White Sox

Manny done being Manny; White Sox react

Manny done being Manny; White Sox react

Friday, April 8, 2011
Posted: 6:48 p.m. Updated: 8:26 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

As the White Sox clubhouse opened on Friday, news had just broken about Manny Ramirezs retirement from baseball. Ramirez played the last month of the 2010 season, appearing in 24 games with the White Sox and posting a .739 OPS.

Major League Baseball notified Ramirez of an issue under its drug program and Ramirez opted to retire rather than face another 100-game suspension.

To me, its none of my business, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. It shows people that major league baseball is after drug users. Theyre not playing around. Theyre letting the players know how tough theyre going to be.

Despite his underperformance for the White Sox in 2010, Guillen continues to insist he was a terrific addition to the team.

Manny, as a friend, as his former manager, he was great for the game, Guillen said. Hes done a lot of great things for baseball. He was one of the best hitters to play the game. He played good for us last yearI wish he could have played better. He was great in the clubhouse. I dont have any complaints or regrets to have him with the ballclub. Everything was great for us.

Longtime teammate Omar Vizquel (1994-2000) also lamented the loss, saying, He was unreal. He was one of the most feared guys with runners in scoring position."

Vizquel also opined that Ramirez may have had an ulterior motive in his latest positive drug test.

The drug suspension is a really touchy thing these days; everybody knows about the circumstances and the way that you are penalized about, Vizquel said. I guess he realized that he couldnt play anymore and he was just trying to find a way out. And he found it.

As supportive of Ramirez as Guillen was, he endorsed swift and serious punishment for anyone who flaunts the rules.

If you get caught, you should be punished, because weve known for the last five or six years theyre after this, and any players who take drugs are taking a risk.

Ramirez ditches his one-year, 2 million contract with the Rays, having lasted five games and putting up a 1-for-17 line for his final season.

We are obviously surprised and disappointed by this news, Tampa said in a statement.

A great player retired, but I believe it is a galvanizing moment for us, Rays manager Joe Maddon tweeted before tonights game.

Ramirez played for 19 years, compiling 2,574 hits, 1,831 RBI and a .996 OPS (ninth-highest ever). His 555 home runs place him 14th all-time.

I dont see anyone better than him, maybe Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinezthere were a few out there, Guillen said. I dont know him personally, and only knew him about a month, and we never had any kind of conversation about how good his career was. But everybody knows Manny was a good player. He was pretty good before he got caught.

"When Manny came to the big leagues in a Cleveland uniform, he was an outstanding player," Guillen continued. "Its easy to kick a guy in the rear end when hes down. To me, he was a great player. Should he be in the Hall of Fame? Ive got my own opinion. Like I said, he was very good. He had a great career.

Guillen has long backed the notion that players and fans move on quickly once a drug suspension is announced, but he isnt nave enough to believe that this is the end of baseballs drug drama.

The end of drugs is what we pray forwe have a lot of fans out there, and I know the commissioner and Major League Baseball are working very hard on eliminating drugs, Guillen said. I hope it will be the last one. Will it be the last one? I doubt it. There are a lot of names out thereevery time you read the paper, somebody is out there. I'm glad I dont know any of those guysI played against them. I hope they go after those guys, make this game clean, and make this game what people what to see.

Honest Bobby

Bobby Jenks tells WEEI.com's Kirk Minihane that his former White Sox teammate is "a really good guy" but didn't mince words about Ramirez's situation.

"You do it, you get caught, youre an idiot. If you do it again youre a dumbass, said Jenks. I mean, its sad to see. One of the greatest hitters, or one of them, to make the same mistake twice, same bad choice."

Dunn Watch

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen wasnt too optimistic about slugger Adam Dunn returning to action soon.

Weve got to wait five days, I have to, Guillen said before Friday nights game. Every day he feels better and better but I dont expect him to be back in five days, to be honest with you.

Dunn initially called Guillen on the day of his appendectomy (Wednesday) offering to pinch-hit, but Guillen dismissed that notion.

Hopefully, we dont have to pinch-hit Dunn, he said. I'd rather lose a game than lose a guy for another month. If I have to pinch-hit Adam Dunn with the game on the line, I'd rather lose the game rather than have him hurt himself and lose him for we don't know how long.

The Peavy Effect is also in action on Dunn, as Guillen is unwilling to rush the genial giant back into the lineup.

He's got to hit, Guillen said. He's got to show me, the doctors, trainers, Kenny. He's got to show a lot of people hes OK. He's got to show his hitting coach. When everybody says he's ready, he's in the lineup. Obviously, we want him in the lineupbut weve got to be careful.
Chilling out

With the first two home games featuring weather hovering around 40 degrees, the challenge of playing through the cold was addressed by Guillen.

I just talked to a couple of players about the cold, he said. I dont want to hear any players crying, because we because we get paid pretty good Shut up, I dont want to hear it. When you play in Chicago or the East, that's what you're going to get.

Guillen tends to work himself up at times, and discussing the weather did so today.

We get paid pretty goodplease, Guillen said. If it's too humid or too wet, I dont want anybody out there just to be there. I want all my players to play the game right. Rain or shine, we get paid to play, and we've got to go out there and do the best for the fans.
Teahens new role

Early in the season, Guillen worried about getting at-bats for just one player, Mark Teahen. And when Dunn had his appendix removed, the manager predicted that the lefthander would get the majority of Dunns vacated at-bats.

Still, Friday marked Teahens first start at DH in Dunns absence. In fact, Teahen has DHd only 12 times in his career heading into Fridays game. But he didnt sound too concerned about adjusting to playing a game without being in the game.

Its different, he said. I havent DHd a ton, but at the same time, its nothing too strange.

Teahen historically has had trouble adjusting to the role, however. Acknowledging the small sample of just 44 plate appearances, Teahen seems to lose his power stroke as a DH. His .270 average as a DH is a couple ticks above his career mark (.268), but two doubles represent all his extra-base hits at DH, thus his advanced numbers (.349 on-base, .324 slugging) pale compared against his .746 career OPS.

On a night like tonight, I just mainly try to stay warm in between at-bats, Teahen said. Come in and do a little cardio to stay warm.

The stationary bike worked wonders; on Friday, Teahen had hits in his first two at-bats, including his first home run as a DH.

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

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

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USA TODAY

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

This season, Matt Davidson became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a season opener. It definitely raised a few eyebrows, especially after Paul Konerko noted during spring training that a 40-home run season and an All-Star selection isn’t out of the question for the California native. After clobbering nine home runs (seven of them coming at Kauffman Stadium) in his first 21 games, anything seemed possible.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out that way, though he did rack up his second straight 20-homer season. But it’s hard to argue that 2018 wasn’t a success for Davidson — mostly because of the swings he didn’t make.

Everything else aside, Davidson walked as often as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in 2018.

OK, the more meaningful comparison would be Davidson to himself.

What stands out is his walk rate. One hundred fifty three players had at least 400 plate appearances in both 2017 and 2018. Among them, Davidson had the second-highest increase in walk percentage this past season.

Consider this: In 2017, Davidson and Tim Anderson became (and still are) the only players in MLB history with 160-plus strikeouts and fewer than 20 walks in a season.

Davidson, while logging 20 more at-bats in 2018, had the same number of strikeouts, 165, but he increased his walk total from 19 to 52. Give him credit for that. It’s a tough adjustment to make at the minor league level let alone in the major leagues. The increased walk rate brought his on-base percentage from .260 in 2017 (well below the AL average of .324) to .319 in 2018 (a tick above the AL average of .318) and pushed his overall offensive production from 16 percent below league average (as measured by his 84 weighted runs created plus, or wRC+) to four percent above league average (104 wRC+).

And I haven’t even mentioned the most fun aspect of his 2018 season: He pitched! And he pitched well.

Thirty pitchers took the mound for the White Sox in 2018, all of whom made at least three appearances. And only one of them didn’t allow a run: Davidson.

He topped out at 91.9 MPH and had as many strikeouts, two, as baserunners allowed in his three innings of work. The two batters he struck out, Rougned Odor and Giancarlo Stanton, combined for 56 home runs in 2018. They combined for 89 home runs (and an MVP award) in 2017.

In his career, Stanton had a combined 16 plate appearances and zero strikeouts against Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Edwin Díaz. He struck out in his one plate appearance against Davidson.

Davidson is one of just three players with 20 or more home runs and at least three mound appearances in a season in MLB history:

— Babe Ruth (1919): 29 home runs, 17 games on the mound
— Davidson (2018): 20 home runs, three games on the mound
— Shohei Ohtani (2018): 22 home runs, 10 games on the mound

Facts are facts. Davidson is actually serious about expanding his role on the mound.

“To be honest, I would love to maybe explore that idea,” he said in July. “Pitching was a dream. As a young kid, everybody wants to hit that walk-off homer, right? I was the guy striking that guy out. That’s how I first loved the game. My favorite player was Randy Johnson and doing that.

“So, it’s something I would be interested in. I don’t know if the game would necessarily allow that or something like that. It’s something that is really close to my heart is pitching.”

Whether or not it ever happens, Davidson’s 2018 was all about finding ways to increase his value. For the White Sox, that’s a good problem to have.

With Astros eliminated, let's rank their free agents by possibility of coming to White Sox

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USA TODAY

With Astros eliminated, let's rank their free agents by possibility of coming to White Sox

The Houston Astros will not win back-to-back world championships this October.

Eliminated by the Boston Red Sox in Game 5 of the recently concluded ALCS, the rebuilt Astros still remain the model for rebuilding teams like the White Sox. But with their first post-championship season ending without another ring on the fingers of homegrown stars like Jose Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa, among others, the most pertinent topic involving the Astros when it comes to the White Sox is Astros players now hitting the free-agent market.

There's a number of them, and some are very, very good. The White Sox figure to be more active this winter then they were last offseason, with Rick Hahn already saying the team will be making pitching additions, a no-brainer with Michael Kopech slated to miss the entire 2019 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. And Hahn has said the White Sox will be "opportunistic" when it comes to other types of additions, as well.

So could any of these soon-to-be former Astros land on the South Side? Maybe. Here they are, ranked by such a possibility.

1. Charlie Morton

The White Sox need starting pitchers. Kopech's out until 2020, and James Shields, should the team opt not to bring him back on a new contract, will be a free-agent departure. That's two holes that need filling, and Morton could fill one of them. I know what you're thinking, "Dallas Keuchel is also a free agent, why isn't he No. 1 on this list, you fool?" More on him in a bit. Right now, we're talking about Charlie Morton.

Morton is hardly the most rebuild-friendly pitching option out there at 35 years old. But Morton's been very good for the Astros over the past two seasons, making 55 starts, striking out 364 guys and posting a 3.36 ERA. His fastball velocity is as high as it's been in his 11-year big league career and he's coming off two straight playoff runs, so maybe he could teach these young White Sox a thing or two about playing winning baseball — he did close out Game 7 of the World Series last fall.

The biggest problem might be that he's not too far removed from different results when he played with the Pittsburgh Pirates, when his numbers weren't nearly as good as they got when he went to Houston. Would another change of scenery mean a different kind of performance?

What kind of contract Morton will get on the market remains to be seen, obviously, but it's kind of a mystery at this point, as he's coming off a couple great years but is getting up there in age when it comes to multi-year deals. He could be a fit for the White Sox should they want just a one- or two-year option while they wait for Kopech to return to full strength and for Dylan Cease to make his way to the major leagues. But should this recent success continue, he could be a valuable option on a White Sox team making the transition from rebuilding to contending, too.

2. Marwin Gonzalez

The White Sox have a bit of a quandary in that they are still waiting to find out what they've got in a lot of their young players. With so many prospects and even young players at the major league level yet to fully finish their development, it's tough to say where the holes on future White Sox teams will be. And that's made all the more difficult by the rash of injuries sustained by White Sox prospects in 2018.

A good way to plan for future unknowns is to have a guy you can plug in just about anywhere, and that's what Gonzalez is. During the 2018 regular season, Gonzalez played everywhere on the field besides pitcher and catcher: 73 games in left field, 39 games at shortstop, 32 games at second base, 24 games at first base, three games at third base, two games in center field and one game in right field. He played one game at designated hitter, too, in case you were wondering. He appeared at six different positions in 2017, when he finished in the top 20 in AL MVP voting. That versatility should make him a hot commodity this offseason.

The question marks come from Gonzalez's bat, which was excellent in 2017 but not nearly as good in 2018. After slashing .303/.377/.530 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs for the world-champion Astros in 2017, he got more playing time in 2018 and his numbers dropped to a .247/.324/.409 slash line, 16 homers and 68 RBIs for the AL runners up. So which batch of results would you get if you signed Gonzalez? That's the question facing teams this offseason. (To help assuage fears, however, Gonzalez just wrapped a solid postseason in which he batted .333 with a pair of homers, a pair of doubles and nine RBIs, not to mention a .389 on-base percentage.)

But for a team with as much unwritten future as the White Sox have, wouldn't it be nice to have a plan for every eventuality — and to have it all in the form of one guy? While Manny Machado and Bryce Harper grab all the free-agent headlines this winter, perhaps the White Sox could slip in and convince Gonzalez to help another transition from rebuilding to contending. He was a part of two 100-loss teams in 2012 and 2013 and along for the ride to the top of baseball's mountain. That's some good experience to have.

3. Dallas Keuchel

Now we arrive at Keuchel. Would the soon-to-be 31-year-old former Cy Young winner be a good fit for the rebuilding White Sox? Absolutely he would. Signing him to a long-term deal would not only solve a pitching problem in 2019 but it would provide a safety net should Kopech, Cease or whoever go through the to-be-expected growing pains that young players go through in their first tastes of the major leagues. He would be an anchor of future rotations with plenty of young arms around him.

Signing Keuchel — who has a combined 3.39 ERA and 278 strikeouts over the last two seasons — would be similar to the Cubs' signing of Jon Lester, a proven veteran climbing aboard a team heading toward a bright future, and his experience and talent could help them reach that future faster. Like Gonzalez, he experienced back-to-back 100-loss seasons in 2012 and 2013 and also got a World Series ring as the Astros completed their journey from the bottom to the top.

But being a good fit is only half the battle for the White Sox. A lot of other teams, including good ones capable of pitching a win-now roster, are going to be vying for Keuchel's services this winter. And while he might not be the No. 1 starting pitcher on the free-agent market — that's expected to be Clayton Kershaw, if he opts out of his current contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers — he's going to be no lower than the No. 3 starting pitcher on the free-agent market. Most of the contending clubs in the game are likely to have starting pitching on their shopping list, teams that can pitch present-day success and the ability to win a championship in 2019 against the White Sox promise of planned success down the road. And then there's the financials on top of that. Hahn has said the White Sox will have the financial flexibility to do what they need to do, but will it be enough to outbid baseball's biggest spenders?

Keuchel would obviously be a good fit for the White Sox. But the competition is going to be really stiff.

4. Tony Sipp

Sipp, a 35-year-old reliever who White Sox fans might remember from his days as a Cleveland Indian, was excellent for the Astros this season, posting a 1.86 ERA and striking out 42 guys in 38.2 innings during the regular season.

But while the White Sox could use bullpen help — their 4.49 relief ERA ranked 23rd out of 30 major league teams — that performance kind of elevates Sipp from the level of sign-and-flip guys they've acquired in recent seasons. Sipp might not be under the radar enough for the White Sox to take a flier, get a good few months and trade him away for a prospect.

Spending the kind of money Sipp might command on a 35-year-old reliever in a season where you're not expected to compete might not make for a good match.

5. Brian McCann

Yeah, the White Sox don't need Brian McCann.