Without baseball highlights to watch or box scores and game recaps to read, there's plenty of time for obscure baseball lists. For example, this one: the White Sox All-First Half Team 1980-current. I've taken the best White Sox first halves at each position over the past 33 seasons and molded them into a team. Then I added bench players out of guilt that Harold Baines didn't make the initial nine. Why did I select 1980? Because I was born that year and I believe nothing matters prior to my existence. No, seriously, I picked 1980 just so that the seasons are recent enough for us to remember them more vividly. Also, I love those vintage big collared uniforms they wore back then. Here they are:CatcherCarlton Fisk- 198523 HR, 54 RBI, .238.320.528Pierzynski's 2012 is nice, sure, but consider this: no White Sox catcher has surpassed Fisk's Pre-Break total of 23 home runs in any FULL SEASON since Pudge poled 23 prior to the 1985 Midsummer Classic. The future Hall of Famer finished the season with 37 home runs (at age 37), which through the 1992 campaign was tied with Dick Allen's 1972 output for the all-time White Sox single season record.First BaseFrank Thomas - 199432 HR, 78 RBI, .383.515.795With all due respect to Paul Konerko, every Thomas first half from 1993-97 ranks better than Paulie at his best, but of course the first ten seasons of Frank Thomas' career is arguably the best 10-year stretch since Ted Williams roamed left field at Fenway; maybe even better. 1994 was certainly the best. 32 HR is the most first half homers by a White Sox player, and the 78 ribbies trails only his 85 in 1996. Only a dozen players in White Sox history besides Thomas have even reached 32 HR over an entire season. This incredible first half to a tragically shortened season included two separate 5-game HR streaks. And in 86 games, he reached base 200 times via walks or hits (116 H, 84 BB).Second BaseRay Durham - 19999 HR, 38 RBI, .298.373.480Among many first halves of many standout seasons, Durham's first half of 1999 was the best: 14 three-hit games, 21 doubles, 7 triples, 9 home runs, and 14 stolen bases in 84 games. Ray is the only White Sox player with 5 seasons of 100 runs and 20 stolen bases, and they came in five straight seasons (1997-01). The top four or five first halves by Sox second sackers are arguably all Durham, followed by Alexei Ramirez' lone season at second in 2008 (.312 BA, .791 OPS), and Tadahito Iguchi's 2006 (10 HR, 40 RBI, .775 OPS).ShortstopJose Valentin - 200418 HR, 48 RBI, .254.325.548Quick! Name the eight players who had 3 seasons of 25 or more home runs while playing 50 of their games at shortstop (apologies for that very number-y sentence). Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez, Ernie Banks, Miguel Tejada, Nomar Garciaparra, Troy Tulowitzki, Vern Stephens...and Jose Valentin. He played anywhere in the infield you needed him. He was a very good fielder. He drew a decent amount of walks. He was a very heady baserunner. And he had some pop. Valentin tailed off to a .218 BA by season's end, but in the first half of 2004, he was a force. He led all ML shortstops with 18 HR at the break (Miguel Tejada was second with 15). Valentin's 2000 (13 HR, 46 RBI, .808 OPS) and 2003 (13 HR, 40 RBI, .775 OPS) also very solid, followed by Alexei Ramirez' 2009 (11 HR, 42 RBI, 12 SB). Guillen's 1990 (.319 BA with his superlative defense) was tempting, but the 11 SB12 CS frightened me away.Third BaseRobin Ventura - 199619 HR, 55 RBI, .282.376.519Can't go wrong with Ventura's 1994 (15 HR, 65 RBI, .826 OPS), 1995 (15 HR, 49 RBI, .901 OPS), or the 1996 shown above. Crede's 2006 (16 HR, 57 RBI, .843 OPS) right there with them. 1996 & 2006 seem to be a common theme across the board...Left FieldCarlos Quentin - 200822 HR, 70 RBI, .277.375.525A great first half of what should have been an MVP season, curtailed by a silly self-inflicted injury on September 1st. Quentin edges out a few Carlos Lee seasons and both of Albert Belle's seasons (although Belle's second half of 1998 is one of the greatest ever). Quentin posted three multi-HR games in the first half of 2008; in comparison the 2012 Sox as a team have four. Add to that 12 HBP and 43 walks (a frequency of walks he'd never again duplicate in a White Sox uniform). Unfortunately, he was never again able to string along several excellent months on the Southside. But the bat toss was legendary.Center FieldAlex Rios - 201015 HR, 49 RBI, 23 SB, .305.361.518Rios' red hot start to 2010 came out of left field... or rather center field, after hitting .199 in 41 games with the White Sox after being selected off waivers from the Blue Jays in 2009. A .344 May propelled him to a fine first half. Rios tailed off a bit in the second half (and tailed off drastically in 2011), but finished the season with just the fourth 20-HR20-SB season in franchise history. Rios' fantastic first half of 2012 is nearly identical to his 2010 (12 HR, 49 RBI, 13 SB, .874 OPS), although of course he no longer qualifies for the center field spot. Runners up to 2010 Rios are 1999 Chris Singleton (7 HR, 39 RBI, 20 2B, .868 OPS), and 2004 Aaron Rowand (9 HR, 21 RBI, 18 2B, .863 OPS).Right FieldMagglio Ordonez - 200021 HR, 74 RBI, .330.407.621The toughest call on this team was choosing between 2000 Maggs and the man who replaced him in 2005, Jermaine Dye. And fittingly so; both men were born on January 18, 1974. I gave Ordonez the nod mostly on the basis of 46 BB36 K vs Dye's 38 BB59 K. Magglio also had a 5-double and 6-RBI edge, whereas Dye had four more homers, and an edge on OPS. Either way, both were monster first halves. Harold Baines' finest seasons aren't even in the discussion with these two.Designated HitterJim Thome - 200630 HR, 77 RBI, .298.414.651Thome came to the White Sox after missing over 100 games the previous season due to injuries to his back and elbow. Although at the time the trade was criticized by some with the departure of Aaron Rowand, Thome burst onto the Chicago scene with 6 HR and 10 RBI in his first 9 games. By the All-Star break, he had already established just the third 30-HR season by a Sox lefty (joining Oscar Gamble and Robin Ventura), and by season's end he wound up Comeback Player of the Year with the only 40-HR season (for now, at least) by a lefty in White Sox history.BenchJermaine Dye - 200625 HR, 68 RBI, .318.397.646Dye, just edged out by 2000 Ordonez, is a shoo-in for the bench.Paul Konerko - 201122 HR, 67 RBI, .319.390.564It seemed as if the captain was well on his way to his best first half ever in 2012 with a gaudy .399 BA as late as May 27th, but he came back down to earth and hasn't been quite the same as far as power numbers are concerned (3 HR in last 137 PA). 2011 was as good as Paulie has been prior to the All-Star Break, and these numbers would probably make most teams' pre-break teams, but those teams did not have Frank Thomas.Harold Baines - 199615 HR, 62 RBI, .314.398.545Era arguments aside, 1996 showed Baines at his best in a White Sox uniform prior to the Midsummer Classic. Several Baines Pre-Break performances come close: 1984 (.833 OPS, 14 HR, 53 RBI), 1986 (.853 OPS, 12 HR, 53 RBI), 1987 (.887 OPS, 12 HR, 49 RBI), 1989 (.897 OPS, 11 HR, 46 RBI).Alexei Ramirez - 200911 HR, 42 RBI, 12 SB, .281.335.415The bench needed another middle infielder, so I'm going with Alexei's first season at shortstop. While the defense didn't fully blossom until 2010, the offensive output was strong (although he stumbled in the second half: 4 HR, 26 RBI, .684 OPS). Starting PitchersBritt Burns (LHP) - 19809-6, 2.06 ERA, 118.0 IP, 0.983 WHIPThe 1980 White Sox featured the 7th most left-handed rotation since the Deadball Era (111 starts by lefties), and Burns was the best pitcher on that extremely young staff (Burns & Richard Dotson were 21, Steve Trout was 22, Ross Baumgarten & LaMarr Hoyt were 25). After brief stints with the big club in 1978 and 1979, Burns went to work in 1980, with a new grip on his slider taught to him by Paul Richards (said Roland Hemond in the July 1980 Baseball Digest). His record should have been better; the Sox were shut out in four of his starts prior to the All-Star Game, and he completed 6 of his 15 starts. Burns finished strong and ended up The Sporting News Rookie Pitcher of the Year.Richard Dotson (RHP) - 198411-4, 2.64 ERA, 136.1 IP, 1.049 WHIPDotson was acquired in 1977 with Bobby Bonds from the Angels in the Brian Downing deal... He was flat out stingy before the break in 1984, allowing just 92 hits in 136.1 innings, holding opponents to a .194 BAA. He completed 9 of his 17 starts. Things didn't work out so well afterward, however. He went 3-11 with a 4.77 ERA in probably the worst second half of anyone on this All-First Half Team.Esteban Loaiza (RHP)- 200311-5, 2.21 ERA, 130.1 IP, 1.059 WHIPLoaiza was simply awesome in 2003. Before the All-Star Break, he held opponents to 1 or fewer earned runs in 11 of his 19 starts. He should have been better than 11-5; two of his starts were 1-0 losses, there was a 2-1 loss, and two 3-2 losses mixed in before the Midsummer Classic. Not bad for a guy whose career record was 69-73 with a 4.88 ERA coming into the season... he went 36-32 with a 4.81 ERA afterwards.Chris Sale (LHP) - 201210-2, 2.19 ERA, 102.2 IP, 0.955 WHIPWhat more can be said about this 23-year old phenom? Well, here are a few things... Sale is on pace for:- the lowest HR9 IP by a White Sox pitcher (0.44) since Dennis Lamp in 1982 (0.43)- the lowest ERA by a White Sox starter since Wilbur Wood in 1971 (1.91)- the lowest WHIP by a White Sox starter since Joe Horlen in 1967 (0.953)- the lowest opponents' BA (.198) by a White Sox starter since Joe Horlen in 1964 (.190)Relief PitchersRoberto Hernandez - 19961.20 ERA, 45.0 IP, 26 SVThe Roberto Hernandez who was known as Roberto Hernandez during theENTIRE course of his career had a successful run as White Sox closer. The 1.20 ERA was fantastic despite 23 free passes in 45 innings, although he held opponents to a .502 OPS. He blew a save in his first appearance then was 20 for his next 20, and as late as June 13th, his ERA was a microscopic 0.56. Hernandez, of course was most notable AT the 1996 All-Star Break, when during a team photo he slipped and accidentally broke Cal Ripken's nose, jeopardizing the ironman's streak (close call, but Cal kept on going).Cliff Politte - 20051.02 ERA, 35.1 IP, 0.736 WHIPDustin Hermanson - 20051.53 ERA, 35.1 IP, 21 SVMake no mistake about it; the 2005 White Sox won the World Series with pitching, and while the starters got the lion's share of the glory, the bullpen was remarkable. Politte & Hermanson contributed career years, with their best work coming in the first half of the season. Hermanson started the season with 19 straight scoreless appearances, while Politte allowed just 17 hits over his 35.1 first half IP.Shingo Takatsu - 20041.30 ERA, 34.2 IP, 5 SV, 0.808 WHIPThe top 7 in the 2004 A.L. Rookie of the Year vote went in this order: Bobby Crosby, Shingo Takatsu, Daniel Cabrera, Zack Greinke, Alex Rios, David DeJesus, Ross Gload. Interesting given how things worked out since... The Japanese import nicknamed "Mr. Zero" was an instant sensation with his "frisbee" pitch and funky sidearm delivery. Roughed up in his first appearance of the season, Takatsu rebounded and ran off 24 straight scoreless appearances, during which he allowed just 10 hits in 26.1 innings. He was a lot of fun to watch while it lasted.
Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan, and Doug Glanville break down a solid 4-2 road trip for the Cubs. Plus, who would you rather have long-term: Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?
What’s Manny Machado’s favorite pizza place? What’s his favorite bar on Rush Street? Does he want to shoot the puck at the Blackhawks game? Maybe drive a Red Line train? Headline Lollapalooza?
Heck, is there anything that can get this guy to Chicago?
Sadly, Machado has no opinion on Chicago, at least no opinion he'd like to share. He talks as though he’s experienced nothing but the tarmac at O’Hare and the inside of the visitor’s clubhouse at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“To be honest, nothing,” Machado said when one of the multitude of media members asked him what he thought about the city ahead of his Baltimore Orioles’ game against the White Sox on Monday night. “I go from my (hotel) room to the ballpark to play baseball. I try to keep it simple, my life is simple. I don’t really do too much other than come here and play.”
Sorry, Cubs and White Sox fans. No inside info to better the offer.
Both sides of town are entranced by Machado Mania. The North Side wants him to arrive via trade and help deliver another World Series championship in 2018. The South Side wants him to ink a monster free-agent deal and deliver a whole bunch of World Series championships as the new face of the rebuild.
But no matter whether you want the MVP candidate in blue pinstripes or 1983 throwbacks, he made no indication he’s thinking about his next team when he spoke Monday.
“That’s out of my hands. I can’t control that,” he said. “I’ve got to go out and win some games, do as much as I can for my ball club.
“I’m here to play baseball. Obviously you’ve got to answer these questions, but at the end of the day none of that matters. I’m here to win some games with my ball club, win some here with the Orioles, and play well at the same time.
“I’m not getting distracted by any of this, and all this talk, it’s rumors. They’re all rumors and talks. At the end of the day, I’ve got to go out there and perform and win games for this ball club.”
For the Cubs, rumors of a Machado pursuit would come at a seemingly steep cost. With almost nothing to deal away from the farm system, an Orioles team looking to jumpstart a rebuilding effort of their own would likely require Addison Russell as a centerpiece of any trade offer. Would Theo Epstein’s front office be willing to part with Russell, who they always speak so highly of, who is still just 24 years old and who remains under team control through the 2021 season? Just for a few months of Machado, who is by no means a guarantee to stick around on a free-agent deal?
The Cubs’ title chase this season would figure to be better served by getting two of their recent pitching acquisitions to turn in more consistently good performances. If Jose Quintana and Yu Darvish can right their respective ships, the Cubs might not need to worry about blowing up their core to add an MVP candidate to an already menacing lineup featuring multiple All Stars. But there’s no doubt about it: Any team that adds Machado to the mix is going to improve its chances of hoisting a trophy this October.
Unlike a pursuit of a player during free agency, it’s the Orioles the Cubs need to convince to seal a deal, not Machado, and even with Russell as the main piece, the Cubs’ package might not be the best one out there. But Machado, despite his comments, has likely heard a little bit of what it’s like to play on the North Side from the guy he calls his cousin, Albert Almora Jr.
“As kids growing up we played together,” Machado said. “When we were playing in his backyard growing up, we always dreamed about playing together some day in the big leagues and putting on the same big league uniform and be on the same field, win a World Series together, that’s every kid’s dream.”
Meanwhile, the White Sox are, as they’re doing in every facet of their existence at the moment, playing a long game when it comes to Machado or any big-name free-agent-to-be. Reports dating back to last winter say they’re expected to be one of the many teams vying to sign Machado to what’s sure to be a gargantuan contract when he joins Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson and a host of other superstars in free agency this winter.
Machado’s production has made him the object of White Sox fans’ affections for some time, and the dream of seeing him join all the young talent in this rebuilding effort and leading the South Siders in their next pursuit of a title is still alive and well in their minds. The White Sox will have the financial ability to pay the high price for Machado, if they choose — a price, it should be noted, that come winter will be only measured in money and not players, as a midseason trade during this campaign would be. Obviously the biggest selling point is their bright future, where he could anchor a lineup that also features Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert. Pair that with a boatload of cash, and maybe it’s enough to edge out the rest of what’s expected to be a very competitive market.
The White Sox, too, have an apparent void at third base (or shortstop, should they do some maneuvering on the left side of the infield) moving forward after Jake Burger, last year’s first-round pick, twice tore the same Achilles tendon this year. While there’s still time needed to tell where exactly the White Sox will have major league holes to fill, penciling names into a 2020 lineup leaves most pencilers with a question mark at third base. Machado would fit nicely there, and the apparent need could provide more drive for the White Sox to get something done this winter. There will be other options, of course, should they miss out on Machado. Donaldson this winter and Nolan Arenado the following are two other alluring names. Be it Machado, it would be the kind of statement signing that signals that the rebuilding effort is ready to transition into the contention phase, much like the Cubs did with Jon Lester.
And like the Cubs, the White Sox have their own Machado friend to make a convincing pitch. Nicky Delmonico played alongside Machado (and Harper, for that matter) on a Team USA squad back in 2009.
“It was really cool. I got to play with Harper for two years and Machado (for one),” Delmonico said last week. “Just to be around that type of talent, it was a lot of fun.
“It was pretty special. We had a lot of guys who are doing well at the big league level. It was like a big family.
“You’re with each other every day. It’s like what I compare to the minor leagues. You’re playing every day in that short amount of time. So you got to know that person pretty well. And to play with those guys, it was a lot of fun.”
And Welington Castillo, too, got to know Machado when they were teammates last year in Baltimore.
“He’s special, honestly,” Castillo said. “I had the opportunity to play with him last year in the (World Baseball Classic) and then for a year with the Orioles. It’s nice to play with him in the same lineup and spend time with him. He’s an awesome player and an awesome person. I think that’s why everybody is talking about him. Everybody sees because he’s been showing them every year, what he can do.
“Who wouldn’t want to have a guy like him?”
If Machado has received any PR training through this process, he put it to good use Monday. Nothing he said indicated any preference to join either of this city’s teams either this season or next. He didn’t say the word “Cubs” once, and judging by his response to the lone question asked specifically about the White Sox, it doesn’t sound like the South Side rebuild is the talk of the Orioles’ clubhouse.
That, though, will likely do nothing to dampen enthusiasm on either side of town that Machado could soon call this city home, nor does it mean Machado wouldn't be jazzed about joining a championship contender this season or a franchise with a bright future next season.
But until a deal is made this summer or this winter — or both — it’s all just speculation. Until then, Machado’s going to try to beat one of Chicago’s teams four times this week, either as a preview of what could be or a display of opportunity lost.