White Sox

White Sox much-maligned defense comes through to beat Cubs

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White Sox much-maligned defense comes through to beat Cubs

Carlos Sanchez is still hitting well below the Mendoza line, but on Friday he showed why the White Sox have so much faith in him.

The 22-year-old second baseman highlighted a strong defensive afternoon as the White Sox beat the Cubs, 1-0, in Friday’s Crosstown Cup curtain-lifter in front of 41,580 at Friday Field. The White Sox turned five double plays and Sanchez’s diving stop recorded the final out of the game — and earned him the game ball from closer David Robertson.

“(Sanchez’s) been buried offensively and working his way out of that,” manager Robin Ventura said. “But you start seeing what he does every day defensively and where we were and kind of how it’s turned the corner for us. If we’re not going to score a ton of runs, we need to play like we did today on the defensive side of the ball, and he’s doing it.”

The White Sox ended each of the first four innings of the game by turning double plays ranging from spectacular to sloppy. Cubs rookie All-Star Kris Bryant hit into a 4-6-3 double play in the first, and Alexei Ramirez’s diving stop and quick shovel to Sanchez — who quickly flipped a throw to Jose Abreu at first despite Chris Denorfia sliding in hard — started a sensational double play in the second.

[MORE: Jeff Samardzija finds his groove before return to Wrigley Field]

Despite Avisail Garcia’s errant throw home after his diving catch in the third, the White Sox were still able to turn a 9-2-6 double play to end that inning. And the Cubs’ double steal attempt with one out in the fourth inning resulted in a strikeout of Jorge Soler and Bryant being thrown out by Tyler Flowers at third.

All those double plays helped erase the six walks issued by White Sox starter Carlos Rodon, who fired six scoreless innings while only throwing 57 of his 104 pitches for strikes.

“They kept me in the game,” Rodon said. “Those quick double plays kept the pitch count down and without that I'd probably be done by the fourth or something. Defensively we played great and that's what kept us in that game.”

After Jake Petricka got Castro to hit into another double play in the seventh, the White Sox manufactured their only run: Emilio Bonifacio was hit by a pitch and stole second, advanced to third on Adam Eaton’s bunt and scored on J.B. Shuck’s sacrifice fly.

Bad defense has been one of the chief reasons why the White Sox dug themselves a sizable hole through the season’s first three and a half months.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

While the players, coaches and the front office see a defense that’s improving, as a group it’s still last in UZR and second to last in defensive runs saved, FanGraphs’ two major advanced defensive metrics. With a lagging offense that’s struggled to support a strong pitching staff, the defense (and baserunning) has frequently been a starting point in explaining the White Sox 44 losses.

“Today was a good day for us, Avi made a very good play in right field (and) Alexei’s (play),” Sanchez said through a translator. “It was key for us today for us to win this game. Every time you can play good defense, you’re giving a best chance to your team to win the game.”

The White Sox know they have a steep path to navigate to enter the American League playoff race. Ventura wants his team to embrace its current underdog status, and beating a crosstown rival that’s in position to make the playoffs is a nice push in that direction.

Especially when that push came thanks to what Ventura considered more than the team’s best defensive game of the season.

“Probably in a couple years, I would say,” Ventura said, “not just this year.”

A two-city team? White Sox been there, done that

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AP

A two-city team? White Sox been there, done that

With the news of the Rays receiving permission to explore being a two-city team (St. Petersburg and Montreal), a lot of fans are shocked that this could ever happen.

Well, it HAS happened. The White Sox even did it… to an extent. Let’s take a trip back to when the White Sox played in Milwaukee in 1968-69.

On Oct. 30, 1967, at Chicago’s American Quarterback club luncheon at the Sherman House, White Sox owner Arthur Allyn made an announcement that stunned the crowd.

Allyn announced a proposal that the White Sox would play 10 games in the upcoming 1968 season in Milwaukee – one preseason game against the Cubs, and one apiece against the nine other American League teams. When asked if it was part of a plan to move the White Sox permanently to Milwaukee, Allyn said, “There is no truth to it.” But was there?

Of course, speculation of the White Sox moving was spurred by their attendance woes, drawing 985,634 fans (12th of 20 MLB teams) despite finishing 89-73 in an air-tight American League pennant race. By the way, they did at least outdraw the Cubs that season, who lured 977.226 to Wrigley Field with an 87-74 season record.

Allyn’s reasoning for the scheduling quirk was “our attempt to develop Milwaukee for our television market. We will televise our games into Milwaukee next year.”

Meanwhile, Bud Selig was intent on bringing baseball back to Milwaukee after the Braves bolted to Atlanta for the 1966 season. He had formed a group called the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball club, Inc., and had a part in forming the agreement with the White Sox ownership to make the games in Milwaukee a reality.

On temporarily bringing Major League Baseball to Milwaukee, Selig said, “While we continue working toward another permanent franchise for Milwaukee, we feel that this interest can in part be satisfied by a series of games such as these. At the same time we can continue to demonstrate Milwaukee’s outstanding credentials as a Major League site.”

Speaking of Major League sites… Allyn had announced back in June 1967 that he was hoping to have a new ballpark for the White Sox completed by the start of 1972. The location would be on the site of Dearborn Station – a 50-acre piece of land bounded by State, Polk, Clark and 15th Streets. Improbable as it may sound today, Allyn, as reported in the Chicago Tribune June 16, 1967, “said that he would like the new sports facility to house all the major teams in Chicago, including the Bears, White Sox, Cubs, Bulls, Black Hawks, and his own soccer team [the Chicago Mustangs]."

Dearborn Station still stands today, so we know how that turned out.

In any event, on November 2, the American League approved the White Sox proposal of nine games in Milwaukee for 1968 (with an additional game against the Cubs prior to the season). Nine of the 10 teams said yes; the Orioles were the only team to vote no.

On November 21, the Sox schedule was announced, including the nine games at Milwaukee’s County Stadium. All nine were Monday through Friday with 7:30 p.m. start times; the first one Wednesday, May 15 against the Angels. The last one was Monday, Aug. 26, against the Tigers.

Originally scheduled were four Crosstown exhibitions (including the one in Milwaukee) prior to the season, but only two were played. One game slated to take place in Evansville, Ind., was scrapped due to weather on April 5, and the other, scheduled for April 7 at Wrigley Field, was canceled in wake of the tragic death of Martin Luther King (on April 4).

In the Crosstown exhibition, 20,759 fans made their way through the cold to County Stadium for a 10-inning 3-2 White Sox win. Pete Ward came through with the winning hit and Cisco Carlos was the winning pitcher. Bud Selig announced that more than 11,000 “season tickets” covering the 10 Milwaukee games (including the exhibition) had been sold. All told, that 20,759 was possibly higher than expected given the national mourning following Dr. King’s assassination, as well as the lousy weather.

The first regular season action for the White Sox as a home team in Milwaukee brought 23,510 fans to Wisconsin, compared to the 8,708 fans who came to Chicago’s White Sox Park (as it was known at the time) the night before. Considering the weather (a drizzle eventually turned into a 29-minute rain delay), that total of 23,510 wasn’t bad. The next Milwaukee game – May 28 vs Baltimore – also had less-than-ideal weather, but 18,748 still turned out in “raw, misty” conditions.

The remaining seven 1968 Milwaukee home games for the White Sox averaged 31,720 fans. The fans didn’t see much success from the “home” team (the Sox were 1-8 there in 1968), but Bud Selig had to be encouraged. And so were the White Sox, because on October 29, the 1969 schedule was announced and the White Sox upped the number to 11 home dates in Milwaukee (in addition to another exhibition against the Cubs). After all, 33 percent (265,452) of the 1968 White Sox 803,775 home attendance total came in 11 games in Wisconsin.

Bad weather greeted the White Sox once again in their initial Milwaukee venture of 1969 – with 8,565 fans braving the 40-degree weather. Unfortunately, the attendance didn’t rebound nearly as much as it did in 1968, as the average of the 11 games was a modest 18,019 (even though it was comfortably above their average of 6,693 fans in 59 home dates – including 11 doubleheaders). Perhaps the novelty wore off. Probably it was the fact that the White Sox were a dismal 68-94 in 1969 (but 7-4 in Milwaukee!).

All that aside, Selig made Arthur Allyn an offer to move the White Sox to Milwaukee’s County Stadium permanently for the 1970 season, and Allyn was tempted (surely due to the fizzled plans for the new stadium). Arthur’s brother John, who co-owned the team, was not. The dilemma was solved when Arthur sold his half of the team to his brother after the 1969 season. John Allyn made it clear on October 27, 1969 that the White Sox were through playing in Milwaukee – as a home team at least. And Arthur Allyn went down in White Sox history as the owner who was a butterfly collector (he had 150,000 of them) rather than the owner who moved the White Sox out of Chicago.

As you probably already know, Selig eventually got his team when he plucked the Pilots from Seattle after their inaugural 1969 season and transformed them to the Milwaukee Brewers.

The White Sox, on the other hand, have remained in Chicago ever since.

Sources: Chicago Tribune archives 1967-70

 

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Nationals to become latest MLB team to extend protective netting down foul lines

Nationals to become latest MLB team to extend protective netting down foul lines

Another MLB team will soon extend the protective netting in its home ballpark. 

Thursday, Nationals owner Mark Lerner announced that the Nationals will extend the protective netting at Nationals Park further down the foul lines. The netting will be installed during the All-Star break, according to Lerner's press release. 

Ahead of the 2018 season, all 30 MLB teams extended the protective netting in their home ballparks to reach the outfield end of both dugouts. However, the White Sox announced on Tuesday that they will extend netting at Guaranteed Rate Field to reach both foul poles, becoming the first MLB team to do so.

Extended netting has become a widely-discussed topic across baseball this season. In a game between the Cubs and Astros on May 29, a four-year old fan was struck by a foul ball line drive hit by Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. The fan was rushed to the hospital following the incident and players from both teams were visibly shaken afterwards.

Almora spoke out about the need to protect fans several days later.

"I hope this never happens again, so whatever the league has to do to make that happen," Almora said at Busch Stadium on May 31 ahead of a Cubs-Cardinals game. "I don't think any kid that goes to a baseball game with their parents or whoever should worry about making it out unhealthy or whatever the case may be. I don't think that should ever cross their mind. 

"Whatever the league needs to do to do that, that should be in place."

Lerner referenced the fan in Houston specifically in the Nationals' announcement on Thursday.

"Over the past few weeks, we have seen several fans injured by bats and balls leaving the field of play at other stadiums," Lerner said. "I could not help but become emotional last month watching the Astros-Cubs game when a four-year-old little girl was hit by a line drive.

"I can’t imagine what her parents must have felt in that moment. And to see the raw emotion and concern from Albert Almora Jr. was heartbreaking. Further extending the netting at Nationals Park will provide additional protection for our fans."

Although only the White Sox and Nationals have announced plans for further extended netting this season, more teams will likely follow suit. In fact, the Rangers will extend the netting at their new ballpark next season to a similar area as the Nationals.

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