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.
Former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski comes on the podcast and tells Chuck Garfien why he’d sign Nolan Arenado over Manny Machado (6:15).
Pierzynski criticizes Machado for saying that he doesn’t play hard everyday (7:08). Would he make Machado the face of the White Sox franchise? (12:30)
He also talks about how bullpenning cost the Milwaukee Brewers a spot in the World Series (14:45).
He reveals the former White Sox player who had a gift for recognizing players who tipped their pitches (21:00). Pierzynski tells behind the scenes stories about former teammates Nick Swisher, Bartolo Colon, Gavin Floyd and more (28:00).
Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:
Over the last couple seasons we've had some fun on our Bulls Pregame Live shows with the ever-changing cast of characters at the point guard position. We even brought the point guard roulette wheel to the show a couple years ago when Rajon Rondo, Isaiah Canaan, Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne all saw significant time at the position.
Grant began last season as the starter, followed by Kris Dunn and Payne with a little Ryan Arcidiacono mixed in.
But this season was supposed to be different. Dunn showed enough in his 52 game stint (13.4 points, 6 assists per game) in 2017-18 that he entered training camp as the unquestioned starter, with Payne and Arcidiacono as backups. The front office and coaching staff expected the 3rd year guard out of Providence to establish himself as a quality starter with elite skills at the defensive end.
Now, after playing just one regular season game, Dunn has been sidelined again, this time with a sprained left MCL suffered in his debut at Dallas Monday night. He's expected to miss 4-6 weeks of action, which should get him back on the court sometime in early December, right about the same time Lauri Markkanen is expected to return from his elbow injury.
So, what does Fred Hoiberg do now? Initially, you can expect Payne to replace Dunn in the starting lineup, with newly signed Shaq Harrison getting a look in the backup role. In case you don't know much about Harrison, he's an undrafted four-year player out of Tulsa, who spent most of the last two seasons in the NBA G-League. Like Dunn, Harrison is a physical 6'4" defense-first player who should be able to pressure some of the elite point guards the Bulls will face in the coming weeks. The front office showed their level of interest in Harrison's potential by signing him to a two-year NBA contract which includes a guaranteed salary for this season.
The Bulls also signed former Marian Catholic H.S. star Tyler Ulis to a two-way contract after he was released by Golden State in the final cutdown. Ulis started 58 games for Phoenix over the last two seasons, and is lightning quick in the open court. Problem is, he's generously listed at 5'10" which could create some serious issues at the defensive end.
And then there's always Arcidiacono, a Hoiberg favorite who's fundamentally sound, a solid defender and a decent outside shooter. Arcidiacono didn't play in Dallas Monday with Dunn back as the starter and it will be interesting to see how he's used with the coaching staff searching for answers at the position.
From my perspective, the Bulls' best option might be not going with a point guard at all in the starting lineup. Zach LaVine is on the hottest offensive streak of his young career, and he's most effective with the ball in his hands. LaVine played a lot of point guard during his rookie season in Minnesota, and he's more than capable of pushing the ball in transition.
Yes, I know having LaVine defend some of the high-scoring point guards around the league is not an ideal formula for success. The Bulls could move Justin Holiday to the shooting guard position, and see if he can match up defensively against opposing point guards. Again, not ideal.
The Bulls will be facing the likes of Kemba Walker, Trae Young, Steph Curry and Chris Paul over the next week and a half, and going without a true point guard might create defensive issues that are impossible to overcome. That's why you should expect to see Harrison take on a significant role in the upcoming games, since he's the only point guard currently available on the roster that has the physical skills to replicate in some fashion what Dunn brings on the defensive end.
Any way you look at it, the Bulls will be in survival mode over the next six weeks, trying to scratch out as many wins as they can until Markkanen and Dunn are healthy enough to get back on the court.