White Sox

Frankie O's Blog: The True Meaning

Frankie O's Blog: The True Meaning

Friday, Jan. 7, 2011
11:46 AM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

You hear that a lot during the holidays. The true meaning is at the core of it all. The true meaning of Christmas is love for one and all. I try telling that to my 4-year old, but shes still more interested in that jolly old fat guy who slides into her house leaving presents. No, not her father! He leaves a trail! Then there is the New Year, which brings hope of a better future and new beginning for mankind. That is, if that future includes using a shake-weight for the next month and eating low-carb sandwiches at Subway with Jared. The true meaning of the New Year is doing all those things we put off from last year, isnt it?

Then there is the BCS. Im still trying figure out its true meaning. 35 bowl games?! Honestly?! Without a playoff?! With the 70 team field littered with 6-6 records? I wont get into the farce that was the Sugar Bowl. With the allowance of the New Fab-Five for Ohio State (Why should Michigan have the only Fab-Five in the Big Ten that will live in infamy? These schools compete at every level!) to play in the game, it became apparent to all that the true meaning of B.C.S. is Big Cash Soiree. And were all invited as long as we pay, but please make that check out to the university and not the kids we want to watch play. (A triple rhyme? 2011 must be Frankie o time!)

But the true meaning that I get asked about constantly at the bar is about the 2010 NFL regular season. What did it mean? Well judging from my confidence picks, Im probably the last person to ask. (I won week 1, then did not get another sniff until week 16, when all I needed was a Tuesday night win by my Eagles to win the pot. I hate Tuesday NFL games!) But of course that doesnt stop me from having an opinion, whether Im right or not well have to wait until this weekend to see.

These next two weekends are the best the NFL has to offer, in my mind. Two games on Saturday, followed by two games on Sunday with all of the losers going home, there is always enough drama to keep the bar hopping. (By that I mean: Thirsty!)

This Saturday starts with an absolute dog of a game at Quest Field, or does it. The Seahawks are the first team in NFL history to reach the postseason with a losing record in a non-strike season. They are also a 10.5 point underdog at home. As much as I want to say they can make a game of it, in this the year of the upset that doesnt make sense, I just cant pull the trigger. The fact that the Saints are down to Mo Morris and an injury-slowed Reggie Bush at running back would scare me against any other playoff team. I think the lack of the running game has helped force Drew Brees into a un-Brees like 22 interceptions. Couple that with the fact that their defense is not the turnover machine it was all of last year and that they will not play a postseason game in the Superdome and I do not think that they are long for this playoff world. But I still like them on the road against a team that gave up 47 touchdowns this year and was outscored during the season by almost 100 points! This matchup reminds me not of an NFL playoff game, but the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The NFL was smart to get it out of the way first so its stench will be gone by the end of the weekend. Im having a problem finding a true meaning of this game besides it being a scrimmage for the defending champs.

Saturday night will be the Bluster Bowl. Well one sided bluster at least. Rex Ryan has not stopped talking since before this season started. And he and the Jets are responsible for two of the most disturbing video images of the year. First there was Antonio Cromarties attempt at reciting his childrens names and ages without stopping to think about it in Hard Knocks and then there were Rexs home movies on YouTube. Yikes! ( Some would say Ryan is the new Rex Gross-man! Wheres my rim-shot?!) Anyway, any great theatre always a good-guy and a bad-guy, Ryan loves to be bad and the NFLs hero, Peyton Manning, will always wear the white hat. As far as the actual on-field match-up goes, neither of these teams really lived up to their pre-season hype.

The Colts due to a slew of injuries and the Jets not being who we thought they were. (LOL) I still dont understand with a team that wants to pound the ball, why they got rid of Thomas Jones. I thought he fit their system perfectly and enabled the Jets to use complimentary backs around him. He and L.T. would have been a scary, albeit elderly, backfield. As it was the Jets, I believe, used Tomlinson too much and it showed during the seasons second half. And was there a bigger disappointment than Shonn Greene this year? And while I think the addition of Santonio Holmes as a wideout can make the Jets attack lethal, the fact that he has Mark Sanchez throwing to him sometimes negates that. I think once Holmes joined the team, they fell in love with the long-ball instead of what they were being given and it lead to inconsistent offensive results. As far as the Colts, it seemed that every guy on the team besides Manning and Reggie Wayne got hurt. Still they are in the playoffs for the 9th straight time and most of that can be attributed to the NFL best pitchman. With everyone going down around him, he still threw for 4700 yards and 33 tuddies and willed his team to ANOTHER division title. And Rex, did you ever notice that when we usually hear Peyton speak, hes getting paid a large sum of cash?! The true meaning of this game is that if you cant walk the walk, you cant talk the talk! I like the Colts.

Sundays early game should treat us to a slugfest. The question is if its going to be a one-sided slugfest. The Ravens are as physical as any team in the NFL and it all starts with Ray Lewis. The Sunday Night Game against the Steelers was brutal. The Ravens ended up losing, but Pittsburgh knew they got away with one as they were leaving town. The Chiefs have two of the most dynamic players in the league in Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe and I was a fan of the steady play of QB Matt Cassel, but as a team as a whole I think that they got to this dance a year early. Being man-handed (Yes, I meant that spelling. Its an homage to one of the funniest Seinfeld show bits ever!) by the Raiders and Chargers during December proved that point. In fact, look at their wins and who have they beaten? Theyre definitely a schedule darling. Well that ends, and rather abruptly, now. The Ravens have balance and play-makers and playoff veterans at every turn. They are a tough, tough team. In fact, I think they have the best shot at beating the team that plays to their north and looms over this weekend and the entire playoffs, but thats another story for another blog. The true meaning of this game is that you shouldnt bring a knife to a gunfight. The Chiefs have been fun to watch this year, but that fun will end when the more proven Harbaughs squad comes to town.

Then in the marquee game of the weekend, the game everyone, including THIS GUY, is waiting for, its the team that will break my heart EVERY TIME, versus the most despised rival of where I live. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in! A famous movie quote? Nope. Its the description of the season that Ive had with the football team that has tormented me for my lifetime. After getting spanked by Dallas on consecutive weekends last year to gag a division title and then get booted out of the playoffs to get that over-rated Tony Romo (Honestly?!) his first postseason win, I did not have much expectation for my Eagles in this year 1 A.D. (After Donavan.) A lot of young talent, but to win you need a defense and I didnt see one. So what happened? They gave up 46 touchdowns! That is not a typo. 6-10 then, right? (Or 7-9 and a division title in the NFC West? Boo-Ya!) Well to the surprise of everyone, the offense of Mike Vick, no, not that offense, the Eagles offense of Mike Vick took the NFL by storm, (At least until an aforementioned Tuesday!) and scored an NFC high 49 touchdowns and team record and NFC high 439 points. Eagles game? Take the over! So this high-powered offense will end my suffering right? Not so fast. Wait, it will be fast. The Eagles have the fastest offense Ive ever seen, but in a cruel twist of fate, they are going to play a defense that can play just as fast, especially at linebacker. I think the Packer defense learned enough in his cameo against them, and in the subsequent tape of the Viking and Bears games, to provide that cagy old vet, defensive coordinator Dom Capers, with the formula to defuse the TNT that is the Vick offense. (Eagles offense!) On the other side, even without a run game, Aaron Rogers has lit up the league. Now, he gets to go against a unit that has given up 31 touchdowns and almost 250 yds. a game, through the AIR! I see points, a lot of points, so many in fact that I dont know if Vick can keep up. So the true meaning of this game, for me, AGAIN, is that you cant always get what you want.

So there you have it, I like 3 road teams to win this weekend, and the team that started the year with the most hype, and my AFC preseason Super Bowl nod, to take a seat. In my usual ironic twist, my preseason pick for the NFC side of SB XLV, will knock out the team I root for most. Nice! And remember, these picks are straight up, for as I learned during 2010, the true meaning of insanity, is trying to bet this years games against the spread. MERRY NEW YEAR!

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

0516_jace_fry.jpg
USA TODAY

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

The White Sox best reliever through the first 42 games of this rebuilding season? Undoubtedly, it’s been Jace Fry.

With Rick Renteria’s bullpen hardly the most reliable relief corps the game has ever seen, Fry has been a revelation, starting his 2018 campaign with 7.1 scoreless innings over six appearances.

And now things are getting a bit more dramatic for the 24-year-old lefty, a guy who’s been through a pair of Tommy John surgeries. He pitched some high-leverage ball in Saturday night’s 5-3 win, sitting down all four hitters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings while protecting a two-run lead.

“I was ready the whole game, just waiting for my name to be called,” Fry said. “But it was awesome getting in there in the eighth inning, even getting the first guy in the ninth inning. After I got him I was kind of hoping he’d let me keep going.”

Renteria uses his bullpen in a non-traditional manner, one that perhaps he thinks is a way of the future or one that’s a result of his lack of dominant options out there. Whichever it is, he doesn’t really have a closer but rather a host of guys he uses in those high-leverage situations, whenever they might come during the late stages of a game. Joakim Soria, Nate Jones and Bruce Rondon have all been used to get big outs late in games, and Rondon threw a scoreless seventh Saturday, with Jones getting the game’s final two outs for the save.

But it could be argued that most difficult outs were recorded by Fry, who put away the visiting Texas Rangers’ fourth, fifth and sixth hitters before getting the seventh hitter to strike out to start off the ninth.

Renteria steered away from dubbing Fry one of his new high-leverage guys after the game, but why wouldn’t Fry be in that mix? All he’s done since joining the big league squad earlier this month is get outs. He’s got 10 strikeouts, hasn’t allowed a hit and has just two walks as the lone blemishes on an otherwise perfect season line.

“It just happens to be that it was the eighth inning and the ninth that he pitched,” Renteria said. “I think he’s looking very comfortable in those. It happens to be the eighth and ninth we needed him. He’s been very, very effective. He’s been commanding the strike zone very well, confidently approaching his hitters. He’s got pretty good stuff.

“He’s able to command the zone. Along with that nice breaking ball he’s got to lefties and righties, it’s pretty effective. But he’s continuing to show you he’s capable of coming in and getting some pretty good hitters.”

Fry has been a rarity this season in that he’s appeared to be a candidate for a long-term spot in the White Sox bullpen. Jones would perhaps be the only other guy coming close to qualifying for that, mostly because of his team-friendly contract that keeps him under control a few more years, but he’s had some rough moments, even with his ERA dropping to 3.50 on Saturday.

Fry, though, is young and is dealing at the moment. He even got a shoutout as a potential long-term piece from general manager Rick Hahn earlier this week.

“Take Jace Fry, someone we haven’t mentioned when we’ve had this conversation the last couple of weeks,” Hahn said Thursday, discussing the positives he’s seen during this developmental season. “He’s shown up here and shown that he’s made some progress in his last stint in the minors and now, at age 24, seems like he’s ready to take that next step, and pencil his name in as part of what we’re building here going forward.”

There’s a lot of season left, and no one’s expecting Fry to keep batters hitless and opposing teams scoreless from now through the end of September. But this is a nice development for the rebuilding White Sox at the moment, a guy who’s giving them at least one name to put into that bullpen of the future.

How long can he keep this thing going? As long as he keeps getting ahead of hitters.

“Having the success is awesome, but I realize it’s the plan, the plan of attack,” Fry said. “I’m going out and throwing Strike 1 and getting ahead. Actually doing it, seeing it and having the process work definitely creates more confidence. Once you go back to the blueprint of baseball, Strike 1 is everything.”

Carson Fulmer's demotion and the current state of the White Sox rotation provide several rebuilding reminders

Carson Fulmer's demotion and the current state of the White Sox rotation provide several rebuilding reminders

Carson Fulmer getting sent to Triple-A following Friday’s game might be, to this point, the biggest development this season on the South Side.

Fulmer doesn’t carry the same expectations as higher-rated prospects like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen or Dane Dunning, but this is a top-10 draft pick who the White Sox still believe can play a significant role in their bright future. And he’s struggling. Badly. Once his ERA jumped up past 8.00 thanks to his third straight brief and run-filled outing, the White Sox made the decision to send him to Charlotte.

It leaves the White Sox rotation looking like this: James Shields, a struggling Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Hector Santiago and either Chris Volstad or the recently summoned Dylan Covey.

Four of those guys (Shields, Santiago, Volstad and Covey) don’t figure to play a role in the team’s long-term future, and Giolito is dealing with his own significant struggles, leading the American League in walks heading into his Saturday-night start. Lopez has been the rotation’s bright spot, but even he watched his ERA climb more than a full point after allowing six runs in two innings his last time out.

It’s not a great state for the rotation to be in if you, like the White Sox, have your sights set on the long-term future of this team, though it probably won’t look like that for too much longer. Still, it provides a few valuable reminders about not only this rebuilding effort but rebuilds in general.

This season is about development, and this is what development looks like

For better or worse, this is what development looks like. The White Sox own baseball’s worst record, and general manager Rick Hahn has been among the large number of White Sox fans to voice their disappointment over play that has been sloppy at times.

Fulmer’s struggles fall into the same category and serve as a reminder that growing pains like this are going to happen. We’ve seen it with Fulmer. We’ve seen it with Giolito. We’ve seen it with Lopez. Heck, we’ve seen it with Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson, too.

But more than wins and losses, this is what this season is about. Hahn calls it “the hardest part of the rebuild” because it features guys getting lit up and games being lost. The hope is that Fulmer can figure things out in the minors and that Giolito won’t require a similar demotion to right his ship. And if everything turns out all right, then this will be an easily forgotten chapter in both of those players’ development.

In the moment, though, it’s another reminder that rebuilds take time and that the waiting game provides minimal fun.

Each player’s development has a different trajectory

Just because Fulmer is getting bumped down to Triple-A doesn’t mean he can’t still turn into a successful major league pitcher. Player development and rebuilds aren’t linear, as rebuilders like to say. And to expect every prospect to travel in a straight line from potential to big league stardom doesn't make much sense.

“We reiterate, ‘It’s not the end of your career,’” Renteria said Saturday. “This is simply a reboot, a reset. Ultimately, I think after the initial shock for any player, they settle down and they understand exactly what’s going on when you look at it logically and look in the mirror. I think it’s easy to logically look at it and say, ‘I need to work on x, y and z.’

“This is a good kid with a really positive attitude and a lot of confidence. I think he’ll look in the mirror and go, ‘You know what, I got things I can work on, I’ll settle in and get over this initial bump and get to work.’ Those are the guys that end up giving themselves a chance to return sooner rather than later and have success.”

Not all prospects pan out

The other side of that coin is the reminder that not every single one of the White Sox wealth of prospects will pan out. Hahn & Co. have prepared for that and built up an incredible amount of prospect depth, but when someone doesn't live up to expectations, it will be painful.

This isn’t to suggest that Fulmer, specifically, won’t pan out, but it’s to point out that not everyone will. That’s a crowded-looking rotation of the future with Kopech, Hansen, Dunning, Fulmer, Giolito, Lopez, Carlos Rodon and Dylan Cease all competing for those eventual five spots. Rather than the White Sox having to make tough decisions about who will be left out, certainly a possibility, the developments of those pitchers might make those decisions for them.

Renteria is confident that Fulmer will be back in the big leagues, and there’s little reason to think that this is the end of Fulmer’s opportunity. But not every top-10 pick reaches All-Star status.

The future is on the way

The current starting rotation might have fans asking why the heck it looks like it does. But a month or two from now it will look drastically different.

Rodon makes his first rehab start Saturday at Class A Kannapolis as he battles back from shoulder surgery last fall, and he shouldn’t be too far away from providing a serious jolt to the starting staff. Not to mention, he’s a guy who as good a chance as anyone as grabbing one of those front-end spots, and with him in the rotation, things will look a tad more futuristic.

Same goes for Kopech, whose promotion figures to be coming at some point this summer. Given the hype and the expectations there, his arrival will obviously be a really big deal.

But regardless of the results either Rodon and Kopech put up in their first tastes of major league action in 2018, they’ll make the rotation into something that way more closely resembles the rotation of the future. There’ll be plenty of development left for the Hansens and the Ceases and the Dunnings in the minors. But a rotation featuring Rodon, Kopech, Giolito and Lopez looks a lot different than one featuring Shields, Santiago, Covey and Volstad.

Patience. It’s not much fun. But it’s necessary to build a contender.