White Sox

Sox-Astros wasn't short on excitement in 2006

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Sox-Astros wasn't short on excitement in 2006

Six years ago, the White Sox offense was rolling entering a three-game rematch of the 2005 World Series with Houston. After being shut out by Texas on June 14, the Sox run totals went as follows: 8, 12, 8, 8, 20, 13, 1. That last game was a 1-0 win, with Jim Thome belting a mammoth home run off Cardinals starter Anthony Reyes to net the Sox a sweep of the eventual champions that season.

Many of the World Series faces were the same in late June 2006. Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio, Andy Pettite, Brad Lidge and plenty more for Houston; Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Joe Crede, Scott Podsednik and most of the pitching staff for the White Sox. As the two teams enter their series in 2012, only three players remain from the 2005 World Series rosters -- Wandy Rodriguez, A.J. Pierzynski and Konerko.

Houston, on the other hand, was scuffling. They had dropped back-to-back series to Kansas City and Minnesota, falling to just one game over .500 when they arrived in Chicago. The Sox, at 47-25, seemed destined for a second straight playoff appearance (we all know that didn't happen, but at the time, it sure felt like it).

In true White Sox-Astros fashion, all three games of the series were close. The total run differential was five -- in 2005, the White Sox won their four games by a combined total of six runs.

The first game of the series saw Jose Contreras win his 15th consecutive decision, although he allowed four runs in 6 13 innings. He was supported by six runs through the first four innings, with the first two coming on back-to-back RBI hits by Crede and Rob Mackowiak off Astros starter Pettite. In the fourth, Pettite's control escaped him, as he sandwiched walks around a Pierzynski single to load the bases with nobody out.

But Pettite retired Mackowiak and Juan Uribe, leaving the bases loaded for Podsednik with two out. And on a 2-2 pitch, Podsednik ripped his first -- and only -- career grand slam, putting the Sox up 6-0. They would hang on for a 7-4 win.

Things didn't go as well in the second game of the series, with Jon Garland facing off against former top prospect Taylor Buccholz. The Sox jumped out to an early lead on the romanticized Podsednik singles, steals, is advanced to third on a groundout and scores on a sac fly bit. But Houston peppered Garland all game until the floodgates opened in the fourth, which saw the Astros score three times to go up 5-1.

The Sox couldn't touch Buchholz, who gave up only a single to Thome after allowing the run through the sixth. But the fearsome heart of the Sox order came alive in the seventh, as Thome walked and Konerko and Dye singled to load the bases for Crede.

Chad Qualls was best-known among Sox fans for serving up Paul Konerko's go-ahead grand slam in Game 2 of the World Series, a blast which came in the bottom of the seventh on the first pitch. So when manager Phil Garner turned to Qualls with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh on June 24, the thought of a repeat was probably at the front of the minds of more than a few spectators.

That's exactly what happened. Qualls' first pitch to Crede was ripped into the White Sox bullpen for a grand slam, tying the game at five.

From there, David Riske and Matt Thornton held Houston at bay to send the game into extras, and in the 10th, Alex Cintron's walk-off single with the bases loaded won the Sox the game and the series.

The nightcap was a nationally televised affair on Sunday night, a chance for the White Sox to cement their dominance over the Astros on a grand stage. But Javier Vazquez was lit up for nine runs on 10 hits in six innings as Houston jumped out to a 9-2 lead after seven. Oswalt was pulled as Houston's bullpen looked to cruise to an easy win.

Tadahito Iguchi had other ideas. A three-run homer off Russ Springer in the eighth seemed innocuous enough, as it only brought the Sox within four heading into the ninth. It seemed like a good chance for a struggling Brad Lidge to exorcise a demon or two. And with two outs, a runner on first and only Cintron separating the Astros from a win, it certainly looked like that was the case.

But Cintron singled, and then Podsednik drew a walk. The bases were loaded for Iguchi.

And Iguchi delivered one of the more memorable White Sox home runs in the last decade or so. His game-tying grand slam just barely cleared the wall in left-center, but it meant he had nearly single-handedly brought the Sox back from a seven-run deficit in two innings.

The Astros went on to win the game in extras when Willy Taveras singled home Adam Everett off Brandon McCarthy, but nonetheless, the series probably represented the high-water mark for the White Sox in 2006. They would rise to 27 games over .500 in early July, but that was followed by a stretch that saw the Sox win only three times in 15 games.

Six years later, the White Sox and Astros meet on completely different trajectories than the ones they were on in 2006. The Sox are in first, yes, but weren't expected to be there -- as they were in '06. Houston is a shell of its former self and while they're scrapping for wins here and there, the Astros are years -- at best -- away from contending again, especially as they prepare to join the American League West in 2013.

That move means that the Sox and Astros will meet every season from here on out. These first three games are the beginning.

And while it'll be tough to top the excitement and intensity of 2006 and, of course, 2005, hey, at least we can reminisce about those years.

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.