White Sox

Eloy Jimenez willing to play baseball in empty stadiums: 'I just want to play'

Eloy Jimenez willing to play baseball in empty stadiums: 'I just want to play'

Playing Major League Baseball in empty stadiums feels wrong. And the thought of Eloy Jimenez playing in empty stadiums is even worse.

"I don't know. For me, playing with fans is motivating. That's why I want to play every single day hard for them and I enjoy talking to them,” Jimenez said Tuesday. “I don't know what it's going to be (like) to play without fans there.”

But it might be necessary. The ESPN report that emerged late Monday night detailed the possibility of MLB starting its season with all 30 teams in Arizona, playing in spring training stadiums and Chase Field. Teams would essentially be quarantined -- existing only in their hotels, team buses and stadiums. There would be no fans in the stands and players would not be able to stay with their families.

It seems crazy, but nothing about the COVID-19 pandemic is normal. Baseball has always been something that unites us, and frankly, any kind of baseball sounds good right now. Credit to Major League Baseball for getting creative with a possible return. If they can keep the players safe and the MLBPA is willing to play under those circumstances, then it’s worth a try.

“We're all used to playing those back-field games, chain-link fence league games,” White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito said last week. “We've done it coming up through the minor leagues. We even do it in spring training, at times. I don't think it has too much an effect. If things matter, if games matter, I think we'd be able to go and get it done with or without fans in the stadium. But I'd definitely prefer to have fans. We'll see what we'll be able to make happen."

Major League Baseball issued a statement Tuesday morning neither confirming or denying the idea of playing the season in Arizona. That’s because it’s just an idea, albeit a serious one. Serious enough that players must think about if they’re willing to do it.

"It's going to be hard because you're going to be away from your family,” Jimenez said. “100 degrees is really hot. But if that's the plan, I'm going to do it. I just want to play."

The weather is certainly a factor. Chase Field has a roof and could hold multiple games per day, but anything outdoors would have to be played at night. Even then, it will be plenty hot in the desert in the evening.

Every idea comes with a plethora of questions and there are few concrete answers in an unprecedented situation. Players will still be together in clubhouses. What happens if just one player tests positive? Will there be enough tests that MLB isn’t taking them away from people who need them more? And even if this is all possible, how long would players realistically need to get ready for the season? Jimenez said his workouts at home have been limited to “just doing a couple pushups, jump rope and hitting in the back of the yard. That's pretty much it.”

“Honestly, how long is spring training, a month and a half? Maybe (we’ll need) a month, couple weeks,” White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said last week. “Around the same time period. Let’s be realistic with pitchers’ arms. Being realistic about the situation, not forcing anything. When we’re ready to go I think they’ll make a good decision, they’ll take care of us, I think we’ll be just fine.”

A big reason why players likely would be willing to sequester themselves in Arizona – and away from their families – is because their salaries will be prorated based on how many games get played. Owners would lose out on gate revenue, but there is plenty to gain for baseball by putting real games on television, especially if it’s the only sport going.

“I just want to play baseball,” Jimenez said. “If they decide to play here (in Arizona), I'm going to enjoy it, but we want to play (a) normal regular season, like travel and all that. And play for our city, you know?”

The feeling is mutual. Of course everyone would prefer to see Eloy Jimenez playing in Chicago. But if it’s on television from Arizona, we’re still going to enjoy it. 

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball

If you were paying really close attention during Game 2 of the ALCS, you saw it.

One fan in the stands at U.S. Cellular Field was hoisting a sign that perfectly summed up how the White Sox scored their runs during a 99-win regular season and during a march to the World Series.

“Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball.”

Small ball was rebranded “Ozzie ball” by these White Sox, who reaped the rewards of Kenny Williams’ bold offseason trade. The general manager shipped away a productive slugger, Carlos Lee, for a speed demon on the base paths, Scott Podsednik. Lee was pretty darn good at swinging the stick. But the White Sox craved balance in their lineup, and with Podsednik’s base-stealing ability causing chaos at the top of the order, they got it and scored more runs in the first inning than any other during the 2005 season.

Paul ball, well that’s obvious. Paul Konerko was the team’s MVP in 2005. He smashed 40 homers for the second straight season and hit triple digits in RBIs for the third time in his career. He was particularly potent during the second half, helping to prevent a complete free fall out of first place with the Cleveland Indians charging in September.

And over-the-wall ball? Well, as balanced as the White Sox lineup was thanks to Podsednik’s arrival, the South Siders still hit a lot of home runs. Seven different hitters launched at least 15 dingers. Even Podsednik, who had zero of them during the regular season, got in on the power display in the playoffs, hitting one in the ALDS and a walk-off homer in the World Series.

Fast forward two nights from when that sign was lifted up on the South Side, and you saw the White Sox follow that script to a “T” in Southern California.

In the first 17.2 innings of the ALCS, the White Sox scored three measly runs. A tip of the cap to the Angels’ pitching staff, but this was not the same production from a lineup that mauled the Red Sox during the first round of the playoffs. Then A.J. Pierzynski swung, missed and ran to first base and the White Sox offense woke up. Over the course of the next five White Sox hitters to step to the plate — Joe Crede’s walk-off double to finish Game 2 and the first four batters of Game 3 — the White Sox scored four runs.

How’d they do it against John Lackey in Game 3? How do you think?

Podsednik did his thing at the top of the lineup and got on base with a leadoff hit. Then Tadahito Iguchi bunted him into scoring position ahead of Jermaine Dye’s RBI double. Paul Konerko followed with a solo homer slammed into the left-field seats — the beginning of a three-hit, three-RBI night for him — and the White Sox had a crooked number on the board. Just like that.

Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball.


Of course, this all leaves out the most important ingredient in the White Sox success that season and in this series, in particular: starting pitching. While the offense took a while to wake up in the ALCS, the pitching was on point from “go.” Jose Contreras threw 8.1 innings in Game 1. Mark Buehrle allowed just one run in nine innings in Game 2. And Jon Garland followed with the second of what would be four straight complete-game efforts by White Sox starters in this series.


Though there was more to come, with Freddy Garcia and Contreras going the distance in Games 4 and 5, through three games, White Sox starters had already turned in an impressive string of games, allowing just six runs in 26.1 innings for a 2.05 ERA.

But as good as the pitching was — and it was out-of-this-world good — the White Sox needed to get back to their run-scoring ways following the quiet offensive performances in Games 1 and 2. They did just that, and not until Game 4 of the World Series did they score fewer than five runs.

When it came to how they scored those runs moving forward, the sign didn’t lie.

Small ball? Podsednik wrecked havoc the very next night in Game 4 of the ALCS, reaching base four times (thrice via the walk), stole a pair of bases and scored two runs.

Paul ball? Konerko had more damage to do, with at least one hit in each of the next five playoff games, including an unforgettable grand slam in Game 2 of the World Series.

Over-the-wall ball? The White Sox hit three homers in the final two games of the ALCS, then six more in the World Series, including iconic shots from Konerko, Podsednik and Geoff Blum.

So there are a few hundred words on the subject. But did I really do any better with all those words than that fan did with eight?

“Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball.”

Keep reliving the White Sox march to the 2005 World Series with #SoxRewind, which features Game 4 of the ALCS, airing at 7 p.m. Friday on NBC Sports Chicago.

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MLB, players deeply divided with clock ticking: 'It's ugly right now'

MLB, players deeply divided with clock ticking: 'It's ugly right now'

Where do things stand right now between Major League Baseball and the players union?

Let’s just say the owners are in New York and the players are in Los Angeles. Hopefully, they can meet somewhere in the middle — like Chicago — and we can have baseball in 2020.

But it's going to take a lot of work.

MLB's much-anticipated, first economic proposal presented to the players on Tuesday features a sliding scale of pay cuts where the players making the most money lose a greater percentage of their salaries, while those making less will have smaller cuts.  

The players' didn't like it one bit.

"The owners have a long way to go," one player said.

Fortunately, this isn’t the ninth inning of negotiations. There’s still time to make a deal.  

But with the clock ticking, there’s a big divide and harsh feelings that need to be addressed.

According to one agent, “I like to think I’m an optimist, but it’s ugly right now. While it’s a complicated situation, it comes down to money. The little hope I have is cooler and sensible heads [will] prevail.”

Will the two sides come to an agreement? If so, how and when?

That’s what I discussed with my NBC Sports Chicago colleagues Adam Hoge and Vinnie Duber on this Give Me Baseball edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast. 

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