White Sox

Luis Robert latest Cuban player to join White Sox

Luis Robert latest Cuban player to join White Sox

SEATTLE --- The Cuban connection remains strong for the White Sox.

With Saturday’s reported signing of 19-year-old outfielder Luis Robert, the White Sox have once again gone to the island to find a potential major leaguer. Jose Abreu is the team’s only current

Cuban, but the club’s past is littered with players, including Minnie Minoso, Alexei Ramirez, Jose Contreras and ‘El Duque’ Orlando Hernandez.

When he joined them in 2014 and went on to win the American League rookie of the year, Abreu became the 17th Cuban player in White Sox history. Adrian Nieto was the 18th after he spent the 2014 season on the roster as a Rule 5 draft pick.

Robert becomes the team’s second high-profile Cuban prospect behind Yoan Moncada, who was acquired in a trade in December. Both Abreu and Moncada pitched Robert as part of a video presentation the White Sox made, pleading with him to join them in Chicago. Abreu said he has the highest respect for the White Sox and how they have treated Cuban players.

[MORE: Video pitch helps White Sox sign potential cornerstone Luis Robert to loaded farm system]

As for his pitch, Abreu said: “I just told him that the White Sox organization was a great organization, that this is an organization that will take care of the Cuban players and has a high respect for us, and that it would be very special to have him playing with us.”

Here’s a look at other prominent Cubans who have played for the White Sox.

-- Minnie Minoso (1951-57, 1960-61, 1964, 1976, 1980)

The island’s first major league star was a seven-time All-Star. The ‘Cuban Comet’ finished with 1,963 hits and an .848 OPS. He led the AL in Wins Above Replacement in 1954 with 8.3 and finished in the top-10 in WAR six times.

-- Alexei Ramirez (2008-15)

An eight-year starter and the full-time shortstop after 2009, Ramirez averaged 153-plus games a season. He won the Silver Slugger Award in 2010 and 2014, was an All-Star in 2014 and produced 19 f-WAR in his White Sox career.

-- Jose Contreras (2004-09)

A 15-game winner for the World Series winners in 2005, the right-hander also was an All-Star a season later when he went 13-9 with a 4.27 ERA. Contreras helped the Sox to its last two postseason appearances in six seasons.

-- Jose Canseco (2001)

More prominent for what he did before and after his lone season with the White Sox, Canseco hit 16 homers and drove in 49 runs in 76 games in what was the final year of his career.

-- Dayan Viciedo (2010-13)

The youngster slipped in his second full season in 2013 as he hit 11 fewer homers than he did in 2012. But in 2012 Viciedo had 25 homers and drove in 78 runs, which gives the White Sox hope he can develop into a superstar.

-- Orlando Hernandez (2005)

The overall numbers in his only season with the White Sox weren’t eye-popping, but he added another winning presence to the mix. He also pitched three shutout innings in the ALDS clincher against the Red Sox.

-- Sandy Consuegra (1953-56)

The right-hander was a jack-of-all trades for the ’54 Sox, who won 94 games and finished third in the league. An All-Star, he went 16-3 with a 2.69 ERA, two shutouts and three saves in 39 games (17 starts).

-- Luis Aloma (1950-53)

The reliever appeared in 116 games over four seasons and finished with an 18-3 record and a 3.44 ERA.

-- Rudy Arias (1959)

Though he didn’t pitch in the World Series for the Go-Go White Sox, Arias did go 2-0 with a 4.09 ERA in 34 relief appearances in the regular season.

-- Mike Fornieles (1953-56)

Later an All-Star with the Red Sox, he went 8-7 with a 3.59 ERA in 153 innings in his first season on the South Side. Fornieles appeared in 86 games for the Sox and had a 3.82 ERA over 297 innings.

-- Adrian Nieto (2014)

A Rule 5 selection in December 2013, Nieto spent the entire 2014 season with the White Sox. He caught 48 games and hit two home runs. Nieto also called Abreu “The Cuban Babe Ruth” after the first baseman burst onto the scene that April.

Other Cuban players to play for the White Sox include: Jose Acosta (1922), Guillermo “Willy” Maranda (1952), Aurelio Monteagudo (1967), Hector Rodriguez (1952), Nelson Santovenia (1992) and Leo Sutherland (1980-81).

Matt Vasgersian is Hawk Harrelson’s biggest fan, campaigns for him to get in Hall of Fame

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USA TODAY

Matt Vasgersian is Hawk Harrelson’s biggest fan, campaigns for him to get in Hall of Fame

Hawk Harrelson has both supporters and detractors in large numbers. Despite being divisive, he is up for nomination in the Hall of Fame.

One of his biggest supporters is current baseball announcer Matt Vasgersian. Vasgersian was on the White Sox Talk Podcast this week and absolutely raved about Hawk.

“Hawk has changed the vernacular of the sport to the degree that Hawkisms have entered your everyday non-baseball conversations that same way,” Vasgersian said. “And somebody who is even unaware of who Hawk Harrelson is, my wife says, ‘He gone.’”

Current White Sox play-by-play man Jason Benetti raved about Hawk in similar ways in an interview on MLB Network previously. It seems his fellow broadcasters are some of Hawk’s biggest fans.

Vasgersian not only thinks Hawk should be in the Hall of Fame, but thinks he is among the great even within the Hall.

“He’s made more of an impact that way than any other broadcaster that’s even in the Hall of Fame currently,” Vasgersian said. “I get so wound up about it. The fact that he’s been on the ballot, he’s been eligible for this very prestigious honor before and for whatever reason, the committee thinks it’s more appropriate to put a guy who’s been dead for 60 years in the Hall of Fame now as opposed to getting Hawk in. He should’ve been in the inaugural class in the Frick wing as far as I’m concerned.”

Vasgersian waxed poetic in just about every way possible, including taking on Hawk’s homerism.

"I know the backroom conversation is, but oh, he was such a homer,” Vasgersian said. “Well, isn't that the whole doggone point. Isn’t that the idea? Don’t White Sox fans when they turn on a White Sox game want to know the perspective from their own team? So he would root a little bit, ‘Come on Robin, come on Robin,’ the snotty broadcaster who doesn’t think he’s above the fray would say, ‘that’s not the way you’re supposed to play it.’  No, that’s not the way you’re supposed to play it if you’re a national broadcast where you have to do it down the middle, but Hawk works for the White Sox. He was doing the games for White Sox fans and nobody served their home fans better than Hawk Harrelson, ever. Ever in the history of this.”

The extremely kind words continued with Vasgersian saying Hawk is a treasure.

“There will not be another larger than life character like Hawk ever again,” Vasgersian said.

It sounds like Hawk should have Vasgersian introduce him wherever he goes for the rest of his life.

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White Sox make big free-agent splash, sign Yasmani Grandal to richest contract in team history

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USA TODAY

White Sox make big free-agent splash, sign Yasmani Grandal to richest contract in team history

The White Sox have made a big free-agent splash.

The team announced Thursday it signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year deal worth $73 million, the richest contract in team history, surpassing the $68 million Jose Abreu received over the course of six years when he arrived from Cuba ahead of the 2014 season.

After turning down a multi-year contract a year ago, he bet on himself in 2019, taking a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. It worked. Grandal reached base at a .380 clip and posted an .848 OPS, his highest marks in those categories since his 60-game rookie season in 2012. He hit a career-high 28 home runs, had a career-high 77 RBIs and walked a career-high 109 times. In addition to all that offensive production, the 31-year-old Grandal has a solid reputation as a pitch-framer.

“Yasmani ranks among the very elite catchers in Major League Baseball today, and we are extremely happy to add a durable and talented player of his caliber to our lineup,” general manager Rick Hahn said in the team's announcement. “His selectivity at the plate is a real plus offensively, and as a switch hitter, his combination of power and on-base percentage stand out. Yasmani’s defensive abilities, pitch framing and other advanced catching metrics also separate him from others in the game.

“In addition to what he brings to the field, Yasmani is also a great benefit in the clubhouse. We foresee him playing an integral role on both the further development of our young pitchers and the continued improvement of our offense as we reach our championship goals.”

Grandal gives the White Sox a long-term answer at catcher, a position that wasn't on the team's offseason to-do list. The White Sox converted on an opportunity to add stability there with a player of Grandal's caliber.

The White Sox already had an All Star at catcher in James McCann, but after a tremendous first half, McCann slashed just .226/.281/.413 in 55 games after the All-Star break. Under team control for one more season, McCann now provides the White Sox with a solid backup backstop, bringing his much celebrated work ethic and work with the pitching staff behind Grandal on the depth chart. As for where Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes fit into the mix, we'll have to wait and see.

With the Grandal signing, Hahn starts what's expected to be a busy White Sox offseason with a bang. The contract is the biggest in franchise history and shows the team has an intention to spend big as they transition from rebuilding mode to contending mode.

There are still numerous needs to address — the stated goals of adding a right fielder, designated hitter and two starting pitchers — but this signing is the kind of upgrade and the kind of splash White Sox fans have been clamoring for.

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