White Sox

Jordan Danks finally gets his shot

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Jordan Danks finally gets his shot

Jordan Danks totaled 406 hits over five minor-league seasons. But he always thought about that first hit in the majors, and how it would happen.

On Friday, it happened.

Danks replaced Dayan Viciedo in the top of the sixth, as the White Sox starting left fielder's hamstrings tightened up. In his second at-bat, he singled off Wesley Wright.

"It's a crazy feeling. You think about it all the time," Danks said. "Everybody wants to come up here and everybody wants to get their first, I was just glad it happened sooner rather than later."

It took Danks just two tries to get his first hit. For Robin Ventura, the wait was similarly short, as he walked in his first career at-bat and singled in his third. He didn't have to wait long to get his first taste of the majors, making his debut a day after joining the Sox in 1989.

Ventura saw plenty of youngsters grow anxious on the bench waiting for their major-league debuts during his 16-year career. He's glad Danks didn't have to go through that.

"You get guys that get called up -- having been a player and see guys that sit without getting in there, the buildup can be a little rough," Ventura said. "It's nice to be able to get him in there and get him an at-bat."

The first at-bat of Danks' major-league career came in the sixth inning Friday against Houston lefty Wandy Rodriguez, the lone remaining Astro from the 2005 World Series team. Danks was 19 in 2005 and in his freshman year at the University of Texas when the Sox ended their 88-year title drought. He was drafted in the 19th round by the White Sox a few months prior, although he opted to continue his playing career under Augie Garrido in Austin.

Growing up in Round Rock, Texas, Danks was a three-hour drive from both Houston and Dallas. He said he didn't grow up an Astros fan -- nor a Rangers fan -- so making his debut against Houston didn't have the added significance of, say, Mark Buehrle pitching against the Cardinals.

He's been connected to the White Sox for a long time. His brother, John, was acquired by the Sox in December of 2006 and has been a rotation mainstay for the last five seasons -- and, with his new contract, could spend a full decade with the organization. Jordan was drafted again by the White Sox in 2008 as a seventh-round selection with high expectations.

Danks didn't fulfill those, as he hit a wall in 2010 while playing in Triple-A. It took him three go-arounds in Charlotte to convince the White Sox he was ready, for there to be an opening in Chicago or both.

While working on his game in the minors, though, Danks did realize his shot may not come with the Sox.

"That was one thing that a lot of guys say, play hard every day, even if you don't get up with the team you're with, somebody's watching and you'll get a chance with somebody," he said.

But the White Sox didn't add Danks to their 40-man roster last December, leaving him unprotected for the Rule 5 draft. Plenty of teams could've selected Danks and given him a chance to win a job out of spring training. But he was passed over and remained with the White Sox, the team that had drafted him twice but had concerns about his offensive development.

Defense has never been a question for Danks. He's been regarded as having a fantastic glove for years. It was his bat that was holding him back.

"Last year, watching him and seeing him progress and what he did in spring training, he's a great outfielder," Ventura said. "Offensively, he's improved for me watching him."

And that improvement -- a .302419.515 slash line with eight home runs in Triple-A -- was enough to convince the Sox to add him to the 40 and 25-man rosters when Kosuke Fukudome went down with an injury.

Danks will turn 26 in August. He turned 22 in his first professional season and didn't have the quick ascension through the Sox farm system some expected. But this week, he finally made it.

"I knew that at some point I would get here," Danks said. "I didn't know if it would be this year. But I was just going to keep plugging away until that time did come."

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

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GOOGLE IMAGES

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

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USA TODAY

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

"It's a dirty play by a dirty player."

That was Christian Yelich, the all-but-sure-to-be NL MVP, describing Manny Machado, who's about to become one of the best-paid players in baseball history, after Game 4 of the NLCS, a game in which Machado once again grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Machado's Los Angeles Dodgers and Yelich's Milwaukee Brewers have played four games in this NLCS, and after three of them, the focus has been on Machado. Not because of his bat or his glove but because of lack of hustle and certain methods on the base paths that weren't exactly on the up and up.

After Game 2, he was criticized for not hustling on a ground ball to shortstop. In something straight out of a public-relations person's nightmare, he defended himself by saying that hustling really isn't his cup of tea. During Game 3, he twice attempted to break up double plays by interfering at second base and was, upon review, busted for it the second time. In extra innings in Game 4, he appeared to intentionally drag his leg across Jesus Aguilar's at first base. That play cleared the benches, got Machado called "dirty" in the Brewers' clubhouse and earned him the reputation of postseason villain.

And so Machado's impending free agency gets to be discussed in a brand new light. There's now more baggage attached to the 26-year-old superstar with a fantastic bat and a stellar glove.

The question is: Will the White Sox, one of many teams that could be mulling a contract offer worth hundreds of millions of dollars, care?

As much as it’s talked about building a perennial contender of the future by developing the on-field skills of their fleet of highly touted prospects, the White Sox brain trust has discussed developing a culture, a way of doing things, to go along with all that talent and all that skill. Unsurprisingly that conversation has focused on the oft-used phrase of “doing things the right way.”

Does what Machado has been doing count as “doing things the right way”? It seems easy to assess that it doesn't. It's far more difficult to determine whether it will end up making a difference or not.

Not hustling is one of Rick Renteria's biggest bugaboos. He sat down multiple players on multiple occasions throughout the 2018 season — starting with Avisail Garcia in a spring training game and including a veteran like Welington Castillo as well as a young star like Tim Anderson — for not running to first base on pop ups and line outs and ground outs. Would Renteria's tune suddenly change if Machado and his preference for not hustling arrived on the South Side in what would surely be the biggest free-agent deal in club history?

Renteria got fired up over the issue at the end of July, when he benched Anderson for not hustling on what the shortstop believed was a line out.

“We tell these guys, don’t assume anything. ... It’s as simple as that, and he understands it. He knows it. We’ve talked about it. He comes out of the box, he doesn’t stand there. But we just reiterated to make sure that you allow the umpires to make the calls and you allow the other clubs to go ahead and ask for reviews. We run.”

But asked about not running out his ground ball in Game 2, Machado shared pretty much the opposite philosophy.

"Obviously I'm not going to change, I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,' and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen," Machado told The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. "That's just not my personality, that's not my cup of tea, that's not who I am."

What about Machado's interferences at second base? It was that exact play that sent Anderson into an on-field tiff with umpire Joe West during the second Crosstown series of the season just last month. Javy Baez slid into second base, and Anderson thought Baez did something he shouldn't have, raising his arm to interfere with a double-play turn, that sequence of events ending with Anderson screaming at West on the field. Would Anderson be cool with playing alongside — and potentially vacating his position at shortstop for — an infamous interferer?

And what about being a "dirty player," a villain? The White Sox always seemed fine — heck, they loved it — having one of baseball's greatest irritants in A.J. Pierzynski on the roster. Perhaps no player wore the "villain" title as a badge of honor more than the catcher on the 2005 World Series team. But remember that Pierzynski took the punch, he didn't throw it. Being baseball's version of a "villain" and being a guy who makes dangerous plays that could hurt somebody are two different things.

The point being: Do Machado's actions in this postseason series make him anathema to the "Ricky's boys don't quit" mantra? If the White Sox were to turn a blind eye to the events of this NLCS, would it qualify as a betrayal of their quest to establish a high-effort, high-character culture?

Or do they value that culture so much that they stay away from Machado this offseason?

Here's Rick Hahn from September of last year.

"It’s the culture that Ricky and his coaching staff have been able to create in that clubhouse. I cannot tell you how many various fans have stopped me, or emailed me or mentioned to me that they’ve never been this excited over a 60-win team. Or they’ve never been excited about a team that isn’t going to the playoffs. And I think so much of that is based on how Ricky and the coaches have them playing day in and day out. You see them fighting for 27 outs, you see them prepared every night. Sure, we’re going to get out-manned at portions during this process, but the fight and competitiveness and the style of play is the kind of thing that is going to endure year in and year out. And that is extremely important for us to establish at the big league level for all of us."

Machado's talent would make any team he's a part of more competitive. But for the White Sox, who talk an awful lot about hustling and refusing to quit, perhaps all these postseason shenanigans make it so Machado just isn't their cup of tea.