White Sox

Eloy Jimenez is as confident about the White Sox rebuild as anyone: 'We're going to win a lot of World Series'

Eloy Jimenez is as confident about the White Sox rebuild as anyone: 'We're going to win a lot of World Series'

The White Sox of the future are not short on confidence.

Just a day after Michael Kopech said he was ready for his call to the big leagues, Eloy Jimenez echoed his future teammate.

"I feel the same way. I can't wait to play in the bigs."

That was Jimenez before the start of SoxFest festivities last weekend at the Hilton Chicago. But this sort of thing is nothing new for the outfielder who came over in last summer's crosstown swap with the Cubs and who was just named the No. 4 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline.

In August, Jimenez predicted he'd hit a home run. He hit that home run.

"When I feel like I'm going to hit a home run, I can tell you," he said last Friday. "And I did it."

It seems some of these highly touted White Sox prospects share White Sox fans' visions of the future, a future where the incredible amount of talent injected into this farm system in the last year plus blossoms into a perennial World Series contender. Looking at what these prospects can do, it's hard not to buy in to general manager Rick Hahn's vision. Kopech can hit triple digits on the radar gun. Alec Hansen struck out nearly 200 guys last season.

"A lot of pitchers over there have really good stuff. Kopech, Alec Hansen. I know it's going to be fun," Jimenez said. "I'm happy I don't have to face Kopech and Alec Hansen. It's hard."

Jimenez, with his light-tower power, might be the most exciting of them all. The 21-year-old outfielder combined to slash .312/.379/.568 in 89 minor league games last season, splitting time between Class A Myrtle Beach (Cubs), Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. He hit 19 homers and 22 doubles, scored 54 runs and drove in another 65.

Everyone wants to know when Jimenez will hit the bigs, assuming it will happen some time during the 2018 campaign. That's possible, of course, but Hahn cautioned against presumptions that guys like Kopech and Jimenez will arrive in Chicago so quickly.

"As we sit here right now, I want to say Eloy has roughly about 70-odd plate appearances above A-Ball, and he's also a year younger than (Yoan) Moncada was at this time a year ago," Hahn said last week. "If at age 21 he spends the entire year in Double-A in the Southern League and is even close to the level that he performed at for the three weeks he was there already, that's a really, really good developmental year.

"Now, the good ones have a way of sort of changing your timeline on that, and it's not going to shock me if at some point over the course of the summer Eloy forces our hand a little bit, we're going to have to wind up being a little more aggressive than, again, what would be a very fine developmental plan for a 21-year old who is hardly above A-Ball."

Hahn also said that just because players arrive on the South Side doesn't mean their development is complete and the White Sox will instantly run roughshod over the rest of Major League Baseball.

"It’s the rare, rare player that gets to the major league level and doesn’t need any further refinement or adjustment," Hahn said. "Even if it’s just getting comfortable with the speed of the game or the amount of the scrutiny that comes with being a big league ballplayer on a daily basis. So we know that’s going to continue.

"(Moncada)’s not a finished product, Tim Anderson’s not a finished product, Carlos Rodon’s not a finished product, despite being in the big leagues for a couple years. It’s part of the reason Ricky (Renteria) and the coaching staff is perfectly suited for this process. They’re all teachers, they all have roots in player development, they all have a history in setting organizational goals and holding players accountable for it, and that continues not just through our system, but once players get to Chicago."

Jimenez has his eyes on being that kind of rare, rare player, another example that confidence is not a tool he lacks. It isn't to say he's too cocky — he used the old baseball cliche of hitting a homer one day and striking out three times the next day, a humbling experience — and he said he knows his fate lies in Hahn and the front office's hands.

Jimenez feels the excitement around this group of young players. He knows that fans are itching to see them assembled, Avengers style, at Guaranteed Rate Field. Hahn feels it, too, and has repeatedly talked this offseason about how his frequent mentions of patience are directed just as much at his own front office as they are at the fan base.

But how can you not get excited when Jimenez says something like this?

"I talked with Zack (Collins) one day in Double-A. I told him, 'When we figure it out and get together in the big leagues, I know we're going to be awesome.

"'We're going to win a lot of World Series.'"

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.