White Sox

The end goal of the White Sox rebuild? Be like the Astros


The end goal of the White Sox rebuild? Be like the Astros

The White Sox are walking down the same path as the Houston Astros. Of course, whether they arrive at the same destination remains to be seen.

The Astros went through the same loss-heavy, developmental seasons the White Sox have experienced for the last three years. But their mostly homegrown rebuilding strategy paid off in the form of a World Series championship in 2017, and they remain one of the favorites to win the whole thing this season, too.

That’s what the White Sox are trying to do, obviously.

“They’re certainly one of the best examples of someone who has done it well,” manager Rick Renteria said before Tuesday’s doubleheader against the visiting Astros. “On the North Side, they’ve done a nice job of doing the same thing. I think Cleveland kind of did a little of the same thing a few years back, and they still have the remnants of those guys on that ballclub. And I hope that we are one of those guys that end up doing the same things.”

Impatient White Sox fans sick of the losses that have piled up at the major league level in recent seasons — 95 of them in 2017, 100 more last season and 64 during the team’s first 116 games this year — can look at the same thing happening, to a much greater degree, in Houston several years back. The Astros lost a combined 416 games in four seasons from 2011 to 2014.

Three years after the last of those, a 92-loss campaign in 2014, the Astros were world champs, thanks in large part to a homegrown core of superstars like Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman.

Well, the White Sox are in the process of building their own homegrown core, with several of those players already on the South Side. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada are in the midst of breakout seasons, with Eloy Jimenez creating plenty of highlights during his rookie season. Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal figure to join that group relatively soon, too.

The White Sox also potentially have something brewing the Astros (and the Cubs and Kansas City Royals before them, for that matter) never managed to accomplish: a mostly homegrown starting rotation. Lucas Giolito was an All Star this season, Reynaldo Lopez is pitching tremendously since the All-Star break, Dylan Cease is here, and Michael Kopech will return to the starting staff in 2020. If you want to include other names like Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert in that group, too, go right ahead.

There’s a lot that needs to happen before they do what Giolito said they have the potential to do and become “one of the most dominant rotations in baseball.” But if even three of that group of young arms become good major league starting pitchers, that will be an accomplishment not experienced by the Astros, Cubs or Royals during those teams’ rebuilding projects.

Of course, even if it does happen, it’s not going to stop Rick Hahn’s front office from doing something those three teams did with great success: add high-impact starting pitching from outside the organization. The Astros traded for Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke, so they are the best example, but the Cubs’ franchise-altering signing of Jon Lester and the Royals’ midseason deal for Johnny Cueto led to World Series wins, too.

Hahn has clearly stated that going out and getting some starting pitching will be an offseason priority for the White Sox this winter — maybe a run at Cole? — and so there’s another page he hopes to take from the Astros’ rebuilding playbook.

“Be like the Astros,” though, is much easier said than done. The Astros’ roster is stocked with some of the best players in baseball. And while the White Sox hope the same can be said about them within the next few seasons, is there more to the equation?

The Astros are one game removed from owning the best record in baseball. The White Sox and any other rebuilding team can emulate the way the Astros built their championship-caliber roster. But can the players on the field emulate the Astros, too?

“They play the game the right way,” White Sox catcher James McCann said Tuesday. “Guys hustle down the line. They protect the ball, they don’t make a lot of errors. And you can see the fun that they have on the field in their highlights.

“There’s a confidence, an aura about their team that they give off that is something that every team should look at. I know there’s a fine line between being cocky and arrogant and being confident. They’re definitely a confident team.

“You look at teams and you look at where they are and their expectations, and the natural thing to do is make comparisons. They went through the rebuilding process however many years ago, and obviously now they’re beyond that. But there’s definitely things you can take from every team, and they’re one of those teams that we can definitely take some things from.”

While every team has a window, the Astros have kept adding fuel to their burning contention fire. Rookie slugger Yordan Alvarez has been one of baseball’s best hitters since his big league arrival earlier this season. They went out and traded for Greinke at the deadline. All that after signing Michael Brantley to be one of their everyday outfielders last offseason.

The White Sox minor league depth doesn’t look quite as impressive as it did a few months ago, but there’s at least one more huge name down in the lower levels of the organization in Andrew Vaughn, the slugging first baseman selected in this year’s draft. He doesn’t figure to be joining the big league club two years after a World Series run like Alvarez and the Astros, expected here sooner than that, but he could be another member of that core that comes up and has a huge impact. The White Sox, too, expect one day to be the kind of team that makes big free-agent splashes and swings a pennant-race-altering trade at the deadline, too.

It’s important to note, obviously, that the Astros have reached the top of the baseball mountain and the White Sox are trying to get there. But the South Siders have the ingredients to write a similar rebuilding success story. Time will tell if they’re able to, of course.

But for White Sox fans wondering what all this waiting is for, just look across the field this week. That’s the endgame.

“It is at times a reminder,” McCann said, “to see, ‘Hey, we keep pushing and this is the eventual result.’”

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: 15 best moments from the World Series run

White Sox 2005 Rewind: 15 best moments from the World Series run

If #SoxRewind taught us anything, it’s that 15 years ago, the White Sox did indeed win the World Series.

With NBC Sports Chicago’s replay of that magical championship run in the rear-view mirror, let’s celebrate 15 years since that title with the 15 best moments from the 2005 postseason.

15. A.J. Pierzynski homers to lead rout of Red Sox

The White Sox won 99 games during the regular season and still came into their first playoff game against the defending-champion Red Sox being described as “underdogs.” But that idea went out the window pretty quick as the South Siders unloaded with a 14-2 crushing. The White Sox scored five runs in the first inning, the final three coming on a Pierzynski homer that sent U.S. Cellular Field up for grabs.

14. Tadahito Iguchi homers to give the White Sox the lead

It wasn’t quite as easy for the White Sox in Game 2 of the ALDS, down 4-0 early. But just like the day before, they hung another crooked number on the board in the game’s defining inning. This time it was a five-spot against David Wells. The blow that turned the game around? Iguchi’s three-run blast.

13. Pierzynski completes the comeback

Something about those five-run innings. After the White Sox went down 4-0 when the World Series shifted to Houston for Game 3, they needed another comeback. They got another five-run frame. Joe Crede started it with a homer, and Pierzynski finished it with a two-run double, turning a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 lead against Roy Oswalt.

12. Paul Konerko slays the Green Monster

With the White Sox a win away from playing for the pennant, they needed to break a 2-all tie at Fenway Park. Konerko did the honors, smashing a two-run homer over the Green Monster. That wasn’t the end of the drama in Game 3 of the ALDS, but it proved to be the game- and series-winning hit.

RELATED: White Sox Talk Podcast: Paul Konerko's and J.J. Putz' new careers as little league coaches

11. Jermaine Dye starts (and ends) the scoring in Game 4

For all the mashing they did during the playoffs, and the World Series in particular, they needed just one run to win the championship-clincher. They got it from Dye, who delivered an RBI knock to score Willie Harris from third base and break a scoreless tie in the season’s penultimate inning.

10. Crede’s heroics to win the pennant

Crede came through with a pair of clutch hits in the late stages of Game 5 of the ALCS, the White Sox looking to rattle off a fourth consecutive victory to punch their ticket to the World Series. First, with the White Sox down a run, he smacked a leadoff homer in the seventh to tie the game at 3. An inning later, with the Angels inserting their excellent closer, Francisco Rodriguez, Crede drove in a tie-breaking run with a two-out base hit. And the White Sox won the pennant.

9. Crede’s game-winning dinger kicks off a World Series sweep

It’s rare to hear a fourth-inning homer described as a game-winner, but that’s what happened when Crede broke a 3-all tie with a homer off Wandy Rodriguez in Game 1 of the World Series. The Astros didn’t score again, and the White Sox got their sweep started in style on the South Side.

8. Mark Buehrle puts out the fire to win Game 3

Two nights earlier, he started Game 2. So what was Buehrle doing coming out of the bullpen in Game 3? Well, it’s all hands on deck when a postseason game goes 14 innings. Geoff Blum broke the tie in the top of the 14th, but things got a little dangerous in the bottom of the inning. After a Juan Uribe error put two runners on base, Ozzie Guillen called on Buehrle to relieve Damaso Marte. Buehrle threw three pitches and got a pop out to end the game and bring the White Sox within a win of the championship.

7. Blum plays unlikely hero

Blum didn’t do a lot of damage after the White Sox acquired him at the trade deadline. But he saved his biggest contribution for the very end, homering to break a 5-all tie in the 14th inning of Game 3 of the World Series. As unlikely a hero as there could have been, Blum smacked his way into White Sox history.

6. Scotty Pods’ walk-off winner

After the exhilarating high of Konerko’s go-ahead grand slam and the deflating low of Bobby Jenks’ blown save, Podsednik did the unthinkable: He homered. After hitting a grand total of zero home runs during the regular season, it was Podsednik, of all people, who found his power stroke at exactly the right time, walking off the Astros to give the White Sox a 2-0 lead in the World Series.

5. A.J. swings, misses and runs to first base

It’s a play that’s as bizarre a decade and a half later as it was in 2005. A tie game in the bottom of the ninth of Game 2 of the ALCS, Pierzynski swung and missed at Strike 3. The Angels thought the inning over, but Pierzynski was playing a different game in his head, believing the ball hit the dirt, and turned and ran to first base, despite being called out by the home-plate umpire. When he got there, he stayed there and was apparently safe, to the great surprise of everyone in the building. Three pitches later, pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna scored the game-winning run on a Crede double. What just happened? The ALCS got turned on its head.

RELATED: White Sox Talk Podcast: Distant Replay: The Pierzynski dropped third strike game

4. El Duque strands the bases loaded

Konerko launching that tie-breaking homer over the Green Monster was just the beginning of what pitching coach Don Cooper calls the most important inning in franchise history. In the bottom of the frame, Manny Ramirez halved the White Sox lead with a leadoff homer that chased Freddy Garcia. Enter Marte, who promptly gave up a single and back-to-back walks, loading the bases with nobody out in a one-run game. To do the impossible, Guillen called on playoff veteran Orlando Hernandez, who went pop out, pop out, strikeout to strand the bases loaded and preserve the lead. Said Cooper, years later, “The only a------ that wasn’t tight was El Duque’s.”

3. Konerko’s slam sets off bedlam in Bridgeport

Down 4-2, two outs, bases loaded in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the World Series. Fortunately, the White Sox had their best hitter at the plate. Already on his way to securing his place in White Sox history, Konerko delivered his ultimate moment, the one currently captured in bronze on the South Side. He hit the first pitch he saw from just-entered reliever Chad Qualls into the seats and sent the fans into a frenzy as he flipped a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead, his arm raised as he set off around the bases. The effort was somewhat spoiled when Jenks blew the save two innings later, but Podesnik’s walk-off homer ensured Konerko’s grand slam, the moment still etched in the memories of so many, came in a win.

2. Four in a row

It’s not a moment so much as an entire series — and a feat that will almost surely never be accomplished again. After the White Sox lost Game 1 of the ALCS, the starting rotation put the team on its shoulders and threw four consecutive complete games in four consecutive wins. Heck, Jose Contreras went 8.1 innings in the Game 1 loss, nearly making it five in a row. As good as the bullpen was, it was only needed for a grand total of two outs in that series. Meanwhile, the rotation of Buehrle, Jon Garland, Garcia and Contreras went to work, showing off the No. 1 reason the White Sox led the AL Central from wire to wire and ended up World Series champs: dominant starting pitching.

1. Uribe makes the catch, makes the play, and the White Sox win the World Series

The 88-year drought over. The White Sox swept the Astros in the World Series, finishing off Game 4 with back-to-back memorable moments from Uribe in a one-run game. First, he recorded the second out of the bottom of the ninth with a remarkable catch on a foul pop up, lunging into the stands at Minute Maid Park in a defensive highlight for the ages. Then he made a terrific charging play on a ground ball to clinch the world championship. A heck of a finish to the greatest season the South Side has ever seen.

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MLB The Show: White Sox win extra-innings battle vs. Royals, reach .500 mark

MLB The Show: White Sox win extra-innings battle vs. Royals, reach .500 mark

NBC Sports Chicago is simulating the 2020 White Sox season via MLB The Show during the postponement of play. The White Sox, stocked with young talent and veteran offseason acquisitions, were expected to take a big step forward in their rebuild this season. Follow along as we play out the first few months of the season.

Result: White Sox def. Royals, 10-5
Record: 31-31, 3rd in A.L. Central (2.5 GB of Twins and Indians)

W: Jimmy Cordero (4-0)
L: Tim Hill (0-1)

Game summary: After an Alex Colome blown save in the ninth with a 5-3 lead, the White Sox again looked to their extra-inning hero, Yasmani Grandal, to come up clutch in the 11th inning. Grandal’s RBI single opened the flood gates as the White Sox scored five in the 11th to take a 10-5 lead. 

The White Sox were led Wednesday by Luis Robert, who had his best game at the plate in a Sox uniform, going 4-for-6 with a double and two RBIs. The 3-7 lineups spots produced 12 hits and seven of the 10 RBIs. 

The turning point for the Sox offense came in the seventh, when Yoan Moncada broke the 3-3 tie with a solo home run to left field. The next inning, Grandal doubled to center field to give the South Siders a 5-3 lead heading into the ninth. Grandal’s .328 average ranks seventh in the American League, as he and Edwin Encarnacion battle for the team's best batting average on a daily basis.

With a win Wednesday, the White Sox returned to .500 after sliding to more than 10 games under .500 in the opening months of the season. As the Twins' skid continues, the White Sox have drawn within 2 1/2 games of the division lead.

White Sox lineup:

Edwin Encarnacion: 1-4, 2B, 2 BB (.327 BA)
Eloy Jimenez: 1-6 (.266 BA)
Yoan Moncada: 2-6, HR, 2 RBI (.259 BA)
Nick Madrigal: 2-6, 2B (.259 BA)
Jose Abreu: 2-6, 2 RBI (.313 BA)
Tim Anderson: 2-6, RBI, 2B (.295 BA)
Luis Robert: 4-6, 2 RBI, 2B (.251 BA)
Yasmani Grandal: 2-4, 3 RBI, 2 2B (.328 BA)
Nomar Mazara: 1-3, 2B, 2 BB (.252 BA)

Scoring summary:

Bottom second:

Salvador Perez doubled to left field, Hunter Dozier scored. 1-0 KC.

Top fourth:

Luis Robert doubled to right field, Nick Madrigal scored. 1-1.

Bottom fourth:

Jorge Soler homered to center field. 2-1 KC.

Top sixh:

Robert singled to center field, Madrigal scored. 2-2.
Yasmani Grandal sacrifice fly to center field, Jose Abreu scored. 3-2 CHW.

Bottom sixh:

Perez grounded out to third base, Dozier scored. 3-3.

Top seventh:

Yoan Moncada homered to left field. 4-3 CHW.

Top eighth:

Grandal doubled to left field, Tim Anderson scored. 5-3 CHW.

Bottom ninth:

Perez homered to left field, Dozier scored. 5-5.

Top 11th:

Grandal doubled to left field, Robert scored. 6-5 CHW.
Moncada singled to right field, Grandal scored. 7-5 CHW.
Abreu singled to left field, Nomar Mazara and Edwin Encarnacion scored. 9-5 CHW.
Anderson singled to center field, Moncada scored. 10-5 CHW.

Notable performance: Jimmy Cordero picked up his fourth win of the season and continues to have the best ERA in the White Sox bullpen (2.58). Cordero was electric Wednesday, coming in for two innings of work and striking out four Royals on the way to the extra-innings victory.

Next game: Thursday, June 4 - Game 63: White Sox at Royals (Dylan Cease, 3-4, 6.00 ERA vs TBD)

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