White Sox

Sox Drawer: What rhymes with MVP? Paulie!

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Sox Drawer: What rhymes with MVP? Paulie!

Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010
6:33 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

Somewhere in the state of Ohio lies a baseball tuckered out after traveling a far distance. It started the day buried anonymously in a sack with a dozen other balls, all set to be used, all with different fates.

Some would stay fair. Others would go foul. But this one had another destination in mind: Lake Erie.

Unfortunately, it didnt make it that far. A few fans got in the way. But if the man who tried to put it there keeps it up, the ball might end up representing something bigger.

The start of an MVP campaign.

For the last few weeks, Paul Konerkos name has casually been mentioned as a candidate for the American League Most Valuable Player Award, up there with Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera. But lets be honest, he was a country mile away from getting enough votes to actually win it.

Not anymore.

With the national media tuned in to watch Manny Ramirez make his White Sox debut on Wednesday, there was Konerko doing what hes done all season, blasting a massive three-run bomb in the eighth inning, giving the Sox a thrilling come-from-behind, 6-4 win over the Indians.

Its a captain whos been driving a car with his clutch stuck on clutch all season, and its time the rest of the country knew about it.

Youre excused if you happened to ignore Paulies red-hot April, when he quietly belted 11 home runs to lead the majors. At 34 years old, and in the twilight of his career, who actually thought he was on the verge of an MVP season?

I didnt.You didnt. Konerko probably didnt either.

But game-after-game, week-after-week, the prolonged slumps that have traditionally dogged Konerko in his career have yet to arrive. He just keeps raking, and considering hes in a contract year, hell soon be raking in something else. Tons and tons of dough. But thats a subject for another day.

This is about a mans quest for an MVP award, and here are some numbers to back it up.

Lets start with his home runs which are starting to reach Roy Hobbs Hollywood-type proportions. Of his 33 homers, which is currently second in the American League, 12 have been hit in the eighth inning or later. Three have tied the game. NINE have given the White Sox the lead. Konerko has also helped the Sox breathe a little easier, as four of his home runs have occurred with his team ahead by one.

But its not just when Konerko has been hitting, its who hes been hitting against. Here are the top teams on the White Sox schedule. Has Konerko been there for his team? You bet.

vs. the Twins .390 4 HRs 12 RBIs
vs. the Yankees .400 3 HRs 10 RBIs
vs. the Rangers .344 4 HRs 11 RBIs
vs. the Rays .308 1 HR 3 RBIs
vs. the Braves .417 1 HR 3 RBIs

Throw in the Crosstown Series against the Cubs, which is a playoff-type atmosphere no matter how bad one of the teams might be, Konerko batted .333 with 2 HRs and 6 RBIs.

Have you heard about the dog days of August in baseball? Konerko hasnt this year. He just completed the month batting .387. Thats number-one in the major leagues.

And how did he start September? See the top of this very page.

A couple weeks ago, Konerkos season numbers paled in comparison to his toughest competitors, but hes quickly closing the gap:

Konerko .319 33 HR 98 RBI
Hamilton .361 31 HR 97 RBI
Cabrera .340 33 HR 107 RBI
Cano .325 26 HR 90 RBI

In the end, itll come down to those in contention at the end. So you can take Cabreras name off the list. The Tigers are going nowhere. Robinson Cano has had a great season with the Yankees, but lets see if someone from New York can build a case for him thats stronger than Konerkos. You can try, but you'll inevitably fail.

That leaves Hamilton, who has put the Texas Rangers on his back and has kept them in first for weeks. Hes currently in the lead. But if this was a golf tournament, he and Konerko still have a few holes to play. A lot can happen, and watching Paulie all season, you can bet that something will.

My job is a sportscaster. I write with my ABCs. Konerko plays baseball. He's my MVP.

Eloy Jimenez has high praise for Luis Robert: 'He's going to be the next Mike Trout'

Eloy Jimenez has high praise for Luis Robert: 'He's going to be the next Mike Trout'

Last spring, Michael Kopech said Eloy Jimenez was the Babe Ruth of this generation. Jimenez returned the favor by calling Kopech this generation's Nolan Ryan.

Well, start blocking out a wing of the Hall of Fame for members of the 2020 White Sox, because we've got another comp for the ages.

Obviously, everyone's very excited to see Luis Robert hit the major leagues. Jimenez is cranking that excitement up to 11.

"Some people are going to call me crazy," he said Friday before SoxFest kicked off at McCormick Place, "but he’s going to be the next Mike Trout.

"He has five tools, and he plays hard like Mike Trout."

Well then.

Trout has long been considered the best baseball player on the planet, someone who's putting up hall of Fame numbers on an annual basis to the extent that folks wonder if he's the best to ever play.

Should Robert come anywhere close to that, White Sox fans will be quite pleased.

Certainly the praise is not entirely unwarranted, with Robert boasting a full toolbox of baseball skills. He's fresh off a 2019 campaign that saw him set the minor leagues on fire: a .328/.376/.624 slash line to go along with 32 home runs, 92 RBIs, 108 runs scored, 31 doubles and 36 stolen bases. Along the way he sent highlight after highlight back to his adoring public on the South Side, clips of him blasting balls into the Charlotte sky, making eye-popping catches and using his blazing speed to great effect.

The defensive skill ought to be especially intriguing to Jimenez, who's going to play next to Robert in the White Sox outfield. But while Jimenez's defensive improvement will continue to be a big focus in 2020, so will Robert's range in center field. Jimenez has a plan, though, if Robert tries to steal away any of his fly balls.

"I’m going to draw a line," Jimenez said with a smile. "If he goes over the line, I’m going to punch him. It’s going to be like that this year."

It was just the minor leagues, of course, but those descriptions aren't terribly dissimilar from the ones frequently assigned to Trout out in Anaheim.

You likely won't hear Rick Hahn or Rick Renteria comparing Robert to the best player in the game, not wanting to put too much pressure on the 22-year-old. Jimenez knows as well as anyone how difficult the transition to the majors can be, even for the most talented athletes in the world. He set the minors ablaze in 2018, only to experience growing pains as opposing pitchers attacked him like a proven veteran.

So seeing something similar from Robert would not be surprising.

"Last year, I was a little bit anxious," Jimenez said, "and I know he’s going to be, too.

"The first year of your contract, you play on Opening Day, it’s going to be a little bit tough for him, too. It’s not going to be (tough) just for him, it’s for anybody who makes the Opening Day roster. It’s a little bit tough because it’s different pitching, it’s different stuff and the pitchers are a lot better at this level.

"He’s going to need someone. But he’s got (Jose) Abreu, he’s got (Yoan) Moncada and he’s got me. So he’s going to be good."

One of the biggest differences between Jimenez's ascent to the major leagues and Robert's is that Robert is joining a White Sox team with playoff expectations. Between the young core that broke out in such a big way last season and all the newcomers Hahn's front office brought in this winter, the White Sox look ready to vault into contention mode. Robert's arrival is a factor in those expectations, too, so while it might seem like the spotlight can be lured away by other players, Jimenez said it will be tough for Robert to adjust to the big leagues in relative obscurity.

"When you have five tools," he said, "everybody’s going to have their eyes on you."

Well put.

If he truly is the next Trout, then he'll never lose that spotlight. Though playing alongside the next Ruth and the next Ryan, a couple fellow future Hall of Famers, ought to help.

That might sound a little crazy, as Jimenez well knows. But he's sticking to that comp.

"You will see."

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Dallas Keuchel apologizes and weighs in on Astros' sign-stealing controversy

Dallas Keuchel apologizes and weighs in on Astros' sign-stealing controversy

Dallas Keuchel met with media ahead of this weekend's SoxFest, and was asked about the recent sign-stealing scandal that's dominated the offseason. 

Keuchel was drafted by Houston in the 7th round of the 2009 Draft, and spent the first seven seasons of his career there. While with the Astros, Keuchel was one of the best pitchers in baseball, posting a 3.72 FIP and a 12.2% K-BB ratio during his time there. 

He was also apart of the 2017 team that now faces intense scrutiny for their use of technology in stealing signs during the World Series. While players have not faced punishment yet for the scandal, Houston GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were both suspended for a year without pay by MLB and then subsequently fired by the Astros. 

Keuchel signed a 3-year, $55 million contract with the White Sox back in late December.