White Sox

Who likes the White Sox? Jim Leyland does

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Who likes the White Sox? Jim Leyland does

Before the season began, most baseball experts had two distinct predictions when it came to the Tigers and White Sox. One was slated to seek and destroy, the other was expected to run away and hide.

I think you can guess whos who.

But after winning five of their first eight games, and taking two of three from the Tigers, the White Sox have raised a few eyebrows -- but not Jim Leylands. They remain firmly planted in a horizontal line at the bottom of his forehead.

Why?

Mainly because Leyland thinks the prognosticators who are calling for the White Sox to lose 90-95 games are working with a shortage of baseball brain cells. And leave it to the outspoken Tigers manager to use his post-game press conference on Sunday as an opportunity to harpoon the pundits who are predicting gloom and doom for, of all teams, his AL Central rivals.

The people who made those picks dont know anything about baseball. Trust me, said the Tigers manager in a classic rant following his teams 5-2 victory at U.S. Cellular Field. If they think the Chicago White Sox arent going to be in the thick of this, theyre crazy.

But Leyland wasnt finished. Far from it.

They dont know anything about baseball, people making picks like that. They know nothing about baseball. Nothing. Since 2006 when I got here, this has been one of the best teams in the league every year, and theyll be right there.

Well, thats probably an exaggeration. The White Sox have clearly not been one of the top teams in the league every year since 06. However, theyve at least been in the conversation at the start of every season as a team that has a chance to contend. But not this year. Most people have been writing them off since November.

Leyland has been down that road before.

They picked us fourth last year. We won 95 games, so dont pay attention to those people. They just make a pick and they talk, but they dont know what theyre talking about, Leyland said.

If youre looking for an expert to talk about the White Sox, Leyland might be the guy. Hes seen his share of games between both clubs over the years, and the results have been all over the map. In his first three seasons in Detroit, the White Sox owned the Tigers, going a combined 35-20. Things were even the next two years until 2011, when the Tigers put a spanking on the White Sox, winning 13 of 18 games.

Leyland is not expecting a repeat of that in 2012, and now after seeing the Sox up close and personal for three days, hes come away impressed, basically giving a scouting report for his fellow American League managers.

Look at that pitching staff. Look at the arms they throw out there. Look at the arms they bring out of the bullpen, Leyland said. Paul Konerko is one of the best hitters in baseball. You know Adam Dunn is going to do a lot better than he did last year. He had a couple hits today. This is a good team. Alexei Ramirez is one of the best shortstops in the league. This is a real good team. A.J. Pierzynski is one of the best catchers and gets a lot of big hits.

Now before you pencil in the White Sox as contenders in the division, realize that there might be a method to Leylands madness. He could have used these comments to light a fire under his own team. Hes crafty like that.

But he also knows baseball, more than just about anybody in the game. Ill take his opinion over that of John Q. Baseball Expert.

Where is this season going for the White Sox? I have no clue. Nobody does. But here on April 15, theyre a half-game behind the Tigers and they look better than they did last year. Its only eight games, but thats the current reality. We cant predict the future. The experts tried, and Sunday, so did Leyland.

I dont know why anybody would not pick the White Sox as a solid, solid contender, he said. Weve got a good team. So do they. Theyre proving that.

Now just 154 games to go.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Manny Machado Mania

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Manny Machado Mania

Manny Machado to the White Sox?? It's been the dream for many White Sox fans for months.

With Machado in town to the play the White Sox, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber discuss the White Sox chances of signing the soon-to-be-free agent.

Garfien also talks with Nicky Delmonico who played with Machado and fellow free agent to be Bryce Harper on the U.S.A. 18-under national team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Rick Renteria issues another benching after Welington Castillo doesn't hustle on popup

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria issues another benching after Welington Castillo doesn't hustle on popup

One thing you better do if you play for Rick Renteria is run to first base.

Yet again, Renteria benched one of his players Monday for the sin of not hustling down the line.

Welington Castillo, a veteran, not a developing player in need of ample “learning experiences,” popped up to first base with two runners on and nobody out in the sixth inning of Monday’s eventual 3-2 loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles. He did not run down to first, instead staying at home plate.

So when the inning ended and the White Sox took the field, Castillo stayed in the dugout.

Ricky’s boys don’t quit, or so the slogan goes. But what happens when a player doesn’t live up to that mantra? What happens when they don’t play their absolute hardest for all 27 outs, as the T-shirts preach? This is what happens. A benching.

“It was towering fly ball in the infield at first, probably had 15, 20 seconds of hangtime,” Renteria explained after the game. “I assumed the dropped ball. It has occurred. He could, at minimum, at least start moving that way.

“That’s uncharacteristic of him, to be honest, it truly is. Maybe he was just frustrated in that he had the fly ball and just stayed at the plate, but there was no movement toward first at all. And you guys have heard me talk to all the guys about at least giving an opportunity to move in that particular direction.

“Everybody says, ‘Well, 99 out of (100) times he’s going to catch that ball.’ And then that one time that he doesn’t, what would I do if the ball had been dropped? Would it have made it easier to pull him? Well, it was just as easy because you expect not the best, but the worst.

“That is uncharacteristic of that young man. I had a quick conversation with him on the bench, and he knew and that was it.”

It might seem a little overdramatic, a little nutty, even, to sit down a veteran catcher brought in this offseason to provide some offense and to do it in a one-run game. But this rebuild is about more than just waiting around for the minor league talent to make its way to the South Side. It’s about developing an organizational culture, too. And Renteria feels that if he lets this kind of thing slide at the big league level, that won’t send the right message to those precious prospects who will one day fill out this lineup.

“There’s one way to do it, you get your action, you start moving toward that direction in which you’ve got to go,” Renteria said. “What would’ve happened if everybody’s watching it — and I’m setting the tone for not only here, our club, (but also for) everybody in the minor leagues — and they’re saying, ‘Well, at the top, they said they’re going to do this and then they don’t do it.’

“It’s really simple. And people might like it, not like it. I’ve got to do this, do that so everybody understands what we’re trying to do here. We’re not done with what we’re trying to do.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened in 2018. Avisail Garcia was taken out of a game during spring training for not giving maximum effort. Leury Garcia was removed from a game earlier this month for not busting it down the first-base line on a weak grounder that went right to the first baseman.

It’s become a somewhat common tactic for Renteria, and while it might strike some as taking things a little too seriously, what good is this developmental season if a culture goes undeveloped? The White Sox have placed their bright future, in part, in Renteria’s hands, and they’ve talked glowingly about how the players have bought into his style and how the team played last season under his leadership.

If Renteria truly is the right man for the rebuild, things like this are how he’s going to establish his culture. And it will, he hopes, impact how all those prospects play when they’re no longer prospects and the White Sox are contending for championships.