White Sox

Sox Drawer: The Buehrle goodbye

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Sox Drawer: The Buehrle goodbye

DALLAS -- On the last day of the regular season, Kenny Williams walked into the White Sox clubhouse seeking out Mark Buehrle. He gave him a hug to say goodbye.

Is this goodbye, goodbye? Mark asked.

No, its just goodbye, Williams said.

At the time, there was still hope that the White Sox would find a way to bring Buehrle back to the White Sox.

Chicago was his home. It held his heart. The White Sox were all he knew.

But when the window opened for teams to contact free agents, the Marlins came calling -- so did the Nationals, Rangers and almost half of the teams in the major leagues. Everyone wanted Buehrle -- even the Cubs -- and yes, so did the White Sox, but there was nothing they could do about it.

Well, almost nothing.

I knew what we could have done, Williams told reporters Wednesday night. Wed have to go to the ATM about 56 million times. Thats assuming we can get a dollar out of it.

Blame it on bad timing.

In 2010 at the Winter Meetings, the White Sox had money to spend. Weve heard the phrase a zillion times. They were All In. However, in 2011 when it comes to free agents, its exactly the opposite.

"All Out." Just like the Marlins were for the last several years. Not this year.

In terms of payroll, both teams are headed in different directions. The White Sox are low on money, the Marlins are apparently printing it -- spending lavishly on Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell -- so far.

For Mark, it was never about the money. According to a source close to him, he likely would have given the White Sox a hometown discount as long as the offer was fair. Yet when Buehrles agent, Jeff Berry, contacted Williams on Wednesday night to inform him of the 4-year, 58 million dollar deal with Miami, the end of his White Sox career became official.

It was goodbye, goodbye.

They came to us and told us exactly what he had in front of him, Williams said. And we simply said, Congratulations, we wish you well, and thank you. You will forever be in our hearts. Theres nothing we can do about it.

Buehrle has easily been one of the most popular players on the team for the last decade, so the decision to let him leave will certainly not go over well with White Sox fans.

I asked Williams how he thinks theyll react to the news.

I think people are going to be just as unhappy as I am, said the Sox GM. Listen, given my druthers I would rather have him here than not. Two words probably sum it up best, It sucks. But this is part of sports, part of business. Your favorite players and my favorite players will come and go.

Most athletes dont have trouble switching teams or leagues. It happens all the time. However, Mark is different. Hes about as straight and narrow as they come. All along, he was hoping his career would stay on the same path. But now its headed on a big detour, one that has him reuniting with Ozzie Guillen.

Buehrle told his longtime manager that he had serious reservations about leaving the White Sox, even though all the signs pointed to him not coming back.

One of the first conversations we had he said I dont know how Im going to handle it, going to a new city and new spring training, Guillen said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet after the news broke. I said you are going to handle it easy wearing a Marlins uniform because I'm going to be there, and Joey Cora going to be there, and he knows the way we work. But it was very hard. I know for a fact that he feels kind of funny leaving the ballclub. But this is part of the game. I told him dont blame Kenny, dont blame Jerry Reinsdorf. I think they go in a different direction. Mark decided to play somewhere else. Thats the way it was meant to be.

Wednesday night, Guillen flew back to, of all places, Chicago. He and his wife recently built a home in the city, and despite managing in Miami, he plans on living in Chicago in the winters. He said he doesnt want to leave. Why? Well, hes Ozzie, and he still loves Chicago -- apparently even when its 5-below zero.

And if you happen to live near Guillen, you might see him around the neighborhood on Thursday morning, and a lot more than normal.

I will walk my dog three times to see what they say about Mark. It will be pretty interesting to see what they say.

Memo to Ozzie: theyre not going to be happy.

So now the White Sox move on without one of their longtime centerpieces, a guy who pitched a perfect game, a no-hitter, won a World Series ring, as well as the hearts and minds of every White Sox fan from Beverly to Burr Ridge, Palos Hills to Park Forest.

Can they replace him? We know better.

You cant.

For me to stand here and say that somebody is going to take that mantle and be Mark Buehrle? Mark Buehrle is Mark Buehrle. Hes a unique person, Williams said. I just told the Marlins ownership, I said, Youve got one hell of a pitcher, but let me tell you, youve got a better person.

One of the best players, and one of the best people this sportscaster has ever covered or ever met.

Chicago, I feel your pain.

Freshly cut Michael Kopech feels 'different energy' around White Sox

Freshly cut Michael Kopech feels 'different energy' around White Sox

On the eve of the most anticipated SoxFest in recent memory, Michael Kopech got a haircut.

He likely won't be the only one sporting a fresh look when the White Sox gather for the annual fan convention this weekend at McCormick Place. But he's probably the only one who had his restyling attended by the local media.

Kopech got his trademark flowing locks clipped off Wednesday as part of a charity event that raised $20,000 for the Ronald McDonald House and White Sox charities, meaning there'll be a noticeable difference the next time he steps on a major league mound. There was bound to be a difference, considering he last pitched in a big league game in September of 2018. But how much of a difference there will be in his pitching style remains to be seen.

Kopech has long been promised as a flamethrower that can touch ungodly speeds like 101, 102 and 103 miles an hour on the radar gun. He'll still be able to do that, he says, but there will be a difference.

"I don't know if I'm going to necessarily be that type of power pitcher again in my career," he said Wednesday. "I think I'm going to be a little bit smarter and cautious about how I pitch. That being said, velocity will always be a part of my game."

We'll have to wait and see exactly how Kopech will attack opposing hitters after his recovery from Tommy John surgery. "Wait and see" will be a theme of at least the early portion of Kopech's 2020 campaign. The White Sox have signaled that he'll be limited in some capacity in an effort not to overwork him — remember that his next major league appearance will be only his fifth — but we don't know what that will look like yet. Will he be part of the rotation, but be skipped at times? Will he pitch out of the bullpen for a little bit? Will he start the season in the minor leagues?

According to Kopech, he doesn't know the plan, either, knowing only that he feels great and will be looking to earn a roster spot in spring training.

"Not really," he said, asked if he's talked with the team about what it has planned for him. "My plan for myself is to be competitive in the spring and give my team a chance to win, and hopefully that's giving myself the best chance I can.

"But for what the team has in store for me, I really don't know those answers. I'm just going to do my best when I get there."

Between the moves Rick Hahn's front office has made this winter and the way so many of the White Sox young, core players broke out in 2019, there are realistic playoff expectations on the South Side for the first time in a long time, with the expectation being that the team will make its long awaited leap out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. Kopech would figure to be a big part of that, still ranked as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Even with plans to limit his workload, the White Sox would figure to want him to be pitching in meaningful games if they should roll around in August and September, or even October.

Of course, these kinds of expectations are nothing new for these White Sox players, who have long been willing to express their confidence in the organization's bright future. Kopech has talked about wanting to win the 2020 World Series. Eloy Jimenez has talked about being a part of a championship outfield. Lucas Giolito, "sick of losing," has been talking playoffs since the end of last year's 89-loss season. And the freshly extended Luis Robert is talking about winning multiple championships.

This group has always been about setting lofty goals. But now the fan base is buying in to all that, too, and setting its own set of expectations, ones that end with the White Sox reaching the postseason. Kopech can already feel a different vibe surrounding this team, though added that the expectations inside the clubhouse haven't changed from what they've always been.

"We were just talking about that a couple of days ago. We were out playing catch, me, Zack Burdi, Ryan Burr, Grandal was out there. It was that camaraderie, but more so, the underlining competitiveness in all of us. It felt like a different energy, was the word that was used," Kopech said. "We were all pulling in the same direction, which I think is kind of a glimpse to us what the future is going to look like.

"Not to look too far ahead, but I think we all are pulling in the same direction, not that that wasn't the case before. We're all starting to get that taste, sort of speak.

"(Playoff expectations are) what we've put on ourselves, as well. We're always going to want to be a competitive team, and we're going to want to be a competitive team at the highest level and that's to be in the playoffs.

"Those expectations that people are putting on us, we're going to also put on ourselves and try to achieve that."

It's still a bit of an unknown when and in what capacity we'll first see Kopech contributing toward reaching those expectations. But don't adjust your television set when he does make his first appearance. That's him, all right. Just lighter now without all that extra hair.

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Paul Konerko misses out on 2020 Hall of Fame, falls off ballot after receiving 2.5% of vote

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USA Today

Paul Konerko misses out on 2020 Hall of Fame, falls off ballot after receiving 2.5% of vote

Former White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko will not be elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 2020. Konerko received 2.5% of the vote, less than the 5% needed to remain on the ballot.

Konerko came to Chicago in 1998 and played his first season with the Sox in 1999, hitting .294 with 24 home runs and 81 RBIs. The following season, the White Sox made the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Konerko was with the team during their triumphant 2005 World Series win, hitting the first grand slam in White Sox World Series history and giving the Sox the lead 6-4 in Game 2 against the Astros.

Confused and frustrated? You’re not alone. Here's how the multi-step voting process works. Players become eligible to enter the Hall of Fame ballot five years after they’ve retired, if they’ve played a minimum of 10 seasons. From there, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America screening committee votes to determine which players make the ballot. Each voter can vote for 10 players. Players need to achieve at least 5% of the vote to be included on the next year’s ballot. If a player makes the ballot, they then need to achieve 75% of all ballots cast to be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Regardless of the voting, Konerko will always be a White Sox legend.

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