White Sox

White Sox still need more offense to stay relevant

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White Sox still need more offense to stay relevant

This probably isn’t what Robin Ventura had in mind when he again asked more of his offense on Friday morning.

Despite warm conditions, the White Sox managed to score only four times in a Friday doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals, though they did enough in the nightcap to split. John Danks outpitched Edinson Volquez in Game 2 in front of 25,701 at U.S. Cellular Field as the White Sox avoided a sweep with a 2-0 victory over the Royals. The White Sox dropped the opener, 4-2.

The production is more of the same from an offense that 3.4 runs per game through its first 86 contests -- something Ventura knows can’t happen if the White Sox want to get back into the postseason picture.

“We’ll have to score more,” Ventura said. “You just can’t survive the way it ended up. We’re not scoring very much. Your pitchers can only do so much and they’re going to have a rut where they probably don’t pitch as well as they did in the last couple of weeks and you’re going to have to be able to score some runs and help them out. They can’t do that every day, can’t expect them to do that every day.”

[MORE: John Danks lifts White Sox in shut out win over Royals]

The White Sox pitching has been fantastic over a 14-game stretch, which may not ultimately alter the thinking of the front office, but has at least put any plans to sell temporarily on hold.

Once 10 games under .500, the White Sox are 42-46 mostly because of their pitching and improved defense.

Over their last 14, the White Sox pitching staff has a 1.95 ERA and the team has won 10 games. While the White Sox entered Friday in eighth place for two wild-card spots, they’re within a very reasonable 5 1/2 games.

“We’ve put ourselves in a position to have a little bit more interesting of a month than how it looked like when it started,” general manager Rick Hahn said.

At the same time, the White Sox can’t expect the results to continue if the offense doesn’t pick it up.

Aside from a promising second-inning rally in the second game on Friday, the White Sox continue to leave runs on the table. They grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second on Edinson Volquez when Avisail Garcia tripled with two outs and Tyler Flowers singled to left. But had it not been for a Volquez wild pitch in the sixth that scored Melky Cabrera, the White Sox could have come up empty four different times in the doubleheader despite having a man on third and one out.

The White Sox had runners on second and third and only one out twice in the opener but came up empty each time. Cabrera doubled to start the sixth inning of Game 2 and moved to third on a Jose Abreu fly out. But with the infield in, Adam LaRoche hit a one-hopper to first base and Cabrera didn’t advance home until Volquez uncorked a wild one on a 3-1 offering to Garcia.

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An inning later, the White Sox missed out on a chance to extend their lead after Alex Rios gifted them a huge opportunity with a dropped fly ball. After Gordon Beckham’s blooper somehow fell in to load the bases with one out, Franklin Morales struck out Cabrera and got Abreu to hit into a comebacker.

The White Sox were able to work around their offensive lethargy behind Danks, who successfully navigated the Royals’ lineup again. Danks had a runner on base in each of his six-plus innings pitched. But he stranded runners inscoring position in the third and fourth innings to earn his ninth win in 10 decisions against Kansas City.

“(Volquez is) pretty good and he seemed to be pretty on today,” Flowers said. “Against a guy like that you’ve got scrape and claw and trying to get something. We were able to get a couple there. But we’re not going to be able to put zeroes forever. Definitely got to capitalize on it when we do and we’ve got to get (the offense) rolling because it’s not going to continue forever.”

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

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GOOGLE IMAGES

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

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USA TODAY

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

"It's a dirty play by a dirty player."

That was Christian Yelich, the all-but-sure-to-be NL MVP, describing Manny Machado, who's about to become one of the best-paid players in baseball history, after Game 4 of the NLCS, a game in which Machado once again grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Machado's Los Angeles Dodgers and Yelich's Milwaukee Brewers have played four games in this NLCS, and after three of them, the focus has been on Machado. Not because of his bat or his glove but because of lack of hustle and certain methods on the base paths that weren't exactly on the up and up.

After Game 2, he was criticized for not hustling on a ground ball to shortstop. In something straight out of a public-relations person's nightmare, he defended himself by saying that hustling really isn't his cup of tea. During Game 3, he twice attempted to break up double plays by interfering at second base and was, upon review, busted for it the second time. In extra innings in Game 4, he appeared to intentionally drag his leg across Jesus Aguilar's at first base. That play cleared the benches, got Machado called "dirty" in the Brewers' clubhouse and earned him the reputation of postseason villain.

And so Machado's impending free agency gets to be discussed in a brand new light. There's now more baggage attached to the 26-year-old superstar with a fantastic bat and a stellar glove.

The question is: Will the White Sox, one of many teams that could be mulling a contract offer worth hundreds of millions of dollars, care?

As much as it’s talked about building a perennial contender of the future by developing the on-field skills of their fleet of highly touted prospects, the White Sox brain trust has discussed developing a culture, a way of doing things, to go along with all that talent and all that skill. Unsurprisingly that conversation has focused on the oft-used phrase of “doing things the right way.”

Does what Machado has been doing count as “doing things the right way”? It seems easy to assess that it doesn't. It's far more difficult to determine whether it will end up making a difference or not.

Not hustling is one of Rick Renteria's biggest bugaboos. He sat down multiple players on multiple occasions throughout the 2018 season — starting with Avisail Garcia in a spring training game and including a veteran like Welington Castillo as well as a young star like Tim Anderson — for not running to first base on pop ups and line outs and ground outs. Would Renteria's tune suddenly change if Machado and his preference for not hustling arrived on the South Side in what would surely be the biggest free-agent deal in club history?

Renteria got fired up over the issue at the end of July, when he benched Anderson for not hustling on what the shortstop believed was a line out.

“We tell these guys, don’t assume anything. ... It’s as simple as that, and he understands it. He knows it. We’ve talked about it. He comes out of the box, he doesn’t stand there. But we just reiterated to make sure that you allow the umpires to make the calls and you allow the other clubs to go ahead and ask for reviews. We run.”

But asked about not running out his ground ball in Game 2, Machado shared pretty much the opposite philosophy.

"Obviously I'm not going to change, I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,' and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen," Machado told The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. "That's just not my personality, that's not my cup of tea, that's not who I am."

What about Machado's interferences at second base? It was that exact play that sent Anderson into an on-field tiff with umpire Joe West during the second Crosstown series of the season just last month. Javy Baez slid into second base, and Anderson thought Baez did something he shouldn't have, raising his arm to interfere with a double-play turn, that sequence of events ending with Anderson screaming at West on the field. Would Anderson be cool with playing alongside — and potentially vacating his position at shortstop for — an infamous interferer?

And what about being a "dirty player," a villain? The White Sox always seemed fine — heck, they loved it — having one of baseball's greatest irritants in A.J. Pierzynski on the roster. Perhaps no player wore the "villain" title as a badge of honor more than the catcher on the 2005 World Series team. But remember that Pierzynski took the punch, he didn't throw it. Being baseball's version of a "villain" and being a guy who makes dangerous plays that could hurt somebody are two different things.

The point being: Do Machado's actions in this postseason series make him anathema to the "Ricky's boys don't quit" mantra? If the White Sox were to turn a blind eye to the events of this NLCS, would it qualify as a betrayal of their quest to establish a high-effort, high-character culture?

Or do they value that culture so much that they stay away from Machado this offseason?

Here's Rick Hahn from September of last year.

"It’s the culture that Ricky and his coaching staff have been able to create in that clubhouse. I cannot tell you how many various fans have stopped me, or emailed me or mentioned to me that they’ve never been this excited over a 60-win team. Or they’ve never been excited about a team that isn’t going to the playoffs. And I think so much of that is based on how Ricky and the coaches have them playing day in and day out. You see them fighting for 27 outs, you see them prepared every night. Sure, we’re going to get out-manned at portions during this process, but the fight and competitiveness and the style of play is the kind of thing that is going to endure year in and year out. And that is extremely important for us to establish at the big league level for all of us."

Machado's talent would make any team he's a part of more competitive. But for the White Sox, who talk an awful lot about hustling and refusing to quit, perhaps all these postseason shenanigans make it so Machado just isn't their cup of tea.