White Sox

Frankie O's blog: Happy New Cheer!

Frankie O's blog: Happy New Cheer!

As a life-long restaurant employee, I think I have a different view of New Years Eve and New Years Day than most. For me, theyve always meant one thing- work. That its a different kind of work, Ill give you. The two-day ritual of celebration lends itself to no end of amusing situations and, of course, most have to do with the level of beverage consumption. For those in my business, this weekend will be the end of our silly season. Next week will bring the turn of the calendar and the reality of another long winter will be in front of us.

Its what the holiday signifies that is the cool thing. Its our reset button. The angst that many feel during the holidays should be gone, at least until the credit card bills come in, and its time to go a little crazy. Of course, as always for me, there are also sporting ramifications.

I cant remember a college bowl season that I have had as little interest in. Admittedly Im still in a funk over the happenings at Penn State, but for most of my life Ive been a bowl fanatic. I think that had to do with the two-week frenzy of activity leading up to the smorgasbord of games on Jan. 1. Now we have a bloated, irrelevant slate of 35 games spread out over a mind-numbing 23 days, which includes 6 after New Years. Thats 70 bowl teams, out of 120! What is this the NHL? I guess the NCAA wants to put the bowl in the Football Bowl Subdivision! (Can we just go back to Division I, please?)Included this year are 15 teams that went 7-5, 13 that went 6-6 and, ridiculously, one that went 6-7. Nothing like rewarding mediocrity. Whats next, everyone gets a trophy? Lets call it what it is: a cash grab! Are any of the stadiums for half of these games even half full? No! The people where these games are played are as apathetic as I am. What the games really are is ESPN holiday programming. AGAIN, what we need is a playoff: 16 teams, using 15 of the existing bowls, over 21 days. Everyone else can go back to class, since thats what the NCAA cares about, right? The student athlete? I wont hold my breath. But thats what the spirit of the New Year is about: All that can be better in the future.

This year, the New Year will bring an NFL Sunday. I can live with that. Theres plenty of playoff intrigue, plus the Bears are a car wreck that you cant take your eyes off of! Then during the evening, The Bulls open the home portion of their championship schedule. Say what you want about the NBA, but any game with Derrick Rose, is one worth watching. Fortunately with the ultra-condensed schedule, he can be in your living room every other night for the 4 months. Then he will be in the NBA playoffs, where the first round takes three weeks to complete a seven game series. (Dont get me started!)

College Bowl Day will be on Monday. Ill watch the Rose Bowl, because no matter who is playing, I enjoy watching the game. Theres always perfect weather, the field is pristine and its cool that the game starts in bright sunshine and ends in the dark of night. Not to mention, besides the National Title Game, it also has the best football matchup: The finesse and explosiveness of the Oregon Ducks versus the bulk and power of the Wisconsin Badgers. Its a shame this game wasnt a national semifinal, but Ill stop beating that horse.(At least here anyway, come into the bar if you want it uncensored!)

The other game on Monday that Im looking forward to is not even a football game. Its the NHL Winter Classic featuring the Flyers against the New York Rangers in Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia. I think the NHL playing outside is cool, especially if theyre fortunate enough to get a little snow. The game isnt always the best, as the ice condition can vary wildly, but the scenery is always surreal. I always think back to skating on the ice at Wrigley Field before the game here 3 years ago. It was very exciting for me, but even more so was watching how excited the Hawks alumni and national hockey press were. It was like a bunch of kids playing hooky. I remember the look in former Hawk Brian Noonans eyes when he told me he was more than a little jealous of the guys that were getting a chance to live a dream and play outside as pros with the hockey world watching.

The added intrigue of the game is due to the 247 series for the game on HBO. The four episodes for the game last year between the Penguins and Capitals was as good as any sports program I have ever watched. For a fan, getting behind the scenes access is something we all crave. With the constant presence of the cameras, they are able to catch a lot of real moments. This year has lived up to the hype as it follows the bitter rivals non-stop leading up to the big game.

Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is everything you would expect of a person who stops frozen rubber disks for a living. Honestly? The universe? Dogs as blonde women? Yikes! And Scottie Hartnell off the ice is not quite what you would expect. (Makes me wish they had done this before the Hawks-Wings game.)

But in both last year and this years episodes, its the coaches who steal the show. There is a reason these guys are responsible for leading men into battle. The force of their will is undeniable when you see it in so many instances. Much unlike what we are used to when we watch certain coaches during their news conferences. So many times, you just want to say: Why cant you just show a little emotion and say something more than a clich? Well, these guys take it to another level. When I talk about last years show, I tell people that it got me to like (former) Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, who until that point, I had despised. This years show features Rangers coach John Tortorella and my guy Peter Laviolette. Its easy to see why both have their names etched on Lord Stanleys Cup, although I still have a little of my disdain towards Tortorella. What can I say? I mean, he is coaching the Rangers! (One word of warning: The language these guys use would make Rex Bleeping Ryan blush!)

But most of all, what the new year will bring, is hope. I know we learned in Shawshank that hope can be a dangerous thing, but for those of us who have been involved in long-time unrequited relationships with our beloved teams, its about all we have to hold on to. This has to be the year! Doesnt it?

The best part is that the slate has been wiped clean, in some cases 103 times! (Im sorry, had to take it. We only tease the ones we love!) The changing of the calendar is like Opening Day for our lives, rooting or otherwise. Instead of dwelling on the past, we can celebrate the fact that it is the past.

So come on in, pull up a stool, and entertain me this weekend. We can laugh as we look back at how our teams imploded last year and point out how thing will be different this year. Hopefully, this is the year we get it right.

Rebuild, meet overdrive: Eloy Jimenez provides best snapshot of White Sox progress yet

Rebuild, meet overdrive: Eloy Jimenez provides best snapshot of White Sox progress yet

A rebuild, White Sox fans know all too well, takes place over a lengthy period of time. Progression, development, these aren’t things easily pointed to as a single moment.

Allow Eloy Jimenez to provide an exception to the rule.

The White Sox contention window might not have been yanked open with one broken-bat homer to beat the Crosstown-rival Cubs on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But Jimenez’s game-winner was the best single image yet of the direction Rick Hahn’s rebuilding project is moving.

Surely you don’t need a refresher on the highlight seen ‘round Chicagoland by now, but take a second to realize how incredible, how unscriptable it was: Jimenez, traded away by the Cubs two summers ago, up in a tie game in the ninth inning in his first game at the ballpark he always assumed would be where he’d be playing his big league games. Well, he finally played a big league game inside the Friendly Confines — and he delivered an unforgettable moment for the team on the other side of town.

Yeah, maybe it’s perhaps a little hyperbolic, maybe it’s a pure reaction to the moment, but: Rebuild, meet overdrive.

“We’re playing in the city of champions,” manager Rick Renteria said after the game. “The White Sox were champions at one time, the Cubbies have been champions. You have a history of basketball and football. It’s the city of champions, so a lot is expected of them. They’re starting to embrace it, understand it and revel in it.”

Talk of championships might seem a tad premature for these White Sox, still under .500 even after Jimenez blasted them to dramatic victory on the North Side. But then again, that’s been the end goal of the rebuild from Day 1. Rick Hahn has said repeatedly that the rebuild won’t be a success unless there’s a parade.

Jimenez’s homer came in June, not October. But it cranked the dial even further on the blindingly bright future these White Sox are building.

Lucas Giolito is providing examples of progress every time he steps on the mound these days. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert and Dylan Cease are doing their part, too. But no one has been as central a part of the future than Jimenez, the guy who’s supposed to be the middle-of-the-order power bat in this lineup for the next decade. The way he delivered Tuesday made for a flag-planting type moment on the White Sox journey up baseball’s mountain.

“We all knew the talent was there from the get-go as soon as the club acquired him. It was just a matter of time for him to get to the big leagues, get comfortable in the big leagues,” Giolito said after the game. “I think he's getting comfortable with the big leagues a lot faster than I would've predicted. He's a really, really good player, great teammate. Can't say enough good things about Eloy. He really delivered for us tonight, and it was a big one.”

Again, it’s June. It’s a game against a National League opponent, not exactly the kind of game that helps chew up the deficit separating the White Sox and the out-of-this-world Minnesota Twins at the top of the AL Central. But within these city limits, it’s hard to imagine a bigger stage than this.

The media swarmed Jimenez postgame, causing him to express some shock at the number of cameras and recorders suddenly thrust in his face. He’s been asked a million times what it would be like to play in Wrigley Field. When he rounded first base, the smile on his face — a permanent fixture — was enormous. He gave a huge clap when he touched home plate. Were the emotions what he’d been dreaming of?

“Yes,” was the only verbal response. The body language told a much richer story. He let out ebullient sounds that brought to mind Tim “The Toolman” Taylor. The smile nearly got too big for his face.

These were the Cubs he just beat, a team so often the comparison point for these White Sox. They’re trying to find their way through the same total rebuild the Cubs went through. And without these Cubs, the White Sox might not be as far along as they currently are. Thanks to that trade, which brought Jimenez and Dylan Cease into starring roles in this rebuild, the championship future Hahn has envisioned looks realistic. It looks closer.

The North Siders came out the other end of a rebuild champions. The White Sox have their eyes on the same result.

It might not happen tomorrow, even if the bright spots are shining through now more than ever. But it’s something the White Sox are fully chasing. This is the city of champions, after all.

“It means a lot because we’re fighting for a spot in the playoffs,” Jimenez said. “We have been playing really good and I think that was a good victory for us.”

A good victory for now. A good victory for later. A good victory, indeed.

That was a storybook ending. And it’s only the end of Act I, Scene I.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez drives to Wrigley with Chuck, then drives a dagger into the Cubs hearts

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez drives to Wrigley with Chuck, then drives a dagger into the Cubs hearts

For his first regular season game ever against the Cubs, Eloy Jimenez got a ride from Chuck Garfien which started at Guaranteed Rate Field, stopped at Wrigley Field and ended with Jimenez hitting the game-winning home run in the 9th. First, Vinnie Duber joins Chuck to discuss how Jimenez homered despite breaking his bat (2:00). On the ride, Jimenez' talks about playing at Wrigley (8:20), what Cubs fans say to him now that he's on the White Sox (10:00), how he persuaded Rick Renteria to let him pinch-hit against the Cubs in a spring training game in 2018, and homered (11:30), what his mother thinks of him saying "Hi Mom" (14:30), Jimenez sings hip-hop (17:40), why a home run against the Cubs would mean so much (24:50), his reaction when the Cubs traded him to the White Sox (27:20) and more.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: