White Sox

Sweep dreams fade fast as Twins roll in opener

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Sweep dreams fade fast as Twins roll in opener

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010
Updated 12:18 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen spent Monday dancing, gladhanding, and otherwise earning thousands of dollars for his charity. Judging by his vocal rasp on Tuesday, he was jigging late into the night, spinning through one of his favorite days all summer.

But one night later, with the bane of Guillens existence in town to begin a three-game visit, the manager watched his troops suffer yet another fall-from-ahead loss to the Minnesota Twins. The 9-3 setback pushed Minnesota seven games up with 18 games remaining, and little short of a rampant case of vertigo speeding through the Target Field clubhouse will stand in the way of a second straight division title for the Twins.

Losing is tough to swallow every timeyou go as hard as you can go but sometimes you come up empty, White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. I wish we were in first, but I dont feel like weve given them anything, theyve just taken it. Theres some peace with that. Sometimes you just get beat.

The manner of victory was anything but peaceful, however.

As per norm, the Piranhas drew first blood with a Delmon Young solo shot to lead off the fifth, chased by a two-out single from Denard Span, scoring J.J. Hardy. Cutting against recent form that being a 6-21 post All-Star break record vs. Minnesota since 2008 the White Sox came right back, posting two runs in the bottom half on an Alexei Ramirez single.

In the sixth, the White Sox pushed ahead 3-2 in typically inefficient form, A.J. Pierzynski turning a gift-wrapped, bases-loaded, no-out opportunity into a run-scoring double-play.

A couple times we had men on third base or bases loaded, no outs or one out, bases loaded, we score only one run, Guillen said. That was the difference in the game. We got a lot of opportunities and good chances, but we couldnt get the big hit.

Sometimes you have a runner at third base with no outs and youre not going to bring him in, sometimes hes going to be on first base with two outs and you bring him in, said designated hitter Manny Ramirez, who was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and five left on base. Thats part of the game.

Turning such potential bounties upside down into frowns was certain to turn tragic, and sure as soft serve, Minnesota stormed back with two in the top of the seventh, as Guillens favorite new Piranha, Danny Valencia, singled in a run and then scored one batter later, when Hardy doubled high off the wall in left-center.

The Chisox had their own chance to counterpunch in the seventh, loading the bases on singles by Gordon Beckham and Juan Pierre and a walk to Alex Rios. But with the sacks packed and just one out, Konerko and Manny Ramirez were whiffed by Jesse Crain.

Im swinging the bat great and I did everything I wanted to do in the at-bat, Konerko said. Crain beat me. I can live with that. Thats the way it is.

Not content with a 5-3 lead, the Twins proceeded to slap a wicked little critta of a crooked number up on the board in the eighth, beginning with a run-scoring double from Jason Kubel, chased by J.J. Putzs walk to Valencia forcing in a run, and trumped altogether by a three-run error-ruled-double off the glove of Rios.

Chicago starter John Danks wasnt his sharpest, logging seven innings and giving up nine hits and four earned runs. Ultimately he paid for the effort by getting slapped with his 11th loss of the season.

I felt like I had enough stuff to get us a better result, said the self-critical southpaw. Give the Twins credit, theyre playing well right now. But I had plenty of stuff to give a better effort, and I let us down.

Twins southpaw Francisco Liriano wasnt sharp, but he pitched well enough to improve to 14-7, scattering six hits and three earned runs over six innings.

With futility vs. the Twins continuing to reign, to say there is urgency pulsing in the White Sox skipper is an understatement.

I dont know if the playoffs are impossible, but its going to be tough, Guillen said. Everybody is fighting right now, today we just came up short. We all know how important the next two games are. Hopefully well play better tomorrow than we did today and we win the next two games. Theyre going to be very big for us, huge.

The improbable and fuzzy math that equates to a White Sox division title was a topic of discussion in the clubhouse as well.

The White Sox have to win not only the next two, Ramirez calculated, but we have to win every game.

Were through the wall right now, Konerko said with regard to Chicago having its back against the wall. Before the series, you know coming back is tough and that you have to probably sweep. But now you just continue to play hard. You keep battling until they tell you that you cant battle any more. When the uniform goes on, you give it everything you got, whether youre 20 games out or seven.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

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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