White Sox

Core values

Core values

Friday, Aug. 6, 2010
8:56 AM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Now that the Cubs season is pretty much over, I guess its time to talk about the future. At least thats what Im doing at the bar to calm the masses. But as Ive found, that might not be much better. The Cubbie faithful are no longer happy with the lovable losers tag. As someone who has spent most of his life tormented by teams that I love, I can definitely relate. I think the Cubs are in a position that tough questions must be asked. Just because you ask doesnt mean you dont care or arent loyal, in fact, I would argue just the opposite. And that point gets to the root of the issue in the fan perspective.

The impression of the teams is that fans dont understand, that they should calm down and the impression of the fans is, if you lose, at least look like you care, or have a plan. From my perspective, I have a hard time defending the Cubs and have to agree with their fans. This group of players seem to lack energy on a consistent basis and the popular consensus is that its the managers fault. Tough to be fire and brimstone every day when youre a losing ball club, but thats what fans expect out of a Lou Piniella coached team. Im not talking about the psychotic Carlos Zambrano episodes, but a grind it out, show up every game mentality that you can watch any time you turn on a Twins or Phillies game. This does not look like a Piniella coached team at all. That he has already announced the fact that he will not be back, has left many folks at the bar who are talking Cub baseball to openly question his motivation. Is that any way for one of the all-time competitors to go out?

The more important question is: Where is this franchise headed and whos going to lead it? That would be the plan part. The lack of communication by the new ownership group has to be the main concern of the Northside faithful. During their very public purchase, their fan credentials and commitment to turn the page on the futile history of the franchise was front and center: YEAR ONE. As this year goes on, the question is: Year one of what? Seems like more of the same to the people Im talking to. I know you cant change this mess overnight, but where is everyone? Obviously, this process is going to take time, but it would be great if I, or anyone who could make a difference, had some answers to share with the many curious as to where this is going.

My constant response is that, despite the huge contract issues they have for at least the next two years, and they are huge, this Cub group would be well served to check out the case-study in turning around a moribund franchise: The Chicago Blackhawks. What the Hawks have done in such a short period is as stunning as it seems obvious. For years, I listened to disillusioned hockey fans lament their fate as season after season turned to disappointment. Then, due to an obviously unenviable situation in the passing of his father, Rocky Wirtz took over one of the Original Six franchises and restored it to its rightful place of prominence. With the quickness! He did it with an all-out focus on improving the franchise in every way, on and off the ice, even if it meant going against the well established views of his late father. He put his stamp immediately on the team. In a business 101 he did it by having a vision and then acting on it. His best two moves, or perhaps one in the same, (Again, Im just a bartender!) were hiring the best at what they do, to be at the top of the organization. John McDonough, off the ice and Scotty Bowman, on the ice, are as good as it gets. Together, they made some tough decisions and some common sense ones that were all driven towards the same thing: to be a franchise that is as good as it gets in every way: One Goal.

Any new owner of an established business, I think, is well served to take care in making decisions that will have long-term effects on their new acquisition. I also think that they should seek counsel from those that are well versed in that business. Say, someone who has had a lot of certifiable success in that business. (Rules me out!) On the outside, the Cubs off the field prowess appears to be as strong as ever. But, there are not a lot of problems getting tickets when you walk up to the window lately, and I did notice that Forbes magazine recently valued the franchise at about 100 million dollars less than what was recently paid for them. I wont even pretend to portray that I understand what that means, but, ONE HUNDRED MILLION?! In less than a year? I would think that putting a viable, got-to-see, winning team on the field would be priority one. In that regard, someone that I would like to talk to, who is semi-retired, has THREE rings, and a history of winning baseball in his wake, is Pat Gillick. That is one guy who knows how to put a team together. Ask Lou. What would it hurt to have him come in, for a price that he cant turn down, to observe every level of this franchise on the field and give his recommendations on a path forward after this season comes to a conclusion in two months? He is someone that would get everybodys attention here with his presence and would give a huge amount of credibility to that path, very much like Bowman did with the Hawks. He doesnt have to have all of the control, or fire everyone in his sight. He could just be a wise old sage who offers an opinion on how to end 102 years of futility, not that anyone is counting!

James Shields wraps impressive 2018 campaign, but is it last he'll pitch in White Sox uniform?

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USA TODAY

James Shields wraps impressive 2018 campaign, but is it last he'll pitch in White Sox uniform?

James Shields is unlikely to go down as one of White Sox fans’ most beloved pitchers.

It was always going to be hard to erase the memories of his first two seasons on the South Side, which saw him post a 5.99 ERA and give up 58 home runs.

But Shields, a 36-year-old veteran who doesn’t figures to have much of a place in this rebuilding franchise’s long-term plans, made a heck of an impact and did a heck of a job during this losing season, one that could end up being felt when the team does transition to contention mode.

Shields capped his 2018 season with another six innings Tuesday night. It didn’t end up his 20th quality start of the season, with him giving up four runs, but he reached the 200-inning mark for the 10th time in his 13-year major league career, as good an example as any of how reliable and how steady a veteran presence he’s been this season.

As of this writing, baseball’s 200-inning club in 2018 looked like this: Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Aaron Nola, Zack Greinke, Dallas Keuchel and Shields.

“Going into this season, I was really taking pride in being able to get to that 200 mark again,” Shields said. “It’s my 10th time I’ve done it in my career, so that was kind of looming over my head a little bit, and to be able to get that, it’s just all the hard work I’ve put in this year and I’m really really proud of that.”

The other numbers might not scream “overwhelming success” of a season, even if it was by far his best year in a White Sox uniform. Shields finished with a 4.54 ERA and 154 strikeouts. The 34 home runs he gave up are the second most in baseball. His 78 walks put him in the top five in the game in that category.

But Shields’ impact has been as much about what he’s done off the mound as what he’s done on it. He’s served as a mentor to this team of young players, one that keeps getting younger with every highly touted prospect that gets his call to the big leagues. He’s been a particularly strong influence on Lucas Giolito, with the two set up next to each other in the clubhouse all season — that is until Michael Kopech arrived and Shields requested Kopech slide in between him and Giolito, again for mentoring purposes.

That’s a valuable thing on a team that figures to stay young as this rebuilding process moves along toward planned contention.

“I think more than anything, when you see how he’s continued to pitch and work through all of the things he’s done over the course of his career, I think he’s been a big factor by example,” manager Rick Renteria said prior to Tuesday’s game. “He goes out there and shows you how to get through innings, grind through some rough outings and continue to eat up outs. I think these guys are seeing it. He’s been someone that’s shown them why he’s been around for so many years.

“I think these guys have taken on some of his personality, some of his traits. Hopefully it’s something they can cling to and continue to help each other with. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have someone that’s something like that. He’s done everything he could to help with both between the lines and being in the clubhouse.”

“I’ve done it my whole career,” Shields said of that leadership, mentorship role. “Ever since I was in Tampa, I’ve prided myself in being a leader in this clubhouse and just helping the guys out and being a good teammate. Hopefully these guys take all of the advice and the experience that I’ve had over the years and take it to heart.”

Shields’ 2018 season is over, but is his time on the South Side?

He is expected to hit the free-agent market this winter, though given how impressive he was as a reliable arm and as a team leader in 2018, perhaps the White Sox opt to bring him back. Not only do they have a recent track record of making similar additions — see Hector Santiago and Miguel Gonzalez this past offseason — but they have a need in the starting rotation, two holes to fill in Shields’ spot and that of Kopech, who will miss the 2019 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

It’s an option, if it’s something Shields and the White Sox both want to do. Certainly he’s given them reason to consider it with what he did this season.

“We’ll see where life takes me after this season’s over,” Shields said. “I’ve loved my time here, the guys are great, the coaching staff’s a great coaching staff, and the training staff, I can’t say enough about what they’ve done for me over the last three years. And just the organization itself has been an amazing organization to be a part of. So we’ll see where it goes this offseason.”

'We gotta bring it' — Cubs looking for motivation with five games left

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USA TODAY

'We gotta bring it' — Cubs looking for motivation with five games left

Thanks to a 6-0 loss to the Pirates Tuesday night, the Cubs are in an uncomfortable position in the NL Central division with just a half-game lead and five left to play, yet the clubhouse remains confident.

In fact, Mike Montgomery — who surrendered five runs on seven hits in four innings Tuesday — said after the game that this loss might serve a positive purpose.

"We got a resilient bunch of guys. We know where we’re at, and it’s kind of a little bit of motivation," Montgomery said. "We gotta bring it these last five games. Our guys know that, we’re not going to get discouraged. We’re going to regroup and get ready for tomorrow."

The Cubs have little choice but to bring it, especially with the red-hot Brewers scoring more runs on Tuesday night (12) than the Cubs have in their last three games combined. The Cubs did score 8 and then 6 runs on Saturday and Sunday on the South Side, but they turned around and put up only a single run Monday night before being blanked Tuesday. 

Joe Maddon said after the shutout loss that the up-and-down nature of his offense is a frustration.

"We're not happy. And again it’s really coming down to the one component of the game we just haven’t been good at recently, and that’s offense," Maddon said. "And then you have to be careful because guys start pressing even more."

In the loss, the Cubs got four hits off of Pirates starter Chris Archer, but he struck out nine and squashed any remote scoring opportunity almost as quickly as it arose. Whether or not the lineup is pressing, they struggled to put together good at bats against Archer.

"This has been going on for a bit — our offense has been very inconsistent. I mean, Archy was good, but we just got to fight through that, especially this time of the year," Maddon said.

Leadoff man Daniel Murphy started the game with a promising single for the Cubs, but the rest of the lineup couldn't turn that into a go-ahead run. The Pirates followed up with a three-run homer in the second inning, setting the Cubs up to chase for the rest of the night. 

"Our concept of scoring first is going to be pretty important," Maddon said of the next five games. "We have to grab the lead and hold on to it."

But, like Montgomery, Murphy saw some positive takeaway from Tuesday's loss.

"I think that what this club has done a really good job of is kinda washing off a poor performance, which is unfortunately what we've had the last two nights," Murphy said. "We'll go home, we'll sleep up, see our families, and see if we can come in here tomorrow and play a little bit better."

The pressure of a very close division race that is coming down to the final days is real, and Montgomery said that it creates the win-or-go-home playoff atmosphere in these last games. That's a challenge he and his teammates are up for. 

"We’ve grinded out this whole year. We have a lot of good players, a lot of guys who have been through a lot of different things," Montgomery said.

He knows a bit about that, having pitched the final out of the 2016 World Series. The core of the group that won that championship is largely still intact, but the success of the postseason two years ago feels further away in history when the picture to win the division is looking increasingly bleak. 

Unless the Brewers slow down, the Cubs are in a position where they have to nearly win out to keep from losing their hold on the NL Central. That said, they are a virtual lock for a postseason spot no matter what, thanks to the wild card. 

Not really a desirable outcome for a 90+ win team, but a loss for the Cardinals and a win for the Rockies on Tuesday put the Cubs' magic number to at least get in to the postseason down to one.

But that's not the outcome the team is expecting, and certainly not the one they're shooting for. Montgomery said that losing both the pitching and the hitting battle to the Pirates Tuesday is a little fuel for the Cubs.


"Take it like every game matters from this point on," Montgomery said of the team's mindset for the next five days. "Our guys are equipped for that, and mentally this gives us a chance to really come together as a group and go out there and perform our best baseball."