White Sox

The molding of a manager: How Rick Renteria evolved into the man he is today

The molding of a manager: How Rick Renteria evolved into the man he is today

Rick Renteria made such a lasting impression on John Boles 33 years ago that the former major league manager has kept Renteria in mind for job openings ever since.

Boles first noticed Renteria when their teams faced each other in the minors. Renteria was playing second base for Double-A Nashua, while Boles was coaching third base for the Glen Falls White Sox.

From Renteria's maturity to his leadership and attention to detail, Boles knew almost immediately that Renteria would one day make a good coach. 

Boles believed in Renteria so much that nearly a decade later, he signed him to two minor-league playing contracts. And when Renteria retired, Boles reached out again, vowing to offer a coaching position every year until Renteria accepted — even as he repeatedly declined the offers. 

With Renteria now the White Sox manager, Boles has the satisfaction of knowing that the organization he grew up rooting for and and the one where he began a 33-year career is in great hands.

"I had it in my calendar," Boles recently said by phone. "I circled the date. This is ‘Call Rick Renteria Day.' I would have offered him any minor league position we had open, I was so sure that he was qualified to develop people. 

"I watched this guy. He stood out. I watched his workouts. I watched his batting practice and his infield work. And I saw how he carried himself, how he wore his uniform, how hard he played and I always remembered him." 

Renteria's high-energy morning meetings this spring have similarly distinguished themselves. 

Bursts of laughter and rounds of applause have emanated from the big league clubhouse every day since mid-February. The sessions last anywhere from 15-60 minutes and feature a blend of entertainment and education. 

About half of the gatherings have featured team-building exercises where unfamiliar teammates might be asked to act out a skit together, offer a fishing lesson or do a wild impersonation of their favorite WWE wrestler. An even bigger portion of each session is dedicated to reviewing the previous day's game — what went right and what went wrong — and what the staff expects players to accomplish in their workouts or games.

Veteran Todd Frazier said the meetings have provided the levity necessary to break up a lengthy spring schedule while also including an invaluable education.

"Fun, serious, indifferent," Frazier said of the meetings. "If guys get sent down, they're going to say ‘This is fun. This is where I want to be.'"

This is exactly what general manager Rick Hahn had in mind when he, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and executive vice president Kenny Williams determined the White Sox would embark on their first rebuild since 1997. 

With the team headed for a youth movement, Hahn wants an emphasis placed on player development. If the White Sox intended to load up on talented prospects, they need a staff centered on teaching to properly hone those players' skills.

One of Renteria's strengths is player development. He has eight seasons experience as a minor league manager and another with the Cubs in 2014. 

Hahn knew of Renteria's reputation as a "baseball rat" and hoped to hire him right after the Cubs hired Joe Maddon. The White Sox reached out to Renteria during the 2014 winter meetings but he declined. 

"Ricky was probably on a list somewhere in every front office throughout baseball," Hahn said. "He was known as a great teacher, great communicator, high-energy guy."

It was only after he took over as the White Sox bench coach last season that Hahn learned about Renteria's attention to detail and preparation.

The team's familiarity combined with Renteria's sterling reputation had Hahn convinced he wouldn't find a better candidate to take over as the team's 40th manager. Hahn quickly hired Renteria the day after last season ended. 

Several months later, the White Sox are extremely pleased with the atmosphere Renteria has created within the clubhouse.

"It's one of the best teaching environments I've ever been in," Williams said. "The way this coaching staff, the way Ricky has brought them together and used it as an opportunity to get back to basics of how we want to play fundamentally, but have fun with it as well … this is one of the best environments I've been in the sport."
*     *     *
The work ethic and attention to detail that Boles immediately noticed in 1984 dates back to Renteria's childhood. 

As a 9-year-old, Renteria spent weekends selling shoes to help his family, who had moved to Compton, Calif. from Guadalajara, Mexico in the late 1950s. Two of Renteria's older brothers worked at Thomas McAn shoes and were able to purchase several hundred pairs in bulk. 

Renteria's father, Salvador, then received permission to have his son sell the shoes in front of the store where he worked as a cashier. 

Nearly every weekend, Rick Renteria sat near the entrance of Duran's Market in the back of his parents' green late 1960s Dodge Monaco selling shoes for $1 per pair.

Renteria said he never saw a reason to complain because he figured it wouldn't have changed anything. Each of his four older brothers (Renteria is the fifth of nine children and the first born in the United States) always held down jobs. And every summer, Renteria's father found time for him to play baseball, including a trip to the Mickey Mantle World Series in Sherman, Texas when Renteria was 13.

"You were always working," Renteria said. "My dad was always working. My brothers have always worked. It's just a natural progression."

The work ethic and determination naturally carried over to Renteria's playing career. 

The Pirates used the 20th overall pick of the 1984 amateur draft to select Renteria out of South Gate High School in South Gate, Calif. Even though Renteria wasn't a physical specimen, he was a notable player in a system that also included Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla. Williams said Renteria likes to downplay how talented a player he was.

"He could hit, run, field and was a fierce competitor," Williams said. "Always hustling."

Renteria made his major league debut in 1986 and appeared in 10 games for the Pirates. That December, he was traded to Seattle and Renteria played 43 games over 1987-88 for the Mariners. 

Two years later, a practice mishap threatened to end the 28-year-old's career early. Playing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Philadelphia), Renteria was struck in the face by a line drive during batting practice. He suffered a broken left jaw and underwent two surgeries. He had plates and screws inserted in his jaw and chin during those procedures and was forced to sleep sitting up in a recliner for the next year. 

Renteria tried to return later in that 1990 season but, "every time I took a swing, it just rung my face," he said.

Renteria played for Jalisco in the Mexican League in 1991 and was named the player of the year after hitting .442. He also won the award in 1985, 1992 and 1996. In August 1991, Boles signed Renteria to play for Montreal's Double-A Indianapolis club. But after 20 games, Renteria didn't think he had much of a shot to reach the majors and asked for his release. Though Boles didn't want to, he granted Renteria his release.

"Even then he says, ‘We're going to be in touch in the future,' " Renteria said. "I didn't think too much about it."

Renteria played for Jalisco again in 1992 and was two days away from heading down for a third straight season in 1993 when Boles called and asked if he wanted to sign a minor league deal with the expansion Florida Marlins. 

Though it didn't include an invite to big league camp, Boles thought he could get Renteria into a few major league exhibitions and that he'd eventually win a job. 

Renteria signed the deal. A few weeks into camp, Boles called and asked Renteria if wanted to play in the major league game only to be rebuffed.

"I was so excited," Boles said. "I called him into the big league office and said, ‘Hey, you're going to go play in a big league game today' and he said, ‘No thanks, I'm not ready.' That was the first time and the only time in my career than anybody ever said that to me. 

"I went home that night and I told my wife, ‘I've got a first for you.'"

Boles made the same offer a few days later. After they shared a laugh, Renteria accepted. Renteria performed well enough that spring to earn a big league spot and accrued 342 plate appearances with the Marlins as a super utility man/pinch hitter between 1993-94.

"I just wanted to show everybody I could still do it," Renteria said. "I know there was concerns. It was a long journey. There was a lot of things in between. So getting back  and I ended up staying a couple more years — I don't know if it was an affirmation or a validation. But just to be able to come back at the major league level was significant for me."

The players' strike of 1994 effectively ended Renteria's career. But he wasn't ready to retire and in 1996, he played for the Mexico City Diablos Rojos.

Though he wouldn't ever again reach the big leagues as a player, Boles thought that Renteria had the potential to do so as a coach and began to call him with offers.

"He was extremely intelligent, hard working, great personality, compassionate, organized, detailed," Boles said. "He checked every box you're looking for in a young manager."
*     *     *
When it was clear that his playing career had ended, Renteria decided it was time to go home. Boles hoped to lure him into coaching, but Renteria intended to help his wife, Ilene, raise their four children in Temecula, Calif. 

So when Boles called in October 1995 to ask if he had any interest in coaching, Renteria declined. 

"We've just continued to stay in touch through the years," Renteria said. "I always would reach out when something significant would happen. I'd make sure I gave him a call and just said hello."

Boles recalls that he wasn't taking no for an answer. He informed Renteria he would call every October to ask again. Meanwhile, Renteria looked to find a steady work. He started with a Life Agent license in 1995 and then learned how to be an electrical worker before he settled on construction in 1997. 

"I was looking for a job," Renteria said. "I was trying to stay home. It was simply so I could stay home and be with my family."

Construction looked like it would be a viable option until Renteria needed surgery in 1997 to have the top of his left thumb sewn back on by doctors after an accident. It wasn't long after that Boles called again.

"The phone rang and I remember looking at Ilene and going, ‘It's time,'" Renteria said.

He first managed in the Florida Gulf Coast league in 1998 and after he led Single-A Kane County to a 78-59 mark in 1999, Renteria was named the Midwest League manager of the year. 

Renteria spent two more seasons in the Marlins system. After a year off in 2002, he returned to coaching in 2003 at Single-A Lake Elsinore in the San Diego Padres system. He managed Lake Elsinore from 2004-06, which allowed him to coach at home (Lake Elsinore and Temecula are 17 miles apart).

Renteria took over at the Padres' Triple-A Portland club in 2007 before he was named the big league first-base coach in 2008. During six seasons in the majors, Renteria furthered his reputation as a hands-on, upbeat, hard-working coach centered in player development. He was credited with helping develop Rule 5 draftee Everth Cabrera from an inexperienced rookie to an All-Star in 2013.

"When (Renteria) attaches his name to something, it's the most important thing," said Cubs scout Terry Kennedy, who managed in the Padres' system from 2008-12. "When he gives his commitment to it, it's going to be 100 percent — all of his being, all of his effort. 

"It's in his DNA, his being, his marrow and it's not that fake hustle to prove 'I have value.' It's who he is. He wants to put in quality and leave quality." 

Promoted to Padres bench coach in 2011, Renteria's stock rose so much that the Cubs made him their manager in 2014. GM Jed Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod wanted Renteria to develop their young core of prospects. Though dismissed in favor of Maddon after the 2014 season, Renteria was credited with aiding the development of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, among others.

Renteria said he quickly moved on from the Cubs and didn't sulk or wonder if he'd ever receive another chance to manager in the majors. 

"It wasn't something I was consumed with," Renteria said. "I believed that at some point if it was going to happen, it was going to happen. But you can't force it. You can't force any of these positions. 

"But I don't think I've ever lived my life too consumed with, 'Man, I hope this happens again.' It's kind of difficult to live your life that way."

A year later, Renteria took over as Robin Ventura's bench coach with the White Sox. He impressed Hahn so much in 2016 that Renteria was the easy choice to replace Ventura. 

Now retired, Boles is pleased to see Renteria running the White Sox rebuild. 

Born in Chicago, Boles grew up a huge White Sox fan. He went with his father to Midway Airport to greet the 1959 American League pennant winning club home after it clinched in Cleveland. Boles — who managed the Marlins in 1996 and from 1999-2001 — spent his first five seasons as a manager in the White Sox farm system.

Though he lives in Florida, Boles still feels very close to the White Sox. And he wouldn't have any one but Renteria in charge.

"I said, 'I'm going to keep calling until you say yes,'" Boles said. "Really I felt so strongly that we needed him in our organization, and that baseball as an industry needed people like Rick, that I wouldn't have retired until he said yes."

Who will the White Sox sign? A preliminary ranking of the top free-agent outfielders

Who will the White Sox sign? A preliminary ranking of the top free-agent outfielders

There might be nothing higher on the White Sox offseason to-do list than starting pitching. That’s why I ranked the free-agent pitchers a little while back before moving on to other positions.

But the team's to-do list has multiple items on it, with general manager Rick Hahn counting right field and designated hitter as areas in need of upgrades this winter. So let’s move on to that vacancy in right field, shall we?

Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert figure to be entrenched in left field and center field for the better part of the next decade, but that right-field spot is a mystery. The White Sox seemed to have a wealth of options in the minor leagues, but 2019 saw a rash of injuries and under-performances hit that once impressive outfield depth. Add the woeful production from those manning the position at the major league level, and the pursuit for a right fielder this offseason makes plenty of sense for a team looking to vault into contention mode as soon as 2020.

As you’ll notice, the right-field/outfield market isn’t as jam packed with superstars as the starting-pitching market is. That list starts with Gerrit Cole and moves on to Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel and plenty other attractive options. Scanning this list, you might not find a guy you believe would be a great fit for these White Sox and you might turn to trade possibilities. That could happen. Just remember that those aforementioned injuries and under-performances affected many of the White Sox mid-tier prospects, making it difficult to envision a trade package that could net an impact player in return. That’s not to say it can’t happen, but free agency looks the more realistic route for Hahn’s front office to fill these holes.

One more thing: Hahn has talked about the desire, in an “ideal” situation, to add some left-handedness to an almost exclusively right-handed lineup. The only forecasted everyday player who can hit lefty is Yoan Moncada, a switch-hitter. The White Sox could probably use some balance, and the search for a right fielder might be the perfect opportunity to add some. Hahn said, however, that the White Sox won’t be signing a lefty just to sign a lefty.

“Ideally, that would be nice. Ideally, you'd like to balance that out and that would require adding some left-handed power,” he said during his end-of-season press conference last month. “We don't want to get too hung up strictly on handedness in the end and sign an inferior, say, left-handed hitter when a better right-handed hitter is available and fits. But it's a consideration, and in an ideal world we would balance it out.”

Not a deal-breaker. Just something to keep in mind.

All right, let’s get on with it.

1. Nicholas Castellanos, age 27
2019 stats: .289/.337/.525, 27 home runs, 73 RBIs

White Sox fans should be plenty familiar with Castellanos, who spent the majority of the last seven years raking with the division-rival Detroit Tigers. He’s particularly fond of hitting against the South Siders, with a .293/.343/.477 line to go along with 13 home runs, 26 doubles and 60 RBIs in 95 career games. In 2018 alone, he drove in 20 runs in 19 games against the White Sox.

But the familiarity shouldn’t end there, as Castellanos played in Chicago for the final two months of the 2019 season, joining the Cubs for their ill-fated playoff chase. He was far from the problem on the North Side, though, hitting 16 home runs and 21 doubles and driving in 36 runs in just 51 games. That late-season surge — perhaps aided by getting away from a home ballpark in Detroit he called “a joke” — kicked his pending free agency up a notch as teams search for a bat to stick in the middle of their lineup. Castellanos fits the bill, with 76 home runs, 140 doubles and 263 RBIs over the last three years.

As for a potential fit with the White Sox, Castellanos would definitely fill the need in right field and fill the need in the middle of the order. He’s got a great track record of hitting at Guaranteed Rate Field, too. There have been questions about his defensive ability — as his minus-nine Defensive Runs Saved would indicate — and with Jimenez looking like he has work to do in left field, putting another defensive question mark around Robert as he gets his first taste of the major leagues might not be the greatest idea. But the name of the game is scoring runs.

2. Marcell Ozuna, 28
2019 stats: .241/.328/.472, 29 home runs, 89 RBIs

The hot stove has already started cooking, with a rumor listing the White Sox as one of many teams interested in Ozuna. Certainly there’s reason all the teams mentioned in that report should have interest in Ozuna, who’s only two years removed from a monster season in his last year with the Miami Marlins: a .312/.376/.548 slash line, 37 homers and 124 RBIs. Since being traded, the numbers haven’t been quite that good, but they’ve haven’t been bad, either: a .262/.327/.451 line with 52 homers and 177 RBIs in two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ozuna did a little to help his free-agent cause with a nice postseason as the Redbirds made it to the NLCS. In nine October games, he hit .324/.359/.595 with a couple homers, four doubles, five RBIs and six runs scored.

But there are obstacles to any potential White Sox interest. Apparently someone out there thinks Ozuna can get a seven-year deal worth $160 million. That seems … high. But more concerning, perhaps, is the fact that Ozuna just hasn’t played much right field. He’s a left fielder with just 1.1 innings in right since the start of the 2017 season. Ozuna is productive, but is he the kind of guy worth blowing up the defensive alignment over?

3. Starling Marte*, 31
2019 stats: .295/.342/.503, 23 home runs, 82 RBIs

Marte gets himself an asterisk because he might not be available. The Pittsburgh Pirates have an $11.5 million option they have to make a decision on, and while Marte remains a useful player, the Bucs are in search of a new manager and coming off a season of major dysfunction. If they’re thinking about blowing things up — despite somehow hanging around in the NL Central standings on a fairly regular basis — then maybe they’d move on from Marte.

Marte carries a reputation as a strong defender, at least he did when he won back-to-back Gold Gloves primarily as a left fielder in 2015 and 2016. But the numbers haven't been good since he took over in center field. He was a minus-nine DRS fielder in center this season, as bad, statistically, in center as Castellanos was in right and one of the worst, statistically, center fielders in baseball. In other words, perhaps a team looking for a right fielder might be able to find some defensive improvement by moving Marte back to a corner spot.

Marte’s bat, on the other hand, was the best it’s been in his career in 2019. He posted career bests with 23 homers, 82 RBIs and a .503 slugging percentage. His .295 batting average and 159 hits were the second best totals in his career. He also banged out 31 doubles and six triples, reached base at a .342 clip and stole 25 bases. All of those numbers are good, and he’d be worth a look — should he reach the market.

4. Yasiel Puig, 28
2019 stats: .267/.327/.458, 24 home runs, 84 RBIs

Like Castellanos, Puig was traded midseason to help a playoff charge that didn’t end in a playoff berth. Puig went from one Ohio team to the other, dealt from the Cincinnati Reds to the Cleveland Indians, and he fared much better after the trade than before it, turning in a .297/.377/.423 slash line in 49 games. He only hit two of his 24 home runs with the Indians but saw a big improvement in his walk-to-strikeout numbers: In 100 games with the Reds, he walked 23 times while striking out 89 times, but in his time with the Indians, he walked 21 times and struck out 44 times.

But regardless of the offensive numbers, Puig is known for other things. In the good times, that’s his base-hugging, tongue-wagging energy that can spark a team. In the bad times, that’s uncontrollable outbursts that lead to and then worsen on-field confrontations between teams. Of course, the Pirates — whose clubhouse was an absolute mess this season — deserve their fair share of the blame for the ugliness between the NL Central rivals that spilled out multiple times during the 2019 campaign. But it’s hard to forget the scene of Puig getting ejected for his wild behavior at the center of a fracas after news of his trade to Cleveland had already broke.

The White Sox would obviously have to weigh those two extremes in any pursuit of Puig, who unlike Ozuna does play right field, and is better, statistically, at it than Castellanos, with zero DRS during the 2019 season. But Puig hasn’t hit over .270 since his second year in the league in 2014, and he’s reached base at a clip north of .330 just once since then. His .785 OPS in 2019 was the third-lowest of his big league career.

5. Kole Calhoun*, 32
2019 stats: .232/.325/.467, 33 home runs, 74 RBIs

We’ve found our first lefty. If the White Sox bring in a heavy-hitting, right-handed DH (cough, cough, J.D. Martinez, cough, cough), then right field could be their only opportunity to add a left-handed bat to the mix. If that’s what they’re thinking — and Hahn’s words indicated it might not be — then Calhoun is one of the leading candidates. He certainly fits the description of “lefty power” after blasting a career-high 33 homers and slugging at a career-high .467 clip  in 2019.

Of course, Calhoun might not even hit the free-agent market, with the Los Angeles Angels holding a $14 million option on his services for the 2020 season. The Angels are obviously gearing up for a run of some kind after hiring Joe Maddon as their new manager. With Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani already in the fold and Gerrit Cole’s pending free agency providing some interesting speculation, maybe the Angels just hold onto Calhoun. But their top prospect, Jo Adell, is an outfielder and is on the doorstep of the majors, potentially making Calhoun expendable.

If he does end up on the market, the White Sox would most likely be interested in his left-handed bat — not to mention the Gold Glove on his resume. But that’s not going to prevent them from having the same amount of interest or more in a right-handed player.

6. Corey Dickerson, 30
2019 stats: .304/.341/.565, 12 home runs, 59 RBIs

Dickerson hasn’t played right field since 2016, and he only played in 78 games during the 2019 season. But that’s where the negatives, at least in comparing him with Calhoun, the other free-agent lefty outfield bat of significance, end. Dickerson compares rather favorably to Calhoun everywhere but in the home-run department. But he even has an edge in slugging percentage, with a 2019 output 100 points higher than Calhoun’s. Dickerson boasted an OPS more than 100 points north of the number Calhoun finished with. Dickerson is also two years younger and won a Gold Glove more recently, in 2018.

Dickerson spent much of the 2019 season injured, out of action for two months with a shoulder strain and then fracturing his foot in September. That’s obviously not great, and White Sox fans got a firsthand look at how badly a foot injury can linger with relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera this season.

Again, it depends on how badly the White Sox front office wants to add a left-handed bat. If it’s a high priority, Dickerson could get a look. If not, then maybe the eyes stay near the top of this list.

7. Cameron Maybin, 32
2019 stats: .285/.364/.494, 11 home runs, 32 RBIs

Maybin doesn’t strike as the middle-of-the-order type, but his .364 on-base percentage would likely be of interest to a team that had one of the lowest on-base percentages (.314) in baseball during the 2019 season. Maybin spent 2019 with the 100-win New York Yankees, playing in only 82 games after joining the team via trade in late April and then missing most of July with a calf injury. But when he was in the lineup, he fared well, with a career-best slugging percentage. He also smacked a solo homer in the playoffs, helping the Yanks sweep the Minnesota Twins out of the ALDS.

Maybin’s long been a center fielder, but his role with the Yankees this season had him bouncing around the outfield, including the most right he’s played in his career, 36 games’ worth. He’ll turn 33 shortly after Opening Day 2020, but like with some of the other names on this list, his inclusion in the White Sox plans wouldn’t look at all bad if the DH spot gets upgraded in a big way.

8. Nick Markakis*, 35
2019 stats: .285/.356/.420, nine homers, 62 RBIs

Markakis had himself a somewhat shocking late-career resurgence in 2018, making his first All-Star team, winning both a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove and finishing in the top 20 of the NL MVP vote at age 34. The 2019 season didn’t go quite as well, with Markakis limited to 116 games, missing a month and a half late in the season with a fractured wrist. He actually hit .292 in September after returning for the season’s final couple weeks before picking up just three hits in the ALDS.

Markakis has, surprisingly, been in Atlanta for five years now, and the Braves will have to decide whether they want him back or not with a $6 million option. His 2019 production certainly still qualified as good, and you’d figure he’d be an asset for a contending team like the Braves. But if he gets to the market, perhaps the White Sox could import some veteran leadership in the form of the three-time Gold Glover.

Other guys?

Again, the outfield market is not shaping up to be as bountiful as the starting-pitching market. But there will be other players available, such as Maybin’s Yankee teammate Brett Gardner and former White Sox right fielder and now-20-homer guy Avisail Garcia. Another former White Sox right fielder, Adam Eaton, could hit the market if the Washington Nationals don’t pick up his option, though flashbacks to 2016 are probably not what the White Sox are looking for right now.

There will be a new man in right field for the White Sox next season. As for who, that’s for the offseason to tell us.

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Rewatching 2005 World Series Game 1

Rewatching 2005 World Series Game 1

14 years ago today the White Sox hosted the Astros in Game 1 of the 2005 World Series.

Watching it was a surreal experience. When the game happened, there was no Baseball Reference Play Index, no Twitter and I don’t even think I had any idea who Chuck Garfien was. I was a 25-year-old figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I was on a path to become a pharmacist, working 40-hour weeks at Walgreens while going to school for pre-pharmacy courses. But I was a lifelong White Sox fan. Maybe 20 times a year, I’d take the train to the ballpark, usually just me with a backpack. I’d take a program, media guide, a note pad to scribble down notes, and a plastic snap case full of White Sox baseball cards, in case a player popped up in the dugout before the game for an autograph opportunity.

I remember watching Game 1 with my dad, who got me hooked on this game and this team. My heart was pounding throughout the game; back when I was just a fan there was a sense of nervousness that eventually went away as watching games became a job-related task. I miss that nervousness.

But anyway, I figured I’d watch Game 1 all the way through for the first time since I was on the couch at my parents’ house that October night in 2005. Along the way, I recorded five key retrospective observations.

So here we go…

José Contreras vs Roger Clemens!

Entering the 2005 World Series, Roger Clemens had 341 career regular season wins, whereas José Contreras (35), Jon Garland (64), Mark Buehrle (85) and Freddy García (99) had a combined total of 283.

In fact, at 43 years (and 79 days) of age Clemens was the oldest starting pitcher to face the White Sox since… Nolan Ryan (46 years, 185 days) — and in the Robin Ventura Game, no less — on August 4, 1993!

As for Contreras, what a run he had! The broadcast at one point cut to Chris Myers, who told a story of Humberto, Jose’s older brother, who rode by horseback in Cuba to a friend’s shack in order to listen to the game on radio (Humberto wasn’t able to get the broadcast on his own radio). It’s easy to lose sight of the sacrifices that players make for a better life.

The big Cuban righthander was in the middle of a 24-start regular season stretch (over 2005-06) where he went 17-0 with a 2.92 ERA. That incredible streak started on August 21 – which was better known as the day the Sox hit 4 home runs in an inning off Randy Johnson – and ended after the 2006 All-Star Break. And here was José Contreras as the 2005 World Series Game 1 starter. Amazing. The movement on his forkball was NASTY!

One more thing about Clemens:

Roger Clemens faced the 2005 White Sox staff a LOT. Here are those numbers (with postseason)

GM Kenny Williams 7 1-6 .167 0
Manager Ozzie Guillen 63 15-62 .242 0
Bench Coach Harold Baines 126 33-109 .303 2
1B Coach Tim Raines 53 10-47 .213 0
3B Coach Joey Cora 48 9-38 .237 0
Hitting Coach Greg Walker 42 7-37 .189 1
Total 339 75-229 .251 3

Familiar Names

In the 2005 ALCS, the White Sox faced Vladimir Guerrero’s Angels, then in the 2005 World Series they faced Craig Biggio’s Astros. A pair of Hall of Famers whose kids, Vlad Jr. and Cavan, currently play for the Blue Jays.

One thing about this series that has always stuck out to me is this: you had Jeff Bagwell playing his final career games — a non-factor, going 1-for-8 with 2 HBP (both in Game 1) during the World Series. Then you had Frank Thomas, who didn’t get a chance to play due to injury. Both players were born on the same day – May 27, 1968 – and both won MVP in 1994. And both would never again play for these teams after the Series.

Jermaine Dye

I miss Jermaine Dye. Such a good, solid performer. His Game 1 home run was the first by a White Sox player in the World Series since Ted Kluszewski in Game 6 of the 1959 Fall Classic. My favorite nugget on Dye was the improbable fact that he was born on the exact same day – January 28, 1974 – as the player he replaced as White Sox right fielder, Magglio Ordoñez. Dye went on to win 2005 World Series MVP, then he and Paul Konerko hit their 300th career home runs back-to-back on April 13, 2009. His career, though, ended abruptly after that 2009 season.

Dye hit 27 home runs in his final MLB campaign, a total only six other players in MLB history can match. David Ortiz (38 in 2016), Dave Kingman (35 in 1986), Mike Napoli (29 in 2017), Mark McGwire (29 in 2001), Ted Williams (29 in 1960) and Barry Bonds (28 in 2007). He never got another chance after 2009, and that’s a shame.

The Smallball Myth

Often, you’ll hear about the fact that the 2005 White Sox won because they played “smallball.” Is that true? Not really. That’s one of those myths that persist because that brand of baseball is more aesthetically pleasing despite the fact that the numbers say it’s mostly inefficient. Look at this strange list:

Teams to hit 200+ home runs and lead their league in sacrifice bunts (MLB history)
Year Team HR Sac Bunts
1999 Cleveland Indians 209 54
2001 Chicago White Sox 214 63
2004 Chicago White Sox 242 58
2005 Chicago White Sox 200 53
2019 Cleveland Indians 223 40
2019 Los Angeles Dodgers 279 55

Through the 2005 World Series, the White Sox had three of the four such seasons in MLB history, which is very odd. Yes, they led the AL in sacrifice bunts, but they also hit 200 home runs. Actually, if you were to single out one reason the White Sox were winners in 2005… it’s pitching!

Year Runs/Game HR Starter ERA Reliever ERA
2004 5.34 242 5.17 4.31
2005 4.57 200 3.75 3.23
2006 5.36 236 4.65 4.53

They scored considerably more the year before and after, but that pitching was unbelievable in 2005. Three key starters – Contreras, Buehrle and Garland - had career years, as did three key relievers: Dustin Hermanson, Neal Cotts and Cliff Politte.

The White Sox took Game 1 by a 5-3 score, but the World Series was only getting warmed up. The White Sox completed a four-game sweep with a little bit of everything along the way – a grand slam, a walkoff home run, a 14th inning home run, a save by Mark Buehrle... you name it, you got it. What an amazing finish to an improbable year.

Kenny Williams kept his foot on the gas for 2006. Jim Thome (who hit 42 home runs in his White Sox debut) and workhorse starter Javier Vázquez were added to the mix, but the pitchers who had career years during the World Series run simply couldn’t duplicate their success.

And the South Side waits for its next championship parade.

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