White Sox

Todd Frazier makes his introductions to White Sox fans, teammates

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Todd Frazier makes his introductions to White Sox fans, teammates

A warm welcome greeted Todd Frazier on a chilly evening in his new home. 

“Welcome to Chicago, man. Happy to have you.” 

That line came from a fan during Frazier’s autograph session Friday night at SoxFest at the Hilton Chicago, but easily could’ve come from any of the teammates he met during the annual confab.

The White Sox third baseman, acquired as the team’s offseason centerpiece from the Cincinnati Reds in December, is a prime reason for optimism even as the SoxFest tenor trended toward ornery this weekend. He’s a two-time All-Star who hit 35 home runs in 2015, but just as importantly, he brings a steady defensive presence to a team that finished with baseball's worst UZR last summer. 

“You can’t not be excited, no doubt,” ace left-hander Chris Sale said. “You got a guy who’s one of the best in the business at what he does both offensively and defensively. That’s something I think we’ve needed for a while.”

[MORE: After returning from Cuba, Jose Abreu ‘ready to give his all’ in 2016]

Frazier’s introduction to his fanbase and teammates was well-received, with center fielder Adam Eaton joking during a panel on Saturday that the third baseman and Toms River, N.J. native is “extremely east coast, I feel like I’m talking to someone from the mafia.” By all accounts, Frazier comes to Chicago with a reputation as a positive clubhouse presence, something the 2015 White Sox probably lacked to an extent. 

Though with pitchers and catchers reporting to Camelback Ranch in a few weeks, Frazier said he doesn’t feel any building pressure to succeed and fit in with his new team. 

“You come up in the minor leagues, you've been doing it your whole life, trying to move up to each level,” Frazier explained. “That's how I'm taking it. I'm moving up another level. A new chapter in my life with a new team. You've got to make new friends and get acquainted with everybody. 

“I’m pretty excited just talking about it. It's so laid back and a comfortable atmosphere that I can just be myself and that's where I play my best.”

Frazier’s already made a strong first impression on White Sox fans, teammates and coaches this weekend, but what matters is how he hits and fields come April. He thinks any concerns about him making the switch to the American League from the National League are overblown, though said he’ll talk to designated hitter Adam LaRoche about handling the switch (LaRoche, of course, struggled mightily in 2015 after switching leagues — and positions). 

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If the White Sox are to improve off last season’s disappointing 76 wins, Frazier will be an important part of it. For now, his tenure with the White Sox is off to a positive start. 

“(I’m) just seeing what these guys are all about, just talking, having a couple root beers and away we went,” Frazier said. “I talked to Alex Avila a little bit, I know Dioner Navarro a lot and Chris Sale, all really, really good guys and can’t wait to get in that clubhouse and see who the jokesters are and who’s ready to play.”

In reaching 1,000 hits, Jose Abreu shows why he's this generation's Mr. White Sox

In reaching 1,000 hits, Jose Abreu shows why he's this generation's Mr. White Sox

It hasn't been difficult to figure out why Jose Abreu wants to be a part of the White Sox moving forward. He keeps telling us.

Repeated declarations of love for the organization, excitement over the rebuilding team's future and promises that he'll sign himself to a contract if the front office doesn't do it first, it's all been freely flowing from Abreu's mouth — always through team interpreter Billy Russo, of course — throughout the 2019 season.

It's worth noting, too, that the 2019 season is Abreu's sixth with the White Sox. The team has had a losing record in every one of them. But the win-loss records haven't had any kind of impact on Abreu's opinion of the organization that signed him out of Cuba ahead of the 2014 campaign.

Saturday night, Abreu reached a milestone, picking up his 1,000th career hit in the first inning. He got an ovation from the fans in the stands and the players in the third-base dugout. A special graphic flashed on the scoreboard.

The organization saluted one of its favorite sons. And after the game, he returned the favor, adding a line that might have shed some more light on why he's been so willing to state his desire to stay on the South Side forever.

"I’m very grateful with Jerry (Reinsdorf), with Kenny (Williams), with Rick Hahn, with Marco Paddy, with all the people that made this possible," he said, through Russo. "It’s not just for the money, but they made my mom’s dreams come true.

"It’s not about the money. It’s about the dream and to be able to get to this point in my career."

Now you might understand why he might not seem to care about "leverage" in any upcoming contract negotiations.

Abreu loves the White Sox, as he's repeatedly stated. And the White Sox love him right back. Their constant praise is not only directed at his production on the field, which has been outstanding since he came to the United States. He's one of three players ever — with Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols — to start his major league career with four seasons of at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs. While certain rate stats have taken a dip in 2019, he's on pace to set a new career high in RBIs and is eight homers away from matching his career best in that category, too.

If the season ended today, he'd have a career-worst on-base percentage, but that number is climbing thanks to a red-hot August. He came into Saturday night's game slashing .337/.382/.609 on the month, and then he added a pair of hits in the loss to the Texas Rangers.

But while all that production is great, the White Sox are equally enamored with Abreu's contributions off the field. He's a role model for and a mentor to young players, specifically guys like Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez and, eventually, Luis Robert, who are expected to make up the core of the next contending White Sox team.

Abreu will likely be there, too, as all the above illustrates — not to mention a supposed assurance from Reinsdorf that he'll never wear another uniform.

Those young players have happily taken Abreu's guidance. Jimenez has said he's been like a father. It's not a stretch to assume that Abreu's work ethic rubbed off on Moncada, who took it upon himself to go to work this offseason and transform his fortunes from a season ago.

Abreu, in another textbook example of why this guy is so gosh darn beloved, said that results like 1,000 big league hits do make it easier to get through to his young teammates but it's not the most important thing.

"The results makes the trust easier. It makes it easier for them to believe in what you are telling them," Abreu said. "But what is most important is just for them to realize you are a good human being.

"When you are a good human being, the people around you are going to identify that and they are going to take whatever you said and the advice you are going to give them in a good way.

"That was just the way I was raised by my parents and that’s the way I have always tried to be."

There's a reason, a lot of them, actually, that the White Sox seem to hold Abreu in the same esteem as players who have their jersey numbers retired and have statues at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Those who made the laughable suggestion that the White Sox should have traded Abreu at the deadline with plans of re-signing him in the offseason seemed to miss that. Would they have made the same suggestion about Paul Konerko? Or Mark Buehrle?

Every generation has its "Mr. White Sox." Abreu has earned that title for this generation.

Ivan Nova said it best: "He's the franchise player."

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Yeah, Tim Anderson's got a lot of errors, but he's also making plays like this

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USA TODAY

Yeah, Tim Anderson's got a lot of errors, but he's also making plays like this

Yeah, Tim Anderson's got a lot of errors. But he's also making plays like this.

Anderson does have a ton of errors, 20 of them, to be precise, a total greater than any player in baseball. He's committed at least 20 errors in each of his last three seasons, and in four major league seasons he's got 82 of them.

None of that should cancel out the great defensive improvement we saw from Anderson over the course of last season. Just because he's making a lot of errors doesn't mean he's not a good fielder, as the frequent eye-popping defensive plays he makes should illustrate.

The outside focus on Anderson this season has been on almost everything besides the defense: the offense, the attitude, the high ankle sprain, the evolution into one of this young team's leaders. All that's deserved, of course. That injured-list stay has him just outside of qualified status, and if he had it he'd own one of the highest batting averages in the American League. But defense remains a high priority for Anderson, who said he practices plays like the one from Friday night all the time.

"That's stuff I practice on," he said Saturday. "I go out before the game and I practice on those things, and I think it's starting to show now. And people are watching."

"He’s really, really good because he gets to balls most people won’t and then he completes a play like that," manager Rick Renteria said. "He’s been doing that quite a bit now for over two years. You really tip your cap to him and Joe (McEwing, White Sox infield coach), who has been steadfast working with him. For Timmy to take it upon himself to want to be the best at what he does, he continues to work very, very hard and play like that. It’s becoming a staple play like that for him in the hole."

It's true, we've seen that play an awful lot from Anderson this season, even if he was particularly and ridiculously deep Friday night.

According to Renteria, Anderson's range might be one of the reasons he's accumulated more errors than most.

"Anybody that can get to more balls than most people and have more chances (racks up more errors)," Renteria said. "Some of those plays, they are able to extend themselves to make those plays and they are not necessarily in the best position possible. But they are still capable of, with body control, trying to execute some plays.

"I think overall the more balls you can get to, the more chances you have, there’s a great chance of increasing errors — especially at shortstop, where he covers a lot of ground."

Those who watch Anderson on a nightly basis know that his error total doesn't define him as a defender at shortstop. They know he makes a ton of plays that few other shortstops make. But there will be those who scan the statistics at the end of the season and see all those errors and jump to their own conclusions.

That error total, whatever it ends up being, doesn't need to come with an asterisk. But maybe a link to some of the highlight-reel plays would be helpful.

Anderson's season deserves all the praise it's received for his offensive breakout, his excitement-generating bat flips and his rise as one of the young leaders in a group primed for such a bright future.

But remember the defense. It's a big part of what makes him a core player for this White Sox team.

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