

Harold Baines is in the Hall. Last Sunday’s announcement totally took me (and a lot of others) by surprise.

I was ecstatic to see the news. Baines was one of my favorite players growing up. I loved that iconic leg kick. When they traded him to the Rangers in 1989, nine-year-old me was devastated.

Now that Harold’s in, who should be the next White Sox Hall of Famer? Here are six candidates:

Minnie Miñoso

If you haven’t already, read this:

I’ll summarize (though you really should read it). Miñoso had power, speed and on-base ability. His career may have been delayed due to the color line. If one feels his MLB career isn’t enough, his Negro League career and his role as a pioneer for black Latino ballplayers are plenty to make up the difference.

Dick Allen

Dick Allen hit 351 career home runs. His slashline of .292/.378/.534 is very impressive, even more so when placed in the context of his era. The 1960s was a tough period for hitters. That being said, 1,749 games and 1,848 career hits don’t jump off the page. According to WAR, he’s borderline (61.3 Fangraphs, 58.7 Baseball-Reference). But when you dig a little deeper…

Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) measures offensive production comparing to league average and adjusting for ballpark. 100 is league average, any point above or below represents one percent above or below league average. Dick Allen had a career wRC+ of 155, meaning he was 55% better than league average for his career. That’s incredibly good. How good?

Career wRC+

(minimum 5,000 career plate appearances)

Boldface = Hall of Famer

1. Babe Ruth, 197

2. Ted Williams, 188

3. Lou Gehrig, 173

Rogers Hornsby, 173

5. Barry Bonds, 173

6. Mickey Mantle, 170

7. Ty Cobb, 165

Joe Jackson, 165

9. Stan Musial, 158

Jimmie Foxx, 158

11. Mark McGwire, 157

Johnny Mize, 157

Tris Speaker, 157

14. Mel Ott, 156

Dan Brouthers, 156

16. Joey Votto, 155

Dick Allen, 155

18. Willie Mays, 154

Frank Thomas, 154

Hank Greenberg, 154

There are 1,007 players with at least 5,000 career plate appearances. Allen is tied for SIXTEENTH. Dick Allen isn’t just on a list of good players. He’s listed among top tier all-time greats.

Billy Pierce

Pierce was arguably the best American League pitcher of the 1950s, and perhaps the third best in the Majors (behind Robin Roberts and Warren Spahn). He posted a career ERA of 3.27 (119 ERA+ 19 percent above league average) in over 3,000 innings and was one strikeout short of 2,000. He had 211 career wins and was the only pitcher during the 1950s to post a qualified ERA under 2 (1.97 in 1955).

Billy Pierce WAR Career 1950s 1950s MLB rank 1950s AL rank
Fangraphs WAR 52.5 43.6 3rd 1st
Baseball-Ref WAR 53.2 43.7 3rd 1st

Mark Buehrle

Buehrle compiled 60.3 pitching WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com. That’s the fifth most by a pitcher currently not in the Hall of Fame, behind Tommy John (62.5), CC Sabathia (62.2), Clayton Kershaw (62.1) and Andy Pettitte (60.7). He was remarkably durable; one of only eight pitchers in MLB history with at least 14 consecutive seasons of 200+ innings. The other seven are in the Hall of Fame.

He had 214 career wins; only three active pitchers have at least 200 (Bartolo Colón 247, CC Sabathia 246 and Justin Verlander 204). Buehrle tossed a pair of no-hitters (one perfect) and was a key member of the 2005 World Series championship rotation. He was a five-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glove winner. His career ERA+ of 117 (adjusted for league and ballpark; 17 percent above league average) is better than Steve Carlton (115), Fergie Jenkins (115), Phil Niekro (115), Jim Bunning (115), Robin Roberts (113), Nolan Ryan (112), Don Sutton (108), Early Wynn (107) and Catfish Hunter (104).

Joe Jackson

Among players with 2,500 career plate appearances with the White Sox, the Shoeless One is the career leader in batting average (.340). He’s also the Indians career leader in batting average (.375). His career average of .356 ranks third all-time behind Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby. He had a career on-base percentage of .423 (17th all-time).

Babe Ruth made the home run popular at the dawn of the Roaring 20s. Joe Jackson posted career highs of 12 home runs and 121 RBI in 1920, and then his career came to an end. He was banned for life because of his role in the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Could he have embraced the home run craze? Could he have had a run of 30 or 40-home run seasons for the White Sox had he remained in the game? Unfortunately we’ll never know. Shoeless Joe Jackson wasn’t a mythical figure from a popular movie. He was a legitimate all-time great.

Paul Konerko

Konerko is the next White Sox star to reach the BBWAA ballot, set to make his debut in 2020. He was the heart of the 2005 offense that went on to win the World Series, taking home ALCS MVP honors. Konerko is second in franchise history with 432 home runs and 1,383 RBI, behind only Frank Thomas in both categories. Overall, Konerko had 439 HR (only 43 players in MLB history have more) and 1,412 RBI (75th all-time) with a respectable .279/.354/.486 career slashline. He had seven 30-HR seasons and six 100-RBI campaigns; a six-time All-Star. The White Sox erected a statue in Konerko’s honor in 2014 and his No. 14 was retired by the White Sox the following year.

 

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: It's on the Internet so it must be true- Bryce Harper links himself to the White Sox

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: It's on the Internet so it must be true- Bryce Harper links himself to the White Sox

Hub Arkush, Chris Emma and Jim Litke join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Bryce Harper comments on Nicky Delmonico's Instagram post. So that means he's coming to the White Sox, right? How much would signing Harper change the franchise? And what would happen to the Sox if they don't get him?

8:45- All quiet on the Northside after the Winter Meetings. Do the Cubs really have no big moves up their sleeve or is Theo bluffing?

10:45- It's Packers Week and Matt Nagy isn't living in the past. Can the Bears exorcise their Green Bay demons or will Aaron Rodgers win yet another game at Soldier Field?

19:00- Chris Simms joins Kap to talk Bears and Packers. If the Bears and Rams meet again in the playoffs, can the Bears defense repeat their command performance? And Chris gives his reason why Mitch Trubisky will be a Super Bowl winning QB.

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

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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