White Sox

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the Detroit Tigers

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USA TODAY

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the Detroit Tigers

As the 2019 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

The Tigers, somehow, finished with a better record than the White Sox last season.

Despite Miguel Cabrera playing in just 38 games, despite them no longer having Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer, despite them losing an identical 98 games the year prior, the Tigers did win two more contests than the South Siders in 2018. That, perhaps, had something to do with the 12 wins they had in the 19 head-to-head matchups, a winning record against the White Sox powered almost single-handedly by Nicholas Castellanos, who crushed South Side pitching last season. In those 19 games, he slashed .363/.414/.625 with 29 hits, six doubles, five homers and 29 RBIs. He's the newest Sox killer, and though his name was included in many a rumor this offseason, he didn't go anywhere. Castellanos' bashing of the White Sox was part of a nice .298/.354/.500 season, and it wouldn't be surprising to see his name floated around again at the trade deadline.

Unfortunately for the now-rebuilding Tigers, Castellanos is perhaps the lone bright spot on this squad.

They got some tough news Tuesday, when No. 1 starting pitcher Michael Fulmer was recommended to have Tommy John surgery, an outcome that would wipe out his 2019 season. Fulmer didn't put up terrific numbers last season, right on par with currently uninjured starters Matthew Boyd and Jordan Zimmermann, who had 4.39 and 4.52 ERAs, respectively, in 2018. Detroit's got a pair of unexciting newcomers in their rotation, too, free-agent signings Matt Moore and Tyson Ross. Moore had an ERA near 7.00 in just 12 appearances last season, while Ross fared far better out of the St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen than he did in the San Diego Padres' rotation.

Of course, the Tigers still have Cabrera, who as mentioned missed most of the 2018 season. He was faring far better than he did in 2017 before he got hurt, with an on-base percentage up around .400. But given the amount of missed time, it's not like he's bounced back from that ugly 2017, a .249 average, a .329 on-base percentage and just 16 homers, quite yet. While Cabrera is a slam-dunk first-ballot Hall of Famer, he could be standing in the way of the Tigers making headway in their rebuilding effort, as he'll be making at least $30 million a year for the next five seasons.

But the rest of the lineup, even with a solid offseason addition in Josh Harrison, doesn't look terribly potent. Former Cubs prospect Jeimer Candelario was OK in his first full season in the bigs, hitting 19 homers but only posting a .224/.317/.393 slash line. Niko Goodrum? About the same. JaCoby Jones? Just a .207/.266/.364 line. Prospect outfielder Christin Stewart (probably not the star of the "Twilight" movies) had an .844 OPS in Triple-A last season.

Nothing terribly imposing there.

What the Tigers do have is a trio of highly rated pitching prospects, all ranked in the top 100 prospects in baseball. They're a ways away but could make for one heck of a 2021 rotation. Casey Mize was the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft and is now the No. 17 prospect in the game. Matt manning is the No. 52 prospect in baseball, and Franklin Perez is No. 78. But again, they're not going to be showing up this year.

And so there's not much for Motor City baseball fans to get excited about. At least they've got the entire Motown catalog to listen to this summer.

2018 record: 64-98, fourth place in AL Central

Offseason additions: Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Matt Moore, Tyson Ross

Offseason departures: Victor Martinez, James McCann, Francisco Liriano, Jose Iglesias

X-factor: Harrison wasn't awesome last season. He played in only 97 games and reached base at a sub-.300 clip. But he's just two seasons removed from his second career All-Star appearance, when he slashed .272/.339/.432 with a career-high 16 homers in 2017. Harrison brings infield versatility and if he can bounce back from last season, he can provide a boost to the Tigers' lineup. Yeah, it might be a reach, but there's not a lot to go on with these Tigers.

Projected lineup:

1. Josh Harrison, 2B
2. Nicholas Castellanos, RF
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
4. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
5. Christin Stewart, LF
6. Niko Goodrum, DH
7. Jordy Mercer, SS
8. Grayson Greiner, C
9. JaCoby Jones, CF

Projected rotation:

1. Matthew Boyd
2. Jordan Zimmermann
3. Tyson Ross
4. Matt Moore
5. Daniel Norris

Prediction: Fourth place in AL Central, no playoffs

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White Sox pitchers Hamilton & Burr get a shoutout from Lin-Manuel Miranda

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USA TODAY

White Sox pitchers Hamilton & Burr get a shoutout from Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda has landed in Chicago and he made sure to give some his favorite teams, places and people in the city a shout out on Twitter.

Roughly five minutes passed before the playwright and actor of Hamilton fame quickly remembered to give a quick greeting to the White Sox and two specific members of the team.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays Alexander Hamilton in "Hamilton: An American Musical" made sure to give a specific shout out to White Sox relief pitchers Ryan Burr and Ian Hamilton. The musical Hamilton of course discusses the infamous duel between Vice President Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.

White Sox pitchers Burr and Hamilton have been inextricably linked due to their last names, ever since  they first became teammates with the White Sox Class-A team in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 2017. And they took their bond one step further in 2019, recreating the Burr-Hamilton duel in front of the entire Whie Sox team

Miranda is currently in Chicago for the opening and ribbon cutting of "Hamilton: The Exhibition". The exhibit will open on Friday, April 26.

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Remember That Guy: Charlie O’Brien

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USA TODAY

Remember That Guy: Charlie O’Brien

Back in the day, Major League catchers used to wear a backwards helmet with a separate mask strapped to it.

The beginning of the end of those masks was September 13, 1996 in Toronto, when Charlie O’Brien introduced the hockey goalie-style catcher’s mask.

Remember that guy?

Charlie O’Brien was born May 1, 1960 in Tulsa, OK.  He was originally drafted in 1978 out of Bishop Kelley (Tulsa) High School by the Rangers in the 14th round, then again out of Wichita State in the 21st round in 1981 by the Mariners (that same year his college teammate Joe Carter was taken in the 1st round by the Cubs). Finally, O’Brien signed after being selected by the A’s in the 5th round in 1982, following a dynamic .359/.399/.659 season with 25 HR and 116 RBI in 87 games.  

O’Brien worked his way through the minors, reaching Triple-A Tacoma in 1984 and earning a 16-game trial with the Oakland A’s in June 1985. He caught the final inning of a 10-1 loss on June 2 in his MLB debut in Baltimore, and eventually collected his first MLB hit – a double off the Tigers’ Frank Tanana – on August 22, his first career start. With a couple of young catchers in Mickey Tettleton & Terry Steinbach blocking his path to the Majors, O’Brien was shipped from Oakland to Milwaukee in March 1986. He played well over the next two years in El Paso and Denver in the Brewers system, and he received another 10-game stint in the Majors in May 1987. O’Brien started 1988 back in Denver, but in June he was called up to the big club for good.

He served as backup catcher from Milwaukee to Queens (he was traded to the Mets in August 1990) to Atlanta (where he won a World Series in 1995) and Toronto, developing a reputation as a solid catcher. For his career, he threw out 37% of attempted base stealers, which is comfortably above the league average of 31%. He caught 13 pitchers who won Cy Young awards at some point, including a string of four in a row – Greg Maddux (1994-95), Pat Hentgen (1996) and Roger Clemens (1997).

Then there was that day in 1996 where he revolutionized catching, introducing the modern style of catcher’s mask. He got the idea for the mask while watching hockey, likely thinking about all the foul tips he took off the mask, wondering how to find a safer alternative. He worked with a few manufacturers and Major League Baseball to make the dream a reality.

In December 1997, O’Brien arrived in Chicago as a free agent signing by the White Sox. He collected three hits in the 1998 season opener, becoming the first White Sox catcher with three hits on opening day since Brian Downing in 1977. He only appeared in 57 games with the White Sox before a July 30 trade to the Angels, but he was with the Sox long enough to provide an important Chicago historical footnote. On June 6, 1998, O’Brien became the first White Sox player to hit a regular season home run at Wrigley Field. It came in the 6th inning off Kevin Tapani, and the two-run blast scored Magglio Ordoñez and gave the White Sox a 5-4 lead which they couldn’t hang onto, as they went on to lose 7-6.

In total, O’Brien played 800 games spread out over 15 seasons for eight teams. He hit .221 with 56 home runs in his career (and an additional homer in the 1995 NLCS), but his calling card was his solid defense, as well as being an innovator. His final MLB game was June 21, 2000 for the Expos in Montreal.

After his playing career, O’Brien (who wore No. 22 for most of his career) went on to own the Catch 22 Ranch in Northeastern Oklahoma, where he raises cattle and deer. Charlie and his ranch has been featured on the Pursuit Channel’s TV show “Deer Thugs.” An avid outdoorsman and hunter, he went on to form a company Charlie O’ Products, which sells hunting products. He also wrote a book The Cy Young Catcher along with co-author Doug Wedge, which chronicles his days in the Major Leagues.