White Sox

Peavy's long road back to the top

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Peavy's long road back to the top

KANSAS CITY -- Jake Peavy described the week that led up to Tuesdays All-Star Game as a wild ride.

But the White Sox starting pitcher, who on Thursday lost the Final Vote contest to Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish and was a last-minute addition Sunday to the American League roster, might as well have referenced the five years in between All-Star appearances.

Since he last played in All-Star Game in San Francisco in 2007 for the San Diego Padres, Peavy has won a unanimous Cy Young award, received a contract extension for a guaranteed 56 million, been traded to the White Sox twice, including once while he was injured, and later dealt with a career-threatening shoulder injury and the long road to recovery. Not an easy load for a guy who has no problem with admitting hes an emotional guy on all fronts.

Were here and I couldnt be more excited after what weve been through, Peavy said. I cant tell you last year when I was a year out of that major surgery and trying to make it back and going out there with the stuff I had, feeling the way I had, I never would have imagined a year later Id be talking to you from the All-Star Game.

Granted, this isnt the same Jake Peavy from five years earlier.

When he received all 32 first-place Cy Young votes in 2007, Peavy was purely a stuff guy. His fastball, which averaged 92.5 mph but routinely reached 95, and his slider, accounted for more than 80 percent of his pitches.

The Peavy who is now two years removed from a detached latissimus dorsi muscle injury in his right shoulder turns to his curveball and changeup far more often. His fastball averages 90.5 mph.

Teammate Adam Dunn prefers the current version.

Hes a smarter pitcher (now), Dunn said. He had great stuff back then. Im not saying he doesnt have it now. But he never threw changeups. He never threw curveballs. Now, obviously he doesnt have 95 anymore. Hes got his 92, which is really, plenty now. Hes got a really good changeup now that hes worked on, because he had to. And his slider is still sharp and now hes throwing the curveball as well. Hes evolved into a pitcher instead of more of a thrower.

One aspect of Peavys game, which hasnt changed, nor will it, is his emotional state on the mound. Peavy has long been known for his competitive fire. Its what many consider to have helped him overcome the fact that hes not as tall and is much skinnier than many of the pitchers he competes against.

A Peavy start is normally accompanied by several scenes of the pitcher cursing himself as he yanks a slider or doesnt properly locate a fastball.

It is a show, teammate Chris Sale said. Thats him being a competitor and trying to pretty much perfect pitching. He goes out every time and tries to be his best and when hes not, hes not happy. Its fun to watch. You pick up things. It works for him and it works very well.

Peavys fiery side allowed him to return from what St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday describes as uncharted territory. Peavys shoulder surgery, to repair a muscle that had completely fallen off the bone, was the first of its kind.

Though doctors expected him to be as healthy as he would be after 18 months, Peavy wasnt certain hed ever be capable of pitching at the level that allowed him to go 92-68 with the Padres. The only thing Peavy was certain about was he would do everything he could to give himself a chance to again become one of the games top pitchers.

Holliday, who faced him in St. Louis last month, said Peavy has regained his status as an elite-level pitcher. It isnt unexpected, either, Holliday said.

For him to be back to where he is now is impressive, but not surprising, Holliday said. Ive known Jake a little bit. Im not really surprised. Hes always been an elite pitcher and hes had a couple of years with injuries, but hes back to where I expect him to be. He was nearly unhittable (then). But hes still a very good pitcher. Hes as competitive as ever and as anybody in the game. He knows how to pitch and he probably knows how to pitch a little better now than he did then.

As for the flair and competitive drive on the mound, Peavy never lost it and Dunn is certain he never will.

Someone like him, it doesnt matter, Dunn said. In 15 or 20 or 30 years from now, well be on the golf course and itll be the same thing. You dont lose that.

Peavy hasnt lost his ability to comprehend where he is, either

He was excited his stall was several feet from Dunn. After the struggles both shared in 2011, Peavy knows he and Dunn will enjoy the All-Star experience as much as any rookie or first-time competitor in the clubhouse.

After what we went through together last year its super gratifying, Peavy said. It means the world. You never take this for the granted.

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.