White Sox

Frustration apparent, but White Sox still have big role planned for James McCann

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USA TODAY

Frustration apparent, but White Sox still have big role planned for James McCann

GLENDALE, Ariz. — From the White Sox perspective, there's nothing better than having not just one, but two All-Star catchers.

But not everyone sounds thrilled with the new catching situation. Specifically, one of the catchers.

It's not at all unexpected that James McCann would have some frustration after turning his career around in 2019, going from a five-year backup with minimal offensive production to an All Star, only for the White Sox to hand out a franchise-record contract to Yasmani Grandal, another All-Star backstop with a much longer track record of success both at the plate and behind it.

McCann performed well enough to earn the starting job in 2020. Instead, he's at No. 2 on the depth chart.

"I guess you can say in this business there’s nothing that should surprise you," he said Wednesday, when pitchers and catchers reported for duty at Camelback Ranch. "There’s things you can control and things you can’t control, and the business side of things you can’t control.

"All you do is prepare to take care of yourself as far as offseason preparations go, being ready for spring training, then spring training and getting ready for the season. And everything else is what it is."

None of this is to say that McCann wasn't offering up typical team-first platitudes, expressing his desire to do whatever the White Sox asked of him. But his tone was not a cheery one. It was one you might expect from someone who earned a starting job and won't get it.

"I’m just here doing my job," he said. "Whatever they ask me to do, I’ll be willing to do.

"All you can control is how you handle your own self and how you handle your own preparations, and that was my main focus throughout the offseason and that will continue to be my main focus: how to make myself better and how to help the team win."

One of the biggest questions of the offseason from fans was what the White Sox now do with McCann. He would figure to be a decent trade chip that would entice any team still looking for a starter behind the plate. But he's also extraordinarily valuable as a No. 2 catcher on a team with hopes of reaching the postseason for the first time in more than a decade.

McCann is no sure thing to repeat his All-Star caliber performance in 2020. His first- and second-half splits were dramatic last season, with his .316/.371/.502 slash line before the All-Star break yielding to a .226/.281/.413 line after it. But the impact he had as a hard worker and game planner doesn't figure to go anywhere.

While McCann's starts behind the plate and playing time in general are certain to decrease in a big way with Grandal's arrival, the White Sox are still planning on their new backup catcher making a significant contribution.

"A pivotal role," manager Rick Renteria said Wednesday. "He's an integral part of who we are as we move forward. Him and Yasmani, they're here to take that staff and give us the best possibility of being able to take care of matchups when we need to and to pick each other up.

"You can't run a catcher out there every single day. You can't expect one guy's going to catch 162 games. It's not going to happen. I ran Mac out there trying to catch almost 162 games (last season), and you know you start to break down a little bit.

"Having two guys who you can truthfully trust and being able to manage the pitching is a huge benefit to us, and we're happy that we have these two guys to balance us out."

You certainly can't blame McCann for any frustration, nor should any frustration hit as unexpected after the White Sox made a major upgrade with Grandal. McCann said plenty of the right things Wednesday, too, and for that he should be commended. That's what the White Sox spent Wednesday doing: commending McCann.

"He and I spoke I think three times this past offseason, the first time being right after we made the Grandal move," general manager Rick Hahn said. "Each time, he fundamentally has reiterated his desire to win and be part of a championship club.

"From an individual standpoint, I certainly understand guys want to compete. All 26 guys on that team are going to want to try to compete every day. You want that hunger. You don't necessarily wants guys who feel like they couldn't handle more.

"In terms of the interactions with James, it's been positive from the standpoint of trying to be part of something special."

Competing doesn't seem to be something McCann has any plans to stop doing. And if the White Sox are going to make their big leap into playoff contention this season, they'll need contributions from up and down the roster — and up and down the catching depth chart, too.

"I’m going to take stuff from (Grandal), as I’m sure he’ll be able to take some stuff from me," McCann said. "That’s what makes a team good, when guys can grow from each other and push each other."

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: The untouchable Jon Garland

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: The untouchable Jon Garland

Jon Garland was on absolute fire to start the 2005 season.

On May 1, he shut out the Detroit Tigers. It was a sensational performance. It was also a carbon copy of his previous outing against the Oakland A’s. Both games featured no runs, four hits and no walks against Garland in nine innings. If anything, he was better against the Tigers, striking out six hitters as opposed to the three strikeouts he had six days earlier.

These back-to-back shutouts capped an incredible start to the campaign for Garland, who was coming off a solid but unspectacular 2004 season. He finished that campaign with a 4.89 ERA. This was already his sixth big league season. In his first five years in the majors, he owned 4.68 ERA in 149 games.

Well, he was a different kind of pitcher in 2005. In his first five starts, he had a 1.38 ERA in 39 innings, an average of nearly eight innings per outing. He had nearly three times as many strikeouts as he had allowed runs.

To close out that game against the A’s, he retired the final 13 batters he faced. In this one, he retired 15 of the final 16 hitters he faced.

The dude was practically untouchable.

And he still knows it.


Even Cy Young seasons have their blips, and his streak of stellar starts was snapped the next time out. He allowed six runs in 5.2 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays. The White Sox still won that game, though, and won each of Garland’s first eight starts, 12 of his first 14 starts and went 20-12 overall in games he pitched during the regular season.

But those blips were few and far between in 2005. In only nine of his 32 starts did he give up more than three earned runs. By season’s end, his ERA was significantly higher than it was at the outset of the campaign, 3.50, but he remained a workhorse and averaged just a hair under seven innings an outing on the year.

Garland made the AL All-Star team and finished sixth in the Cy Young vote in 2005. He allowed just four earned runs in 16 innings over a pair of postseason starts.

He had a similarly fantastic stretch from late June through the month of July, but he perhaps never looked as good as he did during this electric start to the season.

After tossing these back-to-back shutouts, Garland only went the distance once more during the 2005 regular season, in his first start of September against these same Tigers. He obviously was one of the four consecutive complete games against the Los Angeles Angels in the ALCS, but he allowed two runs in that game.

White Sox starting pitching was phenomenal in 2005, and Garland was no exception. This was Garland at his best.


What else?

— The play of the game in this 8-0 White Sox rout came courtesy of “Come On” Timo Perez, who laid down a suicide squeeze with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the third inning. Tigers starter Wil Ledezma got himself in a real jam after getting two of the first three hitters of the inning out. He hit Paul Konerko with a pitch and walked Aaron Rowand to load the bases. Perez followed with a perfectly executed bunt down the first-base line, catching the Tigers off guard and bringing in the White Sox second run of the afternoon.


Before that crazy play, Perez used a bunt to help bring home the White Sox first run. In the second inning, a sacrifice bunt followed up a no-out balk that advanced Rowand to second. Perez moved him up another 90 feet, and Rowand scored on Joe Crede’s sacrifice fly.

— Perez’s May 1, 2005, excellence wasn’t limited to bunts. He also homered. At this point, I can only assume 2005 ended with Timo Perez as the American League MVP.


— The benches cleared in the fourth inning. As mentioned, Konerko was plunked in the third, and after two quick outs, a pitch got away from Garland and flew behind Rondell White. White was not pleased and started walking toward the mound with bat in hand. Everyone left their respective dugout and stood around on the field, as most baseball dust ups go. Hawk Harrelson: “What is it, Rondell? Our guy gets drilled and you can't get hit?”

— All apologies to Pedro Lopez, but who is Pedro Lopez? This was the major league debut for the White Sox infielder and one of the two major league games he played in in 2005. He continued the trend of solid performances from the White Sox bench, with a hit, a run and an RBI in this game. But the majority of his 2005 was spent in the minor leagues. Those two games were the only big league action he saw with the White Sox. He returned to the majors two years later as a Cincinnati Red, getting 45 at-bats in 14 games.

— Lopez wearing No. 62 instantly brought Jose Quintana to mind, but Quintana is one of a whopping six players to wear that jersey number since Lopez did in 2005: Ehren Wassermann, Bret Prinz, Jack Egbert, Eduardo Escobar, Quintana and Dustin Garneau.

— Ledezma balked twice in this game and five times in his career. The record for the most balks in a single season belongs to Dave Stewart, who had 16 of them in 1988. The record for the most balks in a career belongs to one-time White Sox hurler Steve Carlton, who got charged with 90!

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

April 26, 2005: The White Sox and A’s traded back-to-back four-run innings, with the South Siders on top by three heading into the bottom of the seventh. But Oakland’s bats produced five runs in their final two trips to the plate against Mark Buehrle, Damaso Marte and Luis Vizcaino. White Sox lose, 9-7, fall to 16-5.

April 27, 2005: Konerko drove in a run in the first inning, but it was all the White Sox got across the plate. The A’s tied the game against Freddy Garcia in the fourth and got a walk-off single from Marco Scutaro in the ninth to grab a series win. White Sox lose, 2-1, fall to 16-6.

April 29, 2005: Down a run in the bottom of the ninth, the White Sox rallied against Troy Percival, getting a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Rowand to force extras. But a Nook Logan triple off Shingo Takatsu in the 11th broke the tie. White Sox lose, 3-2, fall to 16-7.

April 30, 2005: The White Sox snapped a three-game losing streak with a three-run seventh inning. Crede, Scott Podsednik and Tadahito Iguchi all drove in runs in that frame to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead. White Sox win, 4-3, improve to 17-7.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Saturday, when you can catch the May 4, 2005, game against the Royals, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Crede and A.J. Pierzynski both leave the yard in this one.

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Olympic gold medalist Ryan Held details his long road to White Sox fandom

Olympic gold medalist Ryan Held details his long road to White Sox fandom

After wearing a Ryan Arcidiacono jersey at a swim meet earlier this year, Olympic swimmer and Springfield resident Ryan Held appeared on the Bulls Talk podcast to talk about his fandom.

But he's not just a Bulls fan. He also cheers for the White Sox. His path to becoming a Sox fan was one based on trial and error. 

"Being in Springfield, (Illinois, where Held resides) we're only an hour and a half away from St. Louis," Held said. "So growing up, we went to a lot of Cardinals games. It was probably only my senior year in high school, end of my high school career, that we went up to Chicago. We went to Cubs games and everything, and then this past summer of 2019, I was talking to my parents and I said 'Hey, why don't we ever go to a Sox game?' And they were like, 'Well, I don't know, we just never have,' and so we went up to a Sox game, went to this little restaurant called Turtle's Bar and Grill, right across the street, had an absolute blast.

"Went to the game, had an absolute blast, and it was like, 'Oh man, this is awesome.' Because everyone's a Cubs fan. People who aren't even from Chicago are Cubs fans. They're not true fans. But Sox fans are live, breathe and die Southside baseball. And I like that commitment to the team way more. And ever since then, I was like, 'I don't want to support the other team more. I don't want to support the other state and the Cardinals, I want to support my home state of Illinois and the White Sox.'"

Held is on board with the White Sox 2020 sloan, "Change the Game." He tweets about the Sox and Bulls regularly, and said he tries to watch every game he can, even while training for the Olympic Games.

He talked about what he was looking forward to seeing out of the Sox in the upcoming 2020 season. 

"I wanted to see Tim Anderson just go crazy again. He was one of the players I remembered doing really well in the games I watched. And he's from Tuscaloosa, Alabama," he said. "I feel like I've had this unknowing Sox fandom over my shoulder. Because I went to school in Raleigh, North Carolina, where they have the Winston-Salem Dash, which is a Sox affiliate, and they have the Charlotte Knights, which is a Sox affiliate. And then I moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama which is just outside of Birmingham, and the Barons are another Sox affiliate.

"So I feel like the universe was pointing me in this direction to become a Sox fan."

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