White Sox

White Sox balancing long-term process with players' desire to compete in 2017

White Sox balancing long-term process with players' desire to compete in 2017

The White Sox find themselves at the intersection of the front office staying on course and a clubhouse trying to compete now as the 2017 season kicks off.

Only two trades into their first rebuild since 1997, general manager Rick Hahn has been up front that the White Sox are in the early stages of what could be a long and painful process.

But one area where the club believes it has already made serious gains is in an overhaul of the clubhouse culture, and that's why the White Sox could be at a crossroads.

Under the influence of manager Rick Renteria's upbeat, energetic style, White Sox players believe they tapped into something special this spring. Despite the losses of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, White Sox players believe they can compete right now. That could potentially force the front office into a tricky position where it must navigate the proper route if and when opposing teams come calling for its most tradeable assets.

"Our goal is to remain focused on the long term and building something sustainable," Hahn said. "If this team puts itself in a position to contend this year, we aren't going to proactively hinder their ability to contend if we feel it's real and sustainable and that the performance level and health and depth of the roster indicates that it could conceivably take the club into October.

"At the same time, that also entails being honest with ourselves about where we're at and as objectively as we can, evaluating our chances and what's best for the franchise in the long term."

The long-term view isn't part of the consideration of anyone within the White Sox clubhouse.

Reliever Zach Putnam said Renteria's style has energized a room full of previously unfamiliar players.

"Rebuild has some kind of negative connotations that you're almost accepting that you're going to have a losing season or a poor season," reliever Zach Putnam said. "There's not a single person in this clubhouse that believes that and I mean that."

[MORE WHITE SOX: Opening Day rained out, rescheduled for Tuesday]

Veteran Todd Frazier understands the reality of the situation but said he isn't trying to pay attention. Along with closer David Robertson, outfielder Melky Cabrera and starting pitchers Derek Holland and Miguel Gonzalez, Frazier is one of many players who could be traded before the season ends.

But the free agent-to-be said he refuses to think that far ahead.  

"They only made two changes, so at the end of the day let's see what they're trying to do later on," Frazier said. "But you can't really think in the future. We're basically playing for what we've got and what we've got right now is a pretty good squad. We're pretty happy with where we're at. It's going to be a fun team to watch."

But as Hahn has stated, the White Sox intend to be honest when determining their direction.

Part of the current plan is to not rush any of the team's prospects to fill voids. If a starting pitcher goes down early in the season, the White Sox are unlikely to fill that spot with one of their top prospects. And while the White Sox have a number of highly talented prospects, the top of the farm system is still relatively thin.

The fifth-year GM and Renteria both said they have an open-door policy if veteran players have questions about where the team stands. Hahn encountered a few of those during the course of the spring as well as several veterans' requests to be part of the team's plan. But Hahn would only commit Monday to determining the future of those veteran players on a "case-by-case" basis. But for now the White Sox like the culture that has grown in the clubhouse.

"What we're trying to accomplish in 2017 goes beyond just wins and losses at the big league level," Hahn said. "We're trying to build something sustainable and part of that is environmental and cultural and how the players and coaches prepare for games, how we expect the game to be played, and how the coaches hold the players accountable.

"The things we're trying to accomplish aren't going to show up in the wins and losses over the course of a season.

"Now we're all going to be tested because we're all competitive and want to win every game we're a part of. But we're going to have to remind ourselves from time to time that there are some other big picture items that are more important toward the long term than winning individual games."

White Sox Talk Podcast: Harold Baines elected to the Hall of Fame!

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AP

White Sox Talk Podcast: Harold Baines elected to the Hall of Fame!

The MLB Winter Meetings began with a big surprise: White Sox legend Harold Baines is headed to Cooperstown. On the podcast, Baines talks about:

3:42 - What it means to make the Hall of Fame, how surprised he was to get the call and more.

6:20 - Ron Kittle talks about his former teammate and explains what he told Baines when he heard the news. 

10:42 - Jerry Reinsdorf who was a part of the voting committee explains why Baines is a Hall of Famer.  

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below!

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Jerry Reinsdorf ecstatic over Harold Baines' Hall of Fame election: 'He really is a Chicago White Sox'

Jerry Reinsdorf ecstatic over Harold Baines' Hall of Fame election: 'He really is a Chicago White Sox'

LAS VEGAS — Harold Baines is a Hall of Famer, or at least he will be very soon, elected to the Hall on Sunday night just before the start of baseball's Winter Meetings.

With the controversy over whether he was or wasn't worthy of the honor finally put to bed, only one burning question remained: Who was most excited about it?

Baines, famously a man of few words and few outward displays of emotion, might not be the correct answer, even though he's the one who will soon be enshrined in Cooperstown.

"I think the people with the White Sox might be happier than Harold because we all love Harold so much," team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said Sunday night in Nevada. "We’re just so happy for him. But he deserved it. He got in because he deserved to get in — not because he’s a great guy. He is a great guy."

But as happy as the chairman was, Baines was just as surprised.

"I'm very humbled and honored for this good news today," he said on a conference call. "I'm very grateful to the veteran's committee for thinking I'm worthy of this Hall-of-Fame honor today. I'm very shocked today.

"Very surprising. I was only on there one year, so I wasn't expecting this day to come. But that doesn't reflect on the person I am. I had a great career, I'm very proud of it. I think any player would tell you he doesn't play the game of baseball to get into the Hall of Fame."

Baines' numbers certainly back up his deserving status. In the 20 years that covered the 1980s and 1990s, he ranked fifth in baseball with 2,783 hits, second with 1,583 RBIs, third with 4,474 total bases, fifth with 474 doubles, fourth with 896 extra-base hits and ninth with 373 home runs. He sits in the top 50 among current Hall of Famers in RBIs, hits, home runs, extra-base hits and doubles. Since 1969, Baines is 10th among all players with at least 100 at-bats with a .324 postseason batting average.

"He just deserved it," Reinsdorf said. "It was just a shame he didn’t get in sooner than this. Harold is a great player. You look at the numbers he put up in the '80s and the '90s and played in the Majors for 22 years. I don’t think he ever had a bad year. Of course, there’s no finer person than Harold Baines.

"When the game was on the line in the eighth or ninth inning, and you can pick somebody to you wanted up, it was Harold Baines."

Reinsdorf was a member of this year's 16-person committee, along with former White Sox manager Tony La Russa, who managed Baines for many years during the 1980s.

Asked how he reacted when Baines was officially elected, Reinsdorf said, "I just went like that," showing reporters a fist pump, "and I looked up at Tony La Russa and I thought he was going to cry."

Asked how Baines reacted when he heard the news, Reinsdorf relayed, sarcastically: "Oh, he was screaming and hollering."

Who knows what emotion we'll see from Baines next summer in Cooperstown, but Reinsdorf is already making some joking predictions.

"That was one of the arguments we made to the voters: If you do vote him in, it will be a very short speech," Reinsdorf said. "But Steve Hirdt said, 'You don’t know, maybe Harold will get up there and say, “I’ve kept it all in for all these years and now I’m going to let it out and talk for 45 minutes.”' But I don’t think so.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if he said, 'Thank you very much' and sat down."

All kidding aside, the White Sox are, to borrow Reinsdorf's word, ecstatic over Baines' election. He spent parts of 14 seasons as a player on the South Side and many more as a coach in his post-playing career. He's had an influence of some kind or another on just about everyone who played for the team for the last nearly four decades.

"Harold just commands so much respect from everybody," Reinsdorf said. "He’s quiet, but they know who Harold Baines was. Look, Harold is the one guy who can control Ozzie (Guillen).

"Everybody has so much respect for the guy. Nobody said anything bad about him.

"Harold has been with the White Sox, with time off for a few other teams, since I got there. And he’s really a constant. He really is a Chicago White Sox. You look at the era of the '80s and '90s, it was Harold Baines."

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