White Sox

Poetry in Pros Awards: Best of the Fest


Poetry in Pros Awards: Best of the Fest

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Posted: 7:00 PM

By Brett Ballantini

So, with a full two days taken to decompress from the event that has become Mecca for Chicago White Sox fans, SoxFest, heres a mostly playful look back the highlights of the weekend:

Big Donkey Accolade
When White Sox broadcaster Ed Farmer asked how many attendees had already met Adam Dunn or seen him up close, in reference to his 6-foot-6, 285-pound frame, manager Ozzie Guillen reinterpreted: How big he is, or how ugly he is?

Big Hurt Award
When a young fan asked Guillen whether slugging legend Frank Thomas could ever be a hitting coach, Guillen screamed, NOOOOOOOO! Guillen claimed that team coaches don't get paid enough to satisfy Thomas, and you need to be a very bad hitter to be a good hitting coach.

Booby Prize
Former Chisox shortstop Jose Valentin recounted a story that when he was with Milwaukee, any player who hit for the cycle would get a free Harley, and though he came close, he never achieved the honor with the Brewers. On April 27, 2000 for the White Sox, he didand found a girls pink bike parked in his locker stall the next day.

Boogie Down Decoration
Catcher and noted prankster Ramon Castro was lauded as the best dancer on the team besides me, said Gordon Beckham in-between bouts of gettin jiggy.

Broken Record Accolade
Color man and raconteur Ken Hawk Harrelson called the 2011 club possibly the best White Sox team hes ever been associated with, which distinguishes it in no way from his preseason assessment of the 25 prior Pale Hose clubs hes been part of.

Bulletin-Board Achievement
In praising White Sox rookie pitcher Chris Sale, Farmer said that the lefty made Minnesota Twins sweet swinger Joe Mauer look infantile when first facing Sale, prompting White Sox GM Ken Williams to say, oh no, dont say that!

Buzzkill Award
In both of the State of the Sox seminars, Guillen spoke at length about how depressing two particular losses were to the Minnesota. Williams to Guillen: Stop talking about those Twins games. I dont want to think about that anymore!

Chooed Up Award
Guillen retold a story where Cleveland Indians slugger Shin-Soo Choo would chide him for bringing in ace lefty Matt Thornton to mow him down in late-inning situations Choo actually sports an .842 OPS in his career vs. Thornton, but 10 of his 13 outs against the fireballer have been Ks, but after facing Sale and getting whiffed by the rookie, Choo saw Ozzie while leaving Progressive Field and asked the manager to call in Thornton the next time.

Clandestine Accolade
Guillen admitted, When I heard we got Dunn, I was shocked, to which Williams replied wryly, I had to surprise you, otherwise it would end up in too many blogs and twitters.

Confidence-Builder Prize
White Sox farm director Buddy Bell admitted that when Williams first told him he thought the club should draft Sale, with the thought that Sale could be called up to the parent club by the end of the season, I thought he was crazy. Sale, sharing the stage with Bell, cracked, Thanks, thats great for my confidence.

Crazy Train Award
Guillen admitted making a couple of crazy moves in 2010, prompting Williams to interrupt: You made more than two crazy moves.

Double-Dip Dis Achievement
Bell told a fan wearing a pitching coach Don Cooper jersey, you wear that shirt better than Coop, to which assistant GM Rick Hahn added, but theres no dip stains on it, so its probably not authentic.

Easy Mark Laurel
Amazingly, the first Phil Rogers dis of SoxFest came not from Williams but Bell, who in answer to a question about Rogers chronically dire outlooks on the White Sox team and farm system, noted hed known the Tribune scribe from back in Rogers beat writer days in Texas, and conceded without conviction that I guess he's become more knowledgeable over the years.

Fans Best Friend Award
To yours truly, for attempting to connect stalwart Chisox fan TinyJ (Twitter handle) to her husband as Saturdays seminar finale featuring Thomas and other Chisox sluggers was filling up fast.

Feliz Cumpleanos Laurel
Longtime White Sox executive Roland Hemond not only got to watch the White Sox wins to clinch the 2005 World Series up close and personally in Houston, but the winsoccurring on the same day due to the late finish to Game 3both fell on his 76th birthday.

Fight the Youth Award
Guillen reacted to a tough question from a young fan with a typical teasing outburst: Who sent this kid in here? Go get some autographs or something!

Fish Out of Water Honor
When a fan asked Chisox leftfielder Juan Pierre about the philosophy of his swim move, used to avoid tags when he is beat at second base on steal attempts, the speedster chuckled: It's desperation. No rhyme or reason. That move come from the backyard and the Slip n Slide.

Geography Prize
Guillen claimed that Minnesota Twins DH Jim Thomes game-winning home run in the bottom of the 10th last Aug. 17 landed in Milwaukee.

Humble Pie Honor
Beckham had his aw-shucks attitude working overtime over the weekend. On his baserunning style: Im like Fred FlintstoneI sort of take two steps in the same spot, then I go. On his comprehensibility, after saying Pierre would toodle him rather than tutor him on the basepaths: Im from Georgia. I dont know how to talk.

Jenny Craig Badge
Third base coach Jeff Cox, on his perpetual diet, pointed out during a baserunning seminar hed once stolen 71 bases in a season in 1977, for AA Chattanooga and AAA San Jose: but that was about 30 pounds ago.

Lifetime Achievement Award
The big news of SoxFest came minutes into the first Ozzie-Kenny State of the Sox gathering, when Williams announced that the 2012 option on Guillens contract had been picked up by the club. The news garnered a standing ovation, and Williams added that, providing we can get back to basics and focus, I hope to extend Ozzie for the rest of hisand mycareer. Ozzie related that when he called his wife, Ibis, to give her the news, she started crying; Williams: Crying because she was happy, or sad? Guillen: Hopefully I manage here for the rest of my career. It's what I've always wanted.

Lightning in a Bottle Laurel
When a fan asked Bell whether the Chisox were trying to catch lightning in a bottle when selecting such young veterans as recently-claimed, former first-rounder Phil Humber, the farm director quickly answered, to laughter: Yes!

Loving the First 23 Citation
Williams, in response to the many questions and comments about the tail end of his roster: I guess I should be happy if people are only complaining about the 24th or 25th player. That means they like the first 23. Similarly, Guillen said, If a manager is worrying about his fourth outfielder, he's in trouble. I'm worried about my closer and winning games.

Magic Number Prize
Pierre, who last season at age 33 stole a career-high and the second-most single-season bases in White Sox history (68), on how many bases hell need to steal in 2011: Just enough to win us a World Series.
Mea Culpa Award
When a fan began his question with the words Manny Ramirez Williams instantly blurted, SORRY! to much laughter and applause. The quick-thinking fan: Apology accepted.

Nickname in Need of Upgrade Award
Bell continued to reference aspiring third-base starter Brent Morel B-mo.

One Good Turn Award
Thornton disses 1970s-era hurler and current White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone, talking about the batters he had to face in the 1960s. Hurling veteran of the 1980s, White Sox bullpen coach Juan Nieves, chirped in, 1950s.

One in a Million Award
Sale: "Never in a million years" did he think 2010 would turn out the way it did.

Award for Outstanding Konerko Manuevering
To Williams, Hahn, and Jerry Reinsdorf, as Hemond (now working with the Arizona Diamondbacks) says he attended SoxFest with a heavy heart, because you out-Konerko'ed us.
Paul Bunyan Tall Taling Award
Williams was on stage spinning yarns about Dunn pointing to the scoreboard and asking if anyone had ever hit it, and how he saw his new slugger hit a prodigious blast at Turner Field in Atlanta, when Guillen interjected: I dont care how far he hits one, I just want him to his 50 short ones homers.
Popular Favorite Award
Late last season, when Williams asked Guillen and Cooper which relievers he should pursue for 2011, both men listed two names, and one of them was new Chisox fireman Jesse Crain.

Pot-Kettle Prize
Guillen told CSNs Sarah Kustok that Alexei Ramirez is the most fun White Sox player to prank because of his high voice and indecipherable English: Finally someone who speaks worse English than me. Im still waiting to sit down with the manager over his favorite meal, suchi.

Prescient Tweet Award
Also yours truly, for twitterpating out, Kenny and Ozzie off in a corner, chatting through a private moment. The brotherhood looks to be back. That discussion turned out to be Williams breaking the news to Ozzie that hed had his 2012 extension picked up.

Pyrotechnical Prize
Former White Sox closer Roberto Hernandez admitted to the thought that all White Sox fans shared: I wanted to be the first to put a stick of dynamite in the Metrodome.

Rabblerouser Award
Stone, the thinking mans broadcaster and generally a genial and mild-mannered sort, was the feistiest presenter at SoxFest, whether translating Coxs unique take on and presentation of the English language, referencing the Cubs in a disagreeable manner, generally dissing the careers of most of the retired players on SoxFest stages, and sprinkling in just enough self-deprecation to make all the roustabouting palatable.

TMI Accolade
After Guillen spent entirely too much time admitting hes hard to get in touch with because he had changed his cell phone number several times recently, Williams piped up: Como se dice en espanol, Too much information?

Tool Time Badge
When a fan referred to ex-Pale Hoser Nick Swisher as a tool, Guillen leaned over to Williams for clarification of the term, then smiled.

Unmalleable Mauer Award
Stone mentioned that last year, he and broadcast partner Harrelson set an overunder of 9.5 for the Mauers trips to mound. Ex-Twin Crains half-hearted defense of the happy-footed backstop: He was stretching his legs...hes really tall.

Winging It Plaudit
Sale spoke on his earlier struggles, recounting that as a freshman in college, he was a relief pitcher and threw overhand, and I had a horrible year. I dropped my arm angle and it workedSomehow I managed to come up with whatever it is I do.

Wizard of Awes Award
Hahn answered a question about sabermetrics with elusiveness typical of the White Sox front office, claiming that its a factor in our decision-making, but we dont mind other people not thinking so. They dont need to see behind the curtain.

Word of Mouth Award
While the first Guillen-Williams State of the Sox seminar was lucky to fill half the house, the next mornings sequel was packed to the gills, with probably three times as many spectators.

Yosemite Samming Medal
Cox speaks English even faster than Guillen speaks Spanish, making it clear that neither man ever listens to what the other says. Coxs SoxFest runs were almost Shakespearean in their grandeur. After one typically Coxian run, Pierre leaned into his microphone and said, Now you see why were glad we use baserunning signs.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018


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


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.